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Four leading researchers at Memorial University are receiving a total of $3.8 million in funding thanks to a major investment made today by the federal government’s Canada Research Chairs (CRC) program.
Newfoundland and Labrador Senator Fabian Manning made the announcement during a news conference on Memorial’s St. John’s campus.
He was joined by Dr. Ray Gosine, vice-president (research) pro tempore, Dr. William Driedzic, Memorial’s Canada Research Chair in Marine Bioscience, as well as other members of the university research community.
The four Memorial faculty members have been renewed as Canada Research Chairs.
The federal government created the CRC program in 2000 with the goal of making this country one of the world’s top nations in research and development.
The CRC program invests $300 million per year to attract and retain some of the world’s most accomplished and promising minds.
Dr. Dale Corbett, a professor of neuroscience in the Faculty of Medicine, has been renewed as the university’s Canada Research Chair in Stroke and Neuroplasticity, while Dr. Driedzic, a professor at the Ocean Sciences Centre, has been renewed as the CRC in Marine Bioscience.
Dr. Qiying Chen, an associate professor from the Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography in the Faculty of Science, has been renewed as Canada Research Chair in Photonics, and Dr. Duncan McIlroy, an associate professor from the Department of Earth Sciences in the Faculty of Science, has been renewed as Canada Research Chair in Petroleum Geoscience/Geotechnology.
As tier one Canada Research Chairs, Drs. Corbett and Driedzic will receive $200,000 individually for seven years, for a total of $1.4 million each. Tier one chairs, tenable for seven years and renewable, are for outstanding researchers acknowledged by their peers as world leaders in their fields.
Drs. Chen and McIlroy will receive $100,000 annually for five years, for a total of $500,000 each. Tier two chairs, tenable for five years and renewable once, are for exceptional emerging researchers, acknowledged by their peers as having the potential to lead in their field.
“The renewal of these four Canada Research Chairs reinforces Memorial’s reputation for research of international importance and significance,” said Dr. Gosine. “Each of these researchers is a strong advocate – and contributor – to his discipline and research area. Even more importantly, their research is having direct impacts on people, communities and industries here in this province, Canada and internationally.”
As a respected medical researcher, the impact of Dr. Corbett’s research is being felt throughout the medical world. He is investigating ways of enhancing recovery of function after stroke through intensive forms of rehabilitation experience and by administering stem cells that foster brain plasticity processes. His work has the potential to reduce the disabilities associated with stroke.
“The renewal of my Canada Research Chair allows me the opportunity to concentrate all of my energy for the next seven years on my stroke research program,” Dr. Corbett said. “As a result of this, I will continue to be able to attract outstanding graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to my laboratory whose efforts will further establish Memorial University as a centre of excellence for stroke research.”
Further establishing Memorial as a leader in innovative research is a sentiment echoed by Dr. Driedzic.
One of Canada’s leading fish physiologists, Dr. Driedzic’s research focuses on how fish deal with such major environmental challenges as low temperature and oxygen limitation.
His research is providing insight into how animals are able to respond to climate change and serve as valuable models for understanding human disease processes.
“It is a tremendous vote of confidence that the work that has been conducted in my laboratory has the potential to be considered to be significant,” he noted. “This renewal will allow me to forge new intellectual avenues at the interface of marine biology and the health sciences.”
Exploring new research frontiers is at the heart of Dr. Chen’s research which revolves around the study of photonics – the study of the science and technology of flowed photons or light particles.
It’s a highly specialized field but one he – and Memorial – has pioneered.
Industries around the world are looking to develop an optical nanotechnology that operates at a time scale of femtosecond (one millionth of a billionth of a second) and a length scale of a nanometer (one-billionth of a metre).
“This renewal will enable us to explore the applications of our current research, which harvests nanotechnology and ultrafast science, into new areas such as the analysis of natural resources, organic solar cells for renewal energy, fibre-optic sensors for environmental monitoring, and biomedical applications,” explained Dr. Chen.
As an earth scientist, Dr. McIlroy is exploring the impact biological processes have upon ancient rocks. His research concerns the impact animals have on the minerals and physical properties of sediments – an area that’s under-explored but bridges the disciplines of biology, geochemistry, mineralogy and geology, particularly petroleum geology.
His work involves developing fuel and energy technology, and carrying out exploration and exploitation of the Earth, fossil fuels and their derivatives, and is leading to a more complete understanding of the role of organisms in controlling the permeability of sandstone reservoir intervals.
“The greatest privilege that I enjoy as a Canada Research Chair is the time to focus on my research,” Dr. McIlroy said. “I believe that time is one of the greatest assets that a researcher can be given. The time to spend with the incredible young researchers that I have been able to attract and retain at Memorial makes for a rich learning environment and is something I greatly appreciate. I am very glad that I have another five years to enjoy nurturing young scientists to undertake research that is exciting, fun, and highly relevant to the economies of Newfoundland and Canada.”
Today’s renewal of four Memorial faculty members as Canada Research Chairs was made in conjunction with a larger announcement by the federal government.
The Canada Research Chair program offers eligible Canadian universities the opportunity to nominate outstanding researchers for professorships in areas that will further overall research priorities and maximize their contributions as centres of research training.
Memorial is home to 26 Canada Research Chairs studying areas such as environmental sciences, ocean technology, regional language and oral text, viral hepatitis and immunology, and North Atlantic archaeology. More information is available online at www.mun.ca/research
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