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Research Highlights

Researchers developing Innu dictionary

Photo courtesy of Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

Researchers in Memorial's Department of Linguistics and Faculty of Education collaborated with Labrador Innu communities to develop tools that will aid in the enhancement of literacy of the Innu in their own language, Innu-aimun. The research team, led by Dr. Marguerite MacKenzie, head of Memorial's Department of Linguistics, was awarded a Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) grant of $996,992 over five years from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for the project Knowledge and Human Resources for Innu Language Development. The primary endeavour of the group will be to develop a comprehensive tri-lingual (Innu-aimun, English, French) dictionary.

Husky Energy donates SeaRose model

Dr. John Lau, president and CEO of Husky Energy, visited the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University Oct. 7, 2004 to present the company's SeaRose FPSO model. The model is a 1:200 scale model of the SeaRose FPSO built by model builders at Samsung shipyard in South Korea. It accurately reproduces the hull, propulsion system, topsides, turret structure, flare and offloading system. The hull lines are faithfully produced from the vessel lines plans. The model completed the 14,000-mile sea journey to Newfoundland and Labrador without damage, loaded aboard its full size counterpart.

Research grants and awards - environmental science

The staff and faculty of Sir Wilfred Grenfell's environmental science program were the recipients of numerous research grants and awards.

Recipients of the SWGC Principal's Research Fund include Ed Andrews and Henry Mann, who received a grant for the survey of the plants of the Ramea Islands as a basis for nothern/southern vegetation comparisons. Dr. Doreen Churchill received a grant for investigations into the use of cyclodextrins for soil remediation, and Dr. Julian Dust received a grant for his research into new poly(ethylene glycol) derivatives for pre-concentration of organic pollutants from natural waters. Finally, Don-Roger Parkinson received a grant for method development to monitor water pollutants.

Dr. Christine Campbell also received a Principal's Research Fund grant for a study of velocity and drift in Newfoundland streams. As well, she received grants from the Canadian International Devlopment Agency (CIDA) and Canadian Consultative Linkage Fund for the Lake Chilwa catchment and wetland research - linking Mnembo catchment processes and fish production in Lake Chilwa , Malawi , Africa . This project involves Leanda Delaney, a graduate of Grenfell's environmental science program and masters of science at Memorial University . In this year three of the project, $186,489 was received in funding.

Dr. Ian Warkentin's Discovery Grant of $48,000 over four years (year three) from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) is for modelling landscape connectivity for boreal songbirds.

Genesis grad named Canada's fastest growing company

Rutter Inc., a graduate of the Genesis Centre, Memorial University's business incubator, led the Deloitte Fast 50 ranking with a remarkable 11,676 per cent revenue growth. The findings are drawn from the 2004 Deloitte Canadian Technology Fast 50 survey and ranking, the annual program that recognizes Canada's fastest growing technology companies, both public and private, from all technology sectors including software, life sciences, Internet/e-commerce, communications/networking, semiconductors and computer peripherals.

Industrial Research and Innovation Fund projects announced

In October, the Hon. Kathy Dunderdale, Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development announced $3 million in funding for 20 projects under the Industrial Research and Innovation Fund. The goal of the fund is to enhance research and industrial innovation within higher education and public research institutions in the province. The total value of the projects is approximately $15 million.

Early map collection donated to Queen Elizabeth II Library

Joan Ritcey (L) and Alberta Auringer Wood are happy to provide a home for the late Dr. Fabian O’Dea’s map collection.

The family of the late Dr. Fabian O'Dea donated 99 historic early maps of Newfoundland and Labrador in July. Dr. O'Dea was a well-known public figure, former naval officer, lieutenant-governor, honorary colonel of the Newfoundland Regiment, art connoisseur and scholar. The maps were displayed in the First Space Gallery in Queen Elizabeth II Library. They featured an impressive and expansive history of the early cartography of Newfoundland and Labrador. One-hundred and twenty three of Dr. O'Dea's cartographic books were bequeathed to the library upon his death and will further add to the reference materials available for research into early Newfoundland and Labrador.

Forum targets obesity research

The Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Applied Health Research organized a full-day forum in late October featuring national and local research on obesity. Two years ago obesity was identified as the top priority research area by partners and stakeholders of the centre. Using measurements of body mass index (BMI), Statistics Canada classifies more than half of Canadians as overweight or obese, with almost 15 per cent of the population falling in the category of obese.

Researchers receive SSHRC funding

Memorial researchers received $773,000 in funding from SSHRC's Standard Research Grants program - an increase of 22 per cent over 2003-04's funding. A significant portion of the funding will be used to employ students as research assistants. The five projects focus on a wide range of issues; for example, Newfoundland and Labrador-based studies include: Dorset Paleoeskimoes on the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland, led by Canadian Research Chair in North Atlantic Archaeology, Dr. Priscilla Renouf, was awarded $137,000; Professionals' Ethical Conflict with their Employers, led by nursing professor Dr. Alice Gaudine received $63,931 in funding from SSHRC; Archaeology of environmental imaginaries in northern Labrador, led by Dr. Peter Whitridge, Anthropology, was awarded $140,270 in SSHRC funding; Phonological and morphosyntactic development in a polysynthetic language: the acquisition of Cree as a first language, led by Dr. Julie Brittain, Linguistics, received $206,956; and Modelling cities and regions: a complex systems approach, led by Dr. Roger White, Geography, was awarded $224,900. For a complete list of awards to researchers at Newfoundland and Labrador and other Canadian universities, see www.sshrc.ca.

New centre for research

On Monday, Dec. 6, Memorial University, in partnership with the Newfoundland and Labrador Statistics Agency (NSA) of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, officially opened the Atlantic Centre of the Canadian Century Research Infrastructure (CCRI). The CCRI is a five-year pan-Canadian initiative to develop national databases from the census records for 1911-1951. The new centre will build upon the relationship between Memorial and the NSA and will enable researchers to conduct important new studies for the 21st century.

Profiling the needs of Innu youth

Dr. David Philpott, Faculty of Education, gained national media attention after the contents of a report he and his colleagues wrote on the Innu education system were leaked to the press in December. Dr. Philpott was the principle investigator on the study which has been conducted over two years on behalf of the federal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. Drs. Mildred Cahill, Wayne Nesbit and Gary Jeffrey, Faculty of Education, were the co-investigators of the report, titled An Educational Profile of the Learning Needs of Innu Youth. Dr. Philpott said the report is the largest educational study of its kind ever conducted on aboriginal youth in Canada and paints a disturbing view of the challenges the Innu school-aged population face, including the fact that 35 per cent of Innu children never attend school.

Archaeologists strike gold

Good things come in small, shiny packages or so archaeologists from Memorial University of Newfoundland found while excavating the Colony of Avalon site in Ferryland, Newfoundland and Labrador. Dr. James Tuck, head of the Archaeology Unit at Memorial's Department of Anthropology and archaeologist Barry Gaulton confirmed this year that a set of three enamelled gold seals discovered in the summer of 2003 were the personal property of Sir David Kirke, conqueror of French Canada and Governor of Newfoundland from 1637 until 1651. Kirke was commissioned by King Charles I to attack the French in Canada in 1627 when war broke out. He made two successful expeditions, resulting in the surrender of Quebec in 1629. Later, he moved to Newfoundland and took up residence at Ferryland with his wife, Sara, and their family from 1638 until 1651 when he was recalled to London to account for his activities during the early years of the Commonwealth. He died in London in 1654, but Sara remained an active entrepreneur at Ferryland until the early 1680s. His surviving sons died as a result of imprisonment by the French at Placentia during the winter of 1696-97.

Web site responds to issues of children with special needs

Memorial University researchers played a major role in developing a new Web site. The Special Needs Information Service Online (SNIS), www.snis.ca, helps parents, caregivers and professionals of children with special needs to negotiate the maze of health, educational, financial and other information and services available. The site was developed by the Centre of Excellence for Children and Adolescents with Special Needs and funded by Health Canada. Dr. Patricia Canning, Faculty of Education and Faculty of Science, Dr. Mary Courage, Faculty of Science and Faculty of Medicine, and Lynn Frizzell, developed the content for SNIS-Newfoundland and Labrador.

Husky Energy Chair appointed

Dr. R. Phillip Bording was appointed Husky Energy Chair in Oil and Gas Research at Memorial University this year. Prior to accepting his appointment as Husky Chair, Dr. Bording was manager of computational science at the Computer Sciences Corporation in Huntsville, Alabama. Dr. Bording received his M.S. in computer science from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and his PhD from the University of Tulsa.

Engineer improves our everyday technologies

In February, Dr. Yuri Muzychka, assistant professor of engineering, was awarded the Petro-Canada Young Innovator Award for 2004 at Memorial University. Dr. Muzychka's research is the first step in thermo fluid examination which helps maximize the performance of such things as computers, car engines and medical equipment. His research focuses on models which are aimed at channelling or removing heat and on the development of models for optimizing heat transfer systems in these ever-changing technologies we use every day.

Research excellence award for medical researcher

Dr. Sudesh Vasdev, a professor in the Division of Basic Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, received the Canadian Society of Clinical Chemists' (CSCC) Research Excellence Award for 2005. This award is presented in recognition of an individual's contribution to research directly or indirectly related to clinical chemistry. Dr. Vasdev was recognized in particular for his work with digoxin immunoassays and his studies of renal function.

Federal budget sustains momentum in research

Administrators at Memorial University were encouraged by the Feb. 23 federal budget which included increased funding of $300 million for the Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF).

CFI investment boosts research capacity

Canadian institutions received a significant boost that will help them attract and retain 154 high-calibre researchers. The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) announced in early March it will invest $23.8 million into 120 projects in 41 universities which will allow new and talented researchers to conduct their research in world-class facilities.

Health research projects funded by CIHR

More than $1.37 million in health research funding for six research projects at Memorial University was announced on March 14 by the federal government and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The projects cover a wide spectrum of health research and will be conducted over a period of one to five years.

Research network for Hepatitis C and HIV in Atlantic Canada

Researchers at Memorial, Dalhousie University and the University of New Brunswick teamed up this year to form the Atlantic Interdisciplinary Research Network (AIRN) for Social and Behavioural Issues in the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) and HIV/AIDS. They received $559,040 in funding over three years from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Dr. Gerry Mugford, a clinical epidemiologist in the Faculty of Medicine and School of Pharmacy at Memorial, is a founding member of the network.

Coracle fellowships awarded

Dr. Trevor Bell, Department of Geography, Memorial University, and Walter Kirwan, Ireland-Newfoundland Partnership, were selected to receive Coracle Irish-Newfoundland Fellowships for 2005. Dr. Bell has taught in the Department of Geography at Memorial since 1994. The focus of his fellowship will be sea level history and archaeology, specifically submerged archaeological landscapes around Ireland and Newfoundland. Dr. Bell will study the techniques used by Irish researchers to map submerged landscapes, evaluate their potential for near-shore Newfoundland, and compare prehistoric settlement models for coastal environments in Newfoundland and Ireland.

CFI funds four researchers

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) invested $463,754 in support of four newly recruited faculty members at Memorial. The four projects to receive funding are:

NSERC awards over $5 million to Memorial

Nearly $4.3 million was distributed at Memorial this year among 163 new and continuing NSERC Discovery Grant holders with an additional $778,973 provided in support of eight Research Tools and Instruments (Category 1) grants and ongoing installments for three Major Facility Access Grants, bringing the total funding of $5,076,661 from NSERC this fiscal year. This year, Memorial researchers achieved a 40 per cent success rate on applications submitted under the Research Tools and Instruments category and a grant renewal rate in excess of 90 per cent in the Discovery Grants competition. In addition, 13 researchers received first time Discovery Grants in a variety of disciplines including chemistry, computer science, engineering, human kinetics, mathematics, medicine, ocean sciences, pharmacy and physics.

New barrier facility critical to research growth

Animal care technician Bobbie Whalen (L) talks with Drs. Hélène Paradis and Robert Gendron outside the barrier facility.

A new Specific Pathogen Free (SPF) Barrier Facility, funded this year by a $279,609 business development grant from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), is now up and running at Memorial University in the Health Sciences Centre. The SPF barrier works through a system of environmental and air isolation and filtering which ensures that the space within the barrier is maintained free of airborne debris and pathogens such as dust particles, bacteria, viruses, fungi, pollens and yeasts, all of which can cause diseases in research animals. The space consists of a series of clear vinyl wall sealed rooms each containing high capacity HEPA filter units that replace the air with sterile air about 100 times every hour.

Memorial home to new Canada Research Chairs

Three new Canada Research Chairs were awarded to Memorial University this past year. Dr. Duncan McIlroy was awarded the Canada Research Chair in Petroleum Geoscience/ Geotechnology. Dr. McIlroy's research will lead to a more complete understanding of the role of organisms in controlling the porosity and permeability of sandstone reservoir intervals.

Dr. Qiying Chen was awarded the Canada Research Chair in Photonics. His research involves the development of novel applications in information technology and biophotonics and the development of ultrafast nano-photonics with ultrafast technology and nanotechnology.

Dr. Susan Ziegler, Memorial's new Canada Research Chair in Environmental Science.

Meantime, Dr. Susan Ziegler was appointed Memorial University's Canada Research Chair in Environmental Science. Her research will explore how changes in land use, climate, solar radiation, and nutrient enrichment, which represent major forms of environmental change, impact aquatic ecosystems globally. The impact of environmental change on nutrient and DOM cycling within the continuum from headwater streams to coastal marine ecosystems will be the focus of Dr. Ziegler's research program.

Memorial receives certificate of good animal practice

Memorial received a certificate of Good Animal Practice from the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) this year. The CCAC is the national peer review agency responsible for setting and maintaining standards for the care and use of animals used in research, teaching and testing throughout Canada. At Memorial the majority of researchers who use animals in biomedical research come from the Faculty of Medicine, the Faculty of Science and the School of Pharmacy, which undertake research in the areas of cancer, stroke, immunology, nutrition, aging, hypertension and diabetes, to name a few. Before any research on animals can be done at the university it must be approved at the national level by a scientific committee to which researchers send their proposals, and locally by a university committee called the Institutional Animal Care Committee (IACC).

Profs invention now on market: Patent no longer pending

Dr. Jim Wyse, a professor at the Faculty of Business Administration.

Dr. Jim Wyse, a professor at the Faculty of Business Administration, got a new favourite number this year: 6,792,421. That's the number the United States Patent Office assigned to his "location-aware" method of retrieving location-qualified information site data. For almost five years, he worked on a method to address an important speed of service issue that arises in mobile commerce (m-commerce) and other applications that provide location-based services. With the help of Memorial's Genesis Group, his idea was patented and was marketed to large database providers like Oracle and Microsoft.

New Harvey Chair delves into African languages

Retired linguistics professor Dr. Derek Nurse was named the Henrietta Harvey Chair this year. A faculty member of Memorial since 1986, Dr. Nurse received his MA from UC Berkeley and his PhD in Linguistics at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to some 500 Bantu languages, of which over 150 are spoken in East Africa. When he first moved to East Africa, he realized that many of these languages were un- or underdescribed, there was no satisfactory classificatory framework for them, and the historical background of most language communities, even the better known ones such as Swahili, was unknown. He is now writing a book on verbal categories in Bantu.

Continuity of care in pharmacy

(L-R) Dr. Linda Hensman, Scott Edwards, Jennifer Loder and Rick Abbott. Photo by HSIMS

Research done over the summer of 2004 by MUN pharmacy student Jennifer Loder, under a summer research award from Apotex Inc., helped lay the foundation for a major research study at the Newfoundland Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation (NCTRF) this year. The Foundation received a $100,000 grant from Pfizer Canada to go towards the first randomized controlled research project in Canada on seamless care which will measure outcomes relating to clinical oncology pharmacy practice. The seamless care project will ensure that the regional hospital pharmacists who are responsible for the provision of chemotherapy are aware of a patient's specific treatment regimen and are kept up-to-date with what happened to the patient while they were at the Cancer Centre.

What creates a safe working environment?

With this assessment device, Dr. Scott MacKinnon (R) is able to assess the possible risks for overexertion injuries to the lower back associated with a manual materials handling task.

Dr. Scott MacKinnon was named Memorial's first Research Chair in Workplace Health and Safety. As part of the SafetyNet research program, his job was to spearhead interdisciplinary research initiatives in the area of workplace health and safety. In cooperation with other SafetyNet researchers, Dr. MacKinnon looked at issues related to workplace health and safety.

Preventing complications from kidney disease

Dr. Brendan Barrett in the Dialysis Unit at the Health Sciences Centre.

A national pilot study on moderately advanced kidney disease and its associated heart and blood vessel problems was rolled out in March. The study was co-ordinated at Memorial University. The Canadian Collaborative Group for the Prevention of Renal and Cardiovascular Endpoints Trial (CanPREVENT) involved five centres across Canada, with St. John's as the co-ordinating centre. The principal investigator was nephrologist Dr. Brendan Barrett, professor of Medicine at Memorial. The pilot study was funded by $1.25 million from the CIHR New Emerging Teams Chronic Disease Management Program

Study will research women in music

In May, Memorial University's Centre for the Study of Media, Music and Place partnered with the provincial government in a research project examining potential barriers and opportunities for women in the music industry of Newfoundland and Labrador. The project examined the differential hiring for public performing events, the increasing global sexualization of the pop music industry, child care, pensions and other systemic issues.

Rising Tide records available to researchers

Louis Swersky operated a clothing store in St. Johns until the mid-’80s. A special donation of $5,000 in his memory will assist Memorial’s Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives in the arrangement and description of Rising Tide Theatre’s records.

Thanks to a generous $5,000 donation in support of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives (CNS Archives), Rising Tide Theatre's records are being arranged and described. Larry Nathanson, formerly of St. John's, donated the money in memory of Water Street merchant Louis Swersky, whose daughter Lorraine married Mr. Nathanson. Mr. Swersky operated a clothing store until the mid 1970s and was a great admirer of Newfoundland. The end result of this work will be that a large portion of the Rising Tide history and development will finally be available to the research community.

Researchers get financial boost

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) recognized the achievements of Memorial University researchers with $803,595 in grants for nine research projects in June. The following faculty members received funding from SSHRC:

British television crew draws on Memorial’s ice expertise

Dr. Claude Daley examining ice blocks as part of a documentary about the Titanic. (Photo submitted)

The legacy of the Titanic once again drew media attention to this province this past year – this time from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Cluny South, a BBC producer of The Titanic Iceberg, spent nearly four weeks in Newfoundland and Labrador with cameraperson Justin Maguire. The Titanic Iceberg traced back the origins of this famous iceberg, recreating its life from Greenland's ice cap to its end, melting in the North Atlantic.

Dr. Claude Daley, professor and chair of Ocean and Naval Architectural Engineering at Memorial, was interviewed by the BBC crew. They were interested in Dr. Daley's description of what would have happened to the ice and to the hull when the Titanic struck the iceberg and to explain in general terms how icebergs get to the Grand Banks. They also had Dr. Daley recreate a high school science fair project his daughter did in Grade 11 that examined the changing shapes and instabilities of melting ice blocks (mimicking icebergs). The crew filmed a reconstruction of those tests, with a Plexiglas tank.

Filming took place in the S.J. Carew Building in the Fluids Laboratory, the Thermo Laboratory and in the welding shop in that lab where they reconstructed ice block tests. The story was slated to air on BBC2 on a show called Natural World and on the Discovery Channel sometime during the winter of 2005-06.

Thrombosis Web site offers practical guides

Dr. Mary-Frances scully (Photo by HSIMS)

Dr. Mary-Frances Scully, a hematologist and faculty member in the Discipline of Medicine, was a founding member this past year of the Thrombosis Interest Group of Canada (TIGC), an organization which gives physicians looking to improve their knowledge of thrombosis a “made-in-Canada” solution.

Since 1991, a group of Canadian experts has been working to improve the prevention and treatment of thromboembolic disease through developing practical guides, patient information and a research fellowship. TIGC has 40 members across Canada, including hematologists, internists, respirologists, cardiologists, neurologists, a radiologist, family physicians, pharmacists, lab technologists and ­ more recently and most importantly ­ primary care practitioners.

Dr. Scully set up a Web site to publish clinical guides in 1995. Eugene Ryan of Memorial University's Health Sciences and Information Media Service is currently the web master and has redesigned the site, which is located at www.tigc.org. Clinical guides can be downloaded to a PDA. The guides are available in English and are revised annually.

Limestone Barrens Project continues

Dave Morrish’s exhibit

The continuation of the Limestone Barrens Project saw exciting developments this past year. This international, interdisciplinary creative exchange asked artists in photography, literature and music, including Grenfell College's Visual Arts instructor, David Morrish, and English instructor, John Steffler, to walk the limestone barrens of the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario, the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland or the Burren in County Clare, Ireland, and produce artwork based on their experiences and briefings by scientists and conservationists.

The November opening of the exhibition at the Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery in Owen Sound, Ont., was attended by Mr. Morrish, a recipient of a MUN Research/Creation grant, who gave a short presentation as part of a panel.

In March, the project's 96-page book/CD was published, and the exhibition travelled to the Model Arts and Niland Gallery, Sligo, Ireland. There, both Mr. Morrish and co-curator Charlotte Jones, former director of Grenfell's art gallery, were part of artist/curator panels. At the time, two of the curators, Ms Jones and Sean McCrum, gave a lecture about the project at the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Technology, Art and Design in Ireland, which has sparked the development of a new project based on the Limestone Barrens Project model.

When the exhibition opened at the Provincial Art Gallery in The Rooms in St. John's in September this year, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams and Ireland's Taoiseach Bertie Ahern were in attendance.

Finally, in September, Ontario artist Greg Staats and Irish artist Liam O'Callaghan gave presentations about their work in the exhibition in Raleigh, Flowers Cove and Corner Brook. Irish artist, Orla Kenny, worked with Grade 8 students at Roncalli High, Port Saunders.

Poetry by John Steffler and accompanying photos by David Morrish are available online in a PDF format.