Infusion for innovation: Significant federal investment fuels discovery research across disciplines

Oct 16th, 2018

By Jeff Green

More than 60 projects are receiving funding the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).
Infusion for innovation: Significant federal investment fuels discovery research across disciplines

Research ranging from developing sustainable road pavements for harsh Canadian climates to evolutionary drivers of variation in bat migration are among more than 60 projects receiving roughly $8.8 million from the Government of Canada.

The funding comes from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and supports early-career and established researchers, as well as the next generation of innovators.

Generating new knowledge

The investment will propel and energize studies in the faculties of Engineering and Applied Science, Medicine, Science, and Humanities and Social Sciences, as well as the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, School of Pharmacy and Grenfell Campus.

“For more than 40 years, our teams of multidisciplinary researchers and graduate students have secured important funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research of Canada through increasingly competitive processes, allowing them to lead critical research in a range of areas,” says Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research).

“The support of the Government of Canada allows Memorial to continue enhancing our global profile for innovative ground-breaking research and as a national and international leader. I congratulate each of our newest NSERC funding recipients and look forward to learning more about their work.”

Better understanding

Dr. Erin Fraser, associate professor, Environmental Science, School of Science and the Environment, at Grenfell Campus, has received NSERC funding for a project focused on evolutionary drivers of variation in bat migration.

She says variation in migratory movements is common within species of many animals and is often linked to variation in other traits. For example, she noted that longer-distance migrants may have body shapes that allow them to travel more efficiently than shorter-distance migrants of the same species. Studying variation among animals that migrate different distances can help us to better understand the factors that have contributed to the evolution of migration.

“Many bat species migrate, but migration in bats has not been studied nearly as much as in other animal groups,” Dr. Fraser told the Gazette.

“Because bats are nocturnal and difficult to observe, it is really challenging to track them across space and time, and we know surprisingly little about their basic movements. Previous research, including my own work, has shown that within-species variation in migratory movements is common in bats, but the factors driving this variation are unknown. Investigating this knowledge gap is main long-term research goal of mine.”

Dr. Fraser says many North American bats are at risk and understanding their annual movements is important for their conservation.

“Populations of some species have experienced extreme declines following the introduction and spread of a disease called white-nose syndrome,” she said. “Individuals of other species are killed when they collide with wind turbines, mainly during fall migration.

“My research program has three main goals for the next five years. The key objective for my students and me is to investigate the links between variation in migratory movements, body shape and size and life history stages such as age and sex in bats,” she added.

“To do this, we need to continue describing basic bat migratory movements and improve the techniques that we use to learn about bat migration.”

Harsh climate research

Dr. Kamal Hossain, assistant professor, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, has received NSERC funding to further his research focused on pavement performance and sustainability in harsh environments.

“Canada has more than a million kilometres of paved roads; although it has rich natural beauty and geography, it also has a unique and harsh climate,” said Dr. Hossain, who leads Memorial’s Advanced Road and Transportation Engineering Lab which aims to better understand the characteristics of road materials and develop improved pavement design. “Since the country is significantly large, the climate varies between regions.”

Through his NSERC funding, Dr. Hossain says he and his team will be able to develop recommendations on application rates for enhanced moisture repellent additives, rut resistant polymers and optimal mixture designs containing local and recycled materials for harsh climatic conditions.

“The extended service life of pavements, through the use of performance enhancing additives and polymers, will reduce the cost of construction and maintenance, and environmental impacts,” he said. “This research program will also contribute to training highly qualified personnel and advancing the field.”

‘Invaluable support’

At Memorial, the new funding comprises the 2018 competition results for NSERC’s Discovery Grants, Discovery Accelerator Supplements, Research Tools and Instruments Grants and Ship Time Grants as well as Canada Graduate Scholarships, NSERC Postgraduate Scholarships and Postdoctoral Fellowships.

Dr. Aimée Surprenant, dean, School of Graduate Studies, says the funding from NSERC provides “invaluable support” for Memorial’s students year-after-year.

“These prestigious scholarships give some of our finest students the resources to pursue their research ideas and develop innovative solutions to today’s problems,” she told the Gazette.

“These fellowships will fund research that has the potential for significant positive contribution to society and we are extremely grateful to NSERC for its continued support.”

Largest investment

Kirsty Duncan, minister of Science and Sport, announced more than $558 million in NSERC funding for projects across the country on Oct. 9, supporting roughly 4,300 researchers and students. This is the largest investment in research from NSERC this year and it includes $70 million in new funding announced in Budget 2018.

“The funding commitment outlined in Budget 2018 will provide a very significant increase to the Discovery Program to support science and engineering researchers,” said Dr. Pierre Charest, vice-president, Research Grants and Scholarships Directorate, NSERC.

“Additionally, this investment will contribute critical supplementary funding to launch early career researchers and to support equity, diversity and inclusion.”

A list of the various NSERC award recipients can be found below.

Discovery Grants

School of Pharmacy

  • Laleh Alisaraie, Biomechanics and Interrelations of Microtubules and Intracellular Trafficking: A Guide for Characterizing Carbon Nanotubes Cytotoxicity

Faculty of Science

  • Valerie Booth, Biochemistry, Bridging molecular studies of model and real biological systems with biophysics experiments on complex samples
  • Robert Brown, Biochemistry, Dissection of the effects by extracellular hydrolysis products of triglycerides and phospholipids on cellular functions
  • Javier Santander, Ocean Sciences, Investigating the Mechanisms of Bacterial-Fish Host Interaction
  • Kapil Tahlan, Biology, Regulation and biosynthesis of bioactive secondary metabolites in Streptomyces clavuligerus and other related Streptomyces species
  • Dawn Bignell, Biology, Secondary metabolism in plant pathogenic Streptomyces species
  • Mark Berry, Biochemistry, Control of homeostasis by trace amine-associated receptors
  • William Driedzic, Ocean Sciences, Glucose metabolism in aquatic animals
  • William Montevecchi, Psychology, Disentangling Fisheries By-catch: Re-thinking Seabird x Fish x Fisher Interactions
  • Graham Bodwell, Chemistry, Aromatization-based Approaches to Designed Pi Systems with Unusual Structures and Properties
  • Huck Grover, Chemistry, Modern Synthetic Methods and their Application to the Synthesis of Bioactive Target Molecules
  • Ivan Booth, Mathematics and Statistics, Black holes: boundaries, interactions and physics
  • Hari Kunduri, Mathematics and Statistics, Characterizing the moduli space of black hole solutions of the Einstein equations
  • Guy Quirion, Physics and Physical Oceanography, Investigation of frustrated antiferromagnetic compounds using ultrasonic velocity measurements
  • Kristin Poduska, Physics and Physical Oceanography, Multiscale studies of defects in solids
  • Colin Farquharson, Earth Sciences, Development of new, integrated computer modelling and inversion methods for applied geophysics and for joint geology-geophysics Earth modelling
  • Lev Tarasov, Physics and Physical Oceanography, Examining the glacial cycle phase space through data-integrated glacial systems modelling
  • Rachel Sipler, Ocean Sciences, Exploring the sources, sinks and uptake of carbon and nitrogen in the coastal ocean
  • Susan Ziegler, Earth Sciences, Source, transformation and fate of organic matter in boreal forest watersheds
  • Duncan McIlroy, Earth Sciences, The evolution of organism sediment interactions in the early benthos
  • Michael Slawinski, Earth Sciences, Waves and rays in anisotropic and inhomogeneous Hookean solids: Mathematical formulation and empirical evaluation
  • Ronald Haynes, Mathematics and Statistics, Analysis and Implementation of Parallel Solvers for PDE Based Mesh Generation and Coupled Systems
  • Wolfgang Banzhaf, Computer Science, Emergence and Open-ended Evolution in Genetic Programming
  • Mikhail Kotchetov, Mathematics and Statistics, Algebras with action and coaction of Hopf algebras
  • Deping Ye, Mathematics and Statistics, Analytic and geometric aspects of convexity theory with applications
  • Eduardo Martinez Pedroza, Mathematics and Statistics, Aspects of the coarse geometry of discrete groups

 Faculty of Medicine

  • Rodney Russell, BioMedical Sciences, Expanding the Genetic Code of Viruses
  • Qi Yuan, BioMedical Sciences, L-type calcium channels in memory
  • Laura Gillespie, BioMedical Sciences, Molecular characterization of the MIER2 and MIER3 transcriptional regulatory complexes

School of Human Kinetics and Recreation

  • Duane Button, An examination of fatigue development during intense motor output(s)

 Grenfell Campus

  • Erin Fraser, Science and the Environment, Evolutionary drivers of variation in bat migration

Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science

  • Baiyu Zhang, Civil Engineering, Biosurfactants as Agents of Marine Oil Spill Response in the North: Production, Mechanism, Effectiveness and Impact
  • Ashutosh Dhar, Civil Engineering, Performance assessment of buried pipelines considering soil-structure interaction
  • Assem Hassan, Civil Engineering, Structural Health Monitoring of Reinforced Concrete Structures with Advanced Concrete Mixtures
  • Kamal Hossain, Civil Engineering, Sustainable Road Pavements for Harsh Canadian Climates
  • John Quaicoe, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Development of MHz frequency power converters for resonant capacitive coupling wireless power transmission
  • Cheng Li, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Toward Future Internet-of-Underwater-Things (IoUT) through Intelligent Underwater Communications and Networking
  • Donald Rideout, Mechanical Engineering, Dynamic Simulation of Drilling Vibrations for Design of Drill Strings and Downhole Tools
  • Mohammad Al Janaideh, Mechanical Engineering, Precision Motion Stages for Enhancing the Performance of Lithography in Semiconductor Manufacturing
  • Siu O’Young, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Risk/Performance Trade-offs for Unmanned Aircraft Operations

Discovery Accelerator Supplements

Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science

  • Baiyu Zhang, Civil Engineering, Biosurfactants as Agents of Marine Oil Spill Response in the North: Production, Mechanism, Effectiveness and Impact

Faculty of Science

  • Duncan McIlroy, Earth Sciences, The evolution of organism sediment interactions in the early benthos

Research Tools and Instruments Grants

Faculty of Science

  • Yolanda Wiersma, Biology, Terrestrial and freshwater ecology field research vehicle

Faculty of Medicine

  • Craig Moore, BioMedical Sciences, Using Flow Cytometry to Elucidate Cell Phenotype and Function in Life Sciences Research

Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science

  • Lesley James, Process Engineering, Visual HPHT Setup for Multiphase Flow in Micro/Porous Systems
  • Xiaodong Liang, Electrical and Computer Engineering, OPAL-RT Real-Time Simulator for Renewable Energy and Smart Grid Research

Ship Time Program

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences/Faculty of Science

  • Evan Edinger, Geography and Biology, Vulnerable marine ecosystems in the northern Labrador Sea and Baffin Bay: biodiversity, longevity, paleoceanography, microbiology, and conservation.

NSERC Postgraduate Scholarships

Canada Graduate Scholarships Doctoral (CGS D- $35,000 per year)

  • Kori Anne Andrea, CGSD3, Chemistry, Faculty of Science
  • Maegwin Bonar, CGSD3, Biology, Faculty of Science
  • Jillian Kendrick, CGSD3, Earth Sciences, Faculty of Science

Postgraduate Scholarships – Doctoral Program (PGS D – $21,000 per year)

  • Brandon Furlong, PGSD2, Chemistry, Faculty of Science
  • Mohammed Said, PGSD2, Faculty of Engineering & Applied Science
  • Brandon Collins, PGSD3, Faculty of Medicine
  • Evan Lockyer, PGSD3, Faculty of Medicine
  • Mackenzie Patrick, PGSD3, Earth Sciences, Faculty of Science
  • Xi Xue, PGSD3, Ocean Sciences, Faculty of Science

Canada Graduate Scholarships Masters (CGS M – $17,500 per year)   

  • Erynn Button, Faculty of Medicine
  • Samantha Crowley, Ocean Sciences, Faculty of Science
  • Victoria Downing, Chemistry, Faculty of Science
  • Calvin Gregory, Faculty of Engineering & Applied Science
  • Benjamin King, Ocean Sciences, Faculty of Science
  • Christopher Langdon, Faculty of Engineering & Applied Science
  • Courtney Laprise, Chemistry, Faculty of Science
  • Anna MacDermid, Psychology, Faculty of Science
  • Leah Walker, Geography, Faculty of Science

In addition, included in this announcement is a Postdoctoral Fellowship Program award, valued at $45,000 per year.

Jeff Green is a senior communications advisor with the Office of the Vice-President (Research). He can be reached at