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$1.8M supports Newfoundland researchers

St John’s, NL – More than $1.8 million in funding was recently awarded for research projects at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

The funding is being provided by the Industrial Research and Innovation Fund (IRIF) in research areas relevant to Newfoundland and Labrador, including aquaculture, genetics, healthy aging, energy, earth sciences, and engineering.

The funding for 14 research and development projects is enabling researchers to leverage more than $2.3 million from other funding sources, including the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and industry players.

One of the projects being funded is a study examining the optimization of oil reservoir development. Dr Ronald Haynes, associate professor from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics in the Faculty of Science at Memorial, is receiving $100,000 from IRIF for the project.

“The IRIF funding will be instrumental in securing the necessary computer hardware and expertise to develop mathematical algorithms capable of solving large scale optimization problems of interest to the local offshore oil industry,” says Dr Haynes. “Of particular interest is the oil well placement problem. Sophisticated computational techniques will allow virtual, relatively inexpensive, experimentation with problems like finding the best configuration of oil wells to maximize yield.”

The following is a list of the projects that are receiving funding:

Mass Spectrometry System for New Approaches to Rapid Environmental Monitoring and Greening of Industrial Processes: Dr Christina Bottaro, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Memorial University. Dr Bottaro will use the funding to acquire a mass spectrometer, an instrument which will be used to support numerous researchers and will be used in the training of many students at Memorial. Dr Bottaro is receiving $148,288.51 from IRIF, allowing her to leverage $150,000 from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Research Tools and Instruments Grants Program. Her research will also support efforts to protect the environment through better monitoring methods, more environmentally-friendly chemical processes and more productive use of waste materials like fish waste.

Fast and Economical Material Patterning: Dr Kristin Poduska, Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography, Faculty of Science, Memorial University. Patterned magnetic materials have become the optimal choice for the next generation of data storage in computer hard disks and random access memory devices. A variety of techniques are being explored within the industry to optimize their performance and effectiveness. This opportunity to develop new methods to fabricate these materials has catalyzed an active and growing collaboration at Memorial. Dr Poduska is being awarded $92,138 in funding from IRIF to acquire a vibrating sample magnetometer. When coupled with micromagnetics simulations, this tool will enable her to establish and understand important relationships between her new fabrication technique and magnetic device performance. The IRIF award leverages $150,000 in funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Research Tools and Instruments Grants Program.

The Health Impacts of Asbestos: Dr Stephen Bornstein, Faculty of Medicine; Department of Political Science, Faculty of Arts; and SafetyNet Research Centre, Memorial University. The Baie Verte asbestos project involves designing and implementing an occupational disease registry for the former employees of the Baie Verte asbestos mine in Newfoundland and Labrador. Researchers will study the effectiveness of the registry, examine the long-term health impacts of working with asbestos, and disseminate the results provincially, nationally and internationally. The RDC is investing $131,000 through IRIF. The project includes $641,928 in funding from the Workplace Health, Safety & Compensation Commission of Newfoundland and Labrador, and $15,000 in funding from the Atlantic Networks for Prevention Research-Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

emSYSCAN – Embedded Systems Canada: Dr Lihong Zhang, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, Memorial University. Dr Zhang is receiving $276,977 in funding from IRIF for this national project, which will provide platform-based microsystems design and prototyping environments to enable, stimulate, and extend nationwide university research. Memorial will take advantage of the proposed state-of-the-art infrastructure to conduct research mainly on microelectronics, embedded systems/software, and novel material and devices. The IRIF award leverages $276,977 in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and $138,488 in funding from industry including Adaptec, Altera, ANSYS/ROI, ARM, Beecube, Cadence, Coventor, Design Workshop, IBM, Mathworks, Mentor, SoftMEMS, Synopsys, Tanner and Xilinx.

The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging: Understanding the Complexity of Aging Health through Interdisciplinary Research: Dr Gerry Mugford, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University. This study will follow 50,000 Canadians, aged 45-85 years over the next two decades and is considered one of the most comprehensive studies on aging ever undertaken. Researchers will collect information on the changing biological, medical, psychological, social and economic aspects of the participants’ lives. Dr Mugford is receiving $500,000 from the RDC which leverages $486,350 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation; $54,386 from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador; and $175,139 in-kind from commercial vendors.

Animal Memory and Cognition Lab: Dr Christina Thorpe, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Science, Memorial University. The field of behavioural neuroscience often relies on the use of animal models to study memory. Because animals are unable to directly communicate memories for particular events, researchers need to find innovative ways of studying their episodic memory. One possible means of doing this is to study time-place learning, which examines an animal’s ability to learn how biologically-significant events vary in space and time. This research will provide the groundwork to better understand how spatial and temporal information is organized in humans. With $89,205 in IRIF funding, Dr Thorpe is leveraging $58,916 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation – Leaders Opportunity Fund; $17,675 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation – Infrastructure Operating Fund; and $11,278 in-kind from vendors.

Viral and Cellular Determinants of Hepatitis C Virus Assembly: Dr Rodney Russell, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University. The overall goal of this research project is to identify therapeutic targets for the hepatitis C virus which will contribute to the development of novel antiviral drugs to help fight the disease. With IRIF funding totaling $100,000, Dr Russell will purchase high-quality equipment to carry out research that involves local, national, and international collaboration with academic and industrial partners. This funding allows him to leverage $96,154 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation – Leaders Opportunity Fund; $40,462 from vendor discounts; $7,825 from Memorial’s Faculty of Medicine – Medical Research Foundation, and $28,846 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation – Infrastructure Operating Fund.

IgniteR&D builds capacity among new and/or first-time academic researchers in Newfoundland and Labrador. It assists researchers in establishing new R&D capacity in support of research and development, innovation and commercialization in areas relevant to industry and the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador. It provides up to 100 per cent of total eligible costs of a specific proposal, where leveraged funds are not available to the researcher. The following research projects are receiving funding through IgniteR&D:

Reconstructing Subsistence, Mobility Patterns and the Environmental Context of Newf
oundland and Labrador’s Prehistoric Inhabitance: Dr Vaughan Grimes, Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Arts, Memorial University. Dr Grimes uses the analysis of stable light (carbon, nitrogen and oxygen) and heavy (strontium) elemental isotopes preserved in biological tissues such as bone, teeth and hair to address questions related to climate change and migration in the past. He is receiving $24,813 from the RDC to further his research.

The Use of Lobsters in Multi-trophic Aquaculture: Dr Iain McGaw, Ocean Sciences Centre, Faculty of Science, Memorial University. This project will be a combined laboratory and field study of juvenile and adult lobsters, with a goal of gaining a better understanding of how variations in temperatures, oxygen levels and food availability affect the distribution of lobsters, the assimilation of nutrients, and if lobsters are suitable for use in multi-trophic aquaculture. The longer term goals are to develop a viable, cost effective renewable resource for the province. Dr McGaw is awarded $99,714 from IRIF.

Genetic Prognostic Biomarkers Correlated with Survival in Cancer Patients from Newfoundland and Labrador: Dr Sevtap Savas, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University. Dr Savas and her research team will operate a molecular genetics laboratory focused on identification of genetic prognostic factors in cancers affecting the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, starting with colorectal cancer. The RDC is investing $100,000 in this research. Once validated, results obtained from this laboratory may be used in development of prognostic genetic tests that will improve survival in cancer patients.

Symbiosis in Thyasirid Bivalves and Impacts on Organically Enriched Marine Sediments: Dr Suzanne Dufour, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Memorial University. The expected outcomes of this project include a better understanding of the intricate functioning of animal-bacterial symbioses, which have implications in human health, as well as in the marine environment. Dr Dufour is receiving $99,815 in IRIF funding. This project has direct applications to understanding the environmental impacts of the Newfoundland and Labrador economy (aquaculture, agriculture, forestry, gas and oil industry) on marine ecosystems, particularly with respect to how certain species are adapted for dealing with organic loading, and may contribute to the ecological remediation of disturbed coastal and offshore environments.

Startup Funds for Altius Industrial Research Chair in the Metallogeny of Ores in Volcanic and Sedimentary Basins: Dr Stephen Piercey, Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Science, Memorial University. The goal of this new chair is to contribute to the discovery of new mineral resources in both Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada. The chair will focus on understanding ore deposits associated with ancient volcanoes and sedimentary environments, particularly resources of copper, zinc, lead, gold, silver, and uranium. That work will help create knowledge and research tools that may be transferable to industry and applied in the search for new resources. The chair will also build on existing strengths at Memorial and a strong local mining and mineral exploration community with a history of resource development to create an eastern Canadian hub for mineral deposits and mineral exploration research. Dr Piercey is receiving $100,000 in IRIF funding.

Corporate Responses to Climate Change in the Oil and Gas Industry: Dr Natalie Slawinski, Faculty of Business Administration, Memorial University. Dr Slawinski’s research examines how oil and gas companies have been responding to the issue of climate change since the 1990s, when it started to appear on the corporate agenda. Her research uncovers the external pressures that influence firms’ climate change strategies, including social movements and government regulations. By exploring which climate change strategies provide firms with a competitive advantage and which government regulations are effective without hindering firms’ competitiveness, this research provides recommendations to help firms mitigate and adapt to a changing climate. The RDC is investing $27,000 in IRIF funding into her work.

Optimization of Oil Reservoir Development: Dr Ronald Haynes, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Faculty of Science, Memorial University. Dr Haynes is receiving $100,000 in IRIF funding from the RDC for his research. The economic success of offshore oil production in Newfoundland and Labrador is sensitive to many operating parameters. It is typical in the industry to use mathematical models to approximate the revenue and costs over a time horizon for a specific set of operating conditions, for example the number and location of a set of oil wells. The specific goal of this research is to couple these mathematical models with fast optimization strategies to find the best set of operating conditions.