Feds fund innovative Western research

Researchers looking to develop green technologies, understand consumer decision-making and improve learning outcomes for children with autism are among those benefiting from federal funding announced Friday morning.

In all, a dozen research programs representing six Western faculties and schools will share almost $3.6 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund.

“This is a very important program that puts cutting-edge tools into the hands of researchers who need specialized infrastructure to bring their big ideas to life,” says Vice-President (Research), Lesley Rigg.

“It’s this combination of excellent people, creative thoughts and appropriate tools and spaces that powers the research enterprise, regardless of which discipline you’re in.”

Successful grants at Western came from the Ivey Business School, the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and the Faculties of Education, Engineering, Science and Social Science.

“This is great news for Western,” Rigg adds. “But more importantly, benefits from this support will be felt across Canada.”

Today’s Canada Foundation for Innovation recipients include:

· Kim Baines, Joe Gilroy and Yining Huang (Science): awarded $732,466 to purchase a 600Mhz Spectrometer for a range of initiatives related to materials synthesis and the creation of organic electronics and green technologies.

· Catherine Neish (Science): awarded $193,946 for a mobile LiDAR system that will allow her to rapidly acquire extremely high-resolution topographic maps of geologic systems using planetary analogues.

· Hassan Peerhossaini (Engineering: $204,282 to establish the Mechanics of Active Fluids and Bacterial Physics Laboratory. The facility will help better understand the flow and diffusion of microorganisms and the formation of biofilms, and the behaviour of microorganisms in the built and natural environment.

· Hamidreza Abdolvand (Engineering): $249,135 to optimize the manufacture of advanced alloys and to develop novel approaches that improve the performance and safety of materials used in the core of Canada’s nuclear reactors.

· Michael Boutilier (Engineering): $200,000 to establish the Nanostructured Membrane Fabrication and Characterization Facility, which will advance understandings of fluid at the smallest-length scale and lead to practical nanostructured membrane systems that improve performance for clean water and energy.

· June Cotte, Kirk Kristofferson, Matthew Sooy (Ivey Business School): $232,171 to establish the Decision-Making Laboratory, which will allow the team to observe subtle physiological changes associated with understanding consumer decision-making practices.

· Natasha Mhatre (Faculty of Science): $219,491 to characterize sound and vibration-based communication systems in spiders and tree crickets, which will provide insight into animal cognition and potentially improve smart algorithms and sensors for autonomous robots.

· Marco Prado (Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry): $219,218 to explore changes in brain chemistry occurring in dementia and to potentially correct or prevent these changes with medication or lifestyle changes.

· Jinfei Wang (Social Science): $157,278 to develop methodologies and applications for drone-based hyperspectral remote sensing in agriculture, which can be applied to crop disease detection and weed discrimination.

· Gilles Lajoie (Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry), Lauren Flynn (Engineering and Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry) and Kaizhong Zhang (Science): $800,000 for a state-of-the-art Eclipse Tribrid, which will be used to develop new strategies and tools in proteomics and allow for the study of a wide range of biological systems, including human stem cells.

Two additional recipients received CFI-JELF funding as part of their recently announced Canada Research Chairs:

· Emma Duerden (Education): $200,000 to examine how social deficits affect learning difficulties in infants and children with autism. Duerden hopes to identify objective measures that determine how effective behavioural interventions are for social stress and learning deficits.

· Barbara Fenesi (Education): $155,966 to apply advanced neuroimaging techniques to understand the neuropsychological processes through which physical activity increases student attention and facilitates learning. Fenesi hopes to inform best practices for physical activity in the classroom by better understanding the optimal duration, type and frequency.