CFI awards include WCVM scientists

Three Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) researchers are among the 10 University of Saskatchewan (U of S) research teams that have been awarded more than $3 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund.

The funded projects at the U of S include studies aimed at determining wildlife and human impacts of natural resource development, finding ways to produce low-cost solar cells from environmentally-friendly organic materials, and probing the molecular structures of genes that could put humans at risk for diseases such as such as schizophrenia, depression and autism.

"This investment will provide the tools our researchers need to improve our health and the health of our environment, find new ways to reduce our carbon footprint, and forge national and international partnerships that help keep Canada at the forefront of innovation," said U of S Vice-President Research Karen Chad.

The three WCVM recipients are Drs. Adelaine Leung, John Giesy and Karen Machin — all of whom are based in the college's Department of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences.

Leung, who joined the WCVM as an assistant professor in 2012, received $219,147 from the CFI. The funding will be used for equipment to study genes potentially linked to the risk for developing neuropsychiatric diseases — such as autism and schizophrenia — using experimental approaches that study how these genes work at both molecular and cellular levels.

Ultimately, it is hoped that understanding these genes will lead to potential new treatments, improved patient care and reduced economic burden on the health care system.

Giesy holds the Canada Research Chair in Environmental Toxicology at the U of S and is a toxicology professor at the WCVM. He and Machin, an associate professor of veterinary biomedical sciences, are part of a research team that's led by Christy Morrissey, an assistant professor in the the U of S College of Arts and Science (Department of Biology).

The research team received $799,826 to build a multi-purpose housing and integrative bird research facility with holding areas and lab and experimental facilities located near existing large and small animal veterinary facilities. Research in this area is aimed at breakthroughs in bird health research in Canada.

The grants provide infrastructure support to Canadian institutions so they can attract and retain leading researchers at a time of intense international competition for knowledge workers. CFI funding covers nearly 40 per cent of project costs.  The remaining funds will be sought from provincial, industrial and other sources.

Other successful U of S recipients include:

Geoff Cunfer (history) for the expansion and renewal of the Historical Geographic Information Systems (HGIS) Laboratory, which combines historical research with innovative geographical methods to address urgent questions in environmental history and sustainability science. The U of S is one of only two institutions in North America that offers graduate training in historical GIS, and the only one that offers a Ph.D.

Natacha Hogan (toxicology) for new equipment to study how contaminants affect the immune systems of some at-risk amphibian species. This project aims to develop specific immunological tools that help identify amphibian species at risk for disease or potential decline, and to inform more effective restoration programs.

Ronald Steer (chemistry), Matthew Paige (chemistry) and Li Chen (engineering) for technology to produce efficient, low-cost solar cells from environmentally friendly organic materials, and measuring errors in electronic circuits. Southern Saskatchewan is one of the best locations in Canada to generate solar electrical energy, which is renewable and has almost no carbon footprint. The laser technology Steer and colleagues hope to develop will be unique in Canada and one of only two such systems worldwide.

Ajay Dalai (chemical engineering), Hui Wang (chemical engineering), and Robert Scott (chemistry) to support the establishment of state-of-the-art catalysis research facilities both in the College of Engineering and at the Canadian Light Source on campus, enabling the study of chemical processes that produce biofuels for potential commercialization.

Glenn Hussey, Kathryn McWilliams and Jean-Pierre St.-Maurice (Institute of Space and Atmospheric Studies) to design, construct and deploy a new advanced imaging radar which uses the latest digital radar techniques to make more detailed observations of the lower portion of the ionosphere. This research will enhance understanding of particle motions to minimize potential negative impacts of space weather on power grids, pipelines, telecommunications, and satellite technologies.

Steven Siciliano and Richard Farrell (soil science) for new equipment to study production and consumption of greenhouse gases, such as nitrous oxide, in soils. Results from this research may lead to new ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural soils and improve nitrogen use efficiency to benefit the environment and improve sustainability of farming and northern development.

Ian Stavness (computer science) for a proposed new facility that will bring together a unique set of hardware and software, including computers, cameras and sensors, to create digital representations of human bodies and objects. This will include advanced computer simulations and 3D visual displays.

Qiaoqin Yang (mechanical engineering), Akira Hirose (physics), and Wenjun Zhang (mechanical engineering) to build up a new multi-functional vapor deposition system for developing novel nanostructured coatings for a variety of applications in industry such as artificial joints and other technological products. This equipment is not currently available in Saskatchewan.

For a complete list of the projects awarded by CFI, please visit www.innovation.ca.
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