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Faculty of Science
Laurier researchers have successful year for NSERC Discovery Grants
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Laurier researchers have had an excellent year in the annual peer-reviewed competition for Discovery Grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council funding. NSERC has announced that 14 of Laurier’s researchers each received five years of funding.
This year, Laurier’s mathematics department did particularly well, with four faculty members awarded multi-year funding. Seventy percent of the department’s faculty now receive NSERC funding. The four who received funding this year are:
■ Roderick Melnik ($120,000). Melnik's project is titled "Model coupling in multiscale mathematics and properties of nanostructures." He says: “Mathematical models play an increasingly important role in all areas of human endeavours, ranging from our studies of climatic changes to our understanding of the fabric of life. Nanoscience takes a special place in these endeavours as it is profoundly changing our lives, revolutionizing research in sciences and engineering, enabling new diagnostics and treatments in medicine, and driving the most powerful wave of innovation in virtually all domains of human endeavours. But in order to use nanostructures efficiently, we need to know their properties. This project is devoted to the development of mathematical models for studies of these properties, and then to analyzing mathematical models with applications in physics, engineering, biology, and medicine."
■ Cristina Stoica ($75,000). Stoica’s project is titled “Dynamics of constrained and unconstrained systems.” She explains: "Virtually all systems in nature are subject to change. An important goal of the study of a system is the prediction of the systems state (in space and time). After we work out our predictions, we start devising methods for control." Her research concerns two topics: The dynamics of unconstrained mechanical systems (which could be interacting molecules or planetary systems) and the dynamics of constrained mechanical systems such as sleighs, skateboards, rolling spheres, or underwater vehicles.
■ Douglas Woolford ($60,000). Woolford’s project is titled “Spatiotemporal series of count and proportion data: Climate change and forest fires.” He says: “I plan to develop tools and methodology for detecting trends in complex spatiotemporal data sets on historical forest fire, fire-weather and lightning, compiled by Canadian forest fire management agencies. A long-term goal is the construction of a framework for investigating forest fire and climate-change related hypotheses across a provincial or national study region."
■ Kaiming Zhao ($105,000). Zhao’s project is titled “Weight representations of some Lie algebras”. Lie algebra theory is widely used in many branches of mathematics, physics and finance. “The main objective of my research is to study good representations for some important Lie algebras (such as Kac-Moddy algebras, generalized Virasoro algebras and the twisted Heisenberg-Virasoro algebra), and for some other Lie algebras with useful structures (for example, quantum torus Lie algebras and generalized Cartan type Lie algebras). Solutions to these problems will advance theoretical studies in both physics and mathematics.”
Among the 10 other successful Laurier applicants this year, biology professor Matthew Smith stands out. In addition to being awarded $220,000 over five years, NSERC awarded Smith – who obtained his BSc from Laurier – an additional $120,000 over three years under the Discovery Accelerator Supplements Program. That program is designed “to accelerate progress and maximize the impact of outstanding research programs” for a “small group of outstanding researchers who have a well-established research program, and who show strong potential to become international leaders in their respective area of research.”
Smith’s research project is titled “Functional analysis of chloroplast protein import components,” which, he says, “will contribute to our overall understanding of intracellular protein trafficking, which is a fundamental cellular process essential for the growth and survival of all organisms.”
The additional funding, he says, "will help us to answer questions identified in the Discovery Grant more quickly by enabling us to add personnel to the research group. It will also be possible for us to use previously unplanned for experimental approaches, which will enable us to answer our research questions in more depth."
Other NSERC Discovery Grant recipients this year are:
■ Mike Wilkie, Biology, $135,000, “Mechanisms of nitrogen excretion, toxicity and tolerance in ancient and modern fishes.”
■ Ken Maly, Chemistry, $150,000, “Organic materials via self-assembly.”
■ Scott Smith, Chemistry, $100,000, “Organic matter variability and implications for metal bioavailability in urban watersheds.”
■ Bill Quinton, Geography and Environmental Science, $100,000, “Permafrost degradation mechanisms in organic covered terrains.”
■ Jayne Kalmar, Kinesiology and Physical Education, $115,000, “Supraspinal and segmental mechanisms of fatigue.”
■ Stephen Perry, Kinesiology and Physical Education, $105,000, “The role of plantar-surface mechanoreception in dynamic balance.”
■ Peter Tiidus, Kinesiology and Physical Education, $135,000, “Mechanisms of estrogen receptor and estrogen influence on satellite cells and skeletal muscle”
■ Angele Hamel, Physics and Computer Science, $75,000, “Theory and applications of algebraic combinatorics.”
■ Rudy Eikelboom, Psychology, $135,000, “Appetitive behaviours in rats: routes to addiction?”