CFI Invests in U of G Research

April 07, 2009 - News Release

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) was at the University of Guelph today, announcing that it's investing more than $26 million in revolutionary research at 29 Canadian universities. U of G received more than $1.1 million for six projects ranging from biomaterials to childhood injury prevention.

The announcement was made by the CFI's vice-president for programs and planning, Jac van Beek. Gary Goodyear, minister of state (science and technology), also attended the event, along with Prof. Kevin Hall, Guelph's vice-president (research), industry partners and Guelph faculty who received CFI awards in December 2008. It was the first time the CFI has been on campus since 2005.

"These awards demonstrate the depths of U of G research strength in both innovation and practical application," Hall said. "Solving fundamental problems and then moving that knowledge out of our classrooms and laboratories and putting it to use to benefit people's daily lives is our overarching goal."

Funding for the U of G projects, which involve faculty from four colleges, comes from CFI's Leaders Opportunity Fund (LOF), which was created to allow Canadian universities to attract and retain leading faculty and researchers. LOF recipients also apply for matching funding from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation.

"This award opens up new doors in discovering and engineering innovative biomaterials that will help in greening the manufacturing sectors in Ontario and Canada," said plant agriculture professor Amar Mohanty, who, along with engineering professor Manjusri Misra, received $463,796.

The funding will be used for novel equipment at U of G's Bioproducts and Development Centre, which is headed by Mohanty, holder of the Premier's Research Chair in Biomaterials and Transportation. Researchers at the centre are turning agricultural crops into everything from car parts and furniture to fuel. The goal is to substitute non-renewable materials in many manufacturing sectors, consumer goods and services.

Misra said the new equipment will establish U of G as a global leader in green materials research and development. It will also create a new research direction in nano-biocomposites and nano-enhanced biomaterials.

"Integration of nanotechnology with biomaterials is the smartest pathway to discover green products of improved and competent performance," she said. Among other things, the new equipment will allow researchers to fabricate a broad range of fibres, including crop-based green nanostructured fibres.

Psychology professor Barbara Morrongiello, who studies childhood injuries and prevention, received $124,563 to create a one-of-a-kind virtual-reality facility to study how children cross streets under different traffic conditions.

Child-pedestrian injuries are a leading cause of mortality and hospitalization for school-age children, she said. But one of the biggest challenges for researchers is devising ways to study children's behaviours under realistic traffic conditions without placing them at risk. The virtual-reality system will allow Morrongiello and her collaborators, PhD student Mike Corbett and Carolyn MacGregor from the University of Waterloo, to identify the main risk factors.

"Most important, we use this system to train children how to cross streets more safely," she said, adding that they hope to develop a portable system that can be set up in elementary schools. "We hope this type of training will reduce the risk of child-pedestrian injuries in Canada."

Prof. Mark Fenske, also of the Department of Psychology, received $163,885 for renovations and equipment to establish a Centre for Cognitive-Affective Neuroscience. There he and other researchers will use neuroimaging to better understand the neural and cognitive mechanisms that allow the brain's attention and emotional systems to operate together. "Receiving this CFI award is indeed very exciting news," he said. "The members of my lab are thrilled at the prospect of soon working in a world-class research facility."

U of G’s other LOF recipients are:

• Prof. Gale Bozzo, Department of Plant Agriculture, $125,242 to explore novel plant biochemistry processes involved in the preservation of horticultural produce quality. The goal is to extend the marketability of Canadian fruits, vegetables and floriculture and their derived products.

• Prof. Paul McNicholas, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, $118,362 to develop new model-based clustering techniques to enable statistical research involving parallel processing and very large data sets. The applications will be in bioinformatics such as DNA barcoding and food authenticity.

• Prof. Terry Van Raay, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, $126,134 to build a lab to create models for human ailments such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Using innovations developed by Van Raay, the lab will study zebrafish to answer questions in biochemistry, cell biology, genetics and molecular biology.

While at U of G, CFI officials toured the research laboratory of Prof. Beth Parker, an environmental engineer specializing in groundwater research. In December 2008, she received an LOF grant for lab and field equipment to study organic chemical contamination in fractured rock beneath industrial sites.

The CFI is an independent not-for-profit corporation established by the Canadian government in 1997. Its goal is to strengthen Canada's university research and training environment through partnerships with research institutions, the provinces and other levels of government, as well as the private and voluntary sectors.

For media questions, contact U of G Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, Ext. 53338, or Barry Gunn, Ext. 56982

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1