U of G Receives $8 Million From NSERC

May 21, 2013 - News Release

Creating more intelligent computers, understanding how fish can live out of water, and improving learning and memory are among University of Guelph projects to benefit from an $8.6-million investment from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

The awards were announced in Ottawa by Gary Goodyear, minister of state (science and technology). Across Canada, the government will invest $414 million to support 3,808 research projects in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Today’s announcement includes the 2013 competition results for NSERC programs, including Discovery Grants, Discovery Accelerator Supplements, and graduate and post-doctoral awards. Most research projects are supported for five years.

Guelph’s 50-odd projects span five colleges and numerous departments. U of G also received 34 graduate scholarships and a post-doctoral fellowship.

"These awards provide our researchers with the equipment, technology and other resources they need to leverage their innovations into new knowledge and practical applications,” said Kevin Hall, vice-president (research).

“One of Guelph’s strengths is our leadership and dedication in supporting research that has tangible impacts.”

Engineering professor Graham Taylor received nearly $220,000 to study “deep learning,” or computer methods that mimic the human brain’s activity. Computers learn to recognize patterns in digital representations of sounds, images and other information, and make decisions based on the processed data.

“It's amazing to be working in the field amid all this excitement about artificial intelligence,” said Taylor, who joined the U of G faculty in June 2012 and had received NSERC support as a graduate student.

“Deep learning especially has received a great deal of attention in the media lately for its success at some of the most influential high-tech companies, such as Google, Apple and Microsoft,” he said.

“Everyone's generating data. Everyone wants to do more with their data. So over the next few years, I hope to collaborate with many different researchers here and tackle more problems with deep learning.”

He called the NSERC grant critical to his research and for attracting and training data engineers “who can satiate the growing demand for highly qualified personnel with deep analytical skills.”

Integrative biology professor Patricia Wright received two grants worth nearly $282,000 to study how animals handle environmental changes. She studies how and why fish and other aquatic animals live in varying oxygen concentration, salinity and temperature, and even changing water availability.

Learning how the brain puts together information from our senses is the purpose of two grants worth nearly $200,000 for psychology professor Boyer Winters. He studies the neurobiology of learning and memory, using rodent models of human memory dysfunction.

“A better understanding of the basic mechanisms involved in this complex function will speak to various aspects of human cognition, such as learning, memory and attention, and may prove fruitful in guiding therapeutic strategies for human cognitive disorders such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease,” Winters said.

Anthony Clarke
, assistant vice-president (graduate studies and program quality assurance) and a professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, said he is “delighted” with his one-year $62,200 grant. Using a planned high-pressure liquid chromatography system, Clarke and other campus researchers will study sugars to improve production of cellulosic ethanol and crop plants and to find new targets for antibiotics.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, lhunt@uoguelph.ca; or Kevin Gonsalves, Ext. 56982, kgonsalves@uoguelph.ca.

University of Guelph
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Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1