Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

July 05, 2002

CFI announces "New Opportunities" at U of G

Nine University of Guelph professors will have "New Opportunities" to conduct innovative research in nuclear physics, animal cloning, cancer therapy and other cutting-edge fields, thanks to a $1.2-million investment from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

Guelph is among 39 universities and research institutions across Canada receiving more than $30 million in research infrastructure support, Industry Minister Allan Rock announced this week. The university's projects fall under CFI's New Opportunities Fund, designed to help launch the careers of new and talented faculty members and help institutions to recruit scholars of exceptional quality in priority areas for research. The fund covers 40 per cent of the infrastructure costs of a project, with the remaining funds coming from the research institutions and private-, public- and voluntary-sector partners.

"This is truly exciting," said physics professor Carl Svensson, who received $320,000 from CFI for a high-resolution, position-sensitive gamma-ray spectrometer for research in nuclear physics. "This is a one-of-a-kind device that will provide my colleagues and me with research opportunities available nowhere else in the world. Infrastructure support of this kind is absolutely essential to ensure that Canadian faculty remain at the international forefront of innovative research and that the next generation of Canadian scientists, who are currently our students, are trained on the most advanced equipment available anywhere in the world."

The University of Guelph's other awards are:
• $267,890, Lana Mae Trick, Department of Psychology, and Blair Nonnecke, Department of Computing and Information Science, for research on age differences in driving behaviour and the impact of in-vehicle devices and intelligent transport systems on performance.

• $125,863, Shayan Sharif, Department of Pathobiology, to study genetically regulated resistance against infectious diseases in domestic animals.

• $125,052, Marc Coppolino, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, for research on cell adhesion and migration that will aid in studies of immunological deficiencies and cancer.

• $124,975, Xiaorong Qin, Department of Physics, who is studying complex issues related to the structural, electronic and optical properties of organic thin films.

• $124,100, Prof. Dean Betts, Department of Biomedical Sciences, for research on somatic cell nuclear transfer (animal cloning).

• $121,099, J. Scott Weese, Department of Clinical Studies, to establish a laboratory for the development and testing of veterinary probiotics (or "good bacteria") for use in the prevention and treatment of disease.

• $33,385, Prof. Daniel Meegan, Department of Psychology, for a research facility to assist in the rehabilitation of neuromotor disorders.

"These new investments send such a strong signal that the University of Guelph is becoming a home for great new faculty doing exciting work," said Alan Wildeman, vice-president (research). "The CFI is helping to remove some of the hurdles that lie between ideas and realization. Innovative research also enhances the ability of our campus to deliver leading-edge education and training."

The CFI was established in 1997 by the federal government to address the urgent needs of Canada's research community. It has a capital investment budget of $3.15 billion, and its goal is to strengthen Canada's university research and training environment through partnerships with the research institutions, the provinces and other levels of government, as well as the private and voluntary sectors.

Background on University of Guelph "New Opportunities" Projects

Animal Cloning

Dean Betts, a biomedical sciences professor, is developing strategies to improve somatic cell nuclear transplantation (animal cloning). While animal cloning has been accomplished in several species (including sheep, cattle, pigs and the domestic cat), the success rates are only between one and two per cent due to the high rate of embryonic and fetal abortions and abnormalities. Betts is identifying genes that are important during mammalian embryonic development and those that are regulated improperly after cloning. He hopes to develop gene profiles that are not compatible with clone development and identify new genes necessary for early mammalian embryo and fetal development. He will use the information to answer numerous biomedical questions, including how to assess abnormalities involved in human and animal cancers. "I am so excited to receive this CFI New Opportunities award since it will provide the much-needed framework to allow my research to advance, flourish and remain internationally competitive in this increasingly popular research field," he said.

Automated Driving Devices

Blair Nonnecke, a computing and information science professor, and psychology professor Lana Mae Trick are heading a multidisciplinary team investigating crash risk as a function of driver age. They are examining the effect of automated devices designed to facilitate driver performance. The goal is to reduce traffic injuries and fatalities while allowing drivers, particularly older ones, to maintain their mobility. The researchers will use a driving simulator to discover why older drivers are at risk and how to diminish this risk. Their work will include an examination of current in-vehicle devices and intelligent transportation systems to determine usability and the effect on driving performance. "Not only do these varying techniques require different motor response, they may also require different levels of skills and attention, which will have an impact on driver performance," Nonnecke said.

Disease Resistance/Food safety

Pathobiology professor Shayan Sharif is working to understand the underlying mechanisms of genetically regulated resistance against infectious diseases in domestic animals. Current treatment approaches in food-animal practice may not be adequate against the existing or emerging disease-causing organisms, and there may be food-safety risks associated with such interventions, Sharif said. "The CFI funding will provide a unique opportunity to significantly advance our understanding of the molecular and cellular aspects of genetic regulation of health and establish the foundation to devise ways for employing this knowledge to improve food production and safety."

Neuromotor Rehabilitation

Psychology professor Daniel Meegan is investigating the efficacy of novel techniques for the rehabilitation of neuromotor disorders. He will use CFI funding to purchase equipment that will allow the measurement of muscular electrical activity evoked by transcranial magnetic stimulation of the brain. Abnormalities in this evoked activity are diagnostic of problems in the pathway from the brain to the spinal cord to the muscle, and effective rehabilitation techniques show positive changes in the evoked activity. "I am very excited about this project and grateful to the CFI New Opportunities Program, without which this research would not have been possible," Meegan said.

Nuclear Physics

Working with colleagues from McMaster University and the TRIUMF Laboratory in Vancouver, physics professor Carl Svensson will be using a high-resolution, position sensitive gamma-ray spectrometer to measure the high-frequency light emitted when atomic nuclei make transitions from one quantum energy level to another. He will be investigating fundamental physics questions, including how the atomic nucleus responds to the stresses of rapid rotation, the detailed pathways by which the chemical elements are synthesized in explosive astrophysical events, the interactions of elementary particles, and the origin of imbalance between matter and anti-matter in the universe.


Clinical studies professor Scott Weese is establishing a laboratory for the development and testing of veterinary probiotics. Probiotics are "good bacteria" that can be used for the prevention and treatment of disease. Probiotics are a potentially appealing treatment option because they are safe and do not encourage the development of resistant bacteria. Weese will be looking at development and testing of species-specific probiotics for prevention and treatment of a number of conditions in horses, cattle, pigs, dogs and cats, including salmonellosis in horses, clostridial enteritis in horses and dogs, E. coli diarrhea in calves, shedding of E. coli 0157 in cattle and MRSA infection in horses. "I am very pleased and honoured to receive this award and anticipate that it will help my laboratory, and the University of Guelph, be at the forefront of veterinary probiotic development in Canada," Weese said.

Cancer/Developmental Disorders

Biochemistry professor Marc Coppolino is researching cell adhesion and migration, which are fundamentally important to the existence of multicellular organisms. Disruption of normal cellular adhesion and migratory activities can lead to developmental disorders and contribute to the progression of arthritis, immunological deficiencies and cancer. Cell adhesion and migration are complex processes involving numerous biochemical signalling events. Coppolino hopes to identify the molecules that control these activities, allowing them to be co-ordinated during cell movement. Several techniques he will use in his laboratory require sophisticated methods for the imaging of cells, equipment that will be funded through CFI.

Organic Thin Films

Physics professor Xiaorong Qin is using sophisticated microscopes to study organic thin films. "The knowledge gained in the research is valuable for applications in electronics, materials processing and even life science," she said. A recent trend in the microelectronics industry is the increasing use of organic molecules due to their attractive functions in electrical transport and light emitting/absorbing properties. They may also solve engineering problems that traditionally were approached only with inorganic materials. "We find ourselves at the threshold of realizing an entirely new class of materials," Qin said. "The applications for the materials are limited mainly by our ability to control the composition and structure of the thin films, which make the research on the growth and characterization a crucial part of the progress in this field."

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