Campus News

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

News Release

November 03, 2003

Novel research projects receive CFI backing

A digital media studio that will allow multidisciplinary art and popular culture to intersect and a robot that will help scientists analyze bacterial populations are among five new and diverse University of Guelph research projects that received support today from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

The announcement was made by CFI president David Strangway, who allocated $24.3 million to 38 Canadian institutions. The U of G projects involve six professors in four departments and total more than $500,000. The researchers are: Patrick Boerlin, Department of Pathobiology; Joseph Colasanti, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics; Dalia Fayek, School of Engineering; Kim Kozzi and Dai Skuse, School of Fine Art and Music; and Bill Van Heyst, School of Engineering.

“We are very pleased to receive a CFI grant,” said Skuse and Kozzi, who make up the art duo FASTWURMS and share a joint appointment at U of G. The cross-discliplinary artists work in photography, film, sculpture, performance and installation art. They incorporate sound, video, images and performance into the classroom, mixing art and popular culture. They will use their $103,200 CFI grant for a digital media studio that will include computers, cameras, cinema displays, video projection equipment and integrated surround audio sound. “FASTWURMS research is based in the creative areas of social exchange and event architecture and focused on new integrated digital technologies, simultaneity of production and exchange and collaborative networks,” they said. The studio, which will enable leading-edge research, promises to be “a unique and innovative approach to digital audio video cultural production.”

Pathobiologist Boerlin will be using his $124,800 in CFI funding to do research into population genetics and molecular epidemiology of veterinary and zoonotic pathogens. The centrepiece of the project will be a liquid-handling robot, which will be used to study the population structure of bacterial pathogens and to trace their spread and evolution with the newest DNA-based methods available. “This grant represents a dream come true,” he said. “It will allow us to carry out molecular investigations of bacterial populations at unprecedented speed, scale and depth. It will open the way to many interdiscliplinary studies we would not have even dared thinking of in the past.”

Fayek received $71,657 for a QoS IP traffic management over optical fibre. It’s central to her work in creating a “service layer” in a health-care infrastructure that will include features to enable secure communications of “diagnosis-quality” transactions. “Since this research will be based on both packet-switched and optical networks, this will also create a new research field in the school of engineering and the university as a whole,” she said.

Van Heyst will use his $88,956 grant to create a state-of-the-art mercury measurement lab. “I couldn’t be more thrilled,” he said. “Having this equipment early in my career will make a huge difference.” Van Heyst will study the behaviour of mercury in the environment and develop and validate high-end computer models. “The computer simulations will eventually lead to the development of regional mercury emission inventories that can be used by air quality modellers to assess the mercury exposure risk of various populations.”

Colasanti received $124,416 to develop a plant gene expression laboratory, where he will determine where and when genes are turned on and off in plants. Analyzing such patterns is crucial for understanding how genes act together to create an organism and is an important step in analyzing genome function, he said. Colasanti will also develop a plant architecture informatics lab for visualizing gene expression data.

All of the U of G projects fall under CFI’s New Opportunities Fund, which was designed to launch the careers of new faculty and help institutions recruit exceptional scholars. It 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.

“These CFI grants will help our talented young faculty make outstanding contributions to the development of science and innovation,” said Chris McKenna, associate vice-president (research). “They will also provide our researchers and students with access to state-of-the-art equipment and facilities.”

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.

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