CFI Announces Support for U of G Research

July 03, 2007 - News Release

For the second time in as many months, the Canada Foundation for Innovation has invested in research at the University of Guelph. The latest allocation of nearly $630,000 will support four diverse projects spanning the social and physical sciences.

The U of G projects range from digitizing census data from 1871 to researching nuclear power generation to studying nanostructures to developing ways of representing both traditional aboriginal knowledge and western science in ecological studies.

Support for the Guelph projects comes from CFI’s Leaders Opportunity Fund, which is designed to help universities attract and retain outstanding faculty and researchers. Canada-wide, CFI is investing $26 million in 136 projects at 40 institutions in this latest funding round.

“This new funding will allow researchers at the University of Guelph to turn their ideas into innovations that provide solutions to the challenges of our time,” said Eliot Phillipson, CFI’s president and CEO, who made the announcement today in Montreal.

“Investments like these have transformed Canada’s research landscape over the past decade and made the country a magnet for the highly skilled people upon which our future well-being depends.”

Economics professor Kris Inwood and history professor Graeme Morton received $250,000 to build research databases from information collected in the Canadian and Scottish censuses from 1871. The 1870s were a key decade for industrialization, migration and changing household composition in Ontario. The researchers will use the information for a range of studies, from the Scottish influence on and relationship to Ontario to understanding how aboriginal communities were enumerated in the Canadian census. The data will also be used by faculty and students from Canada and around the world for decades to come, they said.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to study the people who moved from Scotland to Canada in the post-Confederation years and to compare them with those who stayed behind,” Morton said. “By creating this research infrastructure, we will for the first time be able to place those personal narratives in the wider socio-economic and demographic structure of both Scotland and Canada in 1871.”

The project builds on earlier work by Inwood and Guelph history professors Kevin James and Doug McCalla that involved turning handwritten census information from 1891 into digital data to answer wide-ranging social and economic questions about that era.

“The new award is highly complementary to the 1891 project because we will be able to follow individuals from one census to another in a methodologically rigorous manner,” Inwood said. “This will greatly improve our understanding of occupational and residential mobility and the way peoples adapted to and took advantage of economic restructuring.” More information about the 1871 census project is available online.

Chemistry professor Peter Tremaine received $171,330 to help create a state-of-the-art laboratory for high-temperature water chemistry in Ontario. The money will be used to buy special instruments that exist in only a few labs worldwide and will support Tremaine’s research as well as collaborations with scholars at five other Canadian universities.

He is involved in numerous fundamental studies that explore chemistry at extremes of heat and pressure, such as that encountered in nuclear reactors. His research, which is also supported by other government granting agencies, will provide useful information for nuclear engineers seeking to extend the lifetimes of nuclear reactors in Ontario and other parts of Canada and to investigate ideas for advanced reactor concepts.

Integrative biology professor Steve Crawford received $58,145 for his efforts to improve communication between aboriginal and western science knowledge systems. The award will allow him to develop a model to represent the structure and function of both knowledge systems. This model should be a highly practical tool to compare and contrast aboriginal traditional knowledge and western science in a neutral environment, Crawford said. His research is already supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Physics professor Jiang De-Tong received $148,350 to buy a portable vacuum thin film growth system and an atomic-force microscope system. These will aid in understanding and creating nanostrucutres, which have application potentials in electronics and other functional materials. The equipment will be used at an X-ray facility housed at Canadian Light Source Inc., Canada’s synchrotron research facility at the University of Saskatchewan. Collaborating on this work are U of G physicists Stefan Kycia and Xiaorong Qin, as well as researchers at Canadian Light Source and in the United States.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982.

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