Three Professors Win Early Researcher Awards

March 12, 2014 - News Release

Three University of Guelph professors have received Early Researcher Awards (ERA) from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation.

The announcement was made today by Liz Sandals, minister of education and MPP for Guelph-Wellington, during an event at the University.

Worth $100,000 each, the awards will support novel U of G research in parent-child feeding interactions, forest biodiversity and bacterial biofilms in clinical wounds.

“The University of Guelph continues to attract talented researchers and these Early Researcher Awards from the Ontario Research Fund will assist them to move forward with their innovative research projects,” said Sandals.

U of G award recipients were Profs. Jess Haines, Family Relations and Applied Nutrition; Alex Smith, Integrative Biology; and Suresh Neethirajan, Engineering.

“The Early Researcher Awards are an important investment by Ontario in advancing the research programs of some of our most promising young faculty. These awardees have already proven themselves as leaders in their fields," said Rich Moccia, associate vice-president research (strategic partnerships).

The highly competitive program is open to researchers within the first five years of their career.

Said Haines, “The ERA funds will help us to recruit and train PhD, MSc and undergraduate students.

“This will mean we have the human resources to complete the research, and these students will gain skills in research design and statistical analyses.”

Haines and her team will observe families during mealtimes to learn about connections between parental feeding practices and children’s diet and obesity risk.

Smith said he looks forward to using his award to “recruit some fantastic graduate students. As Ontarians, we derive both a sense of identity and strong economic value from our forests and this grant will add to the valuable investments already made to biodiversity in Ontario.”

The team will study how forestry practices affect diversity and community structure of Ontario forest arthropods.
Neethirajan intends to design therapeutic strategies to prevent bacterial biofilms and microbial infections.

“The goal of our research is to develop microfluidic models such as skin for understanding chronic wound biofilms,” he said.

“The results will help us understand the host inflammatory response to wound infection and to investigate the antibiotic efficacies against multi-drug pathogens. These models will help generate innovative, high-value products in Ontario's pharmaceutical and health-care sector.”

John Livernois, associate vice-president (research services), called the awards “a tribute to the strength of our faculty.

“The awards will help to ensure that Guelph will continue to lead in vital research and innovation, contributing to advancing the well-being of our citizens, ecosystems and environment throughout Ontario and around the world.”

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

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