New research chairs appointed in OAC | Ontario Agricultural College

New research chairs appointed in OAC

Posted on Tuesday, November 1st, 2022

Two research leaders have been appointed to chair positions within the Ontario Agricultural College to advance research programs focused on climate change adaption and resilience.

Dr. Asim Biswas, School of Environmental Sciences, has been appointed as the OAC Chair in Soils and Precision Agriculture, and Dr. Angela Cánovas, Department of Animal Biosciences, has been appointed as the OAC Chair in Phenomics and Systems Biology.

“Drs. Biswas and Cánovas are excellent scientists who are discovering new ways to support agriculture’s resilience to the impacts of climate change,” says Dr. Rene Van Acker, Dean of the Ontario Agricultural College. “Elevating their research programs will have positive impact on global food security, which is always a focus for our college and university.”

Both researchers also support large lab groups which include students, postdoctoral fellows and research associates from diverse backgrounds and disciplines.

“Asim and Angela are important mentors who recruit and train Highly Qualified Personnel (HQP) from Canada and internationally,” says Van Acker. “Their emphasis on mentorship of HQP and building large research teams is part of what makes them so valuable as leaders in our college.”

Both appointments are 5-year terms, effective September 1, 2022 and are donor-supported through a donation made by the MacLaren family.

OAC Chair in Soils and Precision Agriculture
Dr. Asim Biswas

In this role, Biswas will emphasize data-driven, sustainable soil management approaches to increase the productivity and resilience of land-based agri-food production systems. 

His research focuses on developing theoretical, conceptual, and quantitative frameworks for sustainable soil management at the intersection of soil, technology, and data. His work integrates soil data, sensor technology, and modeling with fundamental knowledge of soil and crop production practices. Research outcomes allow producers and policymakers to understand factors that can maximize land-based agricultural productivity.

“The world is increasingly facing issues of food insecurity due to climate change and the increased vulnerability of agricultural landscapes,” says Van Acker. “Elevating Asim’s research portfolio in our college will lead to innovative practical applications that will benefit farmers, land managers, modelers, and policymakers.”

Biswas received his Ph.D. in soil physics in 2011 from the University of Saskatchewan. Following his Ph.D. he was a research scientist and post-doctoral fellow at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and in 2013, he joined the Department of Natural Resource Sciences at McGill University. He joined the University of Guelph in 2016.

OAC Chair in Phenomics and Systems Biology
Dr. Angela Cánovas

In this role, Cánovas will investigate the genetic and genomic architecture of animal immune response to diseases, such as mastitis, early embryonic loss, brisket disease, and gastrointestinal parasitism, and by understanding feed-efficiency decrease environmental outputs such as methane emissions. 

Her research seeks to understand the genetic basis of complex, economically important traits that will lead to improved yields and gains through genetic and genomic selection. Her work combines novel OMICS technologies, statistical genomics and bioinformatics with further functional validation to accelerate the genetic improvement and innovation in Canada’s cattle, swine and sheep industries. 

“Angela’s research is vitally important for the Canadian animal production industry,” says Van Acker, “but also has exciting potential when looked at through a “One Health” lens as her program’s findings could also potentially be applied to human health and wellbeing.”

Cánovas received her Ph.D. in animal breeding and genetics at University of Lleida. After completing her Ph.D., she was a Fulbright Excellence post-doctoral researcher at the University of California-Davis. In 2015 she joined the University of Guelph.

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