Feds announce $2.4M for Trent University researchers as part of $558M national investment in discovery science

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Trent researchers get $2.4M in federal funding
Scientists at Trent University in Peterborough get multi-million dollar grant for research – Oct 9, 2018

The federal government is investing more than $2.4 million to support research at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont. as part of a national $558-million investment.

At Trent’s main campus on Tuesday, Peterborough-Kawartha MP Maryam Monsef made the announcement on behalf of Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport.

“Canada is a world leader in science, and the investments we are making today in Trent University will ensure researchers and students are able to pursue their dreams and come up with solutions to some of our most pressing challenges,” Monsef stated.

“Our investments show that Canada is serious about science.”

The funding is part of the more than $558 million in Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) investments announced Tuesday for institutions across the country as part of the government’s plan to attract global talent and promote diversity.

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The government says the funding will also provide nearly 4,300 researchers and students with the means to pursue world‑leading discovery work.

“Investments in science are essential to innovation and to the economic strength of Canada,” Monsef said. “Congratulations to all of today’s recipients as they continue their important work.”

This year, the NSERC discovery grants program is providing more than $5 million in supplements for early-career researchers.

At Trent University, that includes Dr. Christina Davy, who is studying the ecological effects of resource development on threatened wildlife and Dr. Ian Power, who is researching carbon dioxide capture and storage in mining operations.

Dr. Leo Groarke, Trent University president and vice-chancellor, says support for the sciences and globally impactful research is more important than ever.

“I’m delighted to see this round of funding support three of our newest researchers at the university, among many other distinguished faculty,” he said.

“This NSERC funding helps emphasize our longstanding leadership in the environment and supports Trent’s emerging strengths in health sciences and agriculture.”

The $558-million research investment announced Tuesday includes $70 million in funding from the 2018 federal budget. The grants go toward NSERC discovery programs, graduate and postgraduate scholarships and post-doctoral fellowships, and research tools and instruments.

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“The funding commitment outlined in Budget 2018 will provide a very significant increase to the discovery program to support science and engineering researchers,” said Dr. Pierre Charest, NSERC vice-president, research grants and scholarships directorate.

“Additionally, this investment will contribute critical supplementary funding to launch early-career researchers and to support equity, diversity and inclusion.”


Trent research projects awarded five-year NSERC Discovery Grants include:

  • Dr. Christina Davy, Environmental and Life Sciences: ecological effects of resource development on threatened wildlife. Jer research focus is on the impact of rapid environmental changes on small or declining wildlife populations, and on producing rigorous science that can help with the recovery of these populations. Her research aims to improve our understanding of the ecological impacts of human landscape use, in order to help Canadian jurisdictions to make evidence-based decisions when balancing recovery of threatened wildlife populations with unavoidable human demands on natural resources.
  • Dr. Ian Power, Canada research chairperson in Environmental Geoscience within the Trent School of the Environment: carbon dioxide sequestration and mining environments. This research will make significant contributions to sustainable development of mineral resources and facilitate society’s transition to a low-carbon economy. It will also help mining companies reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit the costs of carbon pricing. Developing and implementing new technologies and processes for reducing greenhouse gas emissions will create new employment opportunities for Canadians in the emerging sectors of carbon management and sequestration while enhancing the competitiveness of Canada’s mining sector.
  • Dr. Robert Huber, Biology: Better understand the roles of important proteins in the cell. His research will use a model organism (soil microbe) to reveal the precise function of the CLN3 protein (belonging to the NCL protein family). In humans, mutations in NCL proteins cause Batten disease, the most common form of childhood neurodegeneration. In the long-term, this work will have a significant impact on our understanding of the roles these important, but poorly characterized, proteins play in the cell.
  • Dr. Holger Hintelmann, Chemistry: Studying the fate of mercury in the environment. Mercury contamination poses a significant threat to human health and natural ecosystems and man-made mercury emissions have increased substantially since pre-industrial times. His research will provide methods to distinguish between geogenic and anthropogenic mercury in the environment. This research will help shape policies for the future management of mercury in affected communities and other vulnerable ecosystems in Canada and around the world.
  • Dr. Hugo Lehmann, Psychology: How our memories can become resistant to brain damage or neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s
    Our longterm memories are supported, in part, by a brain structure called the hippocampus. Damage to this structure causes severe memory loss, but repeated learning trials or memory reactivations, termed reinstatements, enable the memory to become resistant to hippocampal damage. This research aims to determine the brain plasticity that makes reinstated memories more resistant to brain damage, with an emphasis on damage that includes the hippocampus.
  • Dr. Neil Emery, Biology and vice-president Research and Innovation: How plant hormones called cytokinins are also controlling growth of fungi, slime moulds and insects. In previous grants, Emery’s research showed how plant hormones called cytokinins acted like steroids that increased growth and yield of crop plants. His recent discoveries now confirm that these hormones are not specific to plants and that they are also made by fungi, slime moulds and insects. This new research will investigate how these hormones travel and communicate through different organisms and among the kingdoms of life, while impacting each other’s growth in the form of tumors, galls, and seed and spore development.
  • Dr. William Atkinson, Physics and Astronomy: Material that can be used in the push towards making smaller and faster electronics. As computers, cellphones and medical equipment continue to get smaller and faster, interest is growing in broadening the capabilities of nano-electronic devices.  Atkinson’s research will focus on transition metal oxides, which hold much potential because they can have many properties — including superconductivity, magnetism and ferroelectricity — that are not found in conventional semiconductors.
  • Dr. Marcel Dorken, Biology: Evolution and ecology of plant reproductive strategies. The flowering plants dominate terrestrial ecosystems and are the ultimate source of nearly all food consumed by birds and mammals (including humans) but our understanding of their ecology and evolution lags far behind that of animals. Professor Dorken uses theoretical models and experiments to make progress in our understanding of this important group of organisms.
  • Dr. Dennis Murray, Biology, Canada research chair in Integrative Wildlife Conservation: The predation of snowshoe hares by lynx and coyote in Canada’s northern forests. Murray’s research will comprehensively address major knowledge gaps and establish a new basis for understanding predator-prey interactions. This information will help better manage and conserve these animals that are of important commercial value to northern communities. In addition to the Discovery Grant, Prof. Murray also received a Northern Research Supplement.
  • Dr. Steven Rafferty, Chemistry: Understanding the bioinorganic chemistry of an important human and animal pathogen. The iron-containing cofactor heme is a versatile molecular tool that enables our hemoglobin to carry oxygen, but it does much more than that, and it is indispensable for most organisms. Until recently, the parasite Giardia intestinalis was thought to be one of the rare organisms that did not need heme and could not make it – yet surprisingly, the genome of Giardia has genes for several heme proteins. Rafferty’s research investigates the nature of these proteins and seeks to discover additional ones that may have escaped easy identification. Together with the research of Janet Yee in the Biology department this makes Trent one of the only centres for Giardia heme protein research in the world.
  • Dr. Aaron Slepkov, Physics & Astronomy, Canada research chair in Physics of Biomaterials: Advanced nonlinear microscopy tools for label-free materials characterization. Slepkov’s research will investigate the potential of a powerful type of imaging, known as nonlinear optical microscopy, to answer important questions in other disciplines such as biomaterials, drug forensics, the geosciences and paleobiology.
  • Dr. Liana Brown, Psychology: She received a Discovery Development Grant for her research on how using our hands can help improve vision. This research has the potential to help rehabilitation specialists develop strategies for treating people with brain injury. Experiments so far have shown that people can see things better when they are in or near our hands or when they are near a tool that we know how to use well. Brown’s proposed experiments will study the degree to which this near-hand advantage can be explained by the possibility that things appearing near your hands activate brain areas specialized for planning and executing actions.

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