Dal researchers reap $18 million in funding

Dalhousie ranks in top 10 for innovation investment

- May 29, 2007

Carl Breckenridge
Dr. Carl Breckenridge: "I think we do so well because of our exceptional faculty." (Pearce photo)

Harm Rotermund arrived in Halifax eight months ago to become the chair of DalhousieÕs Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science. Now, heÕs thinking that decision was brilliant.

Dr. Rotermund and fellow physics professor Jeffrey Dahn were awarded Discovery Accelerator Supplements. The award is a new initiative by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) directed to select researchers who are poised to make major breakthroughs in their fields.

Only 50 of the new awards were given across the country.

ÒI definitely boarded the right ship,” said Dr. Rotermund, formerly of BerlinÕs Fritz-Haber-Institut (FHI). ÒThis department is climbing a steep-rising slope. IÕm so glad I made the decision to come here.”

The award amounts to $40,000 a year for three years, and is in addition to Dr. RotermundÕs NSERC funding of $70,000 a year. It will allow him to hire more post-docs and graduate students in his laboratory. Dr. Rotermund's research looks at ways to clean the exhaust fumes emitted from catalytic converters.

Dr. Dahn, Canada Research Chair in Battery and Fuel Cell Materials, will likewise use the money from his award to acquire additional equipment and personnel for his bio-materials research.

'Strong research-focused community'

The introduction of the Discovery Accelerator Awards is part of a larger announcement on the NSERC's 2007 grants and scholarships.

Overall, researchers at Dalhousie received $18 million in funding from the federal agency Ñ ranking ninth among universities in the country. The money will fund 169 scholarships totaling $3.4 million and 114 research grants totaling $14.5 million. The money supports research ranging from dust-explosion analysis to understanding the effects of species loss in the food chain.

ÒWe do extremely well for our size, both in terms of scholarships and research funding,” said Carl Breckenridge, Vice President (Research).  ÒWeÕre very pleased with this success. It reinforces that we have a really strong research-focused community.”

ÒI think we do so well because of our exceptional faculty,” he continued. ÒWeÕve been successful in recruiting excellent scientists and researchers to our university. They seem to like Halifax as a place to live.”

Undergraduate students benefit

Undergraduate students reap the benefits of DalhousieÕs research strength. As well as the direct grants to undergraduates Ñ Ninety-nine undergrads at Dalhousie will receive NSERCÕs Undergraduate Student Research Awards worth a total of $445,500 Ñ NSERC funding has a trickle-down effect. It allows Dalhousie scientists to build up their research groups, or Òlearning teams,” as described by Keith Taylor, Dean of the Faculty of Science.

ÒThe undergraduates who get to be part of these groups get mentored in research,” explained Dr. Taylor. ÒTheyÕre all part of this vibrant discovery process in which they mutually teach each other.”

Undergraduate honours science students also gain research experience through their honours projects in fourth year and many are able to take advantage of summer employment opportunities.

ÒThereÕs just so much potential for students to get involved,” said Dr. Breckenridge. ÒThis is where Dalhousie has a definite advantage.”

In all, NSERC will disburse $583 million to 10,000 professors, students and post-doctoral researchers across Canada, including $42.3 million at Atlantic Canadian institutions.


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