Dal researchers part of $96 million investment by Government of Canada to support new research infrastructure projects

- August 28, 2020

Researchers at Dalhousie are the recipients of $1.5 million in funding that will help acquire the cutting-edge tools they need to conduct world-class research. The funding for these Dal-led projects is part of a larger $96 million investment to support 377 new research infrastructure projects at 55 institutions from coast to coast.

The funds, which are provided through the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF), are designed to help universities attract and retain the best and brightest researchers from around the world.

And, to further contribute to the Government of Canada’s efforts to provide support for research infrastructure in the province, Research Nova Scotia is matching national CFI funding for six of the projects. The combined investment from both organizations is more than $2.5 million.

“Support from the Canada Foundation for Innovation ensures that researchers are equipped for success at every stage of their career,” says Roseann O’Reilly Runte, the CFI’s president and CEO. “The John R. Evans Leaders Fund helps Canadian universities, institutes and research hospitals create the conditions necessary for their talented researchers to excel.”

“This investment from the Government of Canada is helping to ensure Canada has a prosperous future,” says Alice Aiken, vice-president research and innovation at Dalhousie. “Dalhousie’s researchers have always been leaders in discovery and innovation, and by giving the them the tools they need to excel, it highlights our role as a global leader in environmental, medical and social research.”

Project highlights

Dr. Noreen Kamal

Faculty: Engineering
Project: Health Care System Optimization and Analytics

Health care is costly to deliver, and there are significant deficiencies in the quality of care that is delivered. The issues plaguing our health-care system include long wait times for access to medical treatment and non-urgent surgeries. However, the root cause of these issues are often upstream or downstream of the unit or department being affected. Models and simulations are needed to be developed that take the entire health system into account in order to make substantive changes to our health system.

Dr. Kamal and her team are proposing to develop novel models, sophisticated simulations, visualizations, and improvement methodologies that consider the health care system as a whole to foster substantive change to health care organization and delivery. The methods will combine a system-wide view (“big data”) with existing industrial engineering methodologies to make improvements to our health-care system.

Dr. Kamal’s research will include a high-performance computational infrastructure that will allow for the development of novel models, simulations, as well as big-data analytics. Additionally, they will interface with Nova Scotia Health and other health care organizations through both embedding researchers and trainees within the health-care organization, and also enabling virtual links to remote locations through video conferencing.

Dr. Brandon Heung

Faculty: Agriculture
Project: Infrastructure for a Soil-Landscape Analysis & Modelling Lab

Accurate and precise soil information is needed to maintain and improve our soil resources and to address significant environmental challenges, such as the loss of agricultural land, the decline in soil organic carbon, and the deterioration of soil health. Without information on the spatial patterns of soil, our ability to identify the most suitable locations to realize new agricultural and resource management opportunities and capitalize on our natural resources are being hindered — especially since climate change further exacerbates threats to soil functions.

The Soil-Landscape Analysis & Modelling program will leverage technological advances in remote sensing, “Big Data” analytics, and machine-learning, and it will apply predictive modelling techniques to provide a greater understanding of soil variability, which will facilitate sustainable soil management across multiple scales. The lab will develop multi-sensor, soil mapping platforms for unmapped ground/airborne vehicles to provide field-scale, soil assessments to facilitate sustainable soil management.

In addition, a high-performance computing system will form the foundation for a national-scale soil mapping platform, which will provide accurate and precise soil information for Canadians and contribute to international soil mapping initiatives.

Dr. Shashi Gujar

Faculty: Medicine
Project: Immuno-metabolomics for the Next Generation of Cancer Immunotherapies

Similar to what you would read in sci-fi novels, viruses can be used to treat human malignancies. In 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of modified herpes virus for the treatment of skin cancer. This first-of-a-kind decision opened the doors for these modern anticancer medicines to be used in clinics.

These cancer-killing viruses, known as oncolytic viruses, act through two distinct mechanisms: 1) kill cancer cells directly, and 2) educate the patient’s immune system to attack cancer on its own. It is now clear that such education of the immune system against cancer is the indispensable part of this innovative therapy.

Dr. Gujar and his team have developed cutting-edge technology platforms that leverage the latest developments in the areas of immunology, metabolism and multiOMICs. Using these innovative approaches, they are set to discover the next generation of cancer immunotherapies which will aid the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancers.

In addition, the following researchers also received funding:

Dr. Sherry Stewart, Faculty of Medicine
Univenture: A Substance use Prevention Intervention for University Students.

Dr. Miao Zhang, Faculty of Science
Establishment of Laboratory for Seismic Monitoring and Imaging

Dr. Fraser Clark, Faculty of Agriculture
Assessing Future Disease Risks for Commercial Crustacean Fisheries in Canada

Dr. Debbie Martin, Faculty of Health
Transforming Community-led Indigenous Health Research in Atlantic Canada

Dr. Vittorio Maselli, Faculty of Science
Extreme waves and coastline dynamics in Atlantic and Arctic Canada

Dr. Mae Seto, Faculty of Engineering
Underwater Anechoic Tank Facility

Dr. Vincent Siben, Faculty of Engineering
Enhancing Ocean Observation Capacity with Lab-on-a-chip Sensors

Dr. Matthew Numer, Faculty of Health
Sexual Health And Gender (SHAG) Research Program

Dr. Fadi Oudah, Faculty of Engineering
Hybrid Simulation of Self-repairing Concrete Structures

Dr. Maselli’s CFI award is a JELF-Partnership in association with his recently announced Canada Research Chair. He is also receiving matching funds coming from provincial funds contributed to the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (through the Ocean Frontier Institute) and Nova Scotia Labour and Advanced Education, along with Dr. Zhang, Dr. Seto and Dr. Sieben.

You can find more information about the Canada Foundation for Innovation here.


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