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‘Far-reaching impacts’

Federal funding empowers researchers, brings new equipment


By Moira Baird and Jeff Green

Eleven Memorial researchers working on five diverse projects will receive more than $680,000 in new federal funding, allowing the teams to purchase sophisticated new tools, technology and equipment.

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) announced the latest results of its John R. Evans Leaders Fund on Feb. 28.

Overall, federal Science Minister Kirsty Duncan announced more than $51 million for 223 research projects at 39 universities across the country.

Memorial researchers received $680,000 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation's John R. Evans Leaders Fund.
Memorial researchers received $680,000 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund.

At Memorial, researchers in the Faculty of Science, Faculty of Medicine and the School of Pharmacy are on the receiving end of this latest investment.

“As Newfoundland and Labrador’s university, Memorial plays a vital role in driving innovation and fostering new ideas across the disciplines,” said President Gary Kachanoski.

“Through the ongoing support of the Canada Foundation for Innovation, our researchers are equipped to lead critical scientific studies and solve technical challenges facing, not only Canadians, but those living around the world. I thank the federal government for this investment and congratulate Memorial’s newest recipients of funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.”

“The state-of-the-art equipment acquired with these funds will help Memorial University attract and retain the best and brightest researchers, and allow them to create the 21st-century science and technology needed to grow our knowledge-based economy‎,” said Nick Whalen, member of Parliament for St. John’s East.

Faculty of Science support

Three research teams from the Faculty of Science received federal support.

Drs. Eric Vander Wal and Shawn Leroux, Department of Biology, received $157,030 for a Modular Field Ecology Research Station (M-FERS), which consists of portable equipment that can be taken into remote locations year round.

PhD student Jonathan Ebel and Dr. Shawn Leroux.
PhD student Jonathan Ebel and Dr. Shawn Leroux.
Photo: Submitted

“Ultimately, the CFI funding provides us with the fundamental tools that all field ecologists require,” said Dr. Vander Wal.

“These tools will facilitate better, more cost-effective and efficient data collection. It will facilitate training students on important techniques in field ecology and accelerate the data collection and processing for their research.

“M-FERS will help us access remote field sites in Newfoundland and Labrador, will help us safely capture our study animals and will help us process samples to understand the elemental and nutrient content of what these animals eat.”

Drs. Robert Brown and Fereidoon Shahidi, Department of Biochemistry, and Dr. Chris Parrish, Department of Ocean Sciences, secured $211,876 for a facility focused on metabolomic analysis. The CFI funding will provide the research team with high-tech equipment, allowing the team to discover new food supplements, screening methods for diseases and new affordable treatments for diseases.

And, Drs. Kurt Gamperl and Matthew Rise, Department of Ocean Sciences, and Dr. Andrei Igamberdiev, Department of Biology, received $86,411 for a project titled O 2k – Fluorometers, A High Powered Platform for Measuring Cellular and Sub-Cellular Processes.

Specifically, the CFI funding will allow the Memorial team to investigate mechanisms that determine the environmental tolerances of fish and plants, such as temperature and hypoxia, and to investigate how salmon diets can be better designed to ensure the health of these fish in intensive aquaculture.

This research is critical to increasing the production of nutritional foods for Canadians or food that can be exported, for managing living resources and for informing policies and management and conservation strategies.

Faculty of Medicine support

Drs. Diana De Carvalho and Michelle Ploughman, Faculty of Medicine, received $126,101 to establish a Comprehensive Biomechanics Laboratory.

Dr. De Carvalho’s research seeks to study the biomechanical and neuromuscular responses to prolonged sitting in order to develop evidence-informed guidelines and intervention strategies for the early-identification and prevention of occupationally related low back pain.

Dr. Michelle Ploughman
Dr. Michelle Ploughman
Photo: Chris Hammond

Dr. Ploughman’s research program focuses on developing innovative intensive rehabilitation paradigms -to affect neuroplasticity and promote recovery in stroke and multiple sclerosis. Their research provides complementary approaches to the study of the underlying mechanisms and effect of various interventions on these high-impact diseases.

“This funding will allow us to put together the first comprehensive biomechanics laboratory in the province that is available for full-time research,” Dr. De Carvalho said in an interview with the Gazette.

“The equipment in this new lab is able to precisely track whole body motion in three dimensions, quantify muscle activity and model internal joint forces. With these highly sophisticated outcome measures, we will be able to objectively characterize disease and injury states and accurately test the effect of novel intervention strategies.

“Combining Dr. Ploughman’s research on stroke and multiple sclerosis with my research on low back pain, will have far-reaching impacts on the health and well-being of almost every person in Canada,” she noted.

School of Pharmacy support

Dr. John-Michael Gamble, School of Pharmacy, received $100,000 for a Drug Information Science (DIS) Research and Training Laboratory.

The development of the DIS lab will aid in producing high quality, accessible and user friendly information tools to help improve knowledge about drug therapies used to treat common conditions, such as diabetes, asthma and arthritis.

In turn, these information tools will assist healthcare professionals, decision-makers and patients in weighing the risks and benefits of the medications studied.

The John R. Evans Leaders Fund provides researchers with critical infrastructure required to be or become leaders in their field.

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