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Protecting Canada’s oceans

Memorial-led team receives $1.65 million to address problems in Canada’s oceans and estuaries

By Jackey Locke

A member of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science is leading an international team that has been awarded $1.65 million in federal funding to protect Canada’s oceans and estuaries.

Dr. Bing Chen’s training program in Persistent, Emerging and Oil PoLlution Mitigation in Cold Marine Environments (PEOPLE) is one of 18 research projects across Canada to receive funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s (NSERC) Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) program.

Develop solutions

The funding will enable Dr. Chen and his team to remain at the forefront of research and education in the field.

As the first of its kind in Canada, the CREATE program will form a cross-disciplinary training environment that will assemble world-class expertise and facilities targeting cold ocean environmental challenges. It will develop solutions to address the growing pollution problems caused by persistent, emerging and organic pollutants (PEOPs).

PEOPs mainly include petroleum hydrocarbons, chemical surfactants, fire retardants, microplastics, pharmaceutical and personal care products, and engineered nanoparticles. They are usually persistent, toxic/carcinogenic or bio-accumulative when released into the environment.

“I am grateful to NSERC for this significant investment into our research on a very urgent and critical topic,” said Dr. Chen.

“The emerging environmental problems caused by PEOPs present new challenges. These occur not only due to a higher quantity and complexity of pollutants, but also due to the lack of knowledge, policies and mitigation solutions. The funding provides a timely and vital boost for our PEOPLE network to grow our collaborative, global consortium for leading-edge research and cross-disciplinary training in the environmental field.”

Pioneering contributions

Dr. Chen’s team, which includes leading researchers from more than 10 institutions, including Canada, the U.S. and China, will conduct innovative research related to PEOPs and train a new generation of professionals.

Together they will help address the pressing challenges in order to protect Canada’s oceans and coastal communities, and improve scientific evidence-based policy-making and industrial practice.

“Memorial is proud to work with our federal partners to help create a cleaner, safer environment for all Canadians.” — Dr. Noreen Golfman

Dr. Chen has made pioneering contributions to the quantitative understanding of PEOP pollution and their effects in harsh marine and freshwater environments. He has developed innovative engineering and managerial solutions by integrating environmental engineering with nano/biological technologies and coupling risk-simulation and optimization methods.

He has co-led more than 50 research and industrial projects totalling more than $15 million. He has co-authored more than 310 refereed journal and conference publications, three books, four patents and more than 30 technical reports.

He has co-supervised more than 60 research-based highly qualified personnel since joining Memorial.

Dr. Chen also plays an active leadership role in professional societies, including vice-president of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering and the Canadian Association on Water Quality.

He is the senior expert of the United Nations Development Programme, member of the Royal Society of Canada Oil Spill Expert Panel and associate editor and editorial board member of five refereed journals. He has received more than 30 prestigious awards and recognitions, including the induction to the Royal Society of Canada College.

Cleaner and safer

“Thank you to NSERC for today’s important investment in Dr. Chen’s training program in Persistent, Emerging and Oil PoLlution Mitigation in Cold Marine Environments,” said Dr. Noreen Golfman, provost and vice-president (academic), Memorial University.

“Memorial is proud to work with our federal partners to help create a cleaner, safer environment for all Canadians.”

Dr. Greg Naterer, dean, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, also offered his congratulations.

“Dr. Chen is an internationally renowned leader in environmental engineering research,” Dr. Naterer said.

“He has made major research contributions to organic pollution mitigation in cold ocean environments and industry wastewater treatment. This CREATE program will align well with his other recent major initiatives on offshore oil spill response through Canada’s Ocean Protection Plan.”

The NSERC CREATE program focuses on initiatives that raise the standards for best practices in the mentoring and training of new researchers. The program also helps researchers get hands-on experience working on new discoveries and solutions that will improve the lives of Canadians. Through internships and training opportunities with businesses and other potential employers, students will gain the skills they need for the jobs of the future.

Other CREATE grants support teams from coast to coast, working in a wide variety of research areas, including cybersecurity, blockchain technology, neurotechnology, medical diagnostics, industrial engineering and soil science to fight climate change.

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