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Research in review ‘20

A year of record highs, historic approvals and innovation in a crisis


By Jeff Green

In spite of living and working through an unprecedented pandemic, Memorial steered through a year of uncertainty, leading the Atlantic region in sponsored research income and seeing the expansion of several key research initiatives.

‘Unwavering support’

“The commitment of our faculty, research administration staff and graduate students is inspiring even more so in a year where we all experienced tremendous challenges,” said Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research).

“The entire Memorial community is incredibly proud of the work of our talented innovators and discoverers as they continued critical studies ranging from multiple sclerosis to biodiversity loss and so much more. I also recognize our research staff for their unwavering support as they play a pivotal role in our success. 2020 has proven that our research community can meet the unexpected with an exceptional commitment to research excellence.”

Year-end highlights

Over the past 12 months, Memorial celebrated vital investments that will enhance research expertise across the disciplines and funding for new infrastructure. Some of the highpoints include:

Career highs

Two researchers based in the Faculty of Medicine were renewed as Canada Research Chairs, one of the country’s highest honours for research excellence, and an award-winning PhD student and Memorial alumna was named a 2020 Trudeau Scholar.

Over the past year, the Gazette celebrated a scientist for her dedication and contributions to genetics research, and recognized the latest recipients of the lucrative Terra Nova Young Innovator Award: an engineering professor, who was the 2019 recipient, and political scientist, the 2020 recipient.

In September, an award-winning sociologist and geographer were elected to the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists, while a gender studies scholar was recognized nationally for influential research contributions, becoming the university’s first recipient of a prestigious honour from the Royal Society of Canada.

Memorial’s vice-president (research) and a pair of influential alumni were among the newest fellows elected into the Canadian Academy of Engineering; and a Faculty of Science researcher was named science advisor to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Worldwide rankings

Memorial continued to be recognized as one of the best universities in the world with the release of the Times Higher Education world subject rankings for 2021; and the university continued to climb in global research performance rankings, seeing a steady increase in its scientific output in prestigious academic journals.

Enhanced activities

ACENET expanded its support and training for humanities and social sciences researchers; Labrador researchers and leaders were among global voices in a climate change documentary; a pair of researchers were named the new co-directors of the SafetyNet Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Research; and Memorial saw the launch of a program focused on training PhDs and post-doctoral scholars to become corporate innovators.

Meanwhile, scientists in the Faculty of Science created surprising new material from mussel shell waste; a new study confirmed Newfoundland as home to world’s oldest animal fossils; and a new Pye Centre website was launched.

Third annual Research Week

Memorial hosted its third annual Research Week celebrations with more than 45 events, led by researchers, staff and students, taking place virtually in November 2020.

Below, the Gazette salutes some of other big stories from 2020.

‘Stellar performance’

Research Infosource said Memorial led the Atlantic region and moved up two spots on its national ranking.
Research Infosource said Memorial led the Atlantic region and moved up two spots on its national ranking.
Photo: Submitted

Memorial maintained its ranking as one of Canada’s top 50 research universities, moving up two spots on a national listing of leading post-secondary institutions. Research Infosource released its yearly figures on Dec. 8. It ranked Memorial No. 18 among this country’s top research universities, with $160,636,000 in sponsored research income reported for fiscal year 2019, an increase of 37.5 per cent over fiscal year 2018. This growth means Memorial is the leader among Atlantic Canadian universities this year.
Read more here.

Record high

For the first time, Memorial’s total research funding topped more than $130 million. As we reported in September, in fiscal year 2019-20, the university and its researchers were awarded a total of $134,848,427 in research funding. That is a 22 per cent increase over fiscal year 2018-19 when the total funding awarded was $110,524,666, which was also an all-time high, and an increase from $94,971,400 reported in fiscal year 2017-18.
Read more here.

Historic approval

From left are Drs. Max Liboiron and Neil Bose in March 2019.
From left are Drs. Max Liboiron and Neil Bose in March 2019.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

In July, Memorial became a national leader with the adoption of a groundbreaking new Indigenous research policy. The Board of Regents approved the Research Impacting Indigenous Groups policy – the first of its kind known in Canadian universities.
Read more here.

‘Deep-rooted expertise’

Memorial navigated to top of world university rankings for ocean tech research.
Memorial navigated to top of world university rankings for ocean tech research.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

For the third time in recent years, Memorial was the only Canadian university ranked as one of the best post-secondary institutions in the world for the study of marine/ocean engineering. Memorial ranked 36 for that subject in the Shanghai Ranking’s 2020 Academic Ranking of World Universities.
Read more here.

World recognition

Researchers from Memorial University are on the World’s Top 2% Scientists list.
Researchers from Memorial University are on the World’s Top 2% Scientists list.
Photo: Submitted

Researchers from Memorial are on the World’s Top 2% Scientists list for 2020. The list, published by Stanford University, includes 159,683 researchers that represent the top two per cent of the most-cited scientists in the world across various disciplines. The list identifies 64 Memorial researchers from various faculties and schools, including the faculties of engineering and applied science; humanities and social sciences; science; medicine; the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation and Grenfell Campus.
Read more here.

Adapting to change

Dennis Cramm performs final check of a hydrostatic pressure test device.
Dennis Cramm performs final check of a hydrostatic pressure test device.
Photo: Submitted

If the pandemic proved anything, it’s the creativity and resilience of our researchers who re-envisioned, modified and found ways to (safely) continue their activities and studies, complying with public health and university guidelines. Meanwhile, our research community responded to the worldwide crisis in many ways. Researchers, alumni and technical employees worked with the wider community to tackle COVID-19; in April we told you about a company with Memorial roots and its efforts to protect health care workers; we highlighted the work of engineers researchers and technical employees who put their expertise – and time – to work; in August and October we celebrated researchers who received COVID-19 funding; and we also told you how Memorial experts partnered with community volunteers in response to the pandemic.

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