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Research in review ‘21

Renewed vision, high honours and critical investments round out another ‘successful’ year

Research

By Jeff Green

From responding to challenges facing our world to international accolades for groundbreaking initiatives, it has been another positive year for Memorial’s multidisciplinary research community.

‘Stronger Memorial’

“Memorial researchers – on each of our campuses – are tackling both local and global issues,” said Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research).

“Enhancing Memorial’s worldwide profile is a main priority for our university. The cutting-edge work of our talented researchers continues to put Memorial on the map as a true innovation leader. I also applaud and acknowledge our research administration and technical staff for their vital contributions to another successful year. Together we are transforming our horizons and building a stronger Memorial.”

Strategic investments

In the past year, Memorial has secured critical support for infrastructure, equipment and a range of studies and initiatives. Highlights include:

Awards and honours

Memorial researchers were recognized for their outstanding contributions.

A researcher in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science was named fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada, while a researcher based in the Faculty of Science was among the first winners of an award recognizing leading-edge work for cancer survivors.

In June, a pair of Faculty of Science researchers were renewed as Canada Research Chairs and Engineering associate deans and alumni were inducted into the Canadian Academy of Engineering.

In September, two of Memorial’s leading feminist researchers were among the newest members named to the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.

One of Memorial’s most prolific and best-known researchers was recognized at home and internationally for his work this past year, while the Canadian Nutrition Society gave top honours to Biochemistry faculty. An analytical chemist was named 2021’s Terra Nova Young Innovator and a Canada Research Chair was named Fulbright Canada Research Chair in Public Health.

Ocean focus

Memorial continued to showcase its leadership for ocean-related research this past year.

An award-winning researcher from the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science took part in International Day of Women and Girls in Science celebrations and promoted the university’s research expertise during an ocean and transport green economy discussion.

A Memorial geographer published insightful ocean research in international journals; the Marine Institute launched an underwater ocean observatory; there was a renewed partnership for a unique scientific ocean drilling program; and an alumna created an app to connect consumers with fish harvesters.

In 2021, Memorial became the new home hub of the Canada Ocean Lecture Series. A partnership with Marine Institute will allow for game-changing innovation, while MI renamed its Holyrood Marine Base as the Launch and its newest building at the facility was dedicated as the Dr. Arthur W. May Building.

During the fall, scientists immersed themselves into new studies aimed at understanding oxygen dynamics in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, while emerging ocean innovators and entrepreneurs were named the latest cohort of a national program.

Research and innovation

Memorial announced plans to develop the university’s first Innovation Strategy and a renewed Research Strategy.

Participants praised a unique Memorial-led program that matches graduate students from the Faculty of Business Administration with local startup companies connected to Memorial’s entrepreneurial support groups.

Memorial’s fourth annual Research Week celebrations took place Nov. 22-26 with more than 65 sessions hosted by researchers, students, staff and community members.

Discoveries and research

In November, medical researchers identified the first gene for common cause of hearing loss and a federally funded research collaboration between the Faculty of Medicine and Eastern Health will examine immune response to the COVID-19 vaccine in cancer patients.

Below, the Gazette recognizes some of our big stories from 2021.

‘Unwavering commitment’

Violet Ford, wearing a black shirt and pink-coloured jacket, poses for a photo.
Violet Ford
Photo: Submitted

Internationally respected lawyer and award-winning Indigenous rights advocate Violet Ford was named associate vice-president (Indigenous research) (AVPIR) in September. Originally, from Makkovik, Labrador, Ms. Ford is the first Indigenous woman to become a lawyer in this province, as well as Canada’s first woman lawyer of Inuit ancestry. Deeply committed to Indigenous law and justice, Ms. Ford played a role in the drafting of provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples related to intellectual property rights and cultural heritage. Read more here.

Concrete action

The words "Concrete action: Memorial geographer and Inuit-led project lauded for 'exceptional' climate change solution" appear in yellow and white on a background of dark and light blues that swirl around each other.

Dr. Trevor Bell and an Inuit-led project received the prestigious Frederik Paulsen Arctic Academic Action Award in October. Dr. Bell is co-creator of SmartICE, the world’s first climate change adaptation tool to integrate Inuit knowledge of sea ice with advanced data acquisition and remote monitoring technology. SmartICE originated at Memorial through a partnership between Dr. Bell and the Nunatsiavut Government in response to dangerous ice conditions. Monitoring systems provide invaluable data-driven insights into ice thickness and local conditions that are instantly made available to communities via an online platform and social media. The project benefits Inuit and their communities and employs many Inuit as part of its growing operation. SmartICE also supports community economic development such as outfitting and fisheries. Read more here.

‘Shared blueprint’

Blue text over multi-coloured blocks

For the first time, Memorial was included in the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings, which measure the global impact of universities worldwide. The rankings assess universities against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Memorial received favourable rankings in three key areas: goals 4 (quality education); 5 (gender equality); and 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure). Overall Memorial’s ranking was in the 301-400 range out of 1,117 universities worldwide. Read more here.

Worldwide exposure

An ocean view with waves and a shoreline.
Memorial ranks high for subjects such as marine/ocean engineering and oceanography.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Memorial continued to be recognized among the best global post-secondary institutions for the study of a variety of subjects. It ranked in 20 of the 54 categories assessed as part of the ShanghaiRanking Consultancy’s 2021 Global Ranking of Academic Subjects. The rankings are an objective and independent assessment of a university’s performance. Its methodology includes a number of indicators such as research output; research influence; international collaboration; research quality; and international academic awards. For the fourth straight year, Memorial is the only Canadian university ranked for the study of marine/ocean engineering. Read more here.

Building for the future

The words "Building for the future: Core Science Facility officially opens" appear in white and yellow on a blue background with a large building in the background.

In November, Memorial held the official opening of the spectacular Core Science Facility as federal, provincial and university representatives celebrated the construction of a sophisticated research and teaching building. “The new Core Science Facility is truly transformational for Memorial University – and the wider community,” said Dr. Vianne Timmons, president and vice-chancellor of Memorial. “It is a catalyst for collaboration and new discoveries, a rich on-campus learning environment for students and a focal point for the St. John’s campus.” Read more here.


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