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Young faculty receive new provincial awards to build research teams

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November 29, 2005

Source: University of Waterloo:

Young faculty receive new provincial awards to build research teams

WATERLOO, Ont. -- Nine young faculty members at the University of Waterloo are among the recipients of a new multi-million-dollar Ontario government program aimed at helping recently appointed researchers build their research teams.

The Early Researcher Award (ERA) program will spend $30 million over three years to help new professors to recruit graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and research associates. The program seeks to improve Ontario's ability to attract and retain top research talent in high-priority economic areas.

In the initial round of awards, $6.4 million will support 64 researchers working at 13 universities across the province. Recipients receive $100,000 each from the Ontario government and $50,000 from their institutions or industry.

"We need to attract and retain the best and brightest people to ensure that Ontario can compete in the marketplace of ideas," said Premier Dalton McGuinty, who is also Minister of Research and Innovation. "Now it will be easier for outstanding researchers to stay in Ontario and recruit promising young researchers to their teams. Their discoveries will be made right here at home, providing jobs and prosperity for Ontarians well into the future."

Launched in June 2005, the Ministry of Research and Innovation has a mandate to strengthen the province as an innovation-based economy and society. The government has committed $1.8 billion over four years to support research and commercialization.

"People are our greatest asset. By creating a culture of innovation, we can unlock the potential of Ontarians," McGuinty said. "This will ensure our future success by keeping us on the cutting edge of research and innovation."

At UW, faculty members receiving ERAs are as follows:

  • Prof. Michael Collins, Mechanical Engineering. The project is titled, "The Development of Solar/Optical Tools for use in Solar Energy and Energy Efficiency Applications."

    His research will develop tools that improve overall solar energy system performance, which will play a major role in advancing solar-powered energy technologies. The research is poised to place Ontario at the forefront of solar material characterization and solar-thermal development.

    The ERA will enable Collins to support two master's students and one PhD student over the next five years. They will receive training in optical material characterization techniques -- skills particularly useful in light of recent concerns over Ontario's power supply. The skills will be in demand by government and private testing labs, as well as solar energy and energy efficiency companies.

  • Prof. Bernard Duncker, Biology. The project is titled, "Use of DNA Replication Proteins as Biomarkers for Early Cancer Detection."

    Duncker's research seeks to identify proteins that can be used as biomarkers for early cancer detection and characterize their potential as drug targets for anti-cancer therapies. The work will result in a better prognosis for cancer patients

    The ERA will permit Duncker to hire one graduate student and one postdoctoral fellow who will receive training in biomedical research techniques through the development of a new generation of diagnostic tools and therapeutics for cancer.

  • Prof. Xianshe Feng, Chemical Engineering. The project is titled, "Development of Nano-Structured Composite Membranes for Olefin/Paraffin Separation."

    Feng's research is aimed at separating olefins (for example, ethylene and propylene) from paraffins (for example, ethane and propane), one of the most difficult separations in the petrochemical industry. Current processes are costly, energy intensive and detrimental to the environment. The ERA will result in the training of high-calibre researchers in the multi-disciplinary research.

  • Prof. Pin-Han Ho, Electrical & Computer Engineering. The project is titled, "Performance Evaluation for Hybrid Optical Switches and Hybrid Optical Networks."

    Ho's research will develop technology to increase the capacity and speed of transmitting information over modern communications networks such as the Internet. The ERA will let him hire one postdoctoral fellow and one graduate student who will receive training in optical communications and Internet technology.

  • Prof. Kirsten Müller, Biology. The project is titled, "The Evolution of the Red Algae (Rhodophyta)."

    Müller's research will investigate the evolution of red algae which dates as far back as 1.2 billion years, in order to provide insight into the evolution of life on earth.

    The ERA will enable Müller to hire two PHD students and one master's student who will gain experience in taxonomy, microscopy, algal identification, field sampling methods, statistical and phylogenetic analyses, sequence analysis and numerous molecular techniques. The multi-disciplinary aspect of the research will give the students breadth and skills that will equip them to work any field of biology.

  • Prof. Leonardo Simon, Chemical Engineering. The project is titled, "Hybrid Polypropylene-Clay Nanocomposites."

    Simon's research will develop improved novel hybrid polymer nanocomposite materials that can benefit important areas of the Ontario economy, such as automotive, packaging, coatings and energy. The ERA will allow him to hire one post-doctoral fellow and one PhD student who will receive training in the development of new nanomaterials.

  • Prof. Khaled Soudki, Civil Engineering. The project is titled, "Rehabilitation of Structures with Prestressed Carbon Fibre Reinforced Polymer Reinforcement."

    Soudki's research will investigate using non-corroding fibre reinforced polymers in place of the steel reinforcement currently used in concrete structures and which rapidly deteriorate owing to corrosion. The ERA will allow him to attract a top research associate to assist in work to advance the rehabilitation of structures using prestressed CFRP reinforcement.

  • Prof. David Toman, School of Computer Science. The project is titled, "Support for XML & XQUERY in Relational Databases."

    Toman's research involves new techniques in accessing information stored on database systems across the Internet. The ERA will enable him to support two PhD students who will contribute to advancing database technology in the area of XML data.

  • Prof. Norman Zhou, Mechanical Engineering. The project is titled, "Laser Welding of Advanced High Strength Steels for Automotive Applications."

    His research on laser welding of advanced steels seeks to develop lighter automobile bodies with superior performance and durability. The outcome will enhance Ontario's competitiveness in the automotive manufacturing industry.

    The ERA will permit Zhou to hire two graduate students who will receive training in the automotive industry. The award will expand research and development in welding and joining of advanced materials.

    John Morris, UW Media Relations, (519) 888-4435;
    Release no. 267 -- November 29, 2005

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