Saint Mary’s Researchers Receive $1.3M in NSERC Grants

Saint Mary’s Researchers Receive $1.3M in NSERC Grants

Eight Saint Mary’s researchers will receive $1.3 million in funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), as announced at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.

This funding comes from NSERC’s Discovery Grants Program, which supports ongoing natural sciences and engineering research projects with long-term goals. In addition to promoting and maintaining a diversified base of high-quality research at Canadian universities, Discovery Grants help provide a stimulating environment for student research training.

Dr. Rituparna Kanungo

Subatomic physicist Dr. Rituparna Kanungo will receive $600,000 to help unravel the secrets of rare isotopes that have asymmetrical ratio of neutrons to protons. By using accelerated beams of these nuclei created through nuclear reactions in the laboratory, Dr. Kanungo’s research will add to our understanding of nature’s strongest force (nuclear force) and shed light on neutron-rich objects in the universe. It will also expand our knowledge of what drives exploding stars to create the majority of heavy elements—like Gold and Platinum—that we see around us.

Dr. Kanungo’s research challenges our century-old knowledge of nuclei, which form the core of all matter in the universe. It also contributes to a new and evolving view of the nucleus, which is at the forefront of nuclear physics research worldwide.

This grant adds to Dr. Kanungo’s ongoing research into rare isotopes at particle accelerator facilities GSI in Germany and National Superconducting Cyclotron Centre at Michigan State University. It also supports her work at RIKEN, Japan’s largest comprehensive research institution.  

Dr. Clarissa Sit

Chemical biologist Dr. Clarissa Sit will receive $165,000 to fuel her hunt for new antibacterial and antifungal molecules (natural products) in unusual places—like honey bee colonies—using cost-effective techniques. Together with her recent award from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, this funding supports Dr. Sit’s commitment to tackle one of society’s most challenging public health problems: the development of drug-resistant pathogens like Clostridium difficile (C diff) and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) known popularly as “hospital superbugs.” By isolating and studying molecules from microbes that have naturally grown and competed for resources in their environment, Dr. Sit’s research will determine which natural products allow for certain microbes to dominate. The molecules Dr. Sit discovers through this process will serve as targets for other chemists to synthesize and hold tremendous promise for new drug development.

Read more about Dr. Sit’s recent and ongoing research

Dr. Paul Muir

Mathematician Dr. Paul Muir will receive $130,000 to help develop efficient, error-controlled software for three classes of differential equations (BVODEs, 1D PDEs, and 2D PDEs) that arise in computational models in a wide variety of application domains. These software tools are key to the accurate and efficient solution of these computational models, which are now widely recognized as the third major pillar—along with theory and experiment—in contemporary investigations of scientific phenomenon.

Dr. Laura Weir

Evolutionary biologist Dr. Laura Weir will receive $120,000 to investigate the influence of ecological conditions on mechanisms of sexual selection and evolution of sexually-selected traits. Through field research on salmonid fishes in Eastern Canada and lab work involving small, freshwater fish from the genus Oryzias, Dr. Weir’s research will provide a new perspective on the consequence of variation in sexual selection within and among animal populations.

Dr. Nader Azad

Management Science professor Dr. Nader Azad will receive $100,000 to develop mathematical models along with approaches to analyze the effect of disruptions to supply chains. The Global Procurement Study has shown that 80% of companies are vulnerable to a major disruption in supply, due to the interdependence and global complexity of today’s supply chains. Dr. Azad’s research will provide a methodology to manage disruptions and improve decision-making.

Dr. Genlou Sun

Biologist Dr. Genlou Sun will receive $26,000 to examine whether some plants evolved additional sets of chromosomes in order to thrive in changing environmental conditions. Using the wild barley (Hordeum bulbous) plant species as a case study, Dr. Sun will use innovative molecular and experimental approaches to reveal the role additional sets of chromosones play in the formation of new and distinct species.

Dr. Stavros Konstantinidis

Computer scientist Dr. Stavros Konstantinidis will receive $20,000 for his research related to the mathematical constraints of machine languages, which allow computers to perform computations and communications reliably and efficiently. By addressing several algorithmic questions related to the sets of words that make up machine languages, Dr. Konstantinidis aims to reduce improper readings of these words and support stable processing.

 Dr. Linda Campbell

Environmental scientist Dr. Linda Campbell will receive $20,000 to investigate freshwater contamination from the roughly three million tonnes of untreated tailings, a modern legacy of century-old abandoned gold mines in Nova Scotia. Her research will establish experiments to quantify and characterize how specific freshwater fish and insect species may accumulate heavy metals from goldmine tailing sediments. She will also explore the viability of a new, inexpensive selenium-additive method to reduce mercury and arsenic toxicity in aquatic ecosystems. 

Thomas Steele receives Canada Graduate Scholarship

In addition, PhD in Applied Science candidate Tom Steele was awarded a Canada Graduate Scholarship to investigate the factors that influence chronic disease development within lady beetles. Specifically, Steele will explore the role of defense chemicals on pathogen development and the impact of stress factors like temperature and crowding on beetles’ development of chronic Microsporidiosis, a group of spore-forming parasites. This project complements Steele’s larger research focus on the effects of Microsporidiosis on beneficial lady beetles used for biological control programs, which use natural enemies to control pest populations.