BU research bolstered by $800K federal investment

May 21, 2019

Montage of six headshot photos.
Brandon University researchers (clockwise from upper left) Alexander Koiter, Chenkuan Li, Rory Lucyshyn-Wright, Peter Whittington, Sarah Plosker and Shahla Nasserasr are all recipients of Discovery Grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

BRANDON – More than $800,000 in new federal research funding is flowing into Brandon University (BU) through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Discovery Grants program.

The news was part of a national announcement made on Tuesday by the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Canada’s Minister of Science and Sport.

Six Brandon University faculty members – Drs. Alexander Koiter, Chenkuan Li, Rory Lucyshyn-Wright, Shahla Nasserasr, Sarah Plosker and Peter Whittington – have been awarded five-year Discovery Grants, varying in total value from $75,000 to $125,000. This marks the largest number of Discovery Grants awarded to BU researchers in 25 years. BU now has 17 active NSERC grant holders, including 16 in the Discovery Grant program.

“Getting and maintaining this type of funding is a tremendous accomplishment, particularly at a small university,” said Dr. Bernadette Ardelli, Dean of Science at BU. “Our faculty manage significant teaching and service commitments, while working with largely undergraduate research assistants. Despite these challenges, they continue to excel.”

In addition to the Discovery Grants, four of the faculty members – Drs. Koiter, Nasserasr, Lucyshyn-Wright and Whittington – are the recipients of NSERC Discovery Launch Supplements, valued at $12,500 each. The Discovery Launch Supplements early-career researchers in the establishment of their programs.

Dr. Lucyshyn-Wright has also been awarded a three-year NSERC Discovery Accelerator Supplement (DAS) with a total value of $120,000. The DAS program supports the original and innovative work of researchers who have the potential to become international leaders in their field.

“The support that we have received from NSERC represents a significant investment in Brandon University and its research,” said Dr. Heather Duncan, BU’s Associate Vice-President (Research). “It shows that our faculty are recognized as some of the top researchers in Canada, and I’m excited to see what new innovations will come from this commitment.”

Head and shoulders photo of woman, standing in front of a stone building, smiling

Brandon University student Sachi Villanueva is a recipient of an Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship.

The research of BU Biology student Sachi Villanueva was also supported by NSERC. Villanueva has been awarded $17,500 under the Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship-Master’s program.

“Our researchers are also accomplished educators,” said Dr. Steve Robinson, Vice-President (Academic and Provost) at BU. “Their efforts can be seen not only in research outcomes, but also in the success of our students, who are being recognized nationally for their work. Some of the funding from these grants will go toward training and research opportunities for students, helping to build a new generation of scientists who will lead us into the future.”

 

RESEARCH PROJECTS

Dr. Alexander Koiter (Geography)

Discovery Grant (5 years, $125,000)

Discovery Launch Supplement ($12,500)

Dr. Koiter’s will study the Wilson’s Creek watershed along the eastern border of Riding Mountain National Park and compare it with other watersheds in the region. The project will allow for better understanding of the effects of sediment sources such as geomorphic features (the Manitoba Escarpment) and agricultural land use practices on soil health and water quality.

Dr. Chenkuan Li (Mathematics and Computer Science)

Discovery Grant (5 years, $75,000)

Dr. Li plans to investigate fractional differential and integral equations, particularly Abel’s integral equations, in the distributional sense by inverse operators in terms of convolution. Fractional calculus is one of the most intensively developing areas of mathematical analysis as a result of its increasing range of applications, and is now found in almost every realm of science and engineering.

Dr. Rory Lucyshyn-Wright (Mathematics and Computer Science)

Discovery Grant (5 years, $120,000)

Discovery Accelerator Supplement (3 years, $120,000)

Discovery Launch Supplement ($12,500)

Through categorical algebra, Dr. Lucyshyn-Wright will study the common structural characteristics of the subtly varying notions of space and quantity that arise from different forms of mathematics. This work will aid in transferring mathematical insights into fields such as development of computer programming languages.

Dr. Sarah Plosker (Mathematics and Computer Science)

Discovery Grant (5 years, $95,000)

Dr. Plosker’s work on filling the gaps of mathematical knowledge will help lead to significant advances in quantum information theory (QIT). Understanding the mathematical nature of QIT can allow it to go beyond the possibilities of classical information theory and promises far-reaching implications on human activities from high-level research to daily life.

Dr. Shahla Nasserasr (Mathematics and Computer Science)

Discovery Grant (5 years, $80,000)

Discovery LS ($12,500)

Dr. Nasserasr’s research in matrix theory and graph theory will solve problems that have applications in fields ranging from quantum information theory to computer science and even analysis of social networks.

Dr. Peter Whittington (Geography)

Discovery Grant (5 years, $125,000)

Discovery Launch Supplement ($12,500)

Peatlands cover more than 14 per cent of Canada’s landmass and nearly 38 per cent of Manitoba’s landmass, providing flood protection and carbon storage. By comparing natural and harvested peatlands in Manitoba’s southeast and Interlake regions, Dr. Whittington will study how these peatlands have developed and how they respond to droughts and a changing climate.

Sachi Villanueva (Biology)

Canada Graduate Scholarships-Master’s Award ($17,500)

Recent research has shown that waxworms, which naturally feed on honeycomb, are also able to consume and rapidly digest polyethylene bags. Working on the theory that microorganisms in the intestines allow this digestion, Villanueva will try to determine what bacteria are helping waxworms break down the polyethylene in the hope of developing a more effective biological method of combating plastic pollution.