Smart device security and drug resistance among BU projects supported by NSERC

June 17, 2020

A Brandon University (BU) project that will enable safer and more secure smart devices is being supported by a $120,000 federal grant.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) has awarded Dr. Gautam Srivastava of BU’s Department of Mathematics and Computer Science a five-year Discovery Grant to lead the five-year project.

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Dr. Gautam Srivastava

“The proliferation of devices that connect with the internet and communicate with each other, from phones and TVs to household appliances, has changed the landscape of data usage, storing and sharing, putting our personal data at risk,” Dr. Srivastava says. “We have high expectations that our governments and industry have policies and practices in place to protect our data, but security is often a trade-off with the constraints and functionality of our devices. Many security protocols require more resources than our devices can provide.”

Dr. Srivastava’s research will look at new models to address security, privacy and trust (SPT) concerns which will include techniques such as cryptography, blockchain, and artificial intelligence. Over the long term, the goal is to form partnerships with Canadian industry to integrate the new technologies developed through the project. Over the period of the grant Dr. Srivastava hopes to be able to train many students at Brandon University who can jump into the flourishing global job market in cybersecurity.

NSERC has also awarded Dr. Srivastava a Discovery Launch Supplement of $12,500 to help get the project off the ground. The supplement provides researchers who are early in their careers with resources to help establish their programs.

The funding was the highlight of several awards for BU faculty and student research announced by NSERC on Wednesday.

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Dr. Bernadette Ardelli

Dr. Bernadette Ardelli, the Dean of Science at BU, was awarded $30,000 over two years under the Discovery Development Grant Program. Discovery Development Grants facilitate research at small universities, helping to develop projects to the point that they can attract additional funding and be expanded in the future.

Dr. Ardelli is looking at genome and RNA sequencing in parasites to learn more about drug resistance, and the Discovery Development Grant will assist in training lab personnel to carry out the research.

“Most parasitic infections in humans and livestock are controlled by drugs, that in some cases have been in use for more than 60 years, leading to a resistance or a tolerance by the parasites,” Dr. Ardelli says. “There is an urgent need to develop new and better drugs. Gaining a better understanding of how these parasites develop resistance will be the first step in developing new drugs or in modifying currently used drugs to be more effective.”

Several Brandon University students are also being supported by NSERC.

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Jessica Kalyniuk

Jessica Kalyniuk of the Master of Science (Environmental and Life Sciences) program is the recipient of a Canada Graduate Scholarships-Master’s Award, valued at $17,500 over one year.

Kalyniuk will continue her work in analyzing the stomach contents of Borealopelta markmitchelli, a fossilized nodosaur discovered in northern Alberta, to learn more about the diet. Previous research on the specimen has already garnered significant media interest, with major national and international media coverage.

“From solving the problems of tomorrow to unlocking the mysteries of yesterday these are exciting and important projects,” says Dr. Heather Duncan, Associate Vice-President of Research at BU.

“This high-profile work catches our attention by answering key questions and addressing our curiosity, while also showcasing the quality of Brandon University research.”

Another 11 BU students are recipients of Undergraduate Student Research Awards, which come with a $4,500 award from NSERC and a $1,125 contribution from Brandon University for a total of $5,625. The BU recipients are:

  • Bailey Forster (Physics and Astronomy — Plasmons in Unstable Plasmas
  • Katherine Hunt (Biology) — How do Planarians Regenerate their Nervous System?
  • Farrah Huntinghawk (Mathematics and Computer Science) — Random Spin Channels and Irreducibility
  • Joshua Beaudin (Mathematics and Computer Science) — Fractional Differential Equations
  • Mackenzie Cullen (Biology) — Micro RNA Metabolome Analysis
  • Nicole Russel (Chemistry) — Determining the Function of the Disordered N-terminal Region of Emg1
  • Rachel Gross (Biology) — Assessing the Diversity of Xerotolerant Fungi in the Mound Nests of Formica Ulkei
  • Roman Zaliskyy (Chemistry) — An Investigation of the Formation of Hydrogen Gas by Tellurium Containing Catalysts
  • Sandra Schira (Biology) — Insect Leaf Feeding during a Past Climate Warming in the McAbee Fossil Site
  • Taylor Goodon (Chemistry) — Determining the Genetic and Molecular Interactions of Emg1 in Ribosome Assembly
  • Tyler Murray (Chemistry) — A TDDFT Investigation of the Photochemistry of Diimine-Metal-Dithiolene and Diselenolen

“Today’s announcement illustrates many of the strengths of our research programs at Brandon University,” says Dr. Steve Robinson, Vice-President (Academic & Provost). “From innovative work by our faculty, to growing programs at the graduate level and opportunities for undergraduate students that are not readily available at many universities, we have an outstanding ability to engage minds across our campus. It takes a tremendous amount of ingenuity and effort to produce work of this calibre, and I commend each of these researchers for their success.”