University of Saskatchewan

August 20, 2014   

U of S researchers to explore green energy, social media, plasma physics and beer

Better biodiesel and bioproducts: chemical engineering professor and Canada Research Chair Ajay Dalai is developing cheaper, less water-intensive biodiesel and glycerol production technologies.
June 28, 2011

Forty-seven University of Saskatchewan researchers have been awarded a total of $6.8 million over terms ranging from one to five years by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to develop improved biodiesel, targeted drug-delivery systems, social media software and improved beer making, to name just a few examples.

“Innovation is borne of the imagination of our most talented minds, backed with these resources from NSERC, to allow them to pursue their ideas,” said U of S Vice-President Research Karen Chad. “Our researchers are creating knowledge and impact in health, basic science and industry.”

“These programs are key tools for unleashing the creative power of our most innovative researchers,” said NSERC President Suzanne Fortier. “The Discovery Grants Program has an outstanding international reputation because it has a very broad scope and offers researchers a lot of flexibility.”

Some of the recipients are:

Better biodiesel and bioproducts: Chemical engineering professor and Canada Research Chair Ajay Dalai is awarded $525,000 to develop a method to produce biodiesel from low cost raw materials such as soya, green seed canola and mustard, and develop catalysts for glycerol. This byproduct from the biodiesel production process has a wide range of uses in medicine, food, and industry. Dalai’s process produces higher quality biodiesel at a lower cost and with reduced water usage compared to existing methods.

Targeted drug delivery: Assistant professor of pharmacy Azita Haddadi was awarded $95,000 to develop a drug delivery system that will target individual cells without damaging healthy surrounding cells. The work is especially important in cancer treatment, where healthy cells are often damaged by chemotherapy meant to treat tumours. Haddadi’s lab uses nanoparticles to deliver the drugs, trying to optimize their ability to target tiny areas.

Plasma power: Physics professor Andrei Smolyakov was awarded $240,000 for his research on the complex behaviour of plasmas held in electromagnetic fields. Plasmas are central to understanding space and astrophysics phenomena, development of fusion power and technologies such as material processing reactors and spacecraft thrusters. By studying turbulence and fluctuations in plasmas, Smolyakov will help build a versatile Canadian research expertise applicable to all fields of plasma physics and its numerous applications.

Social media call to action: Computer science professor Julita Vassileva was awarded $416,000 to investigate how to use Internet-based communities and rewards to encourage positive change in peoples’ lives. Her software development focuses on building personalized incentives into online media to encourage real world healthy lifestyles, volunteerism, and learning.

Genetics for better beer: Professor of medicine Barry Ziola was awarded $150,000 for research into the genes that allow beer-spoiling lactic acid bacteria to not only survive high alcohol content, low oxygen, acidity and antimicrobial activity of hops, but even thrive on the residual nutrients left over from yeast fermentation. His lab will sequence the genomes of five bacteria strains and compare them against less hardy strains to see what genes are associated with the ability to survive in beer.

NSERC is a federal agency that helps make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for all Canadians. The agency supports some 30,000 postsecondary students and postdoctoral fellows in their advanced studies. NSERC promotes discovery by funding more than 12,000 professors every year and fosters innovation by encouraging more than 1,500 Canadian companies to participate and invest in postsecondary research projects.

The grants described above are provided through the NSERC Discovery Grants and Discovery Accelerator Supplements programs.

For a complete listing of projects awarded, visit www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca.

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For more information, contact:

Michael Robin
University Research Communications
(306) 966-1425
michael.robin@usask.ca

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