University of Saskatchewan

September 30, 2014   


October 25, 1999

Three University of Saskatchewan researchers will get a total of almost $920,000 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) for powerful new research tools that could lead to advances such as safety testing of new biotechnology products, better films for medical X-rays and improved telemedicine technology.

The just-announced CFI New Opportunities Fund grants are expected to help attract and retain top U of S faculty in materials science, toxicology and computer science.

"These are exciting projects that provide much-needed tools for university and industry researchers across the province," said Michael Corcoran, Vice-President for Research. "The fact that all three of our applicants were funded is a testament to the calibre of these young innovators and the quality of their projects."

Projects funded by the New Opportunities Program are selected on the basis of their contribution to Canadian innovation. The CFI provides up to 40 per cent of total project costs, while the remaining funds are to be found from provincial and private sources.

The award winners are:

Ronald Miller, assistant professor of mechanical engineering: $701,904

Purchase of a new scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM) and related equipment that will be used extensively by researchers in mechanical, electrical and bio-resource engineering, as well as in geological sciences, chemistry, physics and soil science.

The STEM would also enhance the research of local industries such as Hitachi, PCS Inc., IPSCO Inc. and the metals mining industry.

The STEM would complement materials research to be carried out at the Canadian Light Source synchrotron. It could lead to:

  • better welding techniques for manufacturing firms
  • a cheaper, more effective method for firms to manage wastes from their mines
  • sensors for detecting drinking water contaminants
  • better films for medical X-ray machines
  • stronger, more reliable materials for vehicles

The STEM will enable graduate students and post-doctoral researchers to gain experience with the latest techniques and tools that apply to a wide range of industrial sectors including electronics, mining, communications, biotechnology, and the steel industry. For example, Regina steel maker Ipsco needs metallurgists trained to use electron microscopy to develop and control the properties of their alloy steels.

At present, research into new and better materials is limited due to deficiencies in the existing electron microscope facilities. Faculty and graduate students have to travel to other provinces to use STEM facilities.

"There are very few young materials researchers who would be willing to take the risk of joining a department that does not have access to such as facility. The presence of a first-class STEM facility on campus will help to attract the brightest and the best materials scientists."

Mark Wickstrom, associate professor at the Toxicology Centre -- $117,800

For upgraded equipment to create a state-of-the-art lab for assessing potential toxic effects of new biotechnology and nutraceutical products, as well as determining toxic effects of environmental contaminants in mining and petroleum industry wastes.

The new lab would address the needs of industry and government research partners. For instance, it will be a resource for agrochemical companies testing new pesticides and for mining and petroleum companies assessing risks of potentially toxic wastes.

Wickstrom noted Saskatchewan's agricultural biotechnology industry has expressed interest in initiating a research program for safety assessment and toxicity testing of genetically modified crops.. "We feel the time is right for local ag biotech companies to step forward and have their products evaluated for their long-term safety," he said. "This equipment would be essential in such research."

Carl Gutwin, assistant professor of computer science $99,835

For computer hardware that would be used by faculty, research assistants, grad students and visiting researchers to carry out world-class research aimed at improving the quality and effectiveness of new interactive software. The software allows computer users to work collaboratively across a large geographic area and has implications for areas such as telemedicine and distance education. For example, physicians in Saskatoon might collaborate via computer with a remote medical practitioner to interactively assess a patient's records, X-rays and test results.

This "collaborative visualization" technology involving interaction with large amounts of data communicated at high speed is cutting edge science. Computer users would be able to visualize not only the data, but also the ways others in the work group are interacting with it. The focus on shared visualization will make the facility unique in the world.

The department expects the lab will attract graduate students and researchers from Canada and around the world. They also expect many of the discoveries from their research will be commercialized and incorporated in the next generation of software applications.

The CFI is an independent, not-for-profit corporation established by the federal government in 1997 to provide much-needed state-of-the-art research infrastructure. In the latest round of New Opportunities Fund grants, almost $8.6 million was provided for 56 awards in 20 universities.

For more information, contact:

Kathryn Warden
U of S Research Communications Officer
(306) 966-2506

Ron Miller
Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering
(306) 966-5479

Mark Wickstrom
Associate Professor, Toxicology Centre
(306) 966-7446

Carl Gutwin
Assistant Professor, Computer Science
(306) 966-8646

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