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UTSC celebrates success in research grants


Strong showing in federal grant funding across many disciplines

by Mary Ann Gratton

Faculty members from a wide range of disciplines at U of T Scarborough have recently received research grants totaling $3.2 million from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

A total of 24 researchers on our campus received funds from SSHRC, NSERC, and CFI in grant rounds announced this spring, with support for research topics that run the gamut from urbanization in East Africa to heat shock proteins in the nervous system. (Scroll down for the complete list of recipients and research projects.)

“The competition for federal research dollars is acute, and so we’re delighted that our researchers and scholars have done so well in the current context,” said Professor Malcolm Campbell, vice-principal, research at the University of Toronto Scarborough. “We’re excited to celebrate the successes of all of our researchers. The wide range of subject areas is a testament to the calibre of scholarship and research being conducted here. The pace of discovery at UTSC continues to accelerate, and I’ve been seeing first-hand the extraordinary research momentum here, and the campus is home to a research enterprise of exceptional breadth and depth.”

Campbell said the range of research taking place at UTSC demonstrates its exceptional quality. In addition to the SSHRC and NSERC grants, Campbell noted that four UTSC researchers received funds from other special grant programs. A researcher at UTSC has been awarded a NSERC Discovery Accelerator Supplement (DAS) grant, a special award given to only 100 scientists across Canada each year. Professor Myrna Simpson (physical and environmental sciences) received the 2010 DAS for her studies on organic matter in soil. The DAS grant provides $120,000 over three years to accelerate progress and maximize the impact of outstanding research programs, according to NSERC.

“I was pleasantly surprised, both to be nominated and to receive this grant,” said Simpson, who noted that this type of financial support is crucial to the pursuit of research. “NSERC funding is key to my research programs and the funds allow me to pursue fundamental scientific questions that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.” She said the DAS funding will speed up her research into the mechanisms of preservation and decomposition of soil organic matter in varying environments. The money will also support two new research collaborations for Simpson: one with scientists at Agriculture Canada and the second with a research group at Colorado State University. “Both projects have great potential to enhance our scientific understanding of the dynamics of soil organic matter at a fundamental level.”

Recipients of research infrastructure support from the recently announced CFI Leaders Opportunity Fund competition of November 2009 are: Professors Maria Dittrich (physical and environmental sciences) for her work on aquatic ecology and biogeochemistry; David Nussbaum (psychology) for his research in forensic psychology, human aggression and the brain; and Kenneth Welch (biological sciences) for his work on the physiology of hummingbirds. Together, these recipients received $419,000.

In total, 24 researchers at UTSC received $3,258,985 this year, from SSHRC, NSERC, and CFI. Here are lists of these recent grant recipients and their research projects. Awardees are listed alphabetically.

SSHRC Standard Research Grants:

Maggie Cummings – Social Sciences: Transforming masculinities in Vanuatu

Patricia Landolt – Social Sciences: Negotiating the boundaries of rights and membership: Precarious status migrants in the public education system

Ken McLeod – Humanities: Playing with identity: Popular music and sport from 1850 to the present

Elizabeth Page-Gould – Psychology: Opportunity hypothesis of cross-group friendship: Cause or confound?

Stephen Rockel – Humanities: Tabora: Urbanization, identity and mobility in an East African commercial city

Jayeeta Sharma – Humanities: Himalayan encounters: Race, labour, and migration at the borderlands of empire

Daniel Silver – Social Sciences: The Canadian scenescape: Mapping its structure and evaluating its consequences

Grace Skogstad – Social Sciences: Transnational politics and biofuels policies in Canada, the United States and the European Union

Jessica Wilson - Humanities: Metaphysical emergence: The ontological and causal autonomy of special science entities

NSERC Discovery Grants:

Ian Brown – Biological Sciences: Heat shock proteins in the nervous system

Marc Cadotte – Biological Sciences: Community assembly and ecosystem processes in the light of evolutionary history: the formation and function of plant communities

George Cree – Psychology: Semantic cognition: behavioural, computational, and EEG/ERP based analyses of semantic content, structure, and processing

Maria Dittrich – Physical and Environmental Sciences: Microbe-mineral interactions in aquatic systems from macroscopic to molecular scales

Nick Eyles – Physical and Environmental Sciences: Sedimentology of glaciated basins

David Fleet – Computer and Mathematical Sciences: Video-based analysis of human motion

Marney Isaac – Physical and Environmental Sciences: Linking nutrient acquisition strategies and plant performance to resource gradients for improved agroecology

Nick Koudas – Computer and Mathematical Sciences: Processing queries on text streams

Myrna Simpson – Physical and Environmental Sciences: Molecular-level studies of soil organic matter structure and interactions with clay mineral surfaces

Frank Wania – Physical and Environmental Sciences: Comparative analysis of the potential of different organisms, food chains, and ecosystems to accumulate organic contaminants

Ken Welch – Biological Sciences: Fueling and performance in a high speed locomotor muscle

Dudley Williams – Biological Sciences: Invertebrate functional ecology at ground-surface water interfaces

Xiao-an Zhang – Physical and Environmental Sciences: Porphyrin-based high relaxivity MRI T1 contrast agents for biomedical imaging

NSERC Discovery Accelerator Supplement:

Myrna Simpson – Physical and Environmental Sciences: Molecular-level studies of soil organic matter structure and interactions with clay mineral surfaces

NSERC Research Tools and Instruments Grant:

Rudy Boonstra – Biological Sciences: Gamma counter for radioimmunoassays and cellular microbiology

CFI Leaders Opportunity Fund Grants:

Maria Dittrich – Physical and Environmental Sciences: Chemical imaging and microscopic facility for laboratory of interface biogeochemistry: Microbe-mineral interactions

David Nussbaum – Psychology: Establishment of an experimental non-invasive brain stimulation laboratory

Ken Welch – Biological Sciences: Establishment of an integrative physiology laboratory for locomotor muscle biology research

© University of Toronto Scarborough