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McMaster has earned its reputation as a research powerhouse on the strength of our faculty and their ability to work collaboratively across the disciplines. Our interdisciplinary approach to research is inherent in our culture and is a hallmark of our research brand. Considered a strategic advantage in and of itself, McMaster’s size—large enough to attract some of the world’s best researchers, yet small enough to maintain a collegial and collaborative research environment—differentiates us from our peers and positions us to tackle some of the most complex challenges of our time.

Adhering to our Core Values and enabled by our paradigm-shifting research, McMaster has now identified strategic themes to galvanize our research efforts in the years ahead. In pursuing these themes, we recognize they are all exceedingly complex and that new developments may have unexpected and far-reaching implications.

To have a positive impact locally and globally, we’re building on our research successes and using our collective expertise—considering all aspects of, and approaches to, research knowledge across our disciplines—to ensure a multi-dimensional approach. We know the whole is greater than the sum of our parts and that stellar research, combined with persistence, diligence and commitment, will deepen our shared understanding of the world and contribute to advancing human and societal health and well-being.

These following themes have been chosen because they represent both breadth and focus. They are broad enough to engage researchers across all Faculties, departments, schools, centres and institutes, yet focused enough to capitalize on the institution’s existing and emerging research strengths and opportunities to build capacity to ensure sustained excellence and impact.

Strategic Initiatives:


Chronic diseases—cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, diabetes, and cancer for example—are a growing burden on our health care system. Moreover, in little more than a quarter century, they have grown to become the leading cause of death worldwide.

Children as young as five years old are now being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, young adults are suffering strokes, and the risk for asthma can begin in the womb. The physical, emotional and human toll is staggering, not just for the affected individuals but for their families, our health systems, and the economy.

A leader in advancing bench-to-bedside-to-community research, McMaster has amassed an enviable corps of outstanding scientists—in genomics, immunology, microbiology, medicine, population health, health policy, and biostatistics—who are characterizing the relationship between disease development and our fundamental biology, genetic make-up, environmental exposures, and social conditions.

Why is one child likely to develop asthma, but not another? Why are some people born with a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease? How does urban living affect our respiratory health? What role do diet, food insecurity, nutrition and exercise play? How do social inequities contribute to the development of chronic disease? How can we change unhealthy behaviours that put people at greater risk? How can we engage with a spectrum of stakeholders from patients to service providers to ensure improved public services for vulnerable and disadvantaged populations? Will higher taxes on cigarettes reduce smoking? How can we do a better job of educating patients, clinicians and policymakers? How can information and communication technologies help patients play a more active role in managing their chronic conditions in a true partnership with their healthcare teams? How can our built and social spaces be designed to be more accessible to all?

Fundamental scientists in our Metabolism and Childhood Obesity Program and Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute are making great strides in understanding the genesis of diseases, like diabetes and leukemia. Our translational scientists, like those in the Farncombe Institute, have deep experience with first-in-human studies, enabling the movement of promising new discoveries. Hospital-based institutes, like the Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health and the Thrombosis and Atherosclerosis Research Institute, bridge the divide between basic discovery and clinical implementation.

Our guidelines development teams in the Cochrane Centre and the Health Information Research Unit are globally sought for their cutting-edge approaches to finding the evidence that defines best clinical practice. Health policy and community-based researchers in the Escarpment Cancer Research Institute and the McMaster Health Forum work with governments and communities to optimize timely access and delivery of health care. And, the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Pain Research and Care is developing new strategies for the treatment and prevention of chronic pain.

Among our greatest strengths in the battle against chronic disease, is our ability to conduct population-level studies through the Population Health Research Institute and the Population Genomics Program that provide definitive proof of health outcomes. Our world-leading cohort studies are central to our understanding of the onset, progression and outcome of chronic diseases. Cohorts such as the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging, Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological Study, and the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development birth cohort, provide priceless data to maximize prevention, treatment and management of the most challenging chronic diseases.


Canada’s growth engine is under siege, battered by global competition and a decade-long struggle to ramp up productivity.

How do we mobilize our innovation and knowledge transfer to strengthen Canada’s automotive, materials and manufacturing sectors? How do we help companies maximize and continue their critical investments in the development of new products, technologies, and skills that manufacturers need to succeed? How, with geopolitical forces that are increasingly protectionist, do we ensure our ability to compete and thrive alongside other industrialized nations? How do we support Canadian exports and keep our economy growing?

Success in today’s fast-paced, consumer-driven, global environment requires fresh and ingenious approaches to manufacturing and the development of new materials. It depends on rapid technology transfer through every link of the supply chain from materials selection to product performance.

McMaster has exceptional expertise in materials and manufacturing research, and is leading the way in fields such as nanotechnology, ecohydrology and biomaterials. Indeed, McMaster was the federal government’s first choice when it decided to relocate Canada’s premier materials laboratory, CANMET-MTL, to McMaster Innovation Park, a hub for transformational research and new start-up companies.

McMaster’s Automotive Resource Centre is a state-of-the-art facility where researchers, students and industry professionals work together to address the unique challenges facing the automotive industry, including the design of battery and hybrid drive-train technologies. Through our expertise in the McMaster Manufacturing Research Institute, we have been instrumental in developing a regional supercluster on Advanced Manufacturing for Southwestern Ontario, and play an integral role in a tri-university Advanced Manufacturing Consortium that will increase Ontario’s capacity to compete globally in emerging areas such as next-generation additive manufacturing and digital components and devices.

McMaster’s physical and intellectual assets—rooted in our fundamental research expertise—in Advanced Materials and Manufacturing and the strong relationships we have developed with government and industry will play a crucial role in strengthening Canada’s capacity in this important sector.


In Canada, as in many other areas of the world, a dramatic demographic shift is underway. Canadians aged 85 and over are now the fastest-growing segment of the population. This makes the study of aging more important than ever before. At McMaster, more than 100 faculty members and post-graduate students from disciplines as diverse as gerontology, biology, psychology, rehabilitation science, business, and sociology are examining the phenomenon and science of aging from every angle. McMaster is also the headquarters of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging.

What aside from physical health promotes quality of health as we age? What role do our genes play? Does where we live, how many friends we have, or how much we earn make a difference? How can our cities be built and innovative technologies be used to better support the growing population of older adults? What impact does prenatal health or child obesity have on how well we age? How can older adults participate in decision making and management of their health conditions? How can we stave off dementia, improve functioning for those living with multiple chronic conditions, and address the physical, emotional and economic costs of overworked caregivers?

Our researchers are active in interdisciplinary research centres such as the Labarge Optimal Aging Initiative, the Labarge Centre for Mobility in Aging, the Gilbrea Centre for Studies in Aging, the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging, the Offord Centre for Child Studies, the CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, the McMaster Physical Activity Centre of Excellence, the Neurophysiology of Fitness Lab, the Aging, the Community and Health Research Unit, the Metabolism and Childhood Obesity Program, and the McMaster Digital Transformation Research Centre. Together with our hospital partners, they are influencing prenatal and infant health development locally and around the world. They are even designing smart cars for older drivers and smart homes that can alert health professionals to the first signs of Alzheimer’s or diabetes, and considering how information and communication technologies can best be designed to support the needs of older adults and improve their quality of life.

By blending scientific expertise and medical advances with social insights, engineering acumen, and appropriate management, McMaster researchers are leading the way with innovative solutions designed to support healthy living for longer, and foster active and healthy populations across the lifespan. In addition, researchers in finance and social sciences are devising new strategies to ensure that financial literacy and savings meet the challenges presented by the longevity revolution.


The benefits of ‘big data’ for our society are vast. We can measure and manage data more precisely than ever before. We can make better predictions and smarter decisions. We can target more-effective interventions shaped by data and rigour. Data are now an integral part of the infrastructure of our society.

But the power of ‘big data’ and a digital world also comes with challenges. How can we be sure the right data are reaching the right people at the right time? How do we ensure those in remote communities have equal and open access? How do we balance the benefits of new knowledge against the rights and freedoms for individuals to protect their privacy? How do we promote the sharing of data from one discipline to another for maximum impact? How do we ensure that managers are leveraging big data and analytics to practice evidence-based management? How do we provide students, researchers, and practitioners with the skills they need to traverse the big data terrain, now and well into the future? How can artificial intelligence be harnessed in key application areas related to health, manufacturing, and business?

McMaster researchers are working with enormous sets of data to improve research outcomes within and across every discipline. They’re scrutinizing individual genomes to revolutionize patient care with tailored treatments and novel therapeutic discoveries. They’re creating smart energy meters for homes and assessing energy consumption patterns, mapping changes in our brains, and studying the properties of stars. They’re improving vehicle reliability, safety, and fuel economy, redesigning rail safety processes, and working to help banks, retailers, and other companies provide more seamless customer service. They’re even attaching GPS sensors to rugby players to study game strategies and training approaches, and exploring data through art, music, and simulations.

Researchers in MacDATA, the McMaster Digital Transformation Research Centre, the Statistics Canada Research Data Centre, and the Public Economics Data Analysis Laboratory, are working to better understand how the digital revolution is impacting individuals and transforming organizations, economies, and society at large. They’re engaging with researchers across the institution, as well as with industry, government, and the community, to address these larger issues and strengthen our position as an international leader on all matters related to data and digital transformation.

Fundamental research in areas like computer science, statistics, mathematics, and computational science and engineering, underpins our work. By harnessing our collective knowledge across the campus, we will ensure all the elements are in place to drive a digital path to a more enlightened and prosperous future.


The effects of climate change are altering the landscape as we know it. The devastating impact can be seen everywhere—on human health, ecosystems, economies, our natural resources, the ways we live and work, and, ultimately, the future of our planet.

How can we ensure the safety of the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe? How can we preserve the health of our lakes and rivers for future generations? How do we work with Indigenous communities to address issues of water security? How can big cities manage traffic congestion and urban sprawl? Can we lower the cost of environmentally friendly products to make them more widely affordable? How can we change behaviour to make communities and citizens more environmentally responsible? How can businesses stay lean in the face of the pressure to be green? How do financial markets provide the funds to ensure that green strategies are rewarded?

These are just a few of the big questions that researchers at McMaster are tackling as they focus—across sectors and disciplines, and at many levels (villages, communities, cities, and nations)—on innovative solutions to address water crises, environmental change, and develop clean technologies.

We have already made significant strides. We’ve devised strategies to protect and restore forests and wetlands, and developed new technologies to detect and reverse water contamination. Through our work in photovoltaics, we’re turning the sun’s rays into electricity and helping Canada develop a solar industry.

Since complex challenges require a multi-faceted approach, our researchers are active in collaborative networks locally, nationally, and globally that bring innovators and policymakers together to forge solutions with real impact. From the Dofasco Centre for Engineering and Public Policy to FloodNet and the Centre for Climate Change, an NSERC Canadian Strategic Network based at McMaster, to the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health, and the Global Water Futures Program, McMaster researchers are engaged in both the technical and policy aspects of Great Lakes cleanup, flood forecasting and management, and the global water crisis.

Interest in clean energy sources has also led to a resurgence of interest in nuclear power as a means to generate electricity, and in this, we are aided by having the most powerful research reactor at any Canadian university, where our researchers are looking at nuclear safety and radioactive waste management. The reactor also provides isotopes that allow researchers to detect key nutrients in crops—improving agricultural productivity and food security in an era of climate change.

Our unique facilities have opened up an exciting world of opportunities for our environmental researchers and are enabling them to carve out a more optimistic vision for our planet.


The 21st century is witnessing a complex array of forces: fast-paced technological innovation, globalization, economic restructuring, social inequality, regional conflicts, and international migrations. This is creating enormous challenges for our political institutions, restructuring economic relationships, generating social upheaval, and posing urgent questions of justice and equity.

How do we foster opportunity, equitable prosperity, and well-being in the context of a globalized economy and technological change that promises to fundamentally alter our basic relationship to ourselves and to others, transform both the content, meaning, and role of work in our lives, and contribute to social and economic inequalities? How do we reconcile security, community, and identity to openness, pluralism, and global justice? How do we respond to those who have become alienated and left behind by social, economic, and cultural change, while shaping a fast-moving world to be more inclusive of all in society? How do we tackle a deteriorating public discourse, rising intolerance, and resurgent extremism and fundamentalism while building civic trust and engagement consistent with our democratic principles, promoting well-informed communication and deliberation, and restoring trust in political institutions?

We stand at a watershed. Understanding the forces at work and crafting effective responses to them requires our best theoretical, empirical, historical, and creative perspectives. Researchers at McMaster are bringing a wide range of disciplinary expertise to bear on these urgent questions.

Within our interdisciplinary Institutes and Centres, researchers are forging innovative approaches that integrate ideas from across the University. Cutting-edge methods are allowing us to exploit the ever-increasing stores of data available to us. Addressing these questions and finding solutions involves engagement with wider society at local, national, and international levels. With resources to draw on such as the Centre for Community-Engaged Narrative Arts, the Institute on Globalization and the Human Condition, and Peace Studies, McMaster is well positioned to play a considerable role in addressing the profound questions facing us in the 21st century.


More than a century of colonial policy has resulted in Indigenous communities suffering unequal standards of living in terms of access to clean water, health services, and education compared to that of non- Indigenous Canadians. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) describes this policy, with residential schools at its core, as “cultural genocide.” Continual under funding of education, social and health services, and housing has affected every sphere of Indigenous peoples’ lives. Indigenous women, in particular, have withstood the worst of these impacts. Consequently, the federal government has acknowledged the racialized violence experienced by Indigenous women and recently launched the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

The TRC Report outlines a number of principles and Calls to Action that address the inequities that Indigenous peoples have faced in this country, historically and in the present. Indigenous communities believe that the “truth” requires genuine engagement between Canadian institutions and the Indigenous populations they often underserve before real reconciliation can begin. The TRC describes “reconciliation” as an ongoing process of establishing and maintaining respectful relationships at all levels of Canadian society, and academic research is one primary site where this must occur.

Indigenous ways of knowing are differentiated by unique, sophisticated, and complex systems of knowledge across Indigenous communities within and beyond Canada. As distinctive Indigenous theories and methodologies continue to emerge, Indigenist research is becoming increasingly global, while remaining dependent on localized, community-engaged relationships. Of primary importance is the well-being of Indigenous communities and of research that emerges from cultural knowledge and Indigenous ways of knowing. Indigenous communities’ engagement also plays a primary role in guiding the ethics, parameters, and dissemination of Indigenous-focused research.

How will research questions and objectives be informed by Indigenous communities? In what ways can land-based pedagogies and ways of knowing translate into research within an academic setting? How will academic disciplines within the University be transformed by Indigenous research?

With the establishment of the McMaster Indigenous Research Institute (MIRI) in 2016, Indigenous research at McMaster will build upon its already strong relationships with local Indigenous communities and will be better supported at the development, implementation, and reporting stages. MIRI will also allow for the facilitation of an expanded body of work carried out by research teams that will support the advancement of Indigenous community-driven research in partnership with academic researchers, while working towards a more equitable environment for Indigenous researchers. Furthermore, MIRI will encourage and support research carried out by traditional cultural practitioners in addition to academics. As Indigenous-focused research continues to emerge and re-situate the voice of Indigenous peoples and communities in research questions and outcomes, MIRI will encourage and facilitate Indigenous research both locally and globally.


The impact of infectious disease is woven throughout history. Today, infectious diseases are the leading killer of children and adolescents worldwide, and one of the leading causes of death for adults. Globalization, increased drug resistance, and climate changes are compounding the problem. Many of our existing medical practices—routine and elective surgeries, and chemotherapy, for example—will no longer be an option, for fear of infection. Experts predict that by 2050, drug-resistant infections will kill more people than cancer and cost the world $100 trillion in lost economic output.

How does human behaviour influence the spread of infectious disease and what modelling tools are needed for further investigation? How can we harness new technologies to address the threat of viral, bacterial and other pathogens? How will we combat the global crisis of antimicrobial resistance? What can we do to ensure safe drinking water and adequate sanitation to prevent infectious disease in underdeveloped countries? How do we protect our citizens against the migration of emerging diseases like Zika, ensure the anti-vaccine movement doesn’t eradicate the progress we’ve made, and protect our most vulnerable populations from death due to influenza? What are the related ethical, social, and economic implications and how can our research influence the required public policy decisions?

McMaster is already coming up with some of the answers. Over the past two decades, we have amassed an impressive group of world-class researchers from around the globe—scientists with expertise in the social determination of infection, in new emerging infections, bacterial immunology and the study of bioactive small molecules—who are bridging the divide between basic research and the clinic and community to develop life-altering drugs, vaccines, and prevention strategies to address the most pressing global health challenge of our time.

McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research has become a magnet for the next generation of infectious disease specialists, fostering groundbreaking research in antibiotic resistance mechanisms, new drug discovery, and innovation in therapeutic alternatives to antibiotics. Researchers within the McMaster Immunology Research Centre are designing universal flu vaccines and running clinical trials on new TB vaccines.

Key to these successes are McMaster’s facilities: a world-leading Centre for Microbial Chemical Biology that links pressing medical and biological questions with advanced chemical technology; a High Throughput Screening Lab outfitted with cutting-edge robotics, instrumentation, and research staff; the Robert E. Fitzhenry Vector Facility, a certified Good Manufacturing Practices facility for clinical drug production; and a Biosafety Level 3 lab with dedicated animal facilities and space for current and future projects.

Together, these facilities have positioned McMaster as an internationally recognized centre for excellence and allowed our researchers to develop better science and translate it into new products, changes in clinical practice, and innovative community supports and policies.