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CFI awards infrastructure funding for 10 research projects

By Danelle D'Alvise, Research Communications
January 24, 2012

McMaster University came out on top when the latest round of funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) was recently announced by the Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology.

The funding – awarded through a rigorous, objective and merit-based competition process – provides more than $3.25M for ten projects across campus to help establish two new research facilities, and to upgrade and enhance existing labs with new equipment and leading-edge tools.  McMaster was the only university with a project count in the double digits, receiving the largest total award out of the 38 institutions awarded funding.

“The CFI’s investment in these ten projects further enhances our University’s vibrant research environment,” says Mo Elbestawi, vice-president, research & international affairs. “Many of the researchers awarded will now be able to upgrade and augment their current facilities with the latest equipment and data storage, while other researchers will be creating new laboratories and developing novel technologies on our campus. This will ultimately increase our research capacity, accelerate our research results and provide an enriched research-training environment for our students.”

The research initiatives – representing more than $7.7 million in total project costs – reflect a broad cross section of McMaster’s research strengths in areas such as automotive, health, and infectious disease research. (For a detailed list of the researchers awarded funding and more information about their projects, see below.)

David Sweet, Member of Parliament for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale says, "The Government of Canada understands that making strategic investments in innovation is key to ensuring we remain competitive in the global economy. This round of CFI awards is just one example that showcases the world-class research strength of McMaster University, while benefiting Hamilton and all of Canada."

“Canadians from coast to coast to coast can be assured that Canada’s research community is bringing its talents to bear on the problems that matter to them,” said Dr. Gilles G. Patry, Canada Foundation for Innovation President and Chief Executive Officer. “This round of investment illustrates the value of research and innovation in building stronger, healthier and more prosperous communities.”

CFI funding awards Brickley

Project Leader Megan Brickley, Canada Research Chair in Bioarchaeology of Human Disease and professor, department of anthropology, and Tracey Prowse assistant professor, department of anthropology, were awarded $270,000 for a Centre for Integrated Bioarchaeological Research in Human Health, Diet, Disease and Migration (Bioarch-HDDM) to establish a facility to research life in the past and create a database of unique digital images. The equipment they will be purchasing for the Bioarch-HDDM can be used in both the field and lab to investigate the health, diet, disease and migration of past societies ranging from the Roman world to a battlefield in Stoney Creek.


Personalized Metabolomics for Assessment of Nutritional and Exercise Intervention in Human Health is the title of the project led by Philip Britz-McKibbin, associate professor, chemistry & chemical biology. Britz-McKibbin was awarded $166,410 to equip his lab with state-of-the-art analytical systems to develop new methods for the analysis of small molecules (metabolites) in biological samples such as blood and urine that can serve as biomarkers for disease prognosis, treatment monitoring, and basic human health. His research proposal addresses the growing public health concern with the expanding use of nutritional supplements without evidence-based research to ascertain the efficiacy and safety of the nutraceuticals and functional foods that have given rise to a multi-billion dollar industry. Britz-McKibbins project will contribute new advances in metabolomics technology for identification and quantification of metabolites that will lead to breakthroughs in our understanding of the pivotal roles that nutrition and exercise play in human health.



Ali Emadi , Canada Excellence Research Chair in Hybrid Powertrain, Director of MacAuto and a professor in the department of mechanical engineering, was awarded $799,157 for a High-Performance Adaptable Electric and Hybrid Electric Vehicle Powertrain Dynamometer Facility. The infrastructure funding from the CFI will purchase a Three Dynamometer System comprised of: a powerful modeling software package, an integrated multi-function inverter that can be used for driving electric propulsion motors, and a battery simulator. This facility will be housed in the 15,000 square ft. area that is part of the new McMaster Automotive Resource Centre (MARC), located at the McMaster Innovation Park. This advanced flexible test platform is capable of testing various powertrain configurations of different electric, hybrid electric, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. This new facility will make a leading contribution to the development of the next generation of electrified powertrains, and – in collaboration with the automotive industry and researchers in Canada – will help brand our country as a world leader in the sector.


Goward The interdisciplinary project In Situ Characterization of Electrochemical Processes in Lithium Ion Batteries represents a collaboration between project leader Gillian Goward, associate professor, chemistry and chemical biology, and Gianluigi Botton , Canada Research Chair in Electron Microscopy of Nanoscale Materials, professor, materials science and engineering, garnering $380,650 for research infrastructure. This project will combine their respective research strengths in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance and advanced microscopy to solve the problem of how to develop more stable and longer life batteries for hybrid vehicles. The new lab equipment requested for this project will complement existing facilities and provide them with the ability to measure properties of lithium ion cells in real time – a game changing goal for achieving the performance targets required of lithium ion batteries for electric vehicles.



HIV – human immunodeficiency virus – and tuberculosis (TB) are the leading causes of death from infectious diseases and globally, cost billions of dollars to health systems. The epidemic is further complicated by the fact that these infections fuel each other. The technical infrastructure essential to HIV-TB research involves equipping labs at a Biosafety Level 3. Three investigators from the Michael G. DeGroote Insitute for Infectious Disease Research (IIDR) have been awarded $400,000 for their project Understanding Pathogenesis of and Immune Responses to HIV and Tuberculosis  Co-infection to expand, renovate and update the Biosafety Level 3 lab in the IIDR. Project leader Charu Kaushic associate professor, pathology and molecular medicine and professors Ken Rosenthal and Zhou Xing, department of pathology and molecular medicine, will continue their collaborative work on mucosal immunity, immuno-pathogenesis and vaccine development against these deadly infections.

Mark Loeb

McMaster's considerable expertise in infectious disease research will be advanced with the infusion of $400,000 to establish a laboratory to support high throughput research in population-based infectious diseases. Led by Mark Loeb, the Infrastructure for Population-Based Infectious Diseases Research project will provide capacity for tissue storage and the capacity for data storage to better deal with influenza and dengue virus specimens procured from across North America, Central America, South America, and Southeast Asia. Loeb,a professor in the department of pathology and molecular medicine and Medical Director of Infection Control for Hamilton Health Sciences, will be working with Jonathan Bramson, Director, Centre for Gene Therapeutics and professor, pathology and molecular medicine, to conduct large scale epidemiologic studeis to disver the immunologic and genetic determinants that influenc ethe serverity of viral disease, and the determine the role such factors play with respect to vaccine response.


The development of new processes to control biological systems – whether they are in the form of treatments to cure diseases, or as strategies to produce sustainable biofuels – depends on the fundamental understanding of biomolecular interactions that occur at the micro and nanoscale. Jose Miran-Mirabal , assistant professor, chemistry and chemical biology, will be housing $225,000 worth of new equipment in his Laboratory for the Study of Biomolecular Interactions Through Micropatterning and HighResolutionFlourescence Microscopy to further his work in novel methodologies to query biological systems within the health, biotechnology, and environmental sectors. The acquisition of this equipment will provide him with critical components that are not currently available on campus, allowing him to pursue a unique research program that studies the molecular interactions happening at biological interfaces.


The research conducted by kinesiologists Stuart Phillips and Gianni Parise has shown that increased physical activity and better nutrition can potentially prevent: most chronic diseases before they start – regardless of age; profoundly improve virtually all known chronic disease conditions even after their diagnosis; decrease morbidity while increasing longevity and quality of life; and improve an individual's mental health and sense of well-being. Their Innovative Nutritional and Activity-based Interventions to Improve, Maintain, or Regenerate Skeletal Muscle Health project has secured $361,701 to upgrade existing facilities for the purpose of creating a bonafide metabolic food preparation area and an exercise testing facility to allow seamless conduct of body composition-oriented nutritional and activity-based studies. The goal of this project is to holistically develop innovative, safe and effective nutritional and activity interventions to prevent and imporve outcomes of chronic diseases.


Liss Platt

Liss Platt, associate professor, communication studies and multimedia, has been awarded $94,635 to explore the possibilities of using new media to mobilize knowledge with a high level of social relevance. Platt will draw on her expertise in film and new media, in collaboration with Jennifer Simpson, associate professor of drama & speech communication at the University of Waterloo. Platt and Simpson's collaboration marries their media and research strengths in the CFI-funded project Utilizing New Media to Mobilize Knowledge on Race. Their project has three objectives: identify forms of digital technology that are appropriate to educating diverse audiences about research on race issues in Canada; produce a set of knowledge mobilization tools on race in Canada using innovative digital public settings; and utilize the above resources in collaboration with education, community, and workplace partners.

Mike Schutz

The first research facility within McMaster's department of music will be established with help from the CFI's award of $154,213 funding for the MAPLE ( Music, Acoustics,

Perception and LEarning) lab, housed within the School of the Arts, and affiliated with the McMaster Institute for Music and the MindMichael Schutz, assistant professor, music will be leading the project: Informing Musical Performance by Exploring the Production and Perception of Music for Percussion to research questions at the intersection of music and psychology. The lab will use video-recordings of percussion playing to explore audio-visual integration, as well as timing and amplitude information collected from an electronic drumset to explore issues of sensorimotor integration.