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Projects funded by the Ontario Research Fund - Research Infrastructure (ORF-RI) Program 2012

By Danelle D'Alvise

August 8, 2012


Below are brief descriptions of the 14 research projects that received funding from the ORF-RI program:

  • 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 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 centre 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, Ont.
  • 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 better understand the efficacy 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, was awarded $799,157 for a High-Performance Adaptable Electric and Hybrid Electric Vehicle Powertrain Dynamometer Facility. The infrastructure funding 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 Canada become a world leader in the sector.
  • 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, garnering $380,650 for research infrastructure. The 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.
  • Characterization and Testing of Smart Hydrogel Materials for Biomedicine, a project led by assistant professor Todd Hoare, department of chemical engineering, will tackle the problem of getting the right amount of a drug – whether it’s to treat or cure a disease – to the right place in the body, at the right time.  The $119,611 award is for equipment to develop “smart” drug delivery devices that will provide for dynamically-changing drug release according to patient needs. Hoare works with “smart materials” on the macro-micro-and nanoscale and requires equipment that measures the size, charge and shape of bulk hydrogels, microparticle hydrogels (microgels) and nanoparticles hydrogels (nanogels).
  • HIV – human immunodeficiency virus – and tuberculosis (TB) are the leading causes of death from infectious diseases and globally, cost health systems billions of dollars. 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 Institute 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.
  • The $400,000 awarded to the Laboratory Support for Model Driven Engineering of Software for Automotive Applications, will establish a first of its kind research lab (SoftAuto Lab), in the new McMaster Automotive Resource Centre, located at the McMaster Innovation Park. The SoftAuto Lab builds on McMaster’s reputation as a world leader in software certification.  Perhaps the most important aspect of the new SoftAuto Lab is that Highly Qualified Personnel (HQP) ranging from undergraduate interns to research engineers and technicians will have access to state of the art model driven development tools in current use in industry. “The SoftAuto Lab will help HQP envision where automotive electronics might be a decade from now. This will allow them to not only ask ‘what if’ questions, but to actually try out their ideas,” explains project leader Mark Lawford, associate professor of computing and software. Lawford will be joined on the project by his department of computing and software colleagues Tom Maibaum, Canada Research Chair in Software Engineering and Alan Wassyng, Director, McMaster Centre for Software Certification (McSCert).
  • 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, McMaster Immunology Research Centre and professor, pathology and molecular medicine, to conduct large scale epidemiologic studies to discover the immunologic and genetic determinants that influence the severity of viral disease, and 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 $110,000 awarded to Aimee Nelson, Canada Research Chair in Sensorimotor Control and an assistant professor in the department of kinesiology, will enable her to establish a top-notch, competitive neurophysiology lab capable of leading the field in hand control research.  Her lab will explore Representations of the hand in higher-order somatic loci and their neural interactions with primary motor cortex, research that will benefit the quality of life for Ontario residents living with Focal Hand Dystonia (FHD), which causes involuntary muscular contractions and abnormal postures in hand where the fingers either curl into the palm or extend outward without control. Nelson’s long-term goal is to develop rehabilitative regimes for FHD, and further benefit other forms of dystonia and extend to other neurological complications that result in motor impairment of the hand such as stroke.
  • 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 $361,700 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 improve outcomes of chronic diseases.
  • 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 ORF-RI 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.
  • Michael Surette’s Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Microbiome Research in Health and Disease will be a high capacity Biosafety Level 2 facility dedicated to culturing, characterization and rapid molecular profiling of microbial communities of the human microbiome. The lab received $727,419 for the novel research it will pursue, including opportunities for improved disease management, identification of new pathogens, development of new diagnostics and discerning how the normal microbiota contribute to health. Surette, Canada Research Chair in Interdisciplinary Microbiome Research, will collaborate with researchers from the Institute for Infectious Disease Research and the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute.
  • 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 Mind.  Michael 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 drum set to explore issues of sensorimotor integration.