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Controlling shake, rattle and roll

Earthquake engineering project 1 of 12 awarded CFI funding
Controlling shake, rattle and roll

Civil Engineering professors Tracy Becker and Lydell Wiebe have been awarded more than $300,000 from the CFI's John Evans Leadership Fund

January 20, 2015
Danelle D'Alvise, Research Communications

In the 60 years that have gone by since Big Joe Turner first recorded “Shake, Rattle and Roll”,   Canada has experienced some 200,000 earthquakes – most of which we did not even feel.  

When Canadians do feel an earthquake, it can range from minor ground shaking and windows rattling to ground rolling seismic waves, capable of damaging buildings.

Structural engineers Tracy Becker and Lydell Wiebe not only want to ensure the safety of building occupants in the event of a significant earthquake, they want to develop structures that can be used after an earthquake. Their complementary research expertise to advance new structural systems for earthquake resistance has garnered more than $300,000 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), one of a dozen successful McMaster projects awarded funding today.

Becker and Wiebe will be using the Simulator for Innovative Next-Generation Structural Systems SINGSS (SINGSS) a large scale dynamic testing apparatus, capable of something called hybrid simulation, whereby approximately one-half of a structure is tested physically, while the rest of the structure is tested analytically, using a computer interfaced numerical model. SINGSS will be able to lift loads equivalent to picking a jumbo jet off the ground.

The Simulator will put McMaster at the leading edge of research that will save lives and enable post-earthquake recovery. A 2013 report from the Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates that large earthquakes in seismically vulnerable areas such as the Quebec City-Montreal-Ottawa corridor or west of Vancouver Island, would create economic losses totalling somewhere between $61-billion to $75-billion.     

By testing and developing innovative structural systems, Becker and Weibe anticipate that their research can be adopted in future building codes, used to build new structures and retrofit existing buildings -- all at a competitive cost. 

Mo Elbestawi, vice-president, research and international affairs, welcomed this latest investment from CFI.

"Having state-of-the-art equipment, expanding or creating new labs on campus -- these are all essential components of the vibrant research environment we have fostered at McMaster," said Elbestawi. "The twelve research programs awarded funding today will have a positive impact on the lives of Canadians, contributing to better health, a robust economy and renewable energy solutions."

Almost $2M was awarded to McMaster through the John R. Evans Leadership Fund (JELF). Dr. Evans was the founding dean of McMaster’s Faculty of Health Sciences (1965-1972) and the CFI’s first Board Chair. The Fund offers universities the opportunity to acquire infrastructure for their leading research faculty to undertake cutting-edge research.

At today’s announcement in Sasakatchewan, the Honourable Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology) said, “In our government’s updated Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy, we are making record investments necessary to push the boundaries of knowledge, create jobs and prosperity and improve the quality of life of Canadians. Canada has become a destination of choice for highly talented scientific researchers thanks in part to our support for world class university and college infrastructure which helps train the next generation of Canadian research talent.”

McMaster researchers awarded infrastructure funding from the CFI’s JELF program:

  • Evolutionary psychologist Paul Andrews has been awarded $59,888 to establish The EvoHealth Physiology Laboratory: Testing the evolved function of depression to pursue his primary research interest -- understanding the evolution of depression. Andrew’s research challenges current diagnostic guidelines, treatment practices and the safety and efficacy of antidepressant medications.
  •  Sue Becker, with psychology colleague Larry Roberts and Ian Bruce (electrical & computer engineering) has been awarded $300,000 for their Hearing Technology Research Lab, which will allow them to build on their ground-breaking research by developing 1) better methodologies and tools for assessing hearing disorders, 2) improved computational models of hearing loss and tinnitus, and 3) improved biomedical devices for treating hearing disorders and tinnitus.
  • Tracy Becker, and Lydell Wiebe  associate professors, civil engineering, Next-generation structural systems for seismic protection of infrastructure$338, 561
  • $49,400 to Fei Chiang, assistant professor, computing and software for Infrastructure for Continuous, Privacy Preserving, Data Cleaning at the McMaster Data Science Lab to develop and test automated data cleaning tools that will enable users and organizations to reap value from their data faster, without being burdened by manual and tedious data cleaning tasks.
  • Information systems professor Khaled Hassanein with colleagues Milena Head (Wayne C. Fox Chair in Business Innovation) and Scott Watter (psychology, neuroscience & behaviour) has been awarded $135,500 for equipment and software for the Advanced Human Computer Interaction Laboratory. The lab is aimed at advancing our understanding of user experiences with information and communications technologies and if/how such experiences differ by the user’s characteristics (age, culture, etc.) and context of use. Hassanein's project is featured on the CFI's web site and can be read here
  • Jan Huizinga, professor, department of medicine, will receive $79,311 for Infrastructure to Support Human Colon Function Assessment to purchase an innovative 84 Sensor Acquisition and Analysis System that will allow his research team to measure motility at 84 spots along the entire colon, giving deep insight into how the colon works by evaluating motility patterns and responses to stimuli.
  • David Latulippe, assistant professor, chemical engineering will be adding a new suite of equipment to his lab, an $80,000 award for Micro-scale separations and analysis suite (MSAS) for bio-processing and environmental applications. His award will fulfill the infrastructure needs associated with the development of advanced separation processes for three key sectors of the Canadian economy: energy, environmental and biotechnology.
  • Paola Muti, professor of medicine and Dofasco Chair in Experimental Cancer Therapeutics, will be receiving $216,321 for Infrastructure to Support Cancer Risk Assessment Research. Her research program will identify individuals at increased risk before the disease occurs by finding changes in micro Ribonucleic Acids (miRNAs), a class of molecules that control the activity of many genes and proteins often related to cancer.
  • Guillaume Paré, Canada Research Chair in Genetic and Molecular Epidemiology has been awarded $200,000 for Infrastructure for Genetic and Molecular Epidemiology. The associate professor, pathology and molecular medicine, will use the JELF award for research program that seeks to reduce the burden of cardiovascular diseases in Canada by discovering their genetic causes. Pare expects his research to lead to the development of innovative ways to identify “at-risk” patients, which may lead to viable preventive strategies targeting known and novel modifiable risk factors.
  • Ishwar Puri, professor and dean, engineering, will use his $196,770 award to explore the Magnetic Control of Microstructure Morphology: Means for Control of Material Properties in Nanocomposites in a new research facility, the Laboratory for Nanocomposite Material Design. Puri’s research will address the current limitations of 3D printing: objects printed have homogeneous material properties while most objects in real life are made up of multiple materials with varying properties. This project will develop a technology that will alleviate this limitation through on-demand control of material properties.
  • Nigel Schofield will be establishing a High Voltage DC Energy Conversion Laboratory with his $99,468 JELF award. The professor of electrical and computer engineering will be addressing the technical challenges associated with the emerging renewable energy industry, namely the remote locations of generation that require long distance transmission of electrical energy. Schofield’s goal is to demonstrate the feasibility of a new electric generator technology that can operate at high voltage.
  • Ravi Selvaganapathy, Canada Research Chair in Biomicrofluidics and associate professor, mechanical engineering is leading the project Research platform for development of devices and assays for drug discovery, which was awarded $200,000 for equipment crucial to test and extract natural compounds to enable faster drug development. Selvaganapathy’s research team including colleagues Bhagwati Gupta (biology) and Ram Mishra (psychiatry & behavioural neurosciences), also aim to develop microfluidic devices and assays to understand neurological disease progression (such as Parkinson’s disease) and its treatment.