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Date: March 28, 2014

Three UVic researchers win prestigious award

Improving aircraft design, understanding the ocean’s critical role in climate change, and finding new ways to deal with vast amounts of medical imaging data—these are the pressing societal challenges being tackled by the University of Victoria’s three newest Canada Research Chairs.

The three UVic chairs were announced today by Ed Holder, Minister of State for Science and Technology, as part of a national announcement of 59 new chairholders across the country.

A Canada Research Chair designation brings reputational and funding benefits to the researcher and his or her host university. For Tier 1 chairs, which go to researchers considered world leaders in their fields, the university receives $200,000 annually for the seven-year term. Tier 2 chairs go to emerging researchers who have the potential to lead in their field and the university receives $100,000 annually for five years.

“Leaner, greener and safer”—that’s the new mantra these days for aerospace systems engineers such as Afzal Suleman. As the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Computational and Experimental Mechanics, he’s using advanced computational tools to develop state-of-the-art, sustainable designs for the next generation of aerospace transportation systems.

“Air traffic in Canada is expected to double every 16 years, which means environmental factors—such as noise and emissions—will play a dominant role in future aircraft design,” says Suleman, who is director of UVic’s Centre for Aerospace Research. “The challenge is to design more environmentally and economically efficient aircraft, while improving public safety.”

Where does carbon go in the ocean and why? Where will it go next? As the Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Ocean Carbon Dynamics, oceanographer Roberta Hamme measures dissolved gases in the ocean to answer these questions about the carbon cycle, which is critical to life on Earth.

“Few people realize that the ocean ultimately controls atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), and that it currently absorbs about one-third of the excess CO2 that humans produce,” says Hamme. “Determining how that absorption is evolving and what factors control it are essential to predicting the progression of global climate change.”

The rapid advancement of modern biotechnology is creating a major challenge for medical researchers—huge and complex datasets. As the Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Biostatistics for Spatial and High-Dimensional Data, statistician Farouk Nathoo is developing new models and computational methods for processing these datasets, particularly those related to 3D-imaging.

“Scientists studying how the brain works and how genetic variation influences the brain need new tools to understand the vast datasets, which are increasingly coming from multiple imaging sources,” says Nathoo. “For example, within the field of imaging genomics, it’s not unusual to conduct over one billion statistical tests to identify the genes that influence the brain.”

Now in its 14th year, the Canada Research Chairs program helps Canadian universities attract and retain the best scholars in the world and build on existing areas of research strength. The program also gives students the opportunity to work with researchers who are world leaders in their fields.

Today’s announcement includes the renewal of UVic philosopher Margaret Cameron as the Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in the Aristotelian Tradition. UVic currently has 34 filled Canada Research Chairs.

 

View short “Faces of UVic Research” videos on each new UVic chairholder:

Suleman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cd0P77Kh-YQ
Hamme: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cp0-w6eXY_U
Nathoo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqXnwRdOop4
 

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