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Western Recieves $34.1 Million For New Research

Monday, March 8, 2004 - 00:00

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) announced today an investment of more than $34.1 million in research projects led by The University of Western Ontario.

"This tremendous show of support from CFI demonstrates the level of research excellence at Western," says Paul Davenport, University President. "In this round of funding, Western received more support than any other institution in Ontario and I want to offer my sincere congratulations to all who worked so hard for this success."

Nils Petersen, Western's Vice-President (Research), says, "These projects show how our researchers are collaborating with other institutions in Ontario and across the country. At Western, we are leading major research initiatives that will have significant impact both regionally and nationally."

With matching funds to come from provincial and private sector partners and with infrastructure operating grants announced by CFI, the project values will total about $96 million over the next few years. Of this, Western will be the direct beneficiary of about $60 million and will share in an additional $12 million for three national projects, with the rest to be distributed through Western to its partner universities and colleges.

A few highlights of funded research:

THE BIOTRON - $11,309,006

The Biotron will be a state-of-the-art environmental research facility unlike any other in Canada. Located on Western's campus, it will provide researchers with controlled environmental technology to simulate climate change with respect to temperature, carbon dioxide concentrations, UV radiation, water status and quality, and pollutants to assess their impact on plants, animals, insects and microorganisms.

This is the second phase of a three-phase project involving collaboration between the Western and the University of Guelph. Western is focused on the basic science, with Guelph focused on applied science.

Bridging environmental research, agriculture, medicine and engineering, researchers will study such areas as: drug development in crop plants, infectious disease, management of global warming, food chain impacts of pesticides and herbicides, and insect borne disease. This facility is unique because it will allow studies of the interaction between different components of the biosphere.

The Biotron will be linked with scientists at several Canadian universities, and will also work in collaboration with universities around the world.

Norm Huner, biology professor and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Stress Biology (Faculty of Science), is the Biotron's lead researcher.


Losses of life and property damage due to natural hazards have increased dramatically in recent years, revealing that houses and light-frame buildings require improved engineering design. For example, in 1992, Hurricane Andrew destroyed 20,000 houses in Florida and caused more than $30 billion in damage.

The test facility funded by CFI will permit, for the first time anywhere in the world, the application of realistic, simulated, and extreme environmental loading due to wind, snow, and rain to full-scale houses, providing the scientific basis for new building code criteria and construction practices.

Michael Bartlett, professor of civil & environmental engineering (Faculty of Engineering), is leading this project.


As a leading provider of high performance computing (HPC) resources and services, SHARCNET accelerates the production of research results for some of Canada's pre-eminent academics; from increasing the understanding of outbreaks of diseases such as SARS to the development of new models to manage financial risk.

SHARCNET's unique strength lies in the breadth and depth of its partnerships. The SHARCNET consortia consists of 11 academic partners, led by Western, and including the Universities of Guelph, McMaster, Wilfrid Laurier, Windsor, Waterloo, Brock, York and Ontario Institute of Technology, and as well as Fanshawe and Sheridan Colleges. This virtual network facilitates the sharing of expertise and resources, champions inter institutional and multi-disciplinary collaboration, and enables research and innovation that would otherwise not be possible for a single institution.

When new equipment is fully deployed, SHARCNET will be Canada's largest HPC facility, with the greatest number of academic partners and the nation's most powerful computing facilities.

"We can say with conviction that Canada is becoming a place where world-class researchers want to be," says David Strangway, President and CEO of the CFI. "This CFI investment will further develop Canada's global reputation as a place where outstanding research and training is being

"Today's announcement will benefit The University of Western Ontario and the City of London," says Joe Fontana, M.P. for London North Centre. "Congratulations to all the recipients for their outstanding performance in this rigorous competition."

Prime Minister Paul Martin was with Strangway in Ottawa this morning to announce a total of $585.9 million to support 126 projects at 57 Canadian universities, colleges, hospitals and other non-profit research institutions.

Please see below for information on the five other Western projects receiving CFI funds.

The CFI ( is an independent corporation created in 1997 by the Government of Canada to fund research infrastructure.The CFI's mandate is to strengthen the ability of Canadian universities, colleges, research hospitals, and other non-profit institutions to carry out world-class research and technology development that will benefit Canadians.



The new Statistics Canada Research Data Centre at Western will enable researchers to make significant contributions to the development of social, economic and health statistics. The Centre will provide faculty and student researchers at Western with access to Statistics Canada data and will promote the use of this data for research through training.

Lead researcher is Rod Beaujot, sociology professor in Western's Centre for Population Studies (Faculty of Social Science).


The Hysitron TriboIndenter will be part of a suite of tools, unique in Canada, for nanometer scale interface and materials science used by researchers in Southwestern Ontario. It will be capable of controlled environment nanometer scale imaging and quantitative determination of the static and dynamic nanoscale mechanical properties of selected features of materials and interfaces.

Peter Norton is the lead researcher on this project and a professor of chemistry and physics & astronomy (Faculty of Science).

Western acts as the administrative centre for the following national projects:


VESPERS will be a unique station at the Canadian Light Source synchrotron facility in Saskatoon, the largest scientific research facility in Canada in more than 30 years.

Through the operation of a powerful source of light, millions of times brighter than sunlight a synchrotron acts like a giant microscope, helping scientists understand the nature and structure of molecules and materials.

Specifically, VESPERS will enable simultaneous measurement of composition and structure of minerals and solids. For example, it will detect gold, silver and platinum in minerals or toxic elements in soils within seconds.

Lead researcher is Stewart McIntyre, director of Surface Science Western and chemistry professor (Faculty of Science).


This facility will be used to investigate the properties of new materials that have technological and health implications. Like the VESPER described above, it will be located at the Canadian Light Source synchrotron facility in Saskatoon and will provide unprecedented capabilities in soft x-ray research with vastly improved brightness, flux and spatial and photon energy resolution.

Lead investigator is T.K. Sham, chemistry professor at Western and Canada Research Chair in Materials and Synchrotron Radiation (Faculty of Science).


Neuron reflectometry (NR) is a new technique for probing, non-destructively, thin films, nano-layered structures and near-surface chemical or density variations in bulk materials. It measures the degree of mirror-like reflectivity of a flat sample as a neutron beam is scattered from its surface over a range of angles, showing layers, much of which is unattainable by any other method.

This facility will be located in Chalk River, Ontario and will be the only one of its kind in Canada, and one of the best in the world. Researchers in the Department of Chemistry (Faculty of Science) at Western, David Shoesmith and Jamie Noel, are the lead researchers.

For more information, please contact Marcia Steyaert, Communications &
Public Affairs, at (519) 661-2111 ext. 85468

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