Building Canada's future tech workforce

Research funding

Building Canada's future tech workforce

Queen’s is launching new training programs in the areas of cleantech, artificial intelligence, and robotics to prepare students for careers in high demand fields.

By Kayla Dettinger, Special Projects Officer

May 16, 2024


Photo Collage: Drs. Amy Wu, Bhavin Shastri, and James McLellan

Drs. Amy Wu (Mechanical and Materials Engineering), Bhavin Shastri (Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy), and James McLellan (Chemical Engineering).

Three new training programs for highly qualified students and postdoctoral fellows will be developed at Queen’s following successful funding from the federal government’s Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) program. From a total of $26 million announced in funding, the new Queen’s programs will provide students and faculty the research training and technical skills to advance science and enter the workforce in fields related to cleantech, AI and quantum computing, and robotics. Overall, the funding will support 16 programs, with Queen's having the highest number of successful projects. Previous CREATE-funded programs at Queen’s provide specialized training in medical informatics, cybersecurity, and watershed sustainability.

Facilitated by Canada’s federal granting agencies, the CREATE program is designed to encourage collaborative and integrative approaches to address scientific challenges and facilitate the transition of new researchers from trainees to employees in the Canadian workforce. CREATE-funded programs foster the acquisition of important professional skills among students and postdoctoral fellows that complement their qualification and technical skills and improve their job readiness for careers in industry, government, and academia. Grants provide up to $1.65 million in support over six years to establish the program, with the majority of funds allocated to trainees’ stipends.

"Queen’s is excited to host three new CREATE programs that aim to solve scientific challenges and develop highly qualified personnel in areas critical to societal advancement," says Nancy Ross, Vice-Principal (Research). "We are building on our track record of excellence in research training and consider CREATE an exemplary model to advance our institutional goal of research and teaching integration."

Queen’s CREATE programs

PLASTICS: Plastic Affordance through Science and Technology Innovation for Circular Solutions

Plastics are ubiquitous in society, but critical research is needed to move to the point where the affordances of plastics can be realized with minimal environmental and societal impact. Led by James McLellan (Chemical Engineering; Dunin-Deshpande Queen's Innovation Centre [DDQIC]), PLASTICS will provide training in cutting-edge technical skills vital to the clean (bio)tech industry, focusing on bio-based approaches for plastics circularity. The program will train a total of 78 highly qualified personnel (HPQ), instilling a strong foundation in translational science, systems leadership, business, and societal use. Training will also ladder into the Mitacs and Simon Fraser University Invention to Innovation (i2I) program, build on DDQIC programming, and feed into Queen’s innovation ecosystems. PLASTICS builds on the successful Genome Canada-funded Open Plastic major project initiative led by Queen's researchers. HQP will be exposed to a wide range of stakeholders from industry to municipal government, alongside a team of international researchers. Through these relationships they will learn more about evolving policies and innovations around plastic recycling and participate in internships and experiential opportunities in the environmental sector.

NUCLEUS: Network for Ultrafast Computing with Light on Emerging Unconventional Semiconductors

Co-led by Bhavin Shastri (Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy) and Joyce Poon (University of Toronto), NUCLEUS aims to pioneer Canada’s first formal training program in photonics, bridging AI and quantum computing. Photonics is the enabler that can advance both fields and has the power to reduce inequity in computing resources. The program brings together researchers and experts across six universities, numerous industry partners, and global and national academic entities. Integrating key technologies, experiential learning, and professional training, NUCLEUS will equip graduates for a variety of roles – from managing large-scale photonic circuit design fabrication, integration, and packaging to software tools, cloud computing, algorithms, and applications. NUCLEUS is also designed to align with the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy and Canada’s National Quantum Strategy to support the growth and intersection of these sectors, particularly through the training of HQP.

ADVENTOR: Advanced Engineering and Training in Next-Generation Mobile Robotics for Human Spaces

Led by Amy Wu (Mechanical and Materials Engineering; Ingenuity Labs Research Institute), ADVENTOR is a unique training program focused specifically on mobile robots that interact or work closely with people in unstructured or human-built environments. The possible applications of mobile robots are numerous, from coordinated robot services facilitating municipal logistics to personalized social robots for physical and cognitive assistance at home. At the same time, these advancements raise new technical, social, and ethical challenges that current training opportunities do not address. ADVENTOR combines technical training with integrated socio-ethical design thinking, human-centred approaches, professional skills, and hands-on experiences to solve these complex challenges. To encourage interdisciplinary learning, trainees will be offered mobility opportunities to conduct research in another team member’s lab and gain access to specialized equipment through the program’s non-academic collaborators. The program aims to prepare the next generation of trainees to advance frontier robotics research.

To learn more about these and other CREATE-funded programs, visit the NSERC website.

Environment and Sustainability
Physical Sciences and Engineering
Technology and Innovation
Arts and Science
Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs
Smith Engineering
Climate Action
Industry Innovation and Infrastructure
Responsible Consumption and Production