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Ontario invests in research and innovation

The Government of Ontario is providing $4.3 million in funding for four Queen’s research projects.

The Ontario government is funding Queen’s research to help support the development of homegrown ideas, products, and technologies. Four multidisciplinary Queen’s projects have received a total of $4.3 million in funding through two grant initiatives: the Ontario Research Fund and the Early Researcher Awards program. The funding will be used to cover research operations and infrastructure, ensuring Ontario’s researchers have access to the latest technologies, equipment, and talent.

"Ontario’s universities, including Queen’s, play a key role in advancing research that matters to Ontarians," says Betsy Donald, Associate Vice-Principal (Research). "Thanks to our Government partners, our researchers have the tools they need to further develop these important research questions."

Ontario Research Fund

Pascale Champagne (Civil and Chemical Engineering; Chemistry) and her colleagues have received $3.9 million in funding through Ontario Research Fund-Research Excellence (ORF-RE) for their project titled, "Integrated approaches to characterize, detect, and treat Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs) in the aquatic environments of Ontario."

CECs are chemicals and other contaminants that are found in consumer products and waste streams and may pose hazards to human health and aquatic ecosystems. Nevertheless, these health and environmental impacts are poorly understood, and CECs remain largely unregulated in Ontario.

Through their project, Dr. Champagne and her team will investigate the origins, transport, and effect of three broad classes of CECs, namely microbial, nanoparticles, and industrial and agricultural products in key sub-systems of the water cycle, such as watershed recharge and runoff zones, recycling systems for agriculture and aquaculture, wastewater and drinking water systems, septic systems, and surface water ecosystems. The team will also work to develop new technologies for the detection and treatment of CECs in these key sub-systems.

This research will lead to the development and commercialization of sensor prototypes for rapid detection of pathogens, bacteria, and toxic biological products as well as treatment technologies for the removal of CECs. Tools created through the study will also innovate engineering consulting services to support investigation and remediation of CEC-contaminated sites in Ontario jurisdictions.

The project is supported by a large consortium of industry, policy researchers, and municipal government partners who are contributing a further $951,000 as well as substantial in-kind contributions that will increase project funding to $11.9 million. As end users, the consortium of key stakeholders will facilitate uptake of research outcomes into industrial and municipal processes to affect real-time change.

The project is an initiative of the Contaminants of Emerging Concern Research Excellence Network (CEC-REN) at Queen’s, an interdisciplinary initiative focused on the detection and treatment of emerging contaminants in the natural and built environment that pose environmental and human health risks.

Early Researcher Awards

Three Queen’s research projects have received Early Researcher Awards valued at $140,000 each:

Joseph Bramante (Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy)

Project title: Neutron stars as thermal dark matter detectors

Description: Dark matter has a significant impact on stars and galaxies yet remains a mysterious entity. One of the primary goals of modern physics is to understand dark matter's interactions with visible particles like the proton and electron. Dr. Bramante and his team recently discovered that when dark matter falls into neutron stars, it heats them to infrared temperatures. Now, they are investigating how dark matter interacts with the superdense nuclear fluid in neutron stars. These findings will help transform neutron stars into world class dark matter detectors.

Robert Colautti (Biology)

Project title: Genetics of range expansion in ticks and tick-borne pathogens

Description: Global trade and anthropogenic changes to the environment can facilitate the spread of problematic species (e.g. weeds, pests, diseases). In Ontario, the deer tick (a.k.a. blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis) has rapidly risen in abundance, increasing risk of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. Dr. Colautti and his team are developing a new database and field protocols to reconstruct the geographic spread of deer ticks in eastern Ontario and to identify ecological factors that impact pathogen prevalence. Study results will inform strategies to mitigate exposure to tick-borne pathogens, helping reduce future cases of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses in Ontario.

Jason Gallivan (Psychology)

Project title: Functional mapping and enhancement of brain network function through multi-site neurostimulation

Description: Deep brain stimulation (DBS) was introduced two decades ago as a revolutionary treatment for Parkinson’s disease (PD). Since then, it has been trialed for numerous other neurological illnesses, including Alzheimer’s disease and depression. Despite its initial promise, DBS has failed, in all but a few cases, to improve patient outcomes, reflecting our poor understanding of how it operates and impacts the function of whole-brain networks. Dr. Gallivan and his team will use a multi-disciplinary approach to map how DBS changes the activity of whole-brain networks in vivo. Subsequently, these findings will be used to help improve DBS efficacy.

For more information on the Ontario Research Fund and Early Research Award, visit the website.