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Promoting research partnerships

Four Queen's University researchers receive Strategic Partnership Grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

Four Queen’s University researchers have been awarded Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Strategic Partnership Grants totaling over $2 million in funding. Announced Friday by Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, these grants promote partnership between academic researchers and industry or government organizations. Funding will go to six networks and 80 projects from across the country with the goal to enhance Canada’s economy, society, and environment within the next 10 years.

“The Strategic Partnership Grants facilitate and promote important collaborations for Queen’s researchers and their partners,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “These collaborations are critical for the translation of basic research into the technologies, jobs, policies and services that benefit all Canadians.”

Mohammad Zulkernine (School of Computing) $535,500 – Dr. Zulkernine’s research is creating a more secure environment for connected vehicles using the Cloud. In this project, he and his research team will propose countermeasures for attacks on connected vehicles by providing access control, availability, and privacy components. This research will play a major role in improving the next generation of connected vehicles by providing useful information to drivers and vehicles, enabling them to make safer, faster, and more informed decisions. His co-investigator on the project was Hossam Hassanein.

Dr. Zulkernine’s approach will position Canada as a leader in securing connected vehicles against increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks and will train highly-qualified software engineers and network security engineers in techniques in automating modern connected vehicles.

Dr. Zulkernine is also co-applicant on another Strategic Partnership Grant on a project that promises to enable ‘Internet of Things’ systems (that connect devices such as cellphones, appliances and vehicles to the Internet and to one another) to perform more effectively and at a lower cost.

Ian Moore (Civil Engineering) $590,100 – Using new technologies developed to assist with pipeline rehabilitation, Dr. Moore and his research team are addressing knowledge gaps that exist as communities assess, rehabilitate, and replace water and sewer pipelines. The present knowledge gaps create challenges for consulting engineers advising on specific projects, and significantly magnify the 'new technology' risks perceived by city engineers and others charged with public safety.

Unique buried pipe and polymer durability test facilities will allow Dr. Moore’s industry partner and eight PhD students to undertake experimental work and analyses to study and address these challenges. The project outcomes can be incorporated into standards, practice guidelines, and specifications for use by industry partners and others. Drs. Richard Brachman and Neal Hoult worked with Dr. Moore on the project.

Kevin Mumford (Civil Engineering) $537,475 – Dr. Mumford is studying gas migration in groundwater related to the extraction of natural gas from previously inaccessible formations (shale gas). Natural gas from deeper formations can move along damaged or inadequately sealed wells and enter shallower aquifers. This gas can then dissolve into the groundwater leading to chemical and biological reactions that reduce groundwater quality. Focused research is needed to better understand the factors influencing this gas migration and dissolution to develop best practices for risk management and monitoring for potential effects on groundwater quality. 

A series of laboratory experiments will track gas flow and dissolution using high-resolution visual techniques as well as the analysis of gas and water samples. Dr. Mumford will also use numerical models to simulate the experiments and to investigate larger-scale, longer-term field scenarios to develop monitoring strategies and establish a framework for risk assessment.

John Smol (Biology) $520,000 – Dr. Smol and his research team will incorporate the use of forensic paleolimnology to determine the impact mink farming may be having on natural environments in Nova Scotia. Working with local stakeholders, Dr. Smol and his colleagues will use both established and newly-developed “fingerprinting” tools to determine the relative impacts from mink farms – nutrients, metals, and persistent organic pollutants – that may lead to algal blooms and overall deterioration of water quality, including potential loss of fish habitat and alteration of aquatic food webs.

The research will allow Dr. Smol to provide regulators and stakeholders with the critical information to determine management and potential additional mitigation policies needed to help resolve the polarized debate on the environmental impacts of mink farms. The techniques developed in this project will be readily exportable to other agricultural regions in Canada and elsewhere faced with water quality issues.

For more information on the Strategic Partnership Grants visit the website.