Waterloo researchers to receive more than $3.4 million to advance transformative interdisciplinary projects

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

The Government of Canada announced funding for several University of Waterloo faculty members through the New Frontiers Research Fund (NFRF).

“The New Frontiers in Research Fund supports high-risk, high-reward Canadian projects with the potential to spark transformational innovations,” said Charmaine Dean, vice-president, Research and International. “This year’s awardees from the University of Waterloo represent a variety of truly impactful research areas, including equitable approaches to climate change adaptation and improving eye health outcomes in children. Congratulations to the 2024 winners.”  

Researchers will receive $3,499,501 collectively. Waterloo researchers are known to excel in unique environments and integrate experiential education with interdisciplinary research. The NFRF will expand Waterloo’s capacity to identify new opportunities and solutions to deliver game-changing impacts.

Electrical and computer engineering professor, Dr. Kerstin Dautenhahn is a collaborator in one of the awarded projects:

From eye patch to robots – Using socially interactive technology to improve health outcomes in children with amblyopia

Drs. Ben Thompson (PI), Lisa Christian and Marlee Spafford, Faculty of Science; Dr. Kerstin Dautenhahn, Faculty of Engineering; Dr. Maureen Drysdale, St. Jerome’s University and Faculty of Health

Amblyopia is a condition in which one eye doesn’t see as well as the other because areas of the brain have not developed properly. Effective treatment occurs at a young age and involves patching the better-seeing eye for two to six hours a day. Unfortunately, many children patch less than they should, risking permanent vision loss. Waterloo researchers with backgrounds in optometry, engineering and psychology are working together to test if a social robot can help children adhere to treatment by providing children and parents with information, motivation and support. The two-year study will have families interact with the robot in the clinic and at home via a virtual platform. The study will monitor treatment adherence, visual outcomes and psychological well-being.