Environment included in $4.95M grant to train future healthy city builders

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

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The Canadian government has announced funding for a new research training platform to guide the development of a new generation of health, social sciences and humanities, engineering and natural sciences researchers. The goal is to find ways to make Canadian cities healthier, more livable, and more resilient. 

Dawn Parker (School of Planning) will lead the UW team, along with Sharon Kirkpatrick (Health), supported by the Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation, or WICI (led by Knowledge Integration’s Vanessa Schweizer). They join researchers from across the country in the $4.95M grant. These researchers and their team of collaborators will develop a curriculum to equip trainees at 10 institutions across the country with the knowledge and skills to tackle many of the challenges faced in urban environments. The trainees will engage in implementation science; that is, examining how a particular practice works by testing it in the real world and understanding how it can be best used in different regions, under different conditions, and with different populations.

Parker, a WICI core member, is confident the funding will go a long way to improving a field of study that impacts our rapidly urbanizing country.

“More than 80 per cent of Canadians live in cities. Issues like air quality, food security, transportation and housing are all vital to our health,” says Parker. “This grant allows us to attract the best and the brightest minds to Waterloo and provide these students the tools they need to evaluate policy solutions, in collaborations with policy-makers, community organizations and anyone working to help make our cities more livable.”

In total Waterloo researchers will receive $ 359,000 most of which will fund students at both the masters, and PhD level.

In recent years the Faculty of Environment has made building sustainable cities a priority. Through research, teaching, and initiatives such as the Future Cities Initiative Δ Program the faculty has built bench strength expertise related to our urban future. WICI is also a unique, cross-faculty research centre at the University of Waterloo that brought Parker, Kirkpatrick, Schweizer, and others together.

“Cities are complex systems, and both WICI and the Environment Future Cities programs envision cities as systems, using both qualitative and quantitative tools to imagine and implement possible futures,” says Parker, while adding:

Ultimately it’s about giving the next generation of leaders a transdisciplinary approach to complex problems in urban environments where the built, natural, and, social aspects of life all converge.