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High-risk, high-reward research

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Four high-risk, high-reward research projects led by Waterloo Engineering professors were awarded a total of $1 million in federal funding this week.

Each of the projects is eligible for up to $250,000 over two years under the New Frontiers in Research Fund 2020 Exploration program, which brings researchers from different disciplines together to pursue breakthrough ideas.

The engineering-led projects at Waterloo – six projects were approved campus-wide – are headed by Nandita Basu of civil and environmental engineering, Boxin Zhao and Luis Ricardez-Sandoval of chemical engineering, and Oliver Schneider of management sciences.

Basu, also a professor of earth and environmental sciences, will investigate the improved use of agricultural waste as both a fertilizer and an input to biogas energy systems, then quantify the impact on water quality and greenhouse gas emissions.

“By directly exploring the interconnections between water quality, environmental change and energy sustainability, we are challenging the current research paradigm, and offering a solution pathway to more efficient allocation of our most vital resources,” she said in a media release.

Microplastics, renewable energy and virtual reality

Basu’s collaborators from Waterloo include civil and environmental engineering professors Rebecca Saari and Bryan Tolson.

The project led by Zhao, a WIN member, will investigate and develop innovative ways to resolve the problem of microplastics pollution. His team also includes chemical engineering professor Bill Anderson.

Another WIN member, Ricardez-Sandoval’s work involves the use of machine learning and chemical engineering to develop an optimization-based framework for renewable energy conversion systems. Chemical engineering professors David Simakov and Aiping Yu are also members of the team.

Schneider is leading research on the development of virtual reality environments and interfaces that are guided by social justice so the voices of people in marginalized communities can be heard.

Across the country, 117 interdisciplinary projects were approved for funding.

“Research that takes great risks advances the way we think about the issues that impact Canadians,” François-Philippe Champagne, the minister of innovation, science and industry, said in the release.

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