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.”  

The 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.

The research projects will transform societies, economies, technologies, sustainability and health. Learn more about the researchers and their work below.

Retreating from Risk (RFR): Decision-supports for the equitable implementation of retreat to build climate resilience

Drs. Brent Doberstein (PI), Jason Thistlethwaite, and Johanna Wandel Faculty of Environment and Rodrigo Carneiro da Costa, Faculty of Engineering, Waterloo Climate Institute

Flooding is a significant threat to low-lying areas, posing risks to housing, health, water security, critical infrastructure, and human mobility. Managed retreat (MR), defined as "the purposeful relocation of people, property and critical infrastructure out of areas vulnerable to recurrent climatic hazards," is emerging as a potentially transformative adaptation approach that offers opportunities for both risk reduction and advancement of social justice. This collaborative research initiative will investigate how MR can be incorporated as a proactive strategy to reduce flood risks and support community well-being, including socio-ecological resilience, sustainable livelihoods, and climate justice.

Read more about this project.

Just transitions as consciousness change: Learning with frontline communities

Drs. Mathieu Feagan (PI) and Leslie Wexler, Faculty of Environment

Moving society towards a more just and sustainable world cannot be achieved without centring the work and knowledge of communities most directly affected by the violence of colonialism, capitalism and heteronormative patriarchy—the key interlocking oppressive systems at the root of the climate crisis. This project will use Indigenous story-work as well as ethnographic methods to support an exchange of people and stories between distinct movements from different geographical locations. The research will provide conditions for a new just transitions framework based on the intersections of different struggles, organizing strategies and forms of consciousness committed to steering society towards just and sustainable futures.

The Urban Futures project: Toward health equity, inclusive governance, and climate adaptation in African informal settlements

Drs. Craig Janes (PI), Warren Dodd, Charity Oga-Omenka, Zahid Butt Moses Tetui, Faculty of Health, and Luna Khirfan, Faculty of Environment.

Historic marginalization and structural inequalities mean that residents in sub-Saharan African cities are disproportionately exposed to cascading climate hazards that compound their socio-economic vulnerability. Especially within informal settlements, some are more vulnerable or excluded than others, such as women and girls, people living with disabilities, and other minorities. The research focuses on risks to human health, living standards, and critical physical infrastructure, networks and services, and will involve other complex, intersecting risks to water and food security. The goal is to work with informal settlement residents to understand the lived realities of climate change and co-produce contextually appropriate adaptation strategies.

Read more about this project.

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.

Government of Canada logo

The projects listed are supported in part by funding from the Government of Canada’s New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF).

Les projets sont financés en partie par le fonds Nouvelles frontières en recherche du gouvernement du Canada.