Plinio Morita receives Ontario Early Researcher Award

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Plinio MoritaPlinio Morita, a professor in the School of Public Health Sciences, has received an Early Researcher Award (ERA) from the Ontario government for his project, Mobilizing IoT-Based Health and Environmental Data for Increased Public Awareness.

Valued at $140,000, the award goes to the province's most promising researchers in the first five years of their academic careers. The ERA will support Morita’s recent research project, which focuses on improving access to real-time air pollution and heatwave surveillance data collected using IoT technologies.

"As an early career researcher, this award provides me with resources to support underserved populations, allowing me to focus on the social good of our research," said Morita. "The funding provided by the ERA will support students working in collaboration with UNICEF Mongolia, who are trying to understand the hyperlocal effects of air pollution on children's health and to help create AI-based alert systems for the population."

Since current surveillance data ecosystems are outdated, complex and provide limited insights into individual exposure rates to pollution and heatwaves, Morita’s research project will use IoT technologies to enable public health officials in Ontario and Mongolia to monitor hazards in real-time and increase the awareness of the greater public to extreme events.

Morita is the Director of the Ubiquitous Health Technology Lab, where he leverages data from mobile health technologies to help people live longer, healthier and more independent lives. The graduate and postdoctoral students in the lab also conduct research under his supervision, using mobile health technology, wearables and smart home sensors to provide insights that can be used for population-level surveillance, as well as remote patient monitoring.

The Ontario government is providing more than $70.4 million through the ERA to assist research and innovation across Ontario colleges, universities, research institutions and research hospitals. The ERA support will allow Morita to build a research team and develop technology using user-centered design, participatory co-design, rapid analytics and machine learning. The ERAs were announced earlier this summer, and Morita is one of 11 researchers at the University of Waterloo to receive this award.

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