Faculty of Science researchers awarded $750,000 through The New Frontiers in Research Fund Exploration competition

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Innovative and interdisciplinary research is at the forefront of the Faculty of Science. The New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) has awarded four Waterloo Science researchers a total of $750,000 to advance groundbreaking research. 

Nandita Basu, Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science and Department of Civil

Nandita Basu
and Environmental Engineering has been awarded $250,000 as the lead researcher for a new project Recoupling the Livestock Nutrient Economy: Developing sustainable and integrative solutions to food-water-energy challenges.

This project will evaluate the feasibility of widespread use of bioreactors improve water quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) emissions from a technological, economic, and policy perspective.

“We will investigate the improved use of manure as both a fertilizer and an input to the biogas energy system, and then quantify its impact on water quality and greenhouse gas emissions,” says Basu. “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.”

Elizabeth Irving (right) and Suzanne Kerns (left).

Dr. Elizabeth Irving, Professor in School of Optometry and Vision Science, alongside Suzanne Kearns, Professor of Aviation, have been awarded $250,000 for the project Innovative Pilot Training and Evidence Based Visual Standards for Aviation.

This project will develop a novel scientific approach to pilot training and assessment as well as evidence-based vision requirements that will dramatically change flight education practice, guide regulatory standards and help mitigate the aviation gender gap. They will use flight simulation, gaze behaviour, cognitive task analysis, consensus modeling, computational modeling and artificial intelligence methods to develop objective metrics for pilot competency at different stages of training (i.e., novice, intermediate, expert). They will also investigate the effects of visual function on gaze behaviour and pilot performance for different levels of task difficulty and pilot expertise.   

Trevor Charles, Professor in the Department of

Trevor Charles.
Biology, in collaboration with Boxin Zhao, Professor in Chemical Engineering were awarded $250,000 for their project titled Synergistic Photocatalytic and Biocatalytic Degradation for Controlling Microplastic Pollution. 

This research looks to address the growing amount of synthetic plastic pollution, with a focus on microplastics which readily escape from the wastewater treatment systems and pose a direct threat to aquatic microorganisms and environments. This project will investigate and develop innovative ways to resolve the problem of microplastics pollution, to help enable a sustainable and circular economy through combination of membrane, photo- and bio-catalytic treatments to accelerating the degradation of microplastic particles that can be recovered from wastewater or natural environments. 

These projects were three of the six selected at the University of Waterloo for funding. A total of 117 projects across Canada were funded by the New Frontiers in Research Fund announced this week, totaling $14.5 million awarded to researchers. The fund’s Exploration stream specifically targets interdisciplinary, high-risk, high-reward research that defies current models, bridges disciplines in novel ways, or tackles fundamental problems from new perspectives.

“Research that takes great risks advances the way we think about the issues that impact Canadians,” says The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. “The Government of Canada is supporting researchers who are exploring bold new directions that could change lives and position Canada at the forefront of global research and innovation."