Waterloo Science faculty highlighted at national funding announcement

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Canada Research Chairs (CRC) program has awarded more than $11 million to the University of Waterloo. The Honourable Bardish Chagger, Minister of Small Business and Tourism, and member of parliament for Waterloo, made the announced Friday at Waterloo’s Science Teaching Complex on behalf of the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science.

John Thompson, Bettina Hamelin, Pierre-Nicholas Roy, Cameron Stewart, John Turri, James Craig, David Blowes, MP Bardish Chagger

Included among the awards is $5.5 million in funding for the NSERC Strategic Partnership Grants for Networks (SPG-N) project entitled Toward Environmentally Responsible Resource Extraction Network (NSERC-TERRE-NET).

Led by David Blowes, Canada Research Chair in Groundwater Remediation at the University of Waterloo, NSERC-TERRE-NET includes 15 co-investigators from 7 Canadian institutions who will work together to develop sustainable and cost-effective strategies for dealing with hazardous mine wastes.

David BlowesMining is an important activity in Canada, but the benefits derived from mining are offset by serious environmental and social concerns,” said Blowes, speaking at the announcement. “Within Canada, there are currently about operating 90 mines, and more than 10,000 abandoned mines. Responsibility for most abandoned mines has reverted to the Crown.”

Blowes is a professor in Waterloo’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and a member of the Water Institute. The NSERC-TERRE-NET research program complements the ongoing NSERC Training towards Environmentally Responsible Resource Extraction Collaborative Research and Training Experience (TERRE-CREATE), which the University of Waterloo also leads.

Chagger also announced the appointment of six researchers at Waterloo as new or renewing Canada Research Chairs. The CRC announcement comes with $5.7 million in funding for Waterloo in the key research areas of hydrologic modelling and analysis, insurance risk processes, bioinformatics, quantum molecular dynamics, number theory, and philosophy and cognitive science.

Chemistry Professor Pierre-Nicolas Roy, a newly appointed Tier 1 CRC in Quantum Molecular Dynamics, spoke at the event, illustrating his work on the behaviour of confined molecules using a tennis ball and a soccer ball.

Pierre Nicholas RoyThis chair in Quantum Molecular Dynamics will allow us to better understand how molecules that make up matter and solids and liquids and everything, move around,” said Roy. 

Roy, who is also an Affiliate with the Institute for Quantum Computing, explained that to fully describe, for example, the behaviour of water (a tennis ball) trapped inside a carbon-60 molecule (a soccer ball), he would need to solve the equations of quantum mechanics, but this could take thousands of years. Instead his group is developing methods, theories and software to solve this problem on much faster time scales, leading to the development of new materials with very interesting quantum properties.

Professor Roy will receive $1.4 million in funding over seven years for his research.

“Both the CRC program and SPG-N are valued at Waterloo,” said D. George Dixon, vice-president, university research at Waterloo. “With 65 CRCs, we are appreciative that six of our researchers have been awarded new or renewing chairs to support research excellence across a variety of disciplines while training a future generation of researchers. Likewise, strategic partnerships and research networks help leverage strengths and resources which can have a significant impact on research.”

Bettina Hamelin, vice-president, research partnerships, NSERC also attended the event. John Thompson, professor and Associate Vice-President of The University of Waterloo emceed the announcement.