Eighteen University of Regina researchers were no doubt ecstatic last week when the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) announced that the U of R would receive 2.8 million dollars in research grants from the Federal Government. The grants, which make up approximately 10 per cent of the university’s yearly research budget, allocates funds to projects in biochemistry, engineering, physics, computer science, among other fields.
"This is a very significant boost,” said University of Regina president, Vianne Timmons. “It is very hard to do research in the natural sciences without funding, because researchers need equipment, grad students to pay, and materials to purchase. So this is a very significant accomplishment and very important for their academic careers.”
The majority of the 2.8 million comes in the form NSERC’s Discovery Grants Program, which is designed to provide stable funding for some of Canada’s most promising lines of research. In order to become approved for funding, researchers from around the country create applications that are submitted to NSERC for approval. According to Timmons, a little over five per cent of them are approved.
“It is extremely competitive,” Timmons said. “Out of 2,100 applications, only 125 were approved. We are very pleased that the University of Regina was able to receive 2.8 million.”
Among some of the noteworthy research ventures on campus is the U of R’s contributions to the GlueX Project, an endeavor that seeks to discover what holds matter together. The research team at the University of Regina, led by physics professors George Lolos and Zisis Papandreou, have been the driving force in creating photo-sensors, which are used to detect particles fired out of an accelerator at high velocity. Their work has not gone unnoticed by the Federal Government, who handed them 437,000 dollars to continue operations over the next two years.
"It is very hard to do research in the natural sciences without funding … So this is a very significant accomplishment and very important for their academic careers.” – Vianne Timmons
One of the other eye catching projects is computer science professor Daryl Hepting’s look into how people recognize faces in the context of eyewitness identification used by the legal system.
"Eye witness Identification is often highly regarded by the legal system,” he wrote. “Yet it is not always accurate. Identification may be compromised if the words used to describe the target face impair the witness’ memory of that face or if the witness sees so many photos that he or she may identify a photo as the target face when it is actually similar to one of the early photos viewed.”
Hepting is aiming to develop a more accurate system of identifying faces, for the purposes of eyewitness testimonies in the legal system. Hepting hopes that through his research he will be able to develop a computer interface that allows for an eyewitness to accurately identify a suspect, while at the same time eliminating the potential mistakes that could be made during the process.
The other 16 NSERC funded projects cover the entire spectrum of the natural sciences, and the 2.8 million dollars in research money will add a 10 per cent boost to the U of R’s yearly research budget of 23 million. For Timmons, the funding is not only a welcome financial boost, but also a moment of pride.
“I know we have very successful researchers at the university,” she said. “Every year our research program gets more and more solid, and so I felt validated also. I’m really excited for my faculty members because these grants honour their hard work and their dedication to research. It is really important that we see the research portfolio of the University of Regina continue to flourish and grow.”
“Getting these 2.8 million dollars into researchers’ hands will help us to ensure that happens.”