SASKATOON – Safe drinking water, clean fusion energy and sustainable mining are the goals of University of Saskatchewan researchers who have been awarded $1.3 million from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) to support their projects.
“The strategic investments we’re announcing today will allow companies to increase their R&D activities in Canada by accessing the expertise and knowledge of scientific teams at universities,” said Minister of State (Science and Technology) Greg Rickford at the national announcement today in Vancouver. “Furthermore, by supporting partnerships such as these, we are addressing the long-term needs of our industries and helping them turn ideas into real benefits for Canadians.”
The U of S projects are among the 75 NSERC Strategic Projects grants and two Strategic Network grants awarded nation-wide.
“With the help of their partners in industry and government, our three outstanding NSERC-funded teams will advance research and training in areas that build on our strengths and are of strategic importance to Canada,” said U of S Vice-President Karen Chad. “This investment will help protect our drinking water, contribute to international efforts to develop clean energy sources, and lead to new environmental risk assessment tools for Canada’s mining and minerals companies and the agencies that regulate them.”
Helen Baulch, an assistant professor in the School of Environment and Sustainability and researcher with the Global Institute for Water Security, will receive $619,000 for research to help understand and manage algal blooms in drinking water sources. Algal blooms create major challenges to municipalities that need to provide safe, high quality water to their citizens.
Baulch, together with five co-investigators, will build on a long-term monitoring program led by the Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant that supplies the cities of Regina and Moose Jaw. Their aim is to create improved models for water management, as well as an early warning system for impending harmful algal blooms. Funding partners also include the Saskatchewan Water Security Agency and the Buffalo Pound Water Administration Board.
Chijin Xiao, a professor in the Department of Physics and Engineering Physics, will receive $347,000 for work on nuclear fusion, the same reaction that powers the sun. Xiao and his collaborator, Akira Hirose from the same department, are using Canada’s only fusion research facility, the STOR-M tokamak at the U of S, to help perfect a process called compact torus injection, or CTI, for fusion reactors. Xiao’s work on improving the CTI process is anticipated to contribute to international efforts such as those at the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor in France to harness this potentially unlimited, clean energy source. Plasmionique Inc. is also an in-kind contributor.
Steve Siciliano, a professor in the Department of Soil Science and a researcher with the U of S Toxicology Centre, will work with University of Guelph environmental sciences professor Beverley Hale to develop better standards for sites affected by mining activity. The project is backed by $650,000 from NSERC, and co-funded by Environment Canada, Mitacs and industry partners. The 17-member team will collect and analyze samples from contaminated soil sites across the country and develop new measurements of metal mixture impacts on soil microbes, invertebrates and plants.
The knowledge will inform both regulators and mining companies in developing resources while protecting the environment.
“By taking fundamental research and moving it towards solving real-world problems, these talented research teams are helping improve the lives of Canadians and build Canada’s future economic prosperity,” said NSERC Chief Operating Officer Janet Walden. “These collaborations exemplify NSERC’s goals to connect and apply the strength of the talented researchers in our learning institutions with the needs of industry.”
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