Lakehead Faculty awarded $1.4 million in new Research Grants

Lakehead Faculty awarded $1.4 million in new Research Grants

Fourteen Lakehead University researchers and three graduate students are receiving new Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) grants and scholarships worth more than $1.4 million.

Lakehead secured NSERC funding for research in Chemistry, Engineering, Math, Computer Science, Geology and Biology.

The following NSERC grants are allowing Lakehead researchers to examine better ways to treat and purify water, to understand fish responses to environmental stresses, to study carbon stores in forest soils, and to develop better technologies to monitor industrial motors for faults.

Dr. Aicheng Chen, a Professor in Chemistry and Canada Research Chair in Materials and Environmental Chemistry, is receiving $150,000 through a Research Tools and Instruments grant for an advanced synchronized scanning photoelectrochemical microscopy (SPECM) system. The system is to support his research on the production and storage of hydrogen as well as the development of clean technologies to treat wastewater and purify water.

Dr. Chen is working with the City of Thunder Bay’s Environmental Division to develop advanced approaches for treating wastewater and is collaborating with Zenyatta, a company based in Thunder Bay, to develop novel carbon nanomaterials for green chemistry applications.

“Electrochemical technologies can be used to develop a wide variety of green chemistry applications,” said Dr. Chen. “These include the use of hydrogen as a clean and sustainable replacement for fossil fuels in energy production and advanced approaches for water purification.”

Dr. Michael Rennie, Assistant Professor in Biology and Canada Research Chair in Freshwater Ecology and Fisheries, received $120,000 through a Discovery Grant to continue his research on the response of fish to environmental stressors.

Studies are taking place in Lake Superior, Lake Winnipeg, Lake Simcoe, Black Bay and in lakes in the Experimental Lakes Area between Dryden and Kenora.

His research will focus on how the response of fish to stress can affect both fish populations and ecosystems.

“Understanding the impact of environmental stressors on ecosystems and how fish respond to those stressors will help policy makers and resource managers better protect our freshwater resources,” said Dr. Rennie.

Dr. Wilson Wang, a Professor in Mechanical Engineering, is receiving $290,000 (through both an NSERC Discovery Grant and a prestigious discovery Accelerator Supplement) to develop new technologies for online monitoring of industrial motors for early fault diagnostics.  

“Improving the performance, efficiency and maintenance of industrial motors will help Canadian companies improve production rates and reduce costs, enhancing their global competitiveness,” Dr. Wang said.

Dr. Amanda Diochon, Assistant Professor in Geology, received $105,000 through a Discovery Grant to study how carbon that is stored in forest soils is altered by wildfires and harvesting. She is studying the boreal forest north of Thunder Bay.

According to Dr. Diochon, very few studies have been done comparing the effects of these common disturbances on the carbon cycle in the soil. “Improving our understanding of these effects will help guide future forest management practices and policies around climate change,” she said.

“A lot of exceptional research is being done at Lakehead University, as evidenced by the number of projects which won NSERC grants this year,” said Dr. Andrew P. Dean, Lakehead University’s Vice-President, Research and Innovation.

“We congratulate all of our award recipients and thank NSERC for recognizing the high-calibre research being conducted at Lakehead. The University is also appreciative of the associated Research Support Funding from the Federal Government which helps with indirect costs to support these grants,” Dr. Dean said.

I’m proud of our government’s efforts to bring science back to the forefront,” said Patty Hajdu, Minister of Status of Women and Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay-Superior North.

“We know the importance of science and research in formulating informed and evidence-based policies, programs and legislation, which is why we are making significant investments in science across the country. This investment will allow Lakehead University to continue to conduct innovative and high quality research that will benefit Northern Ontario now and in the future.”


2015/16 NSERC Grants Awarded to Lakehead Faculty & Students:

Total value of awards:  $1,466,200

Faculty Member Grants

Research Tools and Instruments (RTI) Grant (one-year grant)

Dr. Aicheng Chen, Department of Chemistry, $150,000, Advanced Synchronized Scanning Photoelectrochemical Microscopy.

Collaborative Research & Development Grant (two - three year grants)

Dr. Wilson Wang, Department of Mechanical Engineering, $120,000, A Smart Monitor for Pump System Fault Diagnostics (with partner Bare Point Water Treatment Plant, Thunder Bay, ON).

Discovery Development Grants (two-year grants worth $20,000)

Dr. Ehsan Atoofian, Department of Electrical Engineering, High Performance, Power-Aware and Reliable Many-Core Accelerators.

Dr. Andrew Dean, Department of Mathematical Sciences, Classification of Real C*-algebras and Related Structures.

Dr.  Jian Deng, Department of Civil Engineering, Stochastic Dynamic Stability of Fractional Viscoelastic Nonlinear Structures.

Discovery Grants - Individual Operating Grant (five-year grants)

Dr. Amanda Diochon, Department of Geology, $105,000, The Effect of Disturbance on the Biogeochemical Cycling of Carbon in Northern Forest Soils.

Dr. Lew Christopher, Director, Biorefining Research Institute, Departments of Biology and Chemistry, $135,000, Valorization of Negative-Cost Industrial Waste at the Forest Biorefinery.

Dr. Kefu Liu, Department of Mechanical Engineering, $145,000, Enhanced Vibration Suppression and Energy Harvesting by Exploiting Features of Nonlinear Systems.

Dr. Michael Rennie, Canada Research Chair in Freshwater Ecology and Fisheries, Department of Biology, $120,000, Feedback Mechanisms Between Ecosystem Change, Fish Behaviour and Metabolism.

Dr. Wilson Wang, Department of Mechanical Engineering, $170,000, Online Condition Monitoring of Electric Machines.

Dr. Wang was also awarded a $120,000 NSERC Discovery Grant Accelerator Supplement.

Dr. Wei Ruizhong, Department of Computer Science, $90,000, Combinatorial Methods in Networks and Communications.

Engage Grants (six month awards worth $25,000)

Dr. Richard Khoury, Department of Software Engineering, Chat Assistant for Criminal Group Infiltration (in partnership with Thales Research and Technology Canada).

Dr.  Jiang Zi-Hua, Department of Chemistry, Synthetic Lipo-MDP Analogs as Mucosal Adjuvants for Animal Vaccines (in partnership with Lilly Creek Vaccines Inc.).

Dr. Amir Azimi, Department of Civil Engineering, Sediment Transport and Surface Water Quality Modeling of River-Lake Systems in Northwestern Ontario (in partnership with DST Consulting Engineers).

Dr. Lew Christopher, Biorefining Research Institute, and Departments of Biology and Chemistry,Valorization of Crude Tall Oil Derived at Softwood Kraft Mills (in partnership with Resolute Forest Products).

Dr. Salama Ikki, Department of Electrical Engineering, LTE-advanced Machine Type Communication for Internet of Things (in partnership with WiMatek Systems).

Dr. Laura Curiel, Department of Electrical Engineering, Positron Emission Tomography Guided Focused Ultrasound Platform for Experimental Molecule Delivery, $24,200 (in partnership with FUS Instruments).

Dr. Pedram Fatehi, Department of Chemical Engineering, Production of Cationic Flocculants using EcoSynthetix’s Engineered Biopolymers (in partnership with EcoSynthetix Inc.).


Graduate Student Awards

Master's Students - Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarships (one-year awards worth $17,500)

Andrew Chapelsky, Biology, Patterns of Species and Genetic Diversity in a Fragmented Landscape.

Peter Villa, Biology, Isolation and Characterization of Cell Lines from Cervical Lesions for Construction of Host-specific Three-dimensional Organotypic Raft Cultures.

PhD Students - NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship (PGS) Program (two-year award worth $42,000)

Shuai Chen, PhD Chemistry and Material Science, Design of Nanostructured Semiconductors and Metal Oxide Cocatalysts for Water Splitting.


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Lakehead University has about 9,700 full-time equivalent students and 2,000 faculty and staff in 10 faculties at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead is a fully comprehensive university: home to Ontario’s newest Faculty of Law in 44 years, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and faculties of Engineering, Business Administration, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Social Sciences & Humanities, Science & Environmental Studies, Natural Resources Management, Education, and Graduate Studies.

Maclean’s 2016 University Rankings place Lakehead University second in Ontario and among Canada’s Top 10 undergraduate universities and first among Ontario’s undergraduate universities for Total Research Dollars, Social Sciences & Humanities Grants, and Library Expenses. In 2015,RE$EARCH Infosource ranked Lakehead first among Canada’s undergraduate universities.