Researchers awarded $3.5M from CFI
University of Alberta researcher Thomas Thundat examines pressing global issues. Quite simply, he looks at the small to see the big. Thundat, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Oil Sands Molecular Engineering, says his nano-scale approach is about better understanding the smallest physical parts, or molecules, of something to better tackle a range of questions. The implications are profound, he says.
Thundat, who leads a team of U of A researchers, says they are working to develop sensors that could be used for oilsands processing, biotechnology, diseaes detection and environmental monitoring. “Whether bitumen or our own DNA, it’s all molecules. So we’re trying to understand how the molecules interact with each other so that we can develop better sensing technologies,” he says.
Such exploration is an example of the kinds of research Minister of State, Science and Technology Gary Goodyear says will continue to position Canada as a leader in the global knowledge-based economy. Goodyear was speaking Tuesday at the U of A, where the federal government announced $33 million in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation through the Leaders Opportunity and Infrastructure Operating Fund to support work such as Thundat’s across Canada.
The minister chose Thundat’s lab at the National Institute for Nanotechnology at the U of A to make the national announcement. “Here at the U of A, we’re investing in seven important new research projects worth just over $3.5 million, including research in oilsands extraction technology, “ Goodyear says. “The U of A is a world leader in research that’s related to clean and efficient bitumen extraction, and Canada, I’m proud to say, has benefitted greatly from the investments in this field,” he said.
“CFI is helping Dr. Thundat and his team develop more sustainable techniques for oil extraction and refinement. This important research will result in improved oilsand-processing techniques that are both environmentally friendly and cost effective,” Goodyear added.
Six other U of A researchers received CFI support through this latest round of grants:
- Graham Pearson, earth and atmospheric sciences, who’s studying diamonds in the Arctic
- Ian Macdonald, opthalmology, for helping to build a vision research capacity to prevent human blindness
- Alireza Bayat, civil and environmental engineering, for developing road materials for cold regions
- Patrick Hanington, School of Public Health, who’s developing ways to limit or prevent transmission of schistosomiasis, a disease affecting more than 200 million people
- René Jacobs, agriculture, food and nutritional science, for studying metabolic disorders
- Yaman Boluk, civil and environmental engineering, who’s trying to develop soft metals for various applications such as coating lubricants and drug-delivery applications
“The diversity of excellence and impact of the CFI funding recipients’ projects speaks to the incredible talent we have here at the University of Alberta,” says Renée Elio, associate vice-president (research) and professor of computing science, who spoke at Tuesday’s announcement. She says the CFI funding helps the U of A compete for the world’s leading researchers.
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