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More than $4.2M for Early Research Awards and research infrastructure

The provincial government has invested in four new Early Researcher Awards and 16 Ontario Research Fund projects

September 9, 2016
Danelle D'Alvise, Research Communications

David Harris Smith has a very real Early Researcher Award (ERA) from the government of Ontario, in recognition of the importance of his work with virtual environments.

Smith is one of four researchers awarded $140,000 each by the provincial government's Early Researcher Award program, which recognizes early career researchers for their potential to become world-class innovators.

Virtual Hamilton: A Virtual Environment for Participatory Urban Planning is Smith's project, one that will generate an enduring legacy for the City of Hamilton by helping to plan the city with -- and for -- its citizens.

In partnership with the City of Hamilton, Smith's goal is to integrate 3D visualization and interactive social media to create a virtual city model that will promote civic engagement in community development and participatory urban planning processes.

“The Virtual Hamilton project provides new ways for the City to engage our citizens in important urban planning issues,” says Glen Norton, Manager of the Urban Renewal Section for the City of Hamilton. “This exciting and timely partnership with McMaster will help illustrate and tackle some of the challenges facing residents, businesses and services in areas that are rapidly changing, enabling all the stakeholders to ‘see’ what change might look like.”

In addition to the four new ERAs, Ted McMeekin MPP for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale,  announced $3.72M for 16 projects awarded under the Ontario Research Fund's infrastructure program, which helps cover the costs of acquiring or renewing research equipment.

“Many of the researchers awarded funding today will now be able to upgrade and augment their current facilities with the latest equipment, while others will be creating new laboratories, developing novel technologies on our campus, or expanding their research teams,” says Rob Baker, vice-president, research. “This will ultimately increase our research capacity, accelerate our research results and provide an enriched research-training environment for our students."


The twenty research projects funded by the ERA and ORF programs represent all six of McMaster's Faculties.

The Early Researcher Award recipients and their research projects are:

  • David Harris Smith, assistant professor, communications & multimedia
    Project title: Virtual Hamilton: A Virtual Environment for Participatory Urban Planning
  • Leyla Soleymani , assistant professor, engineering physics, Canada Research Chair in Miniaturized Devices; Project title: Development of all-solution-processing methods for creating fully integrated biosensing platforms
  • Eva Szabo, assistant professor, biochemistry and biomedical sciences, Canada Research Chair in Metabolism in Human Stem Cells and Cancer Development
    Project title:
    Improving treatment of obesity by making stem cell models to understand how obesity develops
  • Ayse Turak, assistant professor, engineering physics
    Project title: Nanoparticle arrays for light management an degradation control in organic devices (NanoLight)

Each Early Researcher Award garners $100,000 from the provincial government, and is matched by an additional $50,000 by the university. The government also provides up to $40,000 for indirect costs.

The sixteen ORF-RI recipients, their research award and projects are:

  • Jonathan Bramson,  Canada Research Chair in Translational Cancer Immunology,  who was awarded $300,000 to research new treatments for cancer that employ patients’ white blood cells to fight their tumours.
  • Biologist Ian Dworkin, who was awarded  $148,606 to examine the functional effects of subtle changes in gene function.
  • Qiyin Fang, Canada Research Chair in Biophotonics, who received $149,036 to develop intelligent home sensor networks for the elderly.  His team will work to develop sensors that can monitor physical activities and physiological parameters.
  • Materials science engineer Kathryn Grandfield who received  $61,889 to develop new methods to identify the underlying mechanisms involved in the bonding of implant materials to bone.  Specifically, she will study the interactions between natural and man-made biomaterials at the nanoscale, focused on improving orthopaedic and dental implant technologies.
  • Khaled Hassenein, who is leading a project team that has been awarded $249,933 to establish the Evidence-based Decision Making Centre, the first of its kind, which will help organizations understand and enhance managerial decision making to improve their productivity
  • Lesley MacNeil, biochemistry and biomedical sciences, who was awarded $144,487. She will use nematodes or roundworms to study two environmental factors – diet and microbiota – and how these factors interact with disease mutations.
  • Andrew McArthur , an assistant professor in biochemistry and biomedical sicences, who will use his $34,245 award to establish a new bioinformatics laboratory to integrate functional genomics, biocuration, and analytics in biomedical research.
  • Paul McNicholas, Canada Research Chair in Computational Statistics, who has been awarded $150,000 to develop statistical techniques for the analysis of very large data sets that cannot be analyzed with existing approaches.
  • Anthropologist Shanti Morell-Hart was awarded $80,000 to investigate transformations in past environments, human causes of these shifts, and societal responses to ecological change. Her archaeological research will map long-term changes in human-environmental relations through patterns of plant residues at ancient Mayan sites.
  • Sukhvinder Obhi , associate professor of psychology, will use his $226,111 award for exploring the neurocognitive bases of social behaviour. He will examine whether a particular system in the human brain known as the human mirror system (HMS) causes social mimicry, and whether a particular factor that is known to affect social relationships – power – also has effects on the HMS and social mimicry.
  • Structural biologist Joaquin Ortega will use his $800,000 award to acquire a Cryo-electron Microscope, a system that provides Ortega with the ability to understand cellular enzymes – those industrious micro-scale machines that sustain life
  • Biophysicist Maikel Rheinstädter is leading a research team that will use their $400,000 award to unravel the mystery of how the earliest form of cellular life emerged more than 3.5 billion years ago.
  • Brian Timmons, Canada Research Chair in Child Health and Exercise Medicine, has been awarded $80,000 to study the connection between physical activity and health in young children, and develop effective physical activity strategies that will keep them healthy
  • Mechanical engineering professor Stephen Veldhuis, director of the McMaster Manufacturing Research Institute has won $398,380 to improve the performance of tooling using an integrated coating strategy involving material and process parameter optimization
  • Gerry Wright, director of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research and Canada Research Chair in the Molecular Studies of Antibiotics was awarded $300,000 to further his research on how to overcome antibiotic resistance
  • Ryan Wylie, assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology, was awarded $197,972 award to develop synthetic mimics of the extracellular matrix (ECM) – the microenvironment that surrounds cells and provides structural and chemical cues. The understanding of cell-matrix interactions will lead to the development of targeted cancer therapies as well as regenerative therapies after cardiac arrest and stroke.

"We are proud to invest in ground-breaking, world-class research right here at McMaster University. Our researchers are key to building a knowledge-driven economy in Ontario which, in turn, strengthens our competitive edge," said McMeekin. "Congratulations to all of the well-deserving researchers receiving these competitive awards.”