Two York Canada Research Chairs receive $1.9 million

The federal government has renewed two Canada Research Chairs (CRC) at York University, a commitment that will enable Professor Diethard Bohme to advance his groundbreaking research in chemical mass spectrometry and Professor Bridget Stutchbury to continue her innovative research into migratory forest birds. Both are professors in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering.

In total, the announcement earmarked $1.9 million for York. As a Tier 1 CRC, Bohme will receive $1.4 million over seven years; Stutchbury, a Tier 2 CRC, will receive $500,000 over five years. The two renewals are part of a package of CRC appointments announced in Montreal by Jim Prentice, minister of industry and the minister responsible for the Canada Research Chairs Program.

Right: Bridget Stutchbury (left) and Diethard Bohme

"As demonstrated in Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage, the government of Canada is committed to improving Canada’s international reputation for research excellence," said Prentice. "By investing in the Canada Research Chairs Program, we are helping universities recruit and retain the most brilliant and promising researchers and contributing to enable these institutions to become leaders in the fields of advanced science and technology."

In all, the government announced an investment of $109.7 million to fund the appointment of 109 new and renewed Canada Research Chairs, including $5.7 million in infrastructure funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation essential to the research being conducted by 34 of the chairs.

"Renewing the CRC appointments of Professors Bohme and Stutchbury recognizes the excellence of their research and allows York to keep building on its research strengths," said Stan Shapson, vice-president research & innovation at York. "These federal research investments are crucial to attracting and retaining the world’s best researchers. Programs such as the Canada Research Chairs also allow us to sustain York’s globally competitive research programs while enabling research that has an impact upon Canadians’ quality of life and the country’s economic and social well-being."

Bohme, Canada Research Chair in Chemical Mass Spectrometry (Tier 1), is developing a unique type of mass spectrometer that measures the physical and chemical properties of ions and the rates of very fast chemical reactions between ions and molecules. In July 2006, he received the Gerhard Herzberg Award for outstanding achievement in the science of spectroscopy.

His interests in space chemistry focus on the role of ions in molecular growth and have led to the recent discovery of an ionic route to the formation of amino acids and exotic carbon rings in the large clouds of gas and dust that are found between the stars and in planetary atmospheres. His recent work with atomic ions has provided an improved understanding of the transformation of polluting gases with catalytic converters and of new applications in analytical mass spectrometry. With his new mass spectrometer, Bohme expects to shed new light on how metals embedded within biological constituent molecules contribute to the way in which living tissue is activated and, for example DNA, is damaged. And by offering an improved understanding of such biochemical activity, his work could open up new frontiers in biotechnology.

Stutchbury, Canada Research Chair in Ecology and Conversation Biology (Tier 2), is internationally respected as an innovative researcher. Her recent studies on Canadian migratory forest birds are the first to follow bird movements between fragmented forests using radio tracking technology. Silence of the Songbirds: How We Are Losing the World’s Songbirds and What We Can Do to Save Them was nominated for a Governor General’s Award this year. Stutchbury’s monograph documents the perils migratory songbirds face, why many species are sliding in population and how human actions are contributing by damaging the birds’ native environments.

More generally, her research focuses on the Carolinian Forest Region of southern Ontario, an area with a large human population and extensive industry and agriculture. The forest contains more rare and endangered species of plants and animals than any other part of Canada. Her project is one of the few research programs in Canada to study migratory birds on both their breeding and wintering grounds, to determine the level at which forest fragmentation impedes movement and survivability for some species. The research addresses the issue of sustainability of forest ecosystems that have been degraded and fragmented by human activity.

For more information, visit the Canada Research Chairs Web site. To view a copy of Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage, click here.