NSERC awards York research centres $3.3 million

If you’re working in 3D film or aerospace engineering, what impact do the latest developments in brain and vision research have on your industry’s practices? What if you’re drafting government policy on air quality control and need expertise in how the latest atmospheric chemistry and physics findings translate into plans and policy?

Graduate students and post-doctoral fellows at York University have new options to pursue the research and applied dimensions of these and other questions, thanks to $3.3 million in funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

The funding, provided through NSERC’s $29.6 million investment over six years in the Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) Grants program, will support two new training programs in the Faculty of Science & Engineering, each valued at $1.65 million over the period.

Students and fellows enrolled in each program will gain experience in basic and applied research, along with the practical and professional skills needed to successfully transition to research careers in the academic, industry or government sectors.

Professor Hugh Wilson in the Faculty of Science & Engineering’s Department of Biology will lead the Vision Science and Applications program. Based in the internationally-recognized Centre for Vision Research (CVR), the program focuses on vision-based information technologies that require optimal information displays to ensure accurate human interpretation of data are playing an increasingly important role in many economic sectors.

Key applications include:

  • 3D digital media (e.g., 3D film, geographical databases, autocad systems)
  • Aerospace (e.g., cockpit technologies, search-and-rescue)
  • Face and scene analysis technologies (e.g., facial biometrics)
  • Visual health and assessment technologies (e.g., functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG), perimetry)

The Vision Science and Applications team includes 25 researchers at seven international universities and 10 partner organizations, including IMAX, the Canadian Space Agency and Autodesk Research. At York, a total of 10 professors affiliated with CVR will lend their expertise to the project. The program will enrol four students in its first year and 16 students in each successive year.

Professors Jochen Rudolph and Robert McLaren in the Faculty of Science & Engineering’s Department of Chemistry will lead the Training Program for Integrating Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics from Earth to Space (IACPES). Jointly based in York’s Centre for Atmospheric Chemistry (CAC) and the Centre for Research in Earth & Space Science (CRESS), the program’s interdisciplinary focus will give students an integrated understanding of atmospheric chemistry and physics from earth into space.

Key applications include:

  • measuring and modelling atmospheric change
  • examining air quality and health issues
  • monitoring changes in the arctic atmosphere
  • detecting sources of greenhouse gases
  • measuring Earth’s changing atmosphere from space
  • exploring and understanding other planets’ atmospheres
  • developing the policy implications of atmospheric science

The IACPES team includes 11 applicants at six universities and 23 collaborators at 10 partner organizations, including Environment Canada, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Boulder, Colo., several industries and two premier research institutes in Germany. The program will create 21 places for undergraduate students, master’s students, PhD students and postdoctoral fellows in its first year, with over 200 places created over the successive five years.

“By securing two of only 18 projects awarded to universities across Canada, York builds on its strong track record in leading large-scale, interdisciplinary collaborative research projects,” said Stan Shapson, vice-president research & innovation. “The programs will provide our innovative research centres – CVR, CRESS and CAC – with a competitive advantage in attracting excellent graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who wish to pursue careers in the applications of vision science or atmospheric chemistry and physics. NSERC’s CREATE program strengthens the role of universities in training the highly-qualified people needed in today’s scientific knowledge economy.”

“NSERC’s CREATE Program helps graduating students become highly sought-after professional researchers in the natural sciences and engineering, both in Canada and abroad,” said Suzanne Fortier, president of NSERC. “The program not only helps improve the skill set of Canada’s next-generation of research talent, but it also helps to support their retention in the workforce.”

By Elizabeth Monier-Williams, research communications officer