Revolutionary Research

Queen’s is one of Canada’s leading institutions for completing important scientific findings — when research is funded, at least. In early June it was announced that four Queen’s professors stood out above the rest and have been selected to receive significant funding for their research. If you are a student interested in high-risk research, these may be your new idols.

Collectively, the four professors will receive almost half a million dollars over the next three years. The funding comes from the National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) through the Discovery Accelerator
Supplements Program.

NSERC regularly grants research funds, however the Discovery Accelerator Supplements Program  specifically targets research that NSERC considers high-risk or potentially groundbreaking. Essentially, these grants are larger, timelier and  more limited than other grants — only 125 Canadian researchers are awarded this grant each year.

It is ultimately up to the professors to allocate their funds, but it may be assumed that with fresh resources these professors may have new opportunities for students to work or volunteer in their labs.

Jean Hutchinson Geology and Geological Engineering

Hutchinson focuses much of her research on assessing the risks and hazards of physical geological features. For example, her topics of research include landslide stability assessment, rock support design, and cablebolt design and verification.

Cella Olmstead  Psychology

Olmstead studies the interactions between motivation and cognition (the mental process of learning). She is investigating the process of goal-based learning  and a majority of her research focuses on how drug addictions affect this balance. She is currently set to teach PSYC 205 (Introduction to Comparative Cognition) in the fall term.

R. Kerry Rowe Civil Engineering and GeoEngineering

Rowe studies a range of topics but a fair amount of his research pertains to ‘green’ engineering that may ultimately benefit the environment. Some of his research topics include landfill design, geosynthetics, containment of toxic sites and reinforcing embankments.

Virginia Walker Biology

Walker is investigating the proteins and genes involved with environmental stress resistance, or the ability for organisms to survive under extreme conditions (such as freezing temperatures). She will teach BIOL 441 (Molecular Genetics) and half of BIOL 103 (Introductory Biology of Organisms) in the upcoming school year.

Each of these professors will receive $120,000 over three years to put towards their research. But they are not the only labs receiving NSERC funds ­— 627 grants and scholarships were awarded to Queen’s researchers (both professors and students) for the 2012-13 academic year. So, if there is a topic you are passionate about that these fantastic four don’t touch, then do a quick Google search and talk to the professor that shares your interest.

— Catherine Owsik

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