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Federal funding hailed as major boost to science and engineering

Chemistry students Yunyun Wu and Sara Mechael look on as federal science minister Kirsty Duncan (centre) interacts with a project integrating electronics into a wearable sign language glove.

UWindsor researchers and students will share more than $6 million of more than $558 million in Discovery research funding announced Tuesday by Kirsty Duncan, federal minister of science and sport.

Duncan visited the University of Windsor campus to announce the funding as part of the government’s plan to attract global talent, promote diversity, and provide nearly 4,300 researchers and students across Canada with the means to pursue world-leading discovery work.

UWindsor interim president Douglas Kneale said the announcement provides a major boost to the advancement of science and engineering.

“Whether one’s area of research is a singular endeavour or a team effort, whether it’s curiosity-driven or hands-on applied, this investment in researchers at the University of Windsor and elsewhere will pave the way to untold discoveries,” he said.

UWindsor boasts nearly 30 Discovery Grants recipients focused on research in such areas as advanced manufacturing and ecology.

Among them is Jill Crossman, an assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, whose work seeks to develop management strategies to consistently reduce harmful algal bloom frequency, particularly in the Laurentian Great Lakes.

With NSERC Discovery program funding, Dr. Crossman and her team will use state-of-the art mobile monitoring units, which measure four different fractions of phosphorus, and provide remote access to data as it is collected. The research aims to enhance understanding of algal blooms through a combined monitoring and modelling strategy across land, tributary and lake interfaces.

As well, Balakumar Balasingam, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will advance understanding of such autonomous systems as robots and self-driving cars through Discovery Grant funding.

Dr. Balasingam and his team are developing research laboratories in three areas — human-machine systems (HMS); surveillance and tracking (STS); and battery management systems (BMS).

The HMS lab will develop algorithms for autonomous human-machine interactions — that is, helping machines to decode humans by studying statistical patterns of such eye-tracking parameters as pupil diameter, eye-gaze patterns, and eye-blink patterns.

The STS lab will develop surveillance, tracking and self-navigation algorithms for robots and self-driving vehicles, while the BMS lab will develop the science behind battery management systems to improve battery reliability, efficiency, and safety in such energy storage applications as electric vehicles, household appliances, power tools, consumer electronics, aerospace equipment, and renewable energy systems.

Duncan said the funding supports science and talent.

“Today, we are delivering on our historic investment in research and in the next generation of scientists,” she said. “These remarkable researchers and students we are celebrating are working to make the world a better place and to secure a brighter future for all Canadians.”