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Faculty of Science Professors Receive National Grants to Support Their Research


The Faculty of Science is pleased to announce that 15 of our professors have received Discovery Grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). That’s an impressive 65 per cent success rate.

Department of Chemistry and Biology

Roberto Botelho: Regulation and Function of Phosphoinositide Lipid Signalling

Jeffrey Fillingham: Transcriptional Regulation of Non-Coding RNAs in Tetrahymena thermophile

Robert Gossage: Ligand Designs for Catalysis: New Directions for Green Chemistry

Janet Koprivnikar: Host resistance and tolerance to parasitism: Importance of Behavour and Habitat in a Changing World

Joseph McPhee: Antimicrobial Peptide Resistance Mechanisms in Adherent-Invasive Escherichia coli

Stephanie Melles: Cross-Scale Drivers of Diversity in Relation to Global Change in Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecosystems

Sarah Sabatinos: Measuring the Effect of Environmental Stress on Checkpoint, Genome Instability and Survival


Department of Computer Science

Chen (Cherie) Ding: Selection and Recommendation of Data Analytic Services in the Cloud

Andriy Miransky: Mitigating Risks Associated with Big Data Solutions

Jelena Misic: Resource Management in Could Data-Centres

Vojislav Misic: Opportunistic Spectrum Access for Emergency Response Networks

Mikhail Soutchanski: A Principled Approach to Reasoning about Discrete Dynamic Systems


Department of Mathematics

Anthony Bonato: Complex Networks and Vertex Pursuit Games

Silvana Ilie: Numerical Methods with Applications to Biochemical Systems


Department of Physics

Raffi Karshafian: Interaction of Ultrasonically-Stimulated Microbubbles with Biological Membranes


Among the recipients are four of the Faculty of Science’s most recent hires. Here are snapshots of their exciting plans:

Species diversity

Stephanie Melles intends to focus on developing an understanding of the universal processes that lead to high species diversity in one location and low diversity in another – on land and in the water. While species diversity is traditionally associated with varying environmental conditions (e.g., resources and temperature), Melles plans to develop and use models that predict how different processes actually lead to species diversity. The implications for life outside the lab are considerable. As Melles explains, “a fuller understanding of the conditions and processes affecting diversity will lead to solutions to issues such as how to manage ecosystems that are susceptible to human activities and how to target remedial actions to address multiple stressors such as climate change and invasive species.”


Bacterial resistance

Defining the molecular determinants of bacterial resistance to host–defence peptides and determining the means of combating them is the goal of Joseph McPhee’s research program. In particular, McPhee plans to further his study of adherent-invasive Escherichia coli (AIEC) associated with Crohn’s disease. “We want to understand how this group of bacteria induces and adapts to the inflammatory conditions associated with Crohn’s diseases,” says McPhee. The critical nature of this work is underscored by the fact that Canada has one of the world’s highest rates of inflammatory bowel disease. As well, the incidence of newly-diagnosed Crohn’s disease has doubled since 1995, imparting, McPhee notes, “a tremendous burden on patients, their families and the health-care system.”

Toxic stress

Cells have built-in machinery that allow them to respond to toxic stresses – for example, harmful drugs and temperature changes – by stopping cell growth, repairing damage and then re-starting the process of growth and metabolism. The machinery and paths that bring about these stops are called “checkpoints.” In her NSERC-supported program, Sarah Sabatinos plans to extend her current exploration of environmental impact, examining “how checkpoints work, why they can fail and whether the everyday stresses a cell encounters before and during drug exposure have the ability to change the checkpoint program.” In addition, Sabatinos plans to determine whether surviving cells have undergone changes, and what these might mean for the plants and animals as a whole, as well as whether certain environmental stress factors could improve cell health during or after toxic-drug exposure.


Big Data

The exponential growth of Big Data in recent years means that modern organizations have unprecedented opportunities to improve their products and services, identify problems (and take pre-emptive measures) and adapt their business goals to new opportunities. As Andriy Miransky explains, however, “exploiting these possibilities requires addressing the considerable challenges posed by solutions for processing Big Data (BDS).” For example, Big Data environments, he notes, lack the methods, tools, processes and techniques to support disciplined BDS development and maintenance. The goal of Miransky’s research is, therefore, to help improve BDS testing and maintenance by building “defect prediction models” and trace analyses. He anticipates that these steps will contribute to the creation of a preliminary theory of automated BDS problem-determination techniques that are directly transferable to the needs of Canadian industry.

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