Western Engineering faculty member Elizabeth Gillies wins Early Researcher Award

Assistant Professor Elizabeth Gilles (front row, in the brown jacket) poses with members of her research group.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Western Engineering faculty member Elizabeth Gillies is one of ten researchers across campus who was awarded this year with the Ontario Provincial Government’s Early Researcher Award on Friday, July 25.

Cross-appointed with the Faculty of Engineering and the Faculty of Science, Gillies conducts her research from within both the Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, and the Department of Chemistry.

Gillies’ work, in conjunction with colleagues from Science and Engineering and a large group of graduate students from both Faculties, is oriented to biomedical materials and applications. In the future, her work could result in advancements in areas like improving the efficacy of drug therapies in the treatment of medical conditions.

Gillies explains that while these types of medical applications are hopefully the ultimate outcome, arriving at those results via the actual nuts and bolts of research is challenging and valuable in and of itself.

“We start out by designing a material to perform a specific function. Next, we design a synthetic route to prepare the material. This step is often a significant challenge and it is what my students spend a lot of time doing. When we have the material in hand we evaluate its function, either through simple biological tests in our lab or through more detailed studies with collaborators,” she says.

“Overall, we would like the materials that we develop to be useful for people, but as academic researchers our priority is also to discover interesting science along the way.”

The Early Researcher Award program is run through the Ministry of Research and Innovation, and was developed to assist young, up-and-coming researchers financially, in an effort to attract and retain the highest quality of innovators and talent to the province.

To be eligible, a researcher must be no more than five years from having started their independent academic research career. The government will grant up to a maximum of $100, 000 for a leading researcher, to help kick-start and upgrade their research activities, for use over a five year period.

Applicants are required to demonstrate how their work may have economic, social and/or cultural benefit to Ontario, and help to enhance the province’s profile in the global academic community.

Past Western Engineering recipients include:

Kibret Mequanint (Chemical and Biochemical Engineering)
Denis O’Carroll (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Cynthia Dunning (Mechanical and Materials Engineering)
Andy Sun (Mechanical and Materials Engineering)



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