Engineering Now .: Volume 3 - Edition 12 .: August 2007

Ontario Research Fund awards funding to five Western Engineering researchers

The McGuinty government is investing $527 million over five years through the Ontario Research Fund. Through the Research Infrastructure Program of the Ontario Research Fund, five Western Engineering researchers will receive funding to obtain the tools they need to stay on the forefront of innovation, including lab space, equipment and computer software.

Western Engineering’s successful recipients include:

Abdallah Shami
Total project cost: $274,250
Provincial funding: $109,700
Ubiquitous Network Laboratory
Researchers investigate lower-cost, higher-speed Internet access

HDTV and Voice-over Internet telephony (VOIP) are driving an ever-increasing demand for high-speed, low-cost reliable Internet service. Dr. Abdallah Shami of the University of Western Ontario is conducting a new telecommunications and information technology study focusing on improving the reliability and lowering the service costs for broadband optical access networks and wireless local area networks. The new state-of-the-art lab equipment will enable the research team to design, develop and test innovative broadband access network solutions. The goal is to develop a suite of new network technologies that could provide Ontarians with better, faster, cheaper telecommunications.

Elizabeth Gillies
Total project cost: $517,342
Provincial funding: $206,937
Laboratory for Biomaterials Research
Biomaterials researchers developing bacteria-resistant new drugs

Biomaterials offer the promise of new diagnostic techniques and treatments of disease. Dr. Elizabeth Gillies is leading scientists at the University of Western Ontario in a biomaterials research program to develop innovative antibiotics and “smart” agents that can be used during the medical imaging process to aid in the diagnosis of specific diseases. The research could lead to the development of new antibiotics and clinical technologies that will improve patient care and generate commercial opportunities for Ontario’s growing biotech industry.

Madhumita B. Ray
Total project cost: $528,841
Provincial funding: $211,536
Advanced Oxidation Process Laboratory
New economical solutions sought for waste treatments

Disposal of wastewater sludge constitutes between 30 and 50 per cent of the operational cost of water treatment plants. At University of Western Ontario’s new state-of-the-art research laboratory, Dr. Madhumita B. Ray is exploring advanced oxidation processes to find new, cost-effective technologies to treat water, air and sludge. As a result, this research could significantly reduce water treatment costs for municipalities, creating cost savings for residents and major industrial users of water, increase reuse of water and land application of sludge.

Jason I. Gerhard
Total project cost: $649,140
Provincial funding: $259,656
Subsurface Remediation Research Laboratory
Modeling the restoration of contaminated sites

Many communities in Ontario have an interest in restoring landscapes that were contaminated by earlier industrial activity, sites known as brownfields. But before these places can be safely occupied by new businesses or homes, the nature and extent of the contamination must be understood, and the successful minimization of this contamination must be confirmed. University of Western Ontario researcher Jason Gerhard, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Geoenvironmental Restoration Engineering, is developing a facility to provide a detailed picture of what is going on beneath brownfields. This facility models the intricate physical processes taking place, including the movement of toxic materials or the flow of groundwater. In this way, the results can demonstrate the effectiveness of restoration efforts, along with the accompanying economic and social benefits of making this land habitable.

Jun Yang
Total project cost: $503,335
Provincial funding: $201,334
Biotransport and Cellular Engineering Laboratory
Watching and working with the most basic living mechanisms

The transportation and exchange of materials at the molecular or cellular level is among the most critical of biological functions, enabling cells to work together in such vital settings as the bloodstream to mount an immune response to infection. Jun Yang, a professor in the University of Western Ontario’s Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, intends to study this intricate phenomenon in a laboratory outfitted with one of the most sophisticated tools available for the task — an atomic force microscope. This cutting-edge technology will enable him and his team to take precise quantitative readings of such basic activities as how individual cells adhere to one another. Based on a growing ability to understand and even manipulate these activities at a microscopic level, this work could usher in new approaches to the medical treatment that tackles the most fundamental aspects of any given disease.

The Ontario Research Fund is a key part of the government’s plan to promote scientific excellence by supporting research that can be developed into innovative goods and services that will boost Ontario’s economy. The fund also helps researchers move new ideas from Ontario’s labs to the global marketplace. For more information about the Ontario Research Fund, please visit

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.: Allison Stevenson
Spencer Engineering Building, Room 2074
Telephone: (519) 850-2917 Fax: (519) 661-3808