Brock researchers contribute to innovation in Ontario

The Campaign for a Bold New Brock

Brock researchers contribute to innovation in Ontario

Oct. 22, 2008

Five projects receive more than $330,000 in provincial funds

Five Brock University researchers have recently been awarded provincial funding for their innovative and groundbreaking research through the Ministry of Research and Innovation (MRI).

The ministry's Ontario Research Fund was established to attract and retain the best research talent from around the world in order to ensure Ontario universities and research institutes have the necessary equipment and infrastructure to remain at the forefront of global research excellence and scientific breakthroughs.

"Whether it's building our capacity in the global digital economy, working to reveal the inner workings of plants, or exploring how the brain comprehends language, these funds will further enable our talented researchers to contribute to solving the many challenges facing society," says Ian Brindle, Associate Vice-President, Research.

"Research is the foundation of innovation -- and in the 21st century, innovation is the key to stronger global competitiveness, good jobs and better lives for Ontario families. And that's why our government has made innovation a key part of our five-point economic plan," says John Wilkinson, Minister of Research and Innovation.

Recently funded projects at Brock University by the MRI, include:

Professor Vincenzo De Luca (Biological Sciences) $85,972
Facility for Small Molecule Analysis and Quantification

Two alkaloids in Madagascar periwinkle leaves, vinblastine and vincristine, have been identified as active anti-cancer agents, which has attracted the interest of pharmaceutical companies. It has also attracted the interest of Professor De Luca. He is using small molecule analysis and quantification as a screening tool to create new plants with novel flower colors and improved resistance to disease -- and with substantially higher levels of anti-cancer alkaloids. De Luca's research also uses this technology for important applications in Niagara's agricultural sector, in particular the development of new disease-resistant horticultural and food crops with enhanced properties.

Professor Elizabeth Greene (Classics) $34,867
Advancing knowledge of ancient trade and technology

Professor Greene is involved in the mapping, recording, excavating and conservation of cultural artifacts from ancient shipwrecks off the coast of Turkey. This project will give Classics students the opportunity to participate in underwater surveys and excavation, making Brock's program unique among Canadian institutions. The methodologies of underwater archaeology, which combine traditional practice with innovative multi-dimensional mapping techniques, will be applicable to future projects at sites both on land and underwater. The information gained from Greene's research may answer questions about the international connections forged by ancient seafarers, their technological capacity, and the maritime economy in which they operated.

Professor Kevin Kee (History/Digital Humanities) $46,646
Designing computer games to teach history

At the Simulating History Research Lab at Brock University, Professor Kee is creating educational computer simulations -- commonly called "serious" games -- focused on history. He is also testing and evaluating how these games engage and teach the subject. His work will help to make history come alive for Canadians and result in an improved understanding of, and appreciation for, Canadian history. The technologies he develops and tests will have applications in many other areas.

Professor Veena Dwivedi (Applied Linguistics) $83,875
Determining how the brain processes language

While researchers know that older adults don't process language in the same way as younger adults do, they don't know why that is. Professor Dwivedi uses electroencephalography (EEG) technology to investigate how the healthy brain comprehends language in real time. Specifically her research involves exploring how the brain understands the meaning of words and sentences, in particular contexts by investigating electrophysiological response to language processing. Her work in understanding these mechanisms could lead to better treatments for people with cognitive impairments, including patients with Alzheimer's, traumatic brain injury, and strokes.

Professor Stephen Cheung (Physical Education and Kinesiology) $82,540
Exploring how heat and cold affect people's performance

Hyperthermia occurs when the body produces or absorbs more heat than it can dispel. The heat-regulating mechanisms of the body eventually become overwhelmed and body temperature climbs uncontrollably. If not treated quickly, it can lead to death. Hypothermia, the opposite of hyperthermia, happens when the body's temperature drops below that required for normal bodily functions. Both conditions are the result of thermal stress. Professor Cheung is looking into human performance in thermally stressful environments. With significant numbers working in thermally stressful environments, such as firefighters, miners, military and athletes, his research could have a significant impact on their health and quality of life.

Through the Ontario Research Fund, Ontario's legacy of innovation and ingenuity is strengthened through the support of the best and brightest researchers, the world-class research institutions that support their work, and the entrepreneurs who are helping to bring their best ideas to the global market.