USask researchers awarded over $5 million in NSERC Discovery Grants

University of Saskatchewan (USask) researchers have been awarded nearly $5.7 million from Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s (NSERC) Discovery Grants Program to support 32 wide-ranging projects.

"The diversity of projects awarded Discovery Grant funding this year is representative of USask’s impressive, diversified research atmosphere,” said USask Vice-President Research Baljit Singh. “Our scientists are on a constant quest to provide discovery the world needs, and this deeply appreciated investment from the federal government will fuel these efforts.”

The Discovery Grants Program provides up to five years of support to ongoing and long-term research projects which present creativity and innovation.

Here is a selection of the projects awarded: 

Cattle temperament as an indicator of disease resilience - $152,500

WCVM assistant professor Dr. Diego Moya (PhD) will evaluate the use of beef cattle temperament as an on-farm indicator of disease susceptibility. This project will characterize cattle behaviour, like their aggressiveness or fear reactivity, and its link to negative health and welfare outcomes. The results will help farmers when tailoring herd health programs to manage high-risk cattle accordingly, reducing antimicrobial drug use, cattle illnesses and deaths.

Improving software quality by managing technical debt - $132,500

USask Computer Science researcher Dr. Zadia Codabux (PhD) is investigating the root causes of technical debt. Technical debts are trade-offs made during software development for short-term benefits such as the expedient release of the software, but can have disastrous long-term consequences (e.g., increased defects and security vulnerabilities). This research will contribute to more sustainable decision-making during software development to improve quality and help developers better manage resources to focus on problem areas in software systems.

Detecting effects of insecticides on migratory birds - $275,000

USask Biology professor Dr. Christy Morrissey’s (PhD) research explores the connection between stable bird populations and communities and exposure to toxic insecticides through ingestion of treated seeds or granules, sprayed soils or contaminated prey and water. Her goal is to find out whether insecticides are playing a disproportionate role in the decline of birds in North America, provide new insight into the root causes of global declines, and pinpoint viable solutions that can aid conservation efforts.

Genetic variability and range dynamics of the American dog tick - $235,000

Understanding what factors restrict the geographical ranges of species remains a key issue in biology, particularly for those species which carry of microbes affecting the health of wildlife, domestic animals and humans. Dr. Neil Chilton (PhD) will examine how genetic variation and species interactions influence the distribution and abundance of the American dog tick, a parasite that is expanding its range northwards and westwards in Saskatchewan, and transmits the bacterium that causes bovine anaplasmosis.

Development of Advanced Functional Biopolymer Composites with Tunable Physicochemical Properties - $180,000

Associate Chemistry professor Dr. Lee Wilson (PhD) and his group will study of the relationships between molecular structure and development of nanocomposites that contain biomaterial building blocks. The development of these biomaterials with new structure and properties will help address problems relating to food and water security, environmental remediation, and sustainable materials, and enable Canada to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Selecting useful traits in roots for consistent yields - $177,500

USask agricultural professor Dr. Maryse Bourgault (PhD) will focus on pulse plant root architecture at various times during the growing season to help pulse breeders select useful traits for environmental adaptation. This research supports breeders by providing them with a better understanding of which traits may have the greatest impact for increasing yields consistently in the Canadian Prairies. 

Full list of the USask awardees

Discovery Grants

Gurpreet Aulakh
Small Animal Clinical Sciences
Amount: $152,500
Project: Regulation of Ozone Induced Neutrophilic Lung Inflammation by ATP Synthase Complex V

Brian Bandy
College of Pharmacy and Nutrition
Amount: $140,000
Project: Mitochondrial uptake and redox activities of anthocyanins

Denise Beaulieu
Animal and Poultry Science
Amount: $152,500
Project: The role of maternal energy metabolism on lipogenesis in the prenatal piglet

Maryse Bourgault
Plant Sciences
Amount: $177,500
Project: Investigating drought adaptive traits in pulse crops

Michael Bradley
Physics and Engineering Physics
Amount: $120,000
Project: Plasmas for Growth and Processing of Advanced Materials

Veronica Campanucci
Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology (APP)
Amount: $180,000
Project: Chloride homeostasis and DRG neuron excitability

Neil Chilton
Amount: $235,000
Project: Living on the edge: genetic variability and range dynamics of the American dog tick

Zadia Codabux
Computer Science
Amount: $132,500
Project: Improving software quality by managing technical debt and uncovering security vulnerabilities

Mark Eramian
Computer Science
Amount: $120,000
Project: Efficient and Reproducible Image Annotation for Supervised Deep Learning with Small Data

Supratim Ghosh
Food and Bioproduct Sciences
Amount: $275,000
Project: Dispersed phase-mediated gelation in plant protein-stabilized nanoemulsions for improved functionality of foods

Juan Ianowski
Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology (APP)
Amount: $140,000
Project: Cellular and molecular mechanisms of ion transport by the insect excretory system

Karl-Erich Lindenschmidt
School of Environment and Sustainability
Amount: $192,000
Project: Ice-jam flood forecasting

Juxin Liu
Mathematics and Statistics
Amount: $105,000
Project: Statistical analysis for categorical data subject to misclassification errors

Matthew Loewen
Veterinary Biomedical Sciences
Amount: $210,000
Project: Advancing a comparative understanding of the molecular regulation of solute carriers and channels

Christy Morrissey
Amount: $275,000
Project: Detecting Cryptic Exposure and Effects of Neurotoxic Insecticides to Migratory Birds

Diego Moya Fernandez
Large Animal Clinical Sciences
Amount: $152,500
Project: Development of a chute-side test to use feedlot cattle temperament as an indicator of disease resilience

Gregory Penner
Animal and Poultry Science
Amount: $275,000
Project: Regulation of gastrointestinal tract barrier function in cattle

Randall Purves
College of Pharmacy and Nutrition
Amount: $120,000
Project: Innovative ion mobility - mass spectrometry workflows for discovering veterinary drug metabolites in tissues and the creation of sensitive methods for their quantification.

Banani Roy
Computer Science
Amount: $132,500
Project: Supporting complex workflows for data-intensive discovery collaboratively, reliably and efficiently

Amy Stevens
Amount: $157,500
Project: Shining a new light on molecular biexcitonic processes: novel molecules and DNA origami

Jerzy Szpunar
Mechanical Engineering
Amount: $230,000
Project: Innovative materials for energy generation, transportation and storage

Jenny-Lee Thomassin
Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Immunology (BMI)
Amount: $162,500
Project: Identification and characterization of the type II secretion system in carbapenemase-producing Klebsiella pneumoniae ST258

Julita Vassileva
Computer Science
Amount: $352,100
Project: Towards Accountable and Transparent Personalized Persuasive Technology

Lee Wilson
Amount: $180,000
Project: Development of Advanced Functional Biopolymer Composites with Tunable Physicochemical Properties

Fangxiang Wu
Mechanical Engineering
Amount: $320,000
Project: Learning representations from heterogeneous data for digital health

Changting Xiao
Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology (APP)
Amount: $160,000
Project: Regulation of Cytoplasmic Lipid Droplet Mobilization in Intestinal Enterocyte

Li Xing
Mathematics and Statistics
Amount: $127,500
Project: Development of Novel Multi-Task Prediction Methods for Large Scale Genomic Data

Qiaoqin Yang
Mechanical Engineering
Amount: $195,000
Project: Synthesis, characterization, and application of nanostructured thin films/coatings

Research Tools and Instruments

Carey Simonson
Mechanical Engineering
Amount: $86,685
Project: Optical Aerosol Spectrometer (OAS) and dry aerosol generator (DAG) for COVID-related research

Subatomic Physics Discovery Grant

Rainer Dick
Physics and Engineering Physics
Amount: $110,000
Project: A dark matter portal into string theory

Robert Pywell
Physics and Engineering Physics
Amount: $42,000
Project: Photonuclear Reactions

Thomas Steele
Physics and Engineering Physics
Amount: $159,200
Project: Beyond the Conventional Quark Model: Theoretical Studies of QCD Exotics
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