Rewarding research

U of S researchers were awarded more than $3.2 million in the last quarter for a wide range of study, from a protein that blocks cancer to harnessing the body’s own cells for a hepatitis C vaccine.

Other examples include establishing an observatory in the Rocky Mountains to study how reduced snowfall and melting glaciers could affect water supplies on the Prairies, and a new look at Almighty Voice, one of the most controversial figures in Saskatchewan history.

The funds will be provided through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and the Saskatchewan Regional Partnership Program – a joint initiative of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation.

Researchers were awarded five grants through the Saskatchewan Regional Partnership Program, funded jointly by the
Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the
Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF).

  • Scot Leary from the Department of Biochemistry was awarded $300,000 from CIHR and SHRF to better understand a copper-containing enzyme that that is essential to mitochondria, the "power plants" within cells that produce energy to support normal cell function. In some children, the copper doesn't get transported properly to build the enzyme, causing muscle, heart, liver and brain disease. Understanding how this happens could lead to new ways to treat these conditions.

  • Deborah Anderson with the Division of Oncology and Saskatchewan Cancer Agency was awarded $280,000 to study PTEN, a protein that turns off cell growth, blocking the formation of tumours, and p85, a protein that binds to PTEN to make it more effective. In many cancer cells, PTEN is either absent or mutated into a less effective form. Understanding how these proteins work together will allow patients to be screened to see if they are suitable candidates for novel treatments currently being developed.

  • Oleg Dmitriev and 
    Yu Luo from the Department of Biochemistry and 
    Graham George from the Department of Geological Sciences were awarded $282,000 to study a protein involved in Wilson's disease, a disorder of copper metabolism in the body, whichcauses liver damage and neurological disease. Wilson disease protein also interferes with the activity of platinum-based anti-cancer drugs. Using the Canadian Light Source synchrotron, and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy the team will investigate how the protein interacts with these drugs.

  • Louise Racine,
    Linda Ferguson,
    Sonia Udod, Sithokozile Maposa, and
    Susan Fowler-Kerry from the College of Nursing were awarded $152,000 to understand the experience of internationally trained nurses as they integrate into Canadian society, both culturally and professionally. The aim is to identify barriers and challenges, such as religion and gender equity beliefs to inform the creation culturally sensitive mentor programs to help retain these badly needed health professionals.

  • Sylvia van den Hurk from VIDO-InterVac was awarded $267,000 to harness dendritic cells to fight hepatitis C, a chronic liver disease estimated to affect 170 million people world-wide. Dendritic cells prime the immune system against infectious disease or vaccines, but in hepatitis C patients, these cells appear to be impaired. The aim is to find the cause of this impairment, activate dendritic cells against hepatitis C, and use them in a vaccine to treat the disease.

Researchers were awarded seven grants from the
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) through the Insight and Insight Development programs.

  • Beverley Brenna from the Department of Curriculum Studies was awarded $54,000 from SSHRC to identify, catalog and analyze North American picture books and novels for children and young adults that feature characters with disabilities. While this literature reflects diversity with regard to gender, sexual orientation, culture, religion and class, portrayals of characters with disabilities have tended to be more static. This work will address this issue, both as a basis for future research, to inspire future scholarly artistic work, and as a resource for teachers in the classroom.

  • Douglas Clark from the School of Environment and Sustainability was awarded $75,000 to study human-polar bear conflicts. Due to climate change, such encounters are a growing concern for wildlife managers and northern communities. This project will produce knowledge about why polar bear-human conflicts occur and how best to respond to them, through collaborative research with communities and wildlife managers on the western Hudson Bay coast.

  • Bram Noble and
    Jill Gunn from the Department of Geography and Planning and Jochen Jaeger from Concordia University were awarded $292,000 from SSHRC to address the issue of uncertainty in environmental impact assessments. Understanding how to better handle uncertainty will help inform more transparent and sound decision making to balance the needs of environment and industry.

  • Maureen Reed from the School of Environment and Sustainability, John Parkins from the University of Alberta and John Sinclair from the University of Manitoba were awarded $444,000 from SSHRC to explore how communities, governments and industry work together to help Canadian forest-based communities learn about and adapt to economic, environmental and social changes. The project will examine two models of collaboration used in Canada, community forests and model forests, to determine their relative strengths and challenges.

  • Bill Waiser from the Department of History was awarded $102,000 to conduct the first comprehensive look at the story of Almighty Voice. His imprisonment in 1895 for killing a government cow escalated into the deaths of three police officers and an 18-month manhunt that ended in his death. Drawing on records of the North-West Mounted Police, Indian Affairs archives and first-hand accounts from One Arrow First Nation elders, Waiser will paint a clearer picture of one of the most controversial figures in Saskatchewan history.

  • Patricia Salah from the Department of English and the Women's and Gender Studies Program in the Interdisciplinary Centre for Culture and Creativity was awarded $104,000 to critically analyze and put into context the literature created by transgender people, whose voices have only begun to appear in print in the last 20 years. Through interviews with transgender authors, a symposium and a monograph, this work will contribute new insights to the fields of multicultural, ethnic, and sexual minority literature, as well as introducing the work of transgender writers to a wider audience.

  • James Waldram from the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology was awarded $263,000 from SSHRC to continue work among the Q'eqchi Maya people of southern Belize. The research aims to develop more realistic and sophisticated models of their understanding of the "self," and the relationship among mind, body, spirit, and other forces. The research also seeks produce educational and cultural materials to help the Q'eqchi Maya preserve their cultural heritage in the face of outside pressures.

Researchers were awarded six grants from the
Canada Foundation for Innovation, which covers 40 per cent of equipment and infrastructure costs. The balance is made up by the provincial government and the university.

  • Julia Boughner from the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology will use $83,800 from CFI towards a new $210,000 Optical Projection Tomography 3D imaging system to examine how genes co-ordinate the growth of teeth and jaw tissues as they develop. The work could shed light on the early causes of orthodontic problems and impacted wisdom teeth – the impetus for one of the most common major oral surgeries.

  • Carlos Egydio de Carvalho from the Department of Biology will use $129,000 from CFI towards a $322,000 high-resolution microscope to study proteins that govern how chromosomes separate and come together during reproduction. The program may provide important knowledge for human reproduction, and in particular the implications of reproductive aging in women.

  • Maud Ferrari from the Department of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences will use $159,000 from CFI to establish a $398,000 Aquatic Laboratory for Environmental Change. Research at the facility will focus on how human activities, such as pollution or introduction of foreign species, affect predator and prey animals within aquatic environments.

  • James Johnston in the Department of Mechanical Engineering will use $105,000 from CFI towards a $263,000 a servo-hydraulic material testing machine to test the strength of bones. The knowledge gained will inform new imaging methods and computer models to estimate bone strength and stiffness – important tools in diagnosing and treating osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.

  • John Pomeroy, with co-investigators
    Cherie Westbrook from the Department of Geography and Planning and
    Warren Helgason from the Department of Biological and Chemical Engineering will use $334,000 from CFI to establish an $835,000 Canadian Rockies Hydrological Observatory. Research at the facility will aim to find out how snow and glaciers are behaving in the high mountains that feed into the Bow River watershed, one of the most water-stressed rivers in Canada and a key source for the South Saskatchewan River.

  • Khan Wahid from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering will use $39,000 from CFI towards a $98,000 high-performance computing facility to develop new video systems to improve performance of medical imaging devices. This includes the video endoscopy capsule – a pill containing a video camera, battery, light-emitting diode (LED) and transmitter used to diagnose causes of bleeding or abdominal pain, such as Crohn's disease and peptic ulcers.
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