Neil Branda

Real estate funds health and education research projects

January 11, 2007

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Two large-scale research projects that could help revolutionize Canadian medical procedures and B.C. educational policies are the first recipients of money from SFU's Community Trust Endowment Fund.

Created in November 2005, SFU'S Community Trust Endowment Fund (CTEF) invests funds from the lease of land in UniverCity, SFU's mountaintop neighbourhood, in multidisciplinary research. The fund has earned $3.5 million in its first year of operation. Each grant recipient will receive as much as $500,000 annually for five years, with the option of renewed funding.

SFU chemist Neil Branda (above), a Canada Research Chair in materials science and a director of 4DLABS, leads one project called Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology for Medical Applications. It involves eight collaborators from mathematics, kinesiology, chemistry, applied science, business, and molecular biology and biochemistry.

The project will take novel molecules and nanomaterials from the chemistry lab into the clinical setting to treat kidney stones and prostate cancer, to start. The project's team will manipulate molecules and marry them to designer agents to improve the accuracy and reduce the bodily impact of medical imaging, diagnostics, surgery and drug delivery.

Jane Friesen, an SFU associate professor of economics, leads another project called Education Systems and Outcomes in Diverse Communities. It involves forming a network of 16 researchers from economics, education, public policy, psychology and biological sciences to work on education-related issues.

The network will measure how factors such as school and program choice, standardized assessments and funding rules, affect the social attitudes and learning outcomes of students from distinct ethnic and linguistic groups. Ultimately, the project seeks to understand how the rules for organizing B.C.'s school system may be building or undermining the cohesion of the province's multicultural mosaic.

The fund supports multidisciplinary research that advances the university's efforts to excel in five major areas: communication, computation and technology; culture, society and human behaviour; economic organization, public policy and global community; the environment, and health.

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