Perfect success rate for research grants

July 08, 2004, vol. 30, no. 6
By Carol Thorbes

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The talent pool of new researchers at Simon Fraser University continues to maintain a 100 per cent success rate in its application for Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) new opportunities funds.

The average success rate nationally among researchers at institutions eligible for the funds is 89 per cent.

Thomas Spalek, a psychology researcher specializing in memory and attention, Stephen Campbell, a specialist in mathematics education, and Dong In Kim, an expert in wireless communications, are SFU's latest recipient of the grants.

They came to SFU in the last three years, and have each been awarded $200,000.

Spalek, an assistant professor of psychology, will use his grant to acquire equipment, such as virtual reality goggles, that will enable him to better understand the cognitive processes involved in allocating attention.

Spalek's research could pave the way for better design of everyday devices such as a pilot's cockpit, so that they better complement the way that humans naturally direct their attention. His work may also benefit people suffering from attention deficit disorders.

Campbell, an assistant professor of education, will use his grant to create a first-of-its-kind facility in Canada for measuring learners' physiological responses while mathematical problem-solving with computers.

The mathematics educational neuroscience lab in the education faculty will help educational neuroscientists and software designers improve computer-learning environments.

Kim, an associate professor of engineering science, is researching the creation of an ultra wideband (UWB) wireless communication system to meet the increasing demands of mobile users and alleviate clogged internet-based services.

His grant will finance SFU's acquisition of a UWB evaluation kit and computer equipment to do channel measurements, large scale signal processing and software-based simulations. CFI, an independent corporation funded by the federal government, created the new opportunities fund six years ago to give infrastructure support to promising new post-secondary and hospital researchers.

So far, SFU researchers have obtained about two thirds of the $9 million in new opportunities funds allocated to SFU.

In April, another three recently recruited researchers obtained grants from CFI's innovation fund.

The fund supports multidisciplinary and inter-institutional research that breaks new ground and reflects eligible institutions' strategic research plan.

Karim S. Karim, an assistant professor of engineering science, secured $200,000 to acquire a large area, thin film electronics fabrication tool, which will be one of the few such devices available internationally. It uses a variety of chemical vapour deposition processes to deposit thin films onto unconventional substrates, such as flexible plastic.

The tool will enable Karim and his colleagues at SFU's institute for micromachine and microfabrication research to develop novel thin film silicon devices and circuits for imaging, displaying information and powering solar cells.

Professor Bill de la Mare and assistant professor Sean Cox, both in SFU's school of resource and environmental management (REM), have been awarded $400,000 to create a facility for marine and freshwater fisheries and ecosystem research.

They will develop and use remote sensing technologies to assess aquatic organism abundance and population trends, identify critical habitat and evaluate aquatic resource management and conservation strategies. De la Mare and Cox are part of REM's fisheries science and management group, which is helping governments and industries curtail human damage to aquatic ecosystems.

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