Two new research chairs named

November 17, 2005, vol. 34, no. 6
By Carol Thorbes



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A scientist known for his ability to manipulate molecules and a historian known for her incisive analysis of aboriginal health issues are Simon Fraser University's newest Canada Research Chairs.

Neil Branda, originally recruited from the University of Alberta five years ago with the lure of a junior chair appointment in materials science, has just earned himself a rare promotion. Branda is one of only three appointees nationally in the latest round of Canada Research Chair awards to be elevated from a five-year (Tier 2) junior chair, worth $500,000 to a seven-year senior chair (Tier 1), worth $1.4 million.

The renewable, federally funded chairs enable promising scientists to devote more time to groundbreaking projects by freeing them up from teaching duties. The chairs are often accompanied by infrastructure grants from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) to support their projects.

During his time at SFU, Branda has become the first researcher at the university to earn one of Canada's premier science and engineering prizes - the Steacie fellowship. He is collaborating with researchers at Vancouver General Hospital to find new treatments for prostate cancer. They are developing and testing new drug delivery systems that, when activated with light, will enable drugs to directly target a tumour.

Since coming to SFU, Branda has also helped establish 4D Labs, a new SFU research centre for new materials and nanoscale devices.

Branda is the centre's director of molecular systems. His upgraded chair comes with a $200,000 CFI grant.

Mary-Ellen Kelm, a history professor at the University of Northern British Columbia, is coming to SFU in January 2006 to fill a new junior chair.

Appointed Canada Research Chair in indigenous peoples of North America, Kelm is studying the history of medical research on aboriginal health.

Kelm's research is leading to a greater understanding of the ethical issues underlying medical research involving aboriginal people.

Kelm's chair comes with a $120,000 CFI grant.

Branda's and Kelm's appointments bring the number of Canada Research Chairs filled at SFU to 32. Eight more have yet to be filled. The total value of junior and senior chair appointments at SFU now stands at $30.4 million. The total value of CFI grants allocated to chairs so far is $4.1 million.

The Canada Research Chairs program, a federal government research-funding initiative, aims to help Canadian universities attract and retain the best researchers.

The CFI is a not-for-profit corporation established by the federal government in 1997.

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