SFU Science researchers among new and renewed Canada Research Chairs

January 12, 2022
SFU scholars, Lorena Braid, David Sivak, Hoi-Kwan (Kero) Lau among new and renewed Canada Research Chairs

Four Simon Fraser University researchers are among the country’s new and renewed Canada Research Chairs (CRC), with three of the chairs from Faculty of Science. SFU’s chairholders are advancing research excellence in a wide range of fields, from improving sensors for autonomous vehicle safety using quantum technology, to better understanding how changes in sleep and circadian rhythms contribute to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

“I congratulate the four SFU researchers among the new and renewed Canada Research Chairs,” says Dugan O’Neil, SFU’s vice-president, research and international. “The Government of Canada and CFI’s ongoing support is much appreciated as we continue to grow and expand our capacity in research excellence and innovation. This funding will help our scholars take their transformative discoveries to the next level.”

The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, announced the investment of approximately $151 million for 188 new and renewed CRCs at 43 academic institutions across Canada.

The investment is complemented by more than $9.5 million in new funding for research infrastructure to support 43 Chairs at 19 institutions through the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF).

SFU currently has 34 CRCs, including 16 Tier 1 chairs and 18 Tier 2 chairs. Since 2001, 80 unique CRCs have been appointed at SFU.

Established by the federal government in 2000, the CRC Program invests up to $295 million each year to attract and retain diverse world-class researchers, and to reinforce academic research and training excellence in Canadian post-secondary institutions.

Chairholders aim to achieve research excellence in engineering and the natural sciences, health sciences, humanities, climate change and social sciences; improve our depth of knowledge and quality of life; strengthen international competitiveness; and train the next generation of highly skilled people to raise their future successors.

SFU Science's new Canada Research Chairs are:

Lorena Braid, molecular biology and biochemistry, Tier 2 CRC in Mesenchymal Stromal Cell Biology

Braid's research offers hope for healing in the context of our current global health crisis driven by a majority ageing population, obesity, chronic stress, and the acute and persistent effects of COVID-19. Her research program focuses on mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), a dynamic stem cell population that influences immunity and regeneration. She studies how MSCs respond, adapt and evolve in response to diet, stress, environmental toxins and infection, changes that she predicts may lead to auto-immune and ageing-related diseases. Large doses of MSCs can be manufactured in the laboratory and are proving to be effective treatments for these conditions. However, cell therapies are expensive, require specialized staff and hospitals, and are difficult to manufacture reproducibly. Braid is developing solutions to improve the real-world usefulness of these MSC cell therapies while developing next-generation treatments to rejuvenate or eliminate the patient's compromised MSCs in situ, thereby targeting the drivers of disease or dysfunction to restore health. She is also receiving funding from JELF for her research.

Hoi-Kwan (Kero) Lau, physics, Tier 2 CRC in Quantum Information Science

Lau believes quantum technology will be the next technological revolution. The platforms of bosonic systems (including optics, microwave, mechanical oscillators, and spin ensembles) are promising candidates for implementation due to their ubiquity, high information capacity, efficient resource generation, and other advantages. However, conventionally, bosonic quantum technology is less developed due to various technical challenges. The main objective of Lau's CRC research program is to improve the practicality of bosonic quantum technology by developing new quantum applications for bosonic systems, understanding how information is represented by the physical bosonic state, and analyzing the performance of practical bosonic platforms. It's his ambition that his program will bring quantum technologies closer to reality.

SFU Science's renewed Canada Research Chair:

David Sivak, physics, Tier 2 CRC in Nonequilibrium Statistical Biophysics

Sivak uses theory, calculations, and experimental collaboration to investigate how microscopic molecular machines transmit energy and information. He is discovering how they manage remarkable fuel efficiency despite being under challenging conditions. His research will produce a greater understanding of the role of mechanics in biology with the aim of designing molecular devices for sustainable energy harvesting, efficient information storage and manipulation or targeted drug delivery.

See the official new release here.