media release

Trio of new Chairs at SFU to build on Canada’s global research, innovation reputation

November 16, 2023

Simon Fraser University (SFU) is welcoming three new faculty members who have been named as Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERCs).

Professors Darren Grant, Thomas Jennewein, and Nicholas Reo were announced today by the federal government.These researchers are the first CERCs for the university and will receive a total of $16M over eight years, including one chair receiving $1M per year and two receiving $500,000 each per year.

SFU’s new research chairs will work to advance leadership in both quantum and astroparticle physics and Indigenous-focused coastal regeneration.

“At Simon Fraser University, we are committed to engaging in global challenges that affect us here in B.C. and around the world, from quantum computing and particle physics to Indigenous ways of supporting the environment,” says SFU President and Vice-Chancellor Joy Johnson. “I am excited to see how our new CERCs advance this critical work, and grateful to the federal government for their ongoing support." 

The CERCs program supports world renowned researchers to establish ambitious research programs that build on Canada’s contributions as a global leader in research and innovation. The CERCs are among the most prestigious research positions available globally, designed to foster innovation, promote knowledge mobilization and attract top talent to Canada’s research universities. 

“We are thrilled to welcome these three talented new scholars to SFU, as well as to celebrate our success in the CERC competition,” says Dugan O’Neil, SFU’s vice-president international. “Each of these chairs demonstrates a commitment to partnership—with Indigenous communities, industry and other academic institutions around the world.”

As one of the country’s fastest growing intensive research universities, SFU is consistently ranked among Canada’s top 15 research universities in global and national rankings. With unique support structures for knowledge mobilization, entrepreneurship, and partnerships, the university is home to more than 60 research centres and institutes. Since 2001, more than 90 Canada Research Chairs have been appointed at SFU. 


Professor Darren Grant, CERC in Astroparticle Physics ($1 million over eight years)

Astrophysicist Darren Grant joins SFU’s Department of Physics from Michigan State University. His research focuses on measurements that advance knowledge of neutrinos—one of nature’s most elusive fundamental particles—as well as searches for the elusive dark matter. 

Grant’s work contributes to advancing our understanding of the universe and our place in it. His CERC supports three areas of innovation: data analyses of Antarctica’s IceCube Neutrino Observatory; developing next-generation detectors for large-scale neutrino observatories; and enhancing the reach of observations that involve multiple astrophysical messengers. 

His work will help establish an international centre in British Columbia and will have substantive impact on international particle physics research, and cement Canada’s leadership in the field of multi-messenger neutrino astrophysics.

Professor Thomas Jennewein, CERC in Global Quantum Internet Systems ($500,000 over eight years)

Thomas Jennewein also joins SFU’s Department of Physics and will work to develop and build the systems needed for the global quantum internet—anticipated to be the future of computer networking. 

Jennewein will explore the transfer of quantum information with silicon-based quantum devices that have been developed at SFU with industry partner Photonic Inc, founded by SFU physics professor Stephanie Simmons and which recently raised an investment round of $100M (USD) to further its quantum technology.

Building on SFU’s leadership in quantum computing, and aligned with Canada’s Quantum Strategy, Jennewein will engage with B.C.’s active quantum research and commercial community, including the SFU-based Quantum Algorithms Institute. 

Using SFU’s influential Invention to Innovation (i2I) program to accelerate the commercial impacts of these emerging technologies, the goal is to establish long-distance quantum communications and entanglement distribution, with the potential to reach users around the world. The proposed research will create transformative benefits for Canadians and establish Canada’s global leadership in the quantum race.

Professor Nicholas Reo, CERC in Coastal Relationalities and Regeneration ($500,000 over eight years)

Nicholas Reo (Anishinaabe), a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, joins Indigenous Studies at SFU from Dartmouth College where he was a professor of Indigenous environmental studies. His CERC research project in coastal relationalities and regeneration will support Indigenous land and sea-tenure systems, land-based healing practices, foodways and associated knowledge.

This multi-site CERC will amplify Indigenous leadership in coastal tenure and contribute research relevant to Indigenous collective continuance and land repossession. 

Regenerative work at the family, community and Indigenous-nation level will be elevated through Indigenous international knowledge exchange and relationship building.

Indigenous methodologies will be enacted with: the Anishinaabek of the greater Baawiting/Sault Ste Marie region of Turtle Island; the Hōʻā organization on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi; Māori from Whāingaroa and Te Matau-a-Māui regions of Aotearoa; and with the Nuchatlaht First Nation on Vancouver Island. 


MELISSA SHAW, SFU Communications & Marketing 
236.880.3297 | 

Simon Fraser University 
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As Canada’s engaged university, SFU works with communities, organizations and partners to create, share and embrace knowledge that improves life and generates real change. We deliver a world-class education with lifelong value that shapes change-makers, visionaries and problem-solvers. We connect research and innovation to entrepreneurship and industry to deliver sustainable, relevant solutions to today’s problems. With campuses in British Columbia’s three largest cities—Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey—SFU has eight faculties that deliver 364 undergraduate degree programs and 149 graduate degree programs to more than 37,000 students. The university now boasts more than 180,000 alumni residing in 145+ countries.