New eBrain Centre, ‘Homeware’ Lab to be created at SFU Surrey campus
SFU’s Surrey campus will soon house two new research facilities—one, a regional hub called the eBrain Centre, focusing on diagnosing and treating youth mental health and addiction, and the other, a “Homeware” Laboratory to advance digital technologies for the evolving Internet of Things (IoT).
The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund is providing funds to support the two facilities. Funding announced today will also support health research related to exposure to early life stressors being carried out in the Faculty of Health Sciences.
The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, federal Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, announced more than $42 million in funding on Wednesday for 37 universities across Canada to support 186 new research infrastructure projects.
The funds, $450,000 of which will support SFU research, aim to help universities attract and retain some of the world’s best researchers by equipping them with the tools needed to stay on the cutting edge.
The fund is providing $250,000 for the eBrain centre, to be led by Prof. Faranak Farzan, SFU's endowed Chair in Technology Innovations for Youth Addiction Recovery and Mental Health.
Farzan is a leading expert in the development of neuromodulation technology for diagnosing and treating neuropsychiatric disorders. Neuromodulation involves altering nerve activity through the targeted delivery of a stimulus to specific neurological sites in the body. The latest funding will enable her to create a neuromodulation core program at the eBrain Centre.
The proposed research program will develop new technology-based diagnostic and treatment solutions for youth mental health and addiction, including ways to safely, reliably and inexpensively assess brain health. It will also lead to innovation strategies that extract and control markers of brain health and translate them into clinical trial.
“A unique function of the eBrain Centre is that it will integrate research and discovery between major stakeholders, including university, hospital, health policy makers, industry, and community,” says Farzan.
“This will serve to centralize and oversee the process of discovery, innovation, and translation of biomedical research outcomes to benefit youth who are impacted by mental health and addiction issues.”
The new Homeware Lab is led by William Odom, an assistant professor in SFU Surrey’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT), and is supported by $50,000 in John R. Evans funding.
The new lab will be the first of its kind in the country, enabling researchers to efficiently translate people’s experiences with everyday analog objects to design of new IoT artifacts. The lab will develop and refine integrative design processes for creating, producing, testing IoT artifacts and embedded systems, and studying them in real-world contexts.
“This research requires a laboratory to support the rapid iterations between and across the design and production stages of prototyping, fabrication, assembly, finishing, and deploying research products,” says Odom, who is also co-director of the Everyday Design Studio and on the steering committee of the Interaction Design Research Centre.” The lab will be unique in Canada and rare in the world.”
With the rapid progression towards the IoT, Odom says there is an increasing demand to develop new approaches to IoT systems that “match the real-world needs and living situations of Canadians in ways that are user-driven, beneficial, and offer sustained value over time.”
In addition to training the next generation of scientists and designers, Dr. Odom’s research will advance knowledge related to producing futuristic interactive technologies to directly catalyze the emerging Canadian IoT digital economy, an area of national strategic importance.
“Knowledge and technology will be transferred effectively through collaboration with end-users in local, national, and international industry, the community of human-computer interaction and design researchers and practitioners, and educational communities,” he notes. “Ultimately, the availability of IoT technology integrated into people’s everyday domestic lives will provide significant health and security benefits for Canadians.”
Also included in the funding is $150,000 for Faculty of Health Sciences assistant professor Nadine Provençal to study exposure to early life stress.
Provençal was recently recruited for a joint appointment with the Faculty of Health Sciences at SFU, and BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute.
The funding will help an ambitious project that aims to better understand the developmental origin of health and disease, focusing on exposure to early life stress (ELS) from the prenatal period to adolescence.
ELS during this period is associated with increased risk for psychological and psychiatric disease later in life.
Provençal believes that epigenetics (changes to how genes are expressed) may explain how ELS exposure might have long term effects on health, and the funding will allow her team to investigate this further.