SFU Community Trust Endowment Fund

The Community Trust Endowment Fund (CTEF) channels revenue from the UniverCity development into the seven major initiatives outlined in the University's Strategic Research Plan (SRP). CTEF provides a maximum of $500,000 per year for each approved project over a maximum of five years. The renewed Terms of Reference for this Fund were approved by the Board of Governors on June 26, 2014. 

Human Evolutionary Studies Program

Advancing the integrated understanding of the body, mind, behaviour and social institutions of Homo sapiens within the framework of evolutionary theory, and maximizing the contribution of SFU researchers to this important, dynamic and publicly visible field of research.

Research Team: Mark Collard (Archaeology), Arthur Robson (Economics), Bernard Crespi (Biological Sciences), Greg Dow (Economics), Ian McCarthy (Business), Arne Mooers (Biological Sciences), and Pablo Nepomnaschy (Health Sciences).

Overview: Over the last 150 years biology has been transformed by the adoption of Darwinian evolutionary theory to such an extent that, as the well-known geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky once put it, “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”. The extension of Darwin’s insights to humans has been halting and controversial. This is particularly the case for human cognition and behaviour. However, we have now reached a point where the utility of such research can no longer be denied. It is now clear that evolutionary theory can be productively applied to many of the puzzles that scholars in the humanities and social sciences have long sought to explain, such as perception, thought and culture. Likewise, it has become increasingly apparent that evolutionary theory can shed new light on important social and health issues, including prejudice, interpersonal violence and schizophrenia.

The purpose of the Human Evolutionary Studies Program (HESP) is to create an internationally recognized research and training ‘hub’ that will simultaneously advance the integrated understanding of the body, mind, behaviour and social institutions of Homo sapiens within the framework of evolutionary theory, and maximize the contribution of SFU researchers to this important, dynamic and publicly visible field of research. HESP will accomplish these goals by fostering collaborative relationships among diverse SFU faculty, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students, and between these individuals and researchers in other institutions; by supporting novel, highly interdisciplinary research projects; by providing students and postdoctoral fellows with world-class training that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries; and by disseminating the results of its research to academics in other fields, policymakers and the general public both directly and through the media.

Click here to access the Human Evolutionary Studies Program Progress Report

Using a System Analytic Approach to Living with Chronic Diseases (LiVWELL)

Understanding the complexity of chronic diseases and identifying effective solutions from ‘positive deviants’, those individuals and systems that are ‘living well’ in society.

Research Team: Scott Lear (Health Sciences), Diane Finegood (Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology), Cindy Patton (Sociology and Anthropology), Miriam Rosin (Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology), Nadine Schuurman (Geography), and Andrew Wister (Gerontology).

Overview: Chronic diseases place a substantial burden on patients and their families, society and the healthcare system. People with a chronic disease use twice the amount of healthcare resources compared to the average adult and are at increased risk for a second chronic disease. With the increasing aging population, the number of people with chronic diseases will dramatically increase with the potential to overburden society. As a complex condition, methods arising out of complex systems science can be applied to help elucidate important aspects of the system structure and suggest new ways of considering actions to effectively address the challenge.

The focus of our research will be to gain an understanding of the complexity of chronic diseases and identify effective solutions from ‘positive deviants’, those individuals and systems that are ‘living well’ in society. LiVWELL will undertake a number of projects at the level of the patient and their families, healthcare professionals and healthcare systems, and communities and the environment utilizing a mixed-methods approach. LiVWELL will identify solutions from ‘positive deviants’ to inform the development of a systems model for chronic diseases. This model will form the basis for future national and international grant applications to evaluate solutions for addressing the increasing number of chronic disease patients. In order to ensure that Simon Fraser University is uniquely positioned to become a national leader in chronic disease research, LiVWELL will also release a catalyst grant award program targeted to SFU’s junior faculty for seed money to make SFU’s chronic disease research faculty a competitive edge when applying for external funds.

Click here to access the LiVWELL Progress Report.

Secondary Effects of Climate Change on Human and Ecosystem Health:
A Risk-Based Approach

Investigating the secondary effects of climate change using risk-assessment approaches to evaluate various risk-management options for dealing with problems arising from climate change.

Research Team: Diana Allen, Earth Sciences, project leader; Tim Takaro, Health Sciences; Randall Peterman, Resource & Environmental Management (REM); Gwenn Flowers, Earth Sciences; Karen Kohfeld, REM; Ryan Allen, Health Sciences; Peter Anderson, Communication; Charmaine Dean, Statistics & Actuarial Sciences; Frank Gobas, REM; Craig Janes, Health Sciences; Duncan Knowler, REM; Ken Lertzman, REM; Torsten Moller, Computing Science; John Reynolds, BISC; Robert Woodbury, SIAT.

Project Website: Climate Change Impacts Research Consortium (CCIRC)

Overview: Climate change is predicted to have significant direct impacts on air temperature and precipitation in terms of long-term trends, seasonality, and occurrence of extreme events. Such changes are anticipated to have primary (i.e., direct) impacts on hydrologic regimes (e.g., melting glaciers, sea-level change) and air quality, and consequent secondary (i.e., indirect) impacts on health of humans and ecosystems. Primary climate-change impacts have been investigated by researchers around the world, but relatively few studies have considered secondary effects of these impacts or adaptation responses, particularly in terms of the potential spread of infectious diseases, quantity of water available, degradation of water quality due to contamination, and loss of biodiversity, which is important for maintaining resilient and functioning ecosystems in the presence of changes. Among the many secondary changes anticipated are major shifts in species distributions and ecosystems, and potentially widespread (human) emigration. These secondary effects raise questions about how existing human infrastructure (e.g., water storage and delivery systems, health-care systems) will be able to support growing urban populations.

The proposed research spans the physical, biological, health and social sciences, resource and environmental management, communication, and computing science, and brings together a group of researchers with expertise in climate, water, air quality, disease, ecology, human health, risk analysis, emergency preparedness, and visualization. Building on previous research in British Columbia (BC) and abroad, the research team aims to investigate the secondary effects of climate change noted above. We will use risk-assessment approaches to evaluate various risk-management options for dealing with these problems arising from climate change. Novel computer visualization techniques will be developed and applied to support knowledge translation and enable use of our results by policy-makers and other stakeholders. We will also investigate secondary prevention measures and their costs, such as health care emergency planning. The team envisions establishing an Institute at SFU, ideally with potential for granting degrees and hiring faculty, to enable collaborative research and teaching in the area of environmental change. This Institute could evolve into or be absorbed by a Faculty of Environment.

Click here to access the CCIRC Progress Report.

Modelling of Complex Social Systems (MoCSSy)

Modelling the complex dynamics that drive the linked epidemiologies of crime, disease, homelessness and other social ills in urban neighborhoods.

Research Team: Peter Borwein, Mathematics/IRMACS, project leader; Patricia Brantingham, Criminology; Uwe Glasser, Computing Science; Michael Hayes, Health Sciences; Bob Hogg, Health Sciences; Nadine Schuurman, Geography; and Steve Thompson, Statistics & Actuarial Sciences

Project Website: Modelling of Complex Social Systems (MoCSSy)

Overview: The central theme of this program is the Modelling of Complex Social Systems (MoCSS). Many of the social issues of the 21st century are captured in the studies of criminology (crime, safety, security, privacy), health science (harm reduction, disease spread, mental health, tractable public health care), and urban dynamics (homelessness, unemployment). Research into these areas will have a profound impact on the quality of life for everyone by reducing crime, reducing harm and addiction, enhancing safety and security while maintaining privacy, and improving health and welfare. In the past, much of the quantitative research in these areas focused on applying statistical techniques to determine relationships. Although these studies provide great insight into these issues, they are limited in their ability to model the complicated dynamics that arise from the overlap between social issues, the spatiotemporal nature of social systems, and the dynamic nature of social interactions. Furthermore, previous techniques have been limited in their ability to predict the impact of various policy decisions.

Simon Fraser University is in a position to take a leading role nationally and internationally in the development of an innovative research program that addresses how these challenges can be understood and addressed through mathematical and computational modelling. The principals in this program have worked together on a series of small projects, which revealed the potential intellectual power of the development of a strong programmatic approach to modelling complex social systems. The MoCSS project brings together researchers with extensive expertise in criminology, health science, geography, urban dynamics, computer science, and mathematical modelling. The unifying theme of this project is the modelling of the complex dynamics that drive the linked epidemiologies of crime, disease, homelessness and other social ills in urban neighborhoods. We have brought together an interdisciplinary research group of academics, practitioners, and service providers that already has a track record of success. The CTEF funding will elevate this program to a new level and create a program that will attract and train a new generation of researchers who understand the complex dynamics of urban systems. This novel, interdisciplinary program will enhance SFU’s role nationally and internationally in the Modelling of Complex Social Systems.

Click here to access the MoCSSy Progress Report.

Bioinformatics for Combating Infectious Diseases: Novel Methods for
Drug and Target Identification and Evaluation

Development of more accurate and faster bioinformatics algorithms and tools for identifying anti-infective drug targets, candidate drugs and potential vaccines.

Research Team: Cenk Sahinalp (co-PI), Associate Professor, Computing Science; Fiona Brinkman (co-PI), Associate Professor, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry (MBB); Peter Unrau, Assistant Professor, MBB; Jack Chen, Associate Professor, MBB; David Baillie, Professor, MBB; Martin Ester, Associate Professor, Computing Science; Jian Pei, Assistant Professor, Computing Science; Eldon Emberly, Assistant Professor, Physics; Carl Lowenberger, Associate Professor, Biological Sciences; Peter Wilson, Associate Professor, Chemistry; Steven Jones, Head–Bioinformatics; Art Cherkasov, Assistant Professor, UBC Infectious Diseases, Medicine.

Project Website: Bioinformatics for Combating Infectious Diseases (BCID)

Overview: Infectious diseases are a leading cause of productivity loss and are responsible for roughly a third of annual deaths worldwide; sepsis and mortality caused by infectious diseases are also on the rise in the U.S. Antimicrobial resistance is increasing rapidly and newly emerging diseases are causing considerable concern: a new global pandemic could have a significant economic impact.

With the advent of microbial whole-genome sequencing, there has been some renewed optimism that genomic knowledge will speed the development of new antimicrobials, vaccines and diagnostics. Some success stories have been reported to date, however these have been extensive/costly endeavors involving significant laboratory requirements. This is largely due to the fact that the existing computational screens for identifying potential drug targets and vaccine components are not accurate enough.

We propose that through an interdisciplinary, technology driven methodology, the effectiveness of genomic approaches for anti-infective drug discovery could be greatly enhanced. Thus, this proposal is focused on the development of more accurate and faster bioinformatics algorithms and tools for identifying anti-infective drug targets, candidate drugs and potential vaccines. Our interdisciplinary team will capitalize on SFU’s unique strengths in computational, physical, chemical and biological sciences to discover potential new therapeutic targets and test them first in silico and then in the laboratory. Our program will provide an environment for trainees from the basic and applied sciences to learn career skills relevant to performing interdisciplinary, team-based, internationally competitive research. With the ability to analyze many infectious disease-causing microbes in parallel, the computational methods we will develop could potentially have a wide impact on efforts to control multiple infectious diseases.

Click here to access the BCID Progress Report.

Education Systems and Outcomes in Diverse Communities: An Interdisciplinary Approach

Establishing a formal network of SFU researchers working on education-related issues while bringing thematic coherence in areas that overlap with SFU's strategic research goals in public policy, economic organization, aboriginal learning, immigration, urban studies, and population health.

Research Team: Jane Friesen (PI), Associate Professor, Economics; Jasmina Arifovic, Professor, Economics and Director, Centre for Research on Adaptive Behaviour in Economics; Dan Laitsch, Assistant Professor, Education; Nancy Olewiler, Professor, Public Policy and Economics and Director, Centre for Public Policy Research; Simon Woodcock, Assistant Professor, Economics; and Steve Wright, Professor, Psychology and Canada Research Chair in Social Psychology

Overview:
Our goal is to establish a formal network of SFU researchers working on education-related issues. This research network will bring thematic coherence to the work of a diverse set of researchers in areas that overlap with SFU's strategic research goals in public policy, economic organization, aboriginal learning, immigration, urban studies, and population health. It will build on well-established strengths in Economics, Psychology and Education, integrate them with one another and with SFU's new strength in Public Policy and emerging strength in Dialogue, and will build bridges to SFU's major new initiative in Health Sciences.

Click here to access the Education Systems and Outcomes in Diverse Communities Progress Report.

Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology for Medical Application

Taking novel molecules and nanomaterials from the chemistry lab into the clinical setting to develop new and innovative strategies for medical imaging, diagnostics, surgery and drug delivery.

Research Team: Neil Branda (PI), Professor of Chemistry, Canada Research Chair in Materials Science and Director of Molecular Systems at 4D LABS; Brian Corrie, Collaboration and Visualization Coordinator, IRMACS and WestGrid; Byron Gates, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Canada Research Chair in Surface Chemistry; Elicia Maine, Assistant Professor of Technology Management, Segal Graduate School of Business; Wade Parkhouse, Professor of Kinesiology and Associate Dean, Faculty of Applied Sciences; Dipankar Sen, Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry; David Vocadlo, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Canada Research Chair in Chemical Biology; Zuo-Guang Ye, Professor of Chemistry and Director of Solid-State Systems at 4D LABS.

Overview:
A trans-disciplinary Team of researchers will work together to take novel molecules and nanomaterials from the chemistry lab into the clinical setting to develop new and innovative strategies for medical imaging, diagnostics, surgery and drug delivery. The Research Team includes internationally successful researchers in organic, inorganic, materials and bio-organic chemistry, molecular biology and biochemistry, kinesiology and computer sciences, working synergistically to create, apply and test novel approaches for the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer and kidney stones as their first targets. The Team also extends into SFU's Faculty of Business Administration to capture an important source of expertise, and the work will be carried out under the guidance of experts in the fields of ethics, medicine and medical imaging to ensure a seamless and rapid application of breakthroughs to real life problems.

Click here to access the Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology for Medical Application Progress Report