U of G Research Leaders Get $335,000 in Federal Support

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Prof. Barbara Morrongiello is studying ways to prevent pedestrian injuries among children.

The federal government will invest nearly $335,000 in five University of Guelph research projects, ranging from preventing childhood injuries and food-borne ailments to promoting emotional well-being and data-driven solutions.

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) will fund these projects through the John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF), created to help universities attract and retain leading faculty and researchers.

In total, CFI will invest more than $42 million from the JELF to support 186 research projects at 37 universities across Canada. The announcement was made today in Victoria, B.C., by Kirsty Duncan, federal minister of state for science and technology.

“This critical CFI investment will provide our leading researchers with the research infrastructure and support they need to make discoveries, advance knowledge, and fuel innovation,” said Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research).

“University of Guelph research aims to push back the frontiers of our understanding, while creating an impact to improve life. The research that CFI will be supporting with this investment will do just that – growing knowledge focused on protecting, sustaining, and bettering peoples’ lives.”

Lloyd Longfield, MP for Guelph, added: “As Canada moves toward its first-ever food policy for Canada, it is important to support research that helps provide safe, nutritious, affordable food for all people in Canada and our export markets. Guelph, and the University of Guelph, will continue to play a key role in keeping Canada at the forefront of agri-food and agri-business.

Prof. Gisèle LaPointe

“As well, it is encouraging to see that U of G is working on research to provide valuable data on children, mental health and the environment. U of G continues to be a leader in research that changes the lives of Canadians.”

U of G food science professor Gisèle LaPointe will receive $140,000 to study two pathogens responsible for about 90 per cent of all food-borne disease: non-typhoidal Salmonella enterica and Listeria monocytogenes.

Improving food safety requires better knowledge of how these pathogens adapt to food and the gastrointestinal system, said LaPointe.

Food-borne disease is a major economic burden, affecting one in eight Canadians each year. The 2008 listeriosis outbreak in Canada cost an estimated $242 million.

LaPointe will use state of-the-art molecular tools to investigate how food pathogens and ingredients interact with gut microbiota. “This research will help accelerate product innovation by providing scientific support for the health impacts of functional food ingredients and improve food safety to reduce food-borne diseases,” she said.

Improving food safety is also the goal of a project headed by engineering professors Christopher Collier and Ashutosh Singh.

“Consumption of contaminated food products results in numerous illnesses and deaths each year,” Collier said. “We are addressing this issue through the development of advanced light-based sensing technologies for the detection of contaminants.”

Prof. Ashutosh Singh

They will use their $83,992 grant to help establish a photonics/agri-food research laboratory with capabilities spanning several regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. It will help detect microbes, allergens and foreign objects in food.

Psychology professor Barbara Morrongiello received $42,000 grant to continue her research on preventing pedestrian injuries among children. Unintentional injury is the leading cause of death for Canadian children.

Prof. Christopher Collier

Although children are sometimes victims of poor drivers, many injuries stem from their own behaviour in traffic. Studying children’s crossing behaviours under realistic traffic conditions without placing them at risk of injury is challenging.

By using virtual reality technology, Morrongiello aims to learn about crossing behaviour and skills. Her work is intended to improve city planning for traffic flow and road design and to inform school policies.

Prof. Nadia Amoroso, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, received $50,000 for a digital design research hub to help devise smarter data-driven planning and environmental solutions.

Prof. Kristel Thomassin, Department of Psychology, will use her $18,867 grant to study ways of improving delivery of youth mental health interventions.