Professor Geoffrey Wood with microscopes
Prof. Geoffrey Wood was awarded a NSERC Discovery grant worth $32,000 to look at connections between body size and longevity and the risk of developing cancer.

From human and animal health to food and materials science to the environment, dozens of University of Guelph research projects will be supported by a new $10-million investment from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) announced today.

In all, 53 U of G projects will receive a total of $10,030,000 over five years from the federal agency. The funding spans five colleges and nearly 20 departments, with most projects being supported for five years.

U of G faculty members also received 13 NSERC Discovery Launch Supplements for early career researchers worth a total of $162,500, as well as four Discovery Accelerator Supplements worth $480,000 over three years.

“These awards to diverse U of G researchers are a vital investment in innovation and in expertise,” said Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research). “By allowing us to continue pushing the frontiers of knowledge and understanding, and enabling us to support our scientists and scholars, this funding will have wide-ranging benefits for all of us.”

Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield said, “NSERC aims to make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for the benefit of all Canadians, which aligns with the goals of the University of Guelph to improve life. Congratulations to the University of Guelph researchers who are in the vanguard of science, building on Canada’s long tradition of scientific excellence.”

Reducing reliance on fossil fuels and CO2 emissions drives research in the computational electrochemistry lab run by chemistry professor Leanne Chen. She received $29,000 in this year’s inaugural instalment of a five-year NSERC Discovery award.

Using quantum mechanical methods to model chemical reactions at the atomic scale, she hopes her work will help in designing better fuel cells and batteries to store electricity generated by hydro, solar or wind power.

“Current, state-of-the-art energy storage and conversion devices such as batteries for electric vehicles are not yet efficient enough to justify the widespread implementation of these systems from an economic perspective,” Chen said. “In order to design improved energy storage and conversion devices, researchers need to understand the fundamental mechanisms at the electrode-electrolyte interface that govern energy transformation.”

Pathobiology professor Geoffrey Wood will use his five-year Discovery award, worth $32,000 a year, to look at connections between body size and longevity and the risk of developing cancer.

“Every time a cell divides, a chance mutation could lead to cancer,” said Wood. “Yet some large and comparatively long-lived creatures such as whales and elephants – with many more cells in their massive bodies than in humans – have relatively low cancer rates.”

Working with researchers at other Canadian institutions, he’s looking at tumour suppressor genes in cell lines from these mammals and other animals, including parrots and bats. Larger parrots, for instance, live longer than small ones and tend to have less cancer.

Many of these animals have multiple copies of these genes, while humans have only one. By looking at how these genes regulate tumour development in various species, Wood hopes to help improve our understanding of cancer risk in humans and animals.

Other U of G researchers will use NSERC awards to study numerous topics in physical, biological and social sciences, including aspects of agriculture and veterinary medicine.