A year in review: R&D
Assistant News Editor
Home to some of the best minds in the country, McMaster University has grown to be a leading global figure in research initiatives. Whether it be through McMaster’s various Canada Research Chairs, a $300-million annually funded governmental program designed attract the world’s most promising researchers or it’s world-renowned teaching programs and departments, McMaster’s reputation for both discovery and innovation is certainly merited.
The 2011/2012 year was no different. Currently, McMaster is home to more than 70 research centres and houses a faculty of 1300 members. This year alone, this staff has garnered $395 million in grant funding.
This research year began with the unveiling of the McMaster Automotive Resource Centre (MARC), a $26-million project partially funded by the Conservative government’s Prosperity Initiative, meant to accelerate economic development in Ontario.
The MARC calls for an 80,000-square-foot building that will be constructed in McMaster’s Innovation Park.
Professor Ali Emadi, a leading U.S. de veloper of electric powertrain technology and a Canadian Research Chair, is one of the many who will be making use of MARC. Most of his work will focus on the next generation of hybrid electric cars, with projects ranging in electrified powertrains to hybrid battery/super-capacitor energy storage systems.
This was soon followed by an open invite to the global village: the International Research and Development (R&D) Conference in early September. The first of its kind conducted by a Canadian institute, delegates from Brazil to China and everywhere in between came to LIUNA Station in Hamilton to discuss issues, both contentious and trivial, in R&D.
The international forum focused mainly on the global participants – from industry, academia, government and the private sector – and their critical role in the dissemination of knowledge and discoveries in a volatile global economy. With some two hundred guests representing nearly a dozen countries, McMaster stood steadfast in the hopes of cross-sector international partnerships so as to address the most urgent needs in society.
“Research universities must position themselves to seize the opportunities and respond to the challenges related to internationalization and globalization,” said Mo Elbestawi, Vice-President of Research and International Affairs.
And in October, these challenges of “internationalization and globalization” were realized by a joint sequencing of the Black Plague led by Hendrik Poinar, Director of the Ancient DNA Centre at McMaster.
With a team of international researchers from Canada, the U.S. and Germany, the ancient epidemic that killed millions within Europe during the 14th century was tracked and sequenced – an arduous and painstaking process that allows researchers to observe how humanity has evolved with disease and vice versa.
“With research projects, it takes quite a bit of time to get it moving,” Nick Markettos, Assistant Vice-President of Research Partnerships. “But once it starts moving, because it attracts attention from others, suddenly you have more projects coming towards you.”
He added, “That’s what happened this year. We’ve had a lot of inquiries from industry, including international players, such as many from Europe.”
But research is not solely restricted to faculty. The benefits stretch to undergraduates as well. Whether USRAs or NSERC research grants, undergrads are given ample opportunity to contribute to University.
The Associate Vice-President of Research at McMaster, Dr. Fiona McNeil, stressed this: “There is a strong link between education in research. Students are given USRA and NSERC. As we go forward, we’d really like to strengthen that link with additional funding.”
As successful as the year been, the question arises whether research funding is worth the millions. To those outside of academia, what does it matter if a researcher can do something like synthesize a methylene-glutaric anhydride monomer?
While the understanding of research may be beyond the comprehension of some, it is the whole that comprises the sum. Without such specific understandings, general knowledge would useless. Only because of such specific research can people understand generally.