McGill awarded $5.4 million in CRC funding

Andrew Reader (left) receives his Canada Research Chair pin from Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology). / Photo: Owen Egan
Andrew Reader (left) receives his Canada Research Chair pin from Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology). / Photo: Owen Egan

Three new Chairs, six renewals announced at federal event held on campus

By Julie Fortier

McGill provided the backdrop last month when Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology), and Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of National Revenue and Minister of State (Agriculture), announced an investment of $120.4 million to fund 134 new or renewed Canada Research Chairs at 37 Canadian universities.

Held at the new Francesco Bellini Life Sciences Building, the event also showcased two of McGill’s three new chairholders – Andrew Reader and Thomas Szkopek. Reader, from the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, is developing advanced brain imaging techniques that will greatly aid research into brain disorders and their treatment. Szkopek, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is exploring how to apply physics at the nanoscale level to create new electronic devices. McGill’s third new CRC recipient, Sven Wassmann, a professor in the Faculty of Medicine, is working to understand how the body’s endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) naturally help fight cardiovascular diseases.

“Their work holds promise of untold benefits to society here in Canada and around the world,” Dr. Richard I. Levin, Vice-Principal (Health Affairs) and Dean, Faculty of Medicine, told the audience.

The $5.4 million awarded to McGill for the three new chairs and renewal of six others includes $642,272 from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) for research infrastructure in support of four of the projects. The sum announced for the 134 CRCs nationally includes a total of $6.56 million from the CFI.

“Through its support of the CRC Program and the CFI, our government is making it possible for universities to attract and retain top scholars from across Canada and abroad,” Goodyear said. “It is also ensuring that our universities have the state-of-the-art equipment and facilities they need to conduct the most cutting-edge research, thus contributing to excellence in training and mentoring the next generation of highly skilled Canadians.”

For Reader, the Chair means one thing: full-speed ahead on his current research with an eye toward opening new doors of exploration. “The CRC award and the associated CFI grant mean that high-performance computing can now be installed for dedicated use with our high-resolution Positron Emission Tomography brain scanner,” he said. “This will not only allow rapid image reconstruction and data analysis using current methods, but more important, this will open up new possibilities for research advances in reconstruction, modeling and analysis.”

The Government of Canada created the Canada Research Chairs Program in 2000 to establish 2,000 research professorships across the country, with the aim of making Canada one of the world’s top five countries for research and development.

“We at McGill have wholeheartedly embraced the program’s call to attract and retain international talent,” said Provost Tony Masi, who played host at the event. “McGill is the proud holder of 153 allocated and 138 active CRCs at McGill – which amounts to $19,300,000 in funding. Of those, 76 are filled by international chairholders. With McGill CRC researchers from six continents and 27 countries, the University is better fulfilling our mission to carry out research judged to be excellent when measured against the highest international standards.”