Research Matters blog: A look ahead

Greetings.

Patchen Barss here, Managing Editor of the Research Matters website and blog. We’ve been at this for a couple of years now, and I thought it might be time to say hello, and thank you for reading.

Even if you’ve been with us for a while, you might still be wondering, “What is Research Matters?” Fair question, given that there isn’t really anything else quite like it. Here’s the deal: Ontario is home to 21 publicly funded universities. Each of those universities has a Vice President of Research. For years, these VPs have met on a regular basis to trade ideas, discuss emerging fields of research and allow each individual institution to become part of a larger community of Ontario researchers.

This community in itself is unusual: universities compete – for funding, professors and students. But big and small universities alike are increasingly finding that their greatest gains come through collaboration rather than competition. Ontario happens to be ahead of the game on this front.

Research Matters emerged from that cooperative culture: it’s a public outreach campaign that serves not just a single community or city, but reaches out to all Ontarians. This might not seem so surprising – after all, the university system relies on Ontario taxes, and universities are therefore accountable to Ontarians. Nevertheless, no region in Canada, and possibly no region in the world, has ever achieved this kind of deep multi-institutional cooperation on a public outreach initiative.

Research Matters has entered its third year. It’s a multi-platform initiative, designed to give as many entry points as possible into Ontario university research. Today, I wanted to tell you specifically about the plans for the Research Matters blog over the coming year.

(At least) once each month, we’ll release a series of daily blog posts based on a certain theme. The themes we’ve chosen all relate to everyday life – to come up with ideas, we combed newspaper sections, bookstore departments and popular magazines. Starting tomorrow, we’re going to kick things of with the theme, “Your Health.” Of course, this being university research, you’ll get more than just fitness and diet tips – we’ll bring you some of the latest ideas, technologies and theories that are shaping how we understand personal health.

In September, the Research Matters blog goes Shopping. In October, we’re going to explore Spirituality and Personal Belief. We’ve got other sections planned on Business, Better Homes and Gardens, Style, Travel, Romance and more.

We hope you find the blog interesting, useful and fun. We hope you’ll stick around and see what we’ve got on offer this year. And if you want to send us a note and let us know what you think, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line at yourontarioresearch@cou.on.ca

Thanks again for reading.

Patchen Barss
Managing Editor

 

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Blog Posts

From solar panels to ...

Sharon Oosthoek | July 26, 2016

University of Waterloo electrical and computer engineer delves deep into the health and safety of renewable energy Nanotechnology is poised to become the next big thing in solar panels, but before that happens Siva Sivoththaman wants to ensure workers who make the panels and consumers who use them aren't endangering their health. Most research into using nano particles in the manufacture of solar panels has focused on their potential for more effectively converting sunlight into energy. Scientists predict nano particles could boost efficiency from the current 20 per cent to about 60 per cent. But Sivoththaman, a University of Waterloo electrical and computer engineer, says we need to pay just as much attention to their safety. read more »

Green chemistry stars humble ...

Sharon Oosthoek |

Trent University biomaterials expert tweaks crop-based oils to produce environmentally-friendly materials for wide range of products When a World Health Organization study recently linked hot drinks to esophageal cancer, Suresh Narine realized one of his more obscure inventions might just become his most successful. The WHO study concluded drinking beverages above 65C increases the risk of cancer, presumably because it burns esophageal cells on the way down. The problem is that most takeout coffee is hotter than 65C. But in 2015, the Trent University biomaterials scientist designed a 'Goldilocks' travel mug to keep beverages at a constant 62C —  not too hot and not too cool. The food grade liner in Narine's cup is made from soybean oil he tweaked in his lab to cool hot beverages to 62C within 15 seconds, and to keep it at that temperature for five hours. read more »

Making novel bio-based materials ...

Sharon Oosthoek |

Queen's University chemical engineer Michael Cunningham modifies natural products to safely and effectively replace polluting chemicals. A plant-based substance called cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) may be the most promising biomaterial most people have never heard of, says Queen's University chemical engineer Michael Cunningham. Stronger than Kevlar, CNC is the crystalline form of cellulose, which is the chief ingredient in the cell wall of trees and other plants. While only recently available commercially (and only from Canadian company, CelluForce), it could eventually be used to make reinforced plastics that replace steel in cars, boats and even airplanes. The resulting lighter weight would mean transportation that uses less fuel and emits less greenhouse gas. read more »

Indigenous art and the ‘...

Sharon Oosthoek | June 27, 2016

Gerald McMaster is fascinated by creative people who move in an out of, or are influenced by different communities and cultures. At once nomadic and connected, their experiences formed the basis of his early research. Today, the Ontario College of Art and Design University professor, curator, author, and artist is about to dive back into this area of research. He is launching a multi-year project that will examine the ways in which Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures interact, influence and inspire one another. read more »

2016 Women’s Health Scholars

Alex Hughes | June 22, 2016

Ten outstanding Ontario university scholars are being recognized for potentially life-changing research for women in Ontario and across the globe, as they look to develop health care in the areas such as HIV-care, contraceptives, and breast cancer. The Council of Ontario Universities, with funding from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care introduced the Ontario Women’s Health Scholars Awards in 2001 to ensure that Ontario attracts and retains pre-eminent women’s health scholars.  The awards aim to improve women’s health. The 2016 recipients include postdoctoral, doctoral and master’s students from six Ontario universities. They each will receive scholarships of $25,000 to $50,000, along with research grants of $1,000 to $5,000. This year’s recipients and their areas of research are: Alisa Grigorovich, University of Toronto – how to create effective policies that address the sexual harassment of female workers by clients in Ontario residential long-term facilities. Jocelyn Wessels, McMaster University – how female sex hormones found in contraceptives affect vaginal health and susceptibility to sexually transmitted infections. Lori Chambers, McMaster University – the challenges and benefits to African immigrant women who are living with HIV and choose to work in prevention, treatment and advocacy for others with HIV. Komal Shaikh, York University – assessing the effects of education-based therapy in treating and rehabilitating cancer survivors with cancer-related cognitive dysfunction. Amanda D. Timmers, Queen’s University – how sexual arousal patterns vary across genders and how these variations can inform the treatment of sexual dysfunction. Kelly Coons, Laurentian University – how to improve the ability of future health care professionals to counsel pregnant women on drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Sara King-Dowling, McMaster University – how the development of girls’ motor skills affects their overall health and activity levels over time. Denise Jaworsky, University of Toronto – how living in rural and Northern areas of Canada affects the ability of women living with HIV to access care. Justin Michael, Western University – developing tools to allow for a single-visit radiation treatment for women with breast cancer to make things easier for those living far from treatment facilities. Shira Yufe, York University – how to encourage breast cancer survivors to adopt healthy lifestyle and weight management habits. Each of the researchers has spent countless hours studying topics related to women’s health and improving the lives of women in Ontario.  Their research (full descriptions available here) will contribute to the way that Ontarians (and the global community) live, work and play.  Congratulations are in order to the award recipients! Stay Curious!
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