Funding to CREATE experience abroad

(Edmonton) The Membrane Protein Disease Research Group in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry is boasting new funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council that will give its students an unprecedented learning experience.

The group received $1.6 million in funding over six years from NSERC’s Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) program to develop collaboration with two institutes in Germany, Saarland University and University of Kaiserslautern. The money will pay graduate students’ and post-doctoral fellows’ salaries and travel expenses so they can spend three to six months in Germany at either institute.

“They’ll go to Germany, we’ll pay for them to live there and they’ll carry out research on a collaborative project,” said Joe Casey, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry who led the charge for funding. “They’ll learn new techniques, a new philosophy of research, what it’s like to be in a new environment; they’ll learn the international aspects of research by actually being in a foreign environment carrying out research that’s directly related to their thesis work and hopefully will lead to a paper.

“We hope it’ll really broaden their minds, get them thinking big in terms of science and realizing that what they’re doing is part of an international effort, not just something that’s going on here in Edmonton.”

It all started in 2007, when Casey first met numerous researchers from both Saarland University and the University of Kaiserslautern. They started to seriously discuss collaboration in 2009.

“The Germans have been putting a lot of money into research,” said Casey. “They think it’s important for their researchers to reach out. They’re very keen about collaborating with Canada because of our group.”

Casey says the agreement came together last year when NSERC expanded its CREATE program to team up with a major funding agency in Germany.

Not only will this arrangement help expand students’ minds and the way they look at problems, Casey says, but it’s also exciting for the researchers involved.

“We’re already thinking about similar kinds of problems, but we may have unique solutions or technologies,” he said. “We have complementary strengths and weaknesses.”

The NSERC grant supports the graduate students and post-doctoral fellows of 10 faculty members who are a part of the Membrane Protein Disease Research Group. The annual meetings will alternate between Alberta and Germany.