Government of Canada invests in university research

(Edmonton) The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada has awarded $19.6 million to 125 University of Alberta projects, which comprise the 2011 competition results for NSERC’s Discovery Grants and Discovery Accelerator Supplements Program.

Among the U of A grantees is Michael Caldwell, chair in the Department of Biological Sciences and a paleontology researcher. He is receiving both a five-year, $50,000 Discovery Grant and a Discovery Accelerator Supplement of $120,000 over three years. Caldwell’s ongoing and much-published research is focused on the evolution of snakes and lizards.

Caldwell says NSERC’s core funding is essential to his work. “If you’re going to pay graduate students, and fund and monitor their research plus be able to afford your own independent research, you’ve got to have a Discovery Grant.”

The Discovery Grants Program supports ongoing programs of research in every scientific and engineering discipline. Of the U of A recipients of core funding NSERC Discovery Grants, 12 have been identified for a Discovery Accelerator Supplement Program grant. Accelerator awards are given to top-ranked researchers judged by their peers to show strong potential for becoming international leaders. The projects NSERC is funding range in length from one to five years. This funding was announced June 17.

Caldwell says NSERC’s accelerator funds enable researchers to go beyond the scientific goals stated in funding applications. He adds eureka moments sometimes happen when people can chase down complete surprises in their research results. “The accelerator grant is like an unconstrained handshake to go out and follow new and unexpected results.”  

The research council also announced scholarships and fellowships awards, including the Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarships and NSERC Postgraduate Scholarships and Postdoctoral Fellowships. Thus far, NSERC has announced that U of A students will be the recipients of 19 Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarships for 2011–12 worth $35,000 each per year. At the doctoral level, U of A students will receive 27 NSERC postgraduate scholarships, valued at $21,000 each per year, while one U of A student received a postdoctoral award valued at $70,000.

NSERC is a federal agency that helps make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for all Canadians. The agency supports some 30,000 post-secondary students and postdoctoral fellows in their advanced studies. It promotes discovery by funding more than 12,000 professors every year and fosters innovation by encouraging more than 1,500 Canadian companies to participate and invest in post-secondary research projects.