$2.5 million gift for study of Canadian history at Mac

Call it a case of history repeating itself — or, more accurately, a fan of the study of history repeating something he did five years ago.

On Tuesday, philanthropist Red Wilson will officially sign over a second $2.5-million donation for the study and promotion of Canadian history at McMaster University.

The gift from the Wilson Foundation, along with $1.5 million from the university, will keep the L.R. Wilson Institute for Canadian History going for the next five years — just like a similar gift he made five years ago to get the project off the ground.

Wilson — a former McMaster chancellor, a 1962 McMaster honours bachelor of arts graduate and recipient of an honorary doctorate from the university — says a liberal education “helps prepare young men and women for leadership.

“You can’t make good decisions unless you understand the context of things,” he said. “A broad education is important. You may have a great medical student, but it is also important that the aspiring doctor know something about history and psychology and other areas of liberal arts.”

In addition to his donations to the institute, Wilson previously pledged $10 million toward Wilson Hall, which is under construction at McMaster. The institute will operate out of the hall.

Wilson has worked as the former Ontario deputy minister of industry and tourism. He has also been the president and CEO of Redpath Industries; vice-chairman of the Bank of Nova Scotia; president and CEO and chairman of BCE Inc. and chair of Nortel Networks.

“Red’s generosity and his advocacy for the importance of the liberal arts have invigorated not just our department of history, but our entire faculty of humanities,” McMaster president Patrick Deane said in a statement.

Wilson says he has been impressed with Professor Viv Nelles’ leadership of the institute, which is the main reason he decided to repeat his donation. Nelles authored the book “The Little History of Canada.”

Each year, the institute brings in several junior faculty members to teach and conduct research. The institute offers grants for Canadian history books, hosts symposiums and gives out scholarships, among other things.

McMaster’s dean of humanities, Ken Cruikshank, says a key component of the institute is to teach Canadian history in “a new and exciting way” by focusing on Canada in a global context.

Check out the full article at the Hamilton Spectator.

David Sweet: ‘McMaster is at the forefront of so many innovations’

A new research network led by McMaster’s Paulin Coulibaly will receive significant support from the Government of Canada to help develop flood forecasting systems.

McMaster will receive $5 million over five years to support the FloodNet network, which will develop advanced warning systems to help protect Canadians from the often devastating effects of floods.

Currently, no advanced flood alert system is available in Canada.

David Sweet, Member of Parliament for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, on behalf of the Honourable Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology), made the announcement at McMaster on Friday.

“McMaster University is at the forefront of so many innovations. The network being supported here today for flood forecasting is another excellent example,” said Sweet.

“It will help address the critical issue of river flooding in Canada while also spurring innovation — a key to continued economic growth. Through initiatives like this, Canada is translating knowledge into practical applications to improve our wealth, wellness, and well-being.”

Coulibaly, a McMaster professor jointly appointed in the School of Geography & Earth Sciences and Department of Civil Engineering, will work with University of Guelph, Université Laval, University of Manitoba, Université de Moncton, University of New Brunswick, University of Saskatchewan, Trent University, University of Waterloo and University of Western to fill this gap by developing flood forecasting systems.

“The direct benefits of enhanced flood forecasts and management for Canadians are tremendous and include the reduced cost of damages, the protection of people and livestock, the reduction of socio-economic impacts and human distress and the protection of community water systems,” said Coulibaly.

“In Canada, floods are recognized as the most common, largely distributed natural hazard to life, property, economy, and community/industry water systems. There is critical need to enhance flood forecasting and management capacity in Canada especially in a context of climate change.”

Mo Elbestawi, vice-president of Research and International Affairs at McMaster, praised the new government partnership:

“The NSERC Strategic Partnership Grants reflect the McMaster brand of research — that is working together with private and public sector partners to ensure our work is relevant, adds value and improves the quality of life for Canadians. FloodNet, under Paulin Coulibaly’s leadership, will not only deal with the devastating effects of floods, but will train the next generation of leaders in this critical area of research.”

Also announced on Friday, the University of Toronto will receive funding for the Industrial Biocatalysis Network. This network will explore new ways to use enzymes to produce more environmentally friendly chemicals, plastics and other products.

Other network partners include AeroScribe Consulting, Corrugated Steel Pipe Institute, Credit Valley Conservation, Deltares USA Inc. DHI (Canada), Hydro-Québec, Manitoba Hydro, Ontario Climate Consortium, Ontario Power Generation Inc, among others.

NSERC Strategic Network Grants support large-scale, multidisciplinary research projects that require collaboration between academic researchers, organizations and companies across Canada to address challenges facing a particular industry over the next 10 years.

Provided by McMaster Daily News.

Learn how to keep breathing easy as you age

Researchers from McMaster University are teaming up with The Lung Association and the Breathing as One Campaign for Lung Research for a public event to increase awareness about lung diseases, what can be done to prevent and treat such diseases, and what research is telling us about lung health.

Lung health issues specific to older adults will be the main focus of discussion at a café scientifique on Thursday, November 27, entitled Breathing Easy: Lung Health is Good Health for Older Adults. The panel discussion will feature insights from three McMaster researchers with expertise on diseases of the lungs, and from the Lung Association’s director of respiratory health programs.

The event will take place from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the McMaster Innovation Park, and is open to everyone. It will also be available through live webstreaming. The audience will have ample opportunity to ask specific questions of the panel of experts following their presentations.

Lung disease is one of the most prevalent and costly health issues faced in Canada. One in five Canadians has some type of lung disease, lung cancer kills more people than breast, ovarian, colon and prostate cancers combined, and it is estimated that chronic lung diseases costs the Canadian economy $12 billion.

The event has been organized in conjunction with National Lung Month, being observed in November.

Presenters at the Café Scientifique are:

Dawn Bowdish, associate professor at McMaster and Canada Research Chair in Aging and Immunity, who will talk about pneumonia and its effect on chronic inflammatory diseases in older adults;

Gerard Cox, professor in the Department of Medicine whose research interests focus on disease development, and strategies for diagnosis and therapy, who will discuss research and treatment options for pulmonary fibrosis;

Carl Richards, professor in the McMaster Immunology Research Centre who researches how the lung copes with chronic inflammation and the relationship between cancer and inflammation, who will discuss his research on lung cancer; and

Carole Madeley, who is responsible for the delivery of several asthma programs funded by the provincial ministry of health, as well as The Lung Association-funded BreathWorks program, and other respiratory programs that are offered across the province of Ontario.

The café scientifique will be moderated by Dr. Parminder Raina, lead principal investigator for the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging and Canada Research Chair in GeroScience.

The live webcast of the event can be accessed here, 15 minutes prior to the start of the presentations.

Provided by McMaster University

Hamilton collaboration aims to Forge young startups

Sina Afshani watched his aunt struggling to help his ailing grandmother out of a chair. His aunt urged Afshani, a graduate of industrial design, to make something that could help.

So he did.

The result is Blue Orchid, a simple device that uses a caregiver’s own weight and movement to bring a patient to his or her feet.

After 200 prototypes, Afshani is ready for the next stage and the newly opened The Forge at McMaster Innovation Park is helping him get there.

The Forge is a collaboration between McMaster University and the Innovation Factory. It will provide six months of business training, mentoring, links to expert advice and service providers, access to rapid prototyping equipment and incubation space to high-potential ventures led by entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 29.

They do not need to be affiliated with McMaster or any other post-secondary institution to apply to The Forge.

“This is open to all growth-oriented enterprises that are aimed at creating jobs and better lives,” said Glen Crossley, a business development advisor at the McMaster Industry Liaison Office.

The province contributed more than $1 million through its Campus Linked Accelerator program. The accelerator will start formally taking in clients in January but has been testing the space and its approach with eight startups.

The Forge has provided plenty of guidance, says Afshani, who is a student in Mac’s masters of engineering, entrepreneurship and innovation program. He has managed to raise $100,000 in seed funding for his concept.

“Being here makes it all feel more real. You start to feel like a real company. It psychologically helps.”

David Carter, executive director of Innovation Factory, says similar accelerators at the University of Waterloo and elsewhere feed “healthy competition and co-operation” and weekly meetings with mentors mean participants set the bar higher for themselves.

“For some, it’s a good dose of reality. For others, it is easier to work hard when others are watching you.”

Other startups occupying The Forge space include: Q Reserve, a database of researchers, equipment and lab facilities at universities and research institutes; Serenity, an ultrasound-equipped cane and vibrational navigation belt for the visually impaired; and Start the Cycle, a bike library system for disadvantaged youth.

“We wouldn’t have an organization with The Forge,” said Charles Burke, a PhD student in the university’s transportation studies program. “We were working out of the basement of a McMaster library that’s seen better days. This gave us a real place to meet potential partners.”

See the full article at the Hamilton Spectator.

Mac lands water tech deal with Chinese company

Imagine being able to ensure drinking water is safe in a community water system by using a series of remote sensors to instantly identify contamination before anyone gets sick.

That’s the goal of technology being developed at McMaster University, which is the focus of a new agreement between the university and Chinese and other Canadian partners.

The deal will see a $3-million investment by the Chinese company Jiangsu Delin Environmental Protection Technology Co. and $1 million from China’s science and technology ministry.

The university will provide office and lab space at the McMaster Innovation Park and is hoping the province and perhaps the federal government will throw in some cash as well.

The agreement was signed by McMaster officials taking part in the recent Ontario Science and Technology Mission to China led by Premier Kathleen Wynne.

The deal is significant because, as it is now, water samples have to be taken and then tested, a process that can take hours or days. Remote sensing offers the promise of continuous testing that can be watched in real time at a central facility.

“The idea of being able to monitor the water quality without actually having to send somebody to do the measurements is a very attractive proposition,” said Peter Mascher, McMaster’s associate vice-president of international affairs.

He said there’s huge interest in the technology in China because “people there are less and less accepting of the poor water and poor air quality.

“The Chinese government over the next few years is going to invest unbelievable amounts of money to find ways to purify their water and clean up their air.”

The technology would also be useful in remote areas of Canada where water systems can be unreliable, he said.

McMaster researchers have been working on the technology for several years, but it “only now has taken off because really many of the partners are at the right stage of development to really do something exciting.”

The deal would see researchers in Hamilton collaborating online with researchers at a laboratory in Jiangsu Province, China, to develop the technology with the goal of creating sensing equipment to detect biological contaminants at first and other pollutants such as heavy metals later on.

Asked if there were considerations about striking a deal with a country known for human rights abuses, Mascher said the deal is consistent with university ethical guidelines. “Given our prime minister just came back from China with a whole wagonload of commercial deals, you can’t be holier than thou.”

He said Chinese researchers and academics involved in water research “are not the people who violate human rights.”

Mo Elbestawi, McMaster’s vice-president of research and international affairs, said the deal will “allow for the two-way flow of technology, talent and capital between partners” and is the kind of enterprise the innovation park was designed to develop and commercialize.

See the full article at the Hamilton Spectator.

McMaster’s automotive research featured on Canada AM

Saeid Habibi, the NSERC/Ford Canada Industrial Research Chair in Hybrid/Electric Vehicle Powertrain Diagnostics, and engineering student William Long spoke to reporters from CTV’s Canada AM for a feature that ran Wednesday morning on the breakfast news program.

The segment highlighted the work of the hundreds of researchers at the McMaster Automotive Resource Centre on Longwood Road.

The pair also discussed electric vehicles and a hybrid race car.

You can watch the clip, which runs three and a half minutes, here.

Cultivating an entrepreneurial ecosystem at McMaster

Patents, trademarks, copyright and licensing technologies — all part of the standard mission of university liaison offices across Canada.

While the services and processes that link industry with a university’s expertise might seem cut-and-dried, Gay Yuyitung — recently appointed executive director of the McMaster Industrial Liaison Office (MILO) — sees a bigger picture where all the pieces of the technology transfer puzzle are connected and interrelated.

Yuyitung has been with MILO for twelve years, serving in progressive roles where she’s managed invention disclosures, evaluated new disclosures for licensing, and assisted with McMaster spin off companies.

In that time, she’s seen hundreds of enterprising campus innovators from faculty, research staff and students come through MILO’s doors for advice on how to interact with industry to move their technologies and discoveries — from their labs, centres, classrooms and hospitals — to the marketplace and the world of new products, materials, processes and jobs.

“While licensing and revenue generation are incredibly important, and our focus is very much on ensuring our researchers are outward facing with business and industry, MILO also educates, provides legal support and guidance, offers business advice, and assesses the commercialization potential of McMaster innovators’ technologies, inventions and services,” said Yuyitung.

“It’s about putting all of the critical pieces together so that we have an entrepreneurial ecosystem that thrives by making the best use of the research community’s innovations.”

Yuyitung points to the McMaster Innovation Showcase — MILO’s annual flagship event now in its seventh year — as a key initiative organized to help the research community create a culture of innovation and commercialization.

This year’s Showcase takes place Nov. 12 at the McMaster Innovation Park. The event will feature:

poster competition for inventions and discoveries with commercial potential; a round table highlighting trends in entrepreneurship, community engagement and innovation models that can enhance collaborations between the university, industry and community; innovator and patent awards; “open doors” at the McMaster Innovation Park and CANMET; a keynote from Mike Kirkup, Director of the VeloCity program at the University of Waterloo; as well as the all-important networking opportunities  for entrepreneurs, industry and government representatives, and academic researchers who are developing and commercializing new technologies.

“We’re taking this opportunity to connect the innovative ideas and research of McMaster faculty and students to people who are equally passionate about transforming ideas and services,” said  Yuyitung.

“MILO has become increasingly involved with our student entrepreneurs and at this year’s Lion’s Lair competition the top three places — which garnered the winners almost $140,000 in prize money — were start-ups that had received guidance and advice from MILO through different iterations of their product concepts.”

“Whether it’s students creating a unique app or novel product, or faculty who’ve developed a leading edge technology, McMaster is recognized as a high performing innovation hub,” said Mo Elbestawi, vice-president, Research and International Affairs.

“Gay Yuyitung has a clear vision of how she wants to lead MILO to ensure that McMaster’s enterprising research community is fully supported, from concept to commercialization. I’m so pleased she’s accepted the role of Executive Director and excited about McMaster’s future entrepreneurial initiatives.”

See the full article at Daily News McMaster.

Researcher’s night has a French twist

Solar cars, sustainable archeology and discussions from French researchers will be part of an upcoming Researchers’ Night at McMaster Innovation Park.

Everyone is welcome to the free event, dubbed “The Sustainable City,” on Oct. 25. Diverse research will be presented through open discussions, workshops and lectures. About 2,000 visitors and students are expected to attend.

“We want people to interact in a very open and friendly manner and break down some prejudice surrounding researchers,” said Florence Roullet, McMaster researcher.

The Sustainable City is being hosted in partnership with the French Consulate to encourage and develop collaborations between Canadian and French students and professors.

“We want to expose the beauty behind thinking about a topic and the process behind a researcher questioning their passions,” Roullet added.

The event has been running in Europe since 2006, and 11 towns in France are hosting it the same night.

“We’re trying to incorporate the same concept in Canada,” says Roullet.

“It’s a bit of an adventure.”

Read the full article at the Hamilton Spectator

McMaster brings wave of water experts to town

Hamilton, Burlington and Toronto have all been hit by major floods.

Toledo, Ohio, residents went without municipal water for days earlier this year, when their water turned toxic after a massive algae bloom in Lake Erie.

Droughts are devastating farmers in the southern United States.

“Climate change is happening now,” said Dustin Garrick, a professor at McMaster University, as the school was preparing to welcome some of the world’s top water experts for a week-long conference in Hamilton.

Hundreds of experts are tackling water-related issues, such as climate change, global public health and social and economic development, as part of McMaster’s first Water Week, which started Monday and wraps up Friday.

Garrick, who is the university’s Philomathia Foundation professor in water policy and research, said the lectures and workshops are open to the public.

Part of the goal of Water Week is to raise public awareness.

“We are dealing with unprecedented climate change,” he said. “It’s happening so fast, the past is no longer a guide to what may happen in the future.”

Garrick joined McMaster in January to launch the Water Network, after working at the University of Oxford in Britain on water policy and climate change adaptation in Australia and North America. Part of his goal at McMaster and across Ontario is to create a network of water researchers who may be doing related work, but have never exchanged ideas before.

The conference is held every September. Stockholm, Amsterdam and Singapore are among the previous host cities.

For the full article, visit the Hamilton Spectator

Interactive lab explores music’s scientific potential

Before the iPod, the Sony Walkman or the home stereo system, music was something people made and experienced with other people.

The universal nature of music-making, which occurs in every culture throughout the ages, suggests evolution may have wired us for it, and that the survival benefit it confers has something to do with the way social groups cohere. But such ideas are speculative and the social dimension of music remains largely unexplored.

Now, researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton are aiming to change that with an $8-million facility unique in the world. The novel laboratory they’ve created will explore the interactive side of music-making with an unprecedented rigour – and it will serve as a tool for a wide range of other research applications from engineering better hearing aids to optimizing presentations to better hold an audience’s attention.

“We expect to find all kinds of things that we just never dreamed of that are going on in these complex interactions,” said Laurel Trainor, a neuroscientist and director of the LIVELab (short for Large Interactive Virtual Environment), which officially opens its doors this week.

In essence, LIVElab is a conventional stage and seating area backed by a powerful combination of high-tech gadgetry for recording and cleverly manipulating the way entire groups of people experience music and other forms of performance or presentation. The sound system can be adjusted to simulate a range of acoustic environments from classrooms to cathedrals.

Although music originated as a social activity, scientific research on music and human cognition had tended to focus on individuals. This is largely because the subtle cues and reactions that occur among musicians as they perform – and between the musicians and their audiences – are difficult to capture in a controlled research setting.

Nearly a decade in the making, the facility was funded through the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Ontario government and McMaster. Nothing quite so ambitious has been tried before in the field of music studies and the research possibilities have experts taking notice.

“It’s really an extraordinary achievement,” said Katie Overy, of the Reid School of Music at the University of Edinburgh. “The attention to detail is evident in every inch of the design.”

Dr. Overy, currently a visiting professor at the University of Western Ontario where she is working on research related to musical learning, said she hopes to makes use of the lab for pilot studies.

Just entering the LIVELab is a sensory experience. The space is accessed through a “sound lock” which separates participants from the outside world. The room sits on rubber pads to reduce vibrations and is nested inside a suspended concrete shell, which blocks external noise down to a threshold of 10 decibels. Inside, oversized ductwork keeps air circulating without a sound.

In other words, it can be very, very quiet.

In its “off” setting, the room is also entirely dead. The walls and surfaces are designed to absorb sound, so that music and voices are swallowed up without any trace of an echo.

“It’s our blank slate,” Dr. Trainor said in the LIVELab earlier this month.

Then Dan Bosnyak, a research scientist and the lab’s technical director, brought the room to life with a few taps on an iPad. Suddenly an array of microphones and speakers located all around us were sensing and re-projecting our voices, adding a pleasant resonance that perfectly reproduced the experience of being in a small theatre or church.

Such tricks have been employed commercially to enhance the acoustics of various spaces. But in the LIVELab, the sound system is coupled with a battery of infrared cameras that can track performers and audience members in real time and digitize their body movements as they react to music and other stimuli. The lab also has the capacity to measure the brain waves of up to 30 participants at once through electroencephalography (EEG).

“The great thing about the LIVELab is that it’s very flexible. You can mould the space to fit the project,” said Matt Woolhouse, a faculty member at McMaster’s School of the Arts who is planning a study of dance therapy for Parkinson’s patients.

By its nature, the set up invites researchers to explore musical questions that have previously been inaccessible to science. For example, they can study how members of a jazz ensemble or a string quartet react to one another while a performance unfolds, or measure how much the physical expressiveness of a musician influences the way her music is perceived by an audience.

All of it involves the broader question of how human brains work together around a shared activity, which puts the lab at the cutting edge of social cognitive science.

“The lab will undoubtedly become a major centre for inquiry in human thinking and behaviour,” said Robert Duke, director of the Center for Music Learning at the University of Texas at Austin.

For this reason, the space is also attracting interest from marketing and arts groups interested in what it can tell them about group experiences. Dr. Trainor said the lab would ideally be used for commercial projects about one-third of the time to help support its research activities.

“What this space really comes down to is studying interactions,” Dr. Trainor said.

In the process, it may finally reveal what compels humans to gather in groups and make music.

All together now.

See the full article at The Globe and Mail