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a human interacts with virtual computer screens

Touching the future in Pourang Irani's lab, a new CRC who will develop tools for people to use to interact with data

Five Canada Research Chairs funded

$3.4 million awarded over next seven years

November 29, 2013 — 

Canada Research Chairs have been awarded to five University of Manitoba professors. Three are new chair holders in the areas of human rights, social justice and food sovereignty; ubiquitous analytics; and language interaction. One chair holder working with conducting polymers and electronic materials has been advanced from a Tier 2 to Tier 1, and one who studies supernova remnants astrophysics has received renewed funding.

“Our government remains committed to attracting and retaining the world’s best researchers, creating jobs and strengthening Canada’s economy,” said Minister Shelly Glover. “Through programs such as the Canada Research Chairs, we are supporting cutting-edge research at Canadian universities and fostering innovation by helping researchers bring their ideas to the marketplace, benefiting Canadians and improving their quality of life.”

“The new, advanced and renewed Canada Research Chairs who are receiving this support from the Government of Canada represent a cross-section of exciting research activities that benefit Canadians and society as a whole,” says Digvir S. Jayas, Vice-President (Research and International) and Distinguished Professor at the University of Manitoba. “Their areas cover human rights, social justice, food security, First Nation languages, new materials and technologies, and astrophysics—all very relevant for the 21st century issues we face every day.”

The chairs

Annette Desmarais (sociology), is a new Tier 2 (awarded $500,000 over the next five years) Canada Research Chair in Human Rights, Social Justice and Food Sovereignty. Desmarais will examine how communities are  working to build rights-based, socially-just and environmentally sustainable food systems based on food sovereignty. Desmarais’ research will enhance understandings of how alternative food systems can address the pressing goals of feeding the world and cooling the planet, and will make critical contributions to current debates about what kinds of rural development approaches and public policies can alleviate rural poverty and help build vibrant rural communities, ensure the production and consumption of healthy and safe food, and enhance local, national and global food security.

Pourang Irani (computer science), is a new Tier 2 (awarded $500,000 over the next five years) Canada Research Chair in Ubiquitous Analytics. Irani has a vision for the next generation of analytic tools in which ubiquitous computing will facilitate insight-driven interaction with data, anywhere. For individuals, this translates to making sound decisions, for example, before purchasing a product in a store or for locating the closest shelter during an emergency. Organizations will have tools that lead to a higher degree of information sharing and interaction among multiple participants in co-located or remote settings, to identify, for example, the source of a disease. Irani’s research will lead to innovative digital systems that ultimately fade into the background as end-users naturally interact with data to arrive at decisions, anywhere and anytime.

Pourang Irani demonstrates his work:


Nicole Rosen (linguistics), is a new Tier 2 (awarded $500,000 over the next five years) Canada Research Chair in Language Interaction. Rosen will investigate interactions between languages, seeking to understand how individual and societal multilingualism can affect official, heritage and First Nations languages in Canada. Taking advantage of the diverse population in Manitoba, Rosen will break new ground in the study of the interactions that have taken place — and are currently taking place — between official, heritage and First Nations, Metis and Inuit languages in the Canadian Prairies. Her work will enhance our understanding of the subtle interactions that take place between languages in close geographic proximity to each other.

Michael Freund (chemistry), Canada Research Chair in Conducting Polymers and Electronic Materials had his Tier 2 chair advanced to a Tier 1 chair (awarded $1.4 million over the next seven years). Freund is developing new strategies for controlling the chemical and electronic properties of electronically conducting polymers as well as their use in sensing, electronic and energy conversion applications. New forms of conducting polymers will help to drive innovation in key technological areas leading to advances in medical diagnostics, better performing electronics and practical devices for photosynthetic conversion. The long-term impact of Freund’s research will be felt in a wide range of technologies. For example, as technologies ranging from electronics to remote sensors move toward smaller, cheaper and “greener” formats, lightweight and inexpensive organic conducting polymers will play a more prominent role in their production and implementation. Freund received an additional $151,140 in funding from the John R. Evans Leaders Fund for infrastructure associated with a Canada Research Chair for advanced nanostructures for electronic and photosynthetic applications.

Samar Safi-Harb (physics and astronomy), is a renewed Tier 2 (awarded $500,000 over the next five years) Canada Research Chair in Supernova Remnants Astrophysics. Safi-Harb’s research improves our understanding of the remnants left over by supernovae and their associated high-energy phenomena. This research sheds light on the formation of the most magnetic objects in the universe, the creation of many chemical elements that are essential to human life, and the acceleration of cosmic rays to extremely high energies. Although her work will probably not take away the sense of wonder we get when we stare at the night sky, it will help make our universe and origin a little more knowable—enhancing our appreciation for the vast invisible and high-energy universe.

There are currently 46 CRCs at the University of Manitoba.

Research at the University of Manitoba is partially supported by funding from the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.

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