McMaster University scores $35 million in federal funding for research into aging, physics
McMaster University received $ 35 million from a statewide federal funding flash that will provide Canada’s largest study on aging of new tools for assessing brain health.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently announced $ 518 million for more than 100 Canadian research projects, including projects to increase vaccine production, study the ocean and climate change.
Liberal MP Bob Bratina and Labor Secretary Filomena Tassi highlighted details of five major investments valued at $ 35 million in West End University of Hamilton in an announcement Thursday.
More than $ 9 million of that amount will go into “new high-tech tools” to measure brain health, eyesight and mobility in Canada’s Longitudinal Study of Aging, said professor and lead investigator Parminder Raina.
This internationally recognized research – the largest study of aging in Canada – tracks more than 50,000 people over at least 20 years. Part of the investment will help replace existing equipment that is now 10 years old, said Raina, who is also the scientific director of the McMaster Institute for Age Research.
But exciting “new science” is also being funded – such as wearable technology to measure sleep patterns, GPS devices to monitor how and where older people travel, and even sensors to measure loss of smell or taste.
Loss of smell could be a “leading indicator” of diseases like dementia, Raina noted, while a high-tech assessment of how seniors walk, stand and balance could warn of future neurological problems.
Materials science research at McMaster was also a big winner with four projects in the last round of federal funding.
The largest single investment is US $ 14 million to add special equipment to the McMaster nuclear reactor for what physicist Bruce Gaulin calls “Building a Future for Neutron Scattering in Canada”.
In neutron scattering, a neutron stream or beam is used to find out what happens to different materials at the atomic level. Understanding the atomic state of a material has enabled the development or improvement of everything from auto parts to superconductors to smartphones.
The McMaster reactor is unique in Canada for this type of research – especially after the shutdown in 2018 of a longstanding reactor that has been used by scientists in Chalk River for decades.
Gaulin, an international expert on neutron scattering, said the new instruments will attract hundreds of scientists to the facility each year and will help put Canada back on the research map once created by the 1994 Nobel Prize-winning McMaster scientist Bertram Brockhouse.
Much of the research, which was federally funded Thursday, is also eligible for potential provincial funding, but decisions about appropriate grants are yet to be announced.
Karen Mossman, vice president of research at McMaster, said the “significant” federal investment will help develop policy, advance technology solutions and train a new generation of scientists.
“The return on this investment will be equally significant.”