Five UNBC faculty members receive Discovery Grants Program funding

July 8, 2016
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Prince George, BC – Five UNBC researchers have secured $453,000 in funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

Three of them, including Dr. Stephen Déry (Environmental Science), Che Elkin (Ecosystem Science and Management), and Art Fredeen (Ecosystem Science and Management), received $415,000 over five years from NSERC’s Discovery Grants Program. Dr. Liang Chen (Computer Science) received $18,000 for one year from that program while a fifth researcher, Dr. Pranesh Kumar, secured a Discovery Development Grant worth $10,000 each year for two years.

“The opportunity for our students, even at the undergraduate level, to conduct research with our outstanding faculty is one of the best recruiting tools we have,” said UNBC President Dr. Daniel Weeks. “I congratulate the researchers on their success. The work they do is critical in furthering our knowledge of issues that have an impact on a global scale, and enhances our ability to devise solutions to the problems those issues may present.”

The Discovery Grants Program provides funds for scholarships, fellowships, research supplements and equipment grants to support researchers and students. It funds discovery in computer science, geoscience, chemistry, physics, life sciences, mathematics, and the many branches of engineering.

UNBC’s application success rate for Discovery Grants was 57% (with four of seven researchers securing Discovery Grants). This compares to a 43% success rate across Canada for small institutions. With the Development Grant included, UNBC’s success rate climbs to 71%.

“This announcement of the results from the NSERC Discovery Grant program highlights that UNBC is conducting outstanding research that is nationally recognized, and is a reflection of the value of that research to the communities we serve,” said Dr. Geoff Payne, UNBC Interim Vice President, Research.

A total of 24 researchers now hold a Discovery Grant at UNBC. The annual value of these awards for 2016-17 is $634,000. 

About UNBC’s 2016 Discovery Award recipients

  • • The topic of atmospheric and terrestrial rivers of Western Canada in transition is the focus of Dr. Déry’s work. He will receive $175,000 to help better understand the role mountains play in the hydrology of Coast mountain watersheds. His research is supported by five undergraduate students, three graduate students, and one post-doctoral fellow.
  • • Dr. Elkin’s work focuses on evaluating the role of local and landscape factors on the resilience of mixed-species forest ecosystems under climate uncertainty. The $120,000 grant will support research examining how trees and forests respond to shifting environmental conditions, and what this means for forest ecosystem services.  This work will involve graduate and undergraduate students.
  • • A $120,000 grant will go to Dr. Fredeen to investigate the limitations to sub-boreal forest growth and carbon sequestration from tree to forest scale before and after natural and anthropogenic (human influence) disturbances.
  • • Dr. Chen will receive $18,000 to study a new deep learning structure. The study is based on the stability theory of Electoral College, which was established by Dr. Chen and his colleagues. The approach developed by this study is expected to be applicable in computer vision as well as information retrieval.
  • • Dr. Kumar will receive $20,000 for his research, which looks at the role statistical regression models play in data analysis, and alternatives to more traditional modelling processes used in making reliable and accurate predictions in fields such as computer science, engineering, natural and life sciences, military, social and cognitive sciences, finance and economics, public health, clinical practice, medical research, climate-weather predictions.

This research is directly funded by NSERC. The Research Support Fund, a tri-agency initiative of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), assists Canadian post-secondary institutions and their affiliated research hospitals and institutes with the expenses associated with managing the research funded by these three federal research granting agencies.  

The NSERC announcement can be found at http://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/Media-Media/NewsRelease-CommuniqueDePresse_eng.asp?ID=854

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Contact Information

Andrea Johnson, Communications Officer
250-960-5402   |   andrea.johnson@unbc.ca

Matt Wood, Communications and Media Relations
250-960-5626   |   matt.wood@unbc.ca

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