CapU Receives Its Largest Research Grant to Date

The $1.5 million NSERC grant will fund various climate initiatives

Bridget Stringer-Holden (she/her) // News Editor
Apsara Coeffic-Neou (she/her) // Illustrator

CapU recently received its first ever grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The Tri-Council is Canada’s major federal post-secondary research funding agency and includes NSERC, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Apart from being the university’s first application to NSERC, the Mobilize grant for applied research on regional climate action also happens to be CapU’s largest research grant to date. It is valued at $1.5 million and will be distributed over five years.

“We heard the good news in late summer but had to keep it under wraps until the federal government announced the awards in December,” said Dr. Dawn Whitworth, CapU’s Associate Vice President of Creative Activity, Research and Scholarship & Graduate Studies. “We were dying to tell the whole CapU community as we knew it would create lots of partnership opportunities backed with paid research assistantships for CapU students and section releases/teaching buyouts for CapU faculty.”

Whitworth started working at CapU a few months before the pandemic, and has been focusing on building capacity in creative activity, research and scholarship. Before coming to CapU, she worked in leadership roles at both UBC and Emily Carr — both of which had a focus in research and innovation.

The Mobilize grant is intended on building research capacity with faculty and students across CapU’s campuses, learning sites and faculties.

“The grant application asked us to identify a core research theme, and we knew early on that it was an opportunity to support one of CapUs strongest research areas — sustainability,” said Whitworth.

Some of CapU’s existing partnerships include the Howe Sound Biosphere Region Initiative Society (HSBRIS) and the North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce. Both the HSBRIS and the Chamber supported the grant application with detailed letters of support.

Ten faculty members also supported the application: Amir Amiraslani, Tong Chow, Tom Flower, Cheryl Schreader, Hojat Yazdanpanah, Mohna Baichoo, Paolo Fresnoza, Roy Jantzen, Nancy van Groll and Sabrina Wong. Whitworth considered their expert CVs and experience in sustainability research and work integrated learning as an important part of the application.

Various projects will be supported by the grant, including Tom Flower’s work with HSBRIS and Nancy van Groll and Cheryl Schreader’s work with Earthworks, a multidisciplinary initiative that includes lectures and environmental restoration initiatives. There are also plans for an upcoming UN Sustainable Development Goals week in partnership with the City of North Vancouver, Enactus and City Studio.

Additionally, there is the possibility of a new Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Sustainability to bring together researchers, students, partner organizations and companies in joint research projects. However, this will be done in a phased approach, which will require consultation, policy and procedural steps.

An NSERC Steering Committee was formed late last year. It includes the ten faculty members who helped with the application and will adjudicate applications for NSERC funding to support research projects, partnerships and student research assistants going forward. 

“What I’ve learned about CapU is that there are always exciting faculty-led partnerships in the works and this new grant ensures that going forward they’ll be fully-funded,” Whitworth said, excited to share that the grant is also renewable.

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