$1.7 million in grants

The ongoing question regarding what professors do during their out of class hours was answered late last month when Brock professors were awarded nearly $1.7 million in research grants from two funding organizations, The Natural Sciences Research Council (NSERC) and The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC.)
The NSERC grants totaled $1,186,459, which will fund projects in the fields of biology, chemistry, computer science, earth sciences, mathematics, physical education, physics and psychology, with $346,700 going to fund new projects. Most prominently is Gaynor Spencer, an assistant professor in the department of biological sciences’ study into how brain cell connections form during development and later change during learning and memory. Spencer received an equipment grant of $101,876 to create a sterile environment in which to isolate the nerve cells of pond snails as well as purchase specialized equipment to examine those cells.
The SSHRC grants amounted to $488,459 to fund projects in education, political science, child and youth studies, sustainable agriculture and other areas, with $78,816 going to new projects. Included in this is a third and final year of a study on the impact of birth order into sexual orientation by Tony Bogaert, an assistant professor in the department of community and health sciences.
“What we’ve found so far is that birth order does impact on men,” said Bogaert. “What we’re trying to find out now in whether, in fact, there is an impact on women.”
In addition to greatly improving the worlds of the professors involved, the money is also making other important people around the university very happy.
“Brock’s increasing role as a leader in research and development is evident by our faculty’s success in winning awards from Canada’s major funding agencies,” said Jack Miller, associate vice-president, research and dean of graduate studies. “Through their commitment and dedication to research, our professors make enormous contributions to the university’s teaching and learning environment.”
Miller also believes that the increase in research funding will help raise the university’s profile as a research institution and improve Brock’s reputation among potential students and faculty, and more specifically, will help improve Brock’s often lackluster ranking Maclean’s annual ranking of Canadian universities.
“Every dollar in both SSHRC and NSERC goes into the Maclean’s calculation. We have been rising in that area and hopefully the increase will continue,” says Miller. He is also quick to point out that the amount of money received by Brock profs was actually greater than the amount announced.
“There are faculty members who are parts of National Centres for Excellence … from the Centre for Excellence, which gets SSHRC or NSERC money, they get money coming back to Brock. That will be reported in our Maclean’s ranking.”
The grants also mean that Brock will get another Canada Research Chair. This means that Brock will be eligible for yet more funding, and will be able to hire another faculty member using federal money.
In addition to attracting new students via an improved Maclean’s rating and putting Brock on the map as a research institution, Miller also says that the grants will also better the academic lives of current Brock students in far more tangible ways, by attracting new faculty, providing state-of-the-art equipment for use by graduate students and senior undergraduates and by providing research assistant positions for graduate students.
“We can’t find that money [for new equipment] in our budget, the only way to get it is through the research grants,” says Miller. “It’s used in training advanced undergraduates. They do fourth year theses using this equipment, and we use it in advanced courses as well. The teaching and the research are completely tied in together.”

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