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From the (very) small to the 'big picture'

London, ON One looks at the 'small science' of nanomaterials, the other looks at big picture issues with the Canadian health care system. Today at The University of Western Ontario, both Franois Lagugn-Labarthet and Amardeep Thind were awarded Canada Research Chairs one of the country's most prestigious research awards.

The Chairs program has been designed to encourage and promote top research and innovation in universities. Tier One Chairs receive $200,000 annually for seven years to fund their research and are awarded to outstanding researchers who have developed reputations as world leaders in their fields. Tier Two Chairholders receive $100,000 annually for five years and are recognized as exceptional and emerging researchers with the potential to lead their respective fields.

Nanomaterials are becoming increasingly important as we strive to make smaller, faster and smarter components and devices. On a scale of one-billionth of a metre in size, however, they can be difficult to see and to analyse. As the new Tier Two Canada Research Chair in Nanomaterials and Photonics, Lagugn-Labarthet and his group are developing and combining new optical techniques that allow scientists to study nanomaterials' properties with high resolution capabilities. This is particularly important for the further development of nanostructures in biological and materials research.

"Traditional imaging techniques can intrinsically be limited in providing molecule-specific information, or in probing physical and optical properties," says Lagugn-Labarthet, who is an assistant professor in the chemistry department. Instead, he characterizes nano-objects using lasers and advanced optical microscopy techniques that provide information about the properties and functions of nanomaterials in correlation with their size, structure and composition. Rapid developments in the field of nanoscience have led to a range of promising applications, including bit-elements in supercomputers, molecular receptors capable of trapping and detecting air or water pollutants, sensors for disease diagnosis and drug delivery carriers.

Thind, an associate professor in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, is developing a better understanding of our health care system and providing direction for reducing wait times and resource shortages. "A well-functioning health care system requires minimal barriers to entry," he says. "Access remains an issue even in Canada's universal health care system."

Awarded the Tier Two Canada Research Chair in Health Services Research, Thind will help policy makers improve access for Canadians by looking at what happens before and after patients gain access to the health care system, focusing on wait times that exist between seeing a family physician and a specialist. He will also study determinants of access in countries that contribute a majority of new immigrants to Canada, which is particularly relevant given Statistics Canada predictions that population increases in this country will be driven entirely by immigration by the year 2030. Thind's program will also develop models of access and outcomes for low income women receiving treatment for breast cancer in the United States.

Three Chairholders at Western also had their CRCs renewed for another term:

  • Tier One CRC in Medical Imaging, Aaron Fenster;
  • Tier One CRC in Visual Neuroscience, Melvyn Goodale;
  • Tier One CRC in Human Genetics and Phenomics, Robert Hegele.


Contact: Douglas Keddy
University of Western Ontario

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