UVic adds three new Canada Research Chairs in science


The University of Victoria’s three new Canada Research Chairs—announced in May and early November—are doing scientific research that cuts to the heart of issues related to human health and safety.

Using innovative techniques and collaborations, these researchers will be developing more efficient and accurate patient testing and drug discovery methods, combing through the vast amount of data to make sense of genomic sequencing, and refining our understanding of seismic hazards.

All three are five-year Tier 2 chairs, which go to researchers who are acknowledged by their peers as having the potential to lead in their field. For each chair, the university receives $100,000 annually for five years.

Katherine Elvira (Chemistry)

As the Canada Research Chair in New Materials and Techniques for Health Applications, Katherine Elvira works at the intersection of chemistry, biology and engineering, focusing on the development of technologies that integrate several laboratory test functions on a single chip.

In collaboration with industry and health care organizations, Elvira is developing innovative, flexible techniques for drug discovery, and detailed online patient data for more accurate diagnosis and real-time care.

Edwin Nissen (Earth and Ocean Sciences)

A recent global surge in seismic events, such as the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the 2016 earthquake in New Zealand have overturned previous consensus on subduction zones.

As the Canada Research Chair in Geophysics, Edwin Nissen studies geohazards across a number of subduction zones, including the Cascadia plate boundary that runs from Vancouver Island to northern California.

Using cutting-edge space-borne and airborne sensors, Nissen is mapping surface deformation and topography associated with earthquake faulting, allowing us to better anticipate future subduction events and understand the seismic hazard presented.

Xuekui Zhang (Mathematics and Statistics)

New genetic sequencing technologies are creating huge amounts of data, creating exciting opportunities in biological mechanisms and medicine. As a result, researchers need to efficiently analyze and interpret the big data being generated from sequencing entire genomes.

As the Canada Research Chair in Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, Xuekui Zhang develops statistical algorithms and software to help researchers, including medical researchers at the BC Cancer Agency, to analyze biological data. He also works with researchers in a variety of other fields to develop effective experiments and to understand the data they’ve gathered.  

Four chairs were also renewed in 2017—again all from the Faculty of Science. They are Verena Tunnicliffe (Earth and Ocean Sciences/Biology) in Deep Ocean Research; Jeremy Wulff (Chemistry) in Bioactive Small Molecule Synthesis; Gautam Awatramani (Biology) in Synaptic Physiology; and Martin Boulanger (Biochemistry and Microbiology) in Molecular Interactions and Structural Biology.

UVic has a current allocation of 38 Canada Research Chairs.


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Keywords: research, chemistry, earth and ocean sciences, mathematics and statistics

People: Katherine Elvira, Edwin Nissen, Xuekui Zhang

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