$9.5 million in grants to UVic researchers through NSERC

Research at the University of Victoria got a big boost earlier this month as Federal Science Minister Kirsty Duncan arrived on campus to announce $9.5 million in Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) grants to 81 faculty members and students.

NSERC President Mario Pinto also attended the announcement of UVic recipients awarded a 2017 Discovery Grant, a flagship program for basic research funding in Canada for the past century in the areas of natural sciences and engineering.

“These awards recognize that creativity and innovation drive research advances,” says UVic President Jamie Cassels. “We appreciate NSERC’s vital ongoing support for fundamental research and the training of the next generation of our leaders in natural sciences and engineering.”

The federal funding announced today includes $7.8 million in individual grants to 48 UVic researchers, with an additional $1.7 million awarded in scholarships, fellowships and accelerator supplements to other faculty and students. NSERC is providing a total $515 million in Discovery Grants this year to researchers at Canadian universities.

Two Faculty of Science researchers were highlighted at the announcement: Dean Karlen and Fraser Hof. 

Dean Karlen is a particle researcher in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. He is a physicist with TRIUMF – Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear-based physics and accelerator-based science founded in 1968 by UVic, SFU and UBC – and leads the flagship multidisciplinary research facility there, the Advanced Rare Isotope Laboratory (ARIEL).

The work done at ARIEL is broadening Canada’s research capabilities in particle physics, nuclear physics, nuclear medicine and materials science. ARIEL’s unique techniques and tools can produce rare isotopes not typically found in nature, using particle accelerators found in only a handful of laboratories around the world. These isotopes provide a broad range of applications, from medical imaging to advanced industrial manufacturing and targeted therapy for tumours.

Karlen has participated extensively in particle physics experiments around the world, dating back to the 1980s. He served as director of UVic’s Victoria Subatomics Physics and Accelerator Research Centre (VISPA) and continues to play an active role in scientific and operational aspects of the T2K experiment in Japan, where he previously led a project to incorporate technology known as a Micropattern Time Projection Chamber into the T2K long baseline neutrino experiment.

  • Discovery Grant 2017: Karlen is receiving $205,000 over three years for graduate student support for accelerator physics projects on ARIEL


Fraser Hof is a professor in the Department of Chemistry. He is a Canada Research Chair in Supramolecular and Medicinal Chemistry, doing research work to fill the gap between recent cancer-research discoveries and the development of new anti-cancer drugs.

Many internal signals that tell cancer cells to grow uncontrollably and invade neighbouring tissues consist of two or more proteins that bind to each other. Hof investigates these “protein-protein” interactions as targets for disruptive agents that could stop the growth of cancers and serve as new therapies.

A conversation over beer with a scientist working at a Victoria craft brewery led Hof into a whole other line of research in 2016. Canadian breweries typically lose up to two per cent of their annual beer production due to not having a precise method of identifying when brewer’s yeast has been exhausted and can no longer be reused. Working with scientists at Phillips Brewing and Malting Co., Hof identified a “chemical enrichment method” that can solve the problem.

The yeast cells that Hof uses as early models in his medical research are similar to those used for brewing. Hof finds “incredible satisfaction” in being able to apply the knowledge gained through that work to help a local industry in his home community.

  • Frequent Discovery Grant recipient since 2006 including Discovery Grant 2014-2019 of $340,000 

Read the full media release.