Friday’s “research showcase” at the University of Northern B.C. was “more than just a funding announcement,” said Max Blouw, the university’s vice-president of research.
The event was highlighted by an $800,000 contribution to the university’s High Performance Computing facility.
But it also included the ribbon cutting on the new Social Sciences multimedia research lab, and the presenting of a number of awards to individual researchers under the federal government’s New Opportunities Fund.
It was also a public recognition of the role that research plays at the university and in the region it serves, said Blouw.
“Our research activity is becoming a major vehicle for raising UNBC’s profile across Canada and around the world, while having outcomes that make a difference to people right here in our own communities,” he said. “The primary goal of research is to advance knowledge and understanding, and it also has a significant local economic impact.”
Former University of B.C. president David Strangway was on hand to announce the contribution of $800,000 to the computing facility by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the organization Strangway now looks after.
The computer technology has been used by more than 85 researchers in fields as diverse as salmon habitat, atmospheric modeling and long-term land-use management.
The latest funding is expected to benefit between 30 and 40 further researchers working in areas such as mapping health care utilization, air quality, the role of forests in climate change and the properties of wood for the development of value-added products, said Blouw.
The computing facility is the only one of its kind in the region and allows researchers to build three-dimensional models and computerized simulations.
The Canada Foundation for Innovation has been instrumental in a number of research projects at the university, said Blouw, who noted research is “increasingly a contact sport” with growing involvement from all levels of government as well as private industry.
Much of UNBC’s research is focused on northern issues and funded in partnership with northern companies and communities.
The university has research forests at Aleza Lake, in partnership with UBC, and north of Fort St. James, in partnership with the Tl’azt’en First Nation. It runs an integrated resource management program in northeastern B.C.’s Muskwa-Kechika area, conducts ecology research at the Quesnel River Research Centre, and forest research at the I.K. Barber Enhanced Forestry Lab on campus.
The university also has a number of research institutes, including those dedicated to northern community development, northern land use, special needs children, social indicators and rural health.
Major research programs now underway focus on offshore oil and gas, the integration of First Nations into resource management and assessing pain in health care settings.
Friday also marked the launch of a new web server that will act as a kind of cyber-warehouse containing information on all of the university’s research activities.