A pair of MacEwan instructors were awarded $200,000
Megan Sarrazin / Intercamp
Dr. Samuel Mugo, center, and Dr. Jonathan Withey pose here with full-time research assistant Ting Zhou, who will be working with the pair on the research project. The duo received the NSERC research grant totalling $200,000. Students will have the opportunity to get involved with the research, with the application process likely beginning in the new year.
After much work and anticipation, Dr. Jonathan Withey and Dr. Samuel Mugo were awarded the grant back in August, although it was made public just recently.
“I think that we were not necessarily optimistic, but at the same time, I think that both Sam and I agreed that we couldn’t possibly envision having put together a more comprehensive application and so if we weren’t successful, it was more like, what on Earth could we possibly do more to make a successful application,” explained Withey.
“I remember the day we found out . . . it’s very satisfying. I think, when you come to a place like MacEwan, you come here primarily for teaching. I think we always wished to incorporate research into our teaching and I think to collectively get awarded an NSERC application independently is very, very satisfying,” he added.
The duo received funding under the College and Community Innovation Fund, which is a program where the researchers need to partner with an external source that has a mutual interest and benefit in what is being researched.
Withey and Mugo have paired with Highmark Renewables Research, a group that is highly involved with the agriculture and cattle industry here in Alberta. Over the next two years, they will be researching the level of hormones and antibiotics in biowaste and looking at effective ways to remove them.
They plan to include several students in the research, by having about five students per year hired on to help during the summer.
“The impact, I think, of this grant to MacEwan is enormous,” said Mugo.
Not only will selected students benefit from the project, but after the research is conducted, the equipment will find a permanent home at MacEwan, allowing many future students to benefit as well.
“I think to be able to not only use whatever they learn in class and apply it to something more of a real life application is a huge way to learn, because most of the students will be able to use the instruments that we have here but also will be trying to use them to solve a problem that is relevant to industry,” said Mugo.
Withey agreed, adding that the experience those select students will gain has the potential to help them after completing their studies, as they will have an advantage over their peers.
Applications will likely begin being accepted in January with a deadline looming around reading week. These selections are often competitive, but are sure to provide students with invaluable experience.
The grant officially began on Monday, Nov. 1, and after the two-year time period is completed, the pair has the opportunity to apply for even more funding if they are successful.
They will have the opportunity to apply for up to $500,000 a year for a five-year period, allowing many more possibilities for the institution.
Despite these future possibilities, the focus for the pair is on the current grant and their current research project.
“Because it’s a very significant grant, we want to ensure that we do the best possible job we can as far as delivering on that grant,” said Withey.
Up until just a few years ago, instructors at MacEwan were ineligible to apply for NSERC grants, due to the institution not being recognized by the council. Due to the recent degree-granting status of the institution, instructors are now eligible.