Halifax, N.S. – The computer screen in front of Dr. Randy Newman dances with peaks of red and blue lines as a test subject hooked to a computer in a nearby room listens to a list of rhyming words.
The Associate Psychology professor at Acadia University is watching the young person’s brain in action, noting carefully how different sounds create different brain wave patterns on the screen. She is trying to understand the role of the brain in language and reading.
“We live in a knowledge economy, yet half the population doesn’t have the literacy skills to understand complex materials,’’ says Dr. Newman. “The more we can understand how people learn to read, the better our chances at developing interventions that will help improve literacy.”
Nova Scotia has some of the lowest literacy rates in the country, especially in rural areas. Boosting those levels can provide foundational changes in education, employment and income that are critical to the development of a progressive, creative change-oriented society required for a more productive and competitive economy.
Dr. Newman’s work got a boost recently with $41,348 support from the Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Trust (NSRIT) towards the expansion and renovation of her Reading and Speech Processing Lab. The assistance will allow her to add an acoustic chamber and eye-tracking software, creating a regional hub for understanding reading and its development.
“Trailblazing research and development that drives the economy and improves the lives of Nova Scotians requires innovative talent and leading-edge equipment and infrastructure,” says Lois Levine, Executive Director of NSRIT. ”The province of Nova Scotia, through NSRIT, provides support to enable this research and attract the brightest researchers who train our students to be the globally competitive key players in the economy of the future.”
At Dalhousie University in Halifax, a $125,000 NSRIT contribution toward a $450,000 project is helping Dr. Michael Bezuhly, a pediatric and craniofacial surgeon, investigate whether drugs currently used to prevent conditions ranging from cystic fibrosis to heart attack and stroke can also be used to help prevent certain cancers or improve reconstructive surgery outcomes following cancer treatment.
“My aim is to repurpose old drugs for novel clinical applications, adding value to existing products,” says Dr. Bezuhly.
Fundamental to Dr. Bezuhly’s work is a technique called optical imaging that allows researchers to see individual live fluorescent cells. The images allow investigators to quickly assess the effectiveness of drugs on different disease processes.
Unique to the Maritimes, this multimodality equipment will improve the opportunities to visualize changes in cell populations in order to proactively prevent cancer progression and repair the damage caused by its treatment.
Dr. Bezuhly’s research holds tremendous opportunities for vital treatments and commercialization partnerships with drug companies, as well as the ability to equip student clinicians and investigators with the skills to transfer biomedical research into future clinical practice, thereby improving the quality of life for people diagnosed with cancer.
“Innovative research and a strong, vibrant research community are critical to building a knowledge-based economy,” said Michel Samson, Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism. “This valuable partnership of our academic community and the provincial government, through the Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Trust, is helping to support cutting-edge research done right here in Nova Scotia.”
Dr. Newman’s and Dr. Bezuhly’s research are just two of 12 new projects at Acadia University, Cape Breton University, Mount Saint Vincent University and Dalhousie University to receive funding for leading-edge equipment through the Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Trust. More than $1.6 million was approved by NSRIT with leveraging support for these 12 projects totaling $4.43 million with an estimated 300 highly qualified people to be trained or employed through these projects over the next five years.
Other recently funded research infrastructure supports the study and development of wastewater treatment systems, solutions for osteoarthritis management, eye disease treatment, early intervention to resolve mental health issues, and the reproductive success in birds and fish species as a reflection of changing climates.
Funded by the Government of Nova Scotia, through Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, the Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Trust matches research funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation. In the last 13 years, the Trust has supported 390 projects and attracted more than $100 million in additional investments in Nova Scotia research.