Waterloo earns two of 19 CERCs

Canada Excellence Research Chairs draw international research leaders in water and quantum information processing to Waterloo

WATERLOO, Ont. (Monday, May 17, 2010) – The federal government is recognizing the research strength of the University of Waterloo by awarding two of only 19 Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERCs), each funded at an unparalleled level in Canada – up to $10 million over seven years.

The funding helped Waterloo attract two internationally recognized researchers whose work impacts two important areas. David Cory has been appointed Canada Excellence Research Chair in Quantum Information Processing, while Philippe Van Cappellen will hold Waterloo’s Canada Excellence Research Chair in Ecohydrology.

“The federal government is to be commended for providing an unprecedented level of support for these Canada Excellence Research Chairs in a range of important disciplines,” said David Johnston, president of the University of Waterloo. “Our own chairholders will work to improve society in two key ways — in one case developing quantum devices to solve problems beyond our current abilities, and in the other case helping to establish guidelines to best balance the water needs of people and natural ecosystems.”

Waterloo is one of only 13 universities to receive CERCs from a Canada-wide competitive process. With two of only 19 such chairs, Waterloo succeeded well above the national average. 

“The Government of Canada recognizes that investing in cutting-edge research is essential to Canada’s future success,” said Peter Braid, MP for Kitchener-Waterloo. “Being awarded two of these highly competitive research chairs demonstrates the University of Waterloo’s excellence in research and innovation, and positions our community to help lead Canada in the twenty-first century.” 

A pioneer and leader in quantum information processing, Cory engineers the tools needed to navigate, control and exploit the quantum world. Called quantum sensors and actuators, these tools will form the building blocks for future quantum computers.

Cory, a former professor of nuclear engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is joining Waterloo’s chemistry department and the Institute for Quantum Computing on June 1. He will lead a new experimental IQC research centre, equipped with state-of-the-art facilities in a 10,000-square-foot laboratory. He is also a visiting researcher at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and chairs the advisory committee of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

Cory’s research is expected to contribute toward the world’s first generation of practical quantum devices. These new quantum technologies will have immediate and future applications in medicine, communications, biochemistry, physics and nanoscience.

“This chair will provide the resources needed to design, fabricate and test a first generation of quantum devices,” explains Cory. “Over the past decade, the engineering of quantum systems has become a reality. Now we aim to deploy quantum devices.”

As the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Ecohydrology, Van Cappellen will seek to increase understanding of how groundwater and surface waters interact,  and how they affect the health of human populations and aquatic ecosystems. His research focuses on the movement of nutrient elements and toxic metals between groundwater and surface water. 

Combining laboratory and field experiments with mathematical modelling, Van Cappellen will be able to define the accompanying biogeochemical changes and their impacts on water quality and ecosystem health. He will use the experimental data and theoretical modelling to develop an environmental simulation tool that can be applied to river catchments around the world. This tool will ultimately be capable of predicting how hydrological systems, which are crucial to our social and economic wellbeing, respond to natural and human-induced changes.

“The most beneficial outcome is that we will have a much better characterization of how humans impact water quality and quantity,” said Van Cappellen. “That will help develop guidelines to better manage our limited water resources by balancing the water needs of society with those of natural ecosystems.”

Van Cappellen is the Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Global Environmental Studies in the school of earth and atmospheric sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, United States. He is also a part-time professor in the department of earth sciences at Utrecht University, The Netherlands. He will join the University of Waterloo’s department of earth and environmental sciences when his appointment begins in 2011.

The CERC program provides prestigious awards to Canadian universities to help them attract and support world-class researchers in four areas of strategic importance to Canada: environmental sciences and technologies; natural resources and energy; health and related life sciences and technologies; and information and communication technologies.

About The University of Waterloo

The University of Waterloo, located at the heart of Canada’s Technology Triangle, is one of Canada’s leading comprehensive universities. Waterloo is home to 30,000 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students who are dedicated to making the future better and brighter. Waterloo, known for the largest post-secondary co-operative education program in the world, supports enterprising partnerships in learning, research and discovery. For more information about Waterloo, visituwaterloo.ca.

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George Dixon, vice-president, university research, 519-888-4889

Michael Strickland, Waterloo media relations, 519-888-4777 or mstrickl@uwaterloo.ca

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