NSERC President Brzustowski Reveals Research 'Secrets'

By Marissa Lee

One of Canada's best-kept secrets involves billions of dollars, tens of thousands of people, hundreds of companies, and most Canadian universities, says Dr. Tom Brzustowski, president of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

Speaking last month to chamber of commerce audiences both in Calgary and Edmonton, the NSERC president stressed how research is crucial for the growth of the Canadian economy and the future of young people.

Appointed NSERC president in 1995, Dr. Brzustowski, educated as engineer, went on to hold positions as professor and chairman of mechanical engineering, and academic vice-president at the University of Waterloo. He also served as deputy minister in the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities, and on the Ontario premier's Council.

Canadian taxpayers have invested nearly $7 billion in university-based research and advanced training in the natural sciences and engineering through NSERC since its inception 20 years ago. During the 1997-98 fiscal year, the council will have invested approximately $433 million in all its programs.

NSERC has supported some of Canada's best scientists and engineers through grants, partnerships with industry and scholarships, and fellowships for postgraduate and postdoctoral students. Its funding supports 12,000 persons, 80 per cent of whom are postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Nearly all people supported complete their degrees; 98 per cent are employed and more than 65 per cent are working in research and development. In addition, yearly more than 8,000 professors at 58 Canadian universities receive research funding from NSERC.

Parallel to such government support, more than 1,000 companies have invested more than $600 million in joint project research with NSERC. Companies cannot afford to stand still. They must develop new products and services to compete effectively and increase their share of the world market, said Dr. Brzustowski.

He went on to list some leading Alberta engineer/researchers who have been awarded NSERC support. They include:

the University of Alberta's Zdenek Eisenstein, P.Eng., PhD, one of the world's leading experts in tunneling technology, who was involved in the construction of the Chunnel between Britain and France;
 
the U of A's Jacob Masliyah, P.Eng., PhD, whose NSERC research grants have been used to develop cheaper and more effective ways of transporting oil sand. His experimental work and software have provided much valuable design information that has been used to improve the efficiency of mines and separation plants, and steadily reduced production costs;
 
Professor Len Bruton, P.Eng., PhD, of The University of Calgary, whose research on solid-state filters has allowed filtering of static and noise from phone conversations, and permitted development of new instruments for observing and sensing our environment, as well as aided the production as high-definition television;
 
U of C researchers Professor Ludo Zanzotto, P.Eng., PhD, who with the support of NSERC, Husky Oil and Nova Chemicals, has developed durable paving materials that provide taxpayers with better quality roads. His new research program is looking at the use of post-consumer plastic waste and used tires to increase asphalt durability; and
 
Walter Dilger, P.Eng., PhD, of Calgary, is an international leader in the fields of concrete technology, structural engineering and bridge design. P