Lakehead researcher examining economic potential of Marathon minerals

June 24, 2015 – Thunder Bay, ON                                                                                                              

Lakehead University researchers are receiving more than $2.6 million to examine the economic potential of minerals in Marathon, green technologies for wastewater treatment, and other potential breakthroughs.

This research is being funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

Dr. Aicheng Chen, Canada Research Chair in Materials and Environmental Chemistry, is receiving the seventh largest Discovery Grant in Canada – $535,000 over five years. He will use electrochemistry to create new green technologies for sustainable energy development, wastewater treatment and water purification.

Dr. Chen is also using electrochemistry to design high-performance sensors for environmental and medical monitoring. His research could lead to electrochemical technologies that are more environmentally friendly and effective for water purification, renewable energy, mining, and pulp and paper.

Dr. Chen is a professor in Lakehead’s Department of Chemistry.

Dr. Shannon Zurevinski, an Assistant Professor in Geology, is receiving $100,000 over five years for work on a project that combines mineralogical and geochemical study of the Coldwell Alkaline Complex near Marathon, Ontario.

This is the largest alkaline complex in North America — best described as a great mass of igneous rocks rich in the alkali metals sodium and potassium. The complex is 1.1 billion years old and was formed by the partial break-up of the North American continent at that time.

This study will add to our knowledge of the geological events of the Proterozoic eon, and evaluate economic mineral potential in the region.

“The work that our researchers do often leads to exciting developments that bring a better future to humans and our planet,” said Dr. Andrew Dean, Vice-President (Research, Economic Development and Innovation).

“They couldn’t do this work without funding from organizations such as NSERC,” Dr. Dean said.

Lakehead University Provost & Vice-President (Academic) Dr. Moira McPherson congratulated the researchers on receiving this funding and thanked them for all of their hard work.

“Not only are our researchers changing the world, they also help inform people about the exceptional education that Lakehead University students receive,” she said.

NSERC Grants awarded in 2014-2015

Total value of awards:  $2,664,110

Faculty Member Grants

Collaborative Health Research Projects (three-year grant)

Dr. Ingeborg Zhebe, Adjunct Professor with Lakehead’s Department of Biology and Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute (TBRRI), High intensity focused ultrasound and newly engineered single domain antibodies for non-invasive treatment of human papillomavirus-related cervical cancer, $226,870 (matched by $226,870 from CIHR).


  • Dr. Laura Curiel, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Research Scientist, TBRRI.
  • Dr. Naana Jumah, Faculty of Medicine, West Campus, and Clinician Researcher, TBRRI.
  • Christopher Phenix, Adjunct Professor, Department of Chemistry and Research Scientist TBRRI.
  • Dr. Jamshid Tanha, University of Ottawa.


  • Philips Healthcare Canada



Collaborative Research & Development Grant (two - three year grants)

  • Dr. Pedram, Fatehi, Canada Research Chair in Green Chemicals and Processes, Department of Chemical Engineering, Production of value-added products from hydrolysis lignin, $265,000 (with industrial partner FPInnovations).
  • Dr. Pedram, Fatehi, Canada Research Chair in Green Chemicals and Processes, Department of Chemical Engineering, Development of a process to treat pulping/bleaching effluent with fly ash, $100,000 (with industrial partner Resolute Forest Products).
  • Dr. Aicheng Chen, Canada Research Chair in Materials and Environmental Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, Characterization and Modification of graphite to advanced value-added products, $178,500 (with industrial partner Zenyatta Ventures Ltd).


Discovery Grant - Individual Operating Grant (five-year grants)

  • Dr. Marina Ulanova, Faculty of Medicine, West Campus, Role of NOD-like receptors and inflammasome activation in innate immunity to pathogenic bacteria, $150,000.
  • Dr. Laura Curiel, Adjunct Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering and TBRRI, Enhancing high intensity focused ultrasound molecule delivery using molecular imaging, $95,000.
  • Dr. Aicheng Chen, Canada Research Chair in Materials and Environmental Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, Electrochemical and photocatalytic studies of functional nanomaterials, $535,000.
  • Dr. Ingeborg Zhebe, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biology and Research Scientists, TBRRI, Virus-host interactions in the context of natural human papillomavirus type 16 E6 gene variants, $170,000.
  • Dr. Shannon Zurevinski, Department of Geology, Mineralogy, petrology and isotope systematics of Proterozoic continental rift-related alkaline magmatism, Northwestern Ontario, Canada, $100,000.
  • Dr. Azar Ehsan, Rezazadeh, Department of Civil Engineering, Smart vision-based monitoring system for heavy construction and surface mining jobsites, $115,000.
  • Dr.  Alla Reznik, Chair in the Physics of Molecular Imaging, Department of Physics, and TBRRI Polycrystalline Lead Oxide (PbO) photoconductor: physics and application in direct conversion x-ray medical imaging detectors, $140,000.
  • Dr.  Leila Pakzad, Department of Chemical Engineering, Investigation of mixing in Multiphase (gas, solid, and liquid) flow through experimental and numerical (computational fluid dynamic) techniques, $125,000.
  • Dr.  Ayan Sadhu, Department of Civil Engineering, Cost-effective Rehabilitation of Civil Infrastructure using Limited Sensors, $120,000.


Discovery Development Grants (2-year grants)

  • Dr. Gautam Das, Department of Physics, Near-infrared and mid-infrared fiber lasers for applications in spectroscopy, medicine and biophotonics research, $20,ooo.
  • Dr. Craig MacKinnon, Department of Chemistry, Chemical to solid modification in oligothiophene and related materials, $20,000.
  • Dr. Sudip Rakshit, Canada Research Chair in Bioenergy and Biorefining Processes, Department of Chemical Engineering, Novel approach to high yielding value added products utilizing crude glycerol a major byproduct of the rapidly expanding biodiesel industry, $20,000.


Engage Grants (up to six months)

  • Dr. Kefu Liu, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Computer simulation of static and dynamic behaviors of mechanical structures bonded by adhesive materials, $25,000 (in partnership with Bombardier Transportation).
  • Dr. Han Chen, Lakehead University Research Chair in Global Climate Change and Boreal Forests, Faculty of Natural Resources Management, The influence of harvesting and climate on the hydrologic functions of boreal forest watersheds on the north shore of Lake Superior, $25,000 (in partnership with Lake Nipigon Forest Management Inc.).
  • Dr. Jiang Zi-Hua, Department of Chemistry, Synthetic NOD-lie receptor ligands for modulating immune responses, $25,000 (in partnership with Alberta Research Chemicals Inc.).
  • Dr. Wilson Wang, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Analysis and improvement of wire forming processes, $25,000 (in partnership with Techform Products Limited).
  • Dr. Sudip Kamar Rakshit, Canada Research Chair in Bioenergy and Biorefining Processes, Department of Chemical Engineering, Development of agri-food waste biogas system as an alternative energy source for local farm product processing unit, $25,000 (in partnership with Belluz Farms).
  • Dr. Pedram Fatehi, Canada Research Chair in Green Chemicals and Processes, Department of Chemical Engineering, Production of ion exchange resin via copolymerization of BioChoiceTM lignin and styrene, $25,000 (in partnership with Domtar Corporation).
  • Dr. Baoqiang Liao, Department of Chemical Engineering, Hemicellulose Recovery and Purification from TMP Mill Wastewaters, $25,000 (in partnership with Resolute Forest Products Inc., Thunder Bay).
  • Dr. Baoqiang Liao, Department of Chemical Engineering,       Malting wastewater biorefinery for energy recovery, solids reduction and water reuse, $24,950 (in partnership with Canada Malting Co Limited).
  • Dr. Mathew Leitch, Faculty of Natural Resources Management, Updating field data collection with wood property metrics combined with spatial data using Gerema, $21,000 (in partnership with Green Forest Management Inc.).



Connection Grant (up to three months)

  • Dr. Wensheng Qin, Department of Biology, Microbial degradation of lignin and characterization of lignin-degraded value-added, $3,290.


Graduate Student Awards

Master's Students - Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarships (one-year awards worth $17,500)

  • Kevin Gagnon, MSc Chemistry, Development of substituent parameters derived from the quantum theory of atoms in molecules.


PhD Students - NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship (PGS) Program

  • Bal Ram Adhikari, PhD Biotechnology, Nanomaterials-Based electrochemical biosensors for medical and environmental applications, $42,000.



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In 2015, Lakehead University will celebrate 50 years of exceptional education. Guided by its Strategic Plan (2013-2018), Lakehead is known for providing an education focused on independent thinking, unconventional scholarship, and a close sense of community. About 9,700 full-time equivalent students and 2,000 faculty and staff learn and work in ten faculties at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead University is a fully comprehensive university: home to Ontario’s newest Faculty of Law in 44 years, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and faculties of Engineering, Business Administration, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Social Sciences & Humanities, Science & Environmental Studies, Natural Resources Management, Education, and Graduate Studies.

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