Lakehead University researchers receiving more than $3 million in funding

December 8, 2021 – Thunder Bay and Orillia, Ont. 

Lakehead University professors are able to perform important research thanks to the more than $2.1 million in NSERC grants and approximately $1.15 million in funding from partner organizations.

Dr. Pete Hollings, NOHFC Industrial Research Chair in Mineral Exploration and Geology professor, is receiving five Alliance grants worth $1.03 million and an additional $655,000 from his partner organizations, including Clean Air Metals Inc., Impala Canada, Enersoft and Generation Mining, and Wesdome Gold Mines Ltd.

Photo of Dr. Pete Hollings

For one of those projects, Dr. Hollings is receiving $180,000 from NSERC and $90,000 from Wesdome Gold Mines to focus on the Eagle River Complex in the Mishibishu greenstone belt – located 50 km west of Wawa.

Dr. Hollings will work with two graduate students over the next three years.

“This research will combine traditional and state-of-the-art analytical techniques to characterize the mineralization and alteration system associated with the Eagle River Complex gold deposits and the Mishibishu greenstone belt that hosts them,” Dr. Hollings said.

He and his team will determine information about the rock formation including its age and geochemical makeup, which they will use to characterize the footprint of the alteration and develop models that Wesdome can apply on the property and in their ongoing regional exploration.

Photo of Dr. Amanda Diochon

Dr. Amanda Diochon, Associate Professor in Geology, is receiving an Alliance grant of $172,506 and $107,816 from her partner, Grain Farmers of Ontario to evaluate the effect of land conversion practices on soil health and the yields of barley and oats.

Climate change is creating opportunities for agricultural expansion in Northern Ontario, which will demand the conversion of forest and scrub-brush to productive fields, Dr. Diochon said.

“We will examine the longer-term effects of land conversion on soil health and soil organic matter to identify the best indicators for monitoring change in soil health here in Northern Ontario,” she said.

Dr. Diochon and her team will also establish a field trial to examine the effects of woody residue incorporation, rate of fertilizer application, and rotation strategy on yields of oats and barley.

Dr. Ashley Thomson, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Natural Resources Management, is receiving an Alliance grant of nearly $80,000 and $40,000 from partners Resolute Forest Products and the Superior-woods Tree Improvement Association.

Dr. Ashley Thomson

She and her team will develop and validate genomic-assisted breeding models for increased productivity and wood quality for black spruce, one of the most abundant and widely planted tree species in Canada’s boreal forest.

“We are aiming to improve the growth and quality of black spruce in Northwestern Ontario,” Dr. Thomson said.

Traditional tree improvement programs for black spruce in Ontario have produced modest gains in growth, but take a long time to achieve, she said.

“With this research, we will test the application of a relatively new approach to improved breeding called genomic selection, to increase the growth per unit time that can be achieved for Ontario’s black spruce breeding programs.”

This will be the first study that evaluates the accuracy of genomic selection applied to an operational breeding program of black spruce in Ontario.

“Congratulations to each researcher and a special thanks to NSERC and all funding partners for these awards,” said Dr. Andrew P. Dean, Lakehead University’s Vice-President, Research and Innovation.

“The NSERC Alliance program ensures that applied research is well supported. The outcomes from these projects will have direct impact on economies in Northern Ontario and Simcoe County.”

The Research Support Fund is a federal funding program for post-secondary institutions in Canada to support some of the costs associated with managing research funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. 

In 2020/21, Lakehead University received nearly $2 million in assistance from the Research Support Fund to support the indirect costs of research, which includes costs for supporting the management of intellectual property, research and administration, ethics and regulatory compliance, research resources, and research facilities.


New NSERC Partnership Funding 2020-2021

$2,117,240 in funding from NSERC, plus $1,153,566 cash from partner organizations

Alliance Grants (one-to-five-year grants)

Dr. Amir Ameli, Electrical Engineering (Barrie), “Establishing a Cyber-Security Cluster in the City of Orillia: Analyzing Feasibility and Risks”, $25,000 (in partnership with City of Orillia, which is providing $25,000 in cash).

  • Collaborator: Dr. Mohsen Ghafouri, Concordia University

Dr. Ehsan Rezazadeh Azar, Civil Engineering, “Computer Vision-based Condition Assessment of the Public Transit Infrastructure Assets”, $30,000 (in partnership with Consat Canada Inc., and City of Thunder Bay who are both providing $7,500 cash each).

Dr. Muntasir Billah, Civil Engineering, “Healthbox-A Modular Solution for Expanding Hospital's Capacities During the COVID-19 Pandemic”, $49,980 (in partnership with Coastal Steel Construction Limited and Rai Consulting Services Inc.).

  • Co-applicant: Dr. Ahmed Elshaer, Department of Civil Engineering

Dr. Muntasir Billah, Civil Engineering, “Keeping Infrastructure Safe During the COVID-19 Pandemic using Artificial Intelligence”, $49,880 (in partnership with TBT Engineering Limited).

Dr. Salimur Choudhury, Computer Science, “A Dynamic Scheduler for Health Care Resources in the Emergency Department of TBRHSC on exploiting Machine Learning during Diverse Situations of COVID-19 Pandemic”, $49,724 (in partnership with the TBRHSC).

  • Collaborator: Dr. David Savage, Northern Ontario School of Medicine.

Dr. Gautam Das, Physics, “Photonic Device for the Detection of COVID-19 virus as a Point of Care Diagnostic Tool”, $50,000 (in partnership with Wilson Analytical).

Dr. Amanda Diochon, Geology, “Optimizing the Ratio of Paper Mill Biosolids and Wood Ash for a Soil Amendment to Maximize Yield and Soil Quality”, $20,250 (in partnership with Resolute Forest Products which is providing $20,250 in cash).

Dr. Amanda Diochon, Geology, “Which Approach Makes the Most Cents? Evaluating the Effect of Land Conversion Practices on Soil Health and Yields of Barley and Oats”, $172,506 (in partnership with Grain Farmers of Ontario which is providing $107,816 in cash to the project).


  • Dr. Dave Morris, OMNRF
  • Emily Potter, NOFIA

Dr. Peter Hollings, Geology, “Petrogenesis and Geochemistry of Mineralized Midcontinent Rift intrusions”, $300,000 (in partnership with Clean Air Metals Inc., which is providing $150,000 in cash).


  • Dawn Evans-Lamswood, Clean Air Metals Inc.
  • Al MacTavish, Clean Air Metals Inc.
  • Justin Johnson, Clean Air Metals Inc.
  • Abraham Drost, Clean Air Metals Inc.
  • Dr. Derek Harold Wilton, Memorial University

Dr. Peter Hollings, Geology, “Petrogenesis of Archean and Mesoproterozoic Ni-Cu-PGE mineralization in NW Ontario”, $375,000 (in partnership with Impala Canada which is providing $375,000 in cash).


  • Lionnel Djon, Impala Canada Ltd.,
  • Dave Benson, Impala Canada Ltd.,
  • Dr. Jim Miller, Consultant

Dr. Peter Hollings, Geology, “Copper-platinum Group Element Mineralization of the Midcontinent Rift-related Marathon Deposit, Ontario”, $80,000 (in partnership with  Enersoft and Generation Mining, which are providing a combined total of $40,000 in cash).


  • John McBride, Generation Mining,          
  • David Henderson, Enersoft Inc.
  • Dr. John Manchuk, Enersoft Inc.
  • Dr. Dave Good, Western University

Dr. Peter Hollings, Geology, “Alteration Footprint of the Eagle River Au Mine, Northwestern Ontario”, $180,000 (in partnership with Wesdome Gold Mines Ltd., which is providing $ 90,000 in cash).


  • Michael Michaud, Wesdome Gold Mines Ltd
  • Nathan Forslund,  Wesdome Gold Mines Ltd
  • Hayley Halsall-Whitney, Wesdome Gold Mines Ltd

Dr. Peter Hollings, Geology, “Geochemistry of the Lundmark-Akow Lake Au and VMS

mineralization, Northwestern Ontario”, $100,000 (in partnership with Romios Gold Resources Inc., which is providing $50,000 in cash).


  • Tom Drivas, Romios Gold Resources Inc.
  • John Biczok, Romios Gold Resources Inc.
  • Nicholas Guest, Romios Gold Resources Inc.

Dr. Salama Ikki, Electrical Engineering, “COVID-19: Early Identification and Monitoring of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Disease Community Spread”, $50,000 (in partnership with Onica).

 Co-applicant: Dr. Emad Mohammed, Lakehead University

Collaborator: Dr. Khobaib Zaamout, Onica


Dr. Baoqiang Liao, Chemical Engineering, “Fundamental Studies and Optimization of High-Rate Aerobic Membrane Bioreactors Under Short SRTs and High Ammonia Concentration”, $50,000 (in partnership with SUEZ Water Technologies & Solutions, which is providing $50,000 in cash).

 Co-applicant: Dr. Zoe Li, McMaster University

Collaborator: Youngseck  Hong, SUEZ  Water Technologies & Solutions


Dr. Alla Reznik, Physics, “Advanced detector technology for Digital Breast Tomosynthesis”, $100,000 (in partnership with Teledyne DALSA, which is providing $50,000 in cash towards the project).

Dr. Ashley Thomson, Natural Resources Management, “Development and Validation of Genomic-assisted Breeding Models for Increased Productivity and Wood Quality of Black Spruce in Ontario, Canada”, $79,900 (in partnership with Resolute Forest Products and  Superior-woods Tree Improvement Association, which are contributing a combined total of $40,000 in cash).


  • Dr. Mathew Leitch, Natural Resources Management.

    Collaborator: Dr. Pengxin Lu, Ontario Forest Research Institute, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR)


Dr. Abdulsalam Yassine, Software Engineering, “A Cloud-based System for the Integration of Ultraviolet Light Devices to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19”, $50,000 (in partnership with ASM Innovations and Qponics Biotechnology Inc.).


Dr. Wilson Wang, Mechanical Engineering, “Development of a New Helicopter Aerial Refuelling System”,         $180,000 (in partnership with Wilderness North Group of Companies, which is providing $90,000 in cash).



  • Dave Gaudino, Wilderness North Group of Companies


 Idea to Innovation Grant (one-year grant)


Dr. Alla Reznik, Physics, “Lead Oxide (PbO) photoconductor Technology for Low-dose x-ray Medical Imaging Detectors-Phase I (Reduction-to-Practice Stage)”, $125,000.





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Lakehead University is a fully comprehensive university with approximately 9,700 full-time equivalent students and over 2,000 faculty and staff at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead has 10 faculties, including Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Graduate Studies, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Law, Natural Resources Management, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Science & Environmental Studies, and Social Sciences & Humanities. Lakehead University’s achievements have been recognized nationally and internationally, including being ranked, once again, among Canada’s Top 10 primarily undergraduate universities in Maclean’s 2021 University Rankings; as well as included in the top half of Times Higher Education's 2022 World Universities Rankings for the third consecutive year, and in the top 100 of 1,115 universities from around the world in THE's 2021 Impact Rankings (which assesses institutions against the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals). Visit