College hopes grant will boost IT research

Louis Pin, The Sarnia Observer | January 12, 2019

Lambton College wants a piece of the digital research pie.
Last week, the school announced their new Information Technology & Communication Research Centre on the heels of a $2 million grant from the national science and engineering granting agency NSERC. The grant, spread over five years, will be put toward applied IT research projects in the school’s new NOVA Chemicals Health & Research Centre.

A physical space has already been set up for the new IT centre. Now it’s just a matter of filling that space with researchers and students.

“(The funding will help us) actually execute projects,” Mehdi Sheikhzadeh, executive dean of Applied Research and Innovation, said. “Even though Sarnia-Lambton is not very famous for IT, we have quite a bit of expertise between our faculty and with our students on the IT side. And in the last seven years we have worked with many companies, and we have a good track record (with them).”

A handful of already started IT projects will immigrate to the new research centre this spring. All are collaborative efforts with local industry.

Those projects are all possible without the Information Technology & Communication Research Centre. Instead, the centre will help coordinate the school’s digital research sector through collaborations and joint initiatives. The school hoped those collaborations will boost their status as a national player in applied IT research.

Chad Nedin, a local IT guru with experience in water treatment systems, will head the new centre.

“We are hoping to have around two, three students or graduates per project,” Sheikhzadeh said. “And the $2 million (grant from NSERC) will be used to engage around 50 to 60 students by the time we complete the projects.”

Students will be hired throughout the next five years, with money from the NSERC grant and others. The school wants keep momentum in applied IT research once that money runs out, Sheikhzadeh said, one of the reasons for creating the new Information Technology & Communication Research Centre.

It’s about more than the college. If successful, the school hopes to attract IT businesses to the area to form an IT cluster, one that could lead to more opportunities, grants, and collaborations with industry.

“Many of those companies, when they come and relocate to Sarnia, they will need RND, they will need highly qualified people,” Sheikhzadeh said. “So I hope that the new research centre will be a good place . . . to provide that support to that industry.”

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