To become an academic is to make a conscious decision to dive deep into subject matter that sometimes is narrow enough to sit on the head of a pin, complex to the point of requiring unwavering focus over the course of a career and is imbibed with the potential to change the world. The Distinguished Researcher Professorship Award, conferred on faculty that have demonstrated excellence in research, provides recipients the opportunity to focus their efforts exclusively on transformational research for a full year. In 2014, four distinguished researchers from Western Science; Yuri Boykov (Computer Science), Blaine Chronick (Physics and Astronomy), Zhifeng Ding (Chemistry) and Charles Ling (Computer Science) merited this award.
A pioneer who revolutionized image analysis with his graph-cut algorythms, Yuri Boykov’s current research addresses the need to develop automatic techniques to fully analyze large amounts of medical imaging data for the diagnosis and treatment of muscular-skeletal disorders. A challenge which currently overwhelms the Canadian healthcare system and results in unacceptable waiting times to specialist treatment, Boykov’s algorithms will increase the efficiency and proficiency with which the medical community can obtain critical information regarding the fine structures inside the brain, lungs and other critical organs. Also awarded the Helmholtze prize in 2014 by the IEEE in recognition of his exceptional achievements in research, Boykov, according to Professor Andrew Blake, Director at Microsoft Ltd, is “an outstanding scientist with very bright prospects, one of the very best of his generation worldwide”.
A leader in the field of magnetic resonance (MR) systems development, Blaine Chronik enters a new chapter of his career through involvement with Synaptive Medical. The Distinguished Research Professorship Award allows Chronik to solidify his relationship with Synaptive, and take this time-sensitive opportunity to capitalize on a valuable partnership between Western Science and an industry offering innovative imaging and equipment solutions for neurosurgical procedures. With a focus on medical device development and production, this collaboration will contribute substantially to Western’s research and training programs, and commercialization activities. Chronik will be investing the remainder of his time into increasing student learning opportunities at Western, by expanding graduate training and directing research funding applications and scholarships. While Chronik leads the way in industrial partnering within the Physics and Astronomy Department, he continues to encourage and facilitate academe-industry relationships among his peers.
Founder of the globally recognized solar cell research program at Western, Zhifeng Ding’s current work emphasizes the need toward generating an alternative energy source. Part of the solution may rest on mobile and stationary devices such as fuel cells, which convert and store energy. With the flexibility provided by the Distinguished Professorship Award, Ding will direct a new NSERC strategic project application on functional ionic liquids as conductors for fuel cells, and in the process, take substantial steps towards establishing Western as a leader in this research domain. “(Ding) has the knowledge and skill, not only to do innovative science, but to transfer that knowledge to the industry,” commented Kim Baines, the Chair of Western’s Chemistry Department. Zhifeng Ding’s work is poised to create the alternative energy source Canada needs, and in doing so, enhance Western’s research reputation in Chemistry.
Specializing in research on Data Mining and Machine Learning, Charles Ling pushes the boundaries of innovation by further developing GlucoGuide, a diabetes management application for mobile devices. For the millions of Canadians affected by diabetes, Ling’s GlucoGuide is a ground-breaking system that allows Type-2 patients to keep track of their blood glucose, diet, and exercise, while giving them personalized recommendations to effectively reduce their glucose levels. Not yet incorporated in any diabetes management application, Ling’s research focuses on developing new algorithms and adding user functionality. The learning-based algorithms will extract features from images, allowing for automatic food recognition to provide effective food tracking and improve usability of the application. Ling plans to conduct a large clinical trial to test the application, and transfer the knowledge of GlucoGuide to multiple Diabetes Education Centers and Networks across Canada.