Granting science and engineering wishes
By Sabrina Carinci and Dave Yasvinski
Science and engineering students received news of financial help for research this week thanks to an announcement of increased funding by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.
The council has decided approximately two-thirds of the $71 million budget increase they received from the federal government will be put towards initiating and enhancing student research at the university level. The money will be used to assist undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students to begin and continue laboratory work.
Arnet Sheppard, public relations officer for NSERC, said $20.4 million of this money will be directed immediately to research grant holders to allow them to take on and train more students to assist in their research projects.
Ian Moore, associate dean of research and graduate studies in engineering at Western, said he is very pleased with NSERC president Tom Brzustowski, who he said convinced finance minister Paul Martin to admit cutting grant money to the research council was a mistake.
"Every grant has been cut by approximately five per cent in the past it's really important for grad students to have funding," Moore said.
The increase to the budget has also allowed NSERC to reinstate programs which had to be cut in the past, such as the Undergraduate Student Research Awards Program, Sheppard said. The program, which provides the opportunity for undergraduates to work in research labs for four months, will be extended to accommodate 2,000 students.
Project grants have also been increased by $7 million to help encourage collaborative research with industry and open up more student research positions.
This funding is not significant but it is important, said Mohan Mathur, dean of engineering at Western. "I am very happy something has been done in a positive direction but there is a lot more to do," he said.
Mathur added it is difficult to convince students to forego a job where they could be earning $40,000 a year to work on post-graduate research for less than half the amount. He explained he is supportive of the reinstatement of the undergraduate awards program for this reason.
"It is very important to get undergraduates back in the lab and give them a feel for research they don't get in class. It is a motivational factor that is very important," he said.
Although unsure of the exact amount of money the faculties will receive, Yong Kang, dean of science, said the increase in the NSERC grant will help create new scholarships and attract new students into both the faculty of science and engineering science.