Mount Allison researchers awarded NSERC Discovery Grants

23 Jun 2016

Projects in chemistry and biochemistry, biology, and math and computer science receive five-year funding

SACKVILLE, NB — Four Mount Allison University researchers received over half-a-million dollars in new research funding during the most recent competition for Discovery Grants by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The news came as part of a national NSERC announcement, made on June 23, 2016.

“The recent success, and previous track record, of Mount Allison researchers in the NSERC Discovery Grant competitions are a testament to the high quality of research being conducted on campus,” says Dr. Jeff Ollerhead, Mount Allison’s incoming provost and vice-president, academic and research. “These funds provide essential support for research projects and also enable many of our students to gain valuable research experience with our faculty members. I wish to congratulate all on their accomplishments.”

Westcott_Lab_NSERCFundingChemistry and Biochemistry professor and Canada Research Chair of Boron Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Dr. Stephen Westcott is investigating reactions between new compounds containing boron and phosphorus. Westcott’s project, To B-E or not to B-E?: Developing New Boranes and Boration Reactions, received $300,000 in new funding over five years.

The project is in the very beginning stages but Westcott and his team, including many undergraduate students, hope to look at possible new uses for these compounds in the medical, industrial, and agricultural fields.

“Boron is beginning to be used in pharmaceuticals and is a known essential element for plants as well as being a potent insecticide for ants in particular,” says Westcott. “Phosphorus is a common ingredient in fertilizer and has a lot of industrial applications. We’re hoping to see what kind of reactions we get between these elements when we work with our new compounds and what their potential applications in green chemistry and other areas could be.”

Messinger_NSERCfundingMath and Computer Science professor Dr. Margaret-Ellen Messinger received a $20,000 Development Discovery Grant, aimed at new researchers at small universities.

Messinger’s research project, Graph searching and dynamic domination looks broadly at network security, both physical (ie road systems) and computer networks.

“Our work looks at graph searching problems in particular networks,” says Messinger. “We’re basically looking to help answer the question, if you have an intruder in your network, how do you proceed?”

Graph searching problems needs to take into account a number of factors including resources and costs around capture as well as automation and functionality of those dedicated resources. The work is part of a rapidly growing field in theoretical computer science with many potential practical applications.

A continuation of her previous research, Messinger will have two undergraduate students working with her on the project this summer at Mount Allison, as well as collaborators and colleagues throughout the Maritimes, Ontario, and in Florida.

Dr. Karen Crosby (biology) received $135,000 for her research project entitled, Cellular and synaptic physiology of the dorsomedial hypothalamus, and Dr. Nathanial Johnston (math and computer science) received $108,500 for his research, Mathematical aspects of quantum entanglement theory.

Mount Allison also received $17,500 in new funding through NSERC’s Canada Graduate Scholarships-Master’s program.


NSERC invests over $1 billion each year in natural sciences and engineering research in Canada. Our investments deliver discoveries – valuable world-firsts in knowledge claimed by a brain trust of over 11,000 professors. These investments enable partnerships and collaborations that connect industry with discoveries and the people behind them. Researcher-industry partnerships established by NSERC help inform R&D, solve scale-up challenges, and reduce the risks of developing high-potential technology.

NSERC also provides scholarships and hands-on training experience for more than 30,000 post-secondary students and post-doctoral fellows. These young researchers will be the next generation of science and engineering leaders in Canada.

Photo captions:

(L-R): Mount Allison chemistry students Sam Donaldson, Forrest Gallagher, and Sam Baird are all completing research in Dr. Steve Westcott’s lab. Westcott received an NSERC Discovery Grant, valued at $300,000 over five years for his project, To B-E or not to B-E?: Developing New Boranes and Boration Reactions, during the 2016 competition.

Dr. Margaret-Ellen Messinger, Mount Allison University math and computer science professor has received an NSERC Development Discovery Grant, valued at $20,000 over two years for her project, Graph searching and dynamic domination.

Homepage: Biology professor Dr. Karen Crosby in her lab. Crosby has received $135,000 for her research project entitled Cellular and synaptic physiology of the dorsomedial hypothalamus.

Next Steps

Be part of Canada's best undergraduate university