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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Science
December 4, 2016
Canadian Excellence

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Three Laurier scientists receive funding from Ontario Research Fund

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Dec 11/09| For Immediate Release


Dr. Deborah MacLatchy
Vice-President, Academic and Provost
519-884-0710 ext. 2221 or


Kevin Crowley
Associate Director, News and Editorial Services
519-884-0710 ext. 3070 or

WATERLOO – Two psychology researchers and a biology researcher from Laurier’s Faculty of Science received infrastructure funding from the Ontario Research Fund (ORF) at a provincial announcement held today. The funding affects 34 associated researchers at Laurier and matches earlier infrastructure grants received from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

Biologist Dr. Mihai Costea purchased a $193,000 environmental variable pressure scanning electron microscope with the assistance of $77,521 in funding from the ORF. Psychologist Dr. Diano Marrone, who studies age-related memory decline, acquired a $351,000 multi-user confocal microscope to enable him to visualize cellular activity and examine neural networks. The ORF contributed $128,888. For psychologist Dr. Bruce McKay, the $50,422 in provincial funding contributed to a patch clamp electrophysiology setup that allows him to study neurons and synapses in acute brain slices.

“It’s wonderful that the Ontario Research Fund recognized Drs. Costea, Marrone and McKay, and the significance of the equipment to their research and student training,” said Dr. Deborah MacLatchy, vice-president: academic and provost. “These instruments are incredibly versatile and can be used in many disciplines as well as psychology and biology.”

Costea’s microscope is vital in furthering his innovative research in the area of worldwide parasitic plant biodiversity, especially his work with the genus Cuscuta (dodders). Some dodders are listed as noxious weeds, which can greatly diminish some crop yields, while others are endangered or threatened with extinction, and some are being investigated for their medicinal properties. Despite their importance, dodders are little known and are frequently misidentified.

Marrone’s research into age-related memory decline is gaining in importance as Canada’s population ages. With average life expectancy in Canada now reaching 80 years, memory loss will no doubt afflict a substantial population in years to come. Determining the nature and causes of this cognitive impairment has become a major challenge in the study of aging.

McKay is researching how the brain changes with drug abuse, specifically when children abuse “under-the-sink” solvents and inhalants. The patch clamp electrophysiology setup will show neurons and synapses at the cellular/molecular level, helping McKay to understand how the substances modify brain function. With this understanding he hopes to determine what drugs can be used to effectively treat and potentially reverse the damage.

“Today we are saying once again that we’re proud of the work that our researchers do and the wealth and jobs they create in Waterloo. … New discoveries will continue to be made and we want those people, those ideas and those jobs right here in our community,” said Leeanna Pendergast, MPP for Kitchener-Conestoga.

“In the 21st century, economic stimulus must create jobs today and tomorrow – it must be both shovels in the ground and support for innovative people and innovative thinking,” said John Milloy, Minister of Research and Innovation.


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