$9.95M announced to boost Ontario’s PhDs
Dozens of the province’s new PhDs to receive fellowships with aim of keeping top talent in Southern Ontario
Kitchener, Ontario – July 28, 2010 – Ontario’s newly-minted PhDs have been given incentive – to the tune of $9.95 million – to apply their well-honed research and innovation skills here in the province.
It’s all part of a new program, dubbed Elevate, which provides PhD holders – recognized as the most highly-skilled individuals in Ontario – with fellowships to partner with Ontario companies and carry out complex research on real-life projects.
Ensuring that PhD students are retained and equipped for future careers locally, the Elevate program enables Ontario’s PhDs to gain valuable research experience in areas of industrial and societal importance, as well as training in non-technical professional skills. Studies show that, traditionally, PhDs leave the province in large numbers in pursuit of greener pastures in the U.S. or abroad.
Minister of State Gary Goodyear of the Federal Development Agency for Southern Ontario announced the funding today in Kitchener at the offices of Unitron Corp, one of the 39 Ontario companies partnering with Elevate researchers.
“In order to keep the economy growing and create jobs in southern Ontario, we need to develop, attract and retain the next generation of leading researchers,” said Minister Goodyear. “This investment will help businesses increase innovation and bring new ideas to market.”
Managed by MITACS, a leading national research network that connects industry and academia through innovative programming, the Elevate program will fund more than 80 of Ontario’s PhDs in the form of research fellowships, each valued at between $50,000 to $70,000. The fellowship recipients are based at 14 universities: University of Toronto, Ryerson University, University of Guelph, University of Ottawa, University of Waterloo, Queen’s University, York University, Brock University, McMaster University, University of Western Ontario,Trent University, University of Windsor and Carleton University.
“In order to build a strong, knowledge-based economy, we need to provide opportunities for highly-skilled young researchers to apply their research to key business and connect with potential future employers and collaborate right here in Ontario,” said Dr. Arvind Gupta, Scientific Director of MITACS.
“Losing even one of these young innovators to the U.S. or a country abroad represents a loss for Ontario,” added Gupta, explaining that Ontario and Canada must join the ranks of leading innovation economies by retaining their locally educated PhDs. “Over the years, we’ve slipped relative to other OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries in the number of PhD’s in our society and this program will help reverse this trend”.
Based at McMaster University, postdoctoral fellow Eva Szabo is tackling a project which will further our understanding of how cells from adult skin can be converted to cells possessing “stem-cell-like” characteristics by a process called cellular reprogramming. It is hoped that these cells could be more efficiently differentiated towards the blood lineages for potential use for treatment of blood disorders.
“I am honoured and very excited to be part of this unique initiative; the funding provided by MITACS Elevate provides a unique opportunity to develop my research with goals geared towards application and engagement of industrial partners, explained Dr. Szabo. “Moreover, the Elevate program offers a wide selection of seminars and workshops that are specifically directed at enhancing our professional and networking skills which will enable us to succeed in our chosen research careers.”
Gurjit Singh, a new PhD from the University of Toronto’s Department of Psychology, is undertaking an Elevate research project with Unitron Ltd. to understand how hearing aid patients and their interactions with their doctors will be impacted by the introduction of new information and communication technologies.
“Because of this funding, I will be able to stay in Ontario and focus on my research right here,” said Dr. Singh.
As part of the fellowship, the fellows will also work with MITACS to develop a personalized training program to ensure they are equipped with the non-technical skills that would facilitate their transition to an academic or industry career such as scientific management, scientific evaluation, project management, communications, and other skills necessary to transition to a business environment.
Additional Funding Announced to Attract International Talent to Ontario
As part of today’s announcement, the government also unveiled $1million in funding for an international graduate internship program, called the MITACS Globalink Program.
Through the program, top undergraduate students from India’s renowned Institutes of Technology spend two months this summer at Ontario universities undertaking research projects with local faculty members and interacting with Ontario industry.
The Globalink Program also goes beyond the classroom, Dr. Gupta explains, by providing “a big picture taste for life in Canada.” As part of the internship, for example, the students spend time working alongside their Canadian counterparts to understand Canadian culture and how easy it is for them to fit in, he said. “Our goal is to have these students interact with Ontario students and form new friendships that will extend well beyond their three months in the province.”