researcher in lab


Nearly $40 million in funding to Smith Engineering faculty members has been announced or awarded by federal and provincial agencies since the start of 2024 to advance projects in areas such as small modular reactors and critical minerals. The funding will support major new infrastructure and innovative research projects or recognize outstanding early career researchers.

“This year, 2024, is already a banner one for research funding for Smith Engineering, with significant investments in areas of key research strength for Queen’s, including nuclear materials testing,” says Steven Smith, Deputy Vice-Principal (Research). “We look forward to seeing how each of these projects evolve and the impact this research will have in Canada and beyond.”

“Research funding to Smith Engineering has been rapidly increasing over the last few years, enabling our faculty members to conduct groundbreaking research to address global challenges such as the transition to a net zero future,” says Amir Fam, Vice Dean (Research).


The Canadian Foundation for Innovation – Innovation Fund (CFI-IF) offers ongoing financial support for infrastructure, across the full spectrum of research, from fundamental studies to applied research and technology development.

Under the leadership of Mark Daymond (Mechanical and Materials Engineering), the team leading the Microscopes and Ions for Small Modular Reactors project has received $8.6 million from the Innovation Fund to advance nuclear science technology, and an additional $8.6 million in co-funding from the Ontario Research Fund-Large Infrastructure (ORF-LI). ORF-LI helps cover the costs of building/renovating and equipping facilities to conduct collaborative academic research.

The project's objectives include fostering the integration of small modular reactors (SMRs) into future power generation and pioneering innovative engineering materials for SMRs.

The team will establish a world-leading facility, as an extension of the existing highly successful Reactor Materials Testing Laboratory (RMTL). The new facility will be equipped with an accelerator and transmission electron microscope (TEM) to study materials under ion irradiation and corrosive environments in real-time. By providing valuable insights into materials’ behaviour, the research aims to develop novel engineering materials and predictive models for SMRs, ensuring their safe and efficient operation while also extending the lifespan of existing reactors.

SMRs will play a significant role in Canada’s strategy to achieve carbon-free energy by 2050, as they offer cost reductions, improved thermal efficiency, and enhanced safety compared to traditional nuclear power plants. Yanwen Zhang, who was recently appointed as the $8M Canada Excellence Research Chair in Impact of Radiation in Energy and Advanced Technologies at Queen’s will be collaborating with the RMTL team to enhance the overall proficiency, reliability, and cost-effectiveness of these nuclear energy systems. This project has the potential to significantly impact the clean energy sector and global economies reliant on nuclear energy, as well as inform future nuclear technologies.


Ontario Research Fund (ORF) provides investment for a range of activities that support research from operations to facilities. The Small Infrastructure Fund (ORF-SIF) helps cover the cost of acquiring and renewing research equipment.

Suzan Eren (Electrical and Computer Engineering; Queen’s National Scholar): Fast-Charging Infrastructure for Electric Vehicles – $97,536

Ryan Grant (Electrical and Computer Engineering; Ingenuity Labs Research Institute): Smart Networks for Scientific Computing – $152,000

Abbas Taheri (Robert M. Buchan Department of Mining): Time-Dependent Rock and Joint Behaviour in Deep Underground Environments – $175,600

Matthew Pan (Electrical and Computer Engineering): Facilitating Bidirectional Communication for Fast and Flexible Human-Robot Collaboration - $152,000

Joshua Woods (Civil Engineering): Systems for Seismic Protection and Resilience of Mass Timber Structures - $125,000


The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Alliance and Alliance Missions Grants program enable researchers to collaborate with partner organizations, private, public, or not-for-profit, to support projects led by strong, complementary, and collaborative teams to generate new knowledge and accelerate the application of research results to create benefits for Canada. Grants provide funding for up to five years and range in support from $20,000 to $1 million per year.

Fady B. Abdelaal (Civil Engineering): Chemical Durability of Reinforced and Nonreinforced Polymeric Geomembranes in PFAS and Chlorinated Water – $72,000

Alireza Bakhshai (Electrical and Computer Engineering): An Intellectual Overlap of Pure Mathematics and Engineering Techniques Targeted to Develop Self-Reliant, Efficient, and Clean Artificial Intelligence Processors – $874,500

Dominik P.J. Barz (Chemical Engineering): Functionalized High Surface Area Materials for Selective Capacitive Deionization – $25,000

Laurent Karim Béland (Mechanical and Materials Engineering):

  • Carbon Capture and Valorisation Using Nuclear Power: Is it Feasible? – $1,486,400
  • Computer Simulations of Molten Salts Interactions with Metallic Materials – $215,200
  • A Unified Model of Electron Stopping and Electron-Phonon Coupling to Better Understand Radiation Damage in Zirconium – $25,000
  • Flexible coarse-grained clay models - $25,000
  • Accelerated qualification of nuclear materials: a joint experimental and computational approach – $1,200,000

Richard Brachman (Civil Engineering): Hypersaline Chemical and Elevated Temperature Effects on Bentonite for Disposal of Used Nuclear Fuel – $80,400

Mark Daymond (Mechanical and Materials Engineering):

  • Materials Deformation and Aging in Nuclear Power Systems – $1,700,000
  • Investigation of the Circumferential Stress Corrosion Cracking Mechanism in Pipeline Materials – $80,000

Ryan Grant (Electrical and Computer Engineering): Path-Diverse Switchless High-Performance Networks – $1,144,800

Mark F. Green (Civil Engineering): Impact of the Addition of a Newly Developed Bioresin Called Biofusion on the Strength of Concrete – $205,000

Jason Olsthoorn (Civil Engineering): Developing a new optical system to quantify erosion in the laboratory - $25,000

Ehssan H. Koupaie (Chemical Engineering): Development of A Data-Driven Life-Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Decision Tool for Municipal Organic Waste Management – $1,444,800

J. Scott Parent (Chemical Engineering): Recyclable Polyolefin Thermosets – $137,220

Zhongwen Yao (Mechanical and Materials Engineering): Characterizing Mechanical Properties and Deformation Behavior of Bulk Hydrides as a Function of Temperature in Zr-2.5Nb Pressure Tube Material – $170,000

Bradley Diak (Mechanical and Materials Engineering): Bringing Canadian rare earth elements into wrought aluminum alloy production stream for advanced structural and electrical applications – $1,437,378.

Charlotte Gibson (The Robert M. Buchan Department of Mining):  The beneficiation of lithium minerals from low-grade deposits – $772,900

Christopher Pickles (The Robert M. Buchan Department of Mining): Pilot Scale Microwave Assisted-Comminution and Downstream Processing of Copper and Copper-Molybdenum Ores – $1,076,000


Joint NSERC Alliance-Mitacs grants awarded in 2024 include:

Majid Pahlevani (Electrical and Computer Engineering): Advanced LED grow light solutions for vertical farming – 1,200,000 (all sources)

Il Yong Kim (Mechanical and Materials Engineering): Topology Optimization for Mass Reduction of a Roller Coaster Vehicle Bogie Subject to Fatigue Constraints –$80,000 (all sources)          


The Ontario Early Researcher Awards (ERA) awards funding to assist early-career researchers in accessing the latest technologies, equipment, and talent to build teams to advance their research projects:

Suraj Persaud (Mechanical and Material Engineering): Developing New Materials to Enable Carbon-Free Small Modular Reactors – $140,000


The Vice-Principal (Research) Portfolio has announced Ali Etemad as a recipient of its annual Queen’s Prizes for Excellence in Research for Outstanding Emerging Researchers. The $5,000 prize serves as Queen’s highest internal research award to recognize excellence amongst early-career researchers. Etemad is a Mitchell Professor in AI for Human Sensing and Understanding and a faculty member with Ingenuity Labs Research Institute.



This article is relevant to the following Strategic Actions as defined in the Strategic Plan:

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