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Grant funds research into recycling of vehicles

Recent University of Windsor PhD graduate Susan Sawyer-Beaulieu may now apply her well-honed research skills locally thanks to a grant from Canadian-based company MITACS.

Sawyer-Beaulieu, 55, received a grant of $70,000 as part of MITACS’ Elevate program, which provides Ontario PhD graduates the opportunity to gain research experience in areas of industrial and societal importance while working on a collaborative research project with Ontario companies.

With the help of the grant, Sawyer-Beaulieu will be able to extend her PhD research of end-of-life vehicle recyclability in partnership with the Ontario Automotive Recyclers Association.

“There’s been a real push to become green and make the vehicles more environmentally friendly but a lot of the initiatives have always been on the manufacturing phase or the use phase and very little done at the end of life phase,” said Sawyer-Beaulieu, who has her PhD in environmental engineering.

“There is an opportunity to develop an industry in Windsor and Detroit, which have always been automotive manufacturing leaders in North America and maybe there could be opportunities to make them a leader in automotive recycling.”

The grant was announced last week and Sawyer-Beaulieu shares a pool of $9.95 million with 80 Ontario PhD students from Ontario universities.

“At the end of the day we need our society to be more innovative, productive and more competitive and the question is ‘how to do that?'” said Arvind Gupta, scientific director for MITACS.

“I think we haven’t fully leveraged the quality of innovation that’s happening at our universities to build an innovative society and that’s what the funding … is about and that’s what my passion is about overall.”

Gupta said per capita, Ontario universities have twice as many leading research universities than the U.S., “so clearly our universities are innovation leaders around the world by every measure.”

However, Gupta said there is a retention issue with PhD graduates and many are seeking job opportunities in other countries.

“We just don’t have many PhDs in our society anymore and we have to have a public debate about that and think what we can do in Canada to create a place for our PhDs to go and stay here and work here,” Gupta said.

“Look at what the car industry did in California. They took a piece of the car industry that requires real knowledge, sort of brain over brawn and they have been very successful in the design and alternative fuelled industry.”

“If we can become the place where smart things happen then there’s no reason why industries like the car industry wouldn’t create jobs here.”