UBC researchers supported by New Frontiers in Research Fund 2020 Exploration grants to pursue breakthrough ideas

Seven projects led by UBC researchers were awarded a combined $1.75m through the federal New Frontiers in Research Fund 2020 Exploration Stream, which targets high-risk, high-reward and interdisciplinary research.

The New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) 2020 Exploration competition has awarded funds to support 117 research projects across Canada that bring diverse disciplines together in pursuit of breakthrough ideas and high-reward outcomes. The NFRF program, a federal research funding initiative, mobilizes cutting-edge interdisciplinary, international, and transformative research that strengthens Canadian innovation and benefits Canadians.

The fund’s Exploration stream specifically targets interdisciplinary, high-risk, high-reward research that defies current models, bridges disciplines in novel ways, or tackles fundamental problems from new perspectives. The stream’s design recognizes that interdisciplinary research is often risky, but worthwhile given the potential for significant groundbreaking impact. All funded teams must demonstrate commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion in the research environment.

The NFRF is under the strategic direction of the Canada Research Coordinating Committee and is managed as a tri-agency program by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), on behalf of Canada’s three research granting agencies—the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and SSHRC.



  • ​Catcher of the Rye: Spray-on Netting for Increasing Yield in Grain Harvesting
    Principal Investigator: John Frostad (Chemical and Biological Engineering)
    Co-applicants:Mark MacLachlan (Chemistry); Andrew Riseman (Land and Food Systems)
  • Laser Ablation Spectroscopy using Dual Frequency Combs for Rapid Ore Sorting
    Principal Investigator: David Jones (Physics & Astronomy)
    Co-applicants: Jason Jones; Bern Klein (Mining Engineering)
  • Endothelial glycocalyx repair and rebuild as a novel treatment for inflammatory and immune-mediated diseases 
    Principal Investigator: Jayachandran Kizhakkedathu (Pathology)
    Co-Principal Investigator:Jonathan Choy (SFU)
    Co-applicants: Caigan Du (Urologic Sciences); Christopher Nguan (Urologic Sciences); Stephen Withers (Chemistry)
  • Developing Artificial Trees for Extreme-Weather-Resilient Cities
    Principal Investigator: Jongho Lee (Civil Engineering)
    Co-Principal Investigator: Feng Jiang (Wood Science)
    Co-applicant: Simcha Srebnik (Chemical and Biological Engineering)
  • First Light: Unleashing Machine Learning for Multi-Messenger Discovery 
    Principal Investigator: Jessica McIver (Physics & Astronomy)
    Co-applicants: Maria Drout (University of Toronto); Daryl Haggard (McGill University)
  • Understanding the seasonal impacts of microplastic inhalation on health 
    Principal Investigator: Sepideh Pakpour (UBCO School of Engineering)
    Co-Principal Investigator: Kirk Bergstrom (UBCO Department of Biology)
    Co-applicant: Edward Grant (Chemistry)
  • An integrated design framework for optical coatings with exceptionally low mechanical loss
    Principal Investigator: Joerg Rottler (Physics & Astronomy)
    Co-Principal Investigator: Jeffrey Young (Physics & Astronomy)