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Research by Canadian universities valued at $13 billion

education Updated: Nov 09, 2016 17:37 IST

Indians in Canada (from left) Ankit Jain, Sushmita Prasad, Shrestha Roy Goswami, Medha Sharma, Shehbaz Jaffer, and Tirthankar Mitra at the Art Gallery of Ontario on Nuit Blanche - a cultural fest.(Handout)

Globally, Canada ranks sixth in terms of average citation levels across all fields among the top scientific countries and ­produces 4% of the world’s scientific papers despite representing only 1% of the world’s population. Canadian universities perform 40% of the nation’s total R&D, valued at $13 billion each year.

While “shopping” for postdoctorate options, Ankit Jain, postdoctoral fellow, IBM Canada, at the University of Toronto (UofT) chose Canada because of its research opportunitites. He compared research projects and learning opportunities and selected the Sargent research group at UofT because of the “vibrancy of research”.

Canadian researchers co-publish with thousands of institutions in more than 180 countries around the world. The country also invests approximately CAD$30 billion a year on research, about 38% of which is conducted by universities, including CAD$2 billion with private sector and community partners.

On a night out in Toronto. (Handout)

After finishing his undergraduate studies at IIT Kanpur, Jain moved to Carnegie Mellon University in the United States for his PhD research on material thermal transport properties. He studied temperature changes on nanosized transistors on a (computer) processor chip.

Canadian universities have established internationally recognised strengths in disciplines, such as clinical medicine, historical studies, information and communication technologies, psychology and cognitive sciences, physics and astronomy, visual and performing arts. The country’s researchers were awarded 24 major international scientific awards in 2015, including the Nobel Prize for Physics (which Arthur B. McDonald of Queen’s University and the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory share with Japan’s Takaaki Kajita).

Jain feels the US and Canada have similar education systems and course structures. Admission rules vary from one university to another, but to him life feels a little easy in Canadian universities. Though his school had a lot of diversity, Pittsburgh, the city in was located in, did not. Toronto is completely different, one of the most culturally diverse cities. He also feels Toronto and Canada are much safer when compared to the US. “We can walk on the streets freely during nights here, while I believe that is not the case in States.”

Students in Toronto enjoying a game of ‘antakshari’ (Handout)

Jain’s postdoctoral programme at UofT involves energy research, looking into ways to convert carbon dioxide into fuels using electricity, to harvest solar energy using cheap photovoltaics, and to make more efficient LEDs. “As we all know, these are some of the major energy challenges of the present world. After ­joining the Prof Sargent group at UofT, I got a chance to learn all of these skills simultaneously, as opposed to other places where one works on one such project at a time. Eventually, I want to move back to India and do research on these fronts. So, I guess learning and working with world leading researchers on these issues is definitely very helpful,” he says.