Two monumental projects to impact our understanding of who, and where, we are

Canada Foundation for Innovation support will enable a new way to access information on Residential Schools, and for UM to take lead in international effort to better understand dark matter

MARCH 3, 2021 — Researchers at the University of Manitoba are receiving a combined $4.7 million in funding for two projects that will fundamentally alter our understanding of our place in the world—one focuses on our history, the other, on trying to finally understand what our universe is mostly made of.

The Right Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today announced more than $518 million to support the infrastructure needs of universities and research institutions across the country, from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

The UM projects involve national and international teams, one team led by Raymond Frogner, head of archives at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR), and the other team led by professors Michael Gericke and Juliette Mammei (physics and astronomy).

“As the Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South, I am pleased that our federal government recognizes the world class talent and research being conducted at the University of Manitoba,” said Terry Duguid. “Our investment today will support the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, as they work to construct a digital architecture for their archives, allowing for better access to the stories of Residential School Survivors. Federal funding will also support a second project which explores groundbreaking research on the universe and interactions between electrons in space. I am proud that our federal government is able to support these two important projects, which will have a profound impact on our community and our country.”

Frogner and the extensive group of partners on the project will construct a ground-breaking digital architecture for the material held at NCTR that will put Survivor stories at the fore, allowing researchers, among other things, to identify the children lost at residential schools. Building on the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, this project aims to create a new model of decolonizing archives to promote healing, learning and relationship building.

Gericke and Mammei will lead the largest component of the international study with a Canadian team that will study interactions in the space between pairs of electrons, which is a mindboggling small space, yet it is a window into the workings and make-up of our universe’s dark matter—the mysterious mass most of the universe is comprised of, of which we know nearly nothing about.

“The University of Manitoba is honoured to support the work of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation,” says Digvir Jayas, vice-president (research and international) and Distinguished Professor. “The materials held within NCTR is of primary importance to Canada’s future and I commend NCTR on their efforts to reimagine how their archives can better serve all Canadians. Their project is a paradigm shift, envisioning new ways to decolonize information.”

He continues: “UM is also proud to be home to such a talented and robust team of researchers in the Faculty of Science who are in the position to lead the Canadian team of an international project concerned with the largest, most confounding question humanity has asked: What is out there? What is the universe made of? To address this mystery is exciting beyond words. All Manitobans should feel an immense pride in their university for taking a lead on these two herculean projects.”

The two team projects are:

Raymond Frogner received $2,411,773 for the project: “NCTR Digital Architecture.”

This project implements the NCTR’s digital architecture. It will enable advanced discovery and access of digital archival records to promote innovative research meaningful to Indigenous communities and Survivors.

This CFI grant will allow for the construction of digital architecture for the NCTR archival holdings to build a decolonizing archive. The new IT Architecture will allow archivists to design a new records order, one based on the student’s and not the administrator’s office or function. The IT Architecture is moving research from the grand colonial metanarratives of statist social engineering, to the personal narratives of Survivors, their families and communities. This work will uniquely provide researchers materials to theorize oppression and disrupt the colonial relationships between academic researchers and Indigenous communities.

This digital infrastructure promotes reconciliation through acknowledgement. It is a recognition that we are now only what we choose to remember, but we are also what we choose to forget.

The project team members include:

    • Jonathan Dewar (First Nations Information Governance Centre)
    • Alan Katz (Manitoba Centre for Health Policy, UM)
    • Carson Leung (Computer Science, UM)
    • Tricia Logan (Residential School History and Dialogue Centre, UBC)
    • Mary Jane McCallum (History, UWinnipeg)
    • Cary Miller (Native Studies, UM)
    • Ian Mosby (History, RyersonU)
    • Niigaan Sinclair (Native Studies, UM)

Professors Michael Gericke and Juliette Mammei received $2,336,900 for the project: “The MOLLER Detector: Expanding our understanding of matter in the universe with a new, precision electron detector.”

This project will enable experiments that aim to measure the interaction properties between pairs of electrons down to separation distances of zeptometers, which is roughly a million times smaller than the size of the smallest atomic nucleus, to unprecedented accuracy. It is widely expected that completely new interactions may be found at such small distances, including those that couple to dark matter, and may explain some of the deepest unanswered questions in particle physics and cosmology (such as the large matter – antimatter asymmetry).

The MOLLER experiment is a world-class, international effort involving collaborators from 36 institutions, from the USA and Canada (the lead and founding countries), as well as Germany, Italy, France, and Mexico. The experiment will take place at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (JLab), a premier electron beam accelerator laboratory located in Newport News, USA, funded by the US Department of Energy. The lead institutions in the collaboration are JLab, the University of Massachusetts, the University of Manitoba, the Virginia Institute of Technology and the University of Virginia. The Canadian team is the largest group in the collaboration and several of its members have been among the world leaders in the development of the needed technologies over three generations of previous experiments and, consequently, are work package leaders for many of the most important components of the experiment.

UM leads this project’s Canadian team, which includes colleagues at Memorial University of Newfoundland, the University of Northern British Columbia and the University of Winnipeg.

In support of this announcement, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, will highlight three projects that received funding in the competition in a conversation later today. To watch the conversation live today at Noon, visit the CFI Facebook page.