June 19, 2009


Two McMaster research projects receive nearly $11million

Funding supports one of world’s first facilities to certify safety critical software relied on heavily by Canadians


Hamilton, ON. June 19, 2009 –Critical software applications that have a daily impact on our lives—from financial transactions to pacemakers—will be the focus of a new centre at McMaster University, the first of its kind in Canada and one of only two in the world.

 The Centre for Safety-Critical Software Quality Certification is one of two major research projects to receive nearly $11-million from the Ontario Research Fund (ORF). 

“Almost everything we do today relies on software, whether it’s making a heart beat properly, transferring funds or generating electricity,” says Tom Maibaum, principal investigator and Canada Research Chair in Foundations of Software Engineering at McMaster. “Software failure can have catastrophic consequences on our lives and property.  This project is about making a major improvement in the way we build safety-critical software applications, and the way in which we evaluate those applications in order to certify them as safe and effective.”

The new Centre will lead the research and development of product-focused certification standards and processes for software applications.  Those applications will initially focus on the operation of pacemakers, health monitoring equipment, banking transactions, financial reporting and nuclear reactors.

The second project involves genomics research that will create sustainable crops to aid the country’s agricultural and biofuels industry. 

Elizabeth Weretilnyk, professor in the department of Biology, will lead a study of a hardy plant common to the Yukon—Thellungiella salsuginea, commonly known as salt lick mustard—which can survive drought, salting conditions, even freezing temperatures. She will use new sequencing technologies to better understand why the plant thrives in such a harsh environment.  Given the more frequent weather extremes and severe fluctuations in weather patterns, this information can then be used to develop weather-tolerant crops, which can then increase yields in commercial crops, such as canola.

“Ideally, plants used for biofuel crops shouldn’t need energy to feed and water.  If we’re able to plant these crops on marginal lands, we can free up prime agricultural areas for other valuable crop production,” says Weretilnyk.  “We hope to develop crops that are capable of ‘doing more with less’.”

“These two projects represent significant potential economic benefit for our province and our country,” says Mo Elbestawi, VP of Research and International Affairs. “McMaster will be providing solutions to real problems in the software and agricultural industries with research that will have global impact.”

McMaster University, one of four Canadian universities listed among the Top 100 universities in the world, is renowned for its innovation in both learning and discovery. It has a student population of 23,000, and more than 145,000 alumni in 128 countries.


For further information:

Michelle Donovan

Public Relations Manager, Broadcast Media

McMaster University

(905) 525-9140, ext. 22869