CBU Professor Receives NSERC Discovery Grant

Cape Breton University professor, Dr. Erin Robertson, has received a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Discovery Grant totalled at $88,865 over five years in support of laboratory equipment and research assistants for her research titled The Relationship Between Phonological and Syntactic Processing. The Discovery Grants (DG) Program is NSERC’s largest program and a key element of Canada’s support for excellence in science and engineering research and training at Canadian universities.

This NSERC grant will fund three large projects on speech and language development using new types of equipment and methodology. Dr. Robertson’s research examines the organization of words within sentences and the sound structure of a language (scientifically referred to as syntax and phonology), and whether the two are related. One project will record electrical changes in the brain which depict how fast adults detect grammatical mistakes in recorded sentences. A second project will examine sentence comprehension in children with and without reading impairments. A third project will examine the role of sound structure during sentence comprehension in children.

Reflecting on her success in this highly competitive grant program, Dr. Robertson is grateful for the recognition, “It is very rewarding to be acknowledged by experts in the field, and I am delighted to conduct these projects to provide new contributions to the area. As a new professor establishing my research program, I am also thankful for all of the support I receive from CBU. I am also thrilled to hire CBU student researchers over the grant’s duration to help me conduct these projects. I benefitted from this experience as a student, and it was an excellent preparation for graduate school.” This research depends on help from the community, and Dr. Robertson will be seeking community participation in these studies. In order to gain a solid understanding of language development, she needs a large number of participants.

The ability to accurately and quickly understand spoken sentences is fundamental in school, work, and life. This research aims to reveal the factors which impede successful sentence comprehension and will inform language intervention programs

NSERC is a federal agency that helps make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for all Canadians. The agency supports some 30,000 post-secondary students and postdoctoral fellows in their advanced studies. It promotes discovery by funding more than 12,000 professors every year and fosters innovation by encouraging more than 1,500 Canadian companies to participate and invest in post-secondary research projects.