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Research award puts $200,000 into heart of Ontario Tech University professor's cardiac research

Female prof earns one of 24 2006 NSERC University Faculty Awards

OSHAWA, Ont. - Canada's Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) has awarded Dr. Jing Ren, an assistant professor with Ontario Tech University's Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, a $200,000 University Faculty Award (UFA) to further her research into improving technology that facilitates the use of computer-generated controls to minimize the invasiveness of cardiac surgeries.
The NSERC UFA program enhances the recruitment, retention and early career progression of women and Aboriginal people in tenure-track faculty positions in science and engineering at Canadian universities by providing opportunities for them to establish a strong research record.

"With only 24 UFAs awarded in 2006, this is an extremely significant accomplishment for Dr. Ren and the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science," said the faculty's dean, Dr. Marc Rosen. "This is the first UFA to be awarded to an Ontario Tech University faculty member and it indicates that NSERC, one of Canada's leading research agencies, recognizes Dr. Ren's great promise and the real-world potential of her research. Dr. Ren's work will improve human health and clearly demonstrates to society the benefits of such engineering research."

The world's first successful beating-heart, robot-assisted Minimally Invasive Coronary Artery Bypass (MIRCAB) was performed on October 1, 1999, at the London Health Science Centre in London, Ontario. MIRCAB and other minimally invasive cardiac procedures including coronary artery bypass grafting and intracardiac ablation and valve repair, can replace invasive procedures that are employed during conventional cardiac surgery.

While these minimally invasive techniques can reduce patient risk and trauma, they also raise some significant difficulties for surgeons, including poor hand-eye co-ordination caused by limited use of technology, restricted maneuverability, and lack of force or tactile feedback.

Dr. Ren is carrying out research that aims to advance haptic virtual fixtures - computer-generated intelligent controls - and move them into the operating room and to develop surgeon-friendly and patient-specific virtual features. The fixtures will provide surgeons with ultimate control, including extending surgical capability and enhancing surgery speed, by providing a local reference and restricting motion of the surgical tool.

"Dr. Ren's research into applying virtual fixtures directly to closed-heart surgeries has the potential to replace conventional invasive methods," said Dr. Kamiel Gabriel, Ontario Tech University's associate provost, Research. "As a research-intensive university that is committed to helping students gain the hands-on research experience they need to make an impact when they graduate, we are proud to work with world-class professors such as Dr. Ren. Her research is truly transformational and has the potential to reduce trauma and provide for shorter recovery time for cardiac patients - we congratulate her on this fantastic accomplishment."

Dr. Ren's most recent work includes dynamic 3D virtual fixtures that are generated from magnetic resonance datasets of a beating heart and used to constrain the operator's motion for the pre-planned surgical path on the beating heart surface. This is the first time that the temporal motion of the heart has been explicitly considered in investigations of virtual fixtures.

"I am thrilled to receive such an impressive award from NSERC," said Dr. Ren. "As one of only 24 successful nominees, I recognize the wonderful honour and unique opportunity that I, along with my undergraduate and graduate students, have been given to continue important research that will directly benefit cardiac patients."

Dr. Ren is also working on other biomedical applications of electrical engineering and collaborates with other engineers, medical professionals and scientists on her multi-disciplinary research. The $200,000 UFA is in addition to a $90,000 NSERC Discovery Grant that Dr. Ren was also awarded this year.

"Ontario Tech University has chosen a path in its strategic research planning that focuses on niche research areas that directly impact end-users," said Dr. Gabriel. "Dr. Ren's research is an excellent example of how Ontario Tech University's faculty uses its research and scholarly activities to contribute to the health, wellness and economic development of the Durham region and the province of Ontario."

Dr. Ren joined the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science on July 1, 2006, as an assistant professor in the area of electrical engineering, including mechatronics and robotics. She has published many journals and conference articles, has a patent-pending and has several years of professional experience.

About UOIT

As the province's newest university, Ontario Tech University provides a unique combination of academic knowledge, vibrant student life, leading-edge research, and hands-on skills. As Ontario's first laptop-based university, Ontario Tech University offers career-focused undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the fields of business and information technology, sciences, engineering, nursing, social science, and education. The university is committed to research excellence and has attracted significant research grants and awards including a Tier 1 Research Chair. Sharing facilities and selected services with Durham College, Ontario Tech University has attracted over 4,000 students since its inception in 2003. To find out more, visit or call 905.721.8668.

About The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) aims to help make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for the benefit of all Canadians. Its mission is to achieve this by investing in people, discovery and innovation through programs that support university research in the Natural Sciences and Engineering on the basis of national competitions. Over the last decade, NSERC has invested $6 billion in research, projects, and the training of Canada's next generation of scientists and engineers. For more information, visit

About Ontario Tech University
A modern, forwarding-thinking university, Ontario Tech advances the discovery and application of knowledge to accelerate economic growth, regional development and social innovation. We inspire and equip our students and our graduates to make a positive impact in a tech-focused world. For us, it’s not only about developing the next tech breakthrough. Understanding and integrating the social and ethical implications of technology differentiates us as university. Learn more at

Media contact
Allison Rosnak
Communications and Marketing
Ontario Tech University
905.721.3111 ext. 2513