Research at Centennial College
Research at Centennial College
How does research work at Centennial College?
The Canadian college sector plans, manages, and carries out research differently from the Canadian university system. The following accordions outline some of the key differences, with an emphasis on inquiry-based and applied research.
Leading Centennial College’s applied research activities is the department of Applied Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Services (ARIES) at Centennial College.
Note: Like universities, colleges also carry out internal institutional research to assess their educational program offerings and enrollment trends. Institutional research is not discussed here. For more information on institutional research at Centennial, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Faculty members are hired through a competitive process based on expertise in an area of interest to the university, and in some circumstances, prior teaching experience. New faculty hires may be either part-time sessional lecturers (without research roles), tenure-track professors, or more senior tenured faculty hired from other institutions.
Faculty members are hired for teaching only, on the basis of subject matter expertise and prior teaching experience in an area of program-based need at the college. Prior research experience is not a criterion. Faculty are hired as either contract or full-time employees. Employment is subject to a collective agreement with the faculty union, but there is no tenure system.
Depending on the field, roughly equal amounts of faculty time are devoted to research and teaching, with additional time spent on service and committee work.
Almost all faculty time is spent on teaching and related activities. Only some faculty participate in research or committee work, and the time they spend on this activity is negotiated in advance with the departmental chairperson. Research and committee work are treated as a type of part-time secondment from the academic department. In many programs, most faculty are contract employees; when they are involved in research, they are paid through additional part-time employment contracts.
Faculty are expected to develop independent research programs based on their own interests, and to recruit and supervise students and post-docs, where needed.
Universities and their departments have areas of strength, but no centrally managed research portfolio. Departments can orient their faculty hiring to particular areas of interest, but cannot dictate the research programs of individual professors once hired.
Most research projects have an applied (problem-solving) orientation, and reflect the needs of local companies or organizations, who participate as partners. Opportunities for research are identified by the college’s applied research office or by other college administrative divisions, based on alignment with areas of strength in the college’s program offerings. The applied research office seconds or hires existing faculty and students to participate in applied research as Principal Investigators or research assistants, on a project-by-project basis.
In some cases, the applied research office has permanent non-faculty staff that lead or provide technical support to projects. Some opportunities exist for short-term faculty-driven applied research projects. Faculty members do not have independent long-term research programs.
Depending on the university, research covers a wide variety of fields in the arts, humanities, social sciences, medicine, science, and engineering.
College applied research is based largely on the research and development needs of partners, most of which are for-profit companies, and so is focused on engineering and applied science. Small research portfolios also exist in the social sciences.
Faculty members prepare grant proposals for consideration by government (e.g., NSERC, CIHR) and private granting agencies. The university’s research office monitors budgets and financial reporting related to granting agencies.
Most research activities are funded through a combination of partner cash contributions, government grants, and industry voucher programs. Provincial and federal granting agencies have funding programs specifically oriented toward colleges. Grant proposals are prepared by the applied research office, with faculty input.
At Centennial College, a small amount of internal funding is available for faculty-driven applied research, through a competitive internal grant program.
Graduate students carry out independent research projects under the supervision of professors. The degree of supervision and mentorship varies by field. Graduate students become increasingly independent in their research as they progress through their program. They are often paid a stipend for their research activity, funded by grants held by the supervising professor, or may be funded by other scholarships or teaching assistantships.
Undergraduate students work under the supervision of graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, or the professors themselves. A significant training element is involved in their work. Depending on the institution, they may be paid as research assistants.
Diploma or degree program students are hired as part-time research assistants on a short-term basis. They are supervised jointly by the faculty Principal Investigator and the applied research office program manager who is responsible for the project in question.
Though many come with prior experience, most student researchers are at an early stage of their education, and there is a significant training element involved in their work.
Research projects involving human or animal subjects require approval by an internal research ethics committee.
Same as universities: Research projects involving human or animal subjects require approval by an internal research ethics committee.
IP ownership depends on university policies, and may reside with the university, the faculty member, a partner organization, or some combination of the three.
IP ownership resides with the partner organization, with the college retaining rights to use the IP for teaching
Depending on the field, faculty and their students publish academic papers, present at conferences, or prepare books or book chapters. Student work is described in a thesis or dissertation. Some research results may be patented.
Partner organizations retain control over dissemination of results – projects for for-profit partners are generally proprietary, and results are not published. For non-confidential research, results may be published or presented at conferences.
Examples of research at Centennial College
Electrically actuated landing gear R&D
Centennial has strong training programs in mechanical engineering technology, electronics, and aviation technology. Staff at the Applied Research, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship Services (ARIES) office at Centennial recognized the potential to use the technical expertise of faculty members in these areas to address a long-term challenge in aviation technology – the reduction of aircraft weight.
Centennial ARIES worked with a group of small-aircraft OEM partners to develop a set of applied research projects that address weight reduction through electric motor-driven (rather than hydraulic) landing gear. The ARIES team successfully applied for a $2.3M grant through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Innovation Enhancement grant program for colleges, which matches partner cash contributions to the projects on a two-to-one basis. Individual projects are being executed by Centennial faculty and students with oversight from ARIES and regular guidance from partner company representatives. The bulk of the NSERC funding is used to provide course release or salary for contributing faculty and student research assistants. Technical work on these projects began in 2017 and is expected to continue to 2023.
Open resources for nursing education
Centennial offers an undergraduate degree program in Nursing, in collaboration with George Brown College and Ryerson University. As the program has grown, the limited availability of clinical placements for students has created challenges in scheduling and accommodating training needs.
To supplement these limited clinical opportunities, Centennial faculty members in the Nursing program envisioned the creation of on-line training modules that use live actors to take students through common scenarios they might encounter in the clinic. A group of Nursing faculty members successfully applied for funding through Centennial ARIES internal Applied Research and Innovation Fund (ARIF), which provides support for faculty-initiated research and innovation projects. The funds were used to cover release time for faculty Project Leaders, stipends for student researchers and actors, and for the rental of equipment needed for filming. The training modules have been posted online as Open Educational Resources and are now in use at colleges and universities across the world. Read more here.
Autonomous vehicle technology development
Autonomous (self-driving) vehicles are an area of major interest worldwide, and the Greater Toronto Area is home to a number of innovative startup companies working in this area. In turn, Centennial College has largest on-site transportation training facility in Canada, offering a large number of vehicle maintenance programs through its School of Transportation (SOT).
Representatives from Ontario’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN) introduced Centennial ARIES and SOT representatives to a small startup company working on after-market modifications for self-driving trucks. ARIES worked with company staff and SOT faculty to develop an autonomous truck technology demonstration project that could be executed on the Centennial campus. ARIES staff successfully applied for a $25k grant for this project through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Engage program for colleges. The funds will be used to purchase supplies, cover faculty release time, and provide stipends for student research assistants. Project work is expected to be complete by the end of 2020.
Interested in getting involved?
The department of Applied Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Services (ARIES) leads applied research activity at Centennial College. ARIES engages faculty, staff, students and industry partners in research activities across schools and sectors. For more information on ARIES and how to get involved, visit our website or contact email@example.com.