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Concordia’s ‘emerging and engaged’ 2015 Young Innovator Award winners

Two very different scholars each landed a $10,000 research grant
September 2, 2015
By Brian Kappler

One of the two award-winners — Saifur Rahaman — is investigating improvements to reverse osmosis, used to desalinate water. | Photo courtesy of Nic Taylor (Flickr Creative Commons)

Saifur Rahaman and Yuan Wang study very different subjects — environmental engineering and finance, respectively — but the two Concordia scholars share one thing in common: they've both won a prestigious $10,000 research grant called the Petro-Canada Young Innovator Award.

The awards were given out on September 1 by Graham Carr, vice-president of Research and Graduate Studies, as part of an annual celebration of Concordia research excellence.

“Emerging, engaged and innovative faculty are essential to the dynamic research culture we are creating here at Concordia,” Carr says. “Saifur and Yuan are very deserving recipients.”

We asked this year's winners to explain their work.

Saifur Rahaman: "An important step towards ensuring adequate fresh water for all"

2015 Petro-Canada Young Innovator Award winner:
 Saifur Rahaman, assistant professor in the Department of Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Project: “Novel Inorganic/Organic Hybrid Advanced Materials for Thin-Film Composite Reverse Osmosis Membranes”

Summary: Reverse osmosis (RO) has become the most versatile and efficient technique to produce fresh water from saline water and other waste water.

Thin-film composite (TFC) polyamide membranes are widely used in RO plants, but they are subject to "biofouling" as micro-organisms grow on them. This results in reduced filtration capacity, and increased operational costs.

Adding a disinfection agent such as chlorine to the water can stop biofouling, but unfortunately even a few parts per billion of chlorine in water will rapidly degrade TFC polyamide membranes.

The main objective of this project is to develop a chlorine-resistant, mechanically robust organic/inorganic hybrid RO membrane.

We will investigate whether the active polyamide layer of TFC membranes can be substituted by a novel inorganic/organic hybrid material. Use of inorganic/organic hybrid material will eliminate the existence of amide linkages that render current TFC membranes highly susceptable to chlorine degradation.

Impact: Although the earth's surface is mostly water, the world faces a growing fresh-water crisis. Naturally this draws attention to water desalination. Improving this process through new and better materials would be an important step towards ensuring adequate fresh water for all.

Yuan Wang: "A substantial impact on the literature of corporate finance"

2015 Petro-Canada Young Innovator Award winner:
Yuan Wang, assistant professor at the John Molson School of Business

Project: “Bond Liquidity and Investment”

Summary: Recent research has confirmed that debt liquidity — how easily a bond can be traded — is a significant determinant of the cost of debt.

For any given level of credit risk, more illiquid securities have lower prices, or increase less in value, as investors demand compensation for expected trading difficulty.

Bao, Pan and Wang (2011) find that illiquidity is by far the most important factor in explaining the changes in the U.S. aggregate yield spreads of investment-grade bonds. Furthermore, the researchers show that for bonds within the same rating category, an increase in illiquidity of one standard deviation leads to an increase in yield spreads as high as 65 basis points ­— roughly two-thirds of one per cent.

This project is the first to investigate whether illiquidity in the bond market has an effect on a firm’s investment decisions. The focus is on acquisitions, the most visible and largest investments that firms undertake. It’s an exploration of the links between the bond market’s microstructure and firms’ acquisition decisions.

Impact: I expect this study to have a substantial impact on the literature of corporate finance. Its findings should be of great interest to both regulators and practitioners, because regulation can be used to shape a better trading environment, and well-regulated firms can be expected to make better investment decisions.

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