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The lab will connect researchers and students across multiple faculties. Photo: Dasser Kamran.

Research revolves around environment, infrastructure, population movements

This fall, the new Interdisciplinary Research Lab on Cities and Contemporary Urban Processes began its work to connect faculties and talk cities with an aim to increase urban studies research at the University of Ottawa.

The U of O does not currently have an urban studies program—to address this gap, the research lab was established to conduct workshops, conferences, and symposiums in the field.

“A lot of it is going to be about thinking about different projects, collaborating, giving possibilities for students to do workshops and participate,” said lab director and U of O Faculty of Social Sciences professor, Vincent Mirza. “It will be a forum.”

Mirza says collaboration is the focal point of the lab and he hopes it will provide students with additional, higher-quality opportunities that will better their recognition amongst researchers.

Mirza said the research team currently consists of 18 members from various faculties and disciplines, encompassing the idea of an interdisciplinary approach, with members from the faculty of arts and departments of geography, social work, and criminology.

Over 50 per cent of the world’s population currently lives in cities, and according to data from the United Nations, that number is expected to increase to nearly 70 per cent by 2050. These numbers provided the motivation for the U of O to begin research on urban processes which they hope will guide future city planning.

According to Mirza, research at the university will focus on three axes; environment, infrastructure, and population movements, which are priorities for the City of Ottawa as well.

“Some of the problems we are facing is the question of relations with First Nations, and the growing demand of mining industries,”  Mirza explained. “One way to control the demand on cities is to control the expansion because the more we expand, the more traffic we have.”

Although, when it comes down to it, Mirza believes future city planning will revolve around environmentally sustainable practices.

“I think it’s really about incorporating environmental solutions … that’s really the key for the future.”

The City is hoping the creation of diesel light rail and the development of the O-Train will lower carbon emissions with the O-Train, alone, expected to equal the removal of roughly 6,500 medium-sized vehicles from the roads in one year.