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Haya H Al Muhannadi
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Qatar National Research Fund awards three exceptional research projects worth $10.4 million

Qatar National Research Fund awards three exceptional research projects worth $10.4 million

Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) has awarded funding to three major research projects that will expand the Qatar Exoplanet Survey, improve solar power conversion systems and evaluate a novel weight management programme for Qatari school children.

The projects were selected under the second wave of the National Priorities Research Program - Exceptional Proposal (NPRP-EP), an extension of QNRF's flagship National Priorities Research Program (NPRP). It offers a maximum budget of $5 million, for a period of up to five years, to proposals of exceptional scientific merit requiring resources in excess of the normal level of funding available under the NPRP.

The NPRP-EP was created to enable scientists with exceptional ideas, approaches, procedures and models to undertake grand projects aimed at solving key issues for Qatar and the world, commented Dr Abdul Sattar Al-Taie, Executive Director of QNRF, who added, This is exemplified by the second set of grants in this Program, with three new proposals of great significance for Qatar in the fields of health, alternative energy and astronomy. The Program is open for submissions throughout the year and we look forward to receiving similarly exceptional proposals for the next round of funding.

Noor Al-Merekhi, Program Manager of QNRF's NPRP, described the rigorous selection process, Thirteen proposals were initially presented to a panel of experts for this round of the NPRP-EP. Of those, eight were accepted for the second stage of evaluation, with the scientists full proposals each being sent to seven peer reviewers. The QNRF Steering Committee then assessed the reviews when making the final funding decision, awarding three projects a total of $10.4 million over a period of five years.

The first grant, awarded to Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute, will expand the Qatar Exoplanet Survey, led by Qatari astronomer Dr Khalid Alsubai. In collaboration with scientists from the UK and the US, the survey has already led to the discovery of giant Jupiter-like planets Qatar-1b, Qatar-2b and Qatar-2c. With the $4.83 million NPRP-EP grant, Dr Alsubai and his team are planning to expand the Qatar Exoplanet Survey capabilities by establishing more observing stations in new locations around the world, paving the way for future discoveries.

The second awarded proposal will attempt to solve problems with integrating up to one megawatt of power from photovoltaic power conversion systems into the national utility grid using a silicon carbide-based inverter. Dr Haitham Abu-Rub, Professor in Electrical Engineering at Texas A&M University at Qatar and a promising researcher in the field of power electronic converters, will lead the project, which has been granted $4.6 million.

The project is significant as research in power electronic converters is expected to play a major role in the conversion of alternative energy sources and the interface of this energy with power grids.

Through the third grant, scientists will implement and evaluate a novel weight management programme for Qatari school children aged 8 to 12. Professor and Associate Dean for Research in the College of Arts & Sciences at Qatar University, Dr Mohamed Ahmedna, in collaboration with world-leading surgeon Lord Ara Darzi of Imperial College London, will lead the project to administer a comprehensive weight management programme that has been adapted for Qatar from a cognitive behavioural approach and methodology developed and validated in the UK. QNRF has only awarded the first phase of the project, a pilot study that will last for one year and has been granted $980,000; based on the outcome of the pilot study, QNRF will grant funding for the second phase of the project.

According to the latest figures from the National Health Strategy 2011-2016, about 75 percent of Qataris are overweight and 40 percent are obese, increasing the likelihood of a person developing various diseases and health problems, such as diabetes. This project aims to help address the issue at its source by increasing awareness at an early stage in the Qatari population of how to manage weight and avert the risks associated with being overweight.

QNRF is a centre within the Research & Development establishment at Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development. The NPRP-EP accepts proposals throughout the year from distinguished researchers inside and outside of Qatar.

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