UTSC researchers awarded NSERC instrumentation grants

Professors Ruby Sullan and Maithe Arruda-Carvalho will use the grants to accelerate their research

Each year, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) awards Research Tools and Instruments (RTI) Grants to researchers who require specific tools to conduct their research.

Earlier in November, Professors Ruby Sullan and Maithe Arruda-Carvalho were awarded NSERC-RTI grants.

RTI grants are awarded based on the need for particular instruments, the merit of the research programs and applicants, and the contribution that the equipment will have on the training of research personnel, like students.

Ruby Sullan and biofilms

Sullan is a professor in the Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences at UTSC. Her research lies in understanding the stages of bacterial biofilm development.

Biofilms are a major reason for hospital-acquired infections because they easily form on the surfaces of biomedical and implanted devices, like catheters and intrauterine devices.

Sullan and her team hope to better understand major contributors of biofilm formation and ultimately encapsulate antimicrobial agents in nanoparticles that can target and eradicate the initial adhesions that cause the initiation and maturation of biofilms.

Her team will use the NSERC-RTI grant to install a Dynamic Light Scattering (DLS) system for biological chemistry studies.

According to Sullan, the DLS system is a particle analyzer and will be used to characterize nanoparticles for effective and targeted treatment of electrochemical sensor development against biofilms.

The DLS system can also be used to monitor the mechanisms and kinetics of protein aggregations. This can enable scientists to learn more about disease progression caused by protein aggregation, like neurodegenerative diseases.

Sullan also mentioned that the DLS system will be used by a number of other research groups, and it will be used to address a wide range of research questions and themes in biophysical research.

Maithe Arruda-Carvalho and brain development

Another recipient of an NSERC-RTI grant, Arruda-Carvalho works in the Department of Psychology at UTSC and is cross-appointed to the Department of Cell & Systems Biology at UTSG.

Arruda-Carvalho’s research is directed toward extending current knowledge about the maturation of neural networks, like emotional processing, that shape our complex behaviour and sensitivity to stress through to adulthood.

Carvalho and her research team are particularly interested in investigating how changes in brain development caused by early life experiences influence neural circuits and ultimately affect behaviour.

The onset of most mental illnesses first manifest during childhood and adolescence. This suggests the importance of proper brain development during these critical periods of life.

With the funding from the NSERC-RTI grant, Arruda-Carvalho and her lab will explore developmental windows during which critical neural connections of brain regions involved in decision making emerge and how they are fine-tuned with age.

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