The Canada 150 Research Chairs program, announced in Budget 2017, aims to invest $117.6 million in science and research to attract top-tier international researchers to Canada. As part of the program, two Research Chairs have joined the University of Toronto: Dr. Donna Rose Addis and Dr. Miguel Ramalho-Santos, who were each awarded $350,000.
The program provides Canadian institutions with a one-time investment to recruit top talent and improve Canada’s reputation as a global hub for “science, research and innovation excellence.”
“Canada has a world-class research community and a vision of openness and collaboration that is very rare in current times,” wrote Ramalho-Santos in an email to The Varsity. “Recruiting international talent at this point can cement that standing and ensure that Canada will expand its scientific reach and remain at the forefront.”
According to Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan, this investment embraces the inclusivity and openness for which Canada is recognized. The government hopes that the program will also improve universities’ ability to generate and apply new knowledge, while also improving the training of research personnel.
Ramalho-Santos, Research Chair in Developmental Epigenetics, studies the epigenetic regulation of stem cell pluripotency, which is the ability of stem cells to give rise to different cells in the body. He does this in vivo using mouse models, with a focus on early embryonic development and the germline.
He and his team will study how the environment interacts with the genome and affects gene activity during embryonic development, which may leave molecular “imprints” with long-term consequences for health and disease. This research will take place at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital, where there is a high interest in developmental epigenetics and maternal-fetal medicine.
Ramalho-Santos believes understanding how environmental factors can impact gene activity and long-term physiological development is part of a global responsibility with implications for many species.
Addis, Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience of Memory and Aging, will bring her expertise to U of T and continue to study memory loss caused by aging and depression.
She plans to use magnetoencephalography, a neuroimaging tool, to discover how specific stages of the imagination process are disrupted by memory loss in aging and depression.
Addis will also examine how culture may change the way aging and depression impacts memory and imagination. She plans to develop new cognitive and brain-based interventions to enhance future thinking in older adults and those with depression.
“We have to bring together the best minds, wherever they come from, to work on the ‘big problems’ facing our communities, such as age-related diseases,” wrote Addis in an email to The Varsity. “And one way to do this is to recruit international talent to consolidate and enhance Canada’s research strengths.”