Brock University to gain three new Canada Research Chairs

They are billed as being “some of the world’s most accomplished and promising minds.”

Canada Research Chairs (CRCs), noted in their fields of research, strive to achieve research excellence as they increase Canada’s research competitiveness.

There are eight CRCs at Brock and three more are about to join them. The University is recruiting three Canada Research Chairs in the areas of psychology, kinesiology and child and youth studies.

“Brock has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to high-impact and transdisciplinary research,” says Interim Associate Vice-President, Research Michelle McGinn.

“Each of these new CRCs will contribute new knowledge and innovations in their respective fields that will provide unparalleled opportunities for the students who will work and learn alongside these top scholars and will add much to the fabric of Canadian research,” she says.

The three Chairs will all contribute to environmental impacts on human health and function.

The Canada Research Chair in Biological Psychology, Epigenetics investigates the role of environmental factors in brain and behavioural development.

Biological Psychology is a foundational subdiscipline within psychology. Epigenetics provides compelling evidence that environmental influences can have life-long, transgenerational effects that do not reflect changes in DNA, but rather in gene expression, says Professor of Psychology Cathy Mondloch

“Given the multi-generational impact of these environmental influences, the scholarship of epigenetics will enhance human health and well-being,” says Mondloch, who is Chair of the Department of Psychology.

Mondloch says the new position will strengthen ties among transdisciplinary research groups such as the Jack and Nora Walker Canadian Centre for Lifespan Development Research and the Behavioural and Cognitive Neuroscience group, “partnerships that will further enhance our innovation, creativity, and ability to foster healthy lives in the Niagara Region.”

The Canada Research Chair in Tissue Remodelling and Plasticity throughout the Lifespan will examine the impacts that growth, aging, activity level and nutrition have on how tissues adapt, maladapt, and are repaired at various stages in life.

Researchers in this area use advanced techniques such as epigenetics (the study of inheritable changes that are not genetic in nature), metabolomics (the chemical evidence that signals a cellular process has occurred), proteomics (the study of proteins), and various types of imaging to examine tissue developments at certain points in life.

“While we know that a healthful diet and physical activity promote health, there is still much to be discovered about whether there are specific windows of opportunity during the lifespan in which these factors can particularly optimize health, by preventing or delaying the development of chronic disease,” says Professor Phillip Sullivan, Chair of the Department of Kinesiology.

“Ultimately, this research will lead to strategies to promote the health and well-being of Canadians while also reducing costs to the health care system” he says.

The Canada Research Chair in Children and Youth: Performance and Mental Health aims to understand the relationships between physical performance and health and well-being in children and youth. This includes how performance can have direct and indirect positive and potentially negative effects on the physical, emotional and mental health of children and youth.

“There are several important aspects of performance that can have some very positive effects on children and youth,” says Professor of Child and Youth Studies John McNamara. “At the same time, children and youth can face profound pressure to perform at very high levels. This pressure comes from many sources, including society, families, and ultimately can be pressure that children and youth internalize and place on themselves.”

The Canada Research Chairs Program invests around $265 million each year to attract and retain top researchers in engineering and the natural sciences, health sciences, humanities and social sciences.

The program is an initiative of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

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