Brock University gains four new Canada Research Chairs, one renewal

Getting kids to be more physically and mentally fit. Reducing damage caused by blood vessels breaking down in older age. Mapping out the impacts of parenthood and aging on the brain. Understanding how perfectionism and stress interact in young people.

These are the areas in which Brock University will be gaining a wealth of expertise with four new Canada Research Chairs (CRCs) and the renewal of an existing Chair announced Wednesday, Jan. 12 by Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne.

Canada Research Chairs are nationally recognized experts who contribute knowledge, understanding, and solutions to society. With Wednesday’s announcement, Brock is now home to 12 CRCs, with another two allocations expected to be filled in the next few years.

Brock University’s new CRCs are:

  • Paula Duarte-Guterman, Assistant Professor, Psychology
  • Matthew Kwan, Assistant Professor, Child and Youth Studies
  • Danielle Sirianni Molnar, Associate Professor, Child and Youth Studies
  • Newman Sze, Professor, Health Sciences

In addition, Associate Professor of Kinesiology Michael Holmes, who was named Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Neuromuscular Mechanics and Ergonomics in 2016, has had his Chair renewed. He specializes in researching workplace injuries.

Brock’s new and renewed CRCs are among a total of 188 across the country, announced Wednesday, Jan. 12 by federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne.

“Brock University’s group of world-class researchers will make great contributions to our understanding of child and youth development and the aging process,” says Brock’s Vice-President, Research Tim Kenyon.

Michael Holmes, Associate Professor of Kinesiology, has had his CRC in Neuromuscular Mechanics and Ergonomics renewed.

“To have this number of Canada Research Chairs announced at once reflects Brock’s growing reputation across the country as a dynamic, research-intensive university that has impact in people’s lives,” he says.

Duarte-Guterman is Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Behavioural Neuroscience, Director of Brock’s Comparative Behavioural Neuroscience Lab and member of Brock’s Centre for Neuroscience and the Institute for Lifespan Development Research. She joined Brock at the beginning of 2021 from her post-doctoral fellow position at the University of British Columbia’s Behavioural Neuroendocrinology Laboratory.

Duarte-Guterman’s research focuses on the remodelling of brain circuits with experience throughout the lifespan, known as neuroplasticity.

“Parenthood is a crucial experience in many animals, yet surprisingly little is known about the impact of this unique experience on the brain and with aging,” she says.

For her CRC, she’ll be using animal models to investigate how parenthood and aging influence the formation of neurons in the hippocampus, the brain region responsible for learning and memory and the regulation of stress and anxiety.

“My research aims to identify how parental experience remodels the hippocampus and the implications for memory, stress and anxiety in the short term and with aging,” she says.

Kwan is Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Youth Mental Health and Performance. Since joining Brock in 2020 from McMaster University, he has received Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) funding for his research on the Archway program and children with and without Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD). Kwan is currently Director of Brock’s INfant, Child, and youth Health Lab (INCH).

For his CRC, Kwan will be investigating new theoretical and practical approaches to understanding ‘movement behaviours’ — sleep, sitting and physical activity — in youth and how these movement behaviours impact youth mental health and well-being.

“My research is beginning to try and tease apart the different psychological processes that are at play when youth decide to do these movement behaviours,” says Kwan. “It is my hope that findings from this research will help us identify how and when we can best support youth to move more, sit less and sleep better to enhance their mental health and well-being.”

Danielle Sirianni Molnar, an expert on youth perfectionism, is a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Adjustment and Well-Being in Children and Youth. She has been awarded funding from such agencies as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), as well as through the Ontario government’s Early Career Researcher Award. She is also Director of Brock’s Developmental Processes in Health and Well-Being Lab.

Sirianni Molnar’s main research goals are to study the lived experience of young perfectionists and their parents; investigate the roles of acute and chronic stress in perfectionism and its effects on adjustment and well-being; and determine how parent–adolescent relationships moderate links between perfectionism, stress, adjustment and well-being within a multidisciplinary and multimethod framework.

“I am hoping that this research will help us understand and give voice to the experiences of young perfectionists and their parents so that we can recognize the implications of perfectionism for their health and well-being,” says Sirianni Molnar. “The end goal is to target ways in which stress can be minimized for adolescents high in perfectionism, thus improving their adjustment and well-being and optimizing their performance.”

Sze is Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Mechanisms of Health and Disease. He joined Brock in 2021 from the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, where he was Director of the Proteomics Research Program in the School of Biological Sciences.

A common feature of many age-related diseases is damage to the blood vessel lining in different tissues and organs. Using methods he invented to investigate how the lining degrades over time, Sze will exam how early life adversities, stressful lifestyles and unhealthy diets can increase damage to the blood vessel lining.

Sze will also investigate if drugs targeting the blood vessel lining can be used to prevent age-related diseases. “Hopefully the research will allow us to find a method to make older people live healthy lives so that they can enjoy their retirement,” says Sze.

The Canada Research Chair Program invests around $265 million per year “to attract and retain some of the world’s most accomplished and promising minds” in the fields of engineering and the natural sciences, health sciences, humanities and social sciences, says the program’s website.

The program recognizes diversity and inclusion as cornerstones of research excellence, working with participating Canadian institutions to achieve equity and diversity in the program.

Universities nominate candidates in one of two categories: Tier 1, a seven-year term for “outstanding researchers acknowledged by their peers as world leaders in their fields”; and Tier 2, a five-year term for “exceptional emerging researchers, acknowledged by their peers as having the potential to lead in their field.”

Brock University has been allocated 14 Canada Research Chair positions, all of which are expected to be filled within the next few years. These are the researchers at Brock who are active CRCs:

  • Julia Baird, Tier 2 CRC in Human Dimensions of Water Resources and Water Resilience
  • Karen Campbell, Tier 2 CRC in Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging
  • Vincenzo DeLuca, Tier 1 CRC in Plant Biotechnology
  • Andrea Doucet, Tier 1 CRC in Gender, Work, Care and Community
  • Paula Duarte-Guterman, Tier 2 CRC in Behavioural Neuroscience
  • Val Fajardo, Tier 2 CRC in Tissue Remodelling and Plasticity throughout the Lifespan
  • Michael Homes, Tier 2 CRC in Neuromuscular Mechanics and Ergonomics
  • Tomáš Hudlický, Tier 1 CRC in Organic Synthesis and Biocatalysis
  • Matthew Kwan, Tier 2 CRC in Youth Mental Health and Performance
  • Danielle Sirianni Molnar, Tier 2 CRC in Adjustment and Well-Being in Children and Youth
  • Newman Sze, Tier 1 CRC in Mechanisms of Health and Disease
  • Wendy Ward, Tier 2 CRC in Bone and Muscle Development

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