Brock’s women researchers are leading the way in their respective fields — and the University’s Canada Research Chairs (CRCs) are proof of just that.
Fifty per cent of Brock’s active CRCs are women, a big boost for research across the country and at the University, says Michelle McGinn, Associate Vice-President, Research.
“Although there’s a strong focus on objectivity in research, inevitably every individual brings to research who they are as a person, whether it be through their interests, experiences or other influences,” says Michelle McGinn. “Having women researchers around the table ensures that their experiences have the opportunity to influence the new knowledge that is generated.”
The federal government’s Canada Research Chairs Program (CRCP) invests more than $311 million each year to support researchers who are identified as being — or on the path to becoming — global leaders in their field.
Brock University has 10 active CRCs, five whom are women. The University has 14 allocations in total.
Brock is one of 78 Canadian post-secondary institutions allocated a particular number of Chairs, with 2,285 Chairs found across the country. Each institution nominates candidates whose profiles are assessed by peer reviewers before confirmation from the federal government.
Brock’s representation of women is above the CRCP national average of 44.3 per cent. Institutions have until December 2029 to achieve a target of 50.9 per cent women.
The CRCP and institutions award Chairs funding and reduced teaching requirements, among other supports.
“I love teaching, but it’s great to have extra space and time in my position to focus on research,” says Julia Baird, Tier 2 CRC in Human Dimensions of Water Resources and Water Resilience.
“Because of the dedicated funding, I was able to jump into projects immediately,” she says. “I hired a post-doctoral researcher a few months after I started. We ran with some really exciting ideas and now we’re doing something much bigger.”
That groundwork enabled Baird to study how a person’s psychological traits — including empathy and the extent to which they believe they can influence outcomes — will affect the person’s attitudes towards water sustainability measures. She and her team have partnered with the Niagara Parks Commission, the Town of Lincoln and World Wildlife Fund Canada on the project.
Karen Campbell, Tier 2 CRC in Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging, was also able to apply for more grants with the help of CRC support, which she says broadened her research opportunities.
She says her reduced teaching load also enabled her to do more educational outreach work locally.
“There’s a huge interest in aging research in Niagara since we have one of the highest percentages of an older adult population in Canada,” says Campbell. “It’s great to do older adult research here and also share research results with people.”
Connecting with the Niagara community aligns with Brock University’s strategic plans and priorities, which is a key factor in nominations for CRC positions, says McGinn.
Brock’s women CRCs cover a broad range of topics in their research programs, from water governance to memory in older adults to families and caregiving, to the influence of parenting on the brain to the lived experience of young perfectionists and their parents.
“New knowledge and understandings are being generated and advanced in these areas: how things work, what that means and how this research matters to the community,” says McGinn.
She also lauds Brock’s women CRCs as role models who are encouraging women and girls to pursue research careers.
“It’s what the next generation will do that all of our futures depend upon,” says McGinn.
Brock University’s women Canada Research Chairs are:
Julia Baird, Tier 2 CRC in Human Dimensions of Water Resources and Water Resilience, studies the human dimensions of water resilience, focusing on decision-making at the group level to address governance collaboration and effectiveness, and the individual level to investigate attitudes, how to shape them and how doing so could lead to system-level governance changes.
Karen Campbell, Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging, studies memory in older adults, specifically how distractions and lack of focus get in the way of older adults’ ability to remember the things they want to remember.
Paula Duarte-Guterman, Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Behavioural Neuroscience, studies how neurons in the hippocampus, a region important for learning and memory and the regulation of stress and anxiety, affect behaviour in the aging process.
“The CRC offers great flexibility in setting up a lab to mentor trainees at all levels,” says Duarte-Guterman. “I hope that my teaching showcases both the importance of scientific research to our society and the contributions of women to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).”
Andrea Doucet, Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Gender, Work and Care, studies interconnections between care/work practices and policies in the everyday lives of diverse families across Canada. She draws on feminist, relational and ecological approaches to rethink how we research, conceptualize and measure care, work and time.
“The CRC position has given me the precious resource of time to do meaningful, slow, relational scholarship, to support and mentor students and post-doctoral fellows, to foster international collaborations and to secure research funding, including a SSHRC Partnership grant on Reimagining Care/Work Policies.”
Danielle Sirianni Molnar, Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Adjustment and Well-Being in Children and Youth, studies the role perfectionism plays in young people’s stress levels and the effect this stress has on them and their parents.
“The CRC position has transformed my work beyond my wildest dreams, serving as a catalyst for the expansion of my research and providing me with the confidence that I needed to push past barriers to increase my creative capacity to initiate new and exciting projects,” says Molnar. “I presented my lab’s latest work at a recent international conference as a direct result of the opportunities that the CRC provides.”
A full list of Brock’s Canada Research Chairs is available on the University’s CRC web page.