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U of T awarded three new Canada Research Chairs

Sixteen researchers receive renewals, promotions

Dentistry professor Celine Levesque is one of three U of T faculty members to be named a new Canada Research Chair. (Dentistry photo)

What happens to an airplane engine before it gets built? You probably don’t think much about it, but Prasanth Nair, the new Canada Research Chair in Computational Modeling and Design does.

Before that engine is built, it’s modelled extensively on computers and those models are used to build prototypes that are tested. Computer modelling reduces both the time and the cost involved in carrying out a project by making sure that a design will work in theory before anything actually gets built. The challenge, though, is that models don’t always behave the same way the real world does.

Nair, of the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies, is tackling the problem of uncertainty in modelling, thanks to funding announced today under the Canada Research Chair (CRC) program. He joins two other U of T researchers who were awarded new CRCs, two who were promoted within the ranks of the CRC program and 14 whose existing chairs were renewed.

The Canada Research Chairs program, administered by the federal government, invests $300 million per year to attract and retain the world’s most accomplished and promising researchers. The CRC designation is a prestigious mark of excellence for a researcher.

U of T’s other new CRCs are Professor Celine Levesque of Dentistry and Professor Antonio Strafella of Medicine and the University Health Network. Levesque, the CRC in Oral Microbial Genetics, is investigating how biofilms—collections of organisms such as bacteria—resist antibiotics. Strafella, the CRC in Movement Disorders and Neuroimaging, will use neuroimaging to look at the brains of Parkinson’s patients in order to identify abnormalities that underlie behavioural and cognitive problems arising from the disease.

Professor Daniel Durocher of molecular genetics and Mount Sinai Hospital, (CRC in Molecular Genetics of the DNA Damage Response) and Igor Jurisica, (CRC in Integrative Cancer Informatics) of medical biophysics and the University Health Network were promoted to Tier 1 CRCs. The Tier 1 designation indicates that they’re world leaders in their fields.

The following professors saw their existing chairs renewed:

• Liliana Attisano  of biochemistry (CRC in Signalling Networks in Cancer);
• Mohammad Fadel of law (CRC in Law and Economics of Islamic Law);
• Guri Giaever of the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research (CRC in Chemical Biology);
• Anne-Claude Gingras of molecular genetics and Mount Sinai Hospital (CRC in Functional Proteomics);
• Stephen Girardin of laboratory medicine & pathobiology (CRC in Innate Immunity and Microbial Pathogenesis);
• Anthony Hanley of nutritional sciences (CRC in The Epidemiology of Type 2 Diabetes);
• Stephen Julian of physics (CRC in Experimental Condensed Matter Physics);
• Andrea Kassner of medical imaging (CRC in Neuroimaging);
• Amira Klip of biochemistry and the Hospital for Sick Children (CRC in Cell Biology of Insulin Action);
• Andreas Lozano of surgery and the University Health Network (CRC in Neuroscience);
• Avery Nathens of surgery and St. Michael’s Hospital (CRC in Systems of Trauma Care);
• Daniella Rotin of biochemistry and the Hospital for Sick Children (CRC in Biochemistry and Signal Transduction);
• Gilbert Walker of chemistry (CRC in Biointerfaces) and
• Joseph Wong of political Science (CRC in Democratization, Health and Development).

“On behalf of the University of Toronto, I extend my congratulations to this stellar group of researchers,” said Professor Paul Young, U of T’s vice-president (research). “The CRC designation is a sign of true research leadership and excellence.” Young also offered his thanks to the Government of Canada for providing funding through the CRC program. “The CRC Program allows us to attract and retain the world’s best researchers—those who are thinking deeply about some of our most pressing problems. We are extremely grateful for this investment in our researchers.”

The CRC funding was announced at the University of Guelph by  Minister of State Gary Goodyear and at Concordia University by Senator Larry Smith.