Ten UBC researchers among latest Canada Research Chair appointments

May 12, 2017

Ten UBC researchers were among the latest Canada Research Chairs appointments, accompanied by a boost in federal funding totaling $8.6 million. 

These researchers improve our depth of knowledge and quality of life, strengthen Canada's international competitiveness, and help train the next generation of highly skilled people through student supervision, teaching, and the coordination of other researchers' work—one breakthrough and discovery at a time. 

Canada Research Chairs Profiles – April 2017 Round
New Chair Holders

Ayesha Chaudhry – Canada Research Chair in Religion, Law and Social Justice SSHRC Tier 2

Dr. Chaudhry’s work investigates how religion and state laws make specific demands from women, condoning various levels and types of violence against them. Given the hyper-politicized role role that Muslim women play in various religious and national contexts, her work focuses on Muslim women as a site of identity contestation.  She is especially interested in including the voices of Muslim women themselves in the conversations that concern, yet often excludes them. Dr. Chaudhry research focus is on how Muslims women negotiate various identities and discourses to demand greater rights as both Muslims and citizens through religious and human rights discourses. Her scholarship is geared toward creating a more sophisticated public discussion around Islam and Muslims, in which informed dialogue takes the place of paternalism and demagoguery.

Adam Ford – Canada Research Chair in Restoration Ecology NSERC Tier 2

Dr. Ford is addressing the impact of human activity on the interactions among large predators (wolves, bears, cougars), and their prey (deer, elk), and plants, in human- modified landscapes.  Dr. Ford’s research will use a combination of field experiments, GPS tracking, computer models, and satellite images to bring together the ecology of individuals, populations, and communities.  Specifically, he is investigating how forestry practices, urban growth, and highways not only change species abundance but the manner in which these species move through the landscape and interact with one another. Dr. Ford’s research will help develop new urban, road, and forestry methods that will contribute towards the recovery of wildlife populations, and will help guide policy focused on the protection and recovery of Canada’s landscape.

Hu Fu – Canada Research Chair in Algorithmic Game Theory NSERC Tier 2

Dr. Fu’s research program studies the design and analysis of online marketplaces.  The e-commerce has ushered in marketplaces that contrast with traditional ones in their scales, dynamics, information flows, and interactions with participants.  Businesses such as online advertisement auctions, pricing on sharing economy platforms, and third-party seller recommendation in retail markets pose challenges in the design of large systems participated by strategically behaving agents.  Dr. Fu’s research program studies such systems by combining perspectives and tools from economies, game theory, computer science and optimization, aiming to understand their design principles and their overall effects on the health of markets.  His research provides important guidance for online businesses to design their services and business models, and provide frameworks for regulating authorities and the public to evaluate the impacts of online business on the efficiency and fairness of our economy.

Woonghee (Tim) Huh – Canada Research Chair in Operations Excellence and Business Analytics NSERC Tier 1

Dr. Huh’s research program studies how to match supply and demand in supply chains and service systems.  His approach is based on business analytics: he analyzes data to understand and describe systems and processes, builds models to predict how systems will perform, and investigates how they can be improved by proposing robust and east-to-use policies that are simple yet effective in practice. Since one-tenth of Canada’s gross domestic product is tied to inventory, any improvement to supply chain and service efficiency can result in substantial savings and contribute to the competitiveness of Canadian as well as international firms and organizations.

Raymond Ng – Canada Research Chair in Data Science and Analytics NSERC Tier 1

Molecular technologies have found many important applications in the past decade, ranging from environmental monitoring to human health.  However, measuring and modeling molecular entities at a single time-point is often insufficient to capture the complexity of many biological systems; truly systematic measurements needs to consider dynamic changes across time.   With decreasing cost, longitudinal genomic data are accumulating quickly.  Yet tools that help researchers to model temporal changes in genomics are inadequate. The objective of Dr. Ng’s research program is to develop tools to model and understand temporal changes in genomics data.  His team will develop tools for assessing the quality of data, and identifying possible outliers for removal; tools for learning the latent structure of multi-omics time series; and tools for extracting information from texts to help research interpret their results.

Matthew Pennell – Canada Research Chair in Biodiversity theory and informatics NSERC Tier 2

Dr. Pennell’s research program will investigate how organismal energy budgets have evolved over life’s history.  His aim is to understand the long-term ecological and evolutionary engines of biodiversity – why today’s species, communities, and ecosystems look the way they do in order to predict how they will change in response to future stressors, such as climate change, and habitat destruction. Specifically, he will study the evolutionary history of the relationship between metabolic rate and body size in animals and photosynthetic capacity in plants.  In conjunction with large-scale data analysis, he will use simulations and mathematical modeling to understand how the evolution of organismal energetics influences ecosystem properties. 


Caroline Jenkins – Canada Research Chair in Philosophy SSHRC Tier 2

As a metaphysician Dr. Jenkins applies, analytical rigor to discover and challenge assumptions about what is real and what is not, to tease apart what is due to “nature” and what is due to “culture”, and to strive for a deeper understanding of the world.  Her research will center on innovative and timely philosophical investigations into the nature of romantic love.  Love of all kinds was central to Plato’s philosophy, and romantic love in particular has more recently occupied philosophers from Bertrand Russell to Simone d Beauvoir.  Contemporary analytic metaphysicians are yet to focus their attention on love.  Dr. Jenkins’s original idea that drives this program of research is that we can approach love as a topic in analytic metaphysics, enabling the application of a powerful toolkit of conceptual and theoretical strategies that have been developed for analytical enquiry concerning other metaphysical issues (such as causation, the mind, and the physical world).

Christina Laffin – Canada Research Chair in Premodern Japanese Literature and Culture SSHRC Tier 2

Dr. Laffin’s research focuses on noblewomen writers in Japan’s medieval period (1185-1600).  Their works were valued enough to be reproduced and circulated for a millennium.  Dr. Laffin investigates how these women, though limited by marriages practices, inheritance patterns, and property rights, were able to work as scribes, memoirists, poets, novelists, and scholars.  Her research asks how, when, and why women become writers. Dr. Laffin’s primary area of study is premodern Japan, but she considers issues that have continued to impact women from ancient times to the present including economic mobility, motherhood, education, and socialization. By illuminating periods in which women writers flourished, Dr. Laffin’s research deepens our understanding of the historical conditions necessary for women to excel as authors, scholars, and teachers.

Brian MacVicar – Canada Research Chair in Neuroscience CHIR Tier 1

 Many neurodegenerative diseases and brain injuries are characterized by the loss of neuros.  Dr. MacVicar will continue to investigate why neurons die in response to Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and ischemic stroke, and how neurons and the surrounding support cells called glia, communicate in the health and diseased brain.  Aberrant neuron-glia communication contributes to neuroinflammation, synaptic disruption and neurodegeneration. Dr. MacVicar’s research will reveal the ways by which neurons die in response to trauma, and how the normal communication between neurons and glia goes awry.  These discoveries will allow us to develop novel and efficacious treatments to debilitating and intractable brain conditions.

Christian Naus – Canada Research Chair in Gap Junctions and Neurological Disorders CIHR Tier 1

Communication between cells is essential for all life processes.  This is particularly evident for cells constituting various tissues and organs in the body, to integrate and coordinate proper function.  Channels or pores within the membranes of cells are an important mechanism for communication.  Gap junctions are a unique type of channel interconnecting cells in all bodily tissues.  Their importance has become evident with regard to diseases such as stroke, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.  These diseases are reproduced in genetically altered mice lacking these specific channels, providing both understanding into these diseases, and tools for discovery of new therapeutic approaches.

  • Award Winners

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