From studies of fungal pathogens to inclusion of First Nations communities in academic research design, five University of Guelph researchers have received 2022 Early Researcher Awards (ERA) from the Government of Ontario.

This year, 54 projects across Ontario will receive ERA funding, which help newly appointed researchers build their research teams. The award covers salaries and travel for student research assistants, equipment costs and facility expenses.

“These awards reflect both the demonstrated excellence of these innovative researchers and their tremendous future promise,” said Dr. Beverley Hale, acting vice-president (research). “Each of these projects broadens disciplinary horizons, delivering real-world impact now and in the years to come.

“The range of research projects supported by the Early Researcher Awards program speaks to the University of Guelph’s strength as a hub of research excellence across a sweeping range of subjects and conducted through a diversity of research approaches.”

Each of the following U of G researchers will receive $100,000 from the Government of Ontario, which will be matched by $50,000 from the University. The province also provides an additional $40,000 per award to the research institution.

Dr. Jennifer Geddes-McAlister

A professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB), College of Biological Science, Geddes-McAlister investigates fungal pathogens. She will lead a research team looking to uncover new anti-fungal treatments and remedy antimicrobial-resistant strains of these pathogens. The research aims to improve the quality of life for patients affected by fungal infections and reduce the health-care costs associated with treating them.

Dr. Brittany Luby

A professor in the Department of History, College of Arts, Luby explores the history and living legacies of Anishinaabe-settler relations. Luby and her team will develop the First Nations Guide to Working with Universities, a collection of open access materials that will detail the inner workings of academe. By making institutional processes more transparent to potential collaborators, this project will ensure that Indigenous people can participate fully in the creation and dissemination of research on their own terms.

Dr. Kaitlyn McLachlan

A professor in the Department of Psychology, College of Social and Applied Human Sciences, McLachlan focuses on improving outcomes for individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), a neurodevelopmental disorder caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. With this funding, McLachlan and her team will collaboratively design and test a toolkit for identifying and responding to the complex needs of youth with FASD in the criminal justice system. The project will fill a critical gap between Ontario’s justice and health sectors.

Dr. Kristel Thomassin

Also a professor in the Department of Psychology, Thomassin studies children’s emotional functioning. She and her research team will compare the effectiveness of personalized psychotherapy for child anxiety and depression with current, more generalized treatment for children. The research will help shape psychotherapeutic practice by furthering knowledge of children’s treatment needs.

Dr. Wei Zhang

Also a professor in MCB, Zhang studies protein engineering. Abnormalities in DNA repair in cells can cause cancer and other diseases. Using synthetic proteins, Zhang and his team will map the molecular mechanisms that control DNA repair and develop proteins to correct that process when it goes astray. The research will help in developing new and affordable cancer treatments, improving patient health, reducing health-care costs and strengthening Ontario’s biotechnology sector.