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Ryerson University researcher Miranda Kirby named Canada Research Chair

Faculty members Roberto Botelho and Julia Spaniol renewed as CRCs
June 21, 2019
From left: Roberto Botelho, Julia Spaniol and Miranda Kirby

From left, Roberto Botelho, Julia Spaniol and Miranda Kirby are Canada Research Chairs.

Ryerson University is pleased to announce that three Ryerson faculty members are being recognized as emerging leaders in their fields. The Canada Research Chair, external link (CRC) program has announced Miranda Kirby as a new CRC and the renewal of Roberto Botelho and Julia Spaniol as CRCs for a second term.

Physics professor Miranda Kirby, the new Tier 2 CRC in Quantitative Imaging, is developing automated ways of extracting information from CT and MRI images to help assess smoking-related lung diseases. Her CRC research program will help develop new measurements of lung disease, combining image processing with machine learning to extract more information than can be seen by the human eye in the images. Professor Kirby hopes to one day be able to use the new measurements developed to study other lung diseases, such as cystic fibrosis.

“I’m really excited and grateful for the opportunity, and also excited to collaborate with other researchers in Toronto as well as across Canada and internationally. I’m also excited to work with students. This is definitely going to help support a lot of students training in my research area,” said professor Kirby.  

Professor Roberto Botelho, of the Department of Chemistry and Biology, has been renewed as the Tier 2 CRC in Organelle Function and Adaptation. He will continue his research focusing on specialized structures within cells called lysosomes, which he calls the “smart garbage can of the cell” and on how specific lipids called phosphoinositides instruct cells on how to respond to external cues like stress and infection. A deeper understanding of these organelles and lipids and how they work could help develop medicines that boost human immunity, he says.

Psychology professor Julia Spaniol has been renewed as the Tier 2 CRC in Cognitive Aging. With the renewal, she plans to further her research into the impacts of motivation on maintaining and improving brain and cognitive functions across the adult lifespan. During the first term of her CRC, professor Spaniol and her team studied the effects of extrinsic rewards on neurocognitive function, and found evidence that extrinsic rewards boost memory and attention in younger and older adults. In the second term, she will shift the focus toward intrinsic motivation, to shed light on how interest, enjoyment and curiosity shape our brains as we age.

“Congratulations to Ryerson’s new and renewed Canada Research Chairs,” said Steven N. Liss, Ryerson’s vice-president, research and innovation. “This funding supports outstanding researchers to explore, discover and innovate in key strategic areas of importance to Ryerson, our region, and Canada. Our Canada Research Chairs are pioneering novel fields of knowledge and techniques that will have a positive impact in the world.”

Professors Kirby, Botelho and Spaniol are three of the 346 chairs at 52 post-secondary institutions across Canada that were announced as new or renewed appointments, external link by the federal government on June 14, an investment of more than $275 million.

Find out more about Ryerson's Canada Research Chairs.

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