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Roberto Botelho, Julia Spaniol named Canada Research Chairs

By Will Sloan

Robert Botelho and Julia Spaniol

Robert Botelho and Julia Spaniol join 11 other Ryerson Research Chairs.

Chemistry and Biology professor Roberto Botelho  and Psychology professor Julia Spaniol are the latest Ryerson professors to be named Canada Research Chairs. As Tier 2 chairs, they will join 11 other Ryerson faculty members who have had their work supported by the government research initiative.

“Being named two of the newest Canada Research Chairs is a great achievement for Professor Botelho and Professor Spaniol,” said Wendy Cukier, vice-president, research and innovation. "This places them among Canada’s research elite. Their work in biomedical science and psychology exemplifies the innovative spirit of Ryerson researchers who embrace both excellence and relevance.”

The Canada Research Chairs Program was founded in 2000 to attract top international experts natural sciences, health sciences, humanities, and social sciences to Canada. The program invests $265 million per year in research professorships at Canadian universities.

Botelho, in the Faculty of Science, researches organelles, “the ‘organs’ of the cell” – when they fail, diseases develop. His research aims to improve our understanding of how organelles acquire their molecular and functional traits. His research will involve three stages: determining the functional importance of the types of lipid chains that form phosphoinositides, which are molecular architects of organelle identity; exploring how these phosphoinositides help regulate the expression of genes involved in organelle identity and function; and investigating how cells integrate immune signals with the molecular machinery responsible for scaling up lysosomes to help degrade pathogens and resolve an infection.

Spaniol, in the Faculty of Arts, examines how older adults show declines in cognitive functions (such as memory and attention) as they age, while emotional and motivational capacities can stabilize or improve. Spaniol’s research investigates the effects of reward motivation on cognition and the brain across the lifespan. This research is of urgent relevance, as aged 65 and up form the fastest-growing segment of Canadian society.

Both Botelho and Spaniol received Early Researcher Awards from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation in August for their work.

For more information on Ryerson’s Canada Research Chairs, visit