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Five professors receive Early Researcher Awards

Early Researcher Awards

Award recipients, clockwise from top left: Seth Dworkin, Becky Choma, Scott Tsai, Margaret Moulson and Costin Antonescu. Photo by Luke Galati.

Five Ryerson professors are among this year’s recipients of Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science (MRIS) Early Researcher Awards (ERA), a program that provides funding for recently appointed Ontario faculty to pursue groundbreaking work.

“Ryerson attracts some of the best and brightest talent,” said Usha George, acting vice-president,​ research and innovation. “These early researcher awards will help further their transformative works across a broad range of disciplines.

“From cutting-edge research aimed at reducing auto emissions and the microscopic study of individual cells to examining how humour can disarm the fear rooted in Islamophobia and the investigation of the origins of emotion processing in infants, we are confident that these research programs have the potential to change lives. Congratulations to all of our new ERA recipients,” said George.

Costin Antonescu’s project (Faculty of Science, Department of Chemistry and Biology) seeks to develop a high-resolution spatial map within cells of hormone receptors. Cells receive signals from many different hormones that bind to receptor proteins at the cell surface, thus controlling cell growth, survival and movement. These receptor proteins trigger many different proteins and lipids which help control cell function. Importantly, these hormone signals are altered in cancer, and drive cancer growth and metastasis. With a high-resolution spatial map, Antonescu seeks to advance our understanding of hormone receptors, as well as the cellular proteins and lipids through which they act.

Becky Choma (Faculty of Arts, Department of Psychology) will study the exacerbating and inhibiting functions of fear and critical humour respectively, on Islamophobia. With Islamophobia on the rise in Canada, Choma will investigate how fear of Muslims leads to prejudice, whether humour that questions stereotypes and prejudicial beliefs about Muslims can disarm fear and reduce prejudice, and the role of ideology.

Seth Dworkin’s (Faculty of Engineering and Architectural ScienceMechanical and Industrial Engineering) project focuses on understanding and mitigating engine emissions. Professor Dworkin’s research will develop a detailed numerical model for engine emissions to help Ontario aerospace/vehicle companies produce cleaner engines and meet government pollution regulations. The new models will be implemented into engine simulations at Ontario companies and will predict emissions without the need for costly prototyping.

Margaret Moulson (Faculty of Arts, Department of Psychology) will study the origins of individual differences in emotion processing. Humans vary in how adept they are at “reading” other people’s emotions. Using behavioural, electrophysiological, and neuroimaging techniques, Moulson will study the origins of individual differences in emotion processing in the first two years of life. By discovering factors that influence the development of emotion processing in infants, the research will provide targets for intervention in populations with deficits in this ability (e.g., autism spectrum disorders).

Scott Tsai (Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering) will research coating and encapsulating biological cells using lab-on-a-chip technology. Because cell transplantation therapy is hampered by immune system destruction of transplanted cells, Tsai is engineering an optical lab-on-a-chip technique to coat single cells. The goal is to protect cells from the immune system, and facilitate the transport of nutrients across the coating membrane of cells.

The Early Researcher Awards offer funding to emerging researchers working at publicly funded Ontario institutions. Applicants for Early Researcher Awards are evaluated on four criteria: excellence of the researcher (40 per cent), quality of research (30 per cent), development of research talent (20 per cent), and strategic value for Ontario (10 per cent). Recipients will receive $100,000 from the province and $50,000 from Ryerson, to be used to build and support their research teams.


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Early Research Awards boost professors’ cutting edge work