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Major research topics and programs


The Faculty of Medicine of McGill University has achieved international recognition for its integrative work on the neurodegeneration of the aging central nervous system and neurodegenerative diseases. The McGill Centre for Studies in Aging (MCSA) is recognized as one of the world's leading research centres in the fields of memory, cognition and forms of dementias such as Alzheimer's disease and other age-related disorders.

The different approaches used by the Centre's scientists to examine the phenomena of brain aging include:

  • Behavioural psychology
  • Genetic, Molecular and Cellular Biology
  • Endocrinology
  • Pharmacology
  • Neurochemistry
  • Neuropathology
  • Neuropsychology
  • Clinical Research

Long-term objectives include healthy aging for the population at large, delay of appearance of symptoms in genetically predisposed individuals and training of a cadre of basic and clinical scientists in gerontology.

Affiliated hospitals include: Douglas University Mental Health Institute, Royal Victoria, Montreal Neurological Institute, Montreal General, Notre-Dame, Jewish General, Institut de Gériatrie de Montréal and Maisonneuve.

Affiliated institutions include: Departments of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Pharmacology, Biology, Psychiatry, Dentistry, Nursing, as well as the School of Social Work.



The McGill AIDS Centre is based at the Jewish General Hospital, coordinates, facilitates and promotes research, treatment and teaching activities relating to HIV infection and AIDS at McGill University and its affiliated hospitals. Other activities at the McGill AIDS Centre include the cutting-edge clinical trials and studies on psychosocial needs and treatment of persons with HIV, underway at both the Montreal General Hospital, Royal Victoria Hospital, and Montreal Chest Hospital sites of the McGill University Health Centre.


Anatomy & Cell Biology: The Department

In addition to the graduate training program in hypothesis driven research carried out by leading Principal Investigators of the department is also a new program in Human Systems Biology. Here, training in the application of high throughput proteomics, genomics, and bioinformatics to the study of human and animal tissues in health and disease is featured with the leading investigators of this program.

The Department houses the university's Facility for Electron Microscopy Research, as well as the faculty's confocal facility for live cell imaging of dynamic processes in real time. In addition, the Department harbors the proteomics center with the application of mass spectrometry technology including Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance mass spectrometry to the characterization of proteins in a cell biological context. Departmental labs span interests ranging from the molecular mechanisms of axonal guidance to the extracellular matrix to the cytoskeleton to fundamental aspects of membrane trafficking.




The Department maintains a broad spectrum of inter-disciplinary research programs in: cell and molecular biology/genetics; structural biology; molecular neuroscience; chemical biology; genomics and proteomics. Collaborations are fostered throughout the university and among national and international institutions.



Bioinformatics is the application of tools from the mathematical, statistical, computational and engineering sciences to problems in biomedical research. The McGill Centre for Bioinformatics is a multidisciplinary effort that involves many departments across the Faculties of Science, Medicine and Agricultural & Environmental Sciences including the departments of Mathematics and Statistics, Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Computer Science, Biology, Biochemistry, Human Genetics, Plant Sciences, Parasitology, Physiology, Information Science, and Biomedical Engineering. Our members are interested in problems related to genomics, functional genomics, proteomics, structural biology, evolution, ecoinformatics, biological networks and systems biology.


Biomedical Engineering

"Biomedical engineering" may be defined as the application of engineering to medicine and the life sciences.

"Engineering" is here taken to include the physical sciences and computer science. There is considerable overlap between biomedical engineering and the fields of medical physics, biophysics, biotechnology, bioinformatics and medical informatics.

Ongoing biomedical-engineering research at McGill is distributed among many faculties and departments. Research by staff directly appointed in the Department of Biomedical Engineering (Fac. Medicine) or enjoying Associate Membership with BME in other departments, includes:

  • signal analysis, including brain (EEG), muscles (EMG), eyes (EOG), neural spike trains, respiration and mass spectrometry
  • micro and nanobiotechnologies, micro electronics
  • nanoprobes such as quantum dots to study cell function
  • systems analysis, including neuromuscular control, oculomotor & vestibular systems, vision systems;
  • biomechanics, including orthopedic and auditory mechanics;
  • cardiovascular systems and implants;
  • biomaterials, including artificial cells & organs engineering, nanomedicine;
  • microscopy, medical imaging and image processing;
  • bioinformatics; and
  • computers in medical education. (Approved Sept. 2007)

Department of Biomedical Engineering

Laboratories of BME Associated Staff


Biomedical Ethics

The Biomedical Ethics Unit was established in 1996 as a multidisciplinary unit in the Faculty of Medicine with a mandate that includes: 1) research, 2) teaching, 3) clinical services and 4) informing the community.

Unit members have maintained strong interdisciplinary research collaborations within McGill and its affiliated hospitals and other academic and health care institutions. They provide research and training opportunities for postdoctoral fellows, research associates and graduate students.

Members of the Biomedical Ethics Unit are active in a variety of interdisciplinary research areas from the perspectives of bioethics and health law. Current areas of research include clinical trials, genetics, psychiatric ethics, access to clinical care, professional ethics, autonomy, organizational ethics, and medical tourism.

Within the Biomedical Ethics Unit, the Clinical Trials Research Group (CTRG) is a multidisciplinary group dedicated to investigating ethical and legal questions in research involving humans. Recent work involves the concept of "minimal risk", monitoring ongoing research for adverse events, the ethics of using placebos, conflicts of interest in research, early phase clinical research, gene transfer trials and risk assessment and disclosure.


Cancer Biology


Cardiothoracic Surgery

Cell Biology

Chemical Biology

Chemical biology is a multidisciplinary activity that spans the fields of molecular biology, pharmacology, chemistry and drug development. It looks at the effects of small molecules on biological systems.

Clinical Epidemiology

The Division of Clinical Epidemiology of the MUHC was formed in 2007 from the merger of the Division of Clinical Epidemiology of the Montreal General Hospital and the Division of Clinical Epidemiology at the Royal Victoria Hospital. While the Division is in the process of developing a new mission statement to better reflect the activities of all the members, the general mission and objectives are given below:

The mission of the Division is to improve the health of individuals and populations through the conduct and promotion of high quality interdisciplinary research. In order to accomplish the mission, the Division has several overlapping objectives:

  • To promote and conduct high quality epidemiological research, in the hospital setting and in the community.
  • To promote and conduct cutting edge research to improve the design and analysis of epidemiological research through methodological and biostatistical research.
  • To participate in collaborative research in epidemiology and biostatistics within the MUHC community, the McGill community and beyond.
  • To participate in the training of, and to provide mentoring to, graduate students and clinician scientists.


Communication Sciences & Disorders

Research in communication sciences and disorders covers a wide range of topics, from fundamental investigations of infant speech perception and language acquisition, to sign language production and comprehension, to speech motor control, to the neural bases of speech, language, and emotion. Researchers also focus on a wide variety of specialized subject populations, including those with developmental and acquired speech, language, and hearing disorders, in an effort to design improved remediation approaches for these individuals.


Complex Traits

The Complex Traits research theme aims to implement genetic approaches in mouse models to study complex diseases of critical relevance to human health. The ultimate goal will be to not only identify genes and proteins constituting novel targets for diagnosis, prevention or therapeutic intervention in the corresponding diseases, but also to characterize the contribution of these proteins, and associated biochemical and cellular pathways to normal physiology and to the disease state.


Developmental Biology

Diagnostic Radiology

Emergency Medicine

Endocrinology and Metabolism

Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Occupational Health


Experimental Medicine

Family Medicine




Geriatric Medicine

Health Outcomes & Social Policy

Extensive research underscores the enormous impact of poverty, inequalities, labor conditions, trade, education, and other social conditions and policies on the health and well-being of individuals, families, and populations.

Now, in an era of increasing globalization, the nature of how social conditions affect the health of children and adults is changing, and both the opportunities for and the obstacles to improving these conditions are rising. The Institute for Health and Social Policy is taking on these challenges.

The Institute was created to conduct and support world-class research into how social conditions impact on health and to lead programs designed to translate research findings into policies and programs on national and global scales that change the social conditions under which the worst off live.

For more information on Institute for Health and Social Policy: www.mcgill.ca/ihsp

For more information on individual faculty projects: www.mcgill.ca/ihsp/faculty or www.muhc.ca/research/programs/outcomes

Heart & Vascular Disease


Host Resistance

Host resistance is a field of study that seeks to explain the nature of variable susceptibility to disease. This is a real challenge, because many diseases such as infectious diseases and cancer are complex diseases where multiple genes interact with each other and with environmental factors. In 1988, with the realization that an integrative biological explanation of disease pathogenesis can only be achieved in a multidisciplinary context, Emil Skamene founded the Centre for the Study of Host Resistance. Centre researchers have published landmark papers identifying genes controlling susceptibility to several infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, sepsis, leprosy and malaria. In addition, genetic models developed at the Centre have been applied the world over to the study of infections, as well as to other major diseases with a genetic component.

Research efforts at the Centre today encompass genome mapping, comparative genetics, functional genomics, biostatistics, translational research on biomarkers, predictive medicine of infectious and inflammatory diseases, immune balance in health and disease, biological therapies of immune deficiencies and autoimmunity, target discovery for new pharmaceuticals, vaccine development and evaluation, public and international health.

Human Genetics

Internal Medicine

Medical Education

Research and development is one of the main priorities for the Centre for Medical Education. Our major research themes include:

  • Professionalism and Other Core Competencies
  • Faculty development
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Program Evaluation

Professionalism and Other Core Competencies

A number of the Centre’s research activities have a direct impact on curriculum development as well as teaching and learning at both the undergraduate and postgraduate level. Examples of such projects include: an assessment of the validity and feasibility of a Professionalism Mini-Evaluation Exercise (P-MEX); a study on the teaching of communication skills in different disciplines; and an innovative approach to teaching residents about the ‘manager role.’

Faculty Development

Faculty development studies undertaken by the Centre for Medical Education include: a survey of faculty development activities across the country; the evaluation of specific faculty development workshops; an analysis of why faculty members do not participate in organized faculty development activities; and a systematic review of faculty development designed to enhance teaching effectiveness.

Teaching and Learning

Centre members are involved in a number of projects related to teaching and learning. These include: the teaching of cultural competence; clinical reasoning and decision-making; the basics of pedagogy for clinical teachers; interprofessional education; computer-assisted instruction; and patient perspectives of the physician as healer and professional.

Program Evaluation

With the introduction of the renewed undergraduate curriculum and the development of new educational initiatives in the Faculty of Medicine (e.g. Interprofessional education and practice; the Medical Simulation Centre), a systematic approach to program evaluation is required. A number of Centre members have developed expertise in this area, and have begun to design systematic evaluations of new programs in order to facilitate policy formation and decision-making as well as academic inquiry and scholarship.

Microbiology & Immunology


Neurology & Neurosurgery



Consistent with the "McGill Model of Nursing", our clinical research addresses family coping during illness, patient learning, building on strengths, and the collaborative process between patients and their health care providers. Other areas include nursing services research and a focus on international health and the application of e-health technology in the delivery of care. Examples include using the internet to teach patients coping skills, "tele-visiting" families with ill members living in remote areas, and imaging or capturing signals in the brains of non-verbal patients to assess pain.

Family research includes promoting family member support of patients with cancer, heart disease or other chronic conditions, coaching mothers of preterm infants on interacting with their infants to promote growth and development, providing comfort to their critically ill infant or child, caring for children at home who require high-tech support, caring for family members at end-of-life, and assisting newly arrived women through child-bearing and child-rearing. Research on learning includes preferences oncology patients have for gathering information, how students from different health disciplines learn together, and how nurses learn to implement best practice guidelines.


Nutrition & Food Science

Obstetrics & Gynecology





The Department of Pathology offers research training in a wide variety of areas such as immunology and transplantation, ophthalmic pathology, neoplasia, cell biology, pulmonary vascular and airways disease, pulmonary edema, neurodegenerative disorders, and smooth muscle pathophysiology. Modern techniques and equipment include light microscopy, electron microscopy, cell culture, advanced immunological, pharmacological, biochemical, molecular and physiological techniques, as well as morphometry and computers.



The Montreal Children's Hospital Research Insitute (MCH-RI) campus of the MUHC Research Institute is the central site that promotes and facilitates excellence in child health research. Affiliated research activites occur at the JGH, RVH and the Meakins-Christie laboratories. The MCH-RI has major strengths in the fields of cardio-respiratory health, child development and behavior, developmental renal disease, type I diabetes, genetics, growth and development, infection and immunity, musculoskeletal disorders, neonatology, pediatric oncology, public health and preventive medicine, and neuroscience including epilepsy.

Child health research is conducted by clinical and basic scientists holding grants from peer-reviewed agencies, with research assistants, graduate students and research fellows. These trainees are registered in diverse departments at McGill University which include: Anthropology, Biology, Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Experimental Medicine and Surgery, Human Genetics, Neurology and Neurosurgery, Nursing, Pharmacology & Therapeutics, Psychiatry, Psychology and Rehabilitation Science.


Pharmacology & Therapeutics

Physical & Occupational Therapy

Rehabilitation research is focused on health and well-being by preventing disease or disability, minimizing impairments and enhancing functional abilities in the home and community.

Research at the School of Physical and Occupational Therapy covers the spectrum of health and functioning across the lifespan in individuals with, or at-risk for, disability. Primary research themes include: 1) understanding the underlying mechanisms of disease that limit human functioning and health, 2) development and validation of novel assessment tools that may be used to evaluate the effectiveness of rehabilitation treatments and programs, 3) objective evaluation of targeted interventions in populations who will benefit the most, 4) community integration of the disabled, particularly those with brain injury, and 5) knowledge translation to promote best practice in rehabilitation. Our talented and dedicated faculty is making seminal contributions to the continuum of rehabilitation science, with the ultimate goal of optimizing health and well-being and ensuring that individuals with disabilities are autonomous, employed, socially integrated, and participating fully in the activities of their choosing.





Reproductive Endocrinology

Respiratory Biology & Diseases

Social Studies in Medicine

The Department of Social Studies in Medicine is an interdisciplinary teaching and research unit in the Faculty of Medicine. Faculty members represent the fields of history, anthropology, and sociology of medicine and medical science. Teaching and research focus on the institutional, cultural, and technological components of medical knowledge and practices. Subject areas include: the study of biomedical innovation at the interface between laboratory and clinical work, and at the intersection between patient experience, cultural contexts, and technological and economic change in fields such as oncology, gynecology, surgery, psychiatry and neurological and chronic diseases; the study of the interaction between medicine and genetic and genomic knowledge; the analysis of the regulation and changing configuration of biomedical activities and institutions such as clinical trials and collaborative networks; the social and epistemic history of trauma and psychopharmacology; the social history of women and health and of practices and representations of the body in medicine.

Stem Cell Biology & Regenerative Medicine

Structural Biology