2018 Banting Fellows

Meet some of the 2018 recipients of one of Canada’s most prestigious postdoctoral awards, exemplifying world-class research capacity at an internationally competitive level of funding.

Karina Benessaiah, Natural Resource Sciences

Crisis and opportunity: how are social-ecological transformations scaling-up?

Transitioning to a sustainable and equitable planet requires not just incremental improvements but transformational change at all scales. Yet we know little about how such transformations happen nor how do they scale up.This postdoctoral project will examine already embedded solutions found in pre-existing sustainability initiatives – or seeds– that innovate to provide place-specific responses to existing social-ecological challenges. Through a comparative case-study of food-related sustainability initiatives in Athens and Montreal, this project will further our understanding of how social-ecological transformations happen and ways to foster sustainability pathways. More specifically, this project asks: how are small sustainability initiatives affecting wider social-ecological transformations (i.e. scaling up)? And how do these seeds change the way people relate to and manage ecosystem services? This project will integrate a focus on transformations to research on ecosystem services to better understand these emergent sustainability pathways.

Dominique Claveau-Mallet, Chemical Engineering

Investigating the Facilitated Transport of Emerging Contaminants by Nanoplastics in Groundwater

Microplastics and nanoplastics released into the environment are receiving more and more attention and are now considered an ubiquitous contaminant. Biosolids being applied to agricultural lands are an important source of nanoplastics and may potentially lead to nanoplastics reaching groundwater supplies. Nanoplastics are known to mobilize heavy organic contaminants in groundwater; yet, their interaction with emerging contaminants (hormones, pharmaceuticals) commonly found in biosolids is not known. The overall objective of the project is to understand the fate of emerging contaminants in groundwater in the presence of nanoplastics.

Michael Da Silva, Law (Societal & Cultural Dimensions of Health)

Theorizing a Federal Role in Health Care in an Age of Nation-to-Nation Interaction

Michael Da Silva will take up his Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship under the supervision of Daniel Weinstock in the Faculty of Law and the Institute for Health and Social Policy. His primary project, Theorizing a Federal Role in Health Care in an Age of Nation-to-Nation Interaction, will examine whether and how the federal government can play an increased role in health care system design and health care delivery in Canada while maintaining the structure of contemporary health care federalism and recognition of sub-constitutional ‘nations within nations’ (Quebec and Indigenous nations) with at least prima facie cases for strong roles in their communities’ social goods-related decision-making. His interdisciplinary approach to this topic will adopt the tools of analytical philosophy, doctrinal legal analysis, and empirical legal studies to address this concern and important related preliminary issues such as the meaning and import of ‘nations’ and the federal government’s constitutional powers over health care.

Ana Gomez-Carrillo Catro, Division of Social & Transcultural Psychiatry

Integrating person-centered and precision psychiatry in the clinical assessment of depression

Depression is now the leading cause of disability around the world. However, the range of syndromes subsumed under the label of depression remains broad. This heterogeneity has led to a crisis of diagnosis and poor treatment outcomes. In the face of this ongoing challenge, there is an urgent need to develop novel, more specific diagnostic tools and treatments. Assessment of depression is hampered by the growing divide between an increasingly neuroscientific view of this disorder and the importance of affirming the whole person of the patient in light of their individual life history, sociocultural specificity and subjective illness experience. Providing optimal diagnosis and treatment in psychiatry requires addressing individual pathology in all its dimensions: biological, mental, social, and environmental. With the support of a Banting Fellowship, I will integrate the latest neuroscientific and sociocultural advances in psychiatric research to tackle this pressing health challenge. My research will leverage the conceptual framework of ‘precision’ psychiatry (which emphasizes individual neurobiology and genetics) to complement recent efforts in ‘person-centered’ psychiatry (with its focus on experiential and social-cultural context). The project will produce a toolkit that helps clinicians integrate neuroscientific and sociocultural dimensions in their patient assessment. Ultimately, this project will provide a basis for the continued development of patient-focused research and clinical care that does justice to the neurobiological, psychological and social specificity of individuals

Felix Rizzuto, Chemistry

A new mode of chemotherapy: treating cancer using strands of DNA

Chemotherapy drugs save lives, but the collateral damage they often cause to healthy tissue can be irreversible: side-effects ranging from nausea and dermal irritation to organ failure and secondary cancers provide a significant caveat to their broad effectiveness. The problem is specificity: these drugs do not ‘target’ cancer; they attack all cells, and the whole body suffers as a result. As a Banting Fellow, I will work with Prof Hanadi Sleiman create materials that seek out cancer and release drugs specifically at the diseased site. These ‘drug delivery vehicles’ will be composed of DNA: the building blocks of life. The hybridisation of DNA with polymers carrying chemotherapy cargo will generate a system that targets cancerous tissue and releases drug molecules in a controlled manner. This new technology has the potential to eliminate the toxic side-effects of current cancer chemotherapies, bypass drug resistance, decrease the cost and time associated with lengthy drug development, and dramatically improve the quality of patients’ lives.

​Marina Sharpe, Law

The Two-way Relationship Between the Free Movement of Persons and Refugee Protection

Regional integration arrangements often provide for the free movement of persons. The EU, for example, allows freedom of movement and establishment within the region. Such arrangements impact refugee protection within free movement zones, and states’ refugee protection obligations affect free movement. Yet the connections between refugee protection and free movement have not been addressed. This legal research project will advance understanding of the complex reciprocal relationship between regional free movement regimes on the one hand and refugee protection on the other, leading to four distinct but related papers. The first will comparatively analyse regional free movement arrangements. The second will examine the impact of such arrangements on refugee protection. The third will investigate the impact of states’ duty to protect refugees on free movement. The final paper will address the issue in the AU, which is working to make Africa border-free by 2063.