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(July 12, 2001, Gazette)

Two chairs for Memorial

Memorial is home to two new Canada Research Chairs, federal Industry Minister Brian Tobin announced recently. A chair in viral hepatitis/immunology was awarded to Dr. Thomas Michalak, Faculty of Medicine, and a chair in North Atlantic archaeology was awarded to Dr. Priscilla Renouf, Archaeology Unit, Department of Anthropology. Both chairs include $200,000 per year for salary and research support.

Memorial is currently searching for nine more Canada Research Chairs positions. It is expected that over the five-year life span of the CRC program, Memorial will be eligible for about 20 positions in the strategic areas of oceans and coastal studies, industrial development and environmental sustainability, health and North Atlantic/Newfoundland and Labrador studies.

“The Canada Research Chairs program will help Memorial strengthen its research programs and help us solve problems of major importance to the citizens of our province and country. I have no doubt that the investment by the Government of Canada in the Canada Research Chairs program at Memorial University will be repaid many times,” said Dr. Axel Meisen, president of Memorial.

“The Canada Research Chairs program will help us recruit and retain outstanding academic leaders during a period of tremendous international competition for faculty,” said Dr. Christopher Loomis, Memorial’s vice-president, research and international relations. “The two new chairs just announced are top-level researchers and leading scholars in their academic fields.”

The North Atlantic archaeology chair will enhance and build upon existing links between the Archaeology Unit and other universities, agencies and research groups. This chair involves site survey and excavation of campsites and settlements of ancient hunting and fishing peoples and reconstruction of past settlement patterns and the past environment.

“This research is important for understanding Newfoundland’s 9,000-year history of human occupation, and placing that culturally diverse prehistory in the context of a changing environment,”
Dr. Renouf explained. “More broadly, this research is important nationally because it reconstructs part of the past of Canada’s indigenous peoples and tries to understand their strategies for living and flourishing in a northern environment.”

Dr. Renouf has been an active field archaeologist for many years, working on sites in Port au Choix, on the Great Northern Peninsula. The new Parks Canada museum at that national historic site is based largely on her work. Her research was also an integral part of the Newfoundland Museum’s Full Circle: First Contact travelling exhibition, which tells the dynamic story of the first European and native interchange on the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The viral hepatitis/immunology chair involves the immunological, molecular and pathological aspects of both hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

“My research will centre on understanding how the virus induces liver disease, how it evades the immune system, and how it establishes persistent infection,” said Dr. Thomas Michalak. “Such knowledge will be used in the development of better therapeutic strategies against hepatitis B and hepatitis C.”

Dr. Michalak will establish a network of international collaborators and interact with other researchers in the clinical divisions within the Health Sciences Centre and with the Immunology and Cancer Research Groups within the university’s Faculty of Medicine.

Dr. Michalak has worked in the field of viral hepatitis for more than 25 years, and has completed much groundbreaking work, including the establishment of a large colony of Eastern American woodchucks for the study of the woodchuck hepatitis virus, closely related to the virus. The Canada Research Chair will enable Dr. Michalak to continue to expand his research on antivirals and viral hepatitis, and to collaborate with other researchers around the world on the potential development of novel therapeutic strategies and preventive vaccines against hepatitis B and C.

Canada Research Chairs program

The Canada Research Chairs program was established by the Government of Canada to enable Canadian universities to achieve the highest levels of research excellence.

In its 2000 budget, the Government of Canada provided $900 million to support the establishment of 2,000 Canada Research Chairs in universities across the country by 2005. About 400 new chairs will be named in each of the next five years. Recruitment will be from both inside and outside Canada.

The key objective of the Canada Research Chairs Program is to enable Canadian universities, together with their affiliated research institutes and hospitals, to achieve the highest levels of research excellence, to become world-class research centres in the global, knowledge-based economy.

The secondary objectives of the Canada Research Chairs program are to:
•  Strengthen research excellence in Canada and increase    Canada’s research capacity by attracting and retaining    excellent researchers in Canadian universities;
• Strengthen the training of highly qualified personnel through    research;
• Improve universities’ capacity for generating and applying    new knowledge;
• Optimize the use of research resources through institutional    strategic planning, and inter-institutional and inter-sectoral

Chairs will be created in the natural sciences, engineering, health sciences, social sciences and humanities. The program’s emphasis is on investment in basic and applied research at Canada’s universities.

There will be two types of chair:
• Seven-year renewable chairs targeted at experienced    researchers who are acknowledged by their peers as world    leaders in their own fields;
• Five-year chairs, renewable once, targeted at researchers who    are acknowledged by their peers as having the potential to    lead in their fields.

Appointment of the chairs is based on nominations from Canadian universities. It takes place following thorough assessment by members of the program’s College of Reviewers and (where necessary) Interdisciplinary Adjudication Committee. Both the college and the adjudication committee are composed of many of the world’s leading experts in disciplines being funded through the chairs program.

The Canada Research Chairs program is governed by a steering committee comprising the presidents of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), as well as the deputy minister of Industry Canada.

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