Drs. Priscilla Renouf, Thomas Michalak and Peter Hart

by Deborah Inkpen

Memorial is home to three new Canada Research Chairs. A chair in viral hepatitis/immunology was awarded to Dr. Thomas Michalak, Faculty of Medicine; a chair in North Atlantic archaeology was awarded to Dr. Priscilla Renouf, Archaeology Unit, Department of Anthropology; and a chair in Irish studies was awarded to Dr. Peter Hart, Queen's University at Belfast, Northern Ireland.

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. He 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 him 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.

Dr. Peter Hart's research will examine Irish identity and politics in the 19th and 20th centuries, focussing on nationalism, ethnicity and the relationship between Protestants and Catholics. As part of the project, he will also be looking at transatlantic networks linking Ireland with North America. "My work is aimed at reconstructing how people saw themselves and others in religious, social and political terms," said Dr. Hart.