Three faculty members appointed Canada Research Chairs

July 27, 2020

Daniel Ansari, Barbara Fenesi, and Emma Duerden.

History has been made at the Faculty of Education. For the first time, the faculty has a Canada Research Chair (CRC). In fact, the faculty has three CRCs.

Professors Daniel Ansari, Barbara Fenesi and Emma Duerden are Tier 1 and Tier 2 CRC chairs, respectively.

The federal government created the Canada Research Council program in 2000. The goal is to advance Canadian research and catapult Canadian researchers to the forefront internationally

Daniel Ansari – Tier 1 CRC

Professor Ansari recently completed two terms as a Tier 2 CRC in the Department of Psychology and Brain and Mind Institute at Western.

As a professor with the Department of Psychology and the Faculty of Education, he’s a Canada Research Chair in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning. He will analyze children’s math development at an early age. The focal point of Ansari’s research will be on children’s transition from preschool to early elementary school, including the factors that will predict school readiness as well as the early components that influence individual differences during childhood development.

Since Ansari’s research has been moving him closer towards education, the co-nomination between the Department of Psychology and Western Education is a natural fit.

“It’s an unprecedented level of support for more evidence-based education research, science of learning and developmental cognitive neuroscience research at Western,” said Ansari.

He also leads the Centre for the Science of Learning.

Barbara Fenesi – Tier 2 CRC

Professor Fenesi examines how physical activity can support students’ academic performance, mental and physical health. Fenesi’s research will take her into elementary school classrooms where she will investigate how best to integrate physical activity into teachers’ lesson plans.

“Healthy habits, such as physical activity and taking care of yourself are habits that are learned in childhood and that’s what’s carried to adulthood,” said Fenesi.

Fenesi joined the Faculty of Education in 2018. She chose the faculty because it focuses on helping children thrive.

“The Faculty of Education is a champion of interdisciplinary research. They’re invested in converging fields of all inquiry and tackling the issue of student success,” she said.

Emma Duerden – Tier 2 CRC

Professor Emma Duerden studies infants and children who are at high risk for neurodevelopment disorders. As part of her research, she will use brain imaging as well as behavioral methods to identify risk factors for poor academic performance.

Duerden joined the Faculty of Education in 2018 from SickKids Hospital in Toronto where she was a neuroscience researcher. She researched the executive function and frontal lobe development in children with autism, children born preterm and children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

She joined Western Education because she wanted to focus on intervention science.

“Many talented researchers here are doing interventions in schools, which offers fantastic opportunities to foster interdisciplinary research.”

She also recently received a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Early Career Investigator Award where she will focus on brain health and the neurodevelopment of preterm babies. She has also recently been awarded funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the New Frontiers in Research Fund – Exploration.