March 21, 2019
For Immediate Release
Waterloo – Wilfrid Laurier University is honouring three faculty members with its second annual Early Career Researcher Awards. The internal awards recognize early-career faculty who have made exceptional contributions both to research and to student training.
The 2019 awardees are Associate Professor Diane Gregory of the departments of Health Sciences and Kinesiology and Physical Education, Associate Professor Tom Hazell of the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, and Assistant Professor Ciann Wilson of the Department of Psychology.
“Professors Gregory, Hazell and Wilson are making research contributions that will improve the quality of life of Canadians,” said Jeffery Jones, interim associate vice-president of research. “They are also highly regarded as teachers and mentors training the next generation of researchers and professionals.”
Gregory is an expert in biomechanics and spine health working to understand and ultimately prevent spine disorders and back pain. At the tissue level, she applies various postures and forces to spinal tissues to see what results in damage. At the whole-body level, she examines how people move as they perform occupational, sport or daily living tasks.
“Unfortunately, the vast majority of the population will suffer from back pain at some point during their life,” says Gregory. “My goal is to help those individuals understand their low back pain and what triggers it in order to help them live pain-free lives.”
Gregory has previously been honoured for her work through two prestigious provincial awards — an Early Researcher Award in 2018 and a Polyani Prize in 2013. She has secured nearly $600,000 in research funding as principal investigator since arriving at Laurier.
“It’s a great feeling to be acknowledged for the research I’ve done so far in my career and it’s wonderful to see Laurier recognizing early faculty members and their contributions to their fields,” said Gregory. “I am fortunate to work with terrific faculty and students and I’m excited to continue helping individuals with low back pain.”
Hazell is an expert in exercise physiology. In his Energy Metabolism Research Laboratory, he investigates how exercise affects energy balance, which is the difference between the energy we take in as food and the energy we expend. Ultimately, his work aims to help people become healthier and to prevent and treat obesity and related diseases.
“I’m looking at how exercise alters appetite,” said Hazell. “Specifically, we’re examining short periods of sprint-type efforts with periods of rest in between. We’re finding that these high-intensity intervals, which can be as short as 30 seconds, result in more appetite suppression than longer periods of moderate-intensity activity.”
Hazell has secured more than $250,000 in research funding during his time at Laurier, including Canadian Foundation for Innovation funding for research infrastructure and a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery Grant. He is now expanding his research into how appetite regulation may work differently in women and in older and/or obese individuals.
“We’re aiming to battle ever-growing obesity rates by helping people optimize their workouts,” says Hazell. “My research is quite expensive to conduct, so this award will help me contribute funds for an incoming PhD student and will help me in applying for future grants.”
Wilson, who is co-director of the Laurier Centre for Community Research, Learning and Action (CCRLA) and a Community Psychology faculty member, focuses primarily on issues connected to community health and equity. Her research includes work on HIV-AIDS in Black and Indigenous communities in Canada, mixed Black-Indigenous community identity and the use of arts-based and digital media in community research.
“A lot of my work focuses on the health and well-being of Black, Indigenous and people of colour communities,” said Wilson. “I support communities in interrogating the issues they would like to address, whether that be in the areas of sexual health, reproductive justice, health access, or memorializing community history.”
Wilson has received awards and grants from a variety of provincial and federal bodies, including Canada Foundation for Innovation funding to establish an arts and digital media research lab, expected to open this summer, that will help members of historically marginalized communities share their experiences. In her time at Laurier, she has secured more than $400,000 in research funding as principal investigator.
“For marginalized communities, it’s so important to have a space where people are able to share their stories and validate their experiences,” said Wilson. “This award acknowledges the importance of this work of speaking people’s truth to systems of power.”
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