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September Started with Three New Chairs

Alison Sills

Alison Sills
Chair, Department of Physics & Astronomy

Why are you serving as Chair of Physics & Astronomy?

It was basically my turn – I’m at the right career stage and I have the most interest in and experience with administration of all the people who were hired around the same time as me. It’s a great department to be leading, so that part of the decision was easy.

What are you most proud of when it comes to your Department? What do your colleagues in Physics & Astronomy do exceptionally well?

It’s all about the people. From the undergrads to the most senior emeritus professors, we’re a group of very strong-minded individuals, yet all of us believe in the Department and in supporting each other and moving the whole collective forward. We argue like crazy about the best ways to do that but we also listen to each other and respect each other’s opinions.

In your opinion, what's the best kept secret when it comes to Physics & Astronomy?

I can think of two: the international reputation of our researchers (which isn’t really a secret in the physics community, of course) and the fact that a degree in physics really does set students up for success in anything they want.

What's the one thing you most hope to accomplish as Chair? 

At the moment, I’m still concentrating on the short term and working to set the department up for success in the post-COVID world. The last few years have been so disruptive, and the isolation means that the social connections have been broken down somewhat. We need to build those back up again. And also look at what the last 18 months have taught us – what are the most important pieces of working together as a department that we need to enhance and strengthen, and what activities should be relegated to ancient history? I want to lay the structure so that our department members can be as successful as possible in their different areas of expertise.

How would you describe your leadership style?

Collaborative, mostly, with a healthy dose of knowing when to say that we’ve had enough discussion and it’s time for action.

What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?

Yoga, knitting, reading, gardening and Scottish country dancing.

Mel Rutherford

Mel Rutherford
Chair, Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behavior (PNB)

Why are you serving as Chair of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behavior?

The truth is, I felt called to serve my department. For a variety of reasons, I believe that I am the right person for this moment. My values are very much aligned with PNB's. I have tremendous respect for the integrity of my colleagues, and I am ready to dedicate myself to leading and developing this department over the next five years. I believe we are going to do great work. 

What are you most proud of when it comes to PNB?  What do your colleagues do exceptionally well? 

Faculty and graduate students do an exceptional job of integrating undergraduate students into our internationally recognized research labs. This gives students world-class mentoring and unique experiences. PNB is a great place to be an undergraduate student, especially if you are interested in getting involved in research. Undergraduates have an opportunity to work in laboratories, become part of the research team, work closely with graduate students and faculty, and ultimately complete their own research project as a thesis student.

In your opinion, what's the best kept secret when it comes to PNB?

Our outstanding new Assistant Professors. They may be secret for now, but believe me, you'll be hearing about them soon. They are knocking it out of the park, and both graduate and undergraduate students will have an opportunity to work and learn with them in the classroom and in the lab. 

What's the one thing you most hope to accomplish as Chair? 

With Kathryn Murphy as our new Associate Chair (Research), PNB is building on our internationally recognized research. We are creating new and impactful ways to support research. This includes strategic research planning, providing grant writing support, facilitating cross-departmental opportunities, and providing strong mentorship for junior faculty members. Ultimately, we want to provide help and resources to support the research of faculty, postdocs, graduate students and undergraduate students. 

How would you describe your leadership style?

  1. Talk with people to help them clarify their own goals. 
  2. Remove barriers and find ways to support those goals. 

What do you enjoy doing when you're not at work?

If I'm not at a swim meet cheering my kids to the finish line, then I'm driving them to swim practice.  And I'd be lying if I said I didn't love doing both those things.

Gianni Parise

Gianni Parise
Chair, Department of Kinesiology

Why are you serving as Chair of Kinesiology? 

Kinesiology at Mac has been my home for many years. I graduated from the undergrad and grad programs in Kinesiology before leaving for a post doc. Being hired back into Kinesiology at McMaster was a tremendous honour. In short, the program has given me so much. Leading and serving the department is a way for me to give back and to continue building upon what is already a world-class department. I feel very passionately about our department and I'm excited at the opportunity to make it even better than it already is.

What are you most proud of when it comes to Kinesiology?  What do your colleagues do exceptionally well? 

Kinesiology at McMaster is recognized as one of the top programs in the world.  That reputation has been built by our students, faculty and staff. Faculty members in Kinesiology have research programs in a number of sub-disciplines and many are recognized globally for their work. Research in Kinesiology has attracted many awards, including several Canada Research Chairs. We are a research powerhouse. 

In your opinion, what's the best kept secret when it comes to Kinesiology?

I think the fact that Kinesiology at McMaster is ranked so highly, internationally, would surprise some people.

What's the one thing you most hope to accomplish as Chair? 

I’m taking over a department that has been exceptionally well-led and managed for many years.  Part of what I hope to do is simply maintain this high level of performance. More important for me is to find ways to take a department that's already firing on all cylinders and put it into an even higher gear. My plan is to roll out several initiatives that target the undergrad program, the grad program, and the research enterprise.  One initiative that I plan to launch is the development of a maker space for Kinesiology students.  These kinds of spaces are usually found in Engineering departments and promote innovation and the commercialization of ideas.  I believe Kinesiology has a lot to offer in this space and hopefully, through key collaborations, our undergrad and grad students will get the opportunity to explore their creative ideas and lead to activity with other partners like the Forge.  

How would you describe your leadership style?

I like to think that my leadership style is consultative, thoughtful and empowering. I also like to think bigger than the day-to-day challenges and lead with a bit of an edge and a bit of risk.

What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?

Given my department, It’s probably no surprise that I enjoy taking care of my fitness and health.  I love spending time with my kids, cycling, reading and watching a good show.

New Home for Arthur, Phoebe, and Magnus

An artist rendition of the new greenhouse, located in front of the Life Sciences Building on McMaster's campus.
Construction will begin this fall on an $18 million research greenhouse that will be part of major renovations planned for the Life Science Building.

The 977-square metre (10,516-square foot) greenhouse will have dedicated research space, fully accessible public spaces and a glassed-in walkway to a new LSB atrium and lobby.

The existing Biology Greenhouse located between Hamilton Hall and the Phoenix, will stay in operation until its collection of nearly 220 plants can be relocated to their new home in 2023. That collection includes three flowering titan arums named Arthur, Phoebe and Magnus that draw crowds every time the corpse flowers bloom.

Christina DilellaTo oversee the project, Christina Dilella has joined the Faculty of Science as the LSB / Greenhouse Project Field Supervisor.

Christina will serve as the liaison between the Department of Biology, Facility Services and construction teams. Christina brings years of experience in interior design and construction and project management in the commercial, office, restaurant, retail and aerospace sectors.

Three Science Grads Honoured with Awards

Elise DesjardinsWilliam HoRichard Black have received awards from the McMaster Alumni Association.

William and Richard have been inducted into the Alumni Gallery while Elise has received a Community IMPACT Award.

Elise is a Master of Public Health student, a 2016 Life Sciences graduate and Wilson Leadership Scholar Award recipient. Elise co-developed and co-managed an initiative to improve walking and cycling conditions in downtown Hamilton, co-authored the Friendly Streets Toolkit and serves on the board of Student Open Circles. The Community IMPACT Award recognizes alumni who have made a positive impact on their quality while exemplifying University values of integrity, quality and teamwork.

With Bachelor of Science degrees in Psychology and Chemistry and a PhD in Psychology. Richard has held senior leadership positions in the nutrition and food and beverage industry. Richard is currently an Adjunct Professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science at Tufts University, Principal at Quadrant D Consulting, Chief Nutrition Officer at Thrive365 and Chief Science Officer at Care4ward, an initiative that helps chemotherapy patients manage their nutritional health. Richard also serves on the Dean's Advisory Board.

A 1998 graduate of the Biochemistry program, William is Co-Founder, President and CEO of IN8bio, a biotechnology company focused on delivering a novel, off-the-shelf cell therapy for the treatment of cancer. The company's immuno-oncology programs with its collaborators include activated and gene modified adoptive cellular therapies that protect cells from chemotherapy and allow novel combinations to disrupt the tumor microenvironment and more selectively target cancer cells. William has also held positions in the investment banking, financial, healthcare and biotechnology industries.

Clean Sweep of MUFA Awards by Science Faculty

Judith SheddonAudrey Hicks and Anas Abdallah received the three awards presented this year by the McMaster University Faculty Association for outstanding service.

Judith SheddonJudith is a Professor and Associate Chair (Graduate) in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behavior. Judith oversees more than 100 graduate students in a core experimental stream and a newly-accredited research and clinical training stream in partnership with the Faculty of Health Sciences and St. Joseph's Health Care Hamilton. Judith is also the driving force behind Brain Bee, a national neuroscience competition for high school students. This year, Judith organized Brain Bee's first ever virtual Hamilton, national and international competitions. 

Audrey HicksAudrey helped create the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for adults with spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis, developed the MacWheelers and MacMSFitt community programs and introduced experiential learning placements for undergraduate students. Audrey has served as both Undergraduate and Graduate Associate Chairs within the Department of Kinesiology, served as President of the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology (CSEP) and was the first woman to be named both a CSEP Fellow and receive the CSEP Honour Award. 

Anas AbdallahAnas joined McMaster in 2019 and is the Coordinator of the Actuarial and Financial Math undergraduate program. Anas redesigned the program curriculum, established mentorship programs with the Canadian Institute of Actuaries and the International Association of Black Actuaries and designed an annual problem-solving workshop with the Co-operators Insurance Company.  McMaster is only the second Canadian university to win the Casualty Actuarial Society University Award. 

The McMaster University Faculty Association was founded in 1952 to represent and protect the interests of all faculty members and senior academic librarians at McMaster.

Trio Receives New Frontiers Research Grant

A collage of images featuring, from left to right, Juliet Daniel, Katherine Bujold, and Sarah Stylers
Two Assistant Professors who joined the Department of Chemistry & Chemical Biology last July are among the nine McMaster researchers who have received New Frontiers in Research Fund 2020 Exploration grants.

Katherine Bujold and Sarah Styler join Juliet Daniel, Acting Associate Dean of Research & External Relations, as the three Faculty of Science researchers who received grants of up to $250,000 over the next two years.

Launched in 2018, the New Frontiers Research Fund supports high-risk, high-reward and interdisciplinary research. Researchers are encouraged to think outside of the box, undertake research that would defy current paradigms, and bring disciplines together in unexpected ways and from bold, innovative perspectives. The fund is an initiative of the Canada Research Coordinating Committee and is managed as a tri-agency program on behalf of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Funds were awarded to 117 research projects across Canada this year.

“Congratulations to our researchers who have been recognized for their innovative ideas and the potential value their research holds for Canadians,” says Karen Mossman, McMaster's Vice President, Research.“I applaud the government on this investment that ensures Canada’s research community is positioned to lead the way on the next big discovery.”

Katherine's research will focus on unlocking the gate to targeted drug delivery, Juliet will explore genes and geography through disparities in cancer incidence and outcomes in a Black Canadian community while Sarah's research will examine applying atmospheric chemistry strategies to advance cultural heritage conservation.
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