Two York profs receive Ontario Early Researcher Awards

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York Professors Natasha Myers and Thilo Womelsdorf have been awarded $100,000 each in funding under the Ontario government’s Early Researcher Awards program.  

Ontario’s Ministry of Economic Development & Innovation announced the awards Monday.  York University’s research investment of $50,000 will match the funds for the award.

The Early Researcher Awards program helps promising, recently appointed Ontario researchers build research teams of undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, research associates and technicians. The goal of the program is to improve Ontario’s ability to attract and retain the best and brightest research talent. Ontario’s Early Researcher Awards investment of $8.68 million will support 62 emerging researchers and their teams at 19 institutions across the province.

Professor Thilo Womelsdorf, of the Department of Biology in the Faculty of Science & Engineering and member of York’s Centre for Vision Research, is studying how individuals focus their attention on one object, thought or event, while ignoring other external information.  His research examines the three major regions of the brain that guide and determine selective attention, to find out how they work and interact.  Womelsdorf’s research will identify how networks of brain cells coordinate separable attention information using state-of-the-art technologies and will critically advance hotly-debated, neuro-economic decision making theories. The research will lead to a better understanding of various diseases that widely affect health, education and the economy of Ontario.

Professor Natasha Myers, of the Department of Anthropology in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, examines how plants are acquiring new status and visibility in our culture. Specifically, she explores the ways that artists and scientists are transforming our everyday assumptions through artworks and experiments that render plants as active, sensing organisms. This ethnographic research with practitioners both in Ontario and at international sites will shed light on the ethical and political significance of these shifts in perception about nonhuman life and the order of things.

“I am most pleased that the Ministry of Research and Economic Development has recognized the achievements of York Professors Natasha Myers and Thilo Womelsdorf, who are actively engaged in conducting globally competitive research in the early stages of their careers,” said Robert Haché, York’s vice-president research & innovation. “Our early career researchers represent the future of research at York and contribute to building Canada’s knowledge-based economy.  The funding provided by the Ministry will provide these emerging researchers with resources to build their innovative research programs.”  

“This research work is important to helping us meet our health care challenges while fostering long-term job creation and economic growth,” said Brad Duguid, minister of economic development and innovation.