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UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 14 | September 20, 2001

Michael Smith Foundation honours young investigators

Competition encourages the up and coming scientists to build their research careers in British Columbia

by Hilary Thomson staff writer

Promising, young UBC researchers have earned 69 of the 78 inaugural trainee awards from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR).

"It's exciting to have so many of our researchers being recognized at the start of their careers," says Indira Samarasekera, vice-president, Research. "Michael Smith was a wonderful mentor and it is quite moving that his vision for developing research in this province is being made a reality."

MSFHR was created this spring and received $110 million from the provincial government to advance health research in B.C. The competition for research support attracted 385 submissions.

"We have fast-tracked this first competition to ensure trainees could get under way this academic year," says Dr. Aubrey Tingle, head of MSFHR. "Funding for health research in B.C. has been almost non-existent for several years now, so there is a pent-up need to move ahead with investigations."

By funding their training here, B.C. is better positioned to retain these scholars as future leaders for our health system and related industries, adds Tingle.

Awards are made available to support highly qualified individuals at the masters, doctoral and postdoctoral levels as they prepare for careers as independent health researchers. Awards were made in the categories of population health, biomedical, health services, and clinical research.

Awardee Nonie Lesaux, a PhD student in Educational and Counselling Psychology and Special Education, will use the funding to continue studying early identification and intervention for children at risk for developing dyslexia.

She works with a UBC team that has been assessing 1,000 children at 30 schools in the North Vancouver School District since 1997.

Tracked since kindergarten, the children receive specific interventions to build their language and reading readiness skills.

Researchers have shown that interventions can mediate reading difficulties experienced by all at-risk children, including those children whose schools are located in lower income areas and those children who are learning English as a second language.

"This research is showing us that it is possible to identify children at risk for reading failure and that all children can become competent readers with interventions in the very early stages of schooling," says Lesaux.

A neurological disorder, dyslexia is characterized by difficulty with the alphabet, reading, writing and spelling in spite of normal or above-normal intelligence. It affects about 5 to 15 per cent of individuals, according to U.S. and Canadian studies.

Stipends of $20,000 annually with a research and travel allowance are possible for master's and PhD students.

Terms vary from two years for master's students to five years for doctoral students or those taking a combination of master's and doctoral degrees.

Fellowships for post-doctoral staff vary and can reach a maximum of $45,000 with a research and travel allowance.

The foundation is the primary funding agency for health research in B.C. And replaces the B.C. Health Research Foundation.

It the result of a comprehensive plan for building research capacity drafted by the Coalition for Health Research in British Columbia, an alliance of universities, teaching hospitals, research institutes, biotechnology companies and others.

For more information on the foundation, visit www.msfhr.org.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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