Eight awarded Smith grants

Jun 27, 2002, vol. 24, no. 5
By Carol Thorbes

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Karen Kobayashi (left) is exactly the kind of researcher the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) strives to keep in B.C.

The Simon Fraser University graduate's investigation of how ethnicity affects aging and health has piqued the interest of several B.C. universities and led to job possibilities for her in central Canada.

But, a 2002 MSFHR post-doctoral fellowship is enabling Kobayashi to pursue research at SFU's gerontology research centre, working with Andrew Wister.

“Otherwise, I might have been heading east,” says Kobayashi, who completed her doctoral studies under SFU sociologist Ellen Gee in 1999.

Kobayashi is wrapping up a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of B.C.

Her study of factors promoting and impeding healthy aging among Chinese and South Asian adults is particularly relevant in B.C., where Asians are the fastest growing segment of the population.

“Recent immigrant middle aged women within this segment of Canada's population are significantly less likely to get pap smears and mammograms done to detect diseases than their Canadian-born counterparts,” says Kobayashi.

The third generation Japanese Canadian is one of two SFU recipients of a 2002 MSFHR post-doctoral fellowship ($35,000 year and research/travel allowance $4,000).

Rami Hannoush, a McGill University chemist, is the other recipient.
Four SFU graduate students are recipients of MSFHR trainee awards. The $22,500 renewable award, which includes a $2,500 research and travel allowance, will enable Nag Kumar to focus on researching compounds for the development of better cancer fighting drugs.

The former Indo-Fijian will graduate with a BSc in chemistry and begin his doctoral studies in carbohydrate chemistry under SFU chemistry chair Mario Pinto in October.

“The MSFHR award allows me to concentrate more on my research than teaching assistance to make a living,” says Kumar, a Coquitlam resident.
The other MSFHR trainee recipients are Michael Hildebrand, biological sciences; Dawn Mackey, kinesiology and Alfredo Menendez, molecular biology and biochemistry.

One of two MSFHR career investigator awards at SFU, which cover five years, will enable Mark Paetzel to focus more on his groundbreaking research.

Paetzel takes up his SFU appointment as an assistant professor in molecular biology and biochemistry in September. He presently holds a post-doctoral appointment at UBC.

A Vancouver resident, Paetzel investigates the three-dimensional structure of bacterial membrane proteins.

The other career award could result in SFU attracting one of the world's top experts in sports-related concussions, McGill University neurosurgeon Karen Johnston.

Career awards contribute towards the recipients' salaries and startup funds at the universities where they've been appointed faculty or universities seeking their appointment.

As at SFU, the number of MSFHR career award recipients provincially was down this year compared to last year.

This year, universities could seek grants to cover the salaries and establishment of only new researchers to B.C. or candidates who had begun faculty positions here in the last two years.

“Our first round of awards last year were deliberately more open,” says Cherry Graf, VP-external affairs at the foundation.

“The intent was to help institutions deal with a backlog of need and the pressures of keeping faculty who were being aggressively recruited by other North American jurisdictions. Now, our focus is recruitment of new faculty and the provision of new funding for infrastructure support to build B.C.'s capacity for health research and our case for funding renewal.”

SFU's 2002 MSFHR awards collectively are worth $984,798.
In addition, career award recipients will receive $175,000 in establishment grants.

Named after B.C.'s only Nobel prize recipient, the foundation was conceived of by a coalition of universities, teaching hospitals, biotechnology companies and others in B.C.

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