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Innovative research nets honours for three UTSC professors

Brian Connelly, associate professor of management, Anthony Ruocco, assistant professor of psychology, and Patrick McGowan, assistant professor of biological sciences each received an Early Researcher Award from the Ministry of Research and Innovation. (Photos by Ken Jones)

U of T Scarborough researchers conduct research that will benefit Ontario for generations to come, and three faculty members have received awards recognizing their contributions.

Brian Connelly, associate professor of management, Patrick McGowan, assistant professor of biological sciences, and Anthony Ruocco, associate professor of psychology each received an Early Researcher Award from the Ministry of Research and Innovation.

“We are tremendously proud of the innovative research being done by these three young professors,” says Professor Bernie Kraatz, interim Vice-Principal Research at UTSC.

“This funding will allow these researchers to advance their work in the areas of epigenetics, mental health and organizational behavior, while also helping prepare the next generation of researchers. I’m excited to see the outcomes of their research.”

The Early Researcher Awards program provides funding to new researchers working at Ontario colleges and universities as well as research hospitals and institutes. The goal is to attract and retain the best and brightest researchers while also helping build and train their research teams. The award criteria includes excellence of the researcher, quality of the proposal, development of talent and how the research will benefit Ontario overall. 

McGowan, who studies epigenetic changes in the brain important for behaviour and stress response, says the award will help train young scientists in advanced computational skills needed to understand the relationship between genomic data and health outcomes, including mental health.

“U of T is world-renowned for research on human development, in particular the importance of early life experiences in shaping health outcomes later in life,” says McGowan. “I'm grateful for the support that will help continue this necessary research.”

Ruocco’s research focuses primarily on the neurobiology of personality disorders. This award will help continue his research on borderline personality disorder, a severe mental disorder characterized by impulsive behaviours, the most serious of which include suicide and self-injury. He will specifically look at how dysfunctions in the central neural system in individuals with the disorder may lead to problems with impulse control.

“This award represents an important investment in mental health research in Ontario and UTSC is at the forefront of this work with its high-profile graduate program in Clinical Psychology.”

Connelly, an expert on organizational behavior and human resources management, will look at how organizations can best measure personality characteristics of their employees and job applicants.

“Businesses traditionally rely on self-descriptions from individuals to measure personality, but these descriptions open the door for dishonesty and narcissism to prevent accurate measurement,” says Connelly.

“We’ll look at how organizations can use personality ratings from peers to identify the most capable employees, prevent hiring fakers and realign self-perceptions with reality.”

© University of Toronto Scarborough