Royal Society celebrates Robarts scientist

For many Canadian scholars, being elected into the Royal Society of Canada is a crowning achievement of their careers.

To neuroscientist Lisa Saksida – newly honoured into the into RSC, along with four other Western scholars – it is also a reminder of the teamwork that takes place in any successful research program, and that their collective work has only just started.

“These people inspire me every day, and make it clear to me that, although it may not always be apparent, the real breakthroughs are achieved by diverse and collaborative teams,” she said.

Saksida and her team are deciphering how healthy human brains work and figuring out what is happening when those brains don’t work as well in people with, for example, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

“What I’m trying to understand is how different aspects of cognition – for example, learning, memory or attention – are achieved by the brain,” said Saskida, Robarts Research Institute Scientist, the Canada Research Chair in Translational Cognitive Neuroscience and scientific director at BrainsCAN.

Professor Lisa Saksida is a world leader in neuroscience research.

“If we can understand the neurobiology underlying cognition in a healthy brain, we can apply that knowledge to understand the neurobiology of a brain where there is impaired cognition, which will help us eventually to develop badly needed new treatments for brain disorders.”

Saksida, also a Professor of physiology and pharmacology at Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, has made many theoretical and experimental contributions to understanding the neurobiological basis of cognition. She is a world pioneer in developing touchscreen technology that helps researchers test cognition in mouse models of brain disease in a way that is relevant to human patients.

The work has led to Saksida’s being named a fellow of the RSC, commonly recognized as the country’s top honour in the arts, humanities and sciences. She is joined in receiving the honour alongside long-time Western researchers Peter Jaffe, Jin (Jing) Jiang and Slobodan Simonovic.

Jessica Grahn was elected to the society’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists, which represents the next generation of excellence in Canada.

Founded in 1882, the RSC recognizes research and scholarly excellence, advises governments and organizations and promotes a culture of knowledge and innovation in Canada and with other national academies around the world.

The announcement brings Western’s all-time total to 75 Fellows, including 20 during the past five years. An additional 11 Western researchers have been named to the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists during the same timeframe.

“We are extremely proud of the Royal Society of Canada’s recognition of research and scholarly excellence at Western,” said Vice-President (Research), Lesley Rigg. “It’s a testament to sustained impact and reflects our growing community of leaders who are actively improving our health, culture, arts, technology, and environment.”

Western professors Jeremy McNeil and Joanna Quinn currently serve as presidents of the RSC and the College, respectively.