University of Calgary

Samuel Weiss to lead brain and mental health scholars’ initiative

UToday HomeJanuary 15, 2013

Professor Samuel Weiss, PhD, director of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute in the Faculty of Medicine.Professor Samuel Weiss, PhD, director of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute in the Faculty of Medicine.Professor Samuel Weiss, PhD, director of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute in the Faculty of Medicine, has been appointed to lead the University of Calgary’s brain and mental health initiative, one of six research themes outlined in the university’s 2012 Strategic Research Plan. The plan is a roadmap for achieving the university’s Eyes High strategic direction to become one of Canada’s top five research intensive universities by our 50th anniversary in 2016.

Weiss is a world-renowned researcher and the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, most notably the Gairdner International Award for his seminal discovery of adult neural stem cells in the mammalian brain and its importance in nerve cell regeneration, as well as the Fondation IPSEN (France) prize in Neuronal Plasticity, the Canadian Federation of Biological Societies Presidents’ Award in Life Sciences Research and the CCNP Innovations in Neuropsychopharmacology Award.

An Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (now Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions) scientist in the Faculty of Medicine’s departments of cell biology and anatomy, and physiology and pharmacology, Weiss is also the inaugural director of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute. The institute is a partnership between the Faculty of Medicine and Alberta Health Services. Its mission is to translate innovative research and education into advances in neurological and mental health care.

A fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Weiss sits on numerous national and international peer review committees, has authored many publications, holds key patents in the neural stem cell field and has founded three biotechnology companies.

“We are very fortunate that Sam has agreed to take on this important role,” says Ed McCauley, PhD, vice-president (research). “We have tremendous research strength in brain and mental health here at the university. Sam is the perfect person to harness this power given his incredible track record and success in this field.”

Weiss, who was appointed to spearhead this initiative by McCauley, will lead a committee of thought leaders brought together to connect and elevate the research capacity in brain and mental health from all corners of campus. He will also continue in his current role as director of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute.

“I am honoured to be asked to serve my university by creating an enhanced culture of collaboration between the nine faculties with a strong interest in brain and mental health,” says Weiss. “Our initial campus-wide focus areas — Child and Youth Mental Health, Healthy Brain Aging, Spinal Cord and Nerve Repair, and Concussion and Brain Injury — will allow the University of Calgary to position itself as a major research force on the national and international stage in these critical areas of major, unmet health needs.”

In addition to the theme of brain and mental health, the university is building strength in five other multidisciplinary strategic research themes:

  • human dynamics in a changing world
  • new earth-space technologies
  • engineering solutions for health
  • infections, inflammation and chronic diseases in the changing environment
  • energy innovations for today and tomorrow

McCauley explains that different approaches will be taken for the development of each of the six research themes according to the specific needs and leadership models required. Each initiative is expected to include a committee of thought leaders; identification of research challenges and opportunities in their domain; and the development of a collective strategic path towards increased research competitiveness, knowledge translation and return to community.