Dec. 7, 2022

Banting Fellowships awarded to 3 UCalgary postdoctoral scholars

Recipients of prestigious program share common thread centring on prenatal and post-natal research
mother and baby
Ana Tablas, Unsplash

The University of Calgary is celebrating three postdoctoral scholars who have been awarded Banting Fellowships. The recipients follow a shared theme focusing on maternal and early childhood health.

The Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship recipients are Dr. Karen V. Lithgow, PhD, in the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM), Dr. Anna Funk, PhD, in the CSM, and Dr. Marcel van de Wouw, PhD, in the CSM.

This year's Banting Fellows will have significant impact on maternal child health through their work,” says Dr. William Ghali, vice-president (research). “We are pleased to congratulate Drs Funk, Lithgow and van de Wouw for this outstanding accomplishment, and look forward to all they will achieve as Banting Fellows.”

Banting Fellow Dr. Anna Funk, PhD

Anna Funk

Anna Funk

“It is an honour to receive this award and be recognized as an up-and-coming leader in my field,” says Funk. She is seeking to understand the outcomes of maternal-infant health for women who do or do not receive a COVID-19 vaccine before giving birth.

“With this fellowship, I have the resources and mentorship to do robust research on SARS-COV-2 and pregnancy. I also have unique training opportunities to better understand how to communicate my results to affect policy. With this, I believe I can help reduce the negative impacts of emerging viruses and future pandemics on pregnant women and children.”

Banting Fellow Dr. Karen V. Lithgow, PhD

Karen V. Lithgow

Karen V. Lithgow

Lithgow is studying the effects of bacterial infection in the uterus and its relation to preterm birth.

“Joining Dr. Laura Sycuro’s lab at the University of Calgary to study the vaginal microbiome allowed me to merge my passions for molecular microbiology and women’s health,” says Lithgow. “I get to work with a team that shares my vision for advancing equity in health and research.

“Certain bacteria pose a major risk for pregnancy complications and uterine disorders, but how these bacteria threaten pregnancies has remained a mystery. Supported by the Banting Fellowship, my research will figure out how these bacteria invade the uterus and trigger preterm birth by activating key labour pathways such as cervical dilation and uterine contractions.”

Banting Fellow Dr. Marcel van de Wouw, PhD

Marcel van de Wouw

Marcel van de Wouw

Van de Wouw is deciphering how prenatal stress and the gut microbiome during the COVID-19 pandemic influence the mental health of pregnant individuals and infant behaviour at three months of age. Van de Wouw will be able to conclude work that began early in the pandemic.

“It feels great to receive such a wonderful award! The projects I'm working on can take up to a few years, so it will allow me to finish up the work that I started early 2020.”

Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships differs from other programs

The Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships program aims to attract and retain top-tier postdoctoral talent, and differs from other programs by emphasizing the synergy between the applicant and the host institution. The award is $70,000 per year for two years and will support postdocs as they positively contribute to Canada’s economic, social, and research-based growth, with funding split between the Tri-Agencies: the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

The University of Calgary Banting Postdoctoral Fellows are: 

  • Dr. Anna Funk, PhD (supervisor: Dr. Amy Metcalfe, PhD; Cumming School of Medicine): Outcomes of Pregnant Women and Infants with SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine and Infection Exposure
  • Dr. Karen V. Lithgow, PhD (supervisor: Dr. Laura Sycuro, PhD, MSc): Proteolytic Remodelling of Uterine Tissues as a Trigger of Infection-Induced Preterm Labour
  • Dr. Marcel van de Wouw, PhD (supervisor: Dr. Gerald Giesbrecht, PhD): The Role of Gut Microbes in Prenatal Mental Health and Early Life Behavioural Outcomes in Infants

The internal application process for the next round of Bantings Postdoctoral Fellowships will begin in February 2023.  Please contact the Postdoctoral Office for more information.

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