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Building for the future

Research stories August 24, 2021
Dr. Nancy Butcher, recipient of a 2012 Bell Mental Health Research Training Award, with her supervisor, Dr. Anne Bassett.

In 2012, Dr. Nancy Butcher was a young PhD student at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health exploring a new line of research into individuals with a rare genetic condition known as 22qdeletion syndrome (22q11.2DS), the only confirmed molecular genetic subtype of schizophrenia. By looking at the brains of older adults with the disorder, Dr. Butcher’s research aimed to explain some of the neuropsychiatric and neurological manifestations that were being seen clinically.

Brain Canada’s Training Awards are designed to support the next generation of Canadian neuroscience researchers by providing them with guidance, mentorship and training under the direction of world-leading researchers.

Funding opportunities for early career researchers are a significant investment in Canada’s future. They enable budding sci­entists to explore new ideas and accelerate their careers in neuroscience. When Dr. Butcher received her 2012 Bell Mental Health Research Training Award, she was working under the supervision of Dr. Anne Bassett. Her $30,000 grant was disbursed over a three-year period, along with a $5,000 career development supplement.

“For me, it was pragmatically extremely help­ful, as someone who was always really dependent on scholarships and funding, to support my desire to be a researcher. Having the award from Brain Canada and Bell Canada, which included a training allowance, was really helpful to be able to completely focus on the research, be a really productive PhD student and spend time learning,” she explains.

Since receiving the Bell Mental Health Research Training Award, Dr. Butcher’s work has evolved to focus on bridging the gaps in high-quality pediatric mental health research.

“As my career developed, one thing I became increasingly aware of as I was conducting clinical research studies in mental health was that there is a large gap in terms of high-quality methods that can be used to do mental health research, in particular pediatric mental health research,” says Dr. Butcher.

Along with being a researcher and methodol­ogist, Dr. Butcher is now also an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, where some of her own students are seeking early career funding opportunities.

“It’s a very exciting time to be a young investigator but probably now more than ever funding resources are quite scarce.”, says Dr. Butcher. “Having these types of awards is motivating and encouraging for young investigators who want to pursue research.”

Dr. Nancy Butcher is just one of many researchers who received support from Brain Canada at an early stage in their career. We believe that supporting the next genera­tion of scientists, whether that be through our Training Awards, Future Leaders in Canadian Brain Research Program, or student sponsor­ships, all contribute to the future of scientific leadership. It means investing today for a better and more brilliant tomorrow.