Chancellor's Research Chair

Research Office

The award of a Chancellor's Research Chair is intended to encourage and sustain high levels of scholarly activity by faculty and to retain high quality faculty who have made, and will continue to make, exceptional contributions to research in their field. The candidates should be excellent emerging researchers who have demonstrated particular research creativity; have demonstrated the potential to achieve international recognition in their fields in the next five to ten years; have the potential to attract, develop and retain excellent trainees, students and future researchers; and be proposing an original, innovative research program of high quality.

This award is for tenured or tenure-track faculty members who are within 10 years of their terminal degree, or within 5 years of receiving tenure. Candidates for the Chancellor’s Research Chair must be emerging scholars, and should, at a minimum, be assistant or associate professors.The Chair will typically be awarded annually to an internal candidate for a non-renewable term of three years.

Dr. Jenny Heijun Wills

Awarded:  May 2020

Dr. Jenny Heijun Wills is an associate professor in the Department of English.  She writes about race, identity, and adoption both as a scholar and creative writer. She is the first University of Winnipeg Chancellor’s Research Chair whose output is creative in nature. 

The majority of her three year term will be spent researching and writing a historical novel that spans the 1950s-1990s. Loosely based on the lives of Jim Jones’s three Korean adopted children, the novel will explore themes of racial violence within progressive, liberal, anti-racist contexts. Dr. Wills will work with BIPoC student writers, undertaking archival research as well as literary research throughout the course of this project.

Dr. Peter J. Miller, Classics

Awarded:  May 2019

Dr. Peter J. Miller is an assistant professor in the Department of Classics. His research focuses on the representation of gendered, socioeconomic, and ethnic identities in ancient Greek poetry, and he has published studies of ancient Greek drama and verse that are driven by contemporary critical theory. He has also published on ancient Greek and Roman sports and spectacle, their cultural importance in ancient contexts, and their influence on the contemporary global sports that emerged in the late 19th century.

Dr. Miller’s current focus is a SSHRC-funded study of the role of ancient sport and Classical scholarship in the development of modern sport and the ways in which Greco-Roman antiquity continues to pervade the modern sports landscape, from the Olympic Games, to the physical infrastructures of health and fitness, to the artistic representation of sport in art, literature, and cinema. The goal of this project is to produce a variety of academic and non-academic publications that interrogate, interpret, and demonstrate how ancient and modern sport are intertwined; how antiquity and modernity continue to exist together; how the past – or rather history, one interpretation of the past – inflects the present day and the future, in this case, through the global reach of contemporary sport.

Dr. Miller’s Chancellor’s Research Chair work will, in part, be a volume in Bloomsbury Academic’s “Ancients & Moderns” series called Sport: Antiquity and Its Legacy. “Ancients and Moderns,” the Bloomsbury series, “aims to communicate to students and general readers the depth, energy, and excitement of the best work in the field. It seeks to engage, provoke, and stimulate, and to show how, for large parts of the world, Graeco-Roman antiquity continues to be relevant to debates in culture, politics, and society” (from the description of the series).

Dr. Nora Casson, Geography

Awarded:  May 2018

Dr. Nora Casson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography investigating impacts of climate change and other environmental pressures on subarctic freshwater ecosystems and the tundra in Churchill, Manitoba. Her research also includes a community engagement-driven approach to synthesize scientific knowledge around impacts of climate change on fresh water aquatic resources in the region.

For the three year tenure of this award, in collaboration with researchers at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre (CNSC), Dr. Casson will be using a combination of lab and field-based manipulations, to investigate the roles of landscape and sediment processes in mediating the nutrient response of subarctic aquatic ecosystems to climate change. Graduate and undergraduate students will have a chance to do research at the CNSC allowing further investigation into the pressures on the unique and important northern ecosystems and also offer exciting research opportunities.

Dr. Delia Gavrus, History

Awarded:  May 2017

Dr. Gavrus is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History studying the history of science, medicine, technology, as well as American and Canadian cultural and social history. Her work explores the ways in which theories about the human brain and mind have been fashioned in conjunction with the various scientific, clinical, social, and cultural realities of the 19th and 20th centuries.  During her Chancellor’s Research Chair term, Dr. Gavrus will be working on a biography of Dr. Wilder Penfield, a renowned Canadian neurosurgeon and Renaissance man.

Dr. Gavrus describes Penfield as a philosopher of mind who brought his knowledge, surgical experience, and literary erudition to perhaps the most difficult question — that of human consciousness.  Penfield was a pioneering neurosurgeon who was driven to unlock the mysteries of the human brain. He revolutionized the techniques of brain surgery and made major discoveries about human cognition, memory and sensation.  The biography will be a continuation of Dr. Gavrus’ work that will allow her to use a new lens to focus on questions about the evolution of our understanding of the brain by looking at the rich life of Dr. Penfield. 

Dr. Renée Douville, Biology

Awarded: May 2016

Dr. Douville is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biology studying neuroprogressive disease.  During the Chancellor’s Research Chair term the Douville research laboratory will continue to focus on developing an understanding of how human endogenous retroviruses (ERVs), which reside in our DNA and are normally dormant, become re-activated in certain neurological diseases. Dr. Douville’s lab has discovered a novel ERV protein with neurotoxic potential; their work aims to determine the protein’s association with neuronal damage and inflammation in the brain.

Dr. Douville is committed to pursuing research that will translate into improved quality of life and care for patients with virus-associated brain disorders, like ALS and schizophrenia.  By studying viruses incorporated into human DNA, she is discovering the complex way our bodies fight viruses and how these processes contribute to neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disease — a first step towards developing novel therapeutic strategies.

Dr. Kevin Walby, Criminal Justice

Awarded: April 2015

Dr. Walby is an  Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice studying the corporate security within the three levels of government primarily using freedom of information requests and interviews.

As the Chancellor’s Research Chair he will investigate the establishment and operations of public sector corporate security units at three levels of government in Canada and the USA. The transfer of corporate security into government has never been the focus of research in Canada or in the USA. Municipal, provincial and state, and federal governments are now rethinking in-house security, which raises questions about security policy transfer from the private to the public sector. Since 2001, municipal corporate security (MCS) units have emerged as prominent features of local governments in 21 Canadian cities. MCS units are now responsible for a range of practices including asset protection, camera surveillance and policing of ‘nuisance’ conduct (e.g., littering, loitering, alcohol consumption) on public lands, as well as surveillance of municipal employees and citizens. MCS units are nominally public agencies, yet their principle knowledge and technology transfer partner is the international private security industry, specifically American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) International. Provincial and federal government agencies are now establishing corporate security units too. How public sector corporate security units operate in security networks and how security policies for corporate security units have diffused across government in Canada and the USA remains unknown. This dearth of empirical research restricts academic understandings of: security, government, and crime control practices; the differences between private and public sector corporate security; the differences between public sector corporate security in Canada and the USA; and debates about security networks and consumption. It also restricts policymakers from engaging in informed discussion about public sector corporate security unit merits and accountability.

Dr. Bruno Silvestre, Business and Administration

Awarded: May 2014

Customers increasingly want products and services designed specifically for their needs, delivered quickly, for lower prices, and that are also sustainable (social, economic and environmental.) Yet this area has received little research attention.

Dr. Silvestre’s research project aims to answer the following key questions: How can supply chains effectively develop, implement and manage innovations? And how do these innovations impact supply chain sustainability (i.e., economic, environmental and social) performance?

This project will involve a systematic review of the literature on innovation, supply chain management and sustainability as well as in-person interviews and questionnaires with people in Manitoba’s aerospace, agriculture, construction and energy sectors. Students will be actively involved during the three year project.

Dr. Melanie Martin, Physics

Awarded: April 2013

Dr. Melanie Martin is working on ways to diagnose multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease earlier and with more certainty. As a person ages the brain shrinks, but the brain of someone with Alzheimer’s shrinks faster. Martin believes an area of the brain that shrinks rapidly with Alzheimer’s disease is the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory.

Martin is currently developing innovative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to allow researchers to view the brain in real time and measure brain shrinkage. The hope is this technique will allow doctors to diagnose Alzheimer’s sooner and have an objective marker, namely brain shrinkage, to evaluate treatments.

Dr. Angela Failler, Sociology/Women’s and Gender Studies

Awarded: April 2012

Dr. Failler is leading a new Cultural Studies research team at UWinnipeg consisting of sixteen co-investigators who are faculty members from across the Humanities and Social Sciences.  The team has launched a research project engaging with the developments of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR).

Failler and her team will undertake a project that emerges out of a desire to contribute to the potential for the CMHR to serve as a meaningful site of cultural production, public dialogue, and pedagogical encounter in Winnipeg. The project will serve as a model for public-intellectual exchange and demonstrate the rich contribution of Cultural Studies scholarship in Canada to critical discussions of human rights and social justice on the national and international stage.

Failler currently holds a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Standard Research Grant (SRG) as Principal Investigator of a program entitled “Building Communities of Memory: Remembrance Practices After the 1985 Air India Bombings”, which theorizes the impact of the bombings on the national imagination in terms of how Canadians conceive of themselves, each other, and what it means to be Canadian - particularly in a post-9/11 culture of “war on terror.”  The relevance of this research for the newly launched Cultural Studies project lies in its attention to how public engagement with representations of human loss and suffering can be used to foster a better understanding of the conditions necessary for promoting and protecting human rights and social justice.

Dr. Craig Willis, Biology

Awarded: July 2011

Dr. Craig Willis is an Associate Professor in Biology studying the ecology, behaviour, and physiology of wild mammals. He and his students conduct research about mammalian ecology and evolution, as well as applied conservation research that is important for understanding the impacts of climate change, industrial development, and habitat loss on wildlife. Recently the Willis lab has been part of the major international effort to understand a disease called White Nose Syndrome (WNS).

WNS was discovered in 2006; it has spread rapidly throughout eastern North America and recently into Ontario and Quebec. The disease is named for a white fungus (called Geomyces destructans) which grows on the exposed skin of the muzzles and wings of the bats. Little brown bats, one of the most common North American species, are the hardest hit. Current estimates predict local extinction for this species within 20 years of the arrival of WNS in an area. This is a crisis for bat conservation but also has wider consequences for ecosystems, forestry, and agriculture, given the role of bats as the primary consumers of night-flying insects. Recent estimates suggest that bats are worth billions of dollars annually for North American agriculture because of reduced crop damage and pesticide costs.

Dr. Willis holds multiple research grants from NSERC, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canada Foundation for Innovation. These funds support field and laboratory studies to better understand precisely how Geomyces destructans is killing bats and to determine the potential for natural selection to help bat populations rebound from WNS in the future.