The Government of Canada today announced that Dr. Jennifer Khoury has been appointed Tier II Canada Research Chair in Interdisciplinary Studies in Neuroscience at Mount Saint Vincent University. The five-year appointment carries a total award value of $819,029 with funding from the Canada Research Chairs Program (CRCP), the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), and Research Nova Scotia.

Mount Saint Vincent University is pleased to welcome Dr. Khoury as an Assistant Professor within the Department of Psychology. Dr. Khoury holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and an M.A. in Clinical Psychology, both from Ryerson University, and a B.Sc. in Psychology (Honors) from the University of Toronto. After obtaining her Ph.D., Dr. Khoury completed postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard Medical School/Cambridge Hospital (2017-2019) and at the Offord Centre for Child Studies at McMaster University (2019-2020).

Dr. Khoury has been involved in a number of federally funded neurobiological, developmental, and clinical projects in both Canada and the United Stats, and her work has received national recognition. Recently, Dr. Khoury received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant to examine the developmental outcomes associated with child maltreatment. Dr. Khoury has also been awarded highly competitive scholarships and fellowships, including the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Postdoctoral Fellowship. Dr. Khoury’s research has resulted in numerous peer-reviewed publications and national and international conference presentations.

Interdisciplinary approach to developmental neuroscience

Dr. Khoury’s unique research program adopts an interdisciplinary and multi-method approach to understand how early life stress impacts the brain and behaviour of parents and children at different stages of development, as early experiences lay the foundation for lifelong health and well-being. Early life stress encompasses circumstances such as neglect and abuse, parental mental health, and caregiving difficulties, that can exceed a child’s ability to cope. As a result, early life stress can adversely impact development. The effects of early life stress can begin during pregnancy, endure throughout life, and transcend generations.

In her Tier II Canada Research Chair role, Dr. Khoury will be focused on research that identifies how early life stress impacts the biopsychosocial aspects of development. The specific objectives of Dr. Khoury’s research are to: (1) Investigate the brain and behavioural risk factors associated with the intergenerational transmission of child adversity; (2) examine how parental mental health impacts parenting and child development; and (3) uncover how parent-child relationships impact child stress physiology and socio-emotional development, by focusing on multiple contexts and stress systems.

Her work at MSVU will be carried out through first-hand studies of parents and their infants and children. Testing these multi-dimensional factors in caregivers and children can lead to an understanding of the direct paths between early life stress and child development. This work will inform future research and practice to reduce the social, health, and economic burdens on current and future generations of Canadians.

Establishment of the Interdisciplinary Developmental Neuroscience Research Centre (IDNRC) at Mount Saint Vincent University

MSVU will establish the Interdisciplinary Developmental Neuroscience Research Centre (IDNRC) to facilitate the creation of Dr. Khoury’s research program. The IDNRC will be a space where parents and their children can comfortably interact and participate in relationship-focused and mildly stressful tasks, while their emotional, physiological, and neurobiological stress markers are captured. This facility will include a parent-child interaction room, a relaxation room for non-stress related activities, a wet lab for processing biological samples, and a shared space for student workstations and for conducting electroencephalogram (EEG) imaging.

The opening of the IDNRC has been made possible through funding totaling $219,029 from The John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF) through the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and Research Nova Scotia.

About the Canada Research Chairs Program

The Canada Research Chairs Program (CRCP) invests approximately $295 million per year to attract and retain some of the world’s most accomplished and promising minds. Chairholders aim to achieve research excellence in engineering and the natural sciences, health sciences, humanities, and social sciences.

The CRCP is a tri-agency initiative of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). It is administered by the Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat, which is housed within SSHRC.