By: Liz Do
3 Oct, 2022
In the CIFAR Board of Directors meeting on Sept.13, the board unanimously agreed to name Marla B. Sokolowski and W. Thomas Boyce as the organization’s newest Distinguished Fellows. The designation is CIFAR’s highest honour with only eight fellows having received this honour in CIFAR’s 40-year history.
The title recognizes distinguished individuals who have made sustained research contributions at a significant level of originality and impact, and have displayed long-term leadership and commitment to CIFAR. Both researchers played pivotal roles as joint co-directors of the organization’s Child & Brain Development program from 2008 to 2019.
In the 11 years they led the program, they fostered the research and careers of fellows, scholars and trainees, published two program-based special issues of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), oversaw two five-year funding renewals and coordinated two international conferences, including the conference on The Well-Being of the World’s Children at Canada House in London, UK.
The researachers recently co-edited a special issue of PNAS alongside program advisor, Gene Robinson, on “Biological Embedding Across Timescales,” — this issue communicated the culmination of nearly 10 years of the program’s history.
As researchers, Boyce’s research focuses on the study of early childhood development, most notably articulating the “orchid vs. dandelion” framework for understanding the basis of the differential effects of the environment on child psychological development.
He has been elected to the Institute of Medicine, and received the Distinguished Contributions to Interdisciplinary Understanding of Child Development Award from the Society for Research in Child Development, as well as the Whole Child Award from the Simms/Mann Institute.
Sokolowski’s research looks into the manner in which genes interact with the environment, thus impacting behaviour. She has trail-blazed the development of a branch of behaviour genetics that addresses the genetic and molecular bases of natural individual differences in behaviour. Sokolowski is best known for her discovery of the foraging gene. She has more than 200 publications, is an award-winning teacher and mentor, and has given close to 250 invited lectures.
She has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and received the Flavelle Medal from the Royal Society of Canada, the Distinguished Investigator Award from the International Behavioural and Neural Genetics Society, as well as Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, to name a few.
“On behalf of CIFAR, I would like to congratulate both Tom and Marla on their richly-deserved appointment as Distinguished Fellows,” said Dr. Alan Bernstein, President & CEO of CIFAR. “Together, they shaped our Child & Brain Development program for the 21st century. Their contributions as researchers and as program co-directors have been truly exemplary, and have advanced the world’s understanding of early childhood development.”
CIFAR is a registered charitable organization supported by the governments of Canada, Alberta and Quebec, as well as foundations, individuals, corporations and Canadian and international partner organizations.