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Research Programs

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We convene extraordinary minds to address the most important questions facing science and humanity.

CIFAR's research programs bring together international, interdisciplinary researchers who work together for five-year terms. Programs are led by a director or two co-directors, engage approximately 20-40 fellows and advisors from around the world, and include two or three CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars for two-year terms.



Our portfolio of research programs spans four broad theme areas.

Life & Health


Fungal Kingdom: Threats & Opportunities

What might we uncover in an unknown biosphere?

2014, 2020

Humans & the Microbiome

How do microbes that live in and on us affect our health, development and even behaviour?

Individuals & Society


Boundaries, Membership & Belonging

Is it possible to have a world without “us” and “them”?

2014, 2020

Brain, Mind & Consciousness

What are the origins and mechanisms of consciousness?

2003, 2007, 2012, 2019

Child & Brain Development

How do childhood experiences affect lifelong health?


Innovation, Equity & The Future of Prosperity

How can innovation be beneficial to all?

Information & Matter

2014, 2020

Bio-inspired Solar Energy

How can we learn from nature to harvest energy from the sun?

2004, 2008, 2014, 2019

Learning in Machines & Brains

How do we understand intelligence and build intelligent machines?

2002, 2007, 2012, 2019

Quantum Information Science

How do we harness the power of quantum mechanics to improve information processing?

1987, 1992, 1997, 2002, 2007, 2012, 2019

Quantum Materials

How could quantum materials transform our society?

Earth & Space


Earth 4D: Subsurface Science & Exploration

How do we understand the life, groundwater and environment deep below the surface of a planet?

1986, 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006, 2011, 2016

Gravity & the Extreme Universe

What is extreme gravity, and how can it help us understand the origin of the universe?

The following are completing their work as CIFAR programs:

2005, 2010, 2016

Genetic Networks

How do the interactions among genes influence health and development?

2004, 2008, 2014

Institutions, Organizations & Growth

Why are some countries rich and others poor?


Molecular Architecture of Life

How does life originate and what are the processes that make life possible?

2002, 2008, 2012

Successful Societies

Why are some societies more successful than others?

Anil Seth portrait
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CIFAR fellows are collaborative researchers at the top of their fields.

Our community of fellows, advisors, CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars, and Canada CIFAR AI Chairs includes more than 400 researchers from 18 countries. They regularly contribute to papers in the top 1% of most-cited papers worldwide. Fellows are selected for academic and communication excellence, and for how their expertise fits into the goals of a program.

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We encourage our community of researchers to work across programs and disciplines.

Through Catalyst Funds, we facilitate and support high-risk ideas and projects within and across CIFAR’s portfolio of research programs. The time-limited grants provide flexibility for early-stage projects, encourage interdisciplinary collaborations, and address emerging and exploratory themes within or between research programs.

Research News

Discover the latest advances from our community.



Irina Rish wants to solve one of AI’s biggest challenges

Her research will enable machines to learn new knowledge more efficiently.


How has COVID-19 affected world happiness?

CIFAR Fellows and Canada CIFAR AI Chairs investigate happiness using interdisciplinary methods 


COVID-19 may forever alter our microbiomes

The virus (and our reactions to it) affects our health through the microbiome.


AI radiology tool supports real-time diagnosis of COVID-19-related pneumonia

Canadian research collaboration launches AI radiology tool

Support Us

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.

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