Jan. 26, 2022
Susan Graham named Scientific Director of the Azrieli Accelerator
The Office of the Vice-President (Research) is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Susan Graham, PhD, as scientific director of the Azrieli Accelerator, effective January 1, 2022.
The Azrieli Accelerator will transform neurodevelopment research across the lifespan through collaborative and transdisciplinary teams committed to improving the lives of all those affected by neurodevelopmental disabilities (NDDs). The research funded by the Azrieli Accelerator will expand our scientific understanding of brain development and will fuel transformative approaches to research to tackle challenging questions from brain biology to quality of life. This research will be designed to achieve impact, to ensure that the work launched by the Azrieli Accelerator has the potential to transform the lives of neurodiverse children, teens, adults, and their families.
“I am thrilled to announce Dr. Graham’s appointment as inaugural scientific director of the Azrieli Accelerator,” says Dr. William Ghali, vice-president (research). “With Susan in the lead, we will deliver on this transformative vision and have a positive impact on the lives of people with neurodevelopmental disabilities across their life course.”
Graham, a professor in the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Arts, is an international leader in language and cognitive development in children with a collaborative vision to grow the impact of the Accelerator across Alberta, Canada, and around the globe. She is an award-winning researcher and professor whose work has provided critical insights into how babies and preschoolers learn and grow.
As scientific director, Graham will expand transdisciplinary NDD research across UCalgary and establish the Azrieli Accelerator as a critical national hub and valuable international partner in NDD research and translation.
“Susan brings 26 years of experience at the University of Calgary and is well suited to create transdisciplinary links between researchers from across our campuses’ related initiatives in Brain and Mental Health, Child Health and Wellness, and Infections, Inflammation and Chronic Diseases,” says Ghali.
Three research themes will guide the Azrieli Accelerator’s areas of focus at the outset: Brain Circuitry, Microbiome Influences, Interventions and Care Transformations. The Azrieli Accelerator will invite researchers from across UCalgary to consider how they can contribute to innovative and high impact transdisciplinary research projects to advance understanding of neurodevelopment and neurodevelopmental disabilities across the life span. Additional programs will be launched over time to enable broad engagement from across UCalgary in this initiative.
“I’m honoured to have been named the inaugural scientific director of the Azrieli Accelerator,” says Graham. “This incredible gift from the Azrieli Foundation will spark discoveries and have a huge impact on people with neurodevelopmental disabilities. I’m looking forward to working within the Foundation’s national and global network to advance our understanding of neurodevelopmental disabilities.”
Graham is also director of the Owerko Centre at the Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute and will hold both roles simultaneously.
“The Owerko Centre focuses on neurodevelopment and child mental health” says Graham. “The Azrieli Accelerator has a broader focus across the entire lifespan. We anticipate that we will work closely together to lift up all neurodevelopment research on campus.”
Graham is looking forward to building new connections across campus, and into the community. “Our first step will be to bring together researchers with diverse expertise to create transdisciplinary teams to address core issues and identify which keystone projects to launch within the research themes,” she says. “It is critical to develop connections with community and families to understand their needs and their research questions as well.”
The Azrieli Accelerator will transform neurodevelopment research across the lifespan through collaborative and transdisciplinary teams committed to improving the lives of all those affected by neurodevelopmental disabilities. This new initiative — made possible by the Azrieli Foundation — will enhance collaborations across the university, in the community and throughout the global network. It builds upon the university’s more than 50-year history of advancing related research, which has been supported by transformative investments by government, community partners and generous philanthropists, including the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation; the Owerko, Cumming, Hotchkiss, Snyder, Mathison and Fenwick families; and many others.
Brain and Mental Health, Child Health and Wellness and Infections, Inflammation and Chronic Diseases are Strategic Research Themes at the University of Calgary.