Profs awarded grant

Psychology professor Nancy Kocovski and chemistry professor Vladimir Kitaev were awarded the Early Researcher Award, providing them each with $100,000 over five years to continue their research initiatives.

“It will really help me be able to do the studies that I want to do in the next few years,” said Kocovski.

Awarded by the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, the funds will allow the professors to hire undergraduate and graduate students to help them conduct their research projects. Kitaev expressed his reliance on having undergraduate students working with him.

“Chemistry got an MSc program just a few years ago,” he said. “I just now have two masters students, so all of my other work was done with the great undergraduate students. “
Kitaev went on to further explain his preference in working with undergraduate students because “I’m training those guys.”

Students play a vital role in helping Kocovski further her research on social anxiety by providing assistance during clinical trials and lab studies. Kocovski explained her analysis of mindfulness- and acceptance-based treatments and cognitive behaviour therapy.

“I’m currently doing a trial where we’re comparing different treatments for social anxiety,” said Kocovksi. “What I’m really interested in is how these treatments work; how somebody becomes less socially anxious when they go through these treatments.”

Cognitive behaviour therapy, the more substantiated form of treatment, involves changing the way a person thinks or interprets situations in order to reduce their feelings of anxiety. In comparison, mindfulness- and acceptance-based treatments don’t change the way a person thinks but helps them to accept the thoughts that they have as a natural occurrence and not let them be detrimental to their actions and experiences.

“We know that practicing mindfulness leads to a whole bunch of positive outcomes,” Kocovski explained. “What I want to get a better idea of is how that happens.”

Kitaev’s inquiry involves looking at the extremely small nanoparticles and their specific shapes that contribute to their dazzling optical properties which he has coined “nanorainbows”.

In addition to the discovery of nanorainbows, Kitaev’s ongoing research of silver nanoparticles has already presented results including learning how to put nanoshells of other substances such as gold into the silver structures.

Looking towards the future, Kitaev remained positive for more discoveries surrounding the uses for nanoparticles. “Our nanoparticles would be applicable to everything, that’s what gives me great satisfaction,” he said.

Whether he would make any great advancements within the five year funding period was uncertain, as he estimated that he would see two generations of students progress through before anything of discussion is developed. Although unsure of what his findings may be, Kitaev did hope to see biomedical applications.

“Many things happen slow in science,” said Kitaev, reiterating that he funding would allow him to have student support in the up-coming years of his project.