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HBI Postdoc receives prestigious Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship

Two-year fellowship program is among the most prestigious in Canada

Photo by Adrian Shellard

Agnieszka Zurek, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of HBI member Jaideep Bains is one of four University of Calgary trainees to receive a 2016 Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Adalberto Loyola-Sanchez, Kun Shao, Ajitha Thanabalasuriar, and Agnieszka Zurek were awarded Banting Fellowships this year on the basis of their research excellence, to support them as they continue to build their promising careers under the mentorship of research leaders, and learn to become leaders themselves.

“The  Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship enables the University of Calgary’s to recruit exceptional scholars like Alberto Loyola-Sanchez, Kun Shao, Ajitha Thanabalasuriar, and Agnieszka Zurek,” says Naweed Syed, scientific director of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute. “We are pleased to provide them with a rich research environment and put them elbow-to-elbow with other leading scientists, which fuels truly transformative discoveries.” Syed, postdoctoral program director from 2013 to 2016, provided mentorship and support for candidates applying for Banting Fellowships.  

Zurek’s project Plasticity of GABA Synapses in Hypothalamic Circuits: A New Model for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, focuses on how a major stressful event can cause sustained changes in the brain. In normal brains, inhibitory neurotransmission "puts the brakes on" a response to stress. However, recent research has shown that after a major stressor, the brakes may fail and the system can become hyper-responsive to subsequent events. This results in an exaggerated stress response and anxiety.

“My project examines how changes to the brain’s inhibitory system effectively form a ‘memory’ of a stressful event,” Zurek explains. “My goal is to determine whether it is possible to interfere with these changes to the brain’s inhibitory system, and prevent hyper-responsiveness to subsequent stressors.”

Zurek is part of Jaideep Bains’ lab in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology in the Cumming School of Medicine. Bains is part of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI), which gives Zurek access to HBI’s cutting-edge labs, collaborative learning environment, and rich mentorship opportunities.

“Being able to test these ideas in the laboratory and discuss the results with my colleagues is extremely rewarding,” says Zurek.

Read the original announcement including all four UCalgary recipients here.

The Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships program aims to attract and retain top-tier talent nationally and abroad and position them for success as the research leaders of tomorrow who will positively contribute to the country's economic, social and research-based growth.  Funding for the awards is delivered through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Fellows are awarded $70,000 per year for two years.

The University of Calgary Postdoctoral Program attracts the best and brightest emerging scholars with world-class professional training that prepares them to pursue rewarding careers in industry, academia, government, and non-governmental organizations. Through the unique Eyes High Postdoctoral Scholars Competition, the university has invested in more than 185 postdocs, bringing the total number of postdoctoral scholars on campus to over 500, ranking the program among the top five in Canada.