School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Vanier Scholar - James Gardner Gregory

by Anthony Pugh
November 2015

James Gardner Gregory

Vanier Scholar - James Gardner Gregory

PhD candidate James Gardner Gregory (Neuroscience) is one of this year’s recipients of the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. When hearing about his research it is easy to understand why he was selected for such a prestigious award. He talks about both his current research and his past experiences enthusiastically and explains complicated ideas in a way that non-experts can understand.

James is from Montreal and did his undergraduate degree at Concordia University. There he majored in psychology and looked at problems from a behaviourist standpoint. After completing a degree in specialized education, James decided to enter the research field in order to understand how treatments are developed and applied. He became a research assistant for two supervisors: Dr Uri Shalev and Dr Jim Pfaus. The input from these two distinguished scientists was invaluable in helping James determine his future research aims.

James’s current research focuses on how hormones affect food consumption. Questions of how and why this relationship occurs is what drives James most of all. Therefore, James decided that it was crucial to look at the problem at a cellular and molecular level. He chose Queen’s after being advised by his previous supervisors that the best thing for his career would be to work with his current supervisor Dr Eric Dumont. This decision has worked out brilliantly. At Queen’s, James has tremendous access to the cutting-edge technology that he requires for his research

Furthermore, James is thrilled to be working with Dr Dumont. He says that Dr Dumont provides amazing support in regards to his research while still allowing him a great degree of independence. The relationship allows James to meld his behaviourist background with Dr Dumont’s expertise at the cellular and molecular level. This makes James’s research all the more interesting and fulfilling. Dr Dumont has been incredibly successful at getting his students funding. James says that Dr Dumont’s help was indispensable in his success at receiving the Vanier Scholarship.

The research that James is doing is highly relevant in today’s world.  The relationship between food consumption and hormonal levels has been looked at infrequently at the cellular and molecular level. It is unclear where in the brain hormones such as estrogen act to affect food consumption. To unravel this mystery, James’s research focuses on a brain region known as the Bed Nucleus of the Stria Terminalis. James selected this region to study because it is highly influenced by hormones and is critical in regulating food consumption.  Scientific evidence indicates that a dysregulation of hormonal systems may be a large contributing factor in the development of both eating and anxiety disorders. Because of this, James’s research will further understanding of these disorders and of medical treatments which manipulate hormonal levels.

Outside of his studies, James is on the board of directors for the Sotos Syndrome Support Association. This organisation provides support internationally for parents and siblings of children with this disorder. James’s role is to coordinate memberships and allocate funding. His generous work builds awareness for this condition and helps young patients and their families.

There is no doubt that James is a young scientist with a great future ahead of him. He is bright, hard-working, enthusiastic, and generous with his time. His successful application for the Vanier Scholarship will be just one of many future achievements at Queen’s.

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