2014 Excellence in Science Award – Dr. Patrice Smith


Dr. Patrice Smith

Like many young people the world over, Patrice Smith says, she has always been interested in how things work. As a child she was very good at taking apart small appliances and seeing whether she could put them back together.

Now, Dr. Patrice Smith is a professor of neuroscience in the psychology department at Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario and a research fellow at Harvard Medical School.

She was awarded a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard, in 2005, to carry out her research on the repair of the nervous system by targeting nerve regeneration.

She continued her research when she moved back to Ottawa to join Carleton’s Institute of Neuroscience.

Dr. Smith is among several researchers within the Institute who are exploring behavioural and neurological mechanisms underlying depression, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and brain/spinal cord injury.

The young woman who excelled and obtained a scholarship to attend the University of Ottawa, received the highest average in her graduating year and was awarded a medal by the Ottawa-Carleton education school board.

Dr. Smith received her BSc in Biochemistry, in 2001, and a PhD in Neuroscience, in 2005, from the University of Ottawa.

Upon completion of her PhD, Dr. Smith completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.  Her work in Boston was instrumental in identifying new approaches to repair the damaged nervous system.

Starting an independent research laboratory in 2008, Dr. Smith focuses on understanding how the brain responds to injury and disease and identifying innovative approaches to promote repair and recovery.

Her desire is that her work will result in more effective ways of treating neurological conditions, such as stroke, spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis.

Dr. Smith has published her work in top scientific journals, including: Science, Neuron, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science and Journal of Neuroscience.

Over the years, Dr. Smith has participated in youth outreach initiatives with Senator Vivienne Poy, and she also volunteers with the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO), which aims to promote research in neuroscience world-wide.

She currently mentors graduate, undergraduate and high school students in her research laboratory at Carleton.

Dr. Patrice Smith was born in a small community in western Jamaica and migrated to Canada, where she met her husband, Ryan, and they are now the proud parents a beautiful baby girl, born in 2012.