The following is excerpted from the letter Dr. Morgan Barense wrote in support of Dr. Schlichting's nomination for the Vincent Di Lollo Early Career Award.

Dr. Margaret Schlichting is the 2024 winner of the Vincent Di Lollo Early Career Award. Dr. Schlichting is currently an Associate Professor of Psychology and the Principal Investigator of the Budding Minds Memory & Development Lab at the University of Toronto (UofT).

Dr. Schlichting earned her Ph.D. in 2015 from The University of Texas at Austin, where she worked under the supervision of Dr. Alison Preston. Dr. Schlichting’s graduate research on how related memories become linked or “integrated” during encoding has been highly influential. Her work combined controlled behavioural paradigms with a variety of cutting-edge magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods (e.g., high-resolution fMRI, pattern information analysis, diffusion-weighted imaging) to show that memory integration is supported by hippocampal-medial prefrontal interactions.

After completing her Ph.D., Dr. Schlichting turned her efforts toward an understudied area: The brain basis of memory development in children and adolescents. She continued to work with Dr. Preston for a short time as a postdoctoral fellow, during which time she published her first developmental cognitive neuroscience findings relating individual differences in the size of hippocampus to integration and statistical learning task performance. Dr. Schlichting then began her tenure-track Assistant Professor position in Toronto in 2017, less than two years after earning her Ph.D. She was awarded tenure in 2023.

Since beginning her faculty position at UofT, Dr. Schlichting has established an innovative research program investigating the neural and cognitive basis of memory and how it develops. This research has resulted in publications in high-impact general interest (Nature; Nature Human Behaviour; PNAS), psychology (JEP: General; Developmental Science), and neuroscience (Journal of Neuroscience; NeuroImage) journals. Given the quality of these publications, it is no surprise that Dr. Schlichting’s work has collectively been cited over 3500 times. The strength of her research program has also been recognized in the form of grants and awards from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). She has also been recognized with honours such as the APS Rising Star early career award and become an elected member of the Memory Disorders Research Society (MDRS) and a Fellow of the Psychonomic Society. Dr. Schlichting has also served on the Board of Reviewing Editors at eLife since 2019, a sign of her high standing in the field.

Dr. Schlichting’s current research focuses on the idea that complex memory mechanisms—an especially those that depend upon interactions between memories—will emerge late in developmental time given their demonstrated reliance on a precise, multi-step mechanism subserved by late-developing brain regions and their interconnections. Her ongoing research investigates how these developmental differences in memory representation might help explain protracted behavioural gains in complex operations like relational reasoning and new concept formation

Dr. Schlichting’s interdisciplinary approach exemplifies the best kind of research from the CSBBCS community. Her work integrates cognitive theory with neuroscience methods to help us better understand memory and its development. She finds theoretical inspiration in animal and computational models and aims to characterize fundamental cognitive mechanisms through controlled study of brain and behaviour. As good as Dr. Schlichting is now, her research trajectory is moving upward at a steep rate and her potential is limitless. She will be a transformative researcher in her field. In sum, Dr. Schlichting is a most-deserving winner of the Vincent Di Lollo Early Career award.