2019 CSBBCS Vincent Di Lollo Early-Career Award Winner: Dr. Signy Sheldon

Signy Sheldon received her PhD in Psychology 7 years ago from the University of Toronto and subsequently completed post-doctoral fellowships at St. Michael's Hospital (Toronto), and the Rotman Research Institute. Dr. Sheldon began her appointment at McGill University in January 2015, and has already established herself as a highly successful researcher. Dr. Sheldon publishes at a prolific rate with 34 refereed journal articles submitted or published, including 23 since she began her position at McGill. She has been senior author on publications in leading journals such as Cortex, Hippocampus and the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. Critically, many of these publications include her graduate and undergraduate students, demonstrating her excellence as a mentor.

In addition to contributing to research through publications, Dr. Sheldon is also a visible presence at national and international cognitive psychology conferences. She gave talks at the 2016 and 2018 CSBBCS meetings on her work on the cognitive and neural processes that support autobiographical memory retrieval. She recently chaired a symposium at the International Conference on Learning and Memory in April of 2018 and has been invited to speak at several other prestigious International conferences such as the American Psychological Society, 2018, the International Convention of Psychological Science, 2019, and the European Society of Cognitive Psychology, 2019.

What is particularly striking about Dr. Sheldon’s record is how her research on memory draws from many different research areas within brain, behavior and cognitive science, including problem solving, psycholinguistics, and visual imagery. Since joining the Psychology faculty at McGill, Dr. Sheldon has established a solid infrastructure for her research program, which examines brain regions implicated in autobiographical memory and how they are recruited differently depending on the way in which events are remembered. Her program focuses on how individual differences in remembering affect the engagement of hippocampally-mediated processes, to provide insights into memory processes and function that can inform understanding of memory-related disorders. She investigates these issues using a combination of behavioural experiments and neuroimaging technology (fMRI) as well as comparisons with groups with hippocampal lesions.

Given Dr. Sheldon’s accomplishments, it is not surprising that she was recognized as a “Rising Star” for 2016 by the Association for Psychological Science. Moreover, Dr. Sheldon has also successfully competed within Canada for a Canadian Foundation for Innovation Award to equip her laboratory, and operating grants from NSERC, the Quebec Bio-Imaging Network Grant, and an internal SSHRC development grant to run her laboratory. Furthermore, Dr. Sheldon has been awarded a Tier II Canada Research Chair in the Cognitive Neuroscience of Memory for 5 years.

Finally, Dr. Sheldon has an impressive record with respect to scientific communication, and in engaging the next generation of students within her research, and within the larger field of brain, behaviour, and cognitive science. For example, Dr. Sheldon has quickly established an impressive teaching dossier, and has earned top course evaluations at McGill. Dr. Sheldon is a naturally gifted research mentor, currently supervising two PhD students, two Master’s students and has served on the thesis committees of 17 other graduate students. Dr. Sheldon has also supervised 14 undergraduate research projects in the last two years. Notably, three of her undergraduate honours students received awards for their research presentations at McGill Undergraduate Research Conferences (2015, 2016, 2018), and, as noted, she has already published with both graduate and undergraduate mentees. Dr. Sheldon’s work has also been featured in several popular press outlets including CBC, Science Daily, and NBC news.