Dr. Franco J. Vaccarino began his term as president and vice-chancellor of the University of Guelph in August 2014. Described as a builder and a visionary, he brought to Guelph a track record as a proven administrator with remarkable academic achievements, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a powerful commitment to community and societal engagement.
A distinguished researcher and teacher, he has focused on emerging areas of study and innovative experiential learning opportunities. He is an internationally recognized and widely published researcher and scholar, with more than 100 academic publications.
In 1984, Dr. Vaccarino joined the University of Toronto Scarborough as an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, where he later served as chair. He was also graduate chair of the tri-campus Graduate Department of Psychology and head of the Department of Psychiatry’s neuroscience program.
Dr. Vaccarino became principal of the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) and vice-president of the University of Toronto in 2007, and was reappointed in 2012. He is credited with the significant expansion of UTSC’s campus and faculty, and with the development of new and emerging areas of scholarship and experiential learning opportunities. During his term, UTSC hired dozens of professors, expanded interdisciplinary academic and research programs, and built a new science complex, instructional centre and aquatics facility, among other substantial infrastructure projects.
He has received honours from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canadian College of Neuropsychopharmacology and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS). In 2014, he was named a Fellow of the CAHS, considered one of the highest honours for individuals in health sciences in this country. He has served as executive vice-president (programs) and vice-president (research) at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and as vice-president and director of research, Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, both in Toronto.
Dr. Vaccarino’s studies of the neurobiology of stress and motivation are considered a model for bridging the neural and behavioural sciences. In 2004, he served as principal editor of the World Health Organization’s “Neuroscience of Psychoactive Substance Use and Dependence” report, the first comprehensive WHO report on the biology of substance dependence. A frequent speaker at major international conferences, Dr. Vaccarino discussed the neurobiological underpinnings of substance abuse and how the brain changes with alcohol and drug dependency during a panel held by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) in late 2014. In 2015, he was one of two principal editors of a national report on the effects of early and frequent marijuana use during adolescence released by the CCSA.
Dr. Vaccarino has taught and mentored an exceptional group of students and researchers, many of whom have gone on to develop significant and successful careers in science and academia.
Dr. Vaccarino holds a B.Sc. from the University of Toronto and an M.Sc. and a PhD in psychology from McGill University. He was a post-doctoral researcher at the Scripps and Salk institutes in California.