Official Bio

Julia earned her PhD in Psychology at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in 2003. Supervised by Ute Bayen, Julia’s doctoral work examined memory and decision processes in healthy aging using behavioral methods. During her post-doctoral positions with Dave Madden at Duke University Medical Center and with Cheryl Grady at the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto, Julia gained training in cognitive neuroscience methods and became interested in the interplay of affective and cognitive functions in aging. Since 2007 Julia has directed the Memory and Decision Processes Lab at Ryerson University in Toronto, and in 2014 she was named Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Aging. Julia and her trainees use behavioral and neuroscience approaches to study how extrinsic and intrinsic motivation influence cognitive control, memory, decision making, and future-oriented cognition in younger and older adults. Julia’s research has been continuously supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and other Canadian funding agencies. Julia is very involved in teaching and research training for undergraduate and graduate students and she prioritizes the inclusion of women and members of underrepresented groups in scientific training and research. To date Julia has graduated 4 PhDs, all of whom now hold academic or nonacademic positions directly related to their graduate training. Julia is also proud of the many undergraduate students who have gained research experience in her lab before moving on to a variety of graduate and professional programs.

Unofficial Bio

I grew up in a small town in Saarland, a region in Southwest Germany that borders France and Luxembourg. My parents were high school teachers who instilled in me a sense of curiosity and a love of travel. After graduating high school I took a gap year during which I lived in Puebla, Mexico, and volunteered in a nursing home. I learned to speak Spanish fluently (a skill I have sadly lost since) and developed an interest in aging and older adults. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study, picked psychology on a whim, and ended up returning to Germany to attend Trier University. At Trier, I took introductory-level cognitive and lifespan-psychology courses with junior faculty members Axel Buchner and Klaus Rothermund (now at the Universities of Duesseldorf and Jena, respectively). I loved these courses and looked to Axel and Klaus as unofficial mentors. With their encouragement, I applied to graduate programs in the U.S. after 3 years in Trier, and was admitted to the University of Maryland and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After one year at Maryland, I moved south and completed my MA and PhD at UNC, where I faked interest in college basketball without much success. I met my (American) husband at UNC, and together we moved to Canada and somehow managed to land tenure-track jobs in the same city. Outside of academia, I am a major film nerd and I keep a spreadsheet – with rankings – of all the movies I’ve ever seen.

Julia Spaniol (Ryerson University)