Research summary

What if we could improve the outcomes of those affected by severe psychiatric and neurological disorders using people's genes? We aim to do this via scientific discoveries using genomic, speciality clinic, and population-based data.


Research themes

Theme 1

Epidemiology and genomics of poor outcomes in schizophrenia, depression, and other psychiatric disorders

Theme 2

Epidemiology and genomics of poor outcomes in multiple sclerosis (MS) and other chronic immunoinflammatory diseases

  • Keywords

    • Epidemiology
    • Genomics
    • Multiple sclerosis
    • Psychiatric genetics
    • Schizophrenia
  • Research groups

    PI, Kowalec Lab

  • Research affiliations

    Affiliated researcher, Karolinska Institutet

Leadership style

When I am leading my team, I think that being vulnerable is extremely important because it helps to keep an open dialogue with my team members and a supportive environment for which they can grow and learn.

I always want my team members to feel comfortable with approaching me with questions and want them to understand that there is no such thing as a 'bad' question.

I want everyone to feel supported and included in discussions about science and that they all have a voice.

Teaching philosophy

When I am teaching a course, I believe students should be versed in skills that can assist them in the real world, whether it is conducting research as a scientist, policy advisor, or for decision-making as a clinician.

In my experience, integrating innovative teaching methods (e.g., digital tools), alongside “tried and true” methods (e.g., lectures, discussion groups) are effective means to learn new concepts.

I also believe that the way in which we instruct courses and supervise graduate students should be an iterative process, with the overall goal to always be improving.

When I teach, I enjoy incorporating personal examples into the classroom to enhance engagement, including problem-based learning, using digital and online tools, and providing support for mental health.


Dr. Kowalec joined the College of Pharmacy in 2019 and is currently a tenure-track assistant professor.

Dr. Kowalec has been recognized by the US DoD Research Program, National Institutes of Health, European Commission (Horizon 2020), and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), including the prestigious Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions European Fellowship and the Government of Canada Banting Fellowship. Over 20 awards were received during Dr. Kowalec's PhD training alone, totaling over $960K in personal salary awards, and $1.85M in peer-reviewed operating and team grants of which over $1M has been awarded to Dr. Kowalec during her time at the University of Manitoba.

She was most recently a CIHR Banting Fellow and European Commission Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Fellow with Professor Patrick Sullivan in the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.

There, Dr. Kowalec investigated poor outcomes (e.g., treatment-resistance, mortality) in psychiatric disorders utilizing Swedish National Register data and extensive genomic data.


  • Postdoctoral researcher (Postdoc), psychiatric genetics, Karolinska Institutet (2019)
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), genomics, University of British Columbia (2016)
  • Master of Science (MSc), viral genetics, University of Manitoba (2011)


  • Sternfel's Prize for Drug Safety Discoveries Runner-Up (2019)
  • Canadian Society for Pharmacology & Therapeutics Ken Piafsky Award for Best Presentation (2016)
  • Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, PhD Studentship (2014)
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Drug Safety and Effectiveness Cross-Disciplinary Training Program Award (2013)
  • CIHR Banting and Best Canada Graduate Scholarship, University of British Columbia, 4-YF Fellowship, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, PhD Studentship (2011)
  • Manitoba Graduate Scholarship, University of Manitoba Graduate Fellowship (2008)

Dr. Kaarina Kowalec In the news

Contact us

College of Pharmacy
Apotex Centre
750 McDermot Avenue West
University of Manitoba (Bannatyne campus)
Winnipeg, MB R3E 0T5 Canada