Faraj Haddad


Assistant Professor

BSc. Western University
PH.D. Western University
Post-Doctoral Fellowship:Western University
Office:  Medical Sciences Building 286
p. 519.661.2111 x.87673
e. fhaddad2@uwo.ca

Website: https://www.haddadlab.ca/



Why Science?

My favorite subject growing up was math! It always made sense to me and I enjoyed solving problems and having everything ‘make sense’ in the end. This interest translated to science later on, as science seemed logical when trying to get from one point to the next and establish cause and effect. My family has an extensive background in science, which also helped motivate me to pursue it. One of the key moments that inspired my passion for science involved watching my mom, a radiologist, prepare slides for a conference. As she went about choosing ultrasound images and writing out details for the case, she took me through a quick tour of how she made the diagnosis, which was quite fascinating!

After fleeing Iraq with my family in 2007, I completed my high school abroad in Dubai, then moved to Canada for university, which marked the start of my journey at Western. Thinking back to the third year of my undergraduate degree in the medical sciences program, I can clearly remember how much I enjoyed some of the courses I was taking and was inspired by the passion for teaching that some professors were known for. As many do, I applied to medical school at the end of my undergrad but I was quite unsuccessful and did not land any interviews. Luckily, I had a good time doing my undergraduate thesis and decided to pursue a Master’s degree in neuroscience in the same lab with Dr. Susanne Schmid. One thing led to another, and soon enough I transferred to the Ph.D. program and committed for the long haul.

My Ph.D. thesis investigated sensory processing, the ability of the brain to make sense of the world, and how this may be implicated in various psychiatric disorders. Specifically, my project focused on maternal immune response during pregnancy and how it can affect the brain of the developing fetus. To study these effects, I measured the acoustic startle reflex, which is a behavioural response that exhibits preattentive forms of sensory processing.

My passion for teaching never faded during my graduate studies, and I kept pursuing as many teaching opportunities as I could (TAing, attending CTL workshops and conferences, networking with teaching faculty). Following my Ph.D., I was recruited by Dr. Nicole Campbell as a teaching postdoc, where my work involved developing a website for educators themed around developing hidden curriculum skills (www.hiddencurriculum.ca). These skills are ones that students often learn implicitly throughout their educational journey. Our goal was to make the implicit explicit and help embed these skills into the curriculum. Once this postdoc was coming to an end, some teaching faculty positions at the Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences (IMS) program opened up and before you know it, here I was, teaching in the same spot and working alongside the same incredible instructors that once inspired me to pursue this path.

Teaching Goals

My main goal in teaching science is to help students see that science is all around them in their daily lives. Developing a vision for the role science plays in the world helps students stay curious and increases their motivation to learn and ask questions. I also want to mentor students by supporting them through hard times and showing them that their education is only part of their journey and that they can learn many different skills that are just as important as scientific or technical knowledge. After all, it is these essential life skills that translate into future careers more so than that one cool gene that codes for one fancy protein that interacts with that one receptor the details of which were asked on an exam question worth 0.1% of a grade in my course.  I want to help students develop these skills and apply them to their lives well beyond their time as my students. What excites me about teaching is remembering the feeling I got when I learned new skills and knowledge that helped me through life. I would like to tell my students my story, not as a universal experience everyone can learn from, but as an example that shows how they can develop their unique professional identity.

Most Rewarding Moments

One of my most rewarding moments so far at Western has been during the local chapter of Science Rendezvous, an annual science festival that I helped organize. Very few things are as wholesome and motivating for me as watching families and kids get excited about science! More specific to my time at the Schmid lab but perhaps on a similar note, it was extremely rewarding to watch junior lab members develop and grow into skilled and confident scientists.

Advice to Students from a Professor’s POV

My trajectory for what I wanted to do changed substantially during my undergraduate degree. Not having things figured out at this time is normal. Make sure to reach out to the people you look up to. Ask them about their experiences, how they got to where they are, and what advice they can give you. Don’t be afraid to reach out, most folks have been through the uncertainty you may be feeling, and they would love to help others through the challenge. Finally, always chase something you are passionate about, if you chase the things you are passionate about, opportunities will rise for you.

Interests Outside of Academia

I love to swim because I get to focus and set goals for myself. I love to bake as well, but for other people as opposed to for myself. My most recent baking obsession has been cheesecakes, although the last one I attempted did not turn out too great! In addition, I love to watch eSports, even though I barely play video games.

Undergraduate Teaching

MedSci 3990E – administrator and instructor
MedSci 4200B – instructor
MedSci 4931G – instructor


Graduate Teaching

MedScien 9504 – administrator and instructor

Highlighted publications

Haddad, F.L., Ghahremani, M., De Oliveira, C., Doornaert, E., Johnston, K.D., Everling, S., Schmid, S., 2021. A novel 3-choice touchscreen task to examine spatial attention and orienting responses in rodents. eNeuro. https://doi.org/10.1523/ENEURO.0032-20.2021

Haddad, F.L., Lu, L., Baines, K.J., Schmid, S., 2020. Sensory filtering disruption caused by poly I:C - Timing of exposure and other experimental considerations. Brain Behav. Immun. - Health 9, 100156. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbih.2020.100156

Haddad, F.L., Patel, S.V., Doornaert, E.E., De Oliveira, C., Allman, B.L., Baines, K.J., Renaud, S.J., Schmid, S., 2022. Interleukin 15 modulates the effects of poly I:C maternal immune activation on offspring behaviour. Brain Behav. Immun. - Health 23, 100473. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbih.2022.100473

Haddad, F.L., Patel, S.V., Schmid, S., 2020. Maternal Immune Activation by Poly I:C as a preclinical Model for Neurodevelopmental Disorders: A focus on Autism and Schizophrenia. Neurosci. Biobehav. Rev. 113, 546–567. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2020.04.012

Baines, K.J., Hillier, D.M., Haddad, F.L., Rajakumar, N., Schmid, S., Renaud, S.J., 2020. Maternal Immune Activation Alters Fetal Brain Development and Enhances Proliferation of Neural Precursor Cells in Rats. Front. Immunol. 11. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2020.01145

Science communication publications

Focus piece - More than just a cold: The impact of infection during early pregnancy on the developing fetal brain. Published in 2021 as part of Volume 2 Issue 1 of The Dorsal Column.  

List of Awards


  • Jonathan and Joshua Graduate Scholarship (2017-2020)
  • Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS; 2016 and 2019)
  • Canada Graduate Scholarship (NSERC CGS-M; 2017)


Presentation awards

  • Basic science talk award – Child Health Research Day (2021)
  • Oral presentation award – Developmental Disabilities Research Day (2019
  • Poster presentation award – London Health Research Day (2018)



  • Starfish Leadership Award – International Peer Guide program (2019)