Franco Vaccarino

Alumnus; former Principal
Place of Birth: 
Graduation Years: 
Department / Division: 
Faculty of Arts and Science

Life is a journey. I’ve moved forward by doing the things I loved doing and opportunities emerged.

Franco Vaccarino

When students meet with Franco Vaccarino, president of the University of Guelph, it’s likely his administrator persona they see, rather than that of the eager former undergraduate at U of T Mississauga, excited about the new worlds opening up to him. Nonetheless, almost 40 years later, Vaccarino has vivid memories of his years at Erindale College.

“I chose Erindale because it was a bit of a microcosm of the broader university that offered the high-level, broad-based curriculum with a smaller community,” Vaccarino said. “I always considered the opportunity to connect directly with faculty members very important for undergraduates.”

He didn’t have concrete plans for the future when he entered university, but his interest soon became clear.

“I was exposed to a psychobiology lab course with Professor Alison Fleming and she had a hugely powerful effect on me,” said Vaccarino, whose career path has combined behavioural neuroscience and academic administration. “She was all the things a great professor is made of, including intelligence and enthusiasm.

“I had the phenomenal good fortune to work in her lab, first as a volunteer and then as a research assistant. By the time I graduated, I was an author on three research papers, including one in the [prestigious] journal, Science.”

Although Vaccarino didn’t live on campus, he spent most of his waking hours there. Hanging out in the PUMP (psychology undergraduates’ meeting place) Room, playing squash and basketball and joining friends at the Blind Duck Pub were favourites, as were lab experiments.

Upon graduation, Vaccarino had no doubt that behavioural neuroscience was the path he wanted to pursue. Graduate school and a post-doctoral fellowship led to a position at U of T Scarborough, followed by a tenure-track position at the St. George campus. His varied career has also included terms as chair of the Department of Psychology and as principal of the University of Toronto Scarborough, as well as vice president of research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

“I’ve had a wonderful career as a scientist,” Vaccarino said, “but I also enjoy the opportunity to have an impact at a different level. I’ve always had an interest in addressing the big questions.”



  • Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS) Fellowship, 2015-present. Acknowledges a history of outstanding performance in the academic health sciences; it is considered one of the highest honours for individuals in health sciences in Canada.

  • Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, 2012. A commemorative medal marking the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne, it honours significant contributions and achievements by Canadians.

  • Heinz Lehmann Award, Canadian College of Neuropsychopharmacology (CCNP), 2001. Awarded annually to a Canadian scientist, in recognition of outstanding scientific achievements in the field of neuropsychoparmacology.


Selected Publications:

  • George, T. and Vaccarino, F.J. (Principal Editor). (2015). Substance abuse in Canada: The Effects of Cannabis Use during Adolescence. Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

  • Vaccarino, F.J. (2004) (Principal Editor). Neuroscience of Psychoactive Substance Use and Dependence. Published by the World Health Organization, Geneva.

  • Fleming, A.S., Vaccarino, F.J., Tambosso L., Chee, P. (1979) Vomeronasal and olfactory system modulation of maternal behavior in the rat, Science, 1979;103:372-374.