The PLACE Team

Lead Investigator

Candace Nykiforuk, PhD, CE

Dr. Candace Nykiforuk is an Associate Professor in the School of Public Health, University of Alberta and an Applied Public Health Chair (supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research in partnership with Public Health Agency of Canada and Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions) with a mandate to help advance the field of population health intervention and health equity. She is a health geographer and health promotion researcher with a strong interest in the role of built and social environments on health and well-being. She also has expertise in the development and diffusion of healthy public policies.

candace_may2015 (1)


  • Ana Paula Belon, PhD
    Ana Paula Belon, PhD Research Associate
    [On Leave]

    Ana has a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Political Science, a Master of Science in Demography, and a PhD in Public Health from the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Brazil. Her research interests include the impact of social and built environment on health behavior and social inequalities in health, applying quantitative and qualitative methods. Working as a Research Associate with Dr. Nykiforuk, Ana has been involved in various activities, including a project using photovoice to explore community perceptions of the built environment, and an evaluation of a play-based recreation program for children.

  • Laura Nieuwendyk, MSc
    Laura Nieuwendyk, MSc Senior Program Lead

    Laura has a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and a Master of Science in Health Promotion, both from the University of Alberta.  Laura has been working as a Project Coordinator for Dr. Nykiforuk in the PLACE Research Lab since 2008.  Throughout this time she has worked on multiple projects to help understand the relationship between people, policy and place.

  • Gabrielle Donoff, MCP
    Gabrielle Donoff, MCP Project Coordinator - Community Environment and Planning

    Gabrielle has a Bachelor of Science in Human Ecology from the University of Alberta and a Master of City Planning from the University of Manitoba. Gabrielle is also a LEED Green Associate. Working with Dr. Candace Nykiforuk in the PLACE Lab continues to fuel Gabrielle’s personal interests in play, health, and the built environment.

    DEENA M. HAMZA , PHD Research Associate

    Much of Deena’s research focuses on models of care in mental health, which was the basis of her doctoral research in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Alberta. Deena’s current work in the Department of Family Medicine as a Postdoctoral Fellow centers on medical education quality improvement and ways to enhance the social accountability of future physicians. Working with Dr Nykiforuk in the PLACE Lab, as a Research Associate, provides diverse opportunities for Deena to use her skills as a mixed methodologist, linking her overarching interest in community wellness with policy.


  • Krystyna Kongats
    Krystyna Kongats Research Assistant
  • Christina Velasco
    Christina Velasco Research Assistant
  • Salimah Valiani
    Salimah Valiani Research Assistant - Centre for Healthy Communities


  • Cynthia Puddu
    Cynthia Puddu Doctoral Candidate

    Examining resiliency in high risk youth and its impact on health

  • Jennifer Ann McGetrick, MSc
    Jennifer Ann McGetrick, MSc Doctoral Student

    Supporting Opportunities for Prevention through Health Impact Assessment (SOPHIA): A Pan-Canadian Realist Review

  • Keely Stenberg
    Keely Stenberg Master's Student

    Parents’ perceptions of childhood play behaviours: influences and outcomes

  • Lisa Jensen
    Lisa Jensen Doctoral Student

    Balancing injury prevention with beneficial risky play; parents and preschool children at the playground

  • Lisa Tink
    Lisa Tink Doctoral Student

    Examining the inconsistencies between recreation policy and practice and the resulting impacts on community and individual wellbeing

  • Qiqi Wang
    Qiqi Wang Doctoral Candidate

    The lived experience and sense of place among urban and suburban elderly Chinese immigrants in Edmonton


An Evaluation of Preschool Children’s Physical Activity within Indoor Preschool Play Environments 

A Study of Play Across the Lifespan

Understanding Policy-Influencer Perspectives on the Adoption and Spread of Provincial Daily Physical Activity Policies across Canada: A Multiple Case Study

Evaluating long-term outcomes in a peer housing support project: Exploring the interrelationships among housing stability, living skills, recovery, and peer support

Everyday wild: How do preserved natural areas in the City of Edmonton contribute to health and well-being?

Building health capability and health literacy: Exploring Chinese international students’ social support experiences

Exploring barriers and facilitators to the implementation of healthy aging policy in suburban planning and transportation departments

LAURA NIEUWENDYK, MSc (nee Flaman; 2009)
Exploring the facilitators and barriers to the process of change towards capacity building for chronic disease prevention

JILL OSLER, MSc (2009)
An exploration of families’ perceptions of the accessibility of recreational facilities in low-income communities