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Humans in their environment

Université Laval professors are concerned about the development of the human being in his environment, in an economic and demographic context. Coming from several disciplines, they try to understand the reality we are facing.

Background and issues

The study of how humans develop in their environment is a particularly complex research area, one where a multidisciplinary perspective is required to develop a more accurate and nuanced understanding. This research area focuses on the experience of individuals in fast-changing societies where the institutions that have traditionally anchored life—family, work, education—are no longer stable. As social and environmental change accelerates, research into new and changing phenomena is needed to develop solutions tailored to the present and future. Research professors are working in this direction with studies of human development from childhood through adulthood, in both formal and informal educational settings, that consider how the family environment, social and occupational conditions, and demographic and climate change impact key societal institutions. Work in a similar vein is being done on educational innovations.

Strategic priorities

  • Better understand the individual and support its eco-friendly development
  • Shed light on the multiple individual, social, and occupational facets of human life paths
  • Comprehend the economic dimension of development
  • Meet the challenges of community planning in a context of demographic and climate change
  • Optimize educational approaches to create the schools of tomorrow

Expertise at Université Laval

Université Laval boasts teams of top-notch professors doing important research on relationships between individuals or groups of individuals and society as a whole. Their interests range from rights and freedoms, social responsibility, labour relations, and equity between social classes, generations, regions and communities, to topical concerns like access to lifelong education and social and professional integration. Others investigate sensitive social issues like violence against women, bullying and abuse, social maladjustment and exclusion, and delinquency and criminality. Université Laval professors have also made noteworthy contributions to the study of men and masculinity.

Certain UL faculty members are conducting important research into the economic dimensions of individuals in their environment. Others are studying the challenge of demographic change and its massive social and economic impacts in a number of spheres. Work is being done to examine the challenge of creating public space for citizens in various cultural, economic, and environmental contexts and on various scales—from buildings and cities to larger geographic entities—a process that can transform both urban and rural landscapes, with repercussions on services and citizen participation.

The work of 410 UL professors from 6 different faculties demonstrates that the study of how humans develop in their environment is thriving. Université Laval is and should remain a driver of new understanding in this vital field.


The Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Rehabilitation and Social Integration (CIRRIS) is a concrete example of Université Laval’s strategy and vision for studying how humans develop in their environment.

With a mission to support social inclusion, and research spanning such varied disciplines as anthropology, engineering, sociology, kinesiology, geomatics, psychology, architecture, and physiotherapy, CIRRIS is effectively tackling the challenge of human integration in the environment.

The Centre has nearly 50 internationally recognized research professors and clinical researchers working in 15 state-of-the-art laboratories. Together they contribute to the development and dissemination of knowledge in habilitation and rehabilitation with research on the determinants of social participation, both personal (impairments and disabilities) and environmental (obstacles and facilitators). CIRRIS’s work is organized around a hierarchy-of-knowledge approach that covers everything from understanding mechanisms and specific needs in habilitation and rehabilitation to developing and testing assessment and intervention tools and applied technologies. This innovation cycle would not be complete without field assessments of practices, programs, and policies for integrating children, adolescents, and adults into their communities.

Transdisciplinarity is par for the course at CIRRIS, a natural response to the complexity of the issues it studies. Rehabilitation engineering, for example, is an approach used to develop practical solutions to complex challenges by bringing together researchers from various disciplines to explore assistive technology solutions for today and tomorrow. Drawing on robotics and neurophysiology, researchers in this pioneering field seek to design the next generation of prosthetics, robotic limbs, and functional exoskeletons. This transdisciplinary approach at the frontier of scientific knowledge and new technology is driving the creation of partnerships with the private sector.

CIRRIS researchers understand that new knowledge can bridge the gap between the research and clinical environments, but acknowledge that effective solutions to rehabilitation and social and occupational inclusion issues must not only be based on good data and best practices, but must also be applicable in a real-world clinical and community settings. For this reason CIRRIS has built strong ties with a range of clinical and community partners to promote the dissemination of its members’ knowledge and expertise.


  • Boost graduate student enrolment
  • Consolidate a critical mass of teaching faculty
  • Raise Université Laval’s profile
  • Develop partnerships