This year, 11 PhD students from the University of Calgary have claimed the prestigious Vanier Award. This is an unprecedented number of Vanier award recipients for the university and is a milestone that points to the research talent here.
The Vanier is much sought after due to the impressive funding each student receives: $50,000 per year for three years. The award not only guarantees financial security and recognition that their research has potential, but also marks the students as future leaders in their field.
“Our success this year is a result of the unique climate of support and excellence that the university cultivates to help students reach their utmost potential,” says Dru Marshall, provost and vice-president (academic).
Ed Holder, minister of state, Science and Technology, commented that the “recipients of Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships and Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships are world-class researchers who will make the breakthrough discoveries and innovations that Canadian jobs, our economy and our quality of life depend on."
The 11 PhD students from the University of Calgary who have been awarded Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships for 2014 are:
- Claire Barber, Vanier CIHR, Medicine Community Health
- Kristen Irene Barton, Vanier CIHR, Medical Science
- Ahmed Hashad, Vanier CIHR, Medicine Cardiovascular/Respiratory Sciences
- Khalil Rawji, Vanier CIHR, Neuroscience
- Hendrik Enders, Vanier NSERC, Kinesiology
- Muhammad Ali Khan, Vanier NSERC, Mathematics and Statistics
- Katherine Lyons, Vanier NSERC, Biological Sciences
- Madeena Sultana, Vanier NSERC, Computer Sciences
- Duaa Abuamsha, Vanier SSHRC, Linguistics
- Adrianne Offenbecker, Vanier SSHRC, Archaeology
- Ena Vukatana, Vanier SSHRC, Clinical Psychology
For a successful award application, each student had to demonstrate his or her leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement in graduate studies in the social sciences, humanities, natural sciences, engineering or health. Though the application process is demanding, University of Calgary students are supported from the start by their faculty, staff, and even their peers.
“The Faculty of Graduate Studies had Vanier Scholars Brandee Strickland and Ryan Lewinson provide mentorship and recruit other Vanier Scholars who could offer one-on-one support for this year’s applicants,” says George Shimizu, associate dean (scholarships), Faculty of Graduate Studies. “The 11 awards are a reflection of all their efforts in addition to the supervisors, graduate directors and the FGS team.”
Katherine Lyons, PhD student in Biological Sciences under Prof. Matt Vijayan, is very thankful to all the people who have supported her along the way to get to this point in her career. Lyons researches the effects of maternally-transferred contaminants on elasmobranch (i.e. sharks and rays) development and stress performance using the round stingray as a model. “The Vanier award will be very instrumental in helping me succeed here at UCalgary in my PhD program."
Khalil Rawji is starting the third year of his PhD in neuroscience, and like Lyons, he credits those around him for the award. “Much credit goes to my supervisor, Dr. Wee Yong, my colleagues, as well as the Hotchkiss Brain Institute and Neuroscience Department for providing an excellent environment designed to foster academic growth, leadership, and citizenship.” Rawji’s research looks at the novel therapies to promote repair after injury to the nervous system. “This award will provide me with the financial freedom to pursue my research and community service uninterrupted over the next three years.”
Muhammad Ali Khan, the first Vanier Scholar from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, is in the first year of his PhD in mathematics on the topic of discrete geometry, networks and optimization. “It is a wonderful recognition of the work I have put into my research and scientific outreach. My aim is to be a leading mathematician as well as an ambassador for my profession. The funding and the prestige gained as a Vanier Scholar would prove to be a stepping stone in achieving my goals,” says Khan.
“When I received the award, I remember thinking that besides providing financial stability and freedom with respect to research, it was a rewarding feeling to know that multiple independent researchers see the potential and significance in the work that I am doing,” says Hendrik Enders. A PhD student with Dr. Benno Nigg in the Human Performance Lab in the Faculty of Kinesiology, Enders adds that he welcomes the funding not only as recognition for the work he has poured into his research, but also as an investment in his future research and career after his PhD.
Claire Barber, PhD in epidemiology in Community Health Sciences, says that she is deeply honoured to be receiving the Vanier scholarship. Barber’s research focuses on the development and testing of cardiovascular quality indicators for rheumatoid arthritis. She has successfully developed a set of 11 cardiovascular quality indicators through a rigorous process that involved an international panel of clinicians and experts. The scholarship “will help me to continue my research and test my quality indicators in clinical practice and develop strategies for improving the quality of care for patients with rheumatoid arthritis.”
Kristen Barton echoes both Barber’s and Hendrik’s thoughts on what the awards means for her research and her future. “It is an honour to be recognized for doctoral leadership at UCalgary and this award has made a profound impact on my life. Program and scholarship support has enabled me to concentrate more on schoolwork without having to worry about finances.” Barton is currently in the Leaders in Medicine combined MD/PhD program with the Cumming School of Medicine. Her research topic is joint injury and osteoarthritis development. Her project is specifically on controlling inflammation after anterior cruciate ligament injury and the impact on the development of osteoarthritis.
The new recipients will be invited to join the Graduate Leaders Circle, a group that supports student leaders who give back to their community.
The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships program was created to attract and retain world-class doctoral students and to establish Canada as a global centre of excellence in research and higher learning. It is available to both Canadian and international PhD students studying at Canadian universities. The scholarships are a central element in the Government of Canada’s science and technology strategy, announced in May 2007, which sets out a multi-year framework for improving Canada’s long-term competitiveness.
The Vanier awards honour Major-General the Right Honourable Georges Philias Vanier (1888-1967), a distinguished Canadian soldier and diplomat, who served as governor general of Canada from 1959 to 1967.