UCalgary campus
Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Sept. 6, 2023

8 UCalgary grad students receive prestigious Vanier scholarships for 2023

Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship helps define Canada as global centre of excellence in doctoral research and higher learning

Known for being one of the most competitive and prestigious graduate awards in Canada, the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship (CGS) is awarded to Canadian and international graduate students in the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSHRC), Natural Sciences and/or Engineering (NSERC) and Health (CIHR). For 2023, eight University of Calgary doctoral students have achieved this distinction and been awarded the scholarship.

“The University of Calgary works to continuously elevate its reputation as being not only the most entrepreneurial university in Canada, but also an institution that strives for global excellence in research and higher education,” says Dr. Tara Beattie, interim dean and vice-provost (graduate studies).

“This award is incredibly important for our graduate students in offering funding to help doctoral students with their research. It also recognizes their academic research and abilities, emphasizing the significant role that graduate researchers play in finding innovative solutions to current and future challenges.”

The Vanier program first launched in 2008 to strengthen Canada’s ability to attract and retain world-class doctoral students and establish Canada as a global leader of research and higher learning. Since 2009, 110 UCalgary graduate students have received the Vanier CGS, totalling $16.5 million in funds for doctoral research. The Vanier CGS is valued at $150,000 over three years and is funded by the Government of Canada. The scholarship is awarded through evaluation of academic excellence, research potential and leadership.

The 2023 University of Calgary Vanier CGS winners include:

Fahad Iqbal, Neuroscience
Supervisor: Dr. Naweed Imam S. Syed, PhD

Iqbal’s doctoral research focuses on the affects of medications on patients diagnosed with epilepsy and improving the understanding of combining antiepileptic medications (AEDs) for treatment. The research will also allow for the development of neurochips that can create personalized drug screenings of relevant AEDs for patients who have undergone surgery, and ultimately determine the effectiveness of epilepsy medications.

Areefa Karan, Community Health Sciences
Supervisor: Dr. Susan Mathew Samuel, MD

Karan is researching the risk of chronic kidney diseases and kidney failure of unknown causes where filtering units of the kidney are damaged. Specifically, she is exploring the effectiveness of treatments for immunoglobulin A (IgA nephropathy) in children aged one to 18 years to help improve the way children with the diseases are treated to ensure that they can have better lives.

Julien Rimok, Biomedical Engineering
Supervisor: Dr. Aaron Alexander Phillips, PhD

Rimok is investigating brain-controlled neuroprosthetic hemotherapy for spinal cord injury (SCI) and how to mitigate the drastic drop in blood pressure that can occur throughout the day in these individuals. Advances in neuroscience and technology are enabling researchers to develop a system of devices that will assist with bypassing the communication gap between the brain and spinal cord to prevent a drop in blood pressure. His work may be one of the first brain-controlled systems for spinal stimulation, advancing research at the intersection of neuroscience and engineering.

Ainsley Catherine Smith, Biomedical Engineering
Supervisor: Dr. Sarah Lynn Manske, PhD

Smith’s doctoral research will support the understanding of individuals who experience debilitating muscle weakness due to critical illness. She seeks to answer the question of how critical care patients lose muscle strength — whether it’s from the muscles shrinking or damage by invasive cells. Smith’s work will advance our understanding of muscle weakness after critical illness, as well as developing prevention and treatment strategies.

Rebecca Booth, Physics and Astronomy
Supervisor: Dr. Jo-Anne Catherine Brown, PhD

Booth’s doctoral research examines the three-dimensional structure of the magnetic field of the Milky Way Galaxy and understanding both the origin and evolution of the Galactic magnetic field. Her work is part of the Global Magneto-Ionic Medium Survey (GMIMS), an international effort to map out the entire polarized radio sky, so that Faraday rotation effects can be used to model the three-dimensional structure of the Galactic magnetic field with a high degree of detail.

Alejandro Cuellar De Lucio, Chemistry
Supervisor: Dr. Warren Edward Piers, PhD

Cuellar De Lucio’s doctoral research will support the development of titanium-based catalysts to create eco-friendly ammonia (NH3) fertilizer production, helping to mitigate the significant source of CO2 emissions contributing to climate change. This solution will make Canada a leader in the advancement of eco-friendly NH3-fertilizer production, leading to a decrease in the amount of energy produced by burning fossil fuels.

Philippa Ngaju, Biomedical Engineering
Supervisor: Dr. Richa Pandey, PhD

Ngaju’s doctoral research is on point of care paper-based biosensors for biomarker detection of early-stage preeclampsia in expectant mothers. Preeclampsia, sometimes referred to as gestational hypertension, is a serious life-threatening condition characterized by persistent high blood pressure during pregnancy or the postpartum period. This research focuses on precisely screening for established biomarkers within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy to empower clinicians to effectively manage and treat mothers at risk to improve health outcomes.

Prince Ekoh, Social Work
Supervisor: Dr. Christine Ann Walsh, PhD

Ekoh’s doctoral research will utilize an art-based storytelling approach to explore the social network and support experiences of older African refugees living in Calgary and will investigate the nature of the social support individuals receive during migration and post-migration. His findings will aid immigrant-serving agencies, social workers, and policy-makers design and provide ethnic and culture-sensitive programs to support older African refugees and older refugees from other ethnicities.

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