Research being conducted on outer space, diseases and disorders, and social issues

By Tamarah Feder

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the names of the 2011 Vanier Canadian Graduate Scholarship recipients on August 3, 2012, including 25 McGill-based researchers from Canada and around the world. The range of research areas includes creating robotic arms that can sweep up or fix obsolete satellites, identifying genetic resistance to tuberculosis bacterium, studying how tadpoles can be used to understand brain development, and exploring the challenges of families with aging parents and how political violence affects young children and their families.

Vanier scholars receive $50,000 annually for up to three years, and each is selected based on demonstrated leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement in the social sciences, humanities, natural sciences, engineering or health sciences.

“The Vanier scholarships are an important endorsement of Canadian-based research and offer international recognition of the expertise and commitment of our Doctoral students as well as McGill’s exceptional standing as an institution committed to innovative research in all disciplines,” said Martin Kreiswirth, Associate Provost for Graduate Education.

That sentiment is echoed by Mechanical Engineering student Sven Mikael Persson, who is working on building a robotic arm that will clean up and repair space debris. “Being recognized for your accomplishments, past and present, and having one of the top institutions in Canada believing in your future potential is a tremendous encouragement when facing those everyday hurdles all researchers face,” said Persson. “This project can have practical applications for the space industry, as well as in applications in increased autonomy for industrial and domestic robots.”

“From understanding the interplay between the environment and growth impairments to exploring evolutionary adaptation; from mapping the effects of war on families to advancing next-generation optical communication systems, the awarding of 25 Vanier scholarships is a testament to the imagination and commitment of these McGill researchers. We would like to thank the Vanier Scholarships for enriching the McGill community and, by extension, the international research community through their support for these students,” noted Rosie Goldstein, McGill’s Vice-Principal of Research and International Relations.

Below are several additional examples of the Vanier-funded research being done at McGill as well as the complete list of McGill’s 2011 Vanier recipients. To read more about some of these new scholars and their work, click on the link corresponding to the granting agency that funded them:  the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

McGill Department of Physics student Sebastien Guillot is studying neutron stars to understand the properties of ultra-dense matter – a Holy Grail in space research. “It is the link between astrophysics and fundamental nuclear physics,” said Guillot of his research.

Kristina Kasparian, a doctoral candidate in the Faculty of Medicine, is investigating the neural basis of “first-language loss” in minority-language speakers who become more proficient in their second language. Explaining the importance of this research, Kasparian said, “What we learn from this research will considerably advance our knowledge of how the brain learns, processes and – possibly – forgets languages.”

– Jimmy Peng from McGill’s Department of Biology is looking at how a better understanding of the impact of genes on neurons could help treat spinal cord injuries and other ailments

– Christine Proulx, who is studying the multiple demands of work, children and aging parents, sees the scholarship as a way of disseminating research results to government and academic communities, as well as to the general public in order to stimulate debate on a variety of social issues.

-Sven Mikael Persson: Cleaning up space debris (McGill Department of Mechanical Engineering)

-Kiyoko Gotanda: How evolutionary adaptation is affected by spatial and temporal variation in survival and reproduction (McGill Department of Biology and Redpath Museum)

-Meer Sakib: Enabling Next-Generation Optical Communications Systems for Canada’s Digital Economy (McGill Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering)

-Ethan Gough: Understanding the environment and growth impairments in young children (McGill Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics & Occupational Health)

-Martha Shiell: Understanding brain reorganization in deaf people (McGill Integrated Program in Neuroscience)

-Sarah Glaser: The relationship between academic performance and emotion regulation (Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, Resilience, Pediatric Psychology, and Neurogenetic Connections Lab School)

-Bree Akesson: Mapping the effects of political violence on children and families (McGill School of Social Work)

-Narcedalia Lozano Garza: The Challenges of Peace Education (McGill Department of Political Science)

-Radha MacCulloch: Exploring the experiences of youth living with neurodevelopmental disorder (McGill School of Social Work)

-Daniel Lachapelle Lemire: Examining the history of Japanese-Canadian collective identity (McGill Department of History and Classical Studies, University)

– Sean P. A. Desjardins: The continuity of Inuit hunting practices and beliefs in the Canadian Arctic, AD 1200 to present (McGill Department of Anthropology)

Daigo Shima: Using cinematic representations to analyze and assess intersecting Cold War anxieties over gender and race in Japan and North America (McGill Department of East Asian Studies)

-Other McGill Vanier scholars:

-Mathieu Flamand, McGill Department of Biochemistry

-Synthia Guimond, McGill Integrated Program in Neuroscience

-Lana Greene, McGill Department of Chemistry

-Ottoleo Kuter-Arnebeck, McGill Department of Mechanical Engineering

-Julie Schneider, McGill Department of Chemistry

-Milaine Alarie, McGill Department of Sociology

-Régine Debrosse, McGill Department of Psychology

-Lena Palacios, McGill Department of Integrated Studies in Education

-Vincent Fugère, McGill Department of Biology

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of this year’s Vanier recipients, please contact:

Tamarah Feder

Media Relations Office, McGill University


September 17, 2012