Three Students Among First Vanier Scholars
PhD candidates will receive $50,000 a year through NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR
BY LORI BONA HUNT
|PhD candidates Tristan Pearce, top, Sherilee Harper and Tal Avgar are among 166 world-class doctoral students who have received inaugural Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships. Photo by Rebecca Kendall|
Three U of G PhD students have received inaugural Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships, the most prestigious doctoral awards in Canada. Worth $50,000 a year for up to three years, the scholarships are awarded to the world’s leading students from Canada and abroad.
Tal Avgar, Sherilee Harper and Tristan Pearce were among the 166 recipients announced recently by Gary Goodyear, minister of state (science and technology).
The highly competitive awards were created by the federal government in 2008 to attract and retain world-class doctoral students. Nominees are evaluated by multidis- ciplinary peer-review committees and selected by a group of world-renowned Canadian and international experts.
The scholarships are administered by Canada’s three federal research granting agencies — the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). Once at capacity, the program will support up to 500 new students annually.
“I am proud and honoured to have been chosen as one of the first scholarship recipients,” says Avgar, who received an NSERC-supported award. Working with Prof. John Fryxell, Integrative Biology, he is studying movement patterns, habitat selection and range delineation in woodland caribou.
“My goals are to provide decision-makers with predictive tools for caribou conservation while promoting a mechanistic cognitive approach to the study of animal movement,” says Avgar. “The Vanier award will go a long way in providing me with the time and resources I need to pursue these goals.”
With her CIHR-funded award, Harper plans to investigate the potential impacts of climate change on the quality of surface drinking water and on infectious gastrointestinal illness in Inuit Nunaat. She’ll be advised by Prof. Scott McEwen, Population Medicine, and adjunct professor Victoria Edge of the Public Health Agency of Canada.
“It’s wonderful to know that CIHR recognizes the importance of this specific area of research, as well as this particular approach to health research,” says Harper. “I am very excited about the opportunities this award presents. The department and its collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada provide a rich and vibrant learning environment, allowing me to continue developing the skills and abilities that will help me make meaningful contributions to the health field.”
Pearce calls his SSHRC-supported award “an ultimate honour.” Working with Prof. Barry Smit, Geography, he will examine the transmission of environmental knowledge and land skills among Inuit in adaptation to climate change.
As an associate researcher with the University’s Global Environmental Change Group, Pearce has been conducting a study in Ulukhaktok, a small coastal Inuit community on the west coast of Victoria Island, analyzing the vulnerabilities of the people and their livelihoods to climate change.
“Being named an inaugural Vanier Scholar gives me the opportunity to pursue my doctorate research in the Canadian Arctic to its full potential and an opportunity to help advance adaptation planning for climate change in the Arctic and Canada.”