Student Wins Commonwealth Scholarship

April 14, 2009 - News Release

University of Guelph student Adam Lewandowski has won a Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan, considered among the most prestigious awards in the world for international study and professional development.

Lewandowski, a fourth-year biological sciences student, will study cardiovascular medicine at the University of Oxford and its John Radcliffe Hospital beginning in September. His scholarship will cover all major expenses, including airfare, tuition and living costs.

“There was no way I could have imagined receiving a scholarship like this,” he said. “I have a lot of people to thank for convincing me to apply and telling me I had a good chance. I’m extremely excited to enter this new chapter of my life.”

Lewandowski says his interest in cardiovascular research was sparked by the human anatomy class he took with human health and nutritional sciences professor Lorraine Jadeski. He also credits the opportunity he had to conduct ovarian cancer research with biomedical sciences professor Jim Petrik and doctoral student Nicole Solinger.

At Oxford, Lewandowski will study the relationship between endothelial dysfunction during early life and the emergence of insulin resistance in adulthood. “Insulin resistance is closely linked with endothelial function and is a key cardiovascular risk factor,” he said. “In the future, I want to combine my interests in cardiovascular clinical research with medicine, to work both as a researcher and a medical doctor.”

Academics are just one area where Lewandowski ranks highly. Growing up, he was a competitive figure skater, placing seventh at the National Junior Championships when he was 12. When a hamstring injury forced him into “retirement,” he traded in his skates for a pair of running shoes. At Guelph, he was a member of the Gryphon track and cross-country teams that captured national championships in 2006 and 2007.

Through running, he met a Kenyan-born runner who now lives in Canada and who routinely sends his worn-out running shoes back to his family in Kenya. This inspired Lewandowski to not only donate his own running shoes but to also initiate a drive that collected 1,400 pairs of running shoes over two years.

Last spring, he volunteered in Tanzania, where he taught English and computer skills, helped with environmental projects and worked with children at Malaika Orphanage in Dar es Salaam. On his return to Canada, he began working to send a Tanzanian student to university and has since raised more than $5,100 to cover tuition expenses.

On campus, Lewandowski has also left a lasting impression as a volunteer teaching assistant, an anatomy road-show demonstrator, a tutor for first-year biology and chemistry students, and a leader for the Run and Read program, which pairs Gryphon athletes with students at Willow Road School to promote literacy. He also volunteered with a number of local organizations and at a variety of community events.

"I care a lot about the well-being and lives of others and want them to be as successful as possible and achieve their dreams," he said. "Being able to be a part of that and seeing the joy in others when you help them out is an extremely rewarding and fulfilling experience for me.”

Lewandowski leaves May 12 for a nine-week placement with Students Without Borders in Botswana, where he will train locals in sport and health education so they can become community youth mentors. This will be followed by a return to Tanzania to once again volunteer for a couple of weeks at Malaika Orphanage.

En route to Africa, he will make a brief stopover at Oxford to visit the campus and meet with his faculty adviser.

“I’ve been in contact with a few current Oxford students and alumni, and the more I hear, the more excited I get," he said. "I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to go there and work with so many incredible people from so many different countries with so many different interests and amazing intellectual qualities.”

For media questions, contact University of Guelph Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338,; or Barry Gunn, Ext. 56982,

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