School of Computer Science Honours and Awards

Posted on Tuesday, December 12th, 2023

Written by Elizabeth Thomson

Group of award winners and faculty standing in front of U of G banner
2023 SoCs Award Winners

On Dec 7th, the School of Computer Science (SoCS) honoured their alumni, celebrating the success of three influential graduates. Leadership from CEPS and SoCS, along with fellow alumni, family and friends gathered in the Reynolds Building on campus. 


2023 Winner Young Alumnus of Honour

Nic Durish, B.Comp. ’16, M.Sc. ‘20

Nic was introduced to Computer Science in his first year studying mathematics at U of G, where the field immediately captured his interest and prompted a transfer into the B.Comp program. He often credits the Feeding 9 Billion Hackathon led by Dr. Dan Gillis for inciting his pursuit of applying computational research and development to solving real world problems, a pursuit he has continued over the last decade. 

During his undergraduate degree, Nic was consistently engaged in SoCS both academically and in extracurriculars. He assisted in teaching 5 courses, acted as the secretary for SOCIS, and continued to involve himself in Hackathons such as the Feeding 9 Billion Challenge, and Net-Zero Hackathon. Nic often volunteered his time in support of SoCS, including; as the coordinator of the Guelph Coding Community, as the MC for new students at Orientation Week, and as the SoCS representative at the Ontario University Fair. 

Nic’s affinity for community engagement and computer science continued into his Master’s program where he specialized in Human-Computer Interaction. He acted as a lead developer and researcher on the eNuk health and environment monitoring application, an android app tailor made for the community of Rigolet, as well as a researcher for in Vancouver. His thesis focused on quantifying the Digital Divide in Rigolet, comparing their cost and access to telecommunication networks. When he wasn’t in Labrador, Nic found time to speak at over 15 conferences including gov-zero in Taiwan. Nic was recognized for his contributions to the field and SoCS with the Graduate Tuition Scholarship, the Guelph Chamber of Commerce Young Innovators Award, and the SoCS Teaching Assistant award of excellence.

Since graduating, Nic has worked as the Web Analyst for the City of Guelph where he was responsible for increasing the accessibility of city websites and services. He continued his focus on web accessibility as a consultant for local businesses. Nic has spent the last two years as a Cofounder and Director of Software at Veranda Digital Inc, a technology startup aiming to reduce the cost of grocery deliveries. 

2023 Winner Award of Excellence

Adknown Inc.

In operation since 2011, Adknown is a leading web and app publisher with a passion for ad-tech. We specialize in using cutting edge ad technology to drive targeted traffic to our owned and operated portfolio of websites and apps. Our philosophy is simple: better technology drives better traffic.

Adknown entered the Co-operative education world in 2013, bringing in our first student from the University of Guelph. Since then, we have worked with over 130 co-op students from several universities in the area, expanding their learning opportunities and growing our workforce. Several of our past co-ops have gone on to become full time employees after graduation. We love having students from the University of Guelph as co-ops, as they bring fresh energy to our team.

Adknown offers two scholarships to the School of Computer Science. The awards of $2500 each are given to students who demonstrate great leadership, innovation, or impact in regard to volunteer work as well as maintaining a minimum 70% cumulative average in their courses. We highly value the students of the School of Computer Science and want to encourage them to explore all the options their degree provides for them.

2023 Winner Medal of Achievement

Liz Sandals, B.Sc. ‘69

Liz Sandals is a graduate of the University of Guelph with a BSc in Mathematics. When Liz first enrolled at U of G there were no Computer Science courses – in fact she was a student in the University’s first ever Computer Science courses in Fortran Programming and then PL1 Programming. Liz went on to graduate from the University of Waterloo with an MMath in Computer Science.

Following graduation Liz worked at the University of Guelph as a programmer analyst in Administrative Systems and Programming and as a sessional lecturer in Computer Science. During this period Liz and her husband David also raised two children, Richard and Allison.

Involvement with her children’s schools led Liz into her first political post - Liz was elected to represent Guelph on the Upper Grand District School Board from 1988 to 2003. During her career as a Trustee, Liz also served for many years on the executive of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA). Liz was president of OPSBA from 1998 to 2002. In this role, Liz served as the chief lobbyist for public education in Ontario.

Liz Sandals was elected as Guelph’s Liberal MPP from 2003 to 2018. Liz served as Parliamentary Assistant in several Ministries including Health, Education and Transportation. While at the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, Liz worked on files such as Rural and Northern Health Care and Prescription Opioid Abuse. Liz also served as Chair of the government’s Safe Schools Action Team whose work led to Anti-Bullying Legislation and the modernization of the Sex Education section of the Physical and Health Education curriculum. Liz was also a member of the Legislature’s Select Committee on Mental Health and Addiction.

In 2013 Premier Wynne appointed Liz as Minister of Education with responsibility for elementary and secondary education and child care. Her mandate included introduction of the modernized Sex Ed curriculum, the creation of new centralized collective bargaining legislation for the school board sector and the first major rewrite of child care legislation in 25 years. In 2016 Liz was appointed President of Treasury Board.

Throughout her various “education careers” Liz has been an advocate for Women in Science and Engineering and the importance of STEM education.

Liz’s retirement projects include serving on the Boards of Guelph General Hospital, Food4Kids Guelph and the Guelph Youth Music Centre (and hanging out at the cottage).


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