Four Students Named Vanier Scholars

May 17, 2010 - News Release

Four University of Guelph PhD students have received 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 top students from Canada and abroad who demonstrate leadership and excellence in graduate studies.

Melanie Wills, Lisa Kellenberger, Christian Castroverde and Tara Holland were among 174 recipients announced recently by Tony Clement, federal minister of industry.

The highly competitive awards were created by the federal government in 2008 to attract and retain world-class doctoral students. Nominees are evaluated by multidisciplinary peer-review committees and selected by a group of 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).

“I am genuinely thrilled and delighted to be a 2010 recipient of the CIHR Vanier,” said Wills, who works with Prof. Nina Jones, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB). “This kind of investment in students emphasizes the importance of graduate studies in our society and reinforces that the pursuit of knowledge is a worthy endeavour.”

Wills hopes her studies of how human cells communicate will help in studying diseases such as cancer.

“I hope that, through this type of research, we will continually refine our model of how the cell operates and the ways in which it can malfunction and generate illness.”

Kellenberger, who received the CIHR-supported award for ovarian cancer research, calls her scholarship “a powerful motivator.”

“It affirms that the work we do at the U of G is world-class. I strongly believe that being involved in health research is a big responsibility, and I’m excited this scholarship will allow me to really focus my efforts in the lab.”

Along with Prof. Jim Petrik, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Kellenberger studies the effect of high blood sugar on ovarian tumour growth and novel uses of glucose-lowering drugs, such as diabetes treatments, to treat ovarian cancer.

With his NSERC-funded award, Castroverde is investigating tomatoes' resistance to Verticillium, a fungus that causes major crop loss in most countries.

“Having this scholarship means a lot to me, especially since the Government of Canada has shown that it recognizes the value and potential of doing basic research,” said Castroverde, who works with MCB professors Jane Robb and Ross Nazar. “This great honour is not solely for myself but should also be shared with supervisors, mentors, colleagues, family and friends.”

Holland said she is “extremely excited” about the opportunities her SSHRC-supported scholarship will bring to her research program.

Along with Prof. Barry Smit, Department of Geography, Holland is examining the impact of climate change on Canadian grape production and the adaptive capacity of the wine industry.

“The research focus is on the Canadian wine industry, which exemplifies a commodification of rural space and is an industry faced with both risks and opportunities associated with projected climatic changes," said Holland. "The scholarship will fully support my research program and enable me to conduct case studies of Canadian regional wine industries so as to assess the differential adaptive capacity across regions.”

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982 or

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1