By Meaghan Thurston
The Honourable Greg Rickford, Minister of State (Science and Technology), announced the latest recipients of Canada’s most prestigious graduate and postdoctoral awards at Université Laval earlier this week. Sixteen McGill graduate students are the recipients of Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships. The University also welcomes four Banting fellowship recipients, who are among the top postdoctoral researchers nationally and internationally.
“The Vanier scholars and Banting fellows exemplify academic excellence across the full range of academic disciplines” said Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and Associate Provost Martin Kreiswirth. “We congratulate them and celebrate their contributions to our goal of becoming the premiere graduate institution in North America.” Both the Vanier and the Banting programs are funded through the three federal research granting agencies – Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).
It was a banner year for the Integrated Program in Neuroscience (IPN), which will host five of the sixteen Vanier awardees, three of whom are international students. “Since 2009, IPN has been honoured to mentor 14 Vanier awardees,” said Dr. Josephine Nalbantoglu, Director of IPN. “This is a testament to the quality of students IPN recruits, as well as the mentoring the department provides as they prepare their applications. We are already working on next year’s Vanier applications and are very pleased to partner with the McGill Writing Centre for the upcoming competition.”
Michael Lifshitz (NSERC), one of the five Vanier recipients in IPN, is investigating the influence of meditation on attention and meta-awareness. Lifshitz says he is lucky to be at McGill, working with Dr. Amir Raz and Dr. Sylvain Baillet, among only a few groups in the world focusing research efforts on a form of neuroimaging called magneto encephalopathy, or MEG.
Lifshitz is taking a holistic approach to the big news. “I want to help integrate understanding about the neurological processes and techniques linked to meditation on a personal, scientific and spiritual level. This award will help me in many ways to focus and make this project as successful as possible. It will allow me the freedom to do the thinking I need to do, to travel for research and to build my network of collaborators,” he said.
Amol Gharat (CIHR), also in IPN, feels honoured to have received the Vanier award. “Particularly after coming all the way from India for my graduate studies” he said. “It is recognition of my achievements so far and a big morale boost for my future goals.”
Building on her award-winning dissertation and a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University, McGill Banting Postdoctoral Fellow Marie-Claude Felton (SSHRC) is currently conducting research in Paris. She is undertaking the first comparative study of self-publishing in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries and is a member of a research team at McGill called Interacting with Print http://interactingwithprint.org/. “At McGill I find myself in a very vibrant and diverse research environment” said Felton. “I get to work with colleagues from different departments and partake in stimulating activities such as exhibitions, conferences, publications and digital projects. Naturally, winning a Banting will have a major and positive impact on my research and career trajectory, especially for the resources it provides in terms of research opportunities at McGill and abroad.”