McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Prime Minister Stephen Harper visits McMaster to announce 2011 Vanier scholars

Published: August 8, 2011
From left: Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaking with Carolina Alba, a cardiologist in McMaster's Health Research Methodology PhD program, and Patrick Deane, president of McMaster University. — Photo by JD Howell.

From left: Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaking with Carolina Alba, a cardiologist in McMaster's Health Research Methodology PhD program, and Patrick Deane, president of McMaster University

— Photos by JD Howell.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited campus this week to announce the winners of the prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships for 2011, a group that includes two PhD candidates in the Faculty of Health Sciences.

"I am pleased to congratulate the 167 recipients of this year's Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships researchers whose ideas will help produce tomorrow's breakthroughs and keep Canada's economy growing," said Harper. The announcement was made at McMaster’s Convocation Hall on August 3 with many of the recipients in attendance.

The federal government established the awards in 2009 to attract and retain world-class doctoral students from across Canada and abroad. Winners receive $50,000 a year for up to three years.

Carolina Alba, a cardiologist and PhD student in the Health Research Methodology program, and Jonathan Lai, a PhD student in neuroscience, were among the six McMaster recipients.

"The Vanier scholarship will allow us to concentrate on our research, present our work at national and international conferences and help us complete our training as outstanding researchers," said Alba, a mother of two who completed her medical training in her native Argentina.

"This generous support, provided by the Government of Canada through the three granting agencies, in addition to the great academic support from our universities and work places, will benefit not only our academic development but also national and international communities at different levels, including students, patients and other researchers."

Alba is pursuing her PhD in clinical epidemiology under the supervision of Gordon Guyatt, a professor in the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics. She is also a fellow in cardiology at the Toronto General Hospital.

Alba is examining biochemical predictors of heart failure, using both clinical and laboratory research. Investigation in this area may improve the understanding of heart disease, leading to improved treatments and outcomes for patients.

Lai is working towards his PhD through the McMaster Integrative Neuroscience Discovery & Study (MiNDS) program. Working under the supervision of Jane Foster, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences, Lai is studying the association between autism and Fragile X syndrome, one of the most common inherited disorders. He is looking at how brain cells that have risk genes for autism communicate with each other. Understanding how these cells connect is a key to developing knowledge of the underpinnings of both disorders and may lead to new therapeutic targets and better treatments.

"We're so proud of our students' accomplishments," said Patrick Deane, president of McMaster University. "They already have made a difference in the lives of others, and the Vanier awards will help them do so much more. For McMaster, this collective honor is a powerful recognition of the excellence of our graduate programs and the students they attract."

The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships program is administered jointly by Canada's three 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).

Additional McMaster recipients of the 2011 awards include: Paul Johnson, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology; Frances Lasowski, School of Biomedical Engineering; Vinh Nguyen, Department of English & Cultural Studies; and Sarah Dickin, School of Geography & Earth Sciences.

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Level Double-A conformance, W3C WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0