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Presidential Honours for Martin Gibala

 President's Award for Excellence in Graduate Studies recipient Martin Gibala

Kinesiology Professor and Faculty of Science Research Chair Martin Gibala is one of four McMaster faculty members to be recognized with 2021 President's Awards for Excellence in Graduate Supervision.

Administered by the School of Graduate Studies, the award was also given to Jason Busse with Health Research Methodology, Jamal Deen with Biomedical Engineering and Michel Grignon with Health, Aging & Society & Economics.

The award recognizes faculty members who've demonstrated excellent supervisory and mentorship skills. Nominations, which require letters of support from graduate alumni and current students, are reviewed by the Associate Deans of the School of Graduate Studies.

Martin currently supervises two PhD students and two MSc students in his Human Performance Lab. Over the years, Martin has supervised eight PhD and 15 MSc students to completion as well as more than 50 students completing undergraduate thesis projects and research placements. 

“Supervising trainees is one of the best parts of my job," says Martin. "It's very rewarding to collaborate on an idea and see it through to project completion. My students have taught me to take chances and this has often involved them pursuing new approaches and techniques. In the process, they've advanced the overall impact of our work. I'm extremely grateful.”

Marie Elliot, Chair of the Department of Biology and a Faculty of Science Research Chair,was the 2020 award recipient in the Faculty of Science.

Two New Canada Research Chairs in Science

A collage featuring Katrina Choe and Sarah Styler.
Katrina Choe and Sarah Styler are the newest Canada Research Chairs in the Faculty of Science.

Katrina and Sarah were among 10 McMaster researchers awarded Canada Research Chairs earlier this month. Sarah and Katrina joined the Faculty of Science in 2020.

Katrina, an Assistant Professor with the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, was awarded the Canada Research Chair in Neurobiology of Social Behaviour

"During my graduate and postdoctoral training, I had unique opportunities to learn and apply a variety of both established and cutting-edge techniques for neuroscience research," says Katrina. "By combining multiple techniques, I've uncovered new aspects of how the brain coordinates social behaviour and how oxytocin influences it. I'm excited to continue making new discoveries in this research area using integrative approaches with the support of the Canada Research Chairs Program.

Katrina thanks her graduate mentor Dr. Charles Bourque (McGill) and postdoctoral mentors Dr. Tom Otis (formerly UCLA, now Sainsbury Wellcome Centre) and Dr. Daniel Geschwind (UCLA). "They were always been so supportive of every ambitious experiment I wanted to do, and they provided essential career advice wherever I needed it. I feel extremely privileged to have received mentorship from these brilliant scientists who really care for their trainees.

Sarah, an Assistant Professor with the Department of Chemistry & Chemical Biology, was awarded the Canada Research Chair in Atmospheric Chemistry. "I always tell students that the arc of my academic career in environmental and atmospheric chemistry began somewhat inauspiciously. In the summer before my second year of my undergraduate degree, I made a split-second decision between environmental chemistry and evolutionary biology. At the same time, I embrace the role that luck and chance have played in determining my academic interests, and the breadth of topics that I and my research team can explore as atmospheric chemists. For example, at the moment, students in my research group are studying the chemistry occurring in urban road dust, wildfire smoke and ash, and museum storage environments."

Sarah says she's been fortunate to have had so many mentors and teachers throughout her career. "There were the supportive faculty in Environmental Chemistry at the University of Toronto where I completed all of my training; my excellent colleagues at the University of Alberta, my former institution; my inspiring network of peers in Atmospheric Chemistry at Canadian and international institutions; my first group of graduate students, who I often think taught me more than I taught them. My first mentor, best teacher, and all-around inspiration, though, has always been my brilliant and creative mom, who took me on nature walks, helped me to design science experiments, and encouraged my learning in all areas, and who is still my first point of contact for all trials and tribulations."

With Katrina and Sarah's appointments, there are now 19 Canada Research Chairs in the Faculty of Science: Congratulate Katrina at choek@mcmaster.ca and Sarah at stylers@mcmaster.ca.

Two Researchers Among the World's Most Cited

A collage of images stacked on top of each other, with Altaf Arain on the top, and Stuart Phillips on the bottom.
School of Earth, Environment & Society Professor Altaf Arain and Kinesiology Professor Stuart Phillips  have been named on Clarivate's Highly Cited Researchers list for 2021. 

Altaf, Science Research Chair in Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change and Director of the McMaster Centre for Climate Change and Stuart, Canada Research Chair in Human Skeletal Muscle Health in Aging and Director of the Physical Activity Centre of Excellence, are joined by 18 other McMaster researchers on the annual international list. More than 6,600 researchers from around the world made this year's list, including more than 200 Canadians.

According to Clarivate, Altaf's 163 publications have been cited 11,465 times while Stuart's 366 publications have been cited 26,029 times. 

Introduced in 2001, the annual list identifies researchers who have demonstrated significant influence in their chosen field or fields through the publication of multiple highly cited papers during the last decade. Their names are drawn from the publications that rank in the top one per cent by citations for field and publication year in the Web of Science citation index.

The methodology that determines the “who’s who” of influential researchers draws on the data and analysis performed by bibliometric experts and data scientists at the Institute for Scientific Information at Clarivate. It also uses the tallies to identify the countries and research institutions where these citation elite are based.

Ambassadors Helping Future Co-op Students

Imtiaz Ahmed and Richa Alvarez are among a new team of ambassadors in Science Career & Cooperative Education who are helping students ace their first co-op work terms.

The team, who've each completed one or more co-ops, are also available for class visits to talk about their experiences with employers. 

The 13 student ambassadors represent Life Sciences, Molecular Biology & Genetics, Biology & Pharmacology, Biochemistry, Chemical Biology and Earth & Environmental Sciences.  Ambassadors have worked with a wide range of employers, including Shoppers Drug Mart, the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto, MEDUCOM Health, the SickKids Research Institute, the Region of Peel, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Avelia Injury and Pain Management, Trillium Health Partners, AlayaCare, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, McMaster Children's Hospital and several labs at McMaster. 

Imtiaz helped Samantha Couch, Cooperative Education Program Manager, launch the ambassador program.

"I've loved the opportunity to connect with younger science students at McMaster," says Imtiaz about serving as an ambassador. "I've been a Co-op Mentor for two years now and  it's been very rewarding to help third-year co-op students through their first application cycle and share what I've learned. I'm glad that as an Ambassador I can offer this help to students earlier on in their journeys."

Like Imtiaz, Richa has taken part in co-op information sessions. "it's been a rewarding experience because I gotten to speak with first and second-year students and answer any questions they may have about co-op, from a student perspective and help ease their concerns."

So what does Richa, who was named one of the Faculty of Science's Co-op Students of the Year back in April, tell students? "Being a co-op student allows you to apply what you’ve learned at school in the workplace. On top of that, I’ve learned tons of new skills on the job and also gained a good understanding of what areas of work interest me. As a student in the workplace, you are exposed to new projects and ideas, with increased responsibility but also have the room to make mistakes which is incredibly helpful, early on in your professional development journey. Work experience also enhances your learning when you come back to McMaster after a work term."

Imtiaz agrees on the benefits of co-op. "I think co-op is a great way for students to test out potential careers and more accurately determine whether it is the right path for them before they have already graduated. It can also introduce them to careers that they might not have even considered before, like how I discovered career services, which can be helpful for students who are unsure of what they want to do with their degree."

Richa and Imtiaz are completing their final co-op working with Career Development and Cooperative Education and have impressed Director Alice O'Carroll. " Richa and Imtiaz have been instrumental in developing many wonderful initiatives in our office, from the Co-op Café and our Co-op Advisory Group to our Co-op Alumni Event, and the Ambassador Program."

Student Leader Chosen as Science's Valedictorian

Breast cancer researcher Shawn Hercules was chosen to be the valedictorian for the Faculty of Science's Fall 2021 graduating class. 

Shawn earned his PhD in Biology, with his research focused on understanding the epidemiological and genetic profiles of women of African ancestry in Nigeria and Barbados who have aggressive and difficult to treat triple negative breast cancer. 

Shawn HerculesShawn received the Mary Keyes Award for Outstanding Leadership and Service to McMaster earlier this year, in recognition of his work as President of McMaster's Graduate Students Association. 

“I am very happy for Shawn who was the most outgoing and charismatic of all my PhD students thus far," says Juliet Daniel, Biology Professor and  Associate Dean of Research. "Shawn thrives on science communication and I am excited to see what the future has in store for him.”

Before starting his PhD at McMaster, Shawn completed a Master of Public Health at the University of the West Indies - Cave Hill Campus in Barbados, where he focused on chronic diseases and social determinants of health research. 

"My time at McMaster has helped me to see science through a collaborative lens. I was grateful for the opportunities to collaboratively work with professors, clinicians and trainees across different departments and faculties at McMaster, as well as with colleagues both nationally and internationally. Working with these collaborators for my graduate research allowed me to fully see that complex scientific questions can be answered more efficiently when we bring our individual expertise and lived experiences together in a collaborative manner.

"Most importantly, my time at McMaster helped me to come to realize the power of authenticity and showing up completely as Shawn Hercules. This opened many doors for me, but especially through science communication. I co-produced “Science Is A Drag” which took place in July 2019 and March 2020 in Toronto in collaboration with RCI Science. These events featured scientists performing in drag and communicating their research to challenge cis-heteronomative stereotypes in science. These are just a few examples but every step of the way, I know that my time at McMaster has helped me to create a brighter world, perhaps in other ways that I may not know of right now."

Valedictorians are chosen by a selection committee based on the nominees' academic excellence, personal characteristics, as well as interpersonal and communication skills. 
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