Four Western PhD candidates have been named among 166 nationwide recipients, across all three Tri-Council Agencies, of the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. Each winner receives $50,000 annually for up to three years. Vanier scholars are selected based on leadership skills and high standard of scholarly achievement in the social sciences, humanities, natural sciences, engineering and/or health sciences.
SOIL-utions for disturbed ecosystems
Humans often modify soil through activities such as mining and agriculture, homogenizing its character and reducing its complexity. Soil homogenization may be an overlooked and significant factor affecting ecosystems.
Holly Stover’s research will determine how reductions in soil complexity caused by agricultural tillage affect ecosystems. In a tall grass prairie restoration, she is comparing a homogeneous (tilled) soil to more complex soils with added patches of sand, organic materials and topography. The soils are being compared with respect to their effects on plant biodiversity, plant mass, decomposition and nutrient cycling. She will also investigate if the homogenous soils are less able to withstand stressful conditions (increased soil freezing).
Stover’s work will help determine if addition of human-created soil patches to former agricultural fields could increase plant biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and resilience to soil freezing. Her results will help government and environmental practitioners develop strategies to promote plant biodiversity and ecosystem functioning on degraded lands.
Diana K. Moreiras Reynaga
Who Was Worthy of the Gods? New Insights into Aztec Human Sacrifice
Diana Moreiras Reynaga’s research focuses on obtaining dietary and geographical information about individuals who were sacrificed by the Aztecs as an offering to the gods. She will employ the stable isotopic method, which uses chemical signatures derived from skeletal remains to obtain unique information about what ancient people ate and where they resided during their lifetime. This sample will help Moreiras identify the life histories and social personae of the sacrificed individuals, as well as answer questions about who was chosen as an Aztec sacrificial subject and how these religious practices were tied to cultural, economic, and political practices within the Aztec empire.
This bioarchaeological approach will allow Moreiras to answer centuries-old questions about Aztec society and will help fill prominent gaps in our understanding of Aztec religious practices and more broadly on human sacrificial practices in Mesoamerica. The work will provide a better understanding of the intersection of religion and violence in the cultural practices of one of the most impressive ancient civilizations of the world.
Mechanical & Materials Engineering
Developing Robust, High-resolution, High-performance and Low-cost Printing Technologies for Making Flexible and Stretchable Electronics and Devices
Tengyuan Zhang’s research explores printed flexible and stretchable electronics, a novel technology that can produce wearable electronics, skin sensors and biological actuators, by a single click of ‘print’ on the computer. Zhang’s previous work demonstrated a novel method to fabricate high-performance printed electronics on photopaper and polymer substrate. Based on his research, he co-founded Nectro Inc. in 2015 with the goal of developing novel nano-materials and bringing them to people’s life. Now, his research looks to combine cutting-edge nanotechnology and advanced chemical/material science to find a robust, low-cost solution for manufacturing high-performance, high-resolution flexible and stretchable electronics. The success of his project is of high potential to be scaled to economically and industrially relevant production level, which will help the development of electronics manufacturing technologies and industry in a global scale.
Women’s Studies & Feminist Research
Transitional Justice & Post-Conflict Reconstruction
Reimagining Transnational Women’s Advocacy on Issues of Violence Against Women
Mayme Lefurgey explores the intersecting complexities of transnational advocacy and problematizes ‘solidarity across borders’ through a discussion of tensions observed within global advocacy projects to end violence against women. Despite best efforts, many initiatives have come under scrutiny by scholars and women’s rights organizers for failing to foster solidarity, relying on means of representation rather than generating space for more genuine collaboration. In speaking to the burgeoning concerns of transnational organizing and ideals of a global sisterhood among women’s rights organizers, Lefurgey’s research explores key themes such as Global North and South divides, as well as neo-colonial and neo-imperial continuities. In order to explore the contentions of good intentions, she draws from decolonizing peace theory and post-colonial feminism as tools for reorientation in probing the broader implications of the theoretical discourses surrounding the various projects and campaigns she discusses.