Undergrad Awards applaud student scholars

Kris Dundas // Special to Western NewsBridget Murphy, BSc’17, was named a Global Winner in the Earth & Environmental Sciences category of The Undergraduate Awards. She was one of two students deemed a Global Winner and among 38 students honoured by the competition.

Research papers by two Western students – Amy Lewis and Bridget Murphy – were selected as the best in the world through The Undergraduate Awards, a global academic competition that celebrates the world’s brightest undergraduate students.

Overall, Western had the second-highest number of Highly Commended entrants to The Undergraduate Awards for the third year in a row, with 38 students and 43 papers recognized among the Top 10 per cent in their fields. This puts Western in the top position among participating institutions in the United States and Canada.

Lewis, BScN’17, was named one of 25 Global Winners for her submission, Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Initiatives for Inuit Youth in Canada, in the category of Nursing, Midwifery & Allied Healthcare. She completed the work as part of the Health Promotion and Caring: Families and Communities course in the Collaborative Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program.

“I was interested in looking at health issues for Indigenous Peoples and found that the rates of suicide for Inuit communities are some of the highest in the world,” Lewis explained. “A big aim of this paper was to find some of the gaps in literature and identify practices that had been successful.”

One of her recommendations was for health-care practitioners to form stronger partnerships with affected communities to help prevent cultural bias and to be inclusive of Inuit culture.

Although not Indigenous herself, Lewis is passionate about advocating for Inuit and other Indigenous communities. “This is about facilitating access and equity, and advocating for practices and resources identified by the communities themselves. We have to bring back the culture to health-care practices and bring their self-empowerment back,” Lewis said.

The topic is one that resonates globally as well, she added. “This is a significant issue for Canada, but inequity and discrimination in health care continues to be a problem experienced by Indigenous cultures around the world.”

Murphy, BSc’17, was named a Global Winner in the Category of Earth & Environmental Sciences, for her submission, Future Climate Conditions Alter Leaf Thermotolerance in Canadian Boreal Trees. Working out of Western’s Biotron Experimental Climate Change Research Centre, Murphy’s work focused on extreme heat events and their impact on trees.

“Climate change means we are seeing increased frequency in severe weather events, like we are seeing now with the recent hurricanes,” Murphy said. “My research focuses on extreme heat events and their impact on Canada’s boreal forest.”

By testing the effects of higher temperatures and increased carbon dioxide concentration on two species, the Black Spruce and the Tamarack, Murphy’s research concluded that elevated temperature and carbon dioxide increased the thermotolerance of both species to brief, extreme heat exposure.

“Future climates may actually increase the thermotolerance of Canadian trees, reducing predicted damage from climate change.”

Both Lewis and Murphy are now graduate students at Western in their respective fields of study.

“We are so proud Western scholars continue to demonstrate their exceptional talent and leadership among the world’s most creative thinkers,” said Janice Deakin, Provost and Vice-President (Academic).

Overall, the competition had 6,432 submissions from 299 institutions and 47 countries. In addition to the Global Winners, the following students were recognized as Highly Commended, or Top 10 per cent in their categories, with five students who had more than one paper Highly Commended. The Western winners included: Duha Abid Al Hadi; Giancarlo Acquaviva; Sam Boer; Michelle Bunton; Andrea Burke; Emily Csiszar; Stephanie Cullen; Mark Farfan De Los Godos; Riley Fisher; Allyson      Fox; Aleksander Franiczek; Rachel Goldstein; Elspeth Graham; Jacqueline Grassi; RuiLin Guo; Andrea Holstein; Levi Hord*; Flora Jung; Corey Kamen; Hosung Kang; Kristiana Karathanassis*; Kona Keast-O’Donovan; Alessia Mastrorillo; Melanie Matthews; Janet McParland; Rebecca Meharchand*; Emaad    Mohammad; Lauren Paparousis; Nikki Pasqualini; Michaela Petz; Tanya Sahni; Jasmeen Siddiqui; Holly Trower*; Luissa Vahedi; Cynthia Wang; and Hunster Yang*.

* Highly commended for more than one paper