Western celebrates naming of Vanier Scholars

Four Western PhD candidates have been named from among 166 nationwide recipients of the 2019-2020 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships – two from the social sciences and humanities competition, one from the health sciences competition, and one from the natural sciences and engineering competition. Each winner will receive $50,000 annually for up to three years.

Vanier Scholars are selected each year based on leadership skills, research potential, and a high standard of scholarly achievement across all disciplines.

Jemima Nomunume Baada
PhD, Women’s Studies and Feminist Research, with the collaborative specialization in Migration and Ethnic Relations
Examining the Dual Effects of Climate Change and Multilateral Investment on Agrarian Migration in Ghana

In Ghana, the effects of climate change are worsening in the northern sector. Therefore, most people who depend on farming and forest resources migrate to southern Ghana for better lives. At the same time, growing foreign investments in the south are attracting migrants. Yet, we know little about how changing climates and growing foreign investment affect people in rural migration origins and destinations.

It is important to study the combined effects of climate change and foreign investment on migration in Ghana as existing research focus on one or the other, although they are linked. Furthermore, rural dwellers – particularly women and children – tend to be excluded from most studies on climate change, migration and investment in developing regions.

Baada’s research explores the lives of return-migrants and non-migrants in the Upper West, which has high rates of outmigration, and eyes migrants’ access to resources in rural areas of the middle belt which are migrant and foreign investment hubs. Through that, she will identify how foreign investment could be better used to improve the lives of rural migrants in Ghana.

Federica Guccini
PhD in Anthropology
‘Super-diversifying’ the Multicultural Lens: Hakka Mauritian Heritage Practices in Mauritius and Canada

It is often presumed people have ties to only one culture and language – not so. In fact, studies must recognize ties to multiple ethnolinguistic communities to understand actual migrant experiences and avoid misrepresentation.

Guccini’s work among the Mauritian Hakka, a diasporic Chinese group, highlights the complexity and diversity of collective identities. The Hakka in Mauritius are losing their heritage language, Hakka, following a language shift to the three main languages spoken in Mauritius: Kreol, French and English.

This loss is both bemoaned and encouraged within the communities, implying conflicting discourses of linguistic heritage preservation and language opportunism. Some Hakka Mauritians try to reconnect to their Chinese roots by learning Mandarin, not Hakka. Mandarin is seen as more useful on the global market. As many Mauritian Chinese move to Toronto, a city similar to Mauritius in cosmopolitan and multilingual status, their multicultural and multilingual heritage is homogenized and oversimplified. They may be recognized as Chinese by appearance or French due to their accents. Their Mauritian cultural background is less visible.

Guccini’s work documents how Hakka Mauritians negotiate their heritages and lived experiences in these ‘super-diverse’ places, and shows the impact of diversity discourses on migrant identities.

Amanda Houston
PhD in Nursing
Decision making capacity and triage acuity among emergency department users.

Patients visit the emergency department hoping for immediate treatment for their medical complaint, regardless of its severity. However, 25-40 per cent of patients could be treated more efficiently elsewhere. While we know some of the sociodemographic and clinical reasons that lead to the overuse of emergency departments, we still do not understand how behavioural and social determinants of health explain patients’ decision-making.

Houston’s work examines the factors influencing patient motivation as it relates to emergency department use. Her main aim is to explain how health literacy, health-related personal beliefs, emotional intelligence, and severity of presenting complaint combine to influence emergency department use. Her study will be the first to link clinical data with primary data on health behavior and will enhance and inform patient decision-making capacity.

Ibrahim Ibrahim
PhD in Civil Engineering
Designing Thunderstorm-safe Electricity Transmission Towers through Studying Their Failure – Experimentally Validated Theory to Application

High wind speeds cause immense forces on towers causing line failures. Thunderstorms account for 80 per cent of weather-related failures worldwide. Yet, failures still occur at escalating rates due to climate change with no specific guidelines for tower designs to withstand thunderstorms.

This is of economic significance due to the cost of power outages and maintenance. Failures are unpredictable and costly, but, most importantly, avoidable with advancements in the fields of wind and structural engineering. Numerical models will be used to identify tower steel members that initiate the tower collapse. While wind guidelines usually design for no tolerance of member breakage, a design concept from seismology will be applied, allowing some members to break, taking the main hit, yet maintaining an intact tower and preventing outages. This means designing efficient towers that perform rather than last.

To verify the numerical model, a unique experiment will be conducted in the world’s leading thunderstorm flow simulator at Western. Results will be proposed to the ASCE-74, the tower design guidelines of the United States (also followed by Canada). In a second stage, the model will be used within a reliability framework. Applying the framework will provide details to design towers that minimize cost and time to be maintained. This research will change the way transmission towers are designed, minimizing failures with severe climate change events, and adding great economic value to this industry.