Governor General awards trio top honours

For more than 125 years, the Governor General’s Academic Gold Medals have recognized the outstanding scholastic achievements of students in Canada. The prestigious medal is based solely on academic criteria. Three Western graduates are among recipients of the honour this year.

Michael Iacocca
MSc, Biochemistry

Michael Iacocca completed his MSc in the Department of Biochemistry this past February. His thesis describes the application of multiple genomic methodologies that have significantly improved the diagnosis and care of Canadian patients with familial hypercholesterolemia, a common inherited cause of premature heart disease.

He has been particularly active in leading multinational, collaborative efforts that have reached global significance in the clinical genetics field. His scholarly research has led to 12 peer-reviewed publications over the period of his graduate studies. He has presented his work at several major conferences in North America and Europe, and has won numerous awards.

Iacocca is currently a data scientist at Stanford University School of Medicine, where his work aims to further enhance the field of clinical genetics as part of the Clinical Genome Resource Consortium.

Ryan Maar
PhD, Chemistry (Synthetic Materials)

Ryan Maar completed his PhD under Chemistry professor Joe Gilroy this past July with a completing average of 93 per cent. Maar was recognized for his outstanding academic/research achievements and received both the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Canada Graduate Scholarships-Masters and Canada Graduate Scholarships-Doctoral scholarships to support his studies.

He was also highly involved in various Department of Chemistry initiatives including the Safety Committee and served as the student representative on the Visiting Speaker Committee.

Maar’s passion for promoting scientific education was also apparent during his graduate career. He served as a volunteer with Let’s Talk Science for three years and actively participated in a teacher partnership program and in a variety of community outreach events.

His multidisciplinary research involved the preparation and characterization of new materials which have potential application in next-generation organic electronic devices and for biological imaging. Maar received numerous academic and presentation awards during his graduate career and was most recently awarded the NSERC Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Maar will start his career as a Senior Chemist with The Dow Chemical Company in January 2020.

Kirsten Stefanik
PhD, Law

Kirsten Stefanik completed her doctoral degree in law this past August with a completing average of 88.5 per cent.

A previous recipient of a Governor General’s Gold Medal for her LLM thesis at Western Law, Stefanik has done innovative work on international humanitarian law (IHL) – the law governing the methods and means of warfare. Her PhD work investigated how IHL can be deployed to better protect civilians who find themselves enmeshed in civil, i.e., non-state, conflicts or wars.

In the course of her PhD work, Stefanik made the case that social psychology and criminological theories can help to inform and develop the necessary legal regulations. Her thesis is an innovative application of social psychology and criminology to IHL that deals with a hugely important issue at the leading edge of international humanitarian law.

Stefanik is currently a sessional instructor at the University of Windsor’s Faculty of Law, where she is teaching courses on International Humanitarian Law.