Top honours for graduate students

Award winners from left to right: Armin Geraili, Elaine Kwok, Moriah Sokolowski

For more than 140 years, the Governor General’s Academic Medals have recognized outstanding students across Canada. The Gold Medals are awarded for academic excellence at the graduate level. Three Western graduates are among the recipients of Gold Medals this year.

Armin Geraili, MESc, Biomedical Engineering

Armin Geraili completed his MESc at the School of Biomedical Engineering in September, 2019, under the supervision of Prof. Kibret Mequanint. Geraili’s course work average was 94.25%, and his multidisciplinary research produced several high-impact publications in prestigious journals.

His innovative MESc thesis, titled “High-throughput Fabrication of Drug-loaded Core-shell Tablets with Adjustable Release Profiles from Surface-erodible and Photocrosslinkable Polyanhydrides,” focused on the development of oral medical tablets with differential release rates in the gastrointestinal tract. The research has far-reaching impact because it targets the circadian rhythm (natural body clock) to design tablets that ensure the maximum dose of a drug is in the bloodstream at the time it is needed most. Geraili’s approach paves the way for enhanced chronotherapy and, when combined with pharmacogenomics, for more personalized medicine.

Geraili’s long-term career vision is to save the lives of millions of patients in Canada and worldwide by designing bioengineering solutions. His passion for science and technology, his creativity and strong collaborative skills led to a novel platform for manufacturing medical tablets. He invented a large-scale, rapid technology that takes major steps toward commercial viability of personalized tablets as advanced drug-delivery systems.

Geraili is currently working as a post-graduate researcher in the Mequanint Lab, where he is optimizing tablet designs for transition to use in patients.

Dr. Elaine Kwok, MClSc/PhD, Communication Sciences and Disorders, Health and Rehabilitation Science

Dr. Elaine Kwok completed her combined MClSc in Communication Sciences and Disorders (Speech-Language Pathology) and PhD in Health and Rehabilitation Science (Speech and Language Science) this past June with a completing average of 91 per cent. Her academic and research excellence have been recognized by numerous awards, including a Canada Graduate Scholarship-Doctoral Scholarship from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and a Career Enhancement Award from the Canadian Child Health Clinician Scientist Program.

Dr. Kwok’s dissertation research focused on improving implementation of outcome measures in preschool speech-language services for children who are late to talk. Dedicated to bridging the gap between research and clinical practice, she conducted her research in real-world clinical contexts and engaged frontline clinicians and policymakers across Ontario. The provincial Preschool Speech and Language Program, which serves more than 50,000 children and their families each year, is already using her research to enhance its services.

Dr. Kwok is currently completing a CIHR fellowship at McMaster University’s CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, where she is studying the effectiveness of knowledge translation tools to support speech-language treatment planning and to ensure all children are able to participate through communication in their daily lives.

Dr. H. Moriah Sokolowski,  PhD, Psychology

Dr. Sokolowski completed her PhD in the Department of Psychology in October, 2019. Her thesis examined the cognitive and neural underpinnings of numerical and mathematical thinking in both children and adults. The findings from her PhD enhance understanding of the neuropsychological foundations that support the uniquely human capacity for complex mathematical thinking.  Furthermore, her findings significantly challenge existing theories regarding the developmental origins of human numerical thinking. In her thesis, Dr. Sokolowski demonstrates her commitment to Open Science through pre-registration of her experiments, and open data.  She received both the master’s and doctoral Canada Graduate Scholarships from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to support her research. During her graduate studies at Western she published 12 articles in peer-reviewed journals, including empirical research papers, meta-analyses of neuroimaging data and theoretical reviews.

Dr. Sokolowski is currently a Banting postdoctoral fellow of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council at the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto.