Four Western PhD candidates have been named among recipients of the 2023-2024 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships. Each will receive $50,000 annually for three years.
Vanier Scholars are awarded for demonstrating unique leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement in graduate research that spans all disciplines.
Javier Alvarez Vandeputte, PhD student in sociocultural anthropology
Alvarez Vandeputte’s research focuses on the linguistic revitalization strategies developed by the Mapuche Indigenous people of south-central Chile. The Mapuche language, called Mapudungun, is threatened, and efforts to teach it in schools have not been successful in increasing the number of speakers in the area.
Working in collaboration with Mapuche teachers, Alvarez Vandeputte will study ways to improve Mapudungun teaching skills and offer new approaches that contribute to Indigenous control of local schools.
“Using a collaborative linguistic anthropology approach and Indigenous methods, I will immerse myself in family and community sites where Mapudungun is actively spoken,” said Alvarez Vandeputte.
Kamaldeen Mohammed, PhD student in geography and environment with a collaborative specialization in environment and sustainability
Mohammed’s research deals with harnessing trees and forests to tackle food shortages and climate change in Malawi.
“The temperature in Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to increase above the global mean, leading to increased food shortage and hunger. Trees and forests may present a solution. Forests mitigate climate change by capturing carbon dioxide and provide food in rural areas,” said Mohammed.
“My research will use a Participatory Geographic Information System and remote sensing (i.e., satellite and drone imagery) to estimate and map forest carbon and food stocks in rural Malawi. It will help inform policy on integrating nutrition and carbon sequestration objectives in forest management,” he said.
Shahnaza Hamidullah, MD/PhD student in neuroscience
Hamidullah’s research involves understanding brain changes underlying cognitive impairments in schizophrenia.
“Cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia, such as impairments in attention and memory, are not easily treated. To develop new treatments, we need to understand the relevant brain changes. Research indicates two types of brain changes underlie cognitive impairments in schizophrenia. But we don’t know much about what the two types of brain dysfunction have to do with each other,” said Hamidullah.
Edward Wang, MD/PhD student in medical biophysics
His research involves creating an AI– based tool to help physicians optimize high– dose radiation treatment for lung cancer patients.
“Delivering too much radiation may lead to severe side effects for the patient, including death. Delivering too little radiation increases the risk that not all cancer is destroyed,” said Wang.
Physicians face several challenges when prescribing high-dose radiation, including calculating the dose, predicting the treatment outcome and future treatment options.
“In this project, I will develop AI tools to address these challenges, allowing physicians to maximize benefit and minimize harm,” said Wang.