Awards of Excellence 2017 Recipients
U OF T’S MOST DISTINGUISHED AWARDS PROGRAM
Congratulations to all of this year's Awards of Excellence recipients!
Click on the links below to learn more about the 2017 award recipients.
Elizabeth Edwards, Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering
Jay Pratt, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts & Science
Northrop Frye Award (Individual)
Craig Simmons, Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering
Northrop Frye Award (Departmental)
Simulation Program, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work
Vivek Goel Faculty Citizenship Award
Angela Hildyard, Special Advisor to the President and Provost
Ronald Kluger, Department of Chemistry
Ludwik and Estelle Jus Memorial Human Rights Prize
Lance McCready, Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education, OISE
Joan E. Foley Quality of Student Experience Award
Helen Slade, Student Progress and Support
Jill Matus Excellence in Student Services Award
Donald Boere, Innis College
Adam Kuhn, Student and Campus Community Development
Chancellor's Award – Emerging Leader
Jonathan Hamilton-Diabo, First Nations House and the Council of Aboriginal Initiatives
Chancellor's Award – Influential Leader
Anne Macdonald, Ancillary Food Services
UTAA Graduate Scholars
Patrick Jachrya, Faculty of Medicine
Kristen Pue, Department of Political Science, Faculty of Arts & Science
Patrick Steadman, Faculty of Medicine
Adel S. Sedra Distinguished Graduate Award
Karan (Josh) Abraham, Faculty of Medicine
Emily Deibert, Victoria College
Zoe Sebastien, Victoria College
Heping (Ann) Sheng), Victoria College
John H. Moss Scholarship
Kawin Ethayarajh, Victoria College
2017 Award Winners
A renowned chemical engineer whose research has led to the development of bioremediation strategies and tools for cleaning up groundwater pollutants, Elizabeth Edwards is the Canada Research Chair in Anaerobic Biotechnology, the Director of BioZone and a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry.
Edwards’ water research flows from a groundbreaking discovery she made: that microbes in an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment can break down benzene and similar harmful chemicals. She went on to develop a culture of several microbes, called KB-1, which combine with dry-cleaning solvent perchloroethene and industrial degreaser trichloroethene to form harmless, non-chlorinated ethene and salt. She’s already working on similar solutions for pesticide and benzene contamination with SiREM, the spin-off company that her industrial colleagues founded in 2002. Peers credit her work with establishing U of T as the Canadian leader in environmental microbial biotechnology.
Edwards is also the driving force behind the creation of BioZone, a one-of-a-kind research and training centre bringing together engineering, environmental science and biology at the University of Toronto. BioZone scholars include more than 100 faculty, students and industrial partners from a range of disciplines;the centre also features an active commercialization committee.
Edwards has consistently demonstrated all-around excellence in both scholarly work and in the classroom. Since coming to U of T in 1997, she has supervised more than 50 graduate students, and she has achieved an H-index of 41, outstanding for a scholar two decades into their career, with more than 100 publications and 6,600 citations.
She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Canadian Academy of Engineering and of the Royal Society of Canada. Her contributions to her field have been recognized with many of Canada’s prestigious research awards, including the Killam Prize in Engineering, Canada’s highest award for engineering research.
Getting hands-on with microbes: Read Elizabeth Edwards' story
Jay Pratt is a world-renowned scholar in the field of visual processing, with countless ground breaking discoveries to his credit. He has served as Chair of the Psychology Department, as Acting Vice-Provost, and is currently the Vice-Dean for Research and Infrastructure in the Faculty of Arts & Science.
Pratt’s research spans human movement science, cognitive psychology, cognitive neuroscience and vision science. For example, his data overturned a 60-year-old scientific law (that people sacrifice speed for accuracy when reaching for objects) by showing that we can adjust our perceptual input in a way that lets us be both fast and precise. He also discovered that our attention is drawn to animate moving objects over inanimate ones and that the way you see features on an object depends on whether you hold it in your hand or just look.
As well as influencing theoretical models across the field, Pratt’s findings have practical results. For example, he has discovered that older and younger adults use visual data to plan limb movements in a fundamentally different way, and that playing action video games can improve spatial cognition. He is also cross-appointed at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, where he collaborated on research examining falling and balance in older adults.
In his 20-year career, Pratt has contributed more than 200 published works and 8,000 citations, achieving an H-index of 44, outstanding in this field. He has attracted nearly $5 million in research funding for the University, and won an Ontario Premier’s Research Excellence Award as well as multiple UofT Dean’s Excellence Awards.
Pratt’s colleagues describe him as a tireless advocate for others and a skilled teacher. His courses regularly draw top teaching evaluations and he’s a sought-after mentor whose students are amassing an excellent publication record of their own. His creativity, willingness to learn and ability to inspire others are the key to his incredible impact on the field of psychology.
How an NHL legend inspired a quest to understand visual processing: read Jay Pratt's story
Northrop Frye Award (Individual Category)
An outstanding researcher and a leader in developing unique educational and training initiatives in the field of biomedical engineering, Craig Simmons is a professor in the Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering and is cross-appointed to the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering.
Simmons, who is the U of T Distinguished Professor in Mechanobiology, is an award-winning scientist who has made headlines for his innovative research into heart health and tissue engineering. Since he came to U of T in 2005, he’s discovered how the mechanical stimulation of flowing blood causes heart tissue to calcify, has invented biomaterials that permit safer drug testing, and discovered a way to stimulate stem cells mechanically in order to enhance bone formation. He’s considered a world leader in the field.
Simmons is a dedicated and talented teacher. He makes a point of integrating current research topics into the classroom, inviting engineers or scientists to speak to students about their connected research. Simmons is constantly revising and improving his courses, introducing new labs with innovative work-flows and state-of-the-art technologies. Many of his mentees have won prestigious prizes.
As well as innovating in the lab, Simmons revised U of T’s Biomedical Systems Engineering curriculum, giving it a clear scope and focus. Peers say the resulting program is of the calibre seen at MIT and Johns Hopkins universities, and is one of the top programs worldwide. He also co-authored the textbook Introductory Biomechanics: From Cells to Organisms (2007), described as well-suited to providing “fundamental understanding of this important, emerging area.”
Simmons contributions have been recognized with several prestigious awards, among them the Ontario Early Researcher Award and U of T’s McLean Award. He has served on numerous committees over the years. Currently Simmons is Scientific Director of the Translational Biology & Engineering Program in the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research.
Making lab work come alive: Read Craig Simmons's story
Northrop Frye Award (Departmental)
Simulation Program, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work
As Canada’s first state-of-the-art simulation lab for social work, U of T’s innovative Simulation Program has become so well recognized since its inception seven years ago that the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work has been fielding international requests for their materials and methods from other schools that want to use this model. The simulation scenarios, and how they are taught, are the product of intensive research by Factor-Inwentash faculty, led by Professor Marion Bogo, who was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2014 in recognition of her work.
The program’s strength is that students get training in working with people even before they meet their first clients. Students practise with trained actors in scenarios enacting family conflict, job loss, mental illness or chronic health conditions. The student interviews the simulated client while the instructor and other students observe and provide feedback.
This simulation-based education and assessment tool for social work students enables them to build kills in a safe and realistic setting prior to using them in real-life situations. Between 2002 and 2010, Bogo and her colleagues conducted research and developed a model of holistic competence in social work; they then tested effective scenarios and evaluation methods. U of T students participated in pilot projects, which in turn refined the model and sparked further research.
In order to fund stipends and training for the actors, the Faculty sought donations. After previously donating $250,000, in 2014, Larry Enkin generously gave $1,000,000 in honour of his late wife Sharon Enkin. This gift facilitated the expansion of the program, allowing simulations to be created for even more courses.
Students say the confidence boost they receive from participating in the program is invaluable. They become more thoughtful, self-aware and effective, and the supportive learning environment encourages healthy risk-taking which is essential for learning.
Building holistic competence: read the story of the Simulation Program
Vivek Goel Faculty Citizenship Award
Professor Angela Hildyard, a double graduate of the University of Toronto (MA 1973, PhD 1976), has dedicated years of service to the University. Her initiatives have touched practically every sector of the University community.
Hildyard negotiated OISE’s merger with the University of Toronto and then served as Director until the merger was fully implemented; she has served as the Principal of Woodsworth College, and was Vice President Human Resources and Equity (VP HRE) for 15 years. Since October of 2016, she has served as Special Advisor to the President and Provost of the University.
In her role as VP HRE, Hildyard had many achievements, including spearheading major policy changes for equity and diversity. She shepherded the approval of the Governing Council of the Statement on Equity, Diversity, and Excellence (pdf) and led numerous initiatives to enhance the experience of underrepresented groups at the University. Most recently, she initiated modifications to the University’s employment equity data so that we have a better understanding of the diversity of our community with respect to gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, race and ethnicity and Indigenous status. As well, Hildyard has supported activities to enhance the experiences of Black faculty, staff and students.
In addition to the multiple honours she has received for her achievements, Hildyard has the distinction of having an award named after her. The Senior Women Academic Administrators of Canada’s Angela Hildyard Recognition Award honours an individual who continually demonstrates innovative leadership in advancing higher education.
Outside the University, she has served as the President of the John Howard Societies of Toronto, Ontario and Canada, on many international committees and as a consultant working on human resources issues in academia. Hildyard regularly teaches at OISE and has supervised numerous graduate students. In recognition of her contributions to higher education, she was honoured with the InspirED Award.
A champion of equity, diversity and excellence: Read Angela Hildyard's story
As a scientist, Ronald Kluger, is always making an effort to understand how things work and how to do things better. He has applied this principle to a long and distinguished career of service to the University as well as to an outstanding body of scientific research.
Throughout his career, Kluger has accrued a long record of contributions to the University and to his community. In service to the wider community, for example, he has worked with members of City Council toward advancing facilities for safe cycling and has continued to lead Jane’s Walks in his home area.
In the Department of Chemistry, Kluger served as graduate coordinator for many years and became the department’s inaugural Associate Chair for Graduate Studies. He helped establish the ongoing operation of the Chemistry Club for graduate students and provided the impetus for the department’s very successful Awards Committee.
He is an elected member of the Academic Board of Governing Council, currently in his third term, and has served on a number of committees of the Council. He’s conscientious yet innovative, say his peers, well-known for respecting his fellow committee members and for grasping the key functions and goals of each group he works with.
Described by his peers as an outstanding scientist, Kluger’s work in bio-organic chemistry has included developing a potential blood substitute and has investigated the reactions that produce CO2 in living systems. He has won many awards for his innovative contributions including a Sloan Fellowship for promising early work and the Chemical Institute of Canada’s highest honour, the CIC Medal. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. For Kluger, being an active researcher also includes projects such as serving on research grant panels, publishing, and training students –broader service to his field.
The benefits of curiosity and engagement: Read Ronald Kluger's story
Ludwik and Estelle Jus Memorial Human Rights Prize
A nationally recognized researcher, lecturer, author and systems thinker, Lance McCready, a Professor in the Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education at OISE, is a champion of marginalized youth, and he believes that post-secondary education is the way forward. His research focuses on the health, education and well-being of young Black men in urban environments, particularly those who identify as African (American), Caribbean, and/or LGBT.
McCready has created courses in gender studies, LGBT studies, and urban education, including a Queer Youth Studies course for the Sexual Diversity Studies program at University College. He has ongoing individual and team research grants, including $1.5 million from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research that is funding a study of HIV awareness among heterosexual African, Caribbean and Black men in Canadian cities. He heads the Educational Trajectories of Young Black Men study, writes about the lived experiences of Black LGBT youth in contemporary cities, and is working on projects to develop mental health resources and programs for newcomer African, Caribbean and Black gay and bisexual men at risk for HIV.
McCready worked on a unique research project titled, Gathering Our Voices, in 2013, to collect information about the issues, challenges, opportunities and successes associated with Black fathers in Toronto. The project is used by community-based organizations and residents to act on human rights, accessibility and discrimination in their communities. He has authored a book, Making Space for Diverse Masculinities: Identity, Intersectionality, and Engagement in an Urban School, as well as publishing widely in peer-reviewed journals.
His community work is a stellar example of cooperative research and evidence-based programming. Working with the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention and Toronto District School Board, he has collected information on access to education and health-care for young Black men. Data is sorely needed in these under-researched areas, and his contributions are cutting-edge as well as innovative.
McCready is the recipient of many honours, including a Flanders Fellowship and Humanities Research Grant from the University of California, Berkeley. He is Vice-Chair of the Black Gay Research Group and an active member of the American Education Research Association.
The power of education, the power of example: Read Lance McCready's story
Joan E. Foley Quality of Student Experience Award
An accomplished health professional with extensive experience and a key consultant for high-risk case management, Helen Slade, Co-ordinator of Student Progress and Support (MEd 1981, EdD, 1995) has made a long-lasting impact on the quality of the student experience at U of T through her efforts to help students in crisis find the resources they need to succeed.
In 2004, Slade was one of the originators of the Student Crisis Response program at the University, developing and implementing an initiative to improve access to resources for students in difficulty or crisis. At the time, this initiative was a model of outreach and support for students dealing with complex life challenges, and it has since been used at post-secondary institutions throughout North America. She also founded the successful Student Progress & Support program at the University and has led it ever since.
Slade works with a very challenging clientele. Some of the students she helps have suffered trauma, some have mental health illnesses, disabilities, legal issues or complex personal problems. Her colleagues describe Slade’s contributions as “life-changing” for students who may not have had the opportunity to complete their academic work and would be leading diminished lives without a helping hand.
In her current position, Slade has served on more than 20 committees, contributing her expertise to the nursing, mental health, student affairs and related professions. Presently, she sits on five committees, including the Ontario Human Rights Commission Recommendations Working Group. She has designed and presented seminars on topics such as resilience and counselling best practices, and offered countless workshops, including mental health training, to help faculty and staff manage the tasks of their jobs. Her core belief that patience is paramount and that every student deserves to be respected and treated with compassion.
In a crisis, she's there for students: Read Helen Slade's story
Jill Matus Excellence in Student Services Award
Donald Boere (BA 1985, St. Mike’s), Assistant Principal and Registrar at Innis College, is committed to making life better for students, and in 20 years of service at Innis College he has demonstrated an outstanding, student-focused approach to this mission.
One of Boere’s first initiatives at Innis College was to pioneer an innovative digital service. Askastudent is a website for students to write in questions and have another student answer them, mixing an unofficial tone with concrete, valuable information. Popular from the outset, the site now receives more than 170,000 views each year.
Boere spearheaded three other innovative sites in recent years. The award-winning FAStanswers helps first-year students in the Faculty of Arts & Science navigate U of T; fastforward is a searchable online profiles of Innis alumni; and last year, he helped students build Quick Queries, an interactive site for incoming international students.
Boere has a wealth of knowledge of the University’s service infrastructure and student support services, and has created responsive and agile registrarial services. He has participated in dozens of advisory boards and committees, many simultaneously, including the Dean’s Advisory Committee on Information Technology and as the Petition Process Streamlining Project. He’s currently on the Faculty’s International Student Advisory Committee and the NGSIS team, which is developing new programs to replace the ROSI system.
Students say that one of Boere’s most special qualities is the way that he expresses such care for every student he meets. Colleagues praise his empathic efforts to find students solutions rather than lecture them about missteps, as well as his dedication to seeing them flourish. FAStanswers was honoured with an Excellence Through Innovation Award and Boere has also received awards for other online projects.
A student-focused innovator: Read Donald Boere's story
In the Office of Student Life, Adam Kuhn (MEd 2015) goes above and beyond his job description to support students and his colleagues, including making Student Life internships a more comprehensive experience and sharing his results with colleagues across North America.
Kuhn works hard to foster positive and progressive relationships within the entire U of T community to support students. He has set in place core requirements for Student Life internships to ensure the internship provides a valuable learning experience. The model has each intern complete a major project, make site visits to other institutions, conduct informational interviews with University administrators and provide a written reflection about career plans. This successful model has been borrowed by other areas of the University.
He also initiated a professional development plan for his team; worked collaboratively to enhance the training for orientation leaders and residence dons; implemented a core peer-mentorship training program; and created a campus-wide student leadership conference.
Kuhn has served on many committees, including the Board of Directors for the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services, and is currently the Co-chair of Leadership Educators Community of Practice for the Association. He presents regularly at industry conferences on higher education issues and he produces a podcast, available on iTunes, featuring student affairs professionals from institutions across the country.
He is the winner of three U of T Excellence Through Innovation Awards: One for the Pre U of T orientation event, one for the Co-Curricular Record database and one for supporting U of T House at the PanAm and Parapan Am Games. Peers and students say that Kuhn is passionate about his work, thoughtful, creative and action-oriented, challenging colleagues and others to be better. In pursuit of his own personal development, Kuhn has recently started studies, modelling the importance of constant growth to students, to earn a PhD focusing on the student experience of higher education.
Keep growing and share everything: Read Adam Kuhn's story
Chancellor's Award – Emerging Leader
Jonathan Hamilton-Diabo, U of T’s Director, Indigenous Initiatives, is a voice, a builder of community and a creator of connection for many of the University of Toronto’s Indigenous students, faculty and staff. Deeply dedicated to human rights, he has launched many initiatives that ensure opportunities are available to all members of the University community.
As Director of First Nations House until early 2017, Hamilton-Diabo oversaw and co-ordinated University-wide Indigenous initiatives, advising on policies, procedures, programming and services. Having grown up in Kahnawà:ke Mohawk Territory in Quebec, he knows that there are many systemic barriers that Indigenous students have to overcome to arrive at U of T in the first place, and he works hard to ensure that once they are here, the students can access support services and stay connected to their culture.
He has also served as co-chair of the University of Toronto’s Truth and Reconciliation Steering Committee. The committee’s final report, Wecheehetowin (a Cree word that means working together), included 34 recommendations for the University. His efforts also led to U of T’s Statement of Acknowledgement of Traditional Land, developed in consultation with First Nations House and its Elders Circle, scholars and University officials. The statement is now read at Convocation, groundbreakings, conferences and gatherings.
Hamilton-Diabo has served on many other committees, including the Reference Group on Aboriginal Education for the Council of Ontario Universities and the Impact of Violence Against Women Committee at U of T. He has co-chaired the University’s Council on Aboriginal Initiatives, supporting a mentorship program, a language program and other initiatives. His recent appointment as Director of Indigenous Initiatives, a newly-created position with the Office of the Vice-President and Provost, is a testament to his leadership and long-standing commitment to collaboration. Colleagues praise his ability to foster strong relationships and build bridges. The inclusive and welcoming atmosphere he created at First Nations House provides not only support, but visibility, encouragement and community – a real and tangible success for our students.
Respect is the start of real student support: Read Jonathan Hamilton-Diabo's story
Chancellor's Award – Influential Leader
Armed with a desire to make things better, Anne Macdonald, (BMus Perf 1989, MBA 2001), Director of Ancillary Services, is committed to fostering positive change and has led projects that have made significant, long-term improvements at the University of Toronto’s St. George campus.
Colleagues describe Macdonald as a dedicated visionary. She led a team in launching a new self-operated food service program at the University, transitioning U of T’s downtown campus from contracted food services to an in-house program where all the food is made fresh on campus every day. Under Macdonald’s guidance, Food Services has championed local sustainable food for the last decade, and has now become one of the largest local food buyers in the region. She also drove the 2011 tri-campus transition away from the sale of bottled water, and most recently, the amendment of the University’s merchandise licensee program to include support for the Bangladesh Accord.
As well, Macdonald managed the transition of the former Toronto Colony Hotel to a University student residence, and is leading a team to work on a collaborative redevelopment plan in the Huron-Sussex neighbourhood, where U of T owns most of the houses. Her team was also responsible for the physical rehabilitation of the University’s student family housing apartment complex at Charles and Yonge, and for building a subsidized child care centre for its residents. Colleagues and the University’s neighbours alike praised another of her initiatives – the traffic-calming project that created a safe pedestrian space outside Convocation Hall.
Macdonald is an active participant in University governance, as well as the Canadian committee of the National Association of College Auxiliary Services. She has also served on volunteer boards for University of Toronto Press, YWCA Toronto and the Toronto Factory Theatre, and finds time to contribute to her community as a mentor and choral singer.
An optimist who helps students live better: Read Anne Macdonald's story
UTAA Graduate Scholars
Patrick Jachyra (MSc 2014), has a remarkable record of achievement and leadership for someone in the third year of doctoral study. He is focusing on an exciting area of inquiry for his PhD research at the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute, one that integrates and builds on his master’s training in Exercise Science and his experience working with individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Jachyra’s research explores physical activity participation with adolescents diagnosed with ASD. His research is aimed at improving activity participation and mitigating the health risks associated with physical inactivity.
Jachyra has received several prestigious awards, including funding support from the Autism Research Training Program supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship Doctoral. An outstanding academic and community leader, he has also received multiple scholarships, including the Dean’s Student Leadership Award from the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education. As well, he is a co-founder and board member of the Turning Point Children’s Therapy and Development Centre in Milton, Ont.
Jachyra has published an impressive 11 papers in multidisciplinary journals, seven as first author. His work has already received international attention, as he has delivered three invited presentations on physical activity and ASD in the UK.
His professors say Jachyra is a tremendously gifted student, incredibly dedicated, and a truly interdisciplinary thinker with enormous potential to produce innovative, cutting-edge research. At the conclusion of his doctoral studies, Jachyra plans to pursue joint post-doctoral training with Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen (University of Cambridge, UK) and Dr. Lonnie Zwaigenbaum (University of Alberta) to develop his program of research which will seek to enhance the health and well-being needs of children and youth diagnosed with ASD.
An innovative scholar with a passion for community involvement, Kristen Pue (MGA 2014) is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science. She is a star student, committed to research with impact, public engagement and community volunteering with a focus on policy.
A graduate of the Munk School of Global Affairs, Pue’s dissertation is on the non-profitization of the welfare state in Canada, the UK, and France. Her other research interests include global environmental governance, social innovation, and international law as it pertains to trade and development. Her professors say she is an innovative scholar, articulate speaker and excellent writer. This bodes well for the future, as her ambition is an academic career focused on the role of non-profit organizations and other manifestations of non-state governance.
Pue has held an active role in extracurricular activities at the University and in the community. Previously the Co-Chair of the Graduate Association of Students in Political Science, she currently serves as the social convener and chair of the Political Economy Graduate Research Group. She volunteers with the Canadian Red Cross on the GTA’s Disaster Management Team, where she is an emergency response team supervisor for the Edithvale Emergency Response Group and sits on the Mission Analysis Working Group.
Pue has worked as a research assistant, and is currently funded by the Lupina Foundation as a social innovation research fellow. Her white paper for the Munk School’s Innovation Policy Lab on this project is forthcoming. Her publication record is advanced for a student at her level, and includes not only peer-reviewed articles published in journals such as the Journal of International Economic Law, but also articles for the general public in magazines, newspapers and newsletters. Recently, she wrote about social impact bonds for the Philanthropist, and on asterisk diplomacy for iPolitics.
Motivated by a belief that health equity and social cohesion enables a shared human potential, Patrick Steadman (MSc 2013) is a student in the MD-PhD program in the Faculty of Medicine’s Institute of Medical Science. And he puts this belief into action: together with a small group of fellow students, he co-founded the Massey Refugee Support Initiative at Massey College and sponsored a Syrian refugee.
Steadman brings a spirit of innovation and collaboration to research projects, and is now working on using new imaging and mouse-genetics technologies to study memory and the brain’s regenerative capacity. Specifically, he is interested in where a memory resides in the brain and the importance of white matter plasticity to forming memory. Steadman has presented at conferences across North America; he has seven peer-reviewed published papers with three more under review, and another in preparation.
At the University, he serves as the Canadian Federation of Medical Student liaison to the Clinician-Investigator Trainee Association of Canada and he has served in the community as Chief Research Assistant in the Department of Paediatric Emergency Medicine at The Hospital for Sick Children.
Steadman’s professors admire his contributions to the College, to the University and to society, calling him committed, dedicated and the kind of person who can “ride with kings and never lose the common touch.” Steadman has many awards and fellowships, including a highly prized Canadian Institutes of Health Research Vanier Graduate Scholarship, and some of the highest commendations that Massey College can bestow, including the Maurice Wayman Prize and the Clarkson Laureateship in Public Service.
In the future, he aspires to practise medicine and conduct research on scientific and policy questions that advance mental health in impactful ways. “I deeply desire to practise in Canada,” says Steadman, “for our nation’s roots in social cohesion are what have led to my success and what I want to give back.”
Adel S. Sedra Distinguished Graduate Award
To say that Karan (Joshua) Abraham has a passion for science is an understatement. A student in the MD-PhD program at the Faculty of Medicine who is pursuing his doctorate in cell biology in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, Abraham (BSc 2011 TRIN) is driven by curiosity, knowledge and a strong commitment to mentoring future scientists.
Abraham’s research on molecular mechanisms in yeast and human cells is aimed at helping us understand the biology of aging and longevity. In many published papers, including works in highly regarded journals such as Nucleic Acids Research and Nature Communications, Abraham has presented his findings on molecular structures called DNA-RNA hybrids, which can be damaging to DNA and toxic to cells. He has discovered a way to stop the structures from forming – research which is already providing insight into how amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) comes about, and may even show a new way to treat diseases associated with pathological build-ups of these molecules.
But Abraham’s mission doesn’t stop there. As an international student who came to Canada from India at 19 years old, he says that mentors were vital. And so, in 2014, Abraham co-founded the University of Toronto Youth Outreach Program, UT-YOP, in which high school students get a chance to see research in action.
The recipient of numerous awards and scholarships, including the Transdisciplinary Cancer Research Award TFRI/CIHR, a scholarship meant to recognize a potential future leader in cancer research, Abraham plans to continue cell studies while practicing medicine in the future. In fact, one of Abraham’s professors describes Abraham as one of the most gifted young researchers he has ever supervised, and believes that he has the potential to win a Nobel Prize some day.
Passionate about understanding our world: Read Josh Abraham's story
Emily Deibert’s academic history is both impressive and atypical. A fifth-year student at Victoria College, she is working on a Bachelor of Science degree with a specialist in Physics & Astronomy, a major in English and a minor in Mathematics. She actually started as a student in the humanities, but when she took an elective course in astronomy, she was surprised at her interest and ability in the sciences. She has never looked back.
Deibert has published in many different forums, and her research and writing have been interdisciplinary. She worked on four separate astrophysics research projects, including two that have led to publication in scientific journals and have helped her realize her passion for astrophysics research, which she is hoping to pursue at the graduate level. She was also a writer for The Strand, the Victoria College newspaper, and editor-in-chief of The Goose, an review of fiction written by U of T students.
Deibert brings her knowledge of astronomy to the public, volunteering at the Royal Ontario Museum, and teaches women programming skills through an organization called Ladies Learning Code. In addition to public outreach initiatives aimed at the general public, Deibert is passionate about programs targeted to women and is now a volunteer for the Canadian Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics, held this year at McMaster University.
She is the recipient of multiple awards, including the Gerald Allen Hollingshead Memorial Scholarship and The Arthur Irwin Prize for writing. Recently, Deibert realized that other departments had undergraduate communities built on unions, and so she co-founded the Astronomy Undergraduates Union for students in the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, an initiative that will benefit students taking astronomy courses at U of T for years to come and that will help develop a sense of community within the astronomy program.
Sarah Harrison’s curriculum vitae is, quite simply, extraordinary. A fourth-year student in the International Relations Program, Harrison has maintained an extremely high grade-point average, she is involved in an enormous range of extracurricular activities and she has demonstrated progressively increasing engagement and leadership at Trinity College.
Throughout her time as a student, Harrison has undertaken countless challenges at the University. During the 2015-16 academic year, she served as Co-Head of College, a volunteer position that comes with the great responsibility of representing the student body by sitting on various Trinity College committees, including the Trinity College Board of Trustees and the Alumni Executive Committee. She is a co-founder of Trinity College Women in Leadership, a mentorship program for women at Trinity College, offering opportunities to connect with members of the alumnae community. She also served as the Trinity College representative on the University of Toronto Students’ Union Board of Directors, which organizes and oversees all formal University of Toronto student programming.
Harrison has also carved out time to be an active member of the G7 Research Group, president of the Hart House Debates Committee and co-president of the International Relations Society. As well, she is the editor-in-chief of The Attaché Journal of International Affairs, the campus international relations journal, working with a team of editors to publish the best student-written essays on global affairs.
Harrison’s professors are tremendously impressed by her accomplishments, her leadership skills, her dedication to improving the experience of her classmates in every possible way and her personal character. She is the recipient of many awards and scholarships, including the John Harvey Whiteside Scholarship and the St. Hilda’s College Board of Trustees Leadership Award, awarded to female students who have made significant contributions to the community through service and leadership.
Zoe Sebastien considers herself a seeker of truth. A student finishing her final year of a specialist program in Philosophy, she signed up to examine answers to some of the deeper questions about reality, knowledge and morality, and to share her discoveries with others.
In addition to having a stellar academic record, Sebastien was chosen for the competitive Socrates Project in the Department of Philosophy, which combines independent research with tutorial leadership. As well, she is the project leader of two research teams this year. In her work for Lorne Tepperman, she guides junior researchers in reading and researching sociological studies and legal cases for Tepperman’s forthcoming book about law and sociology. In her work for Angela Esterhammer, she leads a team transcribing the writings of John Galt for Esterhammer’s forthcoming edited collection of Galt’s works. She is equally at home as the editor-in-chief of Almagest, the undergraduate journal for the history and philosophy of science.
Outside U of T, Sebastien has been involved with the DECA program, a business organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills to high school students, which they put to use in annual competitions. Last year, Sebastien was the team leader of DECA’s Leadership Development Academy, an education program that helps student improve their skills for future competitions.
Her professors say that Sebastien is highly intelligent, generous, principled, energetic and extremely hard-working. An essay she wrote as a second-year undergraduate won the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology Award for Best Essay on the Theory of Scientific Change.
What’s coming down the pipeline for Sebastien? Her goal is to become a philosophy professor and a policy advisor, using her knowledge and experience to empower others to become better thinkers and communicators, and consequently, more capable future leaders themselves.
Heping (Ann) Sheng
Heping (Ann) Sheng, a fourth-year student completing a BSc specialist program in Neuroscience, has already made a tremendous impact at Victoria College. She is an outstanding student, having achieved a near-perfect grade-point average in a challenging program of study with academic interests encompassing computer science, psychiatry and general medicine.
Her professors say that Sheng is one of the most outstanding students that they have encountered, praising her creativity and her leadership in research. She has worked on many research projects in physiology and psychology labs, and completed a competitive international research position at the Vienna Biocenter Summer School. She also presented a poster and abstract, as first author, at the 16th Annual Meeting of the Vision Sciences Society in Florida last year.
Sheng is committed to sharing her academic skills and passions through outreach. She enhances the experience of her peers in her role as a peer mentor in the First in the Family and Vic One programs, giving generously of her time to make a real difference in the university experience of a large number of mentees. As well, Sheng makes major contributions through her involvement in student publications as co-editor-in-chief of The Interneuron, the University’s online neuroscience magazine, and as a science writer and illustrator for The Varsity.
In the wider community, Sheng volunteers at The Hospital for Sick Children, raising awareness of injury prevention among elementary school students through Brain Day presentations. Rounding out her extracurricular activities, she is also the president of the Victoria College Badminton Club, and is currently illustrating a children’s book.
Honoured with many awards, including Outstanding Achievement in Neuroscience Award and a Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award, Sheng is looking forward to becoming a physician scientist in the future, combining her love of learning with the ability to directly help patients and mentoring future doctors and scientists.
Kawin Ethayarajh, a computer science major at Victoria College, has amassed an impressive list of achievements in just four years at U of T, starting with a perfect 4.0 GPA. His strong sense of justice is the cornerstone of many of his outstanding projects, from founding the U of T Fair Trade Committee to a computer science analysis that helped evaluate the consistency of Indian Supreme Court judgments.
Academically, Ethayarajh has been honoured with many awards and scholarships, including a BMO National Scholar entrance scholarship to U of T, granted to only eight students across Canada in 2013, and a NSERC Undergraduate Research Award.
Ethayarajh’s collaborative leadership style, initiative and creativity has impressed his professors. The Fair Trade project, for example, which began when Ethayarajh entered the Engineers without Borders Social Spark Case Challenge, won first prize for his team's proposal suggesting ways to help U of T qualify as a Fair Trade Campus. After winning the challenge, Ethayarajh put his proposal into action, founding the U of T Fair Trade Committee.
In another instance, in collaboration with U of T’s Faculty of Law, Ethayarajh created a database producing results that are likely to have an impact on the reputation of India’s Supreme Court. His analysis of more than 48,000 cases over the last 60 years found that even though the Court has formally cited precedent less and less, they are still following it.
In a separate project, Ethayarajh worked with researchers at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children to create an application for managing chronic illness, while in his spare time he collaborated with the Stanford Literary Lab to analyze the use of colour in 19th-century literature. Ethayarajh is looking forward to working for U of T startup Blue J Legal this summer, and continuing his research on courts and precedent as an MSc student at U of T in the fall.
Using technology to boost fairness and equality: Read Kawin Ethayarajh's story