Proquest Umi Dissertations Publishing 2010 Olympics

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If you live in the United States, registering for U.S. copyright can be a significant benefit for the protection of your work because of the availability of content on the open web via repositories and other avenues. For only $55, you can protect your dissertation or master’s theses and become immediately eligible for statutory damages and attorney fees. Registering for copyright allows for the claimant to receive statutory damages set out in Title 17, Section 504 of the U.S. Code, which range from $750 – $150,000 plus attorney fees per copyright infraction. This contrasts with those who do not register for copyright – authors without copyright registration can claim only actual damages and no attorney fees.

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Canada's Distinguished Dissertation Awards

The CAGS/ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Awards have been recognizing outstanding Canadian doctoral dissertations for more than 20 years. We seek work that makes significant, original contributions to both the academic community and to Canadian society. There are two awards: one for engineering, medical sciences and natural sciences; and one for fine arts, humanities and social sciences. They include a $1,500 prize, a Citation Certificate, and an awards ceremony at the CAGS Annual Conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Nominations are open until March 31, 2018.


Call for nominations 2018 CAGS/PROQUEST-UMI Distinguished Dissertation Awards

Check Form 2018

Searching for Canada's Top Dissertation


Are you working with or know of a doctoral student whose dissertation makes a unique contribution to their academic field? Then check out Canada’s Distinguished Dissertation Award 2018 call for nominations.

It is an exciting time of year here at CAGS when we put out this annual call. In partnership with publishers ProQuest-UMI we have been seeking out the best dissertations in Canada for more than 20 years.

Two awards are offered: one in engineering, medical sciences and natural sciences; and one in fine arts, humanities and social sciences.

The winners receive a $1,500 cash prize which will be presented at the 2018 CAGS conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In addition, the CAGS media team works with the winners to raise the profile of their research in the media and their stakeholder community.

The career paths of past winners are impressive. Working with Syrian refugees, tracking the health of oceans, studying the impact of exercise on ageing – these Canadian scholars are making an impact on Canada and beyond.

Here is the check list for the nomination process. Completed applications must be received by March 31, 2018.

Questions? Feel free to contact the CAGS office


Previous winners

2017
Dr. Boyang Zhang, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Toronto.
Dr. Leila Qashu, Department of Ethnomusicology, Memorial University.

2016
Dr. Douglas Hunter, Department of History, York University.
Dr. Drew Higgins, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Waterloo.

2015
Dr. Bree Akesson, School of Social Work, McGill University.
Dr. Michelle (Tonkin) Parker, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, University of Victoria.

2014
Dr. Eric Weissman, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University.
Dr. Daniel Boyce, Department of Biology, Dalhousie University.

2013
Dr. Laura Bisaillon, Department of Population Health, University of Ottawa.
Dr. Aaron Shafer, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta.


2017 DDA Winner: New ways of looking at justice


The winner of the 2017 Distinguished Dissertation Award for Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences is being praised for breaking new ground in the ethnomusicology of Ethiopia.

Since 2002, Leila Qashu (PhD, Ethnomusicology, Memorial University of Newfoundland) has been researching the juxtaposition between Ethiopia’s legal system and the customary practices of conflict resolution practiced by the indigenous communities of the Arsi Oromo, who are also a political minority.

Specifically, her PhD dissertation examined a judicial process called ateetee, where married women in Arsi Oromo communities who have been abused in any way travel to their offenders' homes to sing and negotiate until resolution and reconciliation are achieved.

“There are a few takeaways from this. First, it is essential to listen to and understand the voices, perspectives, and stories from the ground up,” says Qashu. “Arsi women have had their own discourses on rights for centuries and continue to engage in these debates locally. They are at the centre of the dispute resolution process and knowingly navigate between multiple justice systems, using their sung customary legal process, rather than government courts, to achieve results.


“Secondly, in many indigenous contexts, justice isn’t just about words. For example, a ritual, poem or prayer can be part of the justice process, too. And the embodied “doing” or performance of arts can constitute justice. Singing as justice constitutes a different way to challenge assumptions, perceptions and normalized ways of enacting.

“In the Canadian context, looking at justice models in other countries and indigenous communities could give us some ideas on how to allow space for women to file complaints and for their truth to be better respected.”

As she was concluding her research, the Jian Ghomeshi case was dominating media headlines. The differences in how victims were treated closer to home was striking.

“Victims of sexual abuse came forward but there were complexities with the case as it was tried criminally; witnesses were deemed unreliable, but their truths not respected in the media; and there were problems with the court systems. Many other women began to speak out about how they didn’t go to the police, or how when they did, the justice process was overly complicated and their truth was sometimes not believed. In these processes, women ended up being isolated because they were not at the centre of the legal dispute process.

“But in Ethiopia, Arsi Oromo women work as a group, joined together by singing – there is a community of support and a women’s council. In their society, their truth is very highly respected, considered sacred and law. And the entire process is done with incredible support from the community. Having an entire community involved holds the disputing parties accountable and creates a space where restoring balance and re-establishing good relations are essential.”

In 2015, Qashu’s dissertation research was awarded the prestigious Charlotte Frisbie Prize by the Society for Ethnomusicology for the best paper in Indigenous Studies.

A letter of nomination for the Distinguished Dissertation award, written by Qashu’s co-supervisors Dr. Beverley Diamond and Dr. Kati Szego, as well as Dr. Ellen Waterman, the then-Dean of Music during Qashu’s time at Memorial University, describes why her research received a rare but well-deserved pass with distinction.



“Dr. Qashu’s dissertation is a highly original intersectional study of expressive practices, law, and social justice. Her doctoral research on women’s resistance to violence against women may seem esoteric at first, but it speaks to broad questions of reconciliation and alternative justice,” they write.

“It also offers rich ethnographic material about the ways various Islamic groups interact with local belief systems and the ways that state officials regard this practice as complementary…. It is her capacity to live appropriately and fit into the nomadic life of the people with whom she works that truly enables her field work to be so productive and sensitive to human issues. She earns trust and reciprocates with support for individuals and communities in many ways, including telling their stories when they request.”

A fluent speaker of French and Oromo, and a student of Amharic and Arabic, Qashu is not only a Trudeau Scholar, but also the recipient of a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship, where she is continuing her research on the Arsi Omoro people at Concordia University. She is currently preparing her dissertation for publication as a book and a documentary film.

“Dr. Qashu’s interdisciplinary research has enriched our understanding of the world by touching on multiple themes, geographic locales, and even mediums of storytelling,” says CAGS President Dr. Brenda Brouwer. “The ways in which she has applied her curiosity, out-of-the-box thinking and passion for the field of indigenous studies to her research underscores everything we look for and hope to inspire in our graduate students.”

Qashu will receive her award this November when the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies holds its annual conference in Toronto. She will be joined by Boyang Zhang, winner of the Distinguished Dissertation Award for Engineering/Medical Science/Natural Science.


2016 DDA Winner: Fuelling a Sustainable Future


A young chemical engineer conducting groundbreaking research into fuel cell technology has won the 2016 Canada’s Distinguished Dissertation Award in the category of Engineering/Medical Science/Natural Science.

Drew Higgins ( PhD,Chemical Engineering, University of Waterloo) developed a fuel cell catalyst that was 7 times more effective than current state of the art technology. But because that process used expensive platinum he also sought to develop precious metal-free catalysts. The result of his work exceeded performance of similar models done in other labs.

“My work is partially driven by the knowledge that fuel cells can provide an alternative to society’s dependence on fossil fuels,” Higgins says from the Stanford University lab where he is conducting research through a Banting Post-Doctoral Fellowship. “A sustainable energy economy requires sources of fuel for the transportation sector – one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters.”

Currently, the cost of platinum makes the technology expensive.“The Holy Grail of this type of fuel cell technology is finding an alternative to platinum – both to reduce costs and create long-lasting, stable cells,” he says.


The judges were unanimous in their choice and noting that his papers have been cited more than 2,800 times in his short career.

“I have never seen a PhD student this productive,” says Dr. Zhongwei Chen, Canada Research Chair and Director of the Collaborative Graduate Program in Nanotechnology at the University of Waterloo. “I am proud to have been Drew’s supervisor. His dissertation featured a large body of work that was original and has impact on a global scale. He will do great things in his research career.”

In turn, Higgins says Dr. Chen provided him numerous opporunities by running a research laboratory in a way that fostered student success.

“Research, and most things in life, are a team effort,” says Higgins who continues to play hockey while working in California.“This may be an issue of contention with some, but of all the team-based sports, hockey is where individual performances can never trump a solid team effort. I have carried this throughout all aspects of my life, making sure that team goals always come before personal agendas.This award is the result of a solid team effort.”

His eventual goal is to create a fuel cell that will last 5,000 hours of operation and be competitive with typical internal combustion engines. As he works towards that he makes time to explain both the mechanics and the potential impact to the general public doing media interviews and public talks. He also loves to teach.

“It is my career goal to obtain a faculty position at a Canadian institution,” he says.“ I would love to give back to the education system from which I gained so much. One day I hope to lead a sustainable energy technology research and training program and direct a team of young researchers to develop clean energy solutions. This work addresses one of the world’s most pressing needs,and I would love to play a role in educating our next generation of scientists and engineers.”

“It is no overstatement to say that Dr. Higgins’ work is critical to Canada and to the world,” says CAGS President Dr. Brenda Brouwer. “His originality, perseverance, and ability to think outside the box to create impactful solutions is everything we look for in our graduate students. He is an inspiration in demonstrating the application of his research to make the world a better and a more sustainable place.”

Higgins will receive his award this November when the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies holds its annual conference in Toronto.

He will be joined by Douglas Hunter, winner of the Distinguished Dissertation Award for Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.


2016 DDA Winner: History Revisited


A successful author of books on history, business, and sport has won Canada’s Distinguished Dissertation Award for 2016. “Stone of Power,” Douglas Hunter’s (York U, PhD History) study of how North America’s Indigenous people have been portrayed and their cultural history sometimes erased, was the ultimate choice of the judges.

The 57-year-old Hunter has several writing awards to his credit and has an established career as a writer, editor, cartographer and graphic artist. He returned to do his PhD at the urging of a York University historian who would become his thesis supervisor.

“I invited him to lecture about explorers to the New World in one of my classes”, says Carolyn Podruchny, associate professor of history at York University. “At the end of that class I was convinced he should be doing a PhD.”

Podruchny describes him as “brilliant, funny and humble” adding that “he brings a high standard and seemingly limitless energy and curiosity to his work. His intellectual generosity with his peers was inspiring to our department.”

His work as a journalist and author provided the organizational and research skills to complete an engaging thesis. PhD work enhanced those skills. But it provided much more.

“It was an opportunity to delve into what historians have already written on this topic and push it to a new level,” Hunter says from his home office on Ontario’s Georgian Bay. “It involved more reading and more thinking than I could ever have imagined.”

A skilled storyteller, Hunter used a 40 tonne grey boulder, lodged in a Massachusetts riverbed and covered in petroglyphs, as the grounding for his study. Tracking the theories and explanations around Dighton Rock, which was once the most famous relic in America, is Hunter’s vehicle for an exploration of how Indigenous people have been demeaned by leading thinkers since the late seventeenth century. “Dighton Rock’s origins have been a much contested topic among historians,” he says. “Studying its historiography teaches us a lot about ourselves, colonization and how we do history.” The dissertation shows how theorists were really trying to answer two questions, to the advantage of colonizers: who belonged in America, and to whom to did America belong?

Hunter almost threw in the towel five weeks into the process of pursuing a PhD. He was used to a heavy workload, but he hadn’t anticipated the reading volume of the course work. And he worried about the 30-year gap since he’d last been at university. The road to Toronto from Georgian Bay was a challenge during winter months, and family responsibilities, which include being a primary caregiver to his special needs adult son, weighed heavily upon him. But he stuck with it, earning a Vanier Canada graduate scholarship as well as Canada’s William E. Taylor fellowship as the outstanding doctoral candidate in the social sciences and humanities. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow under Dr. Susan Roy at the University of Waterloo. An updated version of the dissertation, incorporating additional research, will be published as Stone of Power by University of North Carolina Press in fall 2017. He is also writing a book for McGill-Queen’s University Press on the Beardmore Viking relics hoax at the Royal Ontario Museum.

“Douglas Hunter is an outstanding choice for the Distinguished Dissertation Award, “says CAGS President Brenda Brouwer. “He shows how life and experiences outside the academy can influence and inspire the pursuit of a scholarly endeavour. A PhD affords a student the opportunity to delve into a topic that excites them and explore it in all its dimensions. Canadian academia is richer for having Douglas Hunter bring his special brand of curiosity and creative thinking to the field indigenous history.”

Hunter will receive his award November 3, 2016 at CAGS National Conference in Toronto.


2015 DDA Winner: "Refugees, War and Sense of Place: Researcher Cited for Excellence"


Dr. Bree Akesson


Research into how political violence and war affects children’s sense of place has won the 2015 Distinguished Dissertation Award for Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

Dr. Bree Akesson received her PhD in social work from McGill University. Her work entitled Contradictions in Place: Everyday Geographies of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Occupation is another step in an international research career focussing on how to help people heal from the ravages of displacement, adversity and violence.

Sadly, it is a problem not going away any time soon. According to the UN, there are currently 60 million people around the world forcibly displaced from their homes. That number was 37.5 million a decade ago. “As the global community struggles with this issue, the importance of Dr. Akesson’s work becomes even more relevant,” says Sally Rutherford, executive director of CAGS.

Akesson’s style is both compassionate and cutting edge. While the judges cited her innovative use of technologies to track and create maps of her subjects’ experiences, she also feels a strong obligation to give voice to the people involved in her research. “Using the data we collect is immensely important,” she says. “Research is always evolving. But what stays constant is being respectful and sensitive to people.”

Watch this TedX video of Bree Akesson explaining the importance of "place".



International Career

Her interest in global issues was ignited through a stint in Kenya with the Peace Corps. Akesson was in a pre-med program in New York City and working as an ambulance medic when she realized that she “really liked talking to patients and hearing their stories rather than just getting them to the hospital.”

That interest in life stories remains with her. She is currently an assistant professor of social work at Wilfrid Laurier University. She is also a treatment facilitator for the Child Psychiatric Epidemiology Group at New York State Psychiatric Institute / Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene. This work focuses on children and families affected by the events of 9/11 and children of parents involved with the criminal justice system.

She is gearing up for more international work as the principal investigator for a study exploring the experiences of pregnant Syrian refugee women in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. She is also organizing a larger project exploring the experiences of Syrian children within refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey

“Her critical research on geographies of occupation and political violence is a far-reaching project that recognizes the necessary inclusion of disempowered voices in making sense of space,” says Maria Belen-Ordonez, a cultural anthropology professor at OCAD University and one of three judges on the 2015 panel.

The CAGS/ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Awards have been recognizing outstanding Canadian doctoral dissertations for more than 20 years. It seeks out work that makes significant, original contributions to both the academic community and to Canadian society. There are two awards: one for engineering, medical sciences and natural sciences; and one for fine arts, humanities and social sciences. They include a $1,500 prize, a Citation Certificate, and an awards ceremony at the CAGS Annual Conference in Calgary. The 2015 award for science was recently awarded to Dr. Michelle Parker (PhD Microbiology/Biochemistry UVic).


2015 DDA Winner: “Cutting Edge Research with a Conscience”


Dr. Michelle Parker (nee Tonkin; PhD Biochemistry)


OTTAWA – A University of Victoria researcher with a drive to prevent human infectious diseases, especially those that affect the developing world, has won the 2015 Canada’s Distinguished Dissertation Award in the Engineering, Medical Science and Natural Science category.

As a young teenager, Dr. Michelle Parker (nee Tonkin; PhD Biochemistry) learned about the ravages of malaria through her church group that ran a mission to support Zambian communities. When she started her graduate program at UVic, she searched for a project with meaning for her and impact for the world.

“Growing up, I had a lot of exposure to the ongoing needs of people in developing countries,” she says. “I was so fortunate to find a fantastic supervisor focussed on understanding the details of how major pathogens, including the malaria parasite, are able to invade human cells and cause disease. Working on this research has been an incredible way for me to use my skills and knowledge to investigate the basis for new therapeutic strategies targeting a disease that disproportionately affects the people of developing countries.”

New methods to combat malaria parasites are particularly important because they continue to develop resistance to front-line drugs. Michelle uses high-energy radiation to image the three-dimensional structures of proteins. This has revealed important details of what appears to be an Achilles’ heel for the malarial parasite–the unique way it enters the human red blood cell.

“Michelle’s graduate work is already helping other researchers develop novel drug and vaccine strategies to fight or prevent malaria infections,” says Dr. Martin Boulanger, who was Michelle’s PhD supervisor.

A major component of Michelle’s work was in collaboration with a group in France, and led to a paper in Science, one of the world's leading journals of original scientific research. The Science manuscript was her fourth publication from the Boulanger lab. Since then she’s published an additional 17 papers, with more than 10 focused on the infection mechanisms of the malaria parasite and its relatives.

Her combination of keen intellect and strong work ethic drew praise from the CAGS’ judges. But it goes beyond that. “What impressed me so deeply about Michelle, is how she combines a passion for helping people with deep scientific curiosity. It is cutting edge research with a conscience,” says Boris Worm, head of the Marine Conservation Biology Lab at Dalhousie University

Keys to success

“Scientific research often feels like a roller coaster, so having a reliable supervisor and a project in which you are personally invested is key to a successful graduate program,” says Michelle. She also points to inspiration she got from joining 600 young researchers last year in a series of lectures and discussions with 37 Nobel laureates at the 64th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting on Physiology or Medicine in Germany. The event was intended to promote inter-generational and international dialogue.

Her favourite lecture was from 89 year old geneticist Oliver Smithies. “He used his life experiences to discuss how the ordinary and extraordinary pieces of our lives intertwine with our scientific education and result in the evolution of ideas,” she says. Inspiration also came from physicist Brian Schmidt who said “theory and observation combine to show you what is, so don’t have preconceptions about how crazy the universe can be – science and the universe will always surprise you”. Michelle has found this to be true in her scientific career thus far and is excited to unravel even more surprises as she seeks to understand the complexities of important human pathogens.

The CAGS/ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Awards have been recognizing outstanding Canadian doctoral dissertations for more than 20 years. It seeks out work that makes significant, original contributions to both the academic community and to Canadian society. There are two awards: one for engineering, medical sciences and natural sciences; and one for fine arts, humanities and social sciences. They include a monetary prize, a Citation Certificate, and an awards ceremony at the CAGS Annual Conference in Calgary. The award for Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences will be announced in October.

2014 Distinguished Dissertation Award: Grappling with Homelessness


Distinguished Dissertation Award 2014: Grappling with Homelessness. Photo is courtesy Nigel Dickson.

Ottawa - A rich and gritty study of intentional homeless communities such as shanty towns and tent cities, has won this year’s 2014 Distinguished Dissertation Award from the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies.

Eric Weissman’s (PhD Indi) multi-media, interdisciplinary work “Spaces, Places and States of Mind: a Pragmatic Ethnography of Liminal Critique,” was done through Concordia University’s Individualized Study program. It is the first time a dissertation completed through an independent study program has won the award. At 53, Weissman is the oldest recipient in the award’s history. He began his PhD program at age 48 and successfully completed it last year at the age of 52.

Weissman used video and social media in addition to conventional research and writing in an attempt to prompt observation, discussion and debate about the relationship between housing and homelessness and the role these communities play in society and political structure.

Eric Weissman’s (PhD Indi) multi-media, interdisciplinary work “Spaces, Places and States of Mind: a Pragmatic Ethnography of Liminal Critique,” was done through Concordia University’s Individualized Study program.
Photo is courtesy Jerome Crowder.

It is an intensely passionate work from an academic who once grappled with periodic homelessness and addiction. “I decided to channel what had been a personal disaster into a form of insight that would allow me to conduct ethnographic fieldwork in the area of homelessness,” he says.

The dissertation compares state-sponsored housing programs with alternative forms of intentional communities.

“My doctoral work employs an interdisciplinary approach to critical and reflexive storytelling from the view of participants to understand how residents of such communities establish commitments to one another and housing activism,” Weissman says. “It’s about how self-worth and democracy go hand in hand and play a role in alleviating the conditions of chronic homelessness.”

The work examines the issue from multiple perspectives including political science, public policy, urban planning and mental health.

read more »»»


“This is a perfect example of what intellectual life is supposed to be about,” says Dr. David Cecchetto, an assistant professor at York University’s Department of Humanities and member of this year’s judges’ panel. “It is truly the best a person can ask from a PhD.” Cecchetto won the CAGS prize in 2011.

Weissman describes his work as ongoing and reflexive. He spent time in transitional communities in Canada and the United States observing and writing a book about them.

“The book was sent back to the villages I was writing about to encourage new conversations which became later chapters in the dissertation - a sort of virtual and digital fieldwork,” he says.

Listen to this CBC Radio interview with Eric Weissman:

listen to ‘Once Homeless Professor: Lack of Affordable Housing a New Cause of Homelessness’ on Audioboo


Weissman’s approach recognized that the complexities of homelessness cannot be organized into traditional factual document. It was a project that fit in well with Concordia University’s philosophy.

“I am thrilled that Eric has received this honour for his incredible work”, says Paula Wood-Adams, Concordia’s dean of graduate studies. “We believe in taking risks in our research and asking the tough questions. Eric's dissertation is a perfect example of the kind of interdisciplinary scholarship that we foster in our Indepdent graduate program.”

His work required a combination of flexibility, creativity and academic rigour that marks the best of what graduate studies have to offer.

“Dr. Weissman’s work sets a high standard for what it takes to approach this topic with discipline and creativity,” says CAGS president Noreen Golfman. “It is a compelling and useful resource.”

Most recently, Weissman held the position of Visiting Scholar at the Institute for the Medical Humanities at the University of Texas. He is currently on the faculty of the College of New Caledonia in Prince George, BC later this year. You can read more about Dr. Weissman’s work here.

Weissman will receive his award in October when the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies holds its annual conference in St.John’s, Newfoundland.

“The CAGS/PROQUEST-UMI Distinguished Dissertation Award began in 1994. It recognizes doctoral students whose dissertations make an original contribution to their academic field. Two awards are offered each year: one in engineering, medical sciences and natural sciences; and one in fine arts, humanities and social sciences.

The Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS) brings together 58 Canadian universities with graduate programs and the three federal research-granting agencies, as well as other institutions and organizations having an interest in graduate studies.

For more information:
Gail Dugas, CAGS Communications
613-334-5658

2014 Distinguished Dissertation Award: The Health of our Oceans.


Ottawa - A dissertation entitled: Patterns and Drivers of Marine Phytoplankton Change over the Past Century that analyzes more than a century of data to examine the health of the world’s oceans is Canada’s 2014 Distinguished Dissertation Award winner in the Engineering, Medical Science and Natural Science Category.

Dalhousie University’s Daniel Boyce (PhD Biology) compiled the unprecedented collection of historical and recent oceanographic data to document declines in phytoplankton. The tiny algae is a primary source of food in ocean ecosystems.

The work connected rising sea surface temperatures and changing oceanographic conditions to the presence of phytoplankton and shows a 1 per cent drop each year for the past 40 years.

Boyce’s findings contribute to a growing body of scientific evidence indicating that climate change is altering the fundamentals of marine ecosystems. Rising temperatures make the ocean more stratified, restricting the movement between different layers and decreasing nutrient delivery to the surface where phytoplanktons grow.

read more »»»


“The global declines are unequivocal”, says Boyce.” And that is a serious problem. Phytoplankton are critical to our planetary life support system. They produce half of the oxygen we breathe, draw down surface CO2, and ultimately support all of our fisheries. An ocean with less phytoplankton will function differently, and this has to be accounted for in our management efforts.”

It was painstaking, detailed work, much of it in front of a computer screen. More than half a million observations were compiled in a valuable database that reflects trends over 100 years.

“This work was impressive, “says Professor Eric Filion, Department of Chemistry at the University of Waterloo and members of the CAGS judges’ panel. “To have an article published in Nature at this stage of his career speaks volumes about the quality.”



Boyce worked closely with Dr. Boris Worm an internationally recognized expert in marine biodiversity and head of the Worm Lab at Dalhousie University.

“He is like a sponge for scientific data.” says Dr. Worm. ”He painstakingly accumulated an enormous database of plankton records, and then extracted these extraordinary patterns that no-one was really aware of. He is very meticulous, pays attention to detail, while at the same time looking at the big picture.”

And that big picture is what inspired Boyce.

“Phytoplankton is key to sustainable fisheries operations and the overall health of the ocean. We need to make sure that the numbers do not continue to decline,” says Boyce, who worked with a team at Nova Scotia’s Bedford Institute of Oceanography. He hopes that his work will provide incentive for more global tracking to reduce uncertainties in future projections.

Boyce will receive his award in October when the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies holds its annual conference in St.John’s, Newfoundland. .

“The quality of submissions for the CAGS awards gets more impressive each year,” says CAGS President Noreen Golfman. “The passion, persistence and academic vigour in Dr. Boyce’s work is a wonderful example of the important role Canadian graduate education has in the world.”

The CAGS/PROQUEST-UMI Distinguished Dissertation Awards began in 1994. They recognize doctoral students whose dissertations make an original contribution to their academic field. Two awards are offered each year: one in engineering, medical sciences and natural sciences; and one in fine arts, humanities and social sciences.

The Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS) brings together 58 Canadian universities with graduate programs and the three federal research-granting agencies, as well as other institutions and organizations having an interest in graduate studies.

For more information contact:
Gail Dugas
613.334.5658
gailadugas@gmail.com


CAGS 2013 Dissertation Award: Cracking An Evolutionary Mystery


Ottawa - A study about the evolutionary history and population patterns of the iconic North American Mountain Goat has won the CAGS Distinguished Dissertation Award for 2013 (Engineering, Medical Science and Natural Science).

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Aaron Shafer’s work straddled basic science, evolutionary history, wildlife management and ecology. Along the way there was detective work involving the journals of Russian sailors, cliffside tracking expeditions in Alaska and providing inspiration to a Native Artist and Master Weaver.

“Everyone should have a student like Aaron at least once in their career, says his supervisor Dave Coltman, Professor and Associate Research Chair, Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. “He’s incredibly hardworking. I never had to motivate him. I had to keep up with him.”

“Many students starting their thesis - they just go to the fridge in the lab and start working on the pre-collected samples. His first year in Alberta, he grew a moustache and started hunting and fishing. He made contact with the folks at the Fish and Wildlife Department in Alaska. Aaron knew he had to follow the animals, learn what geography they preferred. And he knows that conservation and management touches people’s lives – so he dealt with them in a genuine way.”

Shafer’s outgoing approach has not detracted from academic rigour, according to the CAGS judges.

As a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Queen's University, Ronald Anderson hadn’t thought a lot about mountain goats.

“But the more I worked through the applications, the more this one grew on me. It posed interesting questions and had some creative ways of answering them” he says. “He’s had all his papers published in prestigious journals and lots of awards and scholarships. He has tackled some deep evolutionary questions. I’ve been around the university for a long time. You don’t see CVs like this from a new PhD. “

An essential part of Shafer’s work involved comparing the patterns gleaned from mountain goat DNA. When it was combined with information from fossils, it told a story of genetic diversity and migration that goes back to before the last glacial period in what is now northwestern North America - Alaska, Yukon, NWT, BC, Alberta, Idaho, Montana and Washington.

That kind of knowledge not only expands our understanding of evolution, it has contemporary uses in herd management – important since the species is considered a game animal.

Biology, not just geography, can help inform decisions about where and how many goats can be harvested.

“The more genetically diverse, the healthier these populations are,” says Shafer. "Diversity allows evolution to occur. It's like a genetic bank account that's large enough to allow populations to change and cope with change to climate. If you don’t have that, the ability to change is seriously impaired.”

During a Skype interview from the University of Uppsala, Sweden where he is a Postdoctoral Fellow, Shafer exudes enthusiasm for the twists and turns his research took.

He says at one point, he found himself poring over information from the 200 year old logs of Russian sailors who reported seeing “white deer” on Baranof Island, Alaska. It had been thought there were no goats on the island until a small herd was introduced in the 1920s. But DNA sampling and the sailors’ observations told a different story.

His work has also inspired another kind of storytelling.

Based in Sitka, Alaska, Tlingit master weaver Teri Rofkar has revived the art of creating ceremonial robes from the wool of mountain goats – a tradition that goes back centuries. When she heard of the research, she contributed some of the Baranof Island mountain goat wool she had collected so that DNA samples could be taken. The project continued to captivate her and she set out to create a design that includes the DNA double helix as well as the traditional top borders representing glaciers.

Shafer will receive his award in November when the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies holds its conference in Montreal.

The CAGS/PROQUEST-UMI Distinguished Dissertation Awards began in 1994. They recognize doctoral students whose dissertations make an original contribution to their academic field. Two awards are offered each year: one in engineering, medical sciences and natural sciences; and one in fine arts, humanities and social sciences.

The Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS) brings together 58 Canadian universities with graduate programs and the three federal research-granting agencies, as well as other institutions and organizations having an interest in graduate studies.

Related stories:
www.edmontonjournal.com
www.therecord.com
www.rcinet.ca



Inside Look at Immigration HIV Testing Named Top Canadian Dissertation

Ottawa - The 2013 winner of the CAGS/ ProQuest-UMI Distinguished Dissertation Award (Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Science Category) is a testament to how workplace experience can shape an academic journey.

Laura Bisaillon returned to graduate school after ten years working in community, social services and development – in Canada and internationally.

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Her last professional position, as a caseworker for a women's sexual health organization in Montreal’s east end, provided the catalyst for Bisaillon to pursue the next phase of her career.

“I could see how bureaucratically generated policies, practices and regulations affected clients and staff; real people. These observations were anecdotal, and lacking in systematic analysis. I wanted to understand and bring attention to the problems I observed."

Bisaillon’s doctoral project entitled "Cordon Sanitaire or Healthy Policy" reflects her understanding of the complexity of the politics of public health. She approached her research from an interdisciplinary perspective, and used her training in political studies, international relations, urban planning, and population health. The result is a critical analysis of how Canada’s immigration system and the policy of mandatory HIV testing of prospective immigrants and refugees function. It is also an exploration and critique of how top down decisions impact people and their communities.

“What stood out was how her work was part of a well-developed research program,” says William Barker, Professor of English and Director, Interdisciplinary PhD Program, Dalhousie University. “It is engaged, relevant and connected to other people’s work being done in this area.”

Bisaillon says relevancy beyond the dissertation itself was something that guided her work and practice.

“It is important for me that research be grounded in social problems that people confront and contend with in their daily lives,” says Bisaillon. “Choosing a problem and investigating it with scientific rigour holds the promise of producing results that can be incredibly useful. Empirical accounts grounded in social realities succeed in circumventing ideological understandings about the side effects of policy and the law.”

The Montreal-based Bisaillon earned an interdisciplinary PhD in Population Health from the University of Ottawa. Her work was supervised by Associate Dean Dave Holmes and Ronald Labonte, Canada Research Chair in Globalization and Health Equity.

“She was extremely committed to what she was doing. She knew the community she was working with; how everybody is caught in the web of institutional rule making,” Labonte says. “But more than that, her experience and her maturity was reflected in the incredible way the data were collected. She threw herself right into this work.”

Organizations including the HIV/AIDS Legal Clinic of Ontario, Asian Community AIDS Services, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and AIDS Community Care Montreal collaborated with Bisaillon for her project. She was supported by major research awards.

“I would like the results of my sociological project to enlighten the way in which medical decision making is made about applicants with HIV within the Canadian immigration program. I would also like findings to be useful for HIV-positive newcomers to Canada, decision-makers, and those working on the front lines,” she says.

Living in Montreal and travelling regularly to Ottawa for coursework required organization and energy. The footing in Quebec and Ontario enabled Bisaillon to garner broader understandings of how different jurisdictions operate with respect to health policy in interaction with the federal government.

In September, Bisaillon begins a new challenge when she starts as a new faculty member in the Health Studies Department of the University of Toronto. “I am keen to teach and engage in community-level action research linking Canadian and international communities; the scientific results of which can point to ways of making progressive social change that matters in people's lives,” she says.

Bisaillon will receive her award in November when the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies holds its conference in Montreal.

She will be joined by Aaron Shafer, the 2013 winner in the engineering, medical sciences and natural sciences category.

The CAGS/PROQUEST-UMI Distinguished Dissertation Awards began in 1994. They recognize doctoral students whose dissertations make an original contribution to their academic field. Two awards are offered each year: one in engineering, medical sciences and natural sciences; and one in fine arts, humanities and social sciences.

The Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS) brings together 58 Canadian universities with graduate programs and the three federal research-granting agencies, as well as other institutions and organizations having an interest in graduate studies.






Previous Winners

2012 Dr. May Chazan (Geography, Carleton University)
Dr. Adeel Safdar (Kinesiology, McMaster University)
2011 Dr. David Cecchetto (English, University of Victoria)
Dr. Nicholas Carleton (Department of Psychology at the University of Regina)
2010 Coby Dowdell (English, University of Toronto)
Donald Gammon (Medical Microbiology & Immunology, University of Alberta)
2009Andrew Griffin (English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University)
Zhihong Nie (Chemistry, University of Toronto)
2008Jason W.T. Hessels ( Physics, McGill University)
Tracey Lindberg (Law, University of Ottawa)
2007Ian J. MacRae (Comparative Litterature, University of Toronto)
Patrik Nosil (Biology, Simon Fraser University)
2006Hugo Cardoso (Anthropology, McMaster University)
Konrad Walus (Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Calgary)
2005Paul-André Dubois (History, Laval University)
Claire A. Sheldon (Cellular and Physiological Sciences, University of British Columbia)
2004Karim S. Karim ( Electrical Engineering, University of Waterloo)
Caroline Pukall (Psychology, McGill University)
2003David L. Bryce (Chemistry, Dalhousie University)
Gary Kuchar (English, McMaster University
2002William Bain (Political science, University of British Columbia)
Rees Kassen (Biology, McGill University)
2001 Linda Marie Arsenault (Musicology, University of Toronto)
Chantal Levesque (Psychology, University of Ottawa)
Eldon Emberly (Physics, Simon Fraser University)
2000Annamalai Annamalai Jr. (Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Victoria)
Clifford Bekar (Economics, Simon Fraser University)
1999Desmond Manderson (Law, McGill University)
Tommy Kwong Woo (Chemistry, University of Calgary)
1998Ilijas Farah (Mathematics, University of Toronto)
1997Laura Peers (Anthropology, McMaster University)
1996Thomas Waddell (Medical Science, University of Toronto)
1995Andrew Gillett (Medieval Studies, University of Toronto)
1994Xianhua Jiang (Physics, York University)

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