The John F. and Evangeline M. Davis Award

This award was established in 2003/2004 by John F. Davis, B.Eng. 1942, M.Eng. 1949, M.D.,C.M. 1950. It will be awarded every year to a graduate student enrolled in the Department of BioMedical Engineering, by the Chair of the Department of BioMedical Engineering.

Award criteria and time period

The Davis award is given for a significant contribution (Master’s or Doctoral thesis, major conference paper or journal paper) for a subject applicable to diagnostic or treatment procedures for neurological or psychiatric disorders.

Award Recipients

Year Recipient

Mr. Johann Vargas Calixto received the award for his journal paper: “Prediction of Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy Using Events in Fetal Heart Rate and Uterine Pressure”. Neonatal hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is a neurologic syndrome resulting from a lack of blood flow or oxygen to the brain around the time of birth, resulting in long-term neurodevelopmental impairment. Early detection of fetuses at risk of HIE is the key to preventing injury. Unfortunately, current methods are not very good. In this paper Mr. Vargas Calixto addressed this problem using the computer analysis of intrapartum fetal heart rate (FHR) and uterine pressure (UP) events to detect infants at risk of hypoxicischemic encephalopathy (HIE). He analyzed data from more than 40,000 infants from three groups: infants that developed HIE, infants with fetal acidosis but no HIE, and healthy infants. He counted the transitions between FHR events and the length of FHR and UP events. He used these features to train a random forest classifier to discriminate between the healthy and pathological groups. Compared to the Caesarean delivery rates for each group, his system detected more HIE and acidosis cases, with no increase in the false positive rates for the healthy group, Importantly, over 3/4 of the HIE detections were made 3 hours or more before delivery. Such detections would be early enough to permit clinical intervention to improve the outcome of birth.

He came up the concept of analyzing the features of fetal heart rate events, developed the analysis algorithms, and carried out the feature detection analysis. He then designed the classification protocol and developed the methods for training and validation. He assessed the results and developed the protocol for dealing with cumulative predictions. Finally, he wrote the article himself with feedback from his supervisors and the research group.


Ms. Xuanteng Yan received the award for her journal paper: “Removal of Transcranial Alternating Current Stimulation EEG Artifacts Using Blind Source Separation and Wavelets”. The work is related to investigating the effects of transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) on ongoing brain activity and using these effects to design closed-loop neurofeedback schemes to improve motor performance. Ms. Yan designed novel denoising algorithms to remove tACS artifacts from simultaneously recorded electroencephalographic (EEG) data, which is a very challenging problem due to the magnitude and spectral characteristics of these artifacts. To this end, she combined wavelet transforms with blind source separation methods and performed systematic comparisons on both simulated data and available experimental data that demonstrate the feasibility of removing tACS artifacts from EEG data, which is crucial for understanding tACS effects on the brain and designing tACS-based closed-loop neurofeedback schemes. The results of this work were published in March 2022 in one of the leading technical Biomedical Engineering journals (IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering) and got highlighted as a feature article in October 2022. This work yields promise for quantifying the effects of tACS on simultaneously recorded EEG data, which can in turn contribute towards understanding the effects of tACS on brain activity, as well as extracting reliable biomarkers that can be used to develop closed-loop tACS strategies for modulating the underlying brain activity in real-time. As many neurological diseases (e.g., stoke, Parkinson’s disease) are related to abnormal brain oscillations, Ms. Yan’s work can also be used in the design of tACS-based personalized treatment plans, thus maximizing the treatment effects.


Dr. Nathan Jowett received the award for his thesis entitled: ‘Design of a neural prosthesis for facial reanimation and assessment in a rat model’. Patients with facial palsy often face two problems: (1) absent or suboptimal movement of muscles on one side of the face and (2) synkinesis – involuntary movements resulting from aberrant neural regeneration. Nathan developed a novel approach to an implantable neuro-prosthetic device to addressboth problems. As facial movements are symmetric and most facial palsies are unilateral, the prosthesis will employ electromyography activity from muscles on the healthy side to control electrical stimulation of aberrantly neurotized muscle to generate symmetric facial displacements. To address the vexing issue of facial synkinesis, his approach incorporates proximal delivery of high frequency alternating current to the proximal segment of the injured nerve to induce localized blockade of undesirable aberrant nerve impulses. Thus, Nathan’s proposal carries potential to restore lost function while eliminating undesirable involuntary movements that has heretofore hindered progress in the field.


Mr. Omid Zobeiri received the award for his journal paper: “Effects of vestibular neurectomy and neural compensation on head movements in patients undergoing vestibular schwannoma”. In collaboration with researchers at Harvard Medical school, Omid quantified patients’ head-motion patterns and identified the abnormalities during a series of balance and walking exercises. His work establishes the feasibility of a novel kinematics-based approach for the diagnosis and objective treatment of a common neurological disorder- namely disorders balance – and holds the potential for long-term impact on the quality and effectiveness of vestibular rehabilitation programs in the clinic.


Dr. Tanguy Hedrich received the award for his PhD thesis in Biomedical Engineering entitled: "Combining high-density electrical source imaging and hemodynamic responses to epileptic discharges". Tanguy’s PhD thesis had concrete repercussions in neuroscience and resulted in the application of a new neuroimaging procedure, in order to improve the presurgical evaluation of patients with epilepsy. The core of his study consisted in demonstrating how high-density ElectroEncephaloGraphy (hd-EEG, using 256 electrodes) could be used simultaneously with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to accurately localise neuronal activity in the brain.


Dr. Chathura Kumaragamage received the award for his PhD thesis in Biomedical Engineering entitled “Development of Dynamic in vivo carbon-13 Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy for rat brain imaging at 7-Tesla”. Chathura’s thesis describes the development of state-of-the-art methods for non-invasive measurement of glucose metabolism in the rat brain. His work describes several important advances in the field of in-vivo magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), including: 1) The development of a hardware platform for in-vivo carbon-13 (13C) MRS of the rat brain; 2) A description of advanced new pulse sequences for improved 13C MRS data collection; 3) A novel absorptive high-pass filter for use in 13C MRS applications; 4) Experimental and theoretical descriptions of the effects of long RF pulses on the signal evolution in J-coupled spin-systems; and 5) The first ever description of a platform for simultaneous direct and indirect 13C MRS in the rat brain.


Mr. Ryan Sanford received the award for his journal paper: “Association of Brain Structure Changes and Cognitive Function With Combination Antiretroviral Therapy in HIV-Positive Individuals”. Ryan combined multiple advanced neuroimaging methods with complementary strengths to characterize local brain volumes from MRI, and assessed neuropsychological performance. The results suggested that brain injury predates treatment initiation, suggesting a possible neurocognitive benefit from early treatment. This sends the hopeful message to people living with HIV that maintaining viral suppression through HIV treatment may be instrumental for preserving long-term brain structure and function. Additionally, Ryan’s paper received news coverage.


Dr. Rasheda Chowdhury received the award for her PhD thesis in Biomedical Engineering entitled Localization of generators of epileptic activity in the brain using multimodal data fusion of EEG and MEG data”. She developed and carefully validated new source localization methods consisting in combining Electro-Encephalography (EEG) and Magneto-Encephalography (MEG) scalp recordings to reconstruct in 3D the generators of epileptic discharges along the patient-specific cortical surface. Her work has been essential in the lab and in clinical projects within the epilepsy group of the Montreal Neurological Institute, where she contributed significantly to EEG-MEG data analysis during the presurgical investigation of epilepsy patients.

2014 - 2015

Dr. Kais Gadhoumi received the award for his PhD thesis in Biomedical Engineering entitled "Prediction of focal epileptic seizures using intracerebral electroencephalography”. The thesis addresses the important issue of the detection and prediction of epileptic seizures.

About Dr. Davis

Dr. Davis was born in Montréal in 1917 and completed all his schooling there. He graduated from McGill in 1942 with a B.Eng. in Electrical/Electronic Engineering. He spent the remainder of World War II with the National Research Council, becoming Acting Director of Special Research and Development in the Radio-Radar Branch of Electrical Engineering. After the war, R&D at NSERC brought him into contact with local medical laboratories and he became intrigued with the idea of medical applications of electronics.

At that time, in order to collaborate seriously with M.D.’s you had to be an M.D. yourself, so, with the support of his new Ontarian wife, Evangeline Cousineau, he pursued a medical degree from McGill while at the same time conducting a consulting engineering practice in new instrumentation for research in neuropsychophysiology. Along the way he took engineering courses and wrote a Master’s thesis, acquiring an M.Eng. in Biomedical Engineering in 1949, perhaps the first in Canada in that specialty.

After obtaining the M.D. degree from McGill in 1950, for the next twelve years Dr. Davis held the posts of Director of the Electrophysiology & EEG Laboratory at the Allan Memorial Institute of Psychiatry, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at McGill and Assistant Psychiatrist at the Royal Victoria Hospital. The McGill team of Robert Malmo, Charles Shagas and John Davis was ever-present in the psychophysiological research literature of the early 1950’s. Dr. Davis also pursued post-doctoral training in Clinical Electroencephalography under Dr. Herbert Jasper of the Montréal Neurological Institute and participated in the collaborative neurophysiological programmes in brain research promoted by Dr. Wilder Penfield, Founder and Director of the MNI at the time.

During this period Dr. Davis became very active in the international development of Biomedical Engineering as a profession and was a founding member of the BME Professional Group of the IRE (IEEE) and other local and American associations in the field. He is considered as one of the grandfathers of BME, there being at the time only a handful of researchers with equivalent qualifications scattered around the world. A number of his designs for medical measuring devices were produced and marketed internationally.

Dr. Davis was awarded an IEEE Fellowship for ‘Contributions to the Development of Medical Electronics’ in 1962. Also in that year, he was named Director of the International Institute for Medical Electronics and Biological Engineering in Paris, France. This was the outreach arm of the International Federation for Medical Electronics. During the next six years he travelled the world promoting the development of BME programmes and departments in leading universities and medical faculties on both sides of the Iron Curtain. This period of international relations and development was followed by six years in the private sector of BME, still in Paris.

In 1974 Dr. Davis returned to Montréal, taking up again his old post as Assistant Professor at McGill and becoming Assistant Psychiatrist at St. Mary’s Hospital. He has maintained his status as an Engineer with the Ordre des Ingénieurs du Québec, at the Emeritus level, but has been working with people rather than objects for the last 30 years, as a G.P. psychiatrist. He maintained a private practice as an MD psychotherapist in Montréal, with offices in Westmount and in NDG, almost until he passed away in 2005 at the age of 87.

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