2023 Convocation & Travel Award Recipients

Convocation Awards

Governor General's Gold Medal and Gordon A. Maclachlan Prize

Governor General’s Gold Medal and Gordon A. Maclachlan Prize – Selin Jessa

Dr. Selin Jessa is a computational biologist and completed her PhD in the Department of Quantitative Life Sciences at McGill University under the supervision of Dr. Claudia Kleinman, based at the Lady Davis Institute.

Selin’s doctoral research focused on the origins of deadly pediatric brain tumors. As part of a large-scale national collaboration, Selin led the analysis of an “atlas” of gene expression in hundreds of thousands of cells from the normal developing brain. Using this atlas as a reference, she used integrative analyses with patient tumor datasets to identify specific cell types in the developing brain that likely give rise to tumors, providing candidate origins for several tumor subtypes. This work has helped establish a model where pediatric brain cancers arise due to stalled development. This research was recognized by Québec Science Magazine as one of the top 10 discoveries of 2020. Selin is also an advocate for scientific reproducibility and data sharing in genomics, and has developed tutorials, resources, and code repositories to promote bioinformatics reproducibility.

Throughout her time at McGill as both an undergraduate student in Computer Science & Biology and a graduate student in Quantitative Life Sciences, Selin has been active in the McGill community and beyond. As an undergrad, she helped establish ECOLE, a sustainability hub for the McGill community, and led a participatory research project on access to healthcare in Montreal for migrants with precarious immigration status. More recently, she served as the inaugural VP Academic of her graduate student association. Selin’s studies at McGill have been funded by a TD Scholarship for Community Leadership and doctoral awards from CIHR and FRQS.

Captivated by the question of how cells know what to become during development and how these mechanisms are hijacked in disease, Selin will begin a post-doctoral fellowship at Stanford University in September.

Governor General's Gold Medal & McGill Alumni Association Graduate Award

Governor General’s Gold Medal and McGill Alumni Association Graduate Award – Jessica MettlerDr. Jessica Mettler completed her PhD in Educational Psychology – Human Development from the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology in McGill’s Faculty of Education, under the supervision of Dr. Nancy Heath, Distinguished James McGill Professor. Her PhD was supported through the McGill Tomlinson Scholarship as well as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Canada Graduate Scholarship and the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture.

Throughout her graduate degrees, Dr. Mettler has been committed to bridging the research-to-practice gap in making mental health support more accessible for students of all ages through international, national, and local knowledge mobilisation in collaboration with community partners and those with lived experience of mental health difficulties. She is also an active co-investigator on several federal, provincial, and foundation-funded grants and has a strong academic publication record.

As education institutions struggle with increasing student mental health difficulties, they have turned to low-intensity universal approaches such as mindfulness-based programs; however, it has become increasingly clear that the use of these programs has outpaced the evidence base. Thus, Dr. Mettler’s innovative dissertation research critically investigated the previously untapped strengths, limitations, and possible obstacles to effectively teaching mindfulness to students across educational levels. In a series of 3 rigorously designed and methodologically distinct studies, her dissertation highlights that “one size does not fit all” when it comes to mindfulness instruction for students. Overall, findings suggest mindfulness instruction can be effective for students if it is accessible and implemented with a nuanced understanding of student individual differences (e.g., developmental or gender differences) as well as contextual factors (e.g., differences in instruction, types of strategies taught). Her work provides clear future directions in both research and practice regarding a more complex conceptualization of mindfulness instruction to support students’ coping capacity.

Dr. Mettler is currently a post-doctoral fellow at Concordia University, where her research focuses on further investigating how to support students’ coping capacity by better understanding longitudinal well-being and educational trajectories.

D.W Ambridge Prize

D.W. Ambridge Prize – Adam McElligottDr. Adam McElligott (BEng ’19) earned his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at McGill University in August 2022 under the supervision of Professors Phillip Servio and Jean-Luc Meunier and in collaboration with Dr. Alejandro Rey.

While at McGill, Dr. McElligott led many investigations in diverse fields. His thesis (“The Effects of Functionalized Graphene on Phase Change Systems”) advanced the potential for nanofluid-based phase change technologies by elucidating the fundamental interactions between nanoparticle parameters, solidification kinetics, and multi-phase thermodynamics. In addition, he developed the “Hypothesis of Non-Einsteinian Viscosity,” which challenged several assumptions in the field of nanofluidics that had been accepted for over 100 years. As a side project, he led the team that designed and implemented the first experimental setup to freeze multiple levitated liquid droplets simultaneously. This system is now used to accurately study the formation of atmospheric ice particles in the laboratory setting. His Ph.D. training was supported by the Vadasz Scholars Program in the Faculty of Engineering at McGill University and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Building on his expertise, Dr. McElligott recently joined the Department of Mechanical and Marine Engineering at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences in Bergen, Norway, as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow. His project, entitled ONESTEP (Optimized Nanofluids for Efficient Solar Thermal Energy Production), is supported by the European Union’s Horizon Europe program and aims to understand the fundamental physics behind photothermal boiling in nanofluids.

D.W Ambridge Prize 

D.W. Ambridge Prize – Michael Pagano

Michael Pagano completed his doctorate under Prof. Adrian Liu in McGill's Cosmic Dawn Intensity Mapping Group. His research focused on the Epoch of Reionization (EoR), an observationally unconstrained period in the Universe's history that has important implications for cosmology and astrophysics. He is a collaborator of the Hydrogen Epoch for Reionization Array (HERA) and the Radio Experiment for the Analysis of Cosmic Hydrogen (REACH), two collaborations aiming to measure the EoR. He completed work investigating direct and indirect probes of the EoR; notably, he looked at using Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) as a method of exploring the EoR. He also contributed to the development of new techniques to mitigate some of the systematics preventing cosmologists from making direct measurements of this time period.

He is now a joint postdoctoral fellow at the Gran Sasso Science Institute (L'Aquila) and Scuola Normale Superiore (Pisa), both in Italy.

K.B. Jenckes Prize

K.B. Jenckes Prize – Mathieu PailléMathieu Paillé is a linguist who specializes in meaning in language. He completed his PhD under the supervision of Bernhard Schwarz and Luis Alonso-Ovalle. His thesis, ‘Strengthening Predicates,’ discusses the relationship between language and thought, and more specifically between nouns/adjectives and the concepts underlying them. The thesis challenges the common assumption that there is a one-to-one correspondence between the meanings of nouns/adjectives and their underlying concepts. On the widely held view, a noun like ‘tree’ simply makes references to things that are exemplars of the concept of a tree. The thesis shows that this is not the case: language systematically interferes with how nouns and adjectives are intuited, with the result that they do not correspond exactly to the concepts underlying them.

Mathieu is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Calgary.

Travel Awards

Delta Upsilon Memorial Scholarship

Erin Nicole Yanota, English

Alexa Servant, Psychology

Noah Reese Bailis, Music - Performance

John Williamson Frederick Peacock Memorial Scholarship

Abbi Baran, Geography

Philip F. Vineberg Travelling Fellowship

Michelle Amanda Marcus, Political Science

Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International License.
Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, McGill University.

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