2019 Carrie M. Derick Award for Graduate Supervision and Teaching

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Johanna Neslehova
Isabelle Vedel

Winner

Johanna Neslehova, Mathematics and Statistics

“Mentoring is caring for my students beyond graduation.”

Biography

Johanna G. Neslehova is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at McGill University. She obtained an MSc from the University of Hamburg (2000) and a PhD from the Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg (2004). After graduation, she was a postdoctoral fellow at ETH Zürich and at the Harvard Medical School, and later a Heinz Hopf Lecturer at ETH Zürich (2006-09). Her research interests lie in extreme-value analysis and dependence modeling with applications in biostatistics, hydrology and risk management. She is an Elected Member of the International Statistical Institute and received the P.Stat. designation from the Statistical Society of Canada in 2015.

Approach to graduate supervision

I am passionate about science and enjoy sharing the pleasure of learning and discovery with students, both in and out of the classroom. As a mentor, I strive to convey my passion for research, and I am fully devoted to preparing my students for their careers in academia or industry. I help them acquire good practices in research and scientific writing through regular meetings scheduled in accordance with their progress. In my field, PhD students and outstanding MSc students are expected to carve their own research niche. This is as thrilling a process for me as it is for them; working with young people is a distinctive advantage of being a university professor as it constantly broadens my own horizon as a researcher. I foster my students’ independence by helping them develop their potential. The students’ input is already key in choosing the research project; to help with the task, I often ask students to take the time and select a paper or two that caught their interest. In my field, the best students publish research papers during their studies, and I guide them to structure their ideas and to present the material pedagogically. To me, mentoring also means caring for my students beyond graduation. I actively help them in orienting their careers and support them in finding a position. My students’ success and accomplishments bring me great joy and pride.

Testimonials

By valuing independence and hard work, Professor Neslehova trains her students to become strong researchers. After broadly discussing a new research problem, she will provide references that cover the subject and contain the necessary tools to address the question. With our research objectives being clearly communicated, I have always felt free to explore different paths and related subjects to attain them. At any significant roadblock, Professor Neslehova does not hesitate to dive into the technical details to make sure progress is not halted for too long. I am also grateful to be under her supervision because I have learned a great deal about communicating results in an appealing way, whether it is for a conference presentation or writing papers in a clear and concise style.

Simon Chatelain, current PhD Student


Nominees
 

Isabelle Vedel, Department of Family Medicine

“I try to build on students’ strengths and their personal approach to creativity”

Biography

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine, as well as a public health physician, a Dawson scholar and a FRQS junior 2. I teach courses on mixed research methods and evaluation and implementation science in our MSc and PhD research programs. I am the co-founder, and scientific director of the pan-Canadian research team “Research on the Organization of Health Services for Alzheimer” ROSA. I am responsible for the evaluation of the Alzheimer's plan in Quebec and participated as an expert with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences in the development of the national strategy on dementia.

Approach to graduate supervision

My approach to student-centered supervision takes into account individual student abilities and competences, and addresses distinct learning needs, preferences, interests, aspirations, or specific cultural backgrounds. I strongly encourage students to be creative and welcome initiative, ambitious yet realistic exploration, and out-of-the-box thinking, resulting in them becoming independent problem solvers. I try to build on students’ strengths and their personal approach to creativity. I provide students with opportunities to contact external experts in the field. As a leader in pan-Canadian and international projects, I can put students in contact with my wide network of colleagues. To accommodate different ways of learning, I follow a blended supervision model, which complements traditional supervision with peer group supervision, seminars, and dry runs before conferences. I favor collaborative work, a friendly work climate and solidarity, and consider social interaction to be a vital part of supervision. I suggest or favor exterior group working activities. I celebrate each step of the thesis with individual students. I adapt my supervision plan over time. For instance, I may mentor students on how to balance personal/family life and studies, or provide emotional support to alleviate stress, as thesis work has proven to be the biggest hurdle to overcome in higher education. I also remain flexible and open to student feedback. I like to be challenged, and I welcome and listen carefully to comments and suggestions from students. Overall, I try to be a role model and inspire students to be attentive, collaborative, compassionate and independent researchers and teachers.

Testimonials

As Dr. Vedel’s students, we can attest to her remarkable devotion to supervision and mentorship. Based on her student-centered philosophy, she tailors her approach to each student, guided by a genuine compassion and respect towards our personal needs and goals. Always maintaining an open-door policy, she provides each student with the time, attention, and resources needed to become successful independent scholars and well-rounded individuals. She has inspired a disciplined ambition towards the relentless pursuit of knowledge, while challenging us to reflect on our work and continuously improve our projects and applications. She has helped us to grow our interprofessional networks locally, nationally and internationally and is swift to “market” her students by highlighting our successes and acknowledging our contributions. Her advocacy has helped us chart new paths in our careers that would otherwise be inaccessible. We strongly believe that Dr. Vedel embodies the gold standard for excellence in supervision.
 

Nadia Sourial, Claire Godard-Sebillotte, Matthew Hacker Teper, Rashi Khare, Eva Margo Dermer, Martin Yang, Svetlaka Puzhko, Sarah Cooper, Vladimir Khanassov, Ovidiu Tatar
(Team Vedel)

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

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