2017 David Thomson Award for Graduate Supervision and Teaching

On this page:
Victoria Talwar
Chantal Autexier | Mark Coates | Ram Jakhu | Nancy Mayo | Stephen McAdams | Bernhard Schwarz Ada Sinacore | Maryam Tabrizian

 

Winner

Victoria Talwar, Educational and Counselling Psychology

“I focus on tailoring the experience to suit students' career goals, abilities, and areas of growth.”

Biography

I am an Associate Professor and a Canada Research Chair (II) in Developmental Psychology and Law in the Dept. of Educational and Counselling Psychology at McGill University. I conduct research on child development issues that intersect between the disciplines of Psychology, Education and Law. Recognition for my contributions to psychological science include the Society for Research on Child Development Outstanding Early Career Contributions to Child Development Research award, Fellow of American Psychological Association and Fellow of Association for Psychological Science. I am humbled to receive recognition for my mentoring of students, a job that already is filled with pleasure and reward. 

Approach to graduate supervision

In my graduate student supervision, I focus on tailoring the experience to suit students' career goals, abilities, and areas of growth. I ask each student at the beginning and throughout their studies, "What are your goals?" As a result, they learn how to set and revise their goals, and I learn how to adjust my mentoring to meet their evolving objectives. For each student, I try to give them opportunities that are important for their academic and career goals. I also have all students create term plans and yearly plans that are revised and readjusted over time. And I hold them accountable to the timelines that they create. Consequently, they are very productive in scholarly activities and professional development. Finally, I encourage teamwork and collaboration in research projects (e.g., presentations at conferences, papers for publication) for these are important skills for their future careers. This also creates a community where everyone feels fellowship and a collective sense of purpose, responsibility, and achievement. I model collaborative learning to my students through my own research and provide opportunities for students to also collaborate with my extensive network of collaborators to expose them to different perspectives in the areas of psychology, law, and education. Overall, in my graduate teaching and supervision, I use a tailored mentorship approach that emphasizes critical thinking, skill development, goal-setting, and collaboration to support students through their graduate degrees and into their respective career paths.

Testimonials

Dr. Victoria Talwar is a very active and engaged supervisor who is involved in her students’ learning process. She has the ability to motivate students to be a part of a bigger learning process than simply getting a degree, and she is able to instill a deep passion for this learning and progress. She quickly learns about each of her students, and uses both internal motivation (passion, interest, personal goals) and external motivation (deadlines!) as needed for each student. One of Dr. Talwar’s characteristics that make her an exceptional supervisor is her ability to see the potential in her students and help them to rise to it. She is an acute listener and she quickly taps into her students’ individual passions, interests, and abilities, and then uses this knowledge to motivate them internally to set goals that seem to be just outside of their current ability to achieve. 

Jennifer Lavoie, PhD Candidate


Nominees

Chantal Autexier, Anatomy and Cell Biology

“My door is always open.”

 

Biography

I earned my graduate degree from the Microbiology & Immunology Department of McGill University, completed postdoctoral training with Dr. Carol Greider at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. I joined McGill in 1997, and am now a Professor in the Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology and Graduate Program Director of the Cell and Molecular Biology Graduate Program. My research focus is to understand how telomere maintenance, which is critical for genome stability and cell survival, is altered in cancer and premature aging syndromes. I have trained over twenty graduate students, who have pursued further graduate and postdoctoral training and contributed to research as university professors and research professionals and teaching in academic and private sectors.

Approach to graduate supervision

Supervision of graduate students in my laboratory starts with teaching best practices of academic research integrity. I mentor students in interpreting their results, help them to troubleshoot, discuss the next experiments to be performed, request protocols and reagents from colleagues, provide them access to specific training they require and with opportunities for collaboration. I encourage them to present their studies locally, nationally and internationally to allow for broader critical review, and to foster their independent growth. I also encourage and assist them in drafting their scientific manuscripts, studentship applications, and abstracts for meetings, by providing timely and relevant feedback. I extend opportunities for my graduate students to write book chapters and review articles so that they may improve their abilities to read, interpret, critique, summarize and discuss experimental results and develop their writing and communication skills. This exercise also ensures that they can differentiate between original contribution and plagiarism. I also provide senior students the chance to co-review manuscripts, and contribute to our research grant applications. My door is always open to discuss experiments or any other lab, course, or career related issues. For all graduate students, regardless of their future desire to pursue an academic career, I ensure they are aware of what a research career entails. My goal is that they acquire a comprehensive skill set, including teaching, communication, problem-solving and critical analysis, that is applicable to varied careers.

Testimonials

Dr. Autexier’s evident passion for the scientific discipline and steadfast support of her students guided my choice to transition into Ph.D. studies in her charge. The teaching and supervisory excellence of Dr. Autexier is exemplified by the research environment she has built and sustained at McGill University’s Lady Davis Institute of the Jewish General Hospital. She is always accessible and approachable, and is actively engaged in each of her students’ projects and academic lives. Dr. Autexier helps me troubleshoot experimental issues in the lab, seeks my input in project planning, and lends me her expert guidance when I am facing difficulties choosing classes or studying concepts in cellular biology. Dr. Autexier also ensures my professional development beyond the lab by supporting me to present my research both locally and internationally, encouraging me to formulate my own manuscripts, involving me in scientific review processes, and providing teaching opportunities. 

Deanna MacNeil, current PhD candidate

As an internationally recognized and highly regarded scientist in the field of telomere and telomerase biology, Dr. Autexier creates a highly stimulating learning environment and established a strong trusting relationship with each of us. Dr. Autexier displays excellence in teaching, emanates positive energy, confidence and humility. As a supervisor, she values and empowers her students, making us feel that we can make a difference. She offers top-notch quality of supervision and is readily available, approachable and reachable for discussion. She is also willing to listen, consider and accept new ideas proposed by her trainees, thus giving way to creativity. With Dr. Autexier’s incessant support and encouragement, I completed my degree in her lab with an amazing sense of accomplishment. It is her passion and dedication for her research and her students that significantly influenced my decision to pursue a career as an independent researcher in the telomere and telomerase field. 

Dr. Tsz Wai (Josephine) Chu, postdoc at the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC), University of Montreal


Mark Coates, Electrical and Computer Engineering

“My students meet frequently with my industrial collaborators.”

 

Biography

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. My research interests include machine learning and statistical signal processing, Bayesian and Monte Carlo inference, and communication and sensor networks. I received a Ph.D. degree in information engineering from the University of Cambridge in 1999 and was a research associate and lecturer at Rice University, Texas, from 1999-2001, before coming to McGill in 2002. In 2012-2013, I worked as a Senior Scientist at Winton Capital Management, Oxford. I was an Associate Editor of IEEE Transactions on Signal Processing from 2007-2011 and a Senior Area Editor for IEEE Signal Processing Letters from 2012-2015. In 2006, my research team received the NSERC Synergy Award in recognition of our collaboration with Canadian industry, which resulted in the licensing of software for anomaly detection and Video-on-Demand network optimization.  

Approach to graduate supervision

In my graduate supervision, I strive to foster an independent research capability in my students. As engineering students, I want them to understand the practical implications of their research. In this spirit, I strongly encourage my students to conduct internships during their studies. They also meet frequently with my industrial collaborators and learn about the constraints faced by companies during the technology development process. It is important for students to obtain exposure to international research environments and I have provided support for them to visit research labs for extended periods of time (e.g., Beijing U. Posts and Telecommunication and Oxford University). I encourage broader development, beyond the technical aspects of the Ph.D. research, and most students have participated in workshops and courses to improve their skills in teaching, entrepreneurship and business planning, leadership, and communication. The development of effective communication skills is vital, and my students give numerous practice presentations to our research group. This prepares them for attending conferences and exposing their research achievements to the international scholarly community in a compelling manner.

Testimonials

As I reflect on my graduate training, I consider how fortunate I am to have Prof. Coates as my Ph.D. supervisor. The numerous days we discussed new research ideas, the countless hours we spent together analysing experimental data, the ample opportunities I received to improve my communication skills and increase collaborations in meetings, seminars and conferences, have shaped who I am today. He taught me not only how to tackle concrete research problems, but also how to think creatively and rigorously. With his vision and expertise, Prof. Coates knows what it takes for students to realize their career goals, and has gone out of his way in every aspect to ensure that they succeed. This is how I constantly improve myself under his supervision. 

Dr. Yunpeng Li, Postdoctoral Research Assistant in Machine Learning, Oxford University

What makes Prof. Coates an outstanding supervisor is his strong consideration for the well-being of his students. He made us better by being very demanding while always making sure we were progressing in the right direction based on our career objectives. He strives to create a respectful, collaborative and friendly, yet professional, work environment by treating his students as peers. During my years in Prof. Coates’ research lab, I have gained valuable skills, both on the human and technical levels. Being a very strong communicator, Prof. Coates has showed me a high level of rigour in both oral and written presentations through constructive and honest feedback. On the technical side, Prof. Coates’ approach to solving problems has made me a very data-driven person. Being a founder of the company, I have been able to advocate a data-driven culture in our daily operations and decision-making process. 

Frederic Thouin, Chief Analytics Officer, co-founder of BusBud


Ram Jakhu, Law

“I maintain an open-door policy and an informal and pleasant working relationship.”

 

Biography

I am Director of, and Associate Professor at the Institute of Air and Space Law, McGill University. I teach and conduct research in international space law, law of space applications, law of space commercialization, space security, national regulation of space activities, and public international law. I have been invited to speak at over 100 international conferences around the world. I am the Chair of the Management Board of the McGill Manual on International Law Applicable to Military Uses of Outer Space Project; Co-editor of International Study on Global Space Governance; Member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Space Security; Fellow and former Chairman of the Legal and Regulatory Committee of the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety; Managing Editor of the Space Regulations Library Series; and a Member of the Editorial Boards of the Annals of Air and Space Law and the German Journal of Air & Space Law. In 2016, I received the “Leonardo da Vinci Life-Long Achievement Award” from the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety and in 2007 the “Distinguished Service Award” from International Institute of Space Law for significant contribution to the development of space law. I have co-authored three books, about 100 articles and 20 research reports and edited 9 books, including the one that received the 2011 Book Award from the International Academy of Astronautics.

Approach to graduate supervision

I consider teaching as a mission of service to my students (clients) and to the wider community. My teaching philosophy has always been student-centred. I make every effort to facilitate ‘learning’ by my students to the maximum extent possible. I maintain an open-door policy (students need no appointment to see me) and an informal and pleasant working relationship, thereby allowing my students the maximum freedom to contact me at any time (even during holidays and when I am outside Canada). For the last thirteen years, I have been supervising on the average 12 graduate students per year (far above the Faculty average), have facilitated and sought financial resources for them to present papers and attend conferences around the world, initiated the establishment of prizes and fellowships for them at the Faculty of Law, employed them as research assistants who became co-authors of our publications, and hired them as my associates for my consulting assignments.

Testimonials

Prof. Ram Jakhu is an inspiring teacher and mentor, a wise supervisor and an eminent scholar and academic. He is also a talented educator and a progressive thinker, who successfully enables his students to realize the power of the human mind’s curiosity.  Not only does he awaken our interest in the field of space law, but he also provides tireless supervision, encourages and facilitates our participation in conferences and publications, and nourishes us as the next generation of space law professionals, both academics and practitioners.  He is always eager to help us materialize student-initiated projects and provides us with valuable advice and all the necessary resources. Prof. Jakhu is always available to meet and provides insights that help improve our work and encourage forward thinking.  Inspiring as he is, he has the ability to answer substantial questions in a manner that does not only transfer knowledge but also enables deep and contextualized understanding of the issues. I am happy and honored to be working under his supervision!

Maria Manoli, current DCL student, Institute of Air and Space Law

In life, you meet many people; the influence and impact of just a few will endure with you forever. For me, my former thesis supervisor Professor Ram Jakhu continues to be a guiding star and guru. With his unique ability to fuse technical details with the intricacies of the law governing outer space, Professor Jakhu’s wealth of knowledge and experience shone through his lectures. Outside of class, he willingly made time for his students. In the face of great adversity and loss, Professor Jakhu was exceptionally supportive and compassionate as a supervisor and gave me the necessary time and space to finish my studies. Despite his many professional commitments, he never forgot to take the time for his students —even if it meant providing constructive comments and suggestions at wee hours of the day. His warmth, presence and dedication made me, and so many others, feel valued as a student and as an individual. It truly is a privilege to know him and to be supported and guided by a wonderful teacher and human being like Professor Jakhu. 

Dr. David Kuan-Wei Chen, Deputy Project Manager, Manual on International Law Applicable to Military Uses of Outer Space (MILAMOS) Project; Director of Publications at the McGill University Centre for Research in Air and Space Law

As a teacher, Prof Ram Jakhu is an inspirational figure for his students. As a supervisor, he can be a role model for all supervisors. He inspires not only through his vast knowledge of space law, but also through his meaningful engagement with his students and supervisees. His inspiration to think critically and to challenge him through novel arguments and innovative ideas aroused my interest in space law. He creates a welcoming environment for his students and supervisees, and shares his own experience to inspire them. He does not act like a teacher or supervisor; he acts like a friend who is always there to help. His groundbreaking ideas enabled me to think from diverse perspectives and, thereby, to develop my doctoral thesis. He is an outstanding teacher and supervisor as well as a virtuous human being. He is an asset not only to McGill University but also to the field of space law.

Dr. Md Tanveer Ahmad, Executive Director, McGill University Centre for Research in Air & Space Law; Assistant Professor, Department of Law, North South University, Bangladesh


Nancy Mayo, School of Physical and Occupational Therapy

“Graduate supervision is entirely about the student and not about the supervisor.”

 

Biography

I am a James McGill Professor in the Department of Medicine (Division of Geriatrics and Division of Clinical Epidemiology), School of Physical and Occupational Therapy. I was trained originally as a Physical Therapist and worked clinically for about 10 years before completing a PhD in Epidemiology and Biostatistics in 1986.  I lead a research program on Function, Disability and Quality of Life for Vulnerable Populations who are people with or at risk for disability, transient or permanent.  My research has contributed evidence towards ways of improving and measuring health outcomes.  I have supervised over 95 MSc and PhD students in Rehabilitation Science and Epidemiology and I have published over 250 scholarly works including papers that have advanced methods for clinical trials and measurement.  

Approach to graduate supervision

I consider it an honour and a privilege to supervise a graduate student. I take graduate student supervision very seriously as a young (or not so young) person has essentially committed to spend 2 (MSc) to 5 (PhD) years with me, at great expense to themselves and their families. Graduate supervision is entirely about the student and not about the supervisor, therefore, meeting the needs of students is paramount. My philosophy of supervision is reflected in the supervisory agreement I use in my research unit. A crucial starting point is to establish an appropriate working arrangement with the student that is both professional and personal and to establish proper communication and expectations among all team members, which in my case includes other graduate students, research assistants, data analysts, statisticians, and secretarial staff. The most difficult aspect of graduate work is to develop a well-defined thesis topic with objectives that are attainable within an acceptable time frame. Students need to learn two types of research approaches - (i) widget research; and (ii) creative research. Widget research answers questions that need to be answered, usually with standard methods, involving good research “hygiene” but with little need for creativity. These are low risk projects that produce safe publications and help a student build a CV and develop a skill base. Creative research is much more risky and teaches the student to think and to not be afraid of taking risks. This type of research needs to be undertaken in a safe environment such as an established research lab that has undertaken many of these high risk projects with success. That is what I offer students.

Testimonials

Dr. Nancy is everything but your “typical” supervisor and teacher. Her objective is not that her students finish a thesis, but rather develop the skills to be successful in a career that we love. Dr. Mayo is also an exemplar for women in academia. As a mother of two, she role-modelled how to balance work life and parenthood. She empowered me to be a strong female and mother in academia and reminded me that I was at my best when I was balanced and focused on what was important. Dr. Mayo taught me to never stand behind an expert, and to become the expert myself. She prepares all of her graduate students to conduct high-level research that is meaningful and can push the boundaries of the health field. As a new investigator building my own program of research, I am tremendously lucky to continue to call her my coach and mentor. 

Dr. Skye Barbic, Assistant Professor, University of British Columbia

I have been a student under Dr. Nancy E Mayo’s supervision for the past 8 years, for my Master’s and PhD. Dr. Mayo has played an incredible role in preparing me for a career in research. She never counts the hours spent with her students and will give us any time that is needed to fully understand what is needed. She does not shy away when something is not working and will tell as it is. On the other hand, she will spare no effort to find solutions to that problem. Being around her for all those years has built up so many skills that will be useful in the future, both professionally and personally. From the simple task of organizing what I know to find out what I don’t know, to collaborating and coordinating the efforts of many people, designing studies, collecting, organizing and analyzing data are all skills I learned from her. She is a truly great leader that has shaped nearly 30 researchers that are active today and has influenced so many more through her teachings, publications, presentations and implications. 

Dr. Vanessa Bouchard, MSc, PhD, Physiotherapist at Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux du Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean

Dr. Mayo was my MSc and PhD supervisor in Rehabilitation Sciences at McGill University. Dr. Mayo’s quality of supervision was immaculate. Her creativity, enthusiasm, thirst for knowledge, search for new innovative ideas, were constantly reflected in her style of supervision and interaction with students. She was an exemplary mentor in helping and providing professional guidance for all her students in their research. Dr. Mayo has always welcomed new strategies and ideas for the improvement of her students' academic performance. With her open door policy, she always gave utmost priority to all of her students. I am certain that all of her students will join me in thanking her for the excellent mentorship she has provided us during the pursuit of our academic career. 

Dr. Ayse Kuspinar, Assistant Professor, School of Rehabilitation Science, McMaster University


Stephen McAdams, Music

“I lead students to recognize their own authority in their field of specialty.”

 

Biography

I studied music composition and theory in California before turning to perceptual psychology at McGill (BSc, 1977). I then studied hearing and speech sciences at Stanford University (PhD, 1984). In 1986, I founded the Music Perception and Cognition team at IRCAM-Centre Pompidou in Paris and organized the first International Conference on Music and the Cognitive Sciences there in 1988. I was a research scientist in the French CNRS (1989-2004) and then returned to McGill as Canada Research Chair in Music Perception and Cognition. I am currently interested in developing a psychological foundation for a theory of musical orchestration.

Approach to graduate supervision

The research environment serves as an excellent teaching platform. Through the research enterprise, I teach students skills in communication and critical reasoning, collaboration and social interaction, article writing and reviewing, responding to and benefiting from oral and written criticism of their work, mentoring younger colleagues, organizing a research program, and lab management. The guiding principles in my supervisory approach include placing strong emphasis on imagination, rigour, method, and coherence across projects, on progressively acquiring individual autonomy, on learning how to organize one's work along several fronts simultaneously and to plan the different steps to be taken over time in an efficient manner, and on developing open-mindedness in an interdisciplinary environment. I find it essential to lead students into having a strong sense of self-esteem, recognizing their own authority in their field of specialty and learning how to project those qualities. I therefore privilege students being first author on joint publications. I feel that tailoring research projects to the interests and capabilities of students is crucial to optimizing their personal motivation in a research setting. During lab meetings, students present their research in various stages of completion (from initial ideas to completed projects) and receive constructive feedback from other lab members. This provides an excellent, safe forum for getting used to presenting in public and improving presentation skills. It also allows for one of the strongest features of my lab to emerge: cross-disciplinary fertilization due to the presence of students in music technology, music theory, composition, psychology, cognitive science and neuroscience.

Testimonials

As a supervisor, Professor McAdams’ continued support both of my work as a composer and as a scholar has provided me with invaluable guidance as I navigate my responsibilities as a creator, academic and scientific researcher. What sets Professor McAdams apart from other mentors with whom I have worked is his ability to understand and encompass the exceptionally broad range of interests and capabilities that are necessary to support the many facets of my research, combining technical, artistic, historical and critical investigations with a rigorous, empirically-based approach to scientific investigation. Professor McAdams has inspired me to change the way that I think about academic research, to embark on new projects in music perception and cognition, and to carry a passion for science, humanism and inquiry into my own work as a scholar, teacher, and leader. 

Moe Touizrar, current PhD candidate

As a supervisor, Stephen possesses an unusual combination of unwavering scientific rigor, profound intellectual openness, and warm approachability. Perhaps the most impressive of Stephen's uncommon talents as an advisor is his willingness to let his students define their own research projects, and his ability to let them create the necessary conditions for their success. Stephen is a conscientious and responsible advisor, who strives to makes himself available to his students. He is also the only advisor I know who meets students one-on-one on a weekly basis, a practice which affords an optimal environment for close mentoring and monitoring of their progress. In addition to these one-on-one meetings, weekly laboratory meetings provide students with numerous opportunities to present their work and receive valuable suggestions and comments from their colleagues. These meetings constitute an excellent preparation for presenting talks at international conference venues. Furthermore, Stephen regularly invites leading researchers in the field to visit the laboratory, giving students a unique opportunity to interact and discuss their research projects, sometimes on a one-on-one basis, with these luminaries.  

Dr. Bruno Gingras, University Assistant at the Institute of Psychology of the University of Innsbruck, Austria

It is a privilege and honour to study music perception and cognition with Dr. Stephen McAdams.  The intellectual climate of Dr. McAdams’ lab is both free and demanding: we are encouraged to choose our own projects following our interests, but are held to exacting standards of rigour.  Despite the overarching vision for the lab he so successfully implements as Principal Investigator, Dr. McAdams always provides us with the time, attention, and resources we need to see our own ideas to fruition.  He guides us with brilliance and generosity that extend far beyond what is required of a graduate supervisor.  I simply don’t know how he manages to supervise so many people, teach so many courses, conduct so many studies, deliver so many presentations, and yet answer my e-mails so quickly.  Although he is an internationally renowned giant in the field, he always prioritizes the needs and well-being of his students.

Jason Noble, current PhD candidate, composer


Bernhard Schwarz, Linguistics

“I am deeply involved in a student’s writing process.”

 

Biography

My academic career started in Germany, where in 1994 I received an MA degree in linguistics (and computer science and psychology) from the University of Tübingen. After receiving a PhD in linguistics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2000, I was a postdoctoral fellow at MIT and the University of Stuttgart, before becoming an Assistant Professor in linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin in 2001. In 2005, I moved to McGill, where I served as chair of the Department of Linguistics from 2010-2016. Since 2010, I have been associate editor of the Journal of Semantics.

Approach to graduate supervision

Students who begin to carry out their own research are confronted with a number of new and often daunting challenges. They have to find a topic, engage a relevant body of literature, develop a narrative, and eventually produce a publishable text. In theoretical linguistics, the central step of finding a topic essentially amounts to identifying a tractable problem. Understanding what exactly that means is perhaps the most difficult step for a graduate student to take; correspondingly, guiding students in gaining this understanding is among a supervisor's hardest tasks. My strategy in aiding this process is to give students ample time to explore, to promote their confidence in their own abilities, and to provide continuous support (in weekly meetings) to help them sift through and evaluate ideas. As I do not hand out ready-made topics, my role is primarily that of a critical guide. I aim to steer students in promising directions as needed, so as to maximize the chances of success, but I try not to impose my own agenda. Once a topic has emerged, I work very closely with students to develop the argument. I am also deeply involved in a student’s writing process. I bring to bear my experience as author, reviewer, and editor as they reach the stage of submitting manuscripts to journals, and I provide hands-on guidance and mentorship to students who face the difficult task of interpreting, coping with, and reacting to reviewers' comments and editors' decisions.

Testimonials

Bernhard Schwarz was my main academic advisor at McGill University from 2010 to 2014. A very characteristic feature of Bernhard's advising style is that he lets his advisee feel like his peer right from the start, which produces a tremendous inspiring and liberating effect. Bernhard never spared time to fully understand the patterns I presented, and seeing things through the prism of his vast expertise and inventive inquisitiveness each time made me gain a qualitatively different understanding of the problem. He also has a great organisational talent: by the end of each discussion, I knew exactly how to proceed. For a PhD student, few things are as satisfying as knowing which step to take next. My dissertation grew out of such discussions in a completely stress-free way. Bernhard's supportiveness extended to all areas of my academic life, including my own teaching skills, conference presentations, and job search. I am deeply grateful for being able to learn from and work with this scholar of outstanding expertise, discipline, and ethics. 

Dr. Alexandra Simonenko, Postdoctoral Fellow of the Research Foundation Flanders at Ghent University


Ada Sinacore, Educational and Counselling Psychology

“Being a good supervisor is being a good teacher.”

 

Biography

I am the Chair of the Gender, Sexuality, Feminist, and Social Justice Studies Program, the Director of the Social Justice and Diversity Research Lab, and an Associate Professor in Educational Counselling Psychology. I have over 20 years of experience working in the U.S., Canada, and abroad, and am internationally recognized for my expertise and extensive presentations and publications addressing social justice concerns at the individual, institutional, and policy level.  I have received numerous honors and awards. Notably, I will be receiving the Faculty of Education Award for Distinguished Teaching at the 2017 Convocation.

Approach to graduate supervision

I believe that inherent in being a good supervisor is being a good teacher. Thus, with regard to my thesis students, I meet with them as a group on a biweekly basis. In these meetings there is both a didactic component and a presentation component. That is, in each meeting I present on a topic relevant to all of the students research and professional development.  Also, in each session, students present a piece of the research on which they are working. This format gives the students the opportunity to work with me, and to learn from each other.  On the week that there is no lab meeting, I meet with thesis students on an individual basis.

Testimonials

Navigating through graduate school is a challenging process, especially for a female, ethnic minority, ESL student like myself.  Moreover, I gave birth to my children during my doctoral studies, which added further challenges to my academic pursuits.  However, whenever I need guidance and support, Ada was extremely generous with her time.  She is intelligent, empathetic, and understands the challenges of acculturation and of balancing personal and professional life.  Through dialogue, she assisted me in negotiating the landmines of power structures that exist in graduate training, and to integrate my professional role and other identities.  Since starting my current position, I keep discovering how well-prepared I am for the wide range of challenges as a new academic, for which Dr. Sinacore has played an integral role.  Dr. Sinacore is a dedicated, exceptional supervisor who makes a difference in the field and in the lives of her students. 

Dr. Kaori Wada, Assistant Professor, University of Calgary

Dr. Sinacore leads by example, integrating research and practice, while maintaining a sense of multicultural sensitivity.  Her research team is made up of culturally diverse individuals, and she models outstanding multicultural awareness in her supervisory style.  She often holds informal workshops regarding qualitative inquiry and scholarly writing in order for students to gain an understanding of how to conduct research for the purpose of engendering positive social change.  Lab members are also invited to work collaboratively with Dr. Sinacore on her numerous research projects, during which she instills an understanding of the research process in her students.  This invaluable experience has been integral in our own professional development, as we embark on research projects under her supervision.  Further, Dr. Sinacore often sets individual meetings with her students, and makes herself exceptionally available to meet their needs.  Without her support and supervision, we would not have achieved Doctoral Candidacy in our respective programs.  

Laura Copeland and Sarah Khayutin, current PhD candidates


Maryam Tabrizian, Dentistry

“I always try to facilitate discussion and dialogue with and among students.”

 

Biography

I started as Assistant Professor at the Biomedical Engineering Department cross-appointed with the Faculty of Dentistry in 2000 and became full professor in 2011. My research interest is in the field of biomaterials/biointerfaces for application in drug delivery systems, tissue engineering and biorecognition platforms. With my students, I have coauthored close to 200 peer-review publications, developed over 12 patents, and delivered over 320 conference communications. I founded the Centre for Biorecognition and Biosensors in 2001 that I directed until 2011. Since 2011, I have been the Associate Dean-Research and Graduate Studies at the Faculty of Dentistry and Editor-in-chief of Materials Journal-MDPI. 

Approach to graduate supervision

True learning results from active thinking. The learning skills that students develop during their training will be retained long beyond remembrance of many of the "facts" they acquire. It is my responsibility to actively involve my students in the learning process and encourage their natural curiosity, to allow them to expand their knowledge on their own and facilitate creative thinking that will serve them well beyond the classroom or lab work. The best learning occurs when students can personally relate to the subject matter and are actively involved in and enjoying the experience. As the instructor and supervisor, I always try to facilitate discussion and dialogue with and among students. The most important skill as an advisor is to develop the ability to strike the right balance between helping students make optimal choices in their work and providing them with enough freedom and encouragement to conduct research on their own. I try to promote active research dialog and open interaction with the students. To achieve this, I have regular meetings with students and maintain an open-door policy. I enjoy the stimulating environment that a research team provides and try to maintain a diverse group of research students. I also believe in the benefits of cooperation with other colleagues. I think co-advising students widens the research scope of each individual researcher and is beneficial to the faculty as well as to the students. 

Testimonials

As I reflect on my doctoral studies, I look back with fondness on the privileged experience of being supervised by Prof. Maryam Tabrizian. She has time and again proven to be a dynamic personality, cultivating academic excellence and encouraging creativity through a problem-based learning approach. Maryam intimately guides her students while allowing them the freedom to make mistakes, learn from these experiences and independently develop their own research skills. Maryam helped me become creative, passionate and most importantly, patient in my research and in life. I am confident today – as I ruminate on my experiences – that without her continuous multifaceted support, I may have abandoned my research when progress seemed hopelessly difficult. In this regard, Maryam was a defining figure in my career, as I remain to this day a researcher in field of medical devices, continuing in the trajectory defined during my PhD. 

Dr. Lidija Malic, Research Officer, National Research Council Canada

Dr. Tabrizian always managed to strike a fine balance between giving us the freedom to explore interesting research questions, and providing a structure with milestones to keep us on track. She met with us at least once a month, and was always available by email, sometimes responding at 1 or 5am. I remember one meeting a year and a half into my PhD when I was not able to produce any noteworthy results. It was the lowest point of my graduate studies and I was extremely frustrated. She gave me examples of previous students that also struggled but then had a turnaround of events and graduated with 5 or 6 publications. I left her office feeling encouraged, and lo and behold a few years later I graduated with 6 publications and 2 patent applications. Dr. Tabrizian was more than a supervisor; she was a mentor and a sounding board. I would not be where I am today without Dr. Tabrizian’s encouragement and guidance. She taught me to be bold, perseverant and creative.​ 

Dr. Mina Mekhail, Project Manager, Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery; Adjunct Professor, Biomedical Engineering, McGill

Professor Tabrizian is a kind, hard-working and very organized supervisor and it has been a pleasure working with her. She has always been available to clarify any aspect of my research project promptly and diligently, either by email, in person and even outside working hours. She reads and corrects manuscripts with efficiency and diligence, while giving objective feedback to improve the quality of my work. Moreover, she has always addressed the human aspect involved with the development of a Ph.D. project, providing advice when frustrations arise, and motivation to continue working despite herculean challenges. Professor Tabrizian pays particular attention to promoting her student’s research projects. She requires her students to attend at least one international conference a year, while encouraging participation in local symposiums and summer schools. I personally have benefited from working with Professor Tabrizian since she has provided enough structure to my Ph.D. project yet allowing enough independence. 

Francisco Rafael Castiello, PhD candidate, Biological and Biomedical Engineering

I received my PhD degree in January 2011 under the guidance of Prof. Maryam Tabrizian. Working in Prof. Tabrizian's lab was a great experience and an opportunity to engage in and initiate multiple research topics and collaborations. Dr. Tabrizian brings cutting-edge research projects to her students with a high rate of success in research funds applications. We also had many opportunities to attend national and international conferences, which are important for expanding professional networks and refining communication skills. Furthermore, Prof. Tabrizian’s lab attracts students and researchers with diverse majors, which helped me to broaden my knowledge. During my PhD, she encouraged, supported and pushed me to overcome all the challenges. Prof. Tabrizian will always be an inspiration.

Dr. Sania Mansouri, Consultant in analytical services and operations management, Cipharm, Abidjan

I joined Dr. Tabrizian’s lab in January 2009 as a PhD student. Before joining Dr. Tabrizian’s lab, I did my Master’s in mechanical engineering and, due to the nature of my project, I had developed a strong interest towards biomedical engineering. I remember when I first talked to Maryam to join her lab and explained to her that I had not done any biomedical research before. She replied, “if you have the potential and motivation you will learn and will become successful.” She saw the potential in me and motivated me to learn, to be innovative, to think out of the box, and to never give up. Maryam helped me throughout my PhD studies and beyond. She was not only a great scientific mentor but also provided me with required equipment, facilities and collaborations to succeed in my research. 

Tohid Didar, Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering, School of Biomedical Engineering, McMaster University