Manulife Fellowships Program

About the fellowships

The Manulife Fellowship Fund for the Promotion of Active Health was established in 2011 to recognize outstanding incoming PhD students at McGill.

Eligibility and evaluation criteria

In order to be eligible, candidates must be either doctoral students or postdoctoral fellows entering or enrolled at the University whose research is related to the convergence of health and economics. Each year, starting in the 2017-2018 academic year and ending in the 2018-2019 academic year, two recipients will be selected by the Desautels Faculty, upon the recommendation of the Scientific Director of the MCCHE. For more information about the Manulife Fellowships, please email mcche.mgmt [at]

2019 Manulife Fellowship Recipient

Dominique Welt

Dominique Welt is a first year PhD student in the Information Systems area of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University. He is returning to the Faculty after obtaining his Bachelor of Commerce in 2010. Before coming back to McGill, he spent 8 years in the industry as an information systems consultant during which he completed an MBA at Université Laval.

Under the supervision of Dr. Geneviève Bassellier, he has taken up interest in behavioural economics and his doctoral work will aim to advance digital consumer decision support design and policies in persuasive communications in health and lifestyle domains. The project will investigate the effect of different types of consumer knowledge on real-time decision making processes and integration into more effective digital health support. The completion of his Ph.D program will allow him to acquire the knowledge and methods necessary in order to take on future challenges relating to decision support system design, consumer education policies and creating, sharing and applying knowledge.

2017 Manulife Fellowship Recipients

2017 Manulife Fellowship Recipients

Neha Sharma

Neha Sharma is a Phd student in the department of bioresource engineering at McGill University. Before joining McGill University, Neha completed her masters in biochemical engineering from Hartcourt Butler Technological University in India. She also did her bachelors from India in biotechnology.

Here at McGill University, under the supervision of Prof. Valerie Orsat and Prof. Laurette Dube, Neha will be working in the field of food product innovation with the idea of developing non-dairy pulse-based beverage which could be a good substitute to the conventional milk which could not be consumed many people specially suffering from condition like lactose intolerance.

Faith Wanyu Li

Faith Wanyu Li is a PhD student in the marketing area of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University. She joins the program after finishing undergraduate study in Hotel Management at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and graduate studies in Big Data Marketing at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Under the supervision of Dr. Yu Ma and Dr. Laurette Dube, she has been working on understanding both environmental and intrinsic factors that influence consumers’ choice and preference towards brands. Her projects collaborate with well-known food manufacturers that aim to not only improve industry practice but also promote a healthier food environment and lifestyle to the consumers.

Through her Ph.D studies, she hopes to gain insights into retail strategies, sustainable food systems using quantitative methods.

2015 Bloomberg Manulife Fellowship Recipients

Vita Sonjak

I am a first year PhD student at the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education at McGill University. In the process of completing my PhD degree, under the supervision of Dr. Russell Hepple, I will investigate the mechanisms behind the progressive loss of muscle mass with aging and the degree to which males and females are similarly impacted.

Through my Bachelor’s study of Biomedical Sciences I developed a heightened interest in nutrition, metabolism and muscle function. Because I wanted to gain more knowledge in this field I worked as a volunteer at the Institute of Oncology, Ljubljana, Slovenia at the Department for Clinical Nutrition. I learnt the importance of nutritional supplementation and physical activity for the treatment of cancer patients. The combination of the latter work and my curiosity for processes operating on cellular/molecular levels and their systemic effects inspired me even more to focus my education into research. Furthermore, my lifetime involvement in sports, especially in swimming, represents another reason why I am so interested in this area of research.

During my Master’s program I participated in research projects focusing on skeletal muscle metabolic dysfunction. Through my internships I have learned the importance of skeletal muscle function and the health-beneficial effects of exercise in an aging muscle as well as in a course of a disease and its outcome. During the Master’s program I got the opportunity to propose my own research project with a research proposal where I made it to the final interview round. After this I knew that conducting research in exercise physiology is the right path for me, which brought me from Slovenia through the Netherlands and finally to Canada at McGill University.

The Manulife Bloomberg Fellowship will help me to achieve my research goals, to follow my passion and to develop into an independent young researcher. Even more, I will get the chance to further promote the awareness of active lifestyle and how exercise is an important part of healthy aging.

Ricarda Haeger

I recently fast tracked into a PhD program in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education after one year in a Master’s degree. After taking a graduate level course on Exercise Science during my undergraduate studies in Physiology here at McGill, I developed an interest for muscle physiology.

As part of Dr. Dilson Rassiers Muscle Physiology and Biophysics laboratory, I work on muscle cell units on a microscopic level. With the help of atomic force microscopy I study the biophysical properties and cellular mechanics of single muscle fibrils.

More specifically my current project is looking at muscle fibers from hearts with Cardiomyopathy, a prevalent genetic disease that affects young adults and is widely unknown. Over the course of my PhD studies I am hoping to find out more about the mechanism underlying this condition, in order to further research on preventative measures for the fatal outcomes of those affected.

2014 Bloomberg Manulife Fellowship Recipients

Samantha Taran

Image by Nicolas Morin.
Samantha Taran was awarded the Manulife Bloomberg Fellowship in her first year of PhD study in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, where she is pursuing her passion: research in the fields of physical activity and health promotion, especially to the benefit of elderly populations.

Under the supervision of Dr. Tanja Taivassalo, Samantha is conducting a research project exploring the benefits of physical activity on cognitive and physical function in elderly individuals, and the underlying mechanisms explaining this relationship. Volunteering as a research assistant in Exercise and Health Psychology and Clinical Exercise Physiology during her BSc sparked her interest in the health and exercise sciences, and her Master’s degree studies led her to recognize the potential these fields offered to the rapidly aging population.

Early in her academic career, Samantha developed a keen enthusiasm for academic inquiry both qualitative and quantitative, and she already has a number of scholarly conference presentations and a publication to her name.

“Because of this amazing opportunity which I’ve been given,” she says, “I will have the chance to continue to develop practical and innovative research questions as I go on to complete a doctoral degree in Exercise Physiology at McGill University.”

2013 Bloomberg Manulife Fellowship Recipients

Yu-Shu Cheng

Yu-Shu Cheng is a PhD candidate whose studies are focused on the molecular and cellular metabolism of physiological muscle mechanisms and force regulation. He is exploring these subjects through his work in the Muscle Physiology and Biophysics Laboratory, headed by Dean of Education Dilson Rassier. The laboratory is an optimal learning environment for Yu-Shu, as it affords its graduate students the opportunity to work with advanced microscopy and optics, new technologies based on micro and nanofabrication, as well as an array of experimental preparations, all with the goal of understanding the mechanisms by which muscle molecules interact to cause muscle contraction under different situations.

Yu-Shu came to McGill following his completion of a Master’s degree in Cell and Molecular Biology at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and his appreciation for biotechnology and biophysics have proven useful as he moves into the Kinesiology and Physiology field.

He says, “My path to research success would be much more difficult without the kind support of the Bloomberg Manulife Fellowship. I truly appreciate the willingness with which the donors support health and well-being, as well as encourage students to continuously improve. Without their help, our accomplishments would not be possible.”

Ryan Reid

Ryan Reid is a longtime McGill student, having studied for both his Bachelor’s and his Master of Science degrees in McGill’s Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education. In the spring of 2013, Ryan was given the opportunity to fast-track to the PhD program, and his ongoing thesis project focuses on implementing a physical activity intervention for severely obese individuals about to undergo bariatric weight-loss surgery, then assessing factors that could affect their activity level post-procedure.

Ryan has been involved in numerous health-related research studies, involving varied clinical populations such as the severely obese, individuals with spinal cord injuries, and patients with Multiple Sclerosis. He describes these challenging opportunities as “a privilege,” and has valued the chance to hone skills coordinating research for and assessing health markers in widely different patient populations.

In addition to his schoolwork, Ryan promotes the benefits of physical activity as a volunteer trainer for elderly and disabled members of the community. He devotes additional time to the Canadian Obesity Network (CON), in which he is an active member, a reflection of his commitment to educating the public about the risks posed by obesity.

Of being awarded the Bloomberg Manulife Fellowship, Ryan says, “I feel truly honoured to have been selected for this award, which will be instrumental in achieving my goals of academic excellence, conducting meaningful research, completing my doctoral degree, and promoting active living throughout the upcoming years.”

2012 Bloomberg Manulife Fellowship Recipients

Hiram Cantú

Hiram Cantú is a first-generation graduate of the Biomedical Engineering program of the University of Monterrey in Mexico. He recently completed a Masters degree in Biomechanics and Ergonomics in the department of Kinesiology and Physical Education at McGill, supported by a scholarship obtained by the National Council for Science and Technology of Mexico.

Hiram says he feels strongly about helping those with physical disabilities who do not have the financial resources to receive treatment or rehabilitation. Hiram says he came to McGill because he wanted to attend an outstanding university with world-class post-graduate programs. His doctoral project focuses on understanding and detecting the effects of fatigue on posture-movement coordination in patients with Parkinson’s disease. His research is conducted partly in the OBEL (Occupational Biomechanics and Ergonomics Lab) at Laval’s Jewish Rehabilitation Hospital, where, until now, no research involving this group of patients existed.

He says: “The Bloomberg Manulife Fellowship provides me with the opportunity to continue my academic and professional training. This fellowship is not for the satisfaction and support of one person, but comes with the possibility of helping many people in the future. I remember the motto I learned growing up: Homo Hominis in Servitio Perficitur – “in the service of man, man is perfected” – and I am convinced that one of the greatest professional satisfactions in this life is to help people with a disability and see their faces light up with joy when they notice that their quality of life has improved.”

William Falcao

William Falcao began his PhD in Sport Psychology in the department of Kinesiology and Physical Education at McGill this September.

During his Masters degree in sports psychology at McGill, William developed and implemented a program that taught instructors and trainers the principles of positive coaching, which involved creating activities that promoted health, education, and empowering women. His findings are currently in the process of being published, and he has presented at professional conferences in Canada and the U.S.

Growing up in Brazil, William became a strong advocate for physical activity as a tool to promote positive lifestyles among youth. The work William studied during his Masters influenced the topic for his PhD dissertation, which investigates a newly developed, yet under-studied, coaching technique called the “Athlete-Centred Approach” (ACA). He is hoping to develop and implement an ACA training program for youth sport.

In addition to his research, William is a volunteer consultant for the McGill men’s soccer team, and a college basketball coach. He also works for a physical activity camp on the Kahnawake Mohawk reserve, where he is training coaches and instructors to foster positive outcomes such as health, well-being and self-confidence.

2011 Bloomberg Manulife Fellowship Recipients

Jeff Caron

Jeff Caron is from Moncton, New Brunswick, and holds a BA in Human Kinetics from St. Francis Xavier University, and an MA in Sport Psychology from McGill. Thanks to the Bloomberg Manulife Fellowships, Jeff is pursuing doctoral research focused on the psychological aspects of concussions. 

His research looks at how the psychological symptoms of concussions can impact an individuals’ well-being and quality of life. His previous work, as part of his Masters Degree at McGill, found that former professional ice hockey players experienced a variety of psychological symptoms as a result of career ending concussions which disrupted their daily functioning, and adversely affected relationships with their families. These findings have influenced his PhD research which will examine various social and psychological factors affecting concussed youth sport athletes.

He says: "The goal of my doctoral work is to create an education program for coaches, parents, and athletes, as well as teach coping skills that will assist concussed youth in their recovery."

"Obtaining this financial award has allowed me to continue studying sport psychology at McGill, which is one of the few institutions where psychology of concussion research is being conducted. In addition, the Bloomberg-Manulife fellowship has given me the unique opportunity to collaborate with a multidisciplinary group of world leaders who specialize in psychological, neurological, and medical aspects of concussion research."

Fennigje Purves-Smith

Fennigje Purves-Smith from Carstairs, Alberta, is studying skeletal-muscle aging.

She is interested in the significant loss of muscle mass and function that occurs as a result of aging, as well as the decreased physical ability and quality of life of the elderly. As Canada’s population ages, muscle loss will impact an increasing proportion of people – from older individuals who suffer from this loss, to their (often younger) caregivers. Lifelong exercise training is known to protect against losses in muscle mass and function, but little is known about the cellular mechanisms that cause this protection. One possibility being explored is that exercise helps to maintain communication between the nervous system, which controls muscle movement, and the muscles themselves. 

Ms. Purves-Smith's PhD research explores this possibility by examining the molecular pathways involved in maintaining communication between the nervous system and muscles, and how these pathways change with age and lifelong exercise training.

She says: "Receiving a Bloomberg Manulife Fellowship for the Promotion of Active Health has allowed me to fully immerse myself in the rich research environment at McGill University without the financial obligations that distract many graduate students. As a result, I have made significant inroads into the research community; working with many other research labs in Montreal and internationally, gaining significant technical experience and contributing to several different research projects that I might not be able to otherwise. In this regard, the receiving a Bloomberg Manulife Fellowship benefits my career as a young scientist which far exceeds the fellowship’s monetary value."



McGill Centre for the Convergence of Health and Economics (MCCHE)

Desautels Faculty of Management

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