Four more to be reckoned with
New Vanier Scholars receiving major grants to study subjects as varied as nutritional foods, crop disease, pollution and genocide
For the first time, not one or two, but four University of Manitoba graduate students in a single year are recipients of 2015 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships.
The recipients of these prestigious awards are: Chigbo Arthur Anyaduba, from English, film and theatre in the Faculty of Arts; Ifeanyi D. Nwachukwu, from human nutritional sciences in the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences; Michael Becker, from biological sciences in the Faculty of Science; and Jonathan Challis, from chemistry in the Faculty of Science.
These awards, considered the Canadian equivalent of the United Kingdom’s Rhodes Scholarships, help recruit and keep in Canada top doctoral students from across the country and around the world. Each recipient will receive $150,000 over three years towards his or her research.
Chigbo Arthur Anyaduba is studying representations of genocide and atrocities, understanding how literature and storytelling are important mechanisms for seeking justice, healing and peace in the aftermath of horrendous experiences. Given the impossibility of legally punishing the huge number of perpetrators of genocides, sometimes telling the stories is the only way of documenting the malfeasance and introducing victims’ and perpetrators’ perspectives into post-conflict reconciliatory mechanisms. Anyaduba intends to examine representations of genocidal atrocities in Africa generally, but with a specific focus on Nigeria and Rwanda. He wonders if telling the stories can facilitate healing from traumatic experiences, and what role stories play in seeking reconciliation and justice.
Ifeanyi D. Nwachukwu is investigating how blood pressure-lowering bioactive peptides (BAPs) from flaxseed (a crop of vital economic importance to Canada) are absorbed from the intestines into the blood circulation. BAPs can prevent hypertension, a risk factor in stroke, heart diseases and other related disease conditions such as kidney failure. Results from the study will help in the formulation of functional foods and nutraceuticals (novel foods with health-promoting properties) which will be used in the prevention, delay, control and/or management of elevated blood pressure and associated health conditions. This will also contribute to Canada’s economy by raising the health-promoting and economic value of flaxseed, reducing the millions of dollars spent on drugs and patient care, and increasing the proportion of the country’s healthy workforce.
Michael Becker is studying canola, one of Canada’s most profitable crops, generating 249,000 jobs and $19.3 billion for the Canadian economy each year. However, it is at risk of crop disease such as blackleg, which causes $1.5 billion in crop loss annually across the globe. Becker is examining how canola defends itself against crop disease, using laser microdissection and next-generation sequencing to profile defense molecules directly at the site of infection. The information discovered in this project will lead to the development of new varieties of plants that are better able to withstand disease.
Jonathan Challis is studying the behaviour and effects of organic contaminants such as pesticides and pharmaceuticals in impacted surface waters. Challis is developing a non-mechanical, simple, cheap device to be deployed in environmental systems to passively sample chemicals of interest continuously over a defined deployment time. His research will result in a widely applicable passive sampling method to characterize more effectively the occurrence and exposure of such chemicals, leading to better exposure estimates and ecological risk assessment, wastewater treatment design, and water protection.
“All four of these students have demonstrated a high calibre of research excellence and we are very proud of them,” said John (Jay) Doering, vice-provost (graduate education) and dean of graduate studies at the U of M. “They are leaders and role models whose research will have an impact in Manitoba and beyond. We wish them every success in their endeavours.”
The Vanier Scholarships recognize students who demonstrate leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement in graduate studies in the social sciences and humanities, natural sciences and engineering, and health. Students are nominated by their university. Nominees are evaluated by multi-disciplinary peer-review committees and selected by a board composed of world-renowned Canadian and international experts.
“The research undertaken by these graduate students will have a direct impact on our lives,” added Digvir Jayas, vice-president (research and international) at the U of M. “I congratulate them on receiving this highly competitive and prestigious award which supports their research journey here at the U of M.”
The four U of M recipients are among 166 national 2015 recipients of the Vanier Scholarships, bringing the U of M’s total to 17 Vanier scholars awarded during the last seven years.
The scholarships are administered by Canada’s three federal granting agencies: the Canadian Institutes of Health Research; the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada; and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
The Vanier program honours distinguished Canadian soldier and diplomat Major-General the Right Honourable Georges Philias Vanier (1888-1967), who served as Governor General of Canada from 1959 to 1967.