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April 25, 2002 Students bring home the NSERC grants



by Elysia Pitt

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) gives their post-graduate scholarships to only the very best Canadian students. This year, Concordia scholars are taking home 13 of these awards, with a combined value of over $450,000.

It was announced this month that nine Concordia students will receive the NSERC Post-Graduate Scholarship. Winners in the PGS-A category are Alina Andreevskaia, Travis Chalmers, Tomer Curiel, Martino Freda, Igor Khavkine, James Magee, Neil Neville, Andrei-Dragosh Radulescu and Meral Shirazipour. For these new graduates, the PGS-A is worth a total of $34,600 for their first two years of study.

Four more Concordia graduates have been offered the NSERC PGS-B scholarship, which is given to students who have already completed two years of post-graduate work. The PGS-B is valued at $38,200 over two years of study. Chris Boyer, Tamara Demke, Yi Lu, and Jun Zhou have each won one of these awards, making this year’s grand total of 13 scholarships more than 40 per cent higher than last year’s total.

The success of Concordia students does not surprise John Capobianco, Vice-Dean of Research and International Relations for the Faculty of Arts and Science. “Concordia is becoming a major player in many research areas,” he said, and he expects this trend to continue. This is crucial because NSERC does not give out scholarships on high grades alone; students are expected to demonstrate strong research abilities as well.

Along with every NSERC application, a student must submit a brief plan for future research. According to Georgios Vatistas, Associate Dean of Graduate Programs and Research for the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Sciences, receiving an NSERC means that “the work being done is recognized as relevant to society and coincides with the mission of our nation.”

Tamara Demke, who has been offered the PGS-B scholarship, is inclined to agree.

“In psychology, you’re competing against people in biology and engineering. This award says that the areas of psychology doing basic research are in the same realm as some of the other natural sciences.” Demke studies infant cognitive planning under the supervision of Diane Poulin-Dubois, in the Psychology Department’s Centre for Research in Human Development.

Psychology is not the only department whose researchers are being rewarded. Chris Boyer, in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, has been offered a PGS-B. For Boyer, the NSERC award is all about support. “I don’t have to worry about my finances,” he said. “I can just concentrate on the research.” It was his work in laser spectroscopy under the supervision of Capobianco that impressed the NSERC committee.

Another NSERC PGS-B grad was quick to point out that while the financial side was important to her, the award represented more than that. “It is a great honour,” said Yi Lu, “and it is also a pressure. I have to continue to do my very best.” Lu studies risk theory in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics under the guidance of José Garrido. When asked about her future plans, Lu was positive that research was going to be a part of her life.

Boyer and Demke agree. Demke hopes to balance clinical work with her love of research, while Boyer finds himself angling towards an academic future. Boyer pointed out that “NSERC means a lot if you carry on into academia — it can help you get even more grants.”

More grants are exactly what Concordia researchers and administrators are hoping for. Capobianco would like to see the university move further towards the integration of research and teaching. “The two fit together,” he said, emphasizing that research is on the rise at Concordia, giving the university’s researchers a bigger share of NSERC grants.