Engineering students receive prestigious Vanier scholarships

Posted on August 12, 2020

Approximately 160 graduate students receive the highly prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Government of Canada each year. This year, three students from Queen’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science are recipients, recognizing groundbreaking work that ranges from looking inside the body to exploring outer space.

Erin Lee headshot

Despite each recipient coming from different departments within the faculty, they are each doing applicable, world-class research. Erin Lee, a graduate student in Mechanical and Materials Engineering, has been interested in biomechanics since her undergrad here at Queen’s, where she competed as a varsity swimmer and worked as a summer student in the Skeletal Observation Lab (SOL). “I became immediately passionate about this research because it combined all of my interests,” she says. “The graduate students were also very collaborative, and the experience was instrumental in my decision to pursue a PhD in this field.” Her PhD research is centered around how the shape of the bones comprising the shoulder joint affect the mechanical function of the joint. The Vanier scholarship will allow to her to continue her work using techniques such as three-dimensional x-ray videography and computer modelling to create connections between shoulder shape and injury risk, and to better understand human evolution.

Thomas Sears headshot

Thomas Sears took a different route to PhD studies in Electrical and Computer Engineering. After studying space systems engineering at Carleton and the University of Toronto for his bachelors and master’s degrees, he pursued a career in industry where he designed and tested space devices, some of which are in space even now. Thomas sat down to talk about his research and goals for his PhD with Ingenuity Labs in a video that will be released later this month. “In my PhD I am hoping to contribute to the global effort of planetary exploration,” Thomas said. “I would like to help Canada bolster its position as a world leader in space robotics.” Receiving this scholarship has validated Thomas’s beliefs that space exploration is critical for Canada, and he feels incredibly lucky to be a Vanier Scholar.

Mona Kanso headshot

Mona Kanso came to Queen’s for her master’s and current PhD work in the Chemical Engineering department after completing her undergrad in her home country of Lebanon. Her research focus for her PhD is rheology and polymer processing; how changing the structure of a polymer or macromolecule can impact its behaviour in products such as plastics and cosmetics. Currently, Mona is using her knowledge in the field to do applicable research in relation to COVID-19. “I am studying how the COVID-19 virus particle rotates to dock and attach itself to its target cells,” says Mona. “This project will show how rheologists can contribute to virology and biology by using what we know of the mathematical physics of polymers to understand how COVID-19 infects.” She is honored to have received the Vanier CGS and hopes to continue contributing to the research community, “I’m continually challenged to trouble-shoot, analyze and think more deeply, which makes me grow as an individual every single day!”

Whether at the microscope or at the telescope, these graduate students continue a long, proud tradition of Vanier scholars at Queen’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.