News Release: Three grad students win top Canadian research award

May 13th, 2010 · No Comments · News Release, Students, graduate studies

A trio of graduate students at the U of M will tackle research dealing with some of today’s pressing questions. To do so, they’ll receive financial help from the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships program.

The U of M’s Renée El-Gabalawy, Julia Gamble, and Oleksandr Maizlish are among this year’s recipients of this prestigious scholarship, which is considered the Canadian equivalent to the United Kingdom’s Rhode’s Scholarship.

The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship is a tool to recruit and retain top doctoral students from across Canada and around the world. Each of the 174 winners across the country will receive $50,000 annually for up to three years to assist them during their studies. Canada’s three federal granting agencies – the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council – administer the scholarships.

They 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.

“I congratulate our recipients, who have been recognized as being among the world’s top students. They are well deserving of this prestigious honour. We are very proud of them,” said John (Jay) Doering, dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies at the University of Manitoba.

“Our recipients are certainly leaders. I am proud of their accomplishments thus far and look forward to what comes next,” added Digvir Jayas, vice-president (research) at the University of Manitoba.

Clinical psychology PhD student Renée El-Gabalawy will analyze volumes of data to find out if there is a link between physical health problems and mental disorders and whether this has negative implications in men and women age 55-plus. She wants to know if physical health conditions such as arthritis and cardiovascular disease trigger anxiety disorders in seniors. El-Gabalawy is among few researchers in the world to have access to a comprehensive American database and will also use health data gathered in Canada. If she discovers a strong link, these findings could help health professionals better recognize and treat their patients’ psychiatric needs.

Anthropology PhD student Julia Gamble wants to better understand if and how our health in childhood affects our health as adults. She’ll analyze the enamel on the teeth of the remains of a large Danish medieval population who experienced significant socio-economic change. Growth lines in the enamel reveal if and when our bodies were under stress. Enamel formation is disrupted when our bodies are fighting disease, a parasitic infection or even nutritional deficiency. She is the first to look at both the surface and the internal microstructure of tooth enamel. Gamble will compare her findings with health information about the given population recorded in historical literature. Her quest to figure out if a connection exists between our health as kids and our health later in life includes determining how that might affect our longevity.

Mathematics PhD student Oleksandr Maizlish will be working on several approximation theory applications which can be applied to image processing. He is aiming to find methods that will allow efficient mathematical processing of images (either the fastest or with best compression ratios). Recently, new methods, so-called adaptive approximation methods, began to be used in image processing and data compression. The spike in the development of these methods is due to the discovery of wavelet transform (incorporated in the image compression standard JPEG2000). However, there are some examples that show deficiencies of these algorithms. Maizlish plans to work on the development of new algorithms that will be competitive with the wavelet approach while lacking those deficiencies.

The scholarship 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.

For more information, please contact: Katie Chalmers-Brooks, research communications officer, University of Manitoba, Tel: 204-474-7184

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