Last week, this year's Vanier Scholarship award winners were announced. Among the prestigious group were three Faculty of Science graduate students, including Christian Ieritano (Chemistry), Finnian Gray (Physics and Astronomy), and Spencer Weinstein (Biology).
The three scholars will each receive $50,000 over three years from the Natural Science and Research Council (NSERC). The Vanier Scholarships were developed by NSERC to attract and retain world-class doctoral students from around the world and to establish Canada as a global centre of excellence in research and higher learning. Vanier scholars are chosen based on their academic excellence, research potential, and leadership qualities.
Ieritano, a PhD student working with Professor Scott Hopkins, will be using this scholarship to further his research of rapid molecule testing and prediction to aid in the drug discovery process. Traditionally, screening for appropriate and effective pharmaceutical drug molecules has been a long and expensive process. Ieritano is working on a system which uses Differential Mobility Spectrometry (DMS) to quickly characterize molecules, and then uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to accurately predict which molecules are likely candidates for drug development. This combination of techniques, pioneered by the Hopkins lab, has the potential to significantly increase the speed and reduce the cost of drug discovery.
“It’s nice to be recognized for doing research that others can see the benefit in,” said Ieritano. This award will allow him to travel to international conferences - when that’s an option again after COVID-19!