Earth and Environmental Sciences’ graduate student wins President’s Outstanding Scholar-Athlete Award

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

2015 President’s Outstanding Scholar-Athlete Award winners with President Feridun Hamdullahpur.President Feridun Hamdullahpur honoured Waterloo’s highest achieving athletes last week with the announcement of the 2015 President’s Outstanding Scholar-Athlete Awards.

Jennifer Mead, a Master’s student in Earth and Environmental Sciences, earned the top female graduate student designation with a 93 per cent grade point average while playing varsity field hockey for the Waterloo Warriors. She tied with Hella-Franziska Hoffman (squash), a PhD candidate in Computer Science.

Mead credits her academic success in part to her participation in sports.

Any physical activity is a great outlet,” says Mead. “But field hockey has really given me the structure I needed to stay on track. My coach, Maria Leahy, and my teammates have been amazing.”

Jennifer Mead (left) playing field hockey for the Waterloo Warriors against Dalhousie University.Jennifer Mead (left) playing field hockey for the Waterloo Warriors against Dalhousie University. Photo credit: Kaylee Lock-O'Connor.

When Mead’s not training or on the road with the team, she’s conducting field and laboratory research with Professor Sherry Schiff, head of the Watershed Biogeochemistry Lab.

I came to Waterloo because of its outstanding reputation in water research,” says Mead, “but also because of Dr. Schiff; she has been a terrific advisor. I’ve learned so much from both her and my colleagues in the lab. My research has felt like a huge team effort.”

Her project focuses on how dissolved organic carbon in stream water degrades when it enters lakes. The goal of this research is to explain an important gap in our understanding of why some of this carbon goes to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and some goes into the lake sediments.

We know there’s a huge pool of dissolved organic carbon in lakes,” says Mead. “But some of the transport mechanisms between sources and sinks don’t add up.”

Understanding exactly what’s happening with this tea-coloured form organic carbon has implications for contaminant transport, lakes recovering from acidification, increasing lake water temperatures in the summer, and climate change modeling.

For the past two years, Mead has been conducting experiments in the lab using samples collected from Yellowknife NWT, Lake 239 at the Experimental Lakes Area in northwestern Ontario, Dorset (Ontario), and the Grand River.

Her preliminary results indicate that while photodegradation is likely an important process that changes stream organic carbon, she hasn’t been able to generate significant particulate organic carbon from this reaction.

Mead is continuing to study the effect of other important environmental parameters such as iron and pH as well as investigating how these parameters affect the ways we measure dissolved organic carbon colour.

She plans to complete her Master’s degree by Summer 2016.

The other winners of the President’s Outstanding Scholar Athletes Award include Chemical Engineering undergraduate Alexandra McGowan (cross country/track), Physics undergraduate Reid Hayes (cross country/track), and Math MSc student Anthony Spanopulos (soccer).

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