PhD students awarded Vanier scholarships worth $150,000

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Two Waterloo Engineering doctoral students will receive federal funding to support their research into the treatment of soft biological tissue disease and the separation of organic solvents to help reduce the industrial carbon footprint.  

Arya Amiri (systems design engineering) and Sharafat Ali (chemical engineering) have each won a prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship valued at $150,000 – $50,000 per year for three years during their doctoral studies. 

They are among five 2023 scholarship recipients at the University of Waterloo and 166 new Vanier scholars at institutions across Canada.  

François-Philippe Champagne, the minister of innovation, science and industry, said the recipients “...are doing the groundbreaking work that will contribute not only to Canada’s health and well-being but also to the world’s.  

"Through this funding, the Government of Canada is investing in the next generation of researchers and inspiring them to continue to think outside the box and tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow,” he said in a media release.  

Amiri, who is supervised by Dr. Taisiya Sigaeva came to Canada in 2022 with degrees from universities in Iran. He chose Waterloo Engineering for his doctoral studies so that he could pursue his chosen research in biomedical engineering.  

Amiri’s research aims to advance our understanding of the relationship between the structure, function and properties of soft biological tissues such as the skin and the aorta. His work looks at improving the diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of diseases related to these tissues such as aortic aneurysms and skin wounds.  

Personal experience played a significant role in shaping his interest in this field.  

“I was diagnosed with cancer and endured excruciating chemotherapy sessions,” said Amiri. “This inspired my research which will lead to better treatments and thus, contribute to human wellbeing. 

Amiri plans to establish his own research group as an assistant professor – he sees receiving the Vanier scholarship as a significant step towards realizing this goal.   

Ali, who is co-supervised by Dr. Xianshe Feng and Dr. Shunde Yin, immigrated to Canada in 2018 with degrees from universities in Pakistan and China.  

His research is focused on finding a more cost-effective and environment-friendly approach to the separation of organic solvents.  

“Pharmaceutical, food, and chemical industries consume large quantities of organic solvents and use separation processes that require evaporation and distillation – these processes are costly, energy-intensive and produce a large carbon footprint,” said Ali.  

“I'm working on an alternative technology and more efficient solution that involves the development of nanocomposite membranes for the separation and recycling of organic solvents.” 

Ali is confident that his work will make a meaningful contribution to society, particularly now that he is a Vanier Scholar and can focus on his research with less financial stress. 

The Vanier scholarship program was created by the federal government in 2008 to help Canadian institutions attract and retain highly qualified doctoral students. 

Go to Waterloo celebrates Vanier scholars for the University announcement.  

The Vanier Scholarship is one of the external awards available to prospective Waterloo Engineering graduate students to support their studies.