GRADflix 2021 finalists

Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs received a record number of GRADflix submission for the 2020-2021 competition year, and we're happy to present this year's 25 finalists!

Learn more about each of our finalists below, and find out the results of the GRADflix 2021 Showcase on the GRADflix hall of fame page. 

Adam Grottoli head shot

Name and program: Adam Grottoli, MSc student, Biology

GRADflix video titleBats and methylmercury (YouTube)

Supervisor: Dr. Hugh Broders

Biography: Adam Grottoli is currently completing his MSc degree, researching the ecology and ecotoxicology of bats. Before coming to Waterloo, Adam graduated with a HBSc in Biology and Environmental Science from McMaster University. He has also spent time in New Zealand, where he helped conduct avian research on the ecology of the Pukeko bird. In his spare time, you might catch Adam on the ski slopes, rock climbing, knitting, camping, or listening to music.


Anika Chiang head shot

Name and program: Anika Chiang, MSc Student, Geography and Environmental Management

GRADflix video title: Nutrient leaching in agriculture (YouTube)

Supervisor: Dr. Merrin Macrae

Biography: Anika Chiang is a first-year master's student in the Geography (Water) program at the University of Waterloo, working under the supervision of Merrin Macrae. She chose this program because it aligns with her research interests, which can be summarized by five keywords: hydrology, watersheds, agriculture, climate change and wetlands. She completed her undergraduate degree at McMaster University in Biology and Environmental Sciences with a minor in Geographic Information Systems. Outside of academics, she is also an athlete, artist, and adventurist.


Anna Murynka head shot

Name and program: Anna Murynka, MA student, Psychology

GRADflix video title: Mediums for self-help (YouTube)

Supervisor: Dr. Colin Ellard

Biography: For her undergraduate degree at UBC, Anna Murynka studied environmental design (architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design). After five years working in the film industry as a science fiction set designer, Anna joined Dr. Colin Ellard's Urban Realities Lab as a cognitive neuroscience graduate student. Anna is researching immersive environments as a tool for self-help. She is known on the internet as @ahnmur.


Ben Szoller

Name and program: Ben Szoller, PhD candidate, Religious Studies

GRADflix video titleCatholic social and ecological teaching in Canadian farming communities (YouTube)

Supervisor: Dr. David Seljak 

Biography: Ben Szoller is a PhD candidate in the Department of Religious Studies. Before studying at the University of Waterloo, he earned degrees in fine art, education and, more recently, a Master of Theological Studies (University of Toronto) with a specialization in theology and ecology. Ben’s research interests include agricultural ethics and the relationship between religious organizations and government policy. When not studying, he can be found helping with the family dairy in Stratford, Ontario, or exploring trails with his partner and their trusty sidekick, Potato (a very loyal hound dog).


Claudia Sehl

Name and program: Claudia Sehl, PhD student, Psychology

GRADflix video titlePreferences for novelty impacts our everyday choices (YouTube)

Supervisors: Dr. Ori Friedman and Dr. Stephanie Denison

Biography: Claudia Sehl is a first-year PhD student in the Department of Psychology. Her research focuses on children’s information search and the development of irrational thinking. She completed her MASc in Developmental and Communication Science at the University of Waterloo, and her Bachelor of Arts in psychology and philosophy at Western University. In her spare time, Claudia enjoys downhill skiing, snowshoeing, and visiting art museums.


Erin Fortier head shot

Name and program: Erin Fortier, MA student, History

GRADflix video titleUrban waste management in medieval England (YouTube)

Supervisor: Dr. Steven Bednarski 

Biography: Erin Fortier graduated from the University of Waterloo in 2018. Her research interests include medieval environmental history, urban waste management, and pre-modern public health. For her master's thesis she is studying industrial waste management in medieval southern England. Erin is balancing her master's research with learning Latin, writing novels, and spending time with her dog, Gibson.


Gillian Williams head shot

Name and program: Gillian Williams, PhD candidate, School of Public Health and Health Systems

GRADflix video titleSubstance use and mental health among Canadian high school students (YouTube)

Supervisor: Dr. Scott Leatherdale

Biography: Gillian Williams is a 4th year PhD candidate in the School of Public Health and Health Systems and is a part of the COMPASS research team. Her thesis work focuses on substance use and mental health among Canadian high school students. In her spare time, she enjoys working out and hiking with her dog. 


Joseph Varga head shot

Name and program: Joseph Varga, PhD candidate, Biology

GRADflix video titleFrom farm to fork: The potential role of antimicrobial peptides in modulating fish health and disease (YouTube)

Supervisor: Dr. Brian Dixon

Biography: Joseph Varga is a PhD candidate in the lab of Dr. Brian Dixon. He completed his MSc degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology and an HBSc in Biological Sciences and Neuroscience at the University of Guelph. His current research interests include antimicrobial peptides and how they modulate the immune system of animals. Joseph hopes to pursue an exciting career as a veterinary scientist in the near future. Outside the lab, he enjoys volunteering, swimming, baking, reading, learning new languages, and travelling across Europe. 


JuHyeong Ryu head shot

Name and program: JuHyeong Ryu, PhD candidate, Civil and Environmental Engineering

GRADflix video titleAdvanced training system (YouTube)

Supervisors: Dr. Carl T. Haas and Dr. Eihab Abdel-Rahman

Biography: JuHyeong Ryu is pursuing his PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Waterloo. He received his bachelor's degree in Architectural Engineering from Dankook University in 2010. JuHyeong also received a  master's degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 2016. His PhD research focuses on assessing construction workers' safe and productive working motions and techniques, using kinematic data obtained from a wearable inertial measurement units (IMUs) suit. In his free time, JuHyeong enjoys rock climbing, playing tennis and golf, and hiking. 


Kayleanna Giesinger head shot

Name and program: Kayleanna Giesinger, MES student, School of Environment, Enterprise and Development

GRADflix video titleEconomic development decision support system for sustainable development (YouTube)

Supervisor: Dr. Jeffrey Wilson

Biography: Kayleanna Giesinger is pursuing a master's degree in Sustainability Management (MES) at the University of Waterloo. She holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in Environmental Engineering from the University of Waterloo and is passionate about developing sustainable futures through industry and education. She has worked in the areas of affordable energy access (with the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy), mine impacted water treatment (with the Frank Gu Lab Team at the University of Toronto), and open channel flow geomorphology (with the Bruce MacVicar Research Team at the University of Waterloo). She has done additional community work on accessible education with Frontier College, engineering education research in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department,  and international development with Engineers Without Borders. She has interests in scientific accessibility and sharing of knowledge, specifically in how science, technology, engineering and complex systems theory mathematics impact our societal and global systems. For more information on Kayleanna and her work, visit her website.


Lillian Toma - head shot

Name and program: Lilian Toma, MSc student, School of Pharmacy

GRADflix video titleNovel molecules to treat COVID-19 (YouTube)

Supervisor: Dr. Praveen Nekkar Rao 

Biography: Lilian Toma is a Master of Science in Pharmacy candidate at the University of Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy. Her fascination with drug development led her to the Nekkar lab where she is currently investigating new COVID-19 treatments. She completed her Bachelor of Science at the University of Waterloo in the Biomedical Sciences program. Lilian works part-time as a personal support worker and loves to spend her spare time volunteering and hanging out with her puppy, Cece. Her experiences have shown her that she feels best when supporting others, whether that’s directly as a caregiver, or indirectly by researching new treatments for diseases. 


Luke Hagar headshot

Name and program: Luke Hagar, MMath student, Statistics and Actuarial Science

GRADflix video titleBeyond p-values: Sample size determination using Bayesian statistics (YouTube)

Supervisor: Dr. Nathaniel Stevens

Biography: Luke Hagar graduated last year from the University of Waterloo with a Bachelor of Mathematics, majoring in Mathematical Optimization and Statistics. He is currently a student in the Master of Mathematics in Statistics program. His current research areas include experimental design, sample size determination methods, and hypothesis testing in the Bayesian paradigm. In his free time, Luke enjoys training for half marathons, watching documentaries, and fine-tuning his Spanish skills. When we can safely travel again, he hopes to backpack through Patagonia. His favourite movie is The Platform and his favourite book is Momo, by Michael Ende.


Madu Galappaththi head shot

Name and program: Madu Galappaththi, PhD candidate, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability

GRADflix video titleGender, wellbeing and dried fish (YouTube)

Supervisors: Dr. Derek Armitage and Dr. Prateep Nayak

Biography: Madu Galappaththi is a PhD candidate in the School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability in the Faculty of Environment. Her research interests broadly include understanding human-nature interactions from a governance perspective. Madu’s doctoral research focuses on the governance and institutional context of dried fish value chains, with special attention to social wellbeing and gender dimensions. The geographical focus of her work is on Sri Lanka. Madu holds a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship, an International Development Doctoral Research Award, and a HeForShe Gender Equity Grant, among several other awards. During spare time, Madu enjoys reading and craft-making with her eight-year-old daughter.


Megan Dol head shot

Name and program: Megan Dol, PhD student, School of Public Health and Health Systems

GRADflix video titleMultimorbidity and suicidal ideation (YouTube)

Supervisor: Dr. Mark Ferro

Biography: Megan is pursuing a PhD in the School of Public Health and Health Systems (SPHHS) under the supervision of Dr. Mark Ferro. She completed her BSc at the University of Waterloo in 2019 and fast-tracked from her MSc to her current PhD program. Her research interests include youth mental health, multimorbidity, suicidality, problematic substance use, and quantitative research methods. Megan is interested in advocating for graduate student mental health which led her to create a mental health initiatives role in the SPHHS Graduate Student Association with the help of her colleagues. Megan enjoys playing guitar, listening to rock music, exercising, and drinking coffee.


Mia Stratton head shot

Name and program: Mia Stratton, MSc student, Biology

GRADflix video titlePaleolimnology and a changing delta (YouTube)

Supervisors: Dr. Roland Hall and Dr. Brent Wolfe

Biography: Mia Stratton is a master's student in Biology, studying the effect of climate change on water availability in northern Canada. She has been a student at the University of Waterloo for 6 years now and knows where to find the best studying and napping spots on campus. Outside of being a grad student, she likes to spend her time rock-climbing, hiking, cooking, and playing with her two kittens. 


Mohammad S. Parsa head shot

Name and program: Mohammad S. Parsa, MASc student, Management Sciences

GRADflix video titleIdentifying public concerns about COVID-19 using social media mining (YouTube)

Supervisor: Dr. Lukasz Golab

Biography: As a master's student in the Department of Management Sciences, Mohammad S. Parsa has conducted research over several years and helped beneficiaries extract insightful results from research data (e.g., social media). Today–at the University of Waterloo– he is driven by social good: namely, working towards a sustainable future, understanding public health, and investigating public education. Apart from doing research, Mohammad really enjoys travelling around while spending as little money as possible (even if it means he has to sleep in the car :)) .


Murdoch Mckinnon head shot

Name and program: Murdoch McKinnon, MSc student, Geography and Environmental Management

GRADflix video title: Reclaiming well pads in our boreal peatlands (YouTube)

Supervisors: Dr. Felix Nwaishi and Dr. Rich Petrone

Biography: Murdoch McKinnon completed his BSc in Environmental Science at Mount Royal University prior to joining the Hydrometeorology Lab as a Geography master's student. His research focuses on assessing the feasibility of a novel technique to reclaim oil and gas well pads in boreal peatlands. Specifically, he is assessing the hydrological and nutrient cycling dynamics contributing to successful vegetation establishment on these former industrial sites. When he isn’t knee-deep in peat, Murdoch enjoys cross country skiing, backpacking, and scrambling in the Canadian Rockies.


Nicole Davy head shot

Name and program: Nicole Davy, MES student, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability

GRADflix video titlePublic engagement around flood mitigation in New Hamburg, ON (YouTube)

Supervisor: Dr. Rob de Loë

Biography: Nicole Davy is a master's student in the School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability with a specialization in the Collaborative Water Program. She is passionate about water issues, scientific communication and environmental education. In her spare time, Nicole enjoys hiking, camping and photography.


Omar Sadab Chowdhury head shot

Name and program: Omar Sadab Chowdhury, MASc, Civil and Environmental Engineering

GRADflix video titleMicroplastics in drinking water? (YouTube)

Supervisors: Dr. Monica B. Emelko and Dr. William B. Anderson

Biography: Omar Sadab Chowdhury is in his final term of his Master of Applied Science program in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Waterloo. His graduate research focuses on evaluating the indirect health impacts of microplastic consumption through drinking water. He completed his Bachelor of Engineering degree in Civil Engineering from Islamic University of Technology in Bangladesh, where he was involved with research evaluating treatment efficiencies of household drinking water treatment technologies in the context of developing countries. His interest in research has grown over the years and Omar now aspires to be involved with research that can improve decision making and the wellbeing of communities. Outside of school work, Omar loves to stay active outdoors and likes to go running. 


Ramashish Gaurav head shot

Name and program: Ramashish Gaurav, MASc student, Systems Design Engineering

GRADflix video titleTowards green and energy efficient artificial intelligence (YouTube)

Supervisors: Dr. Bryan Tripp and Dr. Apurva Narayan

Biography: Ramashish Gaurav received his dual degree (Bachelor's and Master's, 2017) in Computer Science and Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology - BHU, Varanasi, India. After two and half years of job experience in the software industry, he joined the University of Waterloo as an MASc student in January 2020. Currently, he is conducting research in Computational Neuroscience and Artificial Intelligence. He is part of the BRAIN lab, and is jointly supervised by Prof. Bryan Tripp and Prof. Apurva Narayan. In his leisure time, he loves to watch movies with friends and discuss the "Hard problem of Consciousness".


Ryan Tennant head shot

Name and program: Ryan Tennant, MASc student, Systems Design Engineering

GRADflix video titleImproving in-home care with voice-interfaces (YouTube)

Supervisors: Dr. Catherine M. Burns and Dr. Kate Mercer

Biography: Ryan Tennant is a second-year master’s student in the Department of Systems Design Engineering. He completed his undergrad in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Waterloo in 2019 and is currently studying virtually at the Advanced Interface Design Lab. Ryan's research interests are in healthcare, human factors and medical device development. In his free time, Ryan speed skates with the KW Sertoma Speed Skating Club, bakes online with his friends, and drives around aimlessly every other day so that his car battery won’t die… again.


Sagar Patel head shot

Name and program: Sagar Patel, PhD candidate, Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering

GRADflix video titleTemperatures in metal 3D printing (YouTube)

Supervisor: Dr. Mihaela Vlasea

Biography: Sagar is a PhD candidate in Mechanical & Mechatronics Engineering, fortunate to be working with Prof. Vlasea to help industrialize metal additive manufacturing in Canada. He previously studied in Texas and Mumbai for his master's and undergraduate degrees. He happens to be the first in his immediate family to pursue college, and the first person from his entire family tree to pursue a career in STEM. He loves board games as a stress buster. One of his favourite things to do has been to explore the local cuisine thanks to his travels in North America for the better part of the past decade.


Shoshannah Speers head shot

Name and program: Shoshannah Speers, MSc student, School of Public Health and Health Systems

GRADflix video titleCommunity volunteers addressing food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines (YouTube)

Supervisor: Dr. Warren Dodd

Biography: Shoshannah Speers is pursing her MSc in Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo. She previously obtained a BA in International Development Studies through the Canadian Mennonite University and a Certificate of Teaching English as an Additional Language from the University of Winnipeg. Shoshannah enjoys exploring the social determinants of global health including the various aspects of well-being. Outside of research, she enjoys baking and travelling.


Tatiana Bevilacqua

Name and program: Tatiana Bevilacqua, PhD candidate, School of Public Health and Health Systems

GRADflix video titleDesign principles for health informatics (YouTube)

Supervisor: Dr. Plinio Pelegrini Morita 

Biography: Tatiana Bevilacqua is a UX designer, with a specialization in knowledge management and a master's degree in Biomedical Engineering. She is currently a PhD candidate in Health informatics at the University of Waterloo where she is exploring design principles in the health informatics context.

Taylor Vodopija head shot

Name and program: Taylor Vodopija, MSc student, Geography and Environmental Management

GRADflix video titleSeismic line restoration in peatlands (YouTube)

Supervisors: Dr. Maria Strack and Dr. Felix Nwaishi

Biography: Taylor Vodopija holds a Bachelor of Science degree with a minor in business from Mount Royal University in Calgary. She is now working on a Master of Science degree at the University of Waterloo, where she is researching seismic line restoration in peatlands, as part of the Wetland Soils & Greenhouse Gas Exchange Lab. She loves working outdoors and capturing the beauty of nature through photographs. Taylor also has done folk dancing with the Croatia Heritage Society for 18 years.