The Governor General Gold Medal, one of the highest honours in academia, will be awarded to two exceptional University of Waterloo graduate students. Tejinder Singh, who graduated last fall from the Faculty of Engineering, will receive the award for highest standing in a doctoral program. Sara Leanne Wyngaarden, who is graduating this spring with an MSc in Health and Health Systems, will receive the award for highest standing in a master’s program. Awards like this allow our community to celebrate the impactful research and scholarly excellence of outstanding students.

Tejinder works on his research using high tech machinery

Tejinder Singh (PhD '20)

Tejinder Singh’s PhD research has gained him visibility at both the national and international level. He has published more than 24 research papers in leading journals and received numerous awards, including the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship, Young Engineer Award by European Microwave Association and the President's Graduate Scholarship. Singh’s research mainly focuses on developing novel miniaturized on-chip wireless and microwave devices based on emerging phase-change materials for use in 5G and upcoming 6G wireless communication systems. Singh’s work has paved the way for these technologies in Canada, and allowed him to develop a new generation of devices that are smaller, lighter weight and have superior performance when it comes to power consumption. He has also won the national Brian L. Barge Microsystems Integration Award, and multiple "best paper" awards at international conferences. The potential applications for Singh’s devices include, sending and receiving large amounts of data, use in autonomous vehicles, biomedical applications, satellite communications for deep space research and more.
Singh first became interested in computers when he was very young. He was only ten when he assembled his first computer.

“Whatever I achieved during my PhD was a direct result of my curiosity and my passion for learning,” Singh says. “Since my research was in a field I enjoyed, it never felt it like a burden.”

Singh also credits his success to support from his supervisor, Dr. Raafat Mansour, and his wife and fellow researcher, Navjot Khaira. He expresses great appreciation for his parents and siblings who have always supported his dreams of becoming a scientist. “During my PhD studies, I was working to build something useful with real world technological applications, not simply working to complete degree requirements. A lot of what I did was for my own curiosity and satisfaction.”

Singh is currently working as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the world-renowned NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), California Institute of Technology (Caltech), in the US. He is contributing his expertise in phase-change technology to develop cutting edge devices that carry the potential to be included in the next space exploration rovers and for deep space research. 

Sara sits posed and smiling

Sara Leanne Wyngaarden (MSc '21)

After completing her undergraduate degree, Sara Leanne Wyngaarden worked for a small non-government organization in Chhattisgarh, India where she learned that agricultural development is about much more than crop productivity. She realized that many barriers to sustainable rural development are structural or systemic and can be viewed through the lens of health and well-being.

These realizations set the foundation for her master’s research in Public Health and Health Systems at Waterloo where, under the supervision of Dr. Warren Dodd, she investigated livelihood opportunities for youth in remote areas of Honduras. While social, economic, political and environmental instability in Central America continues to drive outmigration, Wyngaarden’s research examined immobility decisions among rural youth — whether they aspire to stay in rural areas of Honduras, what shapes those aspirations and what enables them to stay. Additionally, her research evaluated how one Honduran non-governmental organization, the Foundation for Participatory Research with Honduran Farmers (FIPAH), has built capacity and confidence among youth in Honduras to pursue rural livelihoods.

“What I appreciate most about FIPAH’s youth-targeted work is their dedication to expanding the quality and diversity of opportunities available so that rural youth can pursue livelihoods that they value,” says Wyngaarden. “Their goal is to give youth the freedom to choose rural livelihoods, should they so desire, rather than feeling forced to migrate from rural areas to establish viable livelihoods.”

Her research counters prevailing understandings of how rural youth in Honduras navigate their livelihood trajectories, and she demonstrates how local organizations can provide critical supports and empowerment through this process. Wyngaarden’s findings help strengthen the programming offered by FIPAH, as they continue to support the well-being of youth living in remote areas of Honduras.

For the next three years, Wyngaarden will be working as the Program Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in Guatemala and El Salvador. She believes the role provides an incredible opportunity to apply and continue expanding upon the knowledge and skills she gained through her studies at Waterloo.