Smiling graduate students and supervisors
Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Graduate students recognized at annual awards ceremony

Smiling graduate students and supervisors

Since 2013 the School of Pharmacy has recognized the excellence of our graduate students with an annual celebration event.  This year was the first in person award ceremony in two years. Graduate Chair J.M. Gamble hosted the event, acknowledging the winners and celebrating other successes of the graduate program.

Congratulations to the following award winners:

Highest Grade in Pharm610 Topics in Drug Development: Shirley Wang

Shirley and Praveen
This award is given to the student who achieved the highest grade in the required course “PHARM 610 Topics in Drug Development” in the Winter 2022 term.  Students performed exceptionally well in the course this past winter, but Shirley Wang stood out as the top performer. Shirley is a Masters student in the Nekkar lab who began her graduate studies during the pandemic.

Best Student Presentation in Pharmacy Research Seminar Series: Sadaf Faisal

Sadaf and Tejal smiling
All graduate students are required to present their research in a seminar series and  presentations are graded based on quality of the presentation slides, the quality of the presentation itself, the student’s understanding of the field of study, their ability to answer questions, and the reviewer’s overall impression of the presentation.  These presentations provide a dynamic and engaging way to learn about research happening here in the school.

Though all presentations were strong this year, Dr. Sadaf Faisal’s stood out as exceptional and received the highest score from judges. Her presentation was titled “Integration of a Smart Multidose Blister Packaging for Medication Management”.  Dr. Faisal recently completed her PhD under the supervision of Prof. Tejal Patel.

Best Graduate Student Teaching Assistant: Jesse St. Jean

Lisa and Jesse smiling
This award goes to a graduate student based on nominations that are received by the department and adjudicated by a review committee.  This year, the award goes to Jesse St. Jean – a PhD candidate who has several years experience as a TA in a course where the intensity of the work and level of performance expected by the instructor sets the bar for performance.  

To summarize the detailed nomination, Jesse could be trusted to teach his course with the same high standards for learning -with a proactive approach to problem solving, inquisitive commitment to understanding course objectives, high degree of professionalism and student engagement, and genuine dedication to teaching.      

Substantial Impact on Overall Research Mission: Wajd Alkabbani

Wadj and JM
This award is given out based on nominations received.  This year’s recipient, Wajd Alkabbani, has been highly productive in research, with 10 peer-reviewed manuscripts published in 2021/2022, eight of which were first authorships and in high impact journals. 

Wajd has also demonstrated commitment to supporting research trainees, teaching as a guest instructor for PHARM 654, “Critical Appraisal of health literature and evidence-based practice” and in mentoring several PharmD students’ independent study projects. Finally, she regularly engages with the scientific community, collaborating with researchers in other units at Waterloo, but also across Canada, and in serving as member of several relevant academic societies and as a peer reviewer for PLOS One and the Canadian Network for Observational Drug Effects Studies Analyst training program. 

Outstanding faculty mentor in the graduate program: Praveen Nekkar 

This is an honorary award that goes to one member of faculty, based on nominations that are submitted to the department throughout the year. The School received many high-quality nominations this year but Praveen Nekkar stood out in terms of both number of nominations and the specific examples shared by nominators.

JM and Praveen

To summarize the nominations received, Prof. Nekkar possesses “incredible dedication, generosity and exceptional support” for his students, that encompasses but also extends beyond the lab and academia to providing personal support with navigating life challenges, including those that come with immigrating to Canada and moving forward through the pandemic, as examples.  He connects with students on a regular basis, both individually and as a team, creating an “atmosphere filled with enthusiasm”, imparting his knowledge and selflessly guiding students as they make decisions about their research and future career goals, motivating them to find what is possible.  

Honouring Janet McDougall

At the event, Hallman Director Andrea Edginton also spoke about Janet McDougall, a long-time friend of the school who passed away in 2021. Janet’s wife Lynne Horwath and sister Elaine attended the ceremony to celebrate an award established by Janet and to announce a new scholarship in Janet’s memory.

Donald J and Kathleen D McDougall Graduate Scholarship: Yasaman Eskandari

Feng and Yasaman
This award was created by Janet in 2007 and named for her parents. The scholarship recognizes students who have made a substantial contribution to their community through volunteering and outreach while completing graduate studies. The scholarship has now been endowed and will be awarded each year in perpetuity. Yasaman Eskandari is this year’s winner.

Through a commitment to giving back to the community, Yasaman was inspired to pursue her studies in health care.  Most recently, she has been engaged in several ongoing volunteer positions, including tutoring refugee youth in English and Science, as a communication lead for the CIBC Run for the Cure campaign, and helping newcomers with communication skills as a conversation leader and book club facilitator at the Kitchener Public Library where she “provides a positive, inclusive and welcoming environment for participants”. When she is not working on her MSc thesis and volunteering, she teaches group piano lessons at ProMusic where “her ability to relate to those around her no matter their history or age, allows others to be open to receiving assistance.”   

The Janet E.A. McDougall Graduate Scholarship in Pharmacy 

Secondly, Director Edginton also shared an exciting update about a new award. The Janet E.A. McDougall Graduate Scholarship was created by Lynne Howarth to honour Janet and her love of learning, her passion for life-changing research, her trailblazing entrepreneurial nature, and her commitment to giving back and paying forward.   

Lynne Yasaman and Elaine

Lynne, Janet's wife, Yasaman and Elaine, Janet's sister

The Janet E.A. McDougall Graduate Scholarship in Pharmacy will be awarded each year to two students (1 MSc and 1 PhD) who demonstrate academic excellence as well as a passion for improving medication, health outcomes, and/or health related issues as demonstrated through a combination of research, community engagement and/or professional practice. Preference will be given to students from diverse backgrounds who bring unique perspectives to their work and research. 

We look forward to awarding these prestigious scholarships next year.