Meet the 2023 Science Alumni Achievement Award winners
2023 Distinguished Alumni Award
BSc Chemistry ’87; PhD Chemistry ‘93
Chief Scientific Officer, TriLink Biotechnologies
San Diego, CA
From an early age, Mike enjoyed strong ties to the University of Waterloo. As the son of long-time Kinesiology professor, Michael Sr, he and his family lived on campus for a number of years during his youth. He regularly attended Warrior hockey and basketball games, so it was no surprise that he chose to attend the University Waterloo as a student. After receiving his BSc (87) and PhD (93) in chemistry, Mike pursued careers that fed his fascination with biotechnology.
Mike initially focused on peptide and proteins, but in the early 2000s became hooked on new therapeutic modalities based on nucleic acids. During this time, he was involved in developing delivery systems that were licensed to multiple companies. He pursued an interest in mRNA, leading R&D departments to develop drugs for orphan liver diseases. When COVID-19 arrived, global interest in the use of mRNA exploded, which resulted in the need for companies to make mRNA as well as the novel reagents and raw materials required for these new mRNA vaccines. While working as the Chief Scientific Officer for TriLink Biotechnologies in San Diego, one of TriLink’s cap analogs was selected for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. It required a complete overhaul of the manufacturing of this compound, as well as the need to scale up production by 100-fold- ensuring his company could supply this reagent so Pfizer could start production of the vaccine.
Now semi-retired, Mike turns to a variety of hobbies to keep him busy. An avid mountain biker, Mike recently completed a 100-mile race. He also enjoys running, hiking, photography, and cheering on his favourite NHL team – Go Leafs!
2023 Distinguished Alumni Award
BSc Science & Business ’06
Vice President, Trillium Health Partners' Institute for Better Heath
Simone has dedicated her career to driving transformative changes in healthcare. Her unique blend of skills in strategy, project management, and policy change positions her as a driving force behind health system transformation, aiming to create a healthier future for communities and regions.
Simone is a critical member of the team that developed, designed and then implemented the largest voluntary hospital merger in Canada at Trillium Health Partners (THP) – a world leading, full system of care in Mississauga and West Toronto service over 1.7 million patients annually. She has progressed through several critical leadership roles including THP’s first Director of Strategy & Project Management, then Associate VP of People, Strategy & Volunteers. Currently, Simone is VP at the Institute for Better Health (IBH), a national leader in health services research and supporting creation of THP Solutions which will drive innovation and create new revenue streams for THP to drive sustainability in health care, and lead THP as an Edge partner within the $30M Federal innovation network CAN Health Network. In her role at the IBH, she has been instrumental in bridging research and innovation ambitions with sounds business strategies from HR to Finance to Project Management to build success. This culminated last year with THP’s recognition for the first time as one of Canada’s Top 40 Research hospitals.
In 2022, Simone was honored as one of Canada's 100 Most Powerful Women by The Women's Executive Network. She also serves as a board member at Sheridan College, in the role of Vice-Chair since 2023.
Simone holds a Bachelor of Science & Business from the University of Waterloo's Coop Program and an MBA from The Schulich School of Business at York University.
2023 Early Alumni Excellence Award
Azeezat Adeyoyin Oyawoye
BSc Science & Business ’21
Project Manager at Huge Inc. | Visual Artist & Illustrator, Àbíké The Artist
Azeezat moved from Nigeria in 2016 with the goal of exploring her interests in science, business, and art. It's been a challenging but rewarding journey and since graduating from the University of Waterloo, she has established herself as a visual artist under the name Àbíkẹ́ The Artist while working as a project manager at Huge, a creative consulting agency with various clients including McDonald's, Google, Pantone and Lego.
As a visual artist, she creates vibrant art inspired by her Yoruba cultural heritage, through a contemporary lens. Her work depicts Black women and Orí, which translates to “head” in Yoruba but also refers to one's essence and purpose. She reimagines Orí as otherworldly beings that embody the soul. Her work also celebrates distinct African features such as thick hair, full lips, and broad noses.
Azeezat’s ultimate goal is to preserve her cultural history by telling Afro-infused visual stories on an amplified scale. Her 2023 collaboration with Raptors 905, featuring her signature Orí, is a reflection of this goal.
2023 Contributions to Science Award
BSc Chemistry ’98
Canada Excellence Research Chair,
University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Science
Corey, originally from Collingwood, Ontario, Canada, earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Waterloo in 1998. Upon graduation, he pursued graduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh under Professor Peter Wipf. Later, he joined the lab of Professor Erick M. Carreira at ETH Zürich.
In 2007, Corey became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Boston University, marking the beginning of his impactful academic career. He later made significant contributions at the University of Michigan, where he advanced from Associate Professor to full Professor by September 2015. Corey is set to take on a prestigious role as a Canada Excellence Research Chair at the University of British Columbia in the summer of 2024
His research group specializes in pioneering methodologies for complex molecule synthesis, focusing on single-electron transfer reactions through photochemical (photoredox catalysis) or electrochemical activation. Corey is widely recognized as a pioneer in photoredox catalysis, alongside other distinguished researchers. His work, rooted in understanding fundamental aspects like photophysics and catalyst selection, has revolutionized organic reactions. Notably, the group’s advancements in catalytic intra- and intermolecular free radical chemistry, C-H bond functionalization, and natural product total synthesis have become vital tools for medicinal chemists. He has been recognized with several awards throughout his career including the ACS Cope Scholar Award, Sloan Fellowship, Camille Dreyfus Teacher Scholar award, and several sponsored by industry (Eli Lilly Novartis, Pfizer, Boehringer-Ingelheim).
2023 Contributions to Science Award
BSc Biology ‘90
Professor, University of North Carolina
Laurie Wideman, Ph.D., is the Safrit-Ennis Distinguished Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at UNC Greensboro. She is a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and was inducted as a fellow into the prestigious National Academy of Kinesiology in 2023 (Fellow #642). Dr. Wideman is heavily involved in interdisciplinary research focused on cardiometabolic risk development across the lifespan, with particular focus on longitudinal cohort studies investigating individual and familial factors influencing weight gain and obesity from childhood into early adulthood. She also studies exercise-induced changes in hormones of the hypothalamic-pituitary axis as indicators of health and wellness. Her collaborative work in these areas has produced over 120 published manuscripts and has been consistently funded by multiple divisions of the National Institute of Health (NIH) for almost twenty years.
Dr. Wideman is passionate about mentoring the next generation of scientists. Being a first-generation college student herself, she is especially enthusiastic about providing students the chance to engage in research, with the hope of sparking a passion for science. She has provided research-related mentoring to undergraduate and graduate students, acting as the primary mentor to over 45 students and contributing guidance to another 55 students. She has also mentored numerous post-doctoral fellows, and junior faculty, many of whom are women or minorities in science.
Dr. Wideman has over a decade of experience in research compliance, including 10 years as the Chair of the Institutional Review Board for the protection of human subjects in research. She regularly teaches topics related to the NIH responsible conduct of research curriculum and helped design and initiate these lectures at UNC Greensboro. She is currently co-director of the Office of Research Integrity, where she helps oversee compliance in human, animal, and cell-based research.