July 3, 2012


Ten McMaster graduate students win prestigious Vanier awards


Hamilton, Ont. July 3, 2012Research to improve survival rates of children suffering from  malignant brain tumours, understanding the influence of voice pitch on human behaviour, an investigation of human remains from 19th century London.


This is some of the outstanding work by this year’s Vanier Graduate Scholarship winners, who were announced today.


Ten McMaster students in all –the highest number ever—have been named recipients of the prestigious national awards, designed to help Canada attract and retain world-class doctoral students.


One of McMaster’s winners, Branavan Manoranjan, plans to establish a molecular profile of the cells that escape therapy in brain tumours. His goal: increase the survival rates of children suffering from medulloblastoma, the most aggressive form of pediatric brain tumour.


“To be named a Vanier Scholar is like getting the corner piece of a cake with lots of icing,” says Manoranjan, a medical/graduate student in the Department of Biochemistry & Biomedical Sciences. “It has always been a true privilege to be working under the mentorship of some of the leading stem cell and cancer scientists at McMaster. And to be recognized as a potential research leader provides me with a gentle reminder of my responsibility to Canadians to translate my lab research to clinically-feasible bedside therapies”.


(A video of Manoranjan describing his research and commenting on being named a Vanier Scholar is available here: http://youtu.be/cvtRUGPDqe4)


Cara Tigue, a graduate student from the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, examines how the qualities of a person’s voice and face affect the perceptions and behaviours of other people.


“As a young scientist, it is extremely exciting to know that people think my research is interesting and significant enough to be funded to this extent. I am really looking forward to the doors this scholarship will open for my work and for my career,” she says.


For her doctoral project, Tigue will investigate how voice pitch influences voters’ perceptions of politicians’ positions on specific issues.


“With a record number of winners, this was a banner year for McMaster,” says Allison Sekuler, associate vice-president and dean of graduate studies. “This award highlights the fact that our graduate students are true leaders within the University, in the broader Hamilton community, nationally and around the world.  We’re thrilled that Canada has recognized their accomplishments with such a great honour.”


The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships program is administered jointly by Canada’s three research granting agencies: the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).


McMaster’s 2012 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship winners and areas of research:


CIHR recipients:


  • Marisa Azad (Biochemistry & Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences), researching mechanisms to battle antibiotic resistance

  • Dr. Adalberto Loyola-Sanchez (Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences), will devise strategies to develop community health programs to improve the lives of people with chronic conditions

  • Branavan Manoranjan (Biochemistry & Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences), profiling brain cancer stem cells responsible for untreatable tumours in children

  • Jocelyn Wessels (Medical Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences) will focus on how endometriosis progresses, leading to new therapies and diagnostic tests

  • Dr. Reza Yousefi-Nooraie (Clinical Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Faculty of Health Sciences) will research the role of social networks in improving public health decision-making in Canada


NSERC recipients:


  • Amanda Beers (Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, Faculty of Science),  researching the effect of age on visual perception

  • Jenna Gillen (Kinesiology, Faculty of Science) will focus on the regulation of skeletal muscle metabolism as related to exercise

  • Renée St-Onge (Biology, Faculty of Science) will work towards a better understanding of specific bacteria, which is a major producer of pharmaceutical compounds used in medicine


SHRC recipients:


  • Madeleine Mant, (Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences), research focused on breaks or injuries to bone that occur at or around the time of death, including War of 1812 casualties

  • Cara Tigue (Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, Faculty of Science), will investigate how voice pitch influences voters’ perceptions of a politician’s position on certain issues


Established by the federal government in 2009, the scholarship awards each student $50,000 a year for up to three years.

A total of 156 scholarships were announced by the federal government for 2012.





For more information please contact:


Wade Hemsworth

Public Relations Manager

McMaster University

905-525-9140 ext. 27988