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Student Award Testimonials - 2011/2012

There are many remarkable students engaged in research at VIU. Here are a few of the many students who have been awarded research grants, scholarships and awards from VIU and other granting agencies.


Tri-Council Federal Granting Agencies and Internal VIU Student Research Award Recipients
Tri-Council Research Awards
VIU Research Awards




Robert Halsall – 2011 NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award (USRA)

Graduating Class of 2013
VIU - Bachelor of Science, Major in Biology 

Robert Halsall


With a strong desire to explore how green roofs are used to alter urban CO2 exchange, Robert decided to take an opportunity to apply for the "NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award." His research is significant because humans emit greenhouse gases every day, and the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased over 25% in the last 50 years. Robert first heard of this award through his friends. With a transcript full of good grades, he decided to make the most of it.

Robert became acquainted with his designated supervisor David Gaumont-Guay, from whom he received much supportive help; "He is a very intelligent supervisor, he was so passionate about this field of research that it has made me a stronger and more passionate researcher." This experience has shown Robert the many options there are to choose from in his field and overall has broadened his view of the world around him. In addition, this opportunity has left the doors open for a PhD or masters degree in the future if he chooses. Robert's advice to anyone considering applying for this award is just "put your best foot forward, stay strong and get good grades." He also suggests that you include in your cover letter anything you have done or any passions you've experienced that would make you a good candidate for this award. There is competition, but not as much as you would imagine there would be. On the whole, he stresses that "it never hurts to try."


Angeline de Bruyns - 2011 NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award (USRA)

Graduating Class of 2012
VIU – Bachelor of Science, Major in Biology, Minor in Chemistry 
2012 CIHR Canada Graduate Scholarships recipient, read news release



With graduation approaching, Angeline knew that she wanted a future working in labs. She knew that getting some practice before graduation would open many doors for her. She started asking around to see what she could do. She found a research lab opportunity which involved everything she wanted to study. She began to research what other people were studying and familiarized herself with typical lab protocols and techniques. Once in the lab, she began to investigate shellfish that live along our

coast and the factors which affect their stress levels. Students in the lab, along with Angeline helped to develop a tool to measure the stress of shellfish. This tool could then be used for aquaculture farmers to prevent groups of shellfish dying. With all this experience, Angeline now feels very comfortable in a lab setting and has become familiar with all the techniques that are available to investigate molecular cell studies. Additionally, this has inspired her to want to pursue a master's in cancer research on cells and cancer tissues. Her supervisor Helen Gurney-Smith, has had a great impact on her learning. “She has a lot of research experience and published quite a few papers. She’s been doing it a long time and was able to guide me and tell me about why what we were doing was so important and was able to help me out with any problems we ran into in the lab. Really supportive, great attitude, I couldn’t have asked for anything more."Angeline suggests that when preparing an application, you should start as soon as you can. “Just work really closely with your supervisor and talk about what should be included in your application because she will have good tips on what the reviewers might want to see.” Lastly, she points out it is important to show you have a strong interest in research in the future because the reviewers usually appreciate knowing that you are dedicated and that winning Undergraduate Student Research Award will lead you to an exciting future.




Rebecca Stanley and Libby Connor - 2011 CIHR Health Professional Student Research Award

Graduating Class of 2011
VIU – Nursing Program


Working as student interns at Nanaimo’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), Rebecca and Libby had a history working with families and infants and seeing how family care was affected when infants are transferred into Nanaimo’s NICU. Libby states, “when we think of nursing we always think of client centered care, but in this particular environment the client is not just the infant; it’s a broader region and encompasses the families.”

According to Rebecca, “Libby and I had seen potential gaps in care during our time in the NICU and thought this would be a good question to explore with families so that we could move forward and create some initiatives in the NICU to provide better care to families in these situations.”

Rebecca and Libby had previously won a CIHR (HPSRA) scholarship, which had prepared them greatly for this award. They worked closely together and had an on-campus and an off-campus supervisor that instilled a lot of trust in both of them and left them self sufficient. They felt their supervisors were very supportive, committed and put many of their own hours into supporting their research. Additionally, they had the opportunity to present their research at a conference which gave them the skills to present in front of professionals.

Rebecca and Libby feel that this opportunity has prepared them for graduate study and has given them the confidence to go forward. Both women say, “it’s important to know this award is intended for undergraduates and it’s an award for students who don’t have research experience. As a recipient, you are supported well by faculty members and by the Scholarship, Research, and Creative Activity Office. Just remember when you apply for an award it’s very important to pick a topic that you are passionate about and interested in because you spend a lot of time looking into that question and reading about it. Apply early; don’t wait until your final year of study.”




David Ross – 2011 SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship

Graduating Class of 2011
VIU – Bachelor of Arts, Media Studies Major

David Ross


While in his last year at VIU, Dave had only a few electives left to complete his degree as an English major and Media Studies Minor, when he chose to take a course in children's literature. This led to a fascination with the topic, and he found that children are learning to read off tablets and eBooks, which may affect the way young minds learn. "The research is definitely relevant to the world we are living right now as tablet computers and eReaders expand the popularity of digital texts. This was compounded by witnessing a child reading from an iPad in his stroller at the mall. I realized he was going to develop a completely different understanding of what a book was." With the help of his professors, Dave came up with a strong research topic and began the application process. He also spoke to recipients of the award, and the Research and Scholarly Activity Office helped polish his proposal. 

Receiving the award has helped him achieve his goal of working towards a Master of Arts in Communication and Culture at York University. This opportunity has opened many doors for Dave: "I could see myself working as a teacher librarian, research assistant, or maybe moving into teaching as well. In any case, pursuing graduate studies will equip me with high-level analytic skills that I can transfer to almost any field." He feels that most students think that the SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship is extremely difficult to get and has a high rejection rate. Some of his classmates have been told that it's foolhardy for first-year MA students to apply for the award, and he's watched classmates drop their applications as a result, which according to him is "bad advice." He says, "just go for it, develop relationships with your professors, build a support network, and just be curious. Make sure your topic is relevant, defined, and that there is research discussion happening around your topic as well. But my biggest piece of advice would be to ask for help, look around, and don't try to go it alone. With enough polish and effort the SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship is easily within anyone's grasp."




Angie Nielsen - 2011 Student Travel and Conference Fund and the Jessica Wilde Conference Participation Fund

Graduating Class of 2011
VIU – Major in Geography, Minor in Visual Arts

Angie Nielson

With a masters in mind, as a fourth year student, majoring in Geography and minoring in Visual Arts, Angie was awarded for the “Student Travel and Conference Fund and the Jessica Wilde Conference Participation Fund.” She felt attending conferences would give her knowledge and experience for the future. “I am part of the Geography club on campus and these Geography conferences happen every year. However, when I applied it was closer to home and I was in my final year, I just knew this was my time to go.” She chose to present on the topic of the cultural and environmental significance of urban green space here in Nanaimo. She designed a PowerPoint, a script, and began to plan the trip.

The Western Division of Canadian Association Geographers Conference took place at Simon Frazer University in Burnaby, where geographers from a large academic audience gathered. Students and professors from both Canada and the United States attended. As a result of this experience, she now knows what topics people in her field are studying and had a chance to become familiar with potential future institutions. However, she wished that she had have been more prepared to meet the people who attended as the potential to make connections and network with professionals is great. Furthermore, she learned to present to experts and large audiences. She suggests that if a student is even slightly thinking about applying, to just do it “our school has these funds for a reason, just go for it even if you think it is a maybe.” Remember to give yourself time and prepare in advance. These conferences completely expand your presenting and networking skills. Anything you do outside of school will help, join clubs and volunteer since you need all the extra experience that you can get.“



Jean King - 2011 Student Travel and Conference Fund and the Jessica Wilde Conference Participation Fund

Graduating Class of 2012
VIU – Bachelor of Arts, Major in Psychology

Jean King and Courtney Crucil


During her undergraduate degree in Psychology, Jean became interested in the welfare of adolescent mothers in Nanaimo and their experience with motherhood at a young age. As a member of the Resilience Research Lab, Jean was interested in exploring this topic. She wanted to know if young mothers here in Nanaimo were using the resources available to them.

In pursuit to undertake research, Jean and another member of the lab won a BC Student-Led Research grant, Student Travel and Conference Fund and the Jessica Wilde Conference Participation Fund and was awarded funds to present at the “Psychology Students of Vancouver Island Poster Session” at the University of Victoria. To prepare, she planned in advance with a partner, maintained contact with the event organizers, discussed her research with members in the Resilience Research Lab, and compiled her findings. A great amount of planning went into this, “I was involved in every step of the way including finding research, data, photos, and even getting the poster printed.” According to Jean, this experience brought the lessons she has learned in the classroom to life. Her way of thinking has been deeply influenced by attending this conference. If any chance to present again comes up in the future, she is more than happy to share her research.

This experience has made her confident when answering questions, more coherent, and comfortable talking about what she has learned;“This is the best thing you could do for yourself.” Being able to articulate her research she was able to find new ways to interpret her findings and came across new questions. Jean suggests “just do it” and if you don’t get awarded the first time you apply, just keep trying. “There is always something to learn.” If you are interested in presenting at a conference find a topic you are interested in and passionate about and it will make the rest come more easier.