Canada\'s most prestigious scholarship awarded to eight McMaster students

May 18, 2010

Canada's most prestigious scholarship awarded to eight McMaster students

It's my dream to be a professor, to have my own lab, my own students and do my own research,' said Soumaya Zlitni, one of eight McMaster students to be awarded a 2010 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship.


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By the time she applied for graduate school, Soumaya Zlitni was a straight A-plus student who spoke three languages and had published in one of the most high profile journals in her field.

Now, at age 27, the PhD candidate in the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences at McMaster University has been named one of the most promising young minds in the country.

Zlitni is one of eight McMaster students who will receive a 2010 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. The prestigious awards, established by the federal government in 2009, are designed to attract and retain world-class doctoral students.

"It's my dream to be a professor, to have my own lab, my own students and do my own research," said Zlitni, who was born in Tunisia and came to McMaster for graduate studies in 2006. "I want to work in an academic setting and contribute to science."

After completing her undergraduate degree in Saudi Arabia, Zlitni decided to pursue graduate studies in Canada and joined the laboratory of Eric Brown, chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences at McMaster.

She is now working to understand the metabolic pathways of bacteria in order to identify novel targets for antibiotics. She has coauthored a chapter in a textbook, as well as an article in the high-impact journal Nature Chemical Biology. A commentary she collaborated on with Brown was published in Nature in 2009.

Like Zlitni, each of the 2010 recipients of Vanier scholarships have demonstrated leadership skills and a strong record of scholarship.

"They are the next generation of world-class researchers and educators," said Catherine Hayward, associate dean of graduate studies for the Faculty of Health Sciences. "Through their research and scholarship, they have the potential to improve our quality of life and advance technologies that will benefit our society."

"The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships honour the best and the brightest in Canada - those rare students who balance outstanding academic and research achievements with an inspirational ability to lead and to make a difference in the world," said Allison Sekuler, associate vice-president and dean of graduate studies at McMaster University. "This year, McMaster earned eight of these prestigious awards, which is a real testament to the strength of our graduate programs and calibre of students that they attract."

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).

Vanier scholars receive $50,000 annually for up to three years. A total of 174 scholarships were announced by the federal government for 2010.

"It's a great privilege and a great honour. I'm very humbled by it," Zlitni said. "The Vanier scholarships are one of the few funding opportunities available for international students. It's nice to feel supported and appreciated. It makes me want to work ever harder."

The 2010 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship winners include:

CIHR recipients:

ï  Rebecca Ganann, School of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences

ï  Regan Patrick, McMaster Integrative Neuroscience Discovery & Study Graduate Program, Faculty of Health Sciences

ï  Rhandi Senaratne, Medical Sciences Graduate Program, Faculty of Health Sciences

ï  Andy Kin On Wong, Medical Sciences Graduate Program, Faculty of Health Sciences

ï  Soumaya Zlitni, Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences

NSERC recipients:

ï  Christine Kerr, Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences

ï  Mark Vida, Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour, Faculty of Science

SSHRC recipient:

ï  Cora Woolsey, Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences