Mitacs Research Award


Each year one student, from the various cohorts participating in the Student Research Symposium, is eligible to receive excellence in research award. 

Each department has an awards committee that is responsible for the adjudication of this award.

This year our sponsor is for Creative Activity, Research, and Scholarship & Graduate Studies. 

We are grateful to Dr. Dawn Whitworth and Andrea Heaney for their hard work in finding award funding for the SRS award recipients. 

The awards ceremony will be held at 4:15pm in Birch lower cafeteria on April 15th. 

Congratulations to the following students who received a 2020 Mitacs Research Award for their outstanding Capstone projects:

Nivedan Kaushal 
Orientation and Gestalt Formation: How We Make Sense of the Music We Hear
Abstract: In this paper, I show that our ability to understand a piece of music as a gestalt, a cohesive cognitive unit separate yet emerging from the summation of its constituent parts, is shaped at large by enculturated patterns of music cognition and expression. I do this by examining West African and Western music-culture’s respective dispositions towards orality or literacy which are evident in their pedagogies. Juxtaposing these pedagogies makes clear the kinds of oral and literate means of transmission and thinking by which individuals of these music-cultures form orientations, the point from which one “feels” a music structure’s rhythmic and phrasal attributes, and, ultimately, gestalts. When individuals encounter a different mode of cognition and expression, one that has not been culturally prescribed to them, gestalt formation can become impeded due to an incongruity of orientation between music structures resulting in their inadequate integration. I use my own experiences as examples to explain my claims.

Simran Sarwara
Disrupting the Talent Pipeline: Youth Engagement & The Nonprofit-Industrial Complex
Abstract: The focus of this project is the development of youth engagement curriculum that can be accessed and applied by local communities that conduct this work. This curriculum is rooted in the context of unpacking the concept of youth engagement as it has come to be used in the work of non-profit sectors, grassroots organizing, community organizations and group, and elsewhere. The project develops curriculum that will be available as a resource to those same groups. It builds off of the experience of the author as a young woman of color navigating the youth engagement sphere locally as well as building off of insights and critical analyses as shared by others with similar or different lived experiences.

Sara Sayam
Technology-Based Strategies to Teach Communication Skills to Individuals with Intellectual and/or Developmental Disabilities: A Review of the Literature
Abstract: Handheld electronic devices in the form of speech generating devices (SGD), have become increasingly prevalent in today’s society for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD). These tools have been demonstrated to be effective through various research studies, promoting its development of attaining its status as an evidence based practice. This literature review encompasses ten research studies evaluating the effects of handheld mobile technological devices (e.g., iPad, iPad Mini, iPod), as SGDs by means of fostering functional communication skills such as madding, responding, commenting and discriminating between stimuli in individuals with I/DD. The research question imposed for this literature review involves the effectiveness of technological devices as a form of teaching communication skills to individuals with I/DD who have little to no speech abilities. Through the findings in this review, the results suggest an overall increase in communication through various forms for all participants involved. This suggests continued support for the use of handheld computing devices as SGDs for individuals with I/DD. Future directions in research can include advancements in teaching of more complex forms of communication such as requesting using full sentences, independently asking questions, in addition to inclusion of social factors for communication such as eye contact, smiling, and body posture.

Morgan Van Diessen and Weyshan Yung
Living Well in the Presence of Boundaries, an inquiry with the children, families, and educators of Skyfire. Together, Weyshan Yung and Morgan van Diessen wondered how the community of Skyfire could begin to resituate themselves amongst the more-than-human neighbours and reconsider what it means to live well within a space whilst relying on a common worlds framework. To start this process, the group focused on the tension-filled relationships many had with the resident raccoon family. Through this attention to raccoons, the group began to make visible many concepts and others that previously escaped their view, most notably: boundaries. With many explorations with the children, boundaries became a new lens through which to see the world. Unexpectedly, this lens not only highlighted the separations, but also the points of contact and connection. Weyshan and Morgan hope that this inquiry can inspire other early childhood communities to critically review and reconsider their ideas surrounding place and belonging. Just as their inquiry highlighted, the journey is anything but a straight path and the destination remains out of view, but the possibilities for richness found in broadening your community, connections, and range of visibility are endless. 

Mitacs is a national, not-for-profit organization that has designed and delivered research and training programs in Canada for 20 years. For more information, visit