MD/PhD candidates named Vanier scholars

By Communications

Two MD/PhD candidates at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry have been named among recipients of the 2023-2024 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships. Each will receive $50,000 annually for three years.

Vanier Scholarships are awarded for demonstrating unique leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement in graduate research that spans all disciplines.

Shahnaza Hamidullah, MD/PhD candidateShahnaza Hamidullah, MD/PhD candidate in neuroscience

Hamidullah’s research is focused on understanding brain changes underlying cognitive impairments in schizophrenia. She is working with supervisors Lisa Saksida, PhD, and Tim Bussey, PhD.

“Cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia, such as impairments in attention and memory, are not easily treated,” she explained. “Research indicates two types of brain changes underlie cognitive impairments in schizophrenia, but we don’t know much about what these two types of brain dysfunction have to do with each other.”

Hamidullah says receiving the Vanier Scholarship is a dream come true. “I come from a refugee family. To go from a girl who couldn’t speak English to being a Vanier scholar, I feel so incredibly privileged,” she said. “My family always struggled financially, so the financial impact is also going to have a tremendous impact on my life.”

Edward Wang, MD/PhD candidateEdward Wang, MD/PhD candidate in medical biophysics

Wang’s research involves creating AI-based tools to help physicians optimize high-dose radiation treatment for metastatic cancers. He is working with supervisors Sarah Mattonen, PhD, and Dr. Pencilla Lang.

Physicians face several challenges when prescribing a form high-dose radiation called stereotactic ablative radiotherapy, including calculating the dose and predicting the treatment outcome. “Advanced AI techniques can be leveraged to quickly estimate the delivered dose of multiple radiation prescriptions, allowing radiation oncologists to better personalize treatment to individual patients and improving treatment outcomes for patients with metastatic cancer,” he explained.

Wang is grateful to family, supervisors and mentors in supporting his academic endeavours. “Receiving the Vanier Scholarship reduces financial burden, allowing me to completely focus my efforts on producing high-quality research and developing as a scientist,” he said. “As I progress through my clinical and scientific training, and into my career, I will undoubtedly rely on the skills I am gaining during my PhD studies.”