2022 Scholarship and Award Recipients

Honors Specialization in Microbiology & Immunology

Joshua Yi smiling, holding certificate in front of himself. Aztec-style wall in background.

Joshua Yi

2022 Western Gold Medal Recipient
Honours Specialization in Microbiology & Immunology

Joining us from Thorold, Ontario in the Niagara region, Joshua decided to come to Western University because he fell in love with the campus environment. He says, “it felt like a place where you could be focused on your academic goals alongside hardworking, like-minded students while being able to experience the joys of university life.” With a general interest in immunology and cancer, Joshua found his passion in a second-year microbiology and immunology course where he began to learn about the interplay between the immune system and cancer—a transformative experience that solidified his desire to pursue an Honours Specialization in Microbiology & Immunology.


As an Honours Specialization student, Joshua completed a fourth-year thesis project in the lab of Dr. Rodney DeKoter exploring the role of ETV5 (a protein) in leukemia. In this environment, Joshua was able to develop his skills as a self-directed learner, navigating how to learn from his mistakes and identifying when he needed to reach out for support from his supervisor and peers in the lab. Joshua is a diligent researcher with strong critical thinking skills and our community is excited to continue mentoring and working with Joshua as he pursues his Master’s degree in the DeKoter lab.

When asked about his favourite thing about being a student at Western University, Joshua said, “I truly cherished the company of the people that I interacted with daily—my friends, my peers, and my colleagues.” His advice for incoming students? “Although it is important to stay disciplined and work hard, it is equally important to relax and take time to yourself. Learning to see the importance of rest helped me stay motivated and energized throughout my academic journey!”

Joshua, congratulations again on your well-deserved success and we look forward to watching you continue your academic journey as a Master’s student here at Western University!

Honors Specialization in Microbiology & Immunology with Pathology

Vincent Santaguida headshotVincent Santaguida

2022 Western Gold Medal Recipient 
Honours Specialization in Microbiology & Immunology with Pathology

Despite these unprecedented past few years, Vincent demonstrated resilience and worked diligently to achieve his goals. When asked about what inspired him as a student at Western, he said it was his experience in first year biology because the professors transformed the way he thought about and approached problems, and he recognized that he was learning skills that would be useful for the rest of his life.

 Vincent is keen to understand and apply his knowledge to address global issues and throughout his undergraduate studies, he took the initiative to diversify his education by taking elective courses in both philosophy and psychology. As an Honours Specialization student, Vincent also had the opportunity to participate in a research project in the labs of Dr. Michael Rieder and Dr. Baset Elzagallaai where he worked on optimizing the extraction of hair cortisol from human hair. Further demonstrating that he is a well-rounded student, Vincent worked with a professor at the University of Toronto during the summer months on projects involving improving care for individuals with dementia.

Vincent is now turning his focus to study for the LSAT in preparation for applying to law school. Based on his outstanding academic achievement here at Western, we are confident that he will continue to be successful in the future.

Vincent, congratulations again on your Western Gold Medal—we wish you well on your next endeavour!

Honors Specialization in Biochemistry of Infection and Immunity

benko.jpgColette Benko

2022 Western Gold Medal Recipient
Honours Specialization in Biochemistry of Infection and Immunity

From Calgary, Alberta, Colette was drawn to Western University by the Scholar’s Electives program, which gives students the opportunity to work on a variety of research projects across disciplines throughout their studies at Western. Building on her experience in the Scholar’s Electives program, Colette completed her fourth-year thesis project in Dr. David Heinrich’s laboratory. When asked about her experience, she said that she was very excited to have the opportunity to conduct research in a microbiology and immunology laboratory. She loved working with her lab members, learning about their research, and building problem-solving skills while navigating new methodologies. In Dr. Heinrich’s words, “Colette is always engaged, always well-prepared, and is a person who truly loves to learn.”

Colette has also actively participated in several extracurriculars, including extensive volunteering in the London community, an impact experience in Peru where she helped implement a soccer program in a small Quechan community, and the SciNapse Undergraduate Science Case Competition where her team went on to represent Western University in the finals and present at Harvard’s National Research Conference.

Colette has a very bright future ahead of her and our community is very proud to celebrate her academic achievements. Although she will probably miss enjoying bagels at The Spoke, we are so excited for her as she moves on to begin her PhD at Stanford University in Developmental Biology.

When asked what advice she would give to incoming students, Colette said, “Be open to new opportunities and experiences. Whether it is taking a class completely out of your field, or participating in a new extracurricular, you might be surprised what you discover”.

Colette, congratulations again on this tremendous achievement and we look forward to following your exciting career ahead!

Honours Double Major – Major in Microbiology and Immunology + Major in Pathology

George Reed headshotGeorge Reed

2022 Western Gold Medal Recipient
Honours Double Major – Major in Microbiology and Immunology + Major in Pathology

After growing up in a small community in Canmore, Alberta and traveling extensively through Alberta and British Columbia, George was eager to head east to pursue post-secondary education. He was initially drawn to Western University by the Combined BMSc/HBA Program, but after two years taking courses in the BMSc program, he decided to prioritize learning about how basic science research can be translated into clinical settings by pursuing an Honours Double Majors degree in Microbiology & Immunology and Pathology. When asked about what his experience was like as a student, George highlighted that he felt “Western offers not only world class educational opportunities, but also has a vibrant campus community, school spirit, and students with interests both academically and non-academically.”

The past fours years at Western solidified George’s desire for life-long learning. Rather than feeling burnt out, George says, “the academic environment and scientific community at Western pushed him to continue learning and pursuing higher education.” His advice for incoming students is to balance studying, learning, and having fun, and always prioritize your mental and physical health. When asked if there was anything else that he would like to acknowledge about his time at Western, he humbly expressed his gratitude for everyone who supported his academic journey—especially his family and friends.

Our community is very proud of all that George has achieved and we look forward to watching him continue to shine as he enters medical school in the fall at the University of Alberta.