Fifty years of Killam Scholars
Since 1967, the Killam Trust has supported Dalhousie graduate and postdoctoral researchers from across academic disciplines. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the trust, we reached out to our alumni to highlight their accomplishments. Below are a selection of the many who have benefited over the past half century.
Making an impact through public service
When Peter Bryson became a lawyer at McInnes Cooper, he often found himself acting on behalf of the Killam Trust. It was, for the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal Judge, somewhat appropriate, given that he is a Dalhousie Killam Scholarship recipient.
“The Scholarship gave me a strong sense of what the Trust did that perhaps another lawyer would not have had,” Justice Bryson says. “I think that connection attracted the firm to me.”
Justice Bryson says the Scholarship also offered him an opportunity to take his education to the next level, building on the BA he earned at The University of King’s College with an MA in Classics at Dalhousie in 1978.
“Having the Killam Scholarship meant everything was covered, so I didn’t have to take a job that would divert me from my academic goal,” Justice Bryson says. “Later, when I applied to study law at Oxford University, I think the Scholarship helped distinguish me from other students, so it was very helpful in completing my studies.”
By enabling Justice Bryson to complete his studies, the Scholarship provided an opportunity for him to develop strong analytical and communication skills that have proven invaluable over the course of his career.
“At the appeal court-level, there are often questions of law that have not been resolved before, so you have to review what competing authorities have said, determine what is right and explain why,” Justice Bryson says.
“The education I received thanks to the Killam Scholarship helps me in that e ort and continues to have an influence on me.”
There is another way in which the Scholarship has been in uential in Justice Bryson’s life: it has inspired him to pursue a life of public service, from chairing the Selection Committee for Rhodes Scholars in the Maritimes to leading the e ort to raise funds for the construction of the King’s College Library.
“The Killams’ generosity exemplifies a profound public service,” Justice Bryson says. “The honour of receiving the Scholarship and the opportunity it a afforded is inspiration for all recipients to make a difference in our own way.”
Developing a new global standard to maximize the impact of clinical trials
All her life, Nancy Butcher wanted to be a scientist, so you can imagine how exciting it was for her to receive a Dalhousie Killam Scholarship.
“I think it was the first time that I realized I was really going to be a researcher,” says Dr. Butcher, who is a Senior Research Associate at The Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto.
“The Scholarship gave me some immediate recognition, which is very important when you’re just starting out as a young researcher. But more than that, it helped make it possible to do my master’s studies, which encouraged me to pursue my PhD, and that enabled me to become a scientist. In that way, the Scholarship was a catalyst for my entire career.”
The Scholarship created an opportunity for Dr. Butcher to transform a high school interest in neuroscience into a master’s degree focused on brain circuitry related to learning and memory in fruit flies. She went on to earn her PhD at the University of Toronto, using neuroimaging and genetics to investigate a new genetic risk factor, the 22q11.2 deletion, for early-onset Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Butcher next worked as a scientist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, conducting a clinical trial of a medication to treat neuropsychiatric disorders in children with the 22q11.2 deletion. That, she says, paved the way for her current research at Sick Kids: the development of strategies to maximize the impact and usefulness of clinical trials, including a new international standard for reporting clinical trial outcomes.
“Clinical trials are often inadequately described in the scientific literature,” Dr. Butcher says. “That makes it di cult for clinicians and other researchers to understand or use trial results in their own work. By improving the process, we can ensure that the results are useful and accessible not just to other scientists but also to patients and the public.”
With the right reporting standards and methods, Dr. Butcher says the potential for advances in treatments and medicines is vast, and she is happy to be conducting her work in Canada. “I see a great opportunity here to develop innovative clinical trial infrastructure that the world can adopt, so I am really excited to be part of the clinical research taking place in Canada.”
Giving people back the power of mobility
As co-developer of the first-ever compact bionic knee brace that boosts leg muscle power, Chris Cowper-Smith is literally putting a spring in the step of people around the world.
“We receive incredibly positive feedback about how the brace has fundamentally changed lives,” says Dr. Cowper-Smith of the Levitation knee brace. “To know that you’ve helped someone regain mobility and significantly reduced the pain and swelling they experience doing daily activities—nothing really compares to that.”
The co-founder and CEO of Spring Loaded Tech Ltd., the Burnside, Nova Scotia-based company that developed the brace, says the groundbreaking technology behind the product—its silicon fluid-powered spring—might not have been possible if not for the support of the Dalhousie Killam Scholarship he received in 2012.
“I had just finished my Master’s in Neuroscience and was beginning my PhD work focused on how the brain controls reaching and eye movements,” Dr. Cowper-Smith says. “The Scholarship was instrumental in supporting that research as it enabled me to rapidly conduct a wide range of human motor control studies.”
The support of the Scholarship also freed Dr. Cowper-Smith to explore the possibility of bringing new technologies to market. “I had the opportunity to connect with the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience’s Radiant Program at Dalhousie, which assists graduate students in looking at commercial avenues for their research. That encouraged me to study entrepreneurship through the School of Business’ Starting Lean course, and that is where Spring Loaded was born.”
After a few years of research and development, Spring Loaded introduced a brace for military use in 2016 and launched the Levitation brace for the consumer market in 2017. Now, Dr. Cowper-Smith and his colleagues are looking at other ways the brace’s core spring technology could be used.
“There’s a wide range of applications for our novel spring design in automotive, aerospace, manufacturing and other industries,” he says. “I’m highly motivated to bring new products to market that will ultimately improve technology and quality of life in a variety of ways. Levitation is just the start for us.”
Advancing the impact in the diagnosis and treatment of brain injury
If there is anything that motivates neuroscientist Ryan D’Arcy, it is the desire to make a difference every day.
“I’m quite a practical, tangible person, so I need to see the impact I can make in real-world advances,” says Dr. D’Arcy, who is a professor and BC Leadership Chair of Medical Technologies with the Faculty of Applied Sciences at Simon Fraser University. “That desire took me into the realm of medical technologies and imaging because I saw that it could help people immediately.”
Through his work, Dr. D’Arcy has significantly advanced the ways in which we diagnose and treat brain injuries. He was part of the team that led the development of NeuroTouch, a 3D simulation that has revolutionized how surgeons train for brain surgery. He has also led the development of portable devices that scan brain activity and used advanced brain imaging to help people recover from brain injuries well beyond established limits.
“We talk about space as being the final frontier, but I tell my students the brain is the ultimate frontier,” says Dr. D’Arcy, who also serves as the head of Health Sciences and Innovation at Surrey Memorial Hospital.
“We think it may be possible there are more potential functional connections in the human brain than there are atoms in the observable universe. That complexity is what fascinates me the most about the brain.”
Dr. D’Arcy’s innovations have garnered considerable recognition, but the Dalhousie Killam Scholarship holds a special place in his heart for validating his potential and motivating him to give back by leading the development of biotechnology clusters in both Halifax and Vancouver.
“It gave me con dence I was launching a career where I could make a difference,” Dr. D’Arcy says. “Recognition as a Killam Scholar encourages me to always strive for the best and to be innovative in my work.”
That innovation is evident in Dr. D’Arcy’s recent e orts to establish vital signs for the brain. “It establishes a critical baseline for healthy brain function so we can better determine the impact of injuries and diseases. Solving this basic human-health problem will revolutionize brain care.”
Improving care for families in neonatal intensive care units
If you ask any Dalhousie Killam Scholar how it feels to receive the Scholarship, they typically call it a great honour and a wonderful validation of their work. So how does Tim Disher feel to have received two of them?
“It’s pretty awesome,” says Disher, whose research is focused on enhancing family care in the NICU environment. “It’s a great feeling to know that the work you did during your master’s was good enough to earn funding at the PhD level. Just knowing the Killams’ history of philanthropy gives me a real appreciation of how this is a special opportunity for me.”
Having the Dalhousie Killam Scholarship gives Disher the freedom to pursue his research exactly as he sees fit without distraction or compromise. “It gives you the flexibility to choose your project without needing to be tied to existing funded research in the lab,” Disher explains. “But more than that, being a registered nurse with undergraduate loans to pay off, I never could have enrolled in graduate school without funding at the level this Scholarship provides, so it makes a huge difference.”
Disher is helping to make a difference in his own way, researching the benefits of skin-to-skin contact between parents and babies in the NICU during his master’s and the importance of single-family rooms during his PhD.
“The IWK Health Centre in Halifax has made a significant investment to transition from an open bay NICU to a single-family room concept,” Disher says. “I’m looking at what the outcomes will be and the potential financial costs to ensure we know what is best for babies and that we fully support parents in getting the most advantage from this.”
Inspired by the spirit of the Killams and their Scholarship, Disher’s goal is to one day be in a position where he can use his training to enhance the way health care is delivered.
“Whether through a tenure track academic position at a research-intensive university or through a group like the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technology in Health, I want to make the health care system better for families, but especially for women and children.”
Creating innovative solutions to improve health and wellness
Alec Falkenham did not celebrate his Dalhousie Killam Scholarship by getting a commemorative tattoo. But he did use the opportunity to launch a side project inspired by his PhD research on cardiovascular disease and immunology: the development of a cream that could remove tattoos in a less invasive and potentially more affordable way than laser treatments.
“I was looking into how the immune system works, specifically how the heart heals after an injury,” recalls Dr. Falkenham, now a second-year student in the Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University.
“I realized the immune cells I was studying were macrophages, which roughly translates to ‘big eaters’,” Dr. Falkeham says. “They have a range of functions, but for reasons that aren’t well known, some macrophages can take up the tattoo pigment and hold onto it, thus forming a permanent tattoo.”
Based on that realization, Dr. Falkenham developed a cream that targets these macrophages, speeding up the tattoo healing process so the ink is gradually removed from the skin. “Because I had financial assistance through the Scholarship, I did not have to work part time to cover expenses, which meant I could take time to look into this phenomenon further. That’s how I developed the cream.”
In addition to enabling exploration of the cream’s potential, the Scholarship also freed Dr. Falkenham to volunteer with the QEII Health Sciences Centre’s emergency room care program, which gave him unique insights into the diseases he was studying.
“I met people who lost everything to disease,” Dr. Falkenham says. “As I worked with them, I realized I preferred helping people every day to working in a lab, so in that way the Scholarship helped influence my decision to one day serve the community as a physician.”
Whether as a family physician or through the tattoo removal cream he has licensed to Cipher Pharmaceuticals for commercial development, Dr. Falkenham is dedicated to making a difference. In that way, he honours the spirit of the Killams, whose generosity made a difference in his life.
“To know that someone values the research you are doing and is willing to make an investment in you is really important,” he says. “I’m really grateful that the Scholarship supported me in both my learning and my accomplishments.”
Discovering and protecting endangered species
James Hanken is in a race against time. As climate change continues to threaten plants and animals worldwide, the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology at Harvard University is travelling to places like Mexico and Costa Rica to describe and name previously unknown species of amphibians.
“Amphibian species are being lost to global warming before we can fully appreciate what we have,” Dr. Hanken explains. “By naming and describing them, we can guide government agencies in creating designated parks and other protected areas to save these species.”
Dr. Hanken, who also serves as director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard, has made several key contributions to better understanding our planet’s biodiversity and how we can protect it over the course of his career. His research on evolutionary developmental biology unraveled the mysteries regarding the development of vertebrate skeletons and skulls. He has also helped give scientists unprecedented access to data on all known living species as a cofounder of both the online Encyclopedia of Life and Biodiversity Heritage Library.
All this work was made possible in part by the Dalhousie Killam Scholarship that Dr. Hanken received back in 1980. “It gave me the freedom to pursue the type of research that interested me without any strings, or any teaching or work obligations to distract me,” Dr. Hanken says.
“That enabled me to publish several papers from my dissertation, which gave me a competitive edge when it came time to apply for academic positions. It was instrumental in getting my career off the ground and I’m really grateful for it.”
More than 37 years on, Dr. Hanken continues to advance our understanding of earth’s biodiversity. He’s especially excited by newly developed genetic and computational tools and techniques for discovering species and documenting their evolution.
“We’re able to do analyses and answer fundamental questions that our predecessors could only dream about,” Dr. Hanken says. “There’s never been a better time to be an evolutionary and comparative biologist, and I can’t wait to see what the future will bring.”
Advancing Québécois literary history through award winning work
For 50 years, Annette Hayward has been following her passion: researching the history of Québec literature.
Her groundbreaking work, encouraged in part by the Dalhousie Killam Scholarship she received in 1967, has been fundamental for anyone seeking insights on early 20th century writers and their differing philosophies of what Québec literature should be. It has also produced a Governor General Literary Award-winning book, La querelle du régionalisme au Québec 1904- 1931: vers l’automisation de la literature Québecoise, a landmark account of a long-running debate between writers who favoured rural and religious themes and those who championed more modern and realistic work.
Such achievements are all the more impressive considering that Dr. Hayward did not learn French until she was in her teens, but she quickly became enamoured with the language. “It is very precise,” she explains, “so it helps you go into ideas and expression in a very profound and intricate way. Once I delved into the language, I found I enjoyed French culture, literature and everything else that went with it. That’s how it became my life’s passion.”
This passion led Dr. Hayward to earn a Scholarship so she could study writers in France. But those plans were jeopardized when the Scholarship was not renewed due to an administrative error. Fortunately, the Dalhousie Killam Scholarship offered her an opportunity to come back to Canada and explore Québec literature.
“It was exploding at the time, which was exciting,” Dr. Hayward says. “I was something of an intellectual, and the Dalhousie Killam Scholarship encouraged me to pursue my interest at a time when academic and career opportunities were opening up for women. The Scholarship made it possible for me to earn my master’s in just a year and go on directly to do my PhD, so it helped to steer me toward an academic career.”
Although she retired eight years ago from a French professorship at Queen’s University, Dr. Hayward is working on another book. “As long as I have the energy, I’ll continue doing research. There's still so much to explore and discover in Québec literary history.”
A global leader in advancing education in human anatomy
If there is anything that fascinates Katja Hoehn more than human physiology and anatomy, it is seeing how her students light up as they explore the topic.
“It’s an incredible feeling to know that you can make a difference in how they approach learning,” says Dr. Hoehn, who teaches biology at Mount Royal University in Calgary, AB. “That’s something that will bene t them throughout their careers.”
Dr. Hoehn has dedicated her career to learning all there is to know about the human body, and to sharing that knowledge as a researcher, professor and author. Her expertise on the subject is reflected both in the teaching awards she has received, such as the Mount Royal University Distinguished Faculty Teaching Award, and in the fact that she is co-author of Human Anatomy & Physiology, the most widely used textbook of its kind. Now in its tenth edition, it has been translated into five languages since it was rst published in 2007.
That is an impressive legacy, and Dr. Hoehn says it was made possible in part by the Dalhousie Killam Scholarship she received in 1986. At the time, she was just starting her PhD in Pharmacology and it freed her to focus on her studies without worrying about finances.
“It was huge to receive the Dalhousie Killam Scholarship in my first year of the program,” Dr. Hoehn says. “It really helped me get started in my studies and it put me on track toward my career.”
More than financial assistance, the Scholarship gave Dr. Hoehn a sense of confidence and community that motivated her. “Just getting to know some of the other scholars and having support from them and from the Scholarship, I felt like people had faith in my abilities as an academic. It was a real honour to receive the Scholarship and I value the assistance they gave me.”
Dr. Hoehn continues to honour the spirit of the Scholarship as she inspires a new generation of students. “Teaching is my first love, and the ability to explore the body and how it works with them is an exciting experience.”
Helping families find solutions through the law
Elizabeth Jollimore knows how one decision can impact someone’s life. It is something she learned both as an appointed judge of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia (Family Division) and on one fateful day in 1983 when she discovered she was a Killam Scholarship recipient.
Justice Jollimore had plans to become a sociology professor, but the Scholarship enabled a decision that opened up new academic and career opportunities for her.
“The Killam Scholarship made it possible to take on a much larger master’s thesis topic than I would have been able to manage otherwise,” Justice Jollimore says. “I decided to research civil liberties and the Scholarship meant I could travel to Ontario universities to access datasets that would have been unavailable to me.”
Justice Jollimore also realized the Scholarship was generous enough to help pay for law school. “I thought, ‘If I want to teach sociology, I should differentiate myself and study law.’ But once you go to law school, you article, and once you do that, your path changes. In that way, receiving the Scholarship was enormous.”
Over the course of her career, Justice Jollimore has focused on family law and consistently worked to help families navigate the province’s legal system, particularly since her appointment to the Supreme Court in 2008.
“In approximately 50 per cent of private cases such as spousal support or custody access, there’ll be no lawyer or just one in court,” Justice Jollimore says. “You can imagine how di cult it is to work through a system lawyers have spent years learning, so I try to write decisions that make it clear how self-representing individuals can help me in making my decisions.”
It is very clear that Justice Jollimore made the right decision going into law. “I don’t see myself wanting to leave the work I am in. Getting people to a resolution that achieves what they want is very rewarding.”
Harnessing computers to make drug development more efficient
When you think about the development of new medicines, you probably imagine scientists spending hours conducting chemistry experiments in a laboratory. This has been the standard for hundreds of years. But thanks to the research of Jing Kong, an associate professor in the department of chemistry at Middle Tennessee State University, and his peers in computational chemistry, drug development could become significantly more efficient and less expensive.
Originally from China, Dr. Kong is a leading expert in computational chemistry, which uses computer simulations to unravel chemistry problems. “It has remarkable benefits from the operational point of view,” says Dr. Kong. “It takes a computer a lot less time to do chemistry than it takes you to prepare for an experiment. That means drug discoveries, chemical research and materials research become much more cost and time effective, which benefits everyone.”
Dr. Kong has a strong appreciation for the need to make research more cost and time effcient. A Dalhousie Killam Scholarship recipient, he says such funding gave him the motivation and freedom to focus on theoretical chemistry studies under the guidance of renowned expert Dr. Russell Boyd. But the Scholarship gave him something more invaluable.
“As much as it helped me academically, the Dalhousie Killam Scholarship was important to me personally because I was able to bring my family over from China,” Dr. Kong explains. “I probably could have done it without the Scholarship, but it would have been much harder financially to do so, which would have affected my studies, so I am eternally grateful to the Killams for their generosity.”
Still motivated by that generosity, Dr. Kong is now focused on enhancing the accuracy of computational chemistry while advancing the speed of calculations. “The current computer models we use often still do not match the accuracy of lab experiments, which means the results are somewhat unreliable,” Dr. Kong says. “My hope is that the mathematical formulas and the computer implementation I’m developing with my students and collaborators will address this, and if we are successful, the opportunities to advance research and discovery are limitless.”
Safeguarding the rights of Canadian air travellers
For Gabor Lukacs receiving a Dalhousie Killam Scholarship was more than an opportunity to pursue his academic research goals. It gave him roots and a home, and it helped set him off on a path to be a leading advocate for air passenger rights.
Originally from Hungary, Dr. Lukacs had planned to conduct postdoctoral mathematics research at Dalhousie, but he says, “that would not have been possible with most funding opportunities, which are only for Canadians or permanent residents, which I wasn’t at the time.”
“The news that I received the Scholarship was like a dream come true,” he adds. “It gave me a long-lasting connection to the university. I also found a home and roots in Halifax, which is the greatest gift for an immigrant like myself. Every time I few back here, I felt like I was coming home.”
The Scholarship enabled Dr. Lukacs to travel extensively to conferences and his experiences were such that he began to push for better enforcement of air passenger rights. Since 2008, he has secured 26 favourable rulings from the Canadian Transportation Agency, resulting in improvements to airline terms and conditions, with the decision by Air Canada to raise the compensation it pays to bumped passengers being his most significant achievement.
“As I kept winning cases, more and more people contacted me with their problems, and sought my help,” Dr. Lukacs says. “I felt compelled to help, because so few people actually understand the law in this area.”
To that end, Dr. Lukacs launched Air Passenger Rights, an independent nonprofit network of volunteers dedicated to airline advocacy. His goal is to grow it into a formal organization, with staff, interns, and volunteers all dedicated to lobbying on behalf of air travellers. “Airlines have various organizations to advocate and lobby for their interests,” Dr. Lukacs says. “Passengers need one too.”
In the meantime, Dr. Lukacs continues to raise public awareness about the regulatory laws and rights that protect Canadians who travel by air. “My goal is to grow a travelling public aware of its rights and capable of enforcing them against airlines,” Dr. Lukacs says. “More generally, I would like to see a rights-aware consumer community.”
Strengthening northern communities through sexual health education
Candice Lys was sitting in an internet café in Vietnam when an email arrived announcing that she had received a Dalhousie Killam Scholarship.
“That changed the course of my life,” says Dr. Lys, who was in the midst of a trip through South East Asia and Australia. “Had it not been for the Scholarship, I would not have done my Master’s in Health Promotion at Dalhousie. I would have studied something else. But the work I did through that program formed the basis for my PhD and for a sexual health program that I subsequently co-founded, so the Scholarship was really critical in putting me on my path.”
That program, FOXY (Fostering Open eXpression among Youth), is a unique approach to promoting mental and sexual health and healthy relationships among young women in Canada’s north. Drawing on a mix of traditional and modern arts such as beading, theatre and digital storytelling, it gives participants the tools to make decisions about sexuality that are right for them.
“I grew up in Fort Smith in the Northwest Territories and found sex education to be quite lacking,” Dr. Lys says. “The young women I met during my master’s research expressed the same concerns—they wanted something more hands on, more innovative. That’s how FOXY was born.”
Since it launched in 2012, FOXY has reached more than 2,400 youth in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the Yukon. Dr. Lys is humbled by the reception to the program, not just among participants but also the recognition it has received, most notably garnering the full $1 million Arctic Inspiration Prize in 2014. That inspired Dr. Lys and FOXY’s co-founder Nancy MacNeill to launch SMASH (Strength, Masculinities and Sexual Health), a similar program focused on young men in Canada’s north.
“We’re also looking to bring this program to rural and remote communities across the country, and to LGBTQ youth in the north,” she says. “I think there’s a lot of potential for expansion, but for now, I am really proud of the fact that we’re helping to build a stronger north.”
Protecting the intellectual property of indigenous peoples
When Ikechi Mgbeoji became a Dalhousie Killam Scholarship recipient, it was a momentous occasion for him. For one, the Scholarship provided vital recognition and support for his doctoral research on patent law involving the knowledge of indigenous populations. But more than that, he knew it had been a while since anyone associated with the Schulich School of Law had received the Scholarship, and that made the news feel like a shared honour.
“It was not just a happy moment for me, but also for the entire law school,” recalls Dr. Mgbeoji, who also received a Governor General’s Gold Medal for academic excellence. “But more important, the Scholarship enabled me to pursue my research at a time when few people were looking into this field and that has had major bene ts for indigenous populations.”
Dr. Mgbeoji’s extensive research, supported fully by the Scholarship, has been instrumental in reshaping intellectual property law in more than 60 countries, resulting in improved protection of indigenous people’s knowledge particularly related to the development of pharmaceuticals from a range of plants and other biological resources.
“Most of the knowledge we have today we owe to ancient societies,” Dr. Mgbeoji says “Many of these societies had specialized knowledge of how to use biological products to develop treatments, and scientists have long bene tted from that knowledge without paying something back. I’ve been able to redress that through my work, which would not have been possible without the Scholarship funding.”
Dr. Mgbeoji also credits the prestige of the Scholarship for opening doors in his career, from becoming the first black professor of intellectual property law at the University of British Columbia to his current position as professor at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University, where he helped establish an intellectual law program. As a result, he has been inspired to establish the Hugh Kindred International Law Fund, a Scholarship available to Schulich School of Law students.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the Scholarship—no question about it,” Dr. Mgbeoji says. “It’s important to me to do something to help the next generation of students the way the Killams helped me.”
Helping to welcome newcomers to Canada
For Barbara Mysko, few things can compare to knowing you have received a Dalhousie Killam Scholarship.
“When you look at who has received that Scholarship, and realize you are now in their company, that’s an honour,” says Mysko, a senior crown counsel with the Constitutional Law Division of the Ministry of Justice in Saskatchewan. “I was really grateful to receive it.”
Mysko says that, at the time, she was completing an undergraduate degree in International Studies at the University of Saskatchewan. She had plans to earn her master’s, and had received three acceptance letters from universities across Canada, but it was the Scholarship that tipped the scales when deciding where to go.
“I really wanted to continue my education and the Killam Scholarship made it easier to embark on the next stage of academic studies,” Mysko says. “It also proved to be a change of course for me in that I was exposed to a di erent world view in the University’s International Development program, so in that way the Scholarship had a major impact on my career and my life.”
Mysko ultimately opted to pursue a law degree at McGill University over a career in international development. She says Dalhousie cultivated in her an emphasis on empathy, one that continues to serve her well in the cases she handles with the government. But it also informs her volunteer work with Pro Bono Law Saskatchewan’s Immigration and Refugee Panel—a commitment she has maintained since 2009. Her efforts to assist newcomers were recognized in 2016 when Mysko was named co-recipient of the Pro Bono Service Award from the Law Society of Saskatchewan and Pro Bono Law Saskatchewan.
“The Scholarship and my Dalhousie experience constantly remind me to ask how I can serve others in a way that is helpful,” Mysko says. “I feel very fortunate to do the work I do and I’ll continue doing it for as long as I can.”
Improving lives through the law
Rosemary Nation had two paths in mind after earning her law degree at the University of Alberta in 1976: article and go on to practice, or enroll in graduate school and become a professor.
The expenses involved in earning a law degree were such that Justice Nation knew she could not continue her studies without securing some financial support. Fortunately, news came that she had been awarded a Dalhousie Killam Scholarship, which not only made her decision easier but also offered her a unique opportunity to explore her passion: environmental conservation.
“I had been doing volunteer work with the Calgary chapter of what’s now called the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society,” Justice Nation says. “There were a lot of issues at the time related to establishing national parks and conservation. The Dalhousie Killam Scholarship made it possible to spend a year studying a topic that appealed to me and gave me the knowledge I needed to do that volunteer work.”
Justice Nation ultimately decided not to go into teaching, opting for a career in civil litigation from 1979 until 1997 when she was appointed to the Court of Queen’s Bench in Alberta. “I enjoy helping people, particularly through law, because you have an opportunity to resolve disputes and end conflict in their lives.”
That desire to help led Justice Nation to assist with coaching students in negotiating and trial advocacy courses at the University of Calgary law school after she opted for supernumerary status in 2016. She also established and oversees a bursary program funded by her Class of ’76 alumni – something she says was inspired in part by the Dalhousie Killam Scholarship.
“I appreciated the funding,” Justice Nation says. “Being the recipient of an award like that opens your eyes to how you can give back and create opportunities for the next generation of law students.”
Investigating the links between species survival and climate change
Rebekah Oomen knows a thing or two about the ability to adapt. Currently based at the University of Oslo in Norway, the Ontario-born Oomen is in the midst of PhD research on how Atlantic cod respond to changes in temperature and how this response differs among cod populations with different genetic backgrounds.
So far, Oomen has determined even relatively small increases in water temperature have a significant effect on cod gene expression, growth, and survival rates. “The warmer the temperature, the faster they develop and the earlier they show a stress response, which appears to accelerate mortality,” Oomen explains.” However, she cautions not all cod will respond the same way because they are adapted to the different temperatures where they live and this a ects their response to changes in temperature.
Oomen also has demonstrated a personal ability to adapt in her studies, thanks to the Dalhousie Killam Scholarship. “I had funding for the first three years of my PhD, but that was coming to an end and I was wondering how I could continue my research,” Oomen recalls. “Knowing I had the Scholarship in place for my fourth year meant I could stay focused on my work and my goals.”
By removing the financial pressures involved in attaining a PhD, the Scholarship created an opportunity for Oomen to travel to the Centre for Ecology and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES) at the University of Oslo, where researchers had mapped the genomic sequence of cod. That helped pave the way for her current work, which is a collaboration between the CEES and the Institute of Marine Research Flødevigen.
“If your aim is to be on the leading edge of genomic research, things move so quickly that you need to be able to adapt as plans change,” Oomen says. “Having the financial security of the Killam Scholarship gave me the flexibility and support to do that.”
Ultimately, Oomen’s goal is to identify key genes underlying different responses to temperature and then screen cod populations worldwide for these genes to predict how they will respond to climate change.
“I’d like to link the effect of the environment on gene expression to individual fitness and then to a population’s survival. Making connections between these different levels of biological organization would not only help us understand how cod will respond to contemporary climate warming but would also help us to better understand adaptation in general.”