Killam alumni profiles: Peter Bryson and Ryan D'Arcy

- October 20, 2017

Neuroscientist Ryan D'Arcy, left, and Justice Peter Bryson, right, are both alumni of the Killam Trust endowment. (Provided photos)
Neuroscientist Ryan D'Arcy, left, and Justice Peter Bryson, right, are both alumni of the Killam Trust endowment. (Provided photos)

Created by a 1967 bequest from Izaak Walton Killam and Dorothy J. Killam, the Killam Trust endowment at Dalhousie has grown to more than $140-million and benefited 1,783 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows over the past half century.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the trusts, we’ll be publishing profiles of Killam alumni who’ve achieved great things thanks to the Trust.

Learn more about Killam Laureates at Dalhousie.

Predoctoral Scholarship 2000


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 confidence 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 efforts 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.”

Predoctoral Scholarship 1977


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 effort and continues to have an influence on me.”

There is another way in which the Scholarship has been influential 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 effort 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.”


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