Two BME students awarded prestigious 2022 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships

Mohammadamir Ghasemian Moghaddam and Meghan Rothenbroker are two of the BME Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship winners of 2022. Vanier awards are given based on the merit of academic excellence, extracurricular activities, and demonstration of leadership.

Mohammadamir Ghasemian Moghaddam,
PhD Candidate,
Leo Chou Lab

My research combines DNA nanotechnology, molecular engineering, and cancer immunology to design cancer vaccines. I’ll want to see how the shape and the surface chemistry of an array DNA nanostructure adjuvants will help their uptake by different cells. This and the other projects in our lab will hopefully result in better treatments and cancer vaccines that impact millions of cancer patients clinically.

The Vanier Scholarship will allow me to be more focused on the research that matters the most to me that would benefit a large number of Canadians. It will also provide me with the networking and training sessions, and other opportunities that are available to the Vanier Scholars. Vanier allows me to initiate international collaborations more easily and to learn and bring the expertise from other countries to Canada.

Winning the Vanier was not possible without the amazing mentorship and support of my current and previous supervisors, lab mates, friends, and family. They provided me with the freedom to pursue the research I am interested in while also honing my leadership skills. As a mechanical engineer studying biology and biomedical engineering, I sometimes suffered from the imposter syndrome. The Vanier Scholarship validated that my entrepreneurial and engineering background is valuable to this research.

Meghan Rothenbroker,
PhD Candidate,
Leo Chou Lab

My research aims to help improve the clinical success of therapeutic cancer vaccines by investigating how nanotechnology-based vaccines should be designed to generate a durable immune response that will have a tangible clinical impact for cancer patients. Although significant resources have been invested in the field of therapeutic cancer vaccines, many formulations have failed to generate a durable immune response in clinical trials, highlighting the challenge in bringing this technology from bench to bedside.

The Vanier scholarship will enable me to dedicate myself more fully to my research and contribute to the growing expertise in DNA nanotechnology in Canada. This scholarship creates opportunities for new collaborations and innovation that will provide greater outcomes for my research initiatives, in addition to enriching my training.

To be awarded the Vanier scholarship is an honour and a privilege to me personally. I feel both proud and grateful. It represents the culmination of my commitment to scientific research, my dedication to others in my community, and a steadfast vision to build opportunities for every person interested in STEM.