Two Institute of Biomedical Engineering graduate students awarded prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships in 2024

The Institute of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at the University of Toronto is proud to announce that two of its doctoral candidates, David Li and Erica Floreani, have been awarded the prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships for the 2024 cycle. This esteemed award, launched by the Government of Canada in 2008, aims to attract and retain world-class doctoral students and establish Canada as a global centre of excellence in research and higher learning.

Each year, up to 166 Vanier Scholarships are awarded to doctoral students who demonstrate leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement in the social sciences and humanities, natural sciences and/or engineering, and health. The scholarship provides $50,000 per year for three years, enabling recipients to focus on their groundbreaking research.

David Li’s research and vision

David Li is a 3rd year Ph.D. student currently pursuing his graduate studies in Dr. Molly Shoichet’s lab. David Li’s research addresses the challenges in stem cell transplantation for brain tissue repair following strokes. His innovative approach involves co-delivering neural stem cells with therapeutic proteins using biomaterials to create an anti-inflammatory environment, enhancing cell survival and tissue repair.

“The Vanier scholarship gives rise to amazing opportunities for international collaborations that advance innovation in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine across Canada. At the University of Toronto, I am privileged to collaborate with diverse interdisciplinary teams to develop therapeutic solutions for neurological diseases like stroke,” said Li. “With the support of the Vanier scholarship, I hope to translate knowledge beyond the lab and into market-ready solutions that will benefit millions of stroke patients. The scholarship also highlights the tremendous support, inspiration, and wisdom I have received from my advisors, mentors, and friends throughout my journey.”

Erica Floreani’s research and vision

Erica Floreani is a 3rd year Ph.D. student currently pursuing her graduate studies in Dr. Tom Chau’s lab. Erica Floreani’s doctoral research focuses on improving the accuracy, reliability, and usability of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) for individuals with physical disabilities. By integrating peripheral physiological signals such as eye movement, muscle activation, and heart rate, Floreani aims to enhance EEG-based BCIs. Her work is closely tied to the BCI program at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, ensuring practical application of her findings.

“Winning the Vanier award is an incredible honour. It serves as a powerful affirmation of the significance of my research and reinforces my motivation to pursue it. This award provides a valuable platform to raise awareness about the importance of applying scientific advances to develop state-of-the-art assistive technologies that support people of all abilities,” said Floreani. “With the resources afforded by the Vanier award, I can more deeply explore the objectives I set out in my doctoral research and hopefully generate more impact with my work. I am immensely grateful for this opportunity and am honoured to represent both BME and the University of Toronto.”