Celebrating the inaugural recipients of the Western Research Excellence Awards 

(Clockwise from top left)  s Fred Longstaffe, Faculty of Science; Jessica Grahn,
(Clockwise from top left) s Fred Longstaffe, Faculty of Science; Jessica Grahn, Faculty of Social Science; Laurence de Looze, Faculty of Arts & Humanities; Martin Petrin, Faculty of Law; Yolanda Hedberg, Faculty of Science and Susana Caxaj, Faculty of Health Sciences. (Rob Potter image)
Six members from five faculties have been named recipients of the inaugural Western Research Excellence Award s, created in 2023 to recognize excellence across disciplines and career stages.

Western vice-president (research) Penny Pexman is excited about the new opportunity to recognize Western’s researchers.

"Our community has impact across disciplines at all career stages," Pexman said. "We are so pleased to celebrate all of these achievements."

The awards highlight and celebrate efforts to advance equity, diversity, inclusion and decolonization in the research community.

"We recognize the responsibility and potential for research to help us create a more equitable, just and inclusive society," Pexman said. "We look forward to celebrating members of our community who take this to heart - whether through their own discoveries, or by advocating for the need for equity and inclusion in the broader academic community."

Six prizes are offered annually, two each to assistant, associate, and full professors. In each career stage, one prize is awarded in the area broadly defined as the natural sciences and engineering, and one in the social sciences and humanities.

Awardees

Yolanda Hedberg , Faculty of Science 

Yolanda Hedberg is a professor of chemistry and Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Corrosion Science whose research focuses on how the corrosion of materials impacts our health, environment, and safety. Her work has had a major impact on legislation in various countries, and has mitigated risks related to welding fumes and other work-related hazards. Her research addresses several United Nations Sustainable Development Goals , including improved health and wellbeing, quality education, gender equity, clean water, industry, innovation, infrastructure, and responsible consumption and production. 

Susana Caxaj , Faculty of Health Sciences  

Susana Caxaj is a professor of nursing whose research focuses on exploring underserved populations’ access to and navigation of health and other social services, with a focus on racialized, migrant and Indigenous populations. Her work has been instrumental in shining light on the health and social challenges faced by migrant agricultural workers and exploring solutions that can address them. She led the first research study to examine factors contributing to disproportionate deaths among migrant agricultural workers in Ontario and paved the way for the first research-informed support model for migrant farmworkers in British Columbia.

Jessica Grahn , Faculty of Social Science 

Jessica Grahn is a professor of psychology who studies why humans move to music, and how the human brain supports the perception of, and production of, musical rhythms. This work is valuable not only for fundamental insights into our ’inner clocks,’ but may provide new rehabilitative approaches to movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease. Grahn is also an engaging and award-winning public speaker, deeply committed to public understanding of science, has been a powerful advocate for women in academia and a devoted mentor of female trainees and junior faculty. 

Martin Petrin , Faculty of Law  

Professor Martin Petrin is a corporate law and governance expert. His research focuses on the liability of corporate entities; the purpose and goal of corporations; and the impact of AI and other new technologies on business and regulation. Overarching themes in his research are frameworks that explain and justify a broader role for corporations in our society. Petrin’s work has had significant real-world impact; it has been cited internationally by academics, courts, and practitioners, and has informed the work of several regulators, NGOs and businesses. 

Laurence de Looze , Faculty of Arts & Humanities  

Trained as a medievalist, professor Laurence de Looze has worked on medieval literatures across Europe (English, French, Icelandic, Italian) while also expanding into more recent periods. A committed public intellectual, he has more than 80 publications including four books, travel essays, and over a dozen short stories. Most recently, he has moved into documentary production, working with Indigenous communities in Ontario. The two documentaries he has made with Indigenous colleagues and filmmakers are part of an active participation in the work of reconciliation. He now looks forward to producing a third documentary. 

Fred Longstaffe , Faculty of Science  

Professor Fred Longstaffe is world-renowned for his ability to retrieve the -geochemical fingerprints- of our planet’s processes using stable isotopes within ancient minerals, fossils , and even peoples. In a career marked by fieldwork, laboratory innovation and a diverse student team, he has discovered the stories of meteorites, mammoths , and ancient Maya, while helping prepare humans for challenges such as climate change and the safe isolation of Canada’s spent nuclear fuel. He has supervised over 100 graduate student theses, authored close to 400 publications, and was recently recognized as a Member of the Order of Canada.

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