Two uOttawa graduate students awarded the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship

Posted on Thursday, April 11, 2019

Author: Dorothy Lo

Helene Schreiner and Diego Jesus de Souza

Two University of Ottawa graduate students have received the prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship and have joined the ranks of Canada’s top researchers and doctoral students.

The Vanier Scholarship is a program funded by the Government of Canada to establish Canada as a global centre of excellence in research and to recognize world-class doctoral students. Every application is assessed on three criteria: academic excellence, research potential, and leadership qualities. The program’s rigorous application process requires weeks of dedicated full-time work, with each stage of the application process demanding more review and revision.

We are proud to present the two recipients of this award who are graduate students in our faculty:

Helene (Katie) Schreiner

Helene Schreiner

Before Katie studied engineering at the University of Ottawa, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Mathematical Physics from the University of Waterloo. She then went on to work with the SNOLAB research group at Queen’s University and in a nuclear magnetic resonance lab at the Institute for Quantum Computing. Katie decided to study engineering at uOttawa after learning about the Water Resources Engineering group. This research group specializes in analyzing the ways in which water moves in rivers and along coastlines, as well as in mixing processes, hydraulic structures, and climate change. The studies they carry out rely on state-of-the-art measurement systems, along with a variety of computer systems for simulations and flumes for scale model experiments.

Katie’s current research focuses on how submerged jets of liquid mix in river bends. More specifically, she studies how a river’s complex flow patterns, and the properties of the jet itself, affect the mixing process of liquid such as water treatment plant effluent ejected near a river bend, which can help better predict where pollutants end up after they enter a river.

“I’m lucky to be able to receive recognition for doing work that I’m passionate about,” Katie says. “Having the importance of my project validated in this way has given me more determination and focus. I’m also incredibly lucky to have two very supportive supervisors, Professors Rennie and Mohammadian, who push me to try new and difficult things—like applying for the Vanier Scholarship!”

For Katie, the months of work required by the application process were worth the effort. The Vanier Scholarship will provide her with more opportunities to connect with other researchers and to learn from others in her field and furthering her own research.

Diego Jesus de Souza

Diego Jesus De Souza

Diego earned a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR) in Curitiba, Brazil, and went on to complete a master’s degree at the same institution. His thesis delved into the pathology of concrete structures and sulphate attack, one of the most significant and harmful distress mechanisms affecting concrete structures worldwide. While pursuing his graduate studies, Diego founded a small company that specializes in building and fixing concrete and timber structures. Over the past four years, he has authored or co-authored over 22 refereed publications related to concrete technology and durability.

Diego is currently researching the alkali-aggregate reaction (AAR), one of the most harmful processes affecting the durability and long-term performance of concrete infrastructure. This chemical reaction, which occurs between “unstable” silica mineral forms within aggregate materials and the alkali hydroxides (Na, K – OH) dissolved in the concrete, creates small cracks that compromise the functionality of the structure as a whole. While the prevention of AAR is the focus of a number of studies, not much is known about how to stop or mitigate the problem once it has already occurred.

To prepare his application for the Vanier Scholarship, Diego spent at least one month working on the documents every day, in addition to having his application reviewed several times by his advisor, Professor Leandro Sanchez, and by Professors Martin Noel, Pierre Payeur, Marcelo Medeiros and Mauro Lacerda, as well as his wife, Daiana.

“I am very proud and amazed [to be] recognized for this award, especially after I left everything behind in Brazil with my wife to study here in Canada, which was very tough … With this award, I can focus 100% on my research and also I am incredibly motivated.”


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