Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Supervision Recipients

Excellence in academic supervision is a hallmark of the Queen鈥檚 graduate student experience. Productive supervisory relationships promote a thriving university research culture where students are supported to make meaningful contributions to their field of specialization and address pressing challenges facing our communities and society. The Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Supervision recognizes those supervisors who demonstrate outstanding excellence in advising, monitoring, and mentoring graduate students. The following graduate faculty members have demonstrated exceptional graduate supervision and have been recipients of the Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Supervision.

Asha Varadharajan

Dr. Asha Varadharajan

2024 Award Recipient

Associate Professor of English
Department of English

Asha Varadharajan is Associate Professor in the Department of English.  She is the author of Exotic Parodies: Subjectivity in Adorno, Said, and Spivak. Her recent publications focus on Caribbean poetry and fiction, trauma and narrative, decolonizing pedagogy, postcolonial temporalities, humanitarian intervention and the legacy of the Frankfurt School.  Her books in progress are titled How to Kick Ass When Life's a Bitch: The Story of (Non)Human Rights and The Dasein of the Displaced: Towards a Historical Ontology of Refugeedom.  She was the recipient of The Principal's Promoting Student Inquiry Award in 2021. 

Dr. Varadharajan has supervised 16 PhD dissertations, 3 MA theses, 4 postdoctoral fellows, and served on more than 40 examining committees in a range of departments at Queen's and as external examiner on several committees in Canada, India, Australia, the U.S. and Europe.  Her supervision is founded upon respect for the intellectual autonomy of students, awareness of disciplinary demands for critical excellence and professionalization, and acute attentiveness to student needs and aspirations.  She has supervised projects across historical periods, deploying a range of cross-disciplinary methodologies, and traversing geographical and cultural boundaries.  Her emphasis throughout has been on erudition rather than expertise, so that her students can translate what they know in contexts and constituencies that would otherwise be alien to them.  She insists on the pleasures of the intellect as the best antidote to the pervasive culture of anxiety and strikes a delicate balance between pragmatism and idealism to ensure her students thrive rather than merely survive.  Her students have been awarded the A.C. Hamilton Prize for the best dissertation in the English department, have been recipients of SSHRCC and Banting fellowships, have secured permanent academic positions in Canada, the U.S., the UK, and Macau, and established careers in diplomacy, finance, web design, secondary education, and sustainable energy solutions.  Her students commend her intellectual rigor, humor, optimism, dedication to their well-being, and ongoing investment in their accomplishments after graduation.  She has collaborated  and continues to collaborate with them on publications and conference papers.

Dr. Varadharajan's supervision ensures that her students' questions and curiosities are framed contrapuntally such that the imperial, ethnocentric, or Eurocentric dimensions of their inquiry are constantly foregrounded and addressed or at least bathed in a defamiliarizing light.  Her commitment to self-fashioning, to the soul-making power of the Humanities, ensures that her students can function with power and vision in any profession because they understand themselves and their place in the world.  Her aim is to cultivate true cosmopolitans rather than simply global citizens. Dr. Varadharajan has been blessed with an array of remarkable students.  Their ardent spirits, incisive intellects, omnivorous curiosities, and fearless irreverence have been her joy and privilege to nurture and challenge. 

Heidi Ploeg

Dr. Heidi Ploeg

2024 Award Recipient

Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Department of Mechanical & Materials Engineering at Smith Engineering

Heidi Ploeg, PhD, FASME, FORS, PEng is a Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and Smith Engineering Chair for Women in Engineering at  成人大片 at Kingston. She directs the Queen鈥檚 Bone and Joint Biomechanics (Q-BJB) Lab, in the Centre for Health Innovation. Her Q-BJB Lab鈥檚 objective is to understand the human musculo-skeletal system better, in order to aid the development of biomechanical and safe solutions for the care and treatment of diseased or injured systems. Her research interests include studying the nature of bone, bone adaptation to mechanical loading, and joint biomechanics as they relate to orthopaedic and dental implants. Including ten years in research and development in the orthopaedics industry, she has over 30 years of experience in orthopaedic biomechanics. Dr. Ploeg received her PhD in Mechanical Engineering in 2000 from 成人大片 at Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

Jeffery Brison

Dr. Jeffery Brison

2023 Award Recipient

Professor of History
Department of History

Dr. Brison is the author of Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Canada: American Philanthropy and the Arts and Letters in Canada, a study that explores the influence of private American philanthropy on the making of a national culture in Canada. A founding member of the North American Cultural Diplomacy Initiative (NACDI), he is currently co-authoring a series of articles exploring the history of Canada鈥檚 use of 鈥渃ulture鈥 in advancing its foreign policy initiatives and global orientations.

Over two decades, Dr. Brison has supervised more than 40 graduate students and two postdoctoral fellows and served on dozens of supervisory committees in the Departments of History, Art History, the Faculty of Education, and the Cultural Studies Program. Additionally, Brison has been a host supervisor to visiting graduate students from Mexico and Scotland. He is the 2014 recipient of the Department of History鈥檚 Faculty Teaching Award. In 2021, the Faculty of Arts Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching recognised his teaching, supervision and mentoring work.

Students under his supervision have garnered provincial and federal awards as well as support and recognition from the International Council for Canadian Studies, MITACS Accelerate and Globalinks Research Fellowship programs, the Fonds de recherche du Qu茅bec, the Canadian-US Fulbright program, the Embassy of Canada (U.S.) Internship Program, and the Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Fund for Advanced Studies. At the end of the day, Brison measures 鈥渟uccess鈥 in the terms his students set. His happiest moments at Queen鈥檚 are connected to his collaborations with the outstanding group of graduate students with whom he has been fortunate to work.

Mohammad Zulkernine

Dr. Mohammad Zulkernine

2023 Award Recipient

Professor of Computing
School of Computing

Dr. Zulkernine was the Canada Research Chair in Software Dependability from 2011 to 2021. He leads the Queen鈥檚 Reliable Software Technology (QRST) research group and is currently focused on building secure software for cyber-physical systems such as connected and autonomous vehicles and other IoT applications. With the support of Canadian provincial and federal agencies and industry, Dr. Zulkernine has led more than 30 research projects on software security and reliability. Additionally, he collaborated in several multi-university and international research initiatives.

Since joining Queen鈥檚 in 2003, Dr. Zulkernine has mentored 13 postdoctoral fellows, 22 doctoral and 44 master鈥檚 students, with whom he has co-authored over 200 refereed publications. In 2016, he was recognized with the Distinguished Graduate Supervision award from the School of Computing. His supervised students won conference best paper awards, the Governor General Gold Medal, PhD Research Achievement, and Distinguished Master鈥檚 Thesis awards.

Samantha King

Dr. Samantha King

2021 Award Recipient

Professor of Kinesiology and Health Studies
School of Kinesiology and Health Studies

Samantha King is a Professor of Kinesiology and Health Studies where she works on the politics of bodies, health, and sport. She is the author of Pink Ribbons, Inc: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy, the subject of a documentary film by the same name, and co-editor of Messy Eating: Conversations on Animals as Food. Her work has appeared in Body & Society, Social Text, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Sociological Review, the Toronto Star, and the National Post, among other venues. Her co-authored book in progress is titled, Protein: The Unofficial Biography of a Nutritional Superstar. 

Since joining the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen鈥檚 University in 2003, Dr. King has directly supervised nineteen master鈥檚 students and fourteen PhD students. The research projects completed by these trainees traverse a diverse range of topics within the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Gender Studies, and Cultural Studies yet share in common the pursuit of more equitable, inclusive, and accessible conceptions of health, sport, and the body. In addition to her own students, Dr. King has served on the committee of a large number of master鈥檚 and PhD students at Queen鈥檚 and other institutions.

Dr. King is deeply committed to helping her students succeed, improve, and thrive as researchers, teachers, and more importantly, as responsible global citizens. Professor King is highly regarded by her peers as an eminent scholar in sport, health and illness and social movements. Through her advanced program of research, she creates a thriving research environment for graduate learning, where her students are able to work collaboratively to conduct scholarly research with social impact. In addition to consistently providing a supportive context for learning, she ensures each students鈥 needs are met and attends to their personal growth trajectories. Students repeatedly comment on her personalized attention to their professional and personal interests, needs, and aspirations.

Dr. King goes beyond her role as a graduate supervisor making an incredible effort to get to know each of her students individually while remaining deeply invested in their success. Many of her students have praised her ability to remain a compassionate and caring supervisor in addition to challenging them academically, often guiding them through difficult times outside of the academic arena. Dr. King values her students outside of their research and works to ensure her students feel fully supported, believing that this has a fundamental impact on their success.

Stephane Courteau

Dr. St茅phane Courteau

2021 Award Recipient

Professor of Astronomy, Astrophysics & Relativity
Department of Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy

Astrophysicist St茅phane Courteau joined the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy at 成人大片 in 2004 and was the Department's Graduate Chair from 2009 to 2019. He obtained his PhD under the supervision of famed "7 Samura茂" Professor Sandra Faber at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1992. Prior to joining Queen鈥檚, Courteau was Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia (2000-2004) and held postdoctoral fellowships at Cornell University (NSERC Fellow), the National Optical Astronomy Observatories in Tucson, Arizona (NOAO Fellow), and the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics in Victoria, B.C. (Plaskett Fellow) from 1992 to 1999.

With large numerical simulations and the biggest telescopes in the world, Courteau and his students study the structure of galaxies, the distribution of visible and dark matter in the Universe, and develop original tests to elucidate fundamental theoretical and/or empirical puzzles in extragalactic astronomy. He has published 130 peer-reviewed papers, and delivered over 300 invited seminars, colloquia, and public lectures around the world.  He has assumed leadership positions as VP and Director of the Canadian Astronomical Society, and as part of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Science Advisory Council, the IAU Steering Committee on Galaxies and Cosmology, and numerous international Observatory Time Allocation Committees. Courteau is also known for organizing landmark international conferences on dark matter and galaxies. Since 2010, he has led yearly summer schools for graduate students at the Mauna Kea Observatories in Hawaii. In collaboration with Hugh Helferty and Nicholas Mosey in the Department of Chemistry, he has also developed a graduate course on "Science Leadership and Management" for training the next generation of scientific leaders. As the Queen's Observatory director since 2009, Courteau has also mentored numerous observatory coordinators, many of whom have gone on to rewarding careers in science outreach in Canada. Courteau has supervised nine PhD and twenty-five MSc students; many of whom have secured permanent positions at major institutions across North America. His very first PhD student won the Plaskett medal for the most outstanding doctoral thesis in Astronomy or Astrophysics in 2005.

Courteau's dedication and care for his students (pre and post-graduation) are well established. His individual mentorship style, fostering a sense of family with all of his students, and research projects tailored to each student, are key to their success. In addition to sharing his passion for astrophysics, science, and discovery with his students, he insists on comprehensive professional development, exposure to scientists in other research centers and the pursuit of intellectual opportunities around the world, creative thinking, and acquiring a global vision for post-graduation success. Through the Astronomy Seminars and Journals Club series, which he has led since his arrival at Queen's, he encourages graduate students to think about the "big picture'' and the importance of their research relative to the field. Overall, Courteau has devoted his career to advancing graduate education, providing unique and exciting opportunities for graduate students at Queen's and those across Canada, and, most importantly, advancing the careers of his students. He looks forward to training new students for years to come.

Liying Cheng

Dr. Liying Cheng

2020 Award Recipient

Professor of Language Education and Assessment
Faculty of Education

Liying Cheng has been a language teacher and language teacher educator for more than 20 years, during which time she has taught a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses at the pre-service, professional development, and graduate levels at a number of universities in Canada, Hong Kong, and China. Her primary research interests are the impact of large-scale testing on instruction, the relationships between assessment and instruction, and the academic and professional acculturation of international and new immigrant students, workers, and professionals to Canada.

Mark Diederichs

Dr. Mark S Diederichs

2020 Award Recipient

Professor of Geological Engineering
Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering

Mark Diederichs began his career with a BASc in Geological Engineering at the University of Toronto. After obtaining his Master's degree in Rock Engineering at UofT, his early work involved the development of geological engineering software to aid in underground mining and tunnelling as well as slope stability. He moved on to a position as field microseismic engineer at Creighton Mine, in support of a Queen鈥檚 University R&D initiative, before taking a rock mechanics research position with the Geomechanics Research Centre in Laurentian University. There he worked on establishing guidelines for ground support design and pursued research related to rockbursts in deep mining. In addition, he has worked as a mining and tunnelling consultant for many years. After completing his PhD in 2000, he joined Queen鈥檚 Geological Science and Geological Engineering in 2001. He specializes in underground rock mechanics issues, including damage zone development around tunnels, engineering rock characterization in heterogeneous conditions, support design issues, tunnel excavation challenges in hard brittle rock, soft squeezing ground and brittle fracture, and rockbursting and long term stability of caverns and shafts related to nuclear waste repositories.