The Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS) is delighted to announce the recipients of the 2020 CAGS-ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award.

Winner – Engineering, Medical Sciences and Natural Sciences Category

Dr. Ina Anreiter, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto

Supervisor: Marla Sokolowski, PhD, University Professor, FRSC, CIFAR Senior Fellow, Massey College Senior Fellow, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto

Dissertation: Transcriptional Regulation of the foraging Gene and its Associated Behaviours

Dr. Ina Anreiter, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto

Dr. Ina Anreiter’s dissertation addresses the transcriptional regulation of the foraging gene and its associated behaviours. Her investigation focusses on the molecular basis of pleiotropy (when a gene has multiple functions) and how this is regulated transcriptionally at the level of RNA. Specifically, Dr. Anreiter studied pleiotropy of the Drosophila foraging gene and its multiple functions in behaviour and metabolic traits, leading to innovative discoveries about the gene’s regulation.

From 2019-2020, Dr. Anreiter completed a postdoctoral fellowship focussed on machine learning in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto. She served in this position as a Schmidt Science Fellow, a prestigious and intensely competitive international program offered to just twenty students that year. Dr. Anreiter recently joined the inaugural cohort of Stanford Science Fellows at Stanford University, and in January 2022 she will start her own research group as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Toronto Scarborough. Dr. Anreiter has published a total of sixteen scientific articles based on her dissertation findings, including ten as first author; five of Dr. Anreiter’s articles have been published in the leading journal in her field.

Professional Bio of Dr. Ina Anreiter

Dr. Ina Anreiter is a Stanford Science Fellow in the Department of Neurobiology at the Stanford School of Medicine. Her research interests center around how animal behaviour is regulated throughout development and in response to experience. To investigate these questions, she takes a multi-disciplinary approach which is reflected in her academic journey.

Prior to her PhD, Ina completed a BSc in Biology and a MSc in Molecular Genetics and Biomedicine at the University of Lisbon. Having developed an interest in animal behaviour, Ina came to the University of Toronto to pursue a PhD with Dr. Marla Sokolowski, a renowned behavioural geneticist. Her PhD thesis focused on how epigenetic mechanisms regulate gene expression to affect individual differences in behaviour and the dissection of behavioural pleiotropy (regulation of multiple behavioural functions by a single gene). After her PhD Ina pivoted into computer science for a year, as a Schmidt Science fellow with Dr. Jared Simpson, a leading expert in Oxford Nanopore Sequencing tool development. Her project focused on leveraging new computational methods to study the role of transcriptomics in gene regulation and behaviour. Subsequently, Ina Joined the lab of Dr. Thomas Clandinin at Stanford University, a pioneering lab in neuroimaging and neurogenetics. Her current project uses genetic manipulations, whole live brain imaging, and behavioural essays to study the role of gene-regulation mechanisms in brain development, brain function, and behaviour.

Ina’s long-term research aims as an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough incorporate her expertise gained in the disciplines above to better understand the role of epigenetic and epitranscriptomic gene regulation in development, behavior, and disease.

“Dr. Anreiter has exceptional abilities at research and communication and is able to work and think across disciplines. Her resourcefulness and ability to bring clarity to highly complex interdisciplinary topics is unsurpassed.” Marla Sokolowski, PhD Supervisor

“This thesis is nearly flawless in its quality, scope, novelty, and influence.” Dr. Mariana Wolfner, Cornell University, External Examiner

Winner – Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Category

Dr. Hannah Kia, Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto

Supervisor: Lori E. Ross, PhD, Associate Professor and PhD Program Director, Division of Social and Behavioural Health Sciences, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto

Dissertation: Subjugation and Resistance in Older Gay Men’s Health Care Experiences

Dr. Hannah Kia, Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto

Dr. Hannah Kia’s dissertation examines subjugation and resistance among older HIV-positive and HIV-negative gay men in their health care encounters. Specifically, Dr. Kia’s study integrates Foucauldian governmentality with the methods of situational analysis to critically examine the contemporary influence of historical relationships between the gay community, HIV/AIDS stigma, and health care institutions. Her novel findings have significant implications for policy, practice, and health care delivery to populations that often avoid health care as a result of actual or anticipated stigmas.

Dr. Kia completed her PhD within five years, and was immediately successful in securing a tenure-stream faculty position as an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of British Columbia. She has published three empirical manuscripts based on her dissertation findings.

Professional Bio of Dr. Hannah Kia

Dr. Hannah Kia is an Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Social Work and a Research Scientist at the Centre for Gender and Sexual Health Equity (CGSHE) at UBC. Her current program of research addresses a variety of issues pertaining to sexual and gender minority (SGM) populations. Hannah’s work centres, in particular, questions related to SGM health, aging in SGM communities, as well as social work and other professional practice with SGM groups. Most recently, she launched a study aimed at examining the constituents of effective social work practice with trans and gender diverse people. Hannah is additionally a co-investigator on various projects investigating issues such as poverty, along with sexual and mental health issues, among diverse SGM populations.

Before arriving at the School of Social Work, Hannah completed her doctoral training at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, where she investigated subjugation and resistance in older gay men’s health care experiences. This study was funded by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) doctoral research award.

Prior to starting her academic career, Hannah practiced as a social worker in health care. In this capacity, she gained experience in general acute care and hospice palliative care. She is actively registered as a clinical social worker (RCSW) in British Columbia.

Dr. Kia exemplifies academic excellence, and in particular is exceptionally skilled in her application of critical social theory to questions of health, health equity, and social justice, with a specific focus on the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit (LGBTQ2S+) populations.” Dr. Lori E. Ross, PhD Supervisor

“This was, by far, one of the most impressive manuscripts that I have had the opportunity to read over the course of my career.” Dr. Shari Brotman, McGill University, External Examiner

The CAGS-ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award recognizes Canadian doctoral dissertations that make unusually significant and original contributions, both to their respective academic communities and to Canadian society at large. The award was established in 1994 and is presented annually by CAGS, with sponsorship support provided by ProQuest. For the 2020 award season, eligible dissertations must have been completed and accepted by the graduate school between 1 January 2019 and 31 December 2019.

As expected, there were many extraordinary nominees for this award and the competition was extremely difficult to adjudicate. CAGS received twenty-one submissions from across Canada in each category, and these were assessed by two independent committees each consisting of twelve expert judges. Both committees were unanimous in their decision and commended the exemplary dissertations produced by Dr. Anreiter and Dr. Kia.

Dr. Anreiter and Dr. Kia will each receive a cash prize of $1,500, a certificate of recognition, and an invitation to present at the 59th Annual CAGS Conference in November 2021. CAGS and ProQuest congratulate the winners for their tremendous accomplishments!