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Arts and Science graduate students win highest academic honours

Posted on 2020-05-20 in Science & Technology, Students & Campus Life

From left: Dr. Mohammad Masudur Rahman (PhD) and Dr. Christopher West (PhD) are the two winners of Governor General's Gold Medals at the University of Saskatchewan in 2020. (Photos: submitted)

By Chris Putnam

Two recent PhD graduates of the College of Arts and Science are the winners of the top award for graduate students at the University of Saskatchewan (USask).

Dr. Mohammad Masudur Rahman (PhD) and Dr. Christopher West (PhD), who each received PhDs at 2019 Fall Convocation, are the recipients of the 2019-20 Governor General's Gold Medals at USask.

“This is a dream come true for me,” said Rahman.

Presented on behalf of the Governor General of Canada, the medals are among the highest honours for scholastic achievement that Canadian students can receive. The Governor General’s Gold Medal recognizes outstanding academic performance in a graduate program based on a student’s thesis, coursework, publications and other criteria.

Rahman, who was also awarded the USask Graduate Thesis Award for Physical and Engineering Sciences, completed his PhD in computer science and software engineering under the supervision of Dr. Chanchal Roy (PhD) of the Department of Computer Science.

Rahman’s research focuses on understanding software bugs and developing software solutions to combat them.

“I want to make a significant difference in the way software is developed and maintained,” Rahman said. “I like solving problems and challenging myself every day with tough, interesting and real research problems. I believe my work will inspire more interesting ideas and hope that my developed tools and technologies will lead to industry-wide adoption in the coming years.”

Rahman has worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Polytechnique Montreal since October 2019.

West’s PhD in paleobotany and geology was completed under the supervision of Dr. Jim Basinger (PhD) of the Department of Geological Sciences and Dr. David Greenwood (PhD), USask adjunct professor of geology and Brandon University biology professor.

“(This award is) a great recognition of my research, as well as the hard work, the long hours and everything else that went into my work. I feel very proud and honoured to receive the award,” said West.

In his research, West reconstructs ancient climates and ecosystems by studying plant fossils. Through examples such as the rich forests that once covered Earth’s polar regions, he believes this work offers valuable lessons about climate change and its consequences.

“In order to better understand the effects of a rapidly warming climate on modern ecosystems, we need to understand how terrestrial ecosystems in deep time responded to past global warming events. This was a focus of my research, and as a result of the data provided by my research, we may eventually be able to better predict how the human impact on global climate might affect our own modern terrestrial ecosystems,” West said.

West recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at USask’s Department of Geological Sciences.

In addition to the Governor General’s Gold Medals, the USask College of Graduate Studies and Research has announced the recipients of the 2019-20 USask Graduate Thesis Awards. These awards recognize excellence in graduate student research across various disciplines.

Seven recipients of Graduate Thesis Awards completed programs in the College of Arts and Science:

2019-20 University of Saskatchewan Graduate Thesis Awards: PhD

Humanities and Fine Arts
Dr. Jessica McDonald (PhD), Department of English

Physical and Engineering Sciences
Dr. Mohammad Masudur Rahman (PhD), Department of Computer Science

Social Sciences “A”
Dr. Chris Marsh (PhD), Department of Geography and Planning

2019-2020 University of Saskatchewan Graduate Thesis Awards: Master’s

Humanities and Fine Arts
Rhonda West, Department of English

Physical and Engineering Sciences
Colton Vessey, Department of Geological Sciences

Social Sciences “A”
Kathleen Hutton, Department of Archaeology and Anthropology

2019-20 Harry Toop Memorial Prize

Dr. Rachel Parkinson (PhD), Department of Biology


This story aligns with the following Think Big – Be Bold: Arts and Science 2025 plan goals:

  Put Students First
  Excellence in RSAW
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