Sarah LarocqueDoctoral grad Sarah Larocque, seen here posing with a young salmon research subject, is one of two winners of the Governor General’s Gold Medal to be honoured during Convocation cermonies Friday.

Gold medals honour academic excellence for science doctoral grads

Two science alumnae are UWindsor’s Governor General’s Gold Medallists for academic excellence at the graduate level and will be recognized during Fall Convocation ceremonies Friday, Nov. 5: Yunyun Wu (PhD 2020) in chemistry and Sarah Larocque (PhD 2021) in environmental science.

Yunyun WuDr. Wu completed her doctoral studies in professor Tricia Carmichael’s lab, developing wearable electronic textiles.

“I was fortunate to have done my research in the excellent laboratory of Dr. Tricia Carmichael, where I mainly focused on developing wearable electronic textiles, such as stretchable light-emitting fabrics,” says Wu. “Among other things, this focus has the potential to increase the visibility of workers in dark environments.”

She calls receiving the gold medal a terrific honour.

“I am delighted to have been selected for such a prestigious prize. It provides a welcome encouragement to me to continue pushing forward with my research efforts,” Wu says.

“Presently I am a postdoctoral fellow undertaking research at Northwestern University in the area of biomedical engineering, continuing with my goal of developing wearable electronic technologies helpful to people’s health. As a fellow I receive ongoing support from my excellent mentors at the University of Windsor.”

Dr. Larocque says she was thrilled to receive the news of winning the Governor General’s Gold Medal. She finished her environmental science PhD under the co-supervision of Aaron Fisk, professor and researcher in the School of the Environment and Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, along with Tim Johnson, a research scientist with Ontario’s Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry.

Larocque’s conservation-focused studies looked at balancing native fish restoration in Lake Ontario. She took a holistic view to try and determine why attempts by Canada and the United States to reintroduce Atlantic salmon have been relatively unsuccessful.

“The populations are not taking hold the way we’d like, so I took a holistic view to determine why a number of factors may be influencing limitations,” says Larocque.

“I looked at whether other salmonids were overlapping in the niche space of Atlantic salmon at different lifestages. I assessed the diets of juveniles in the rivers, the migration success as Atlantic salmon move into Lake Ontario, and in the lake itself as adults and I conducted a citizen science project to assess possible diet changes over time and used acoustic telemetry to better understand movement patterns.”

She says she was able to rule out these issues as reasons why salmon populations are difficult to restore, but says the approach was successful and could be applied to understanding other species in the community, to understand the health of an ecosystem or to further look at other aspects of Atlantic salmon limitations.

The Governor General’s Academic Medals were created in 1873 to encourage academic excellence across the nation. Provost Patti Weir will read out citations for the two winners of the Gold Medals during Friday’s second session of Convocation at 6 p.m.

—Sara Elliott