2021 Prize Winners

The Patricia and Peter Shannon Wilson Undergraduate Research Prize

The Patricia and Peter Shannon Wilson Undergraduate Research Prize is awarded to current undergraduate students enrolled at the University of Toronto during each academic year. The purpose of this prize is to showcase and award students’ effective and innovative use of information sources and the development of their understanding of what it means to be information literate in the 21st century. 
Read more about the competition criteria

2021 Prize Winners

Sapolnach Prompiengchai
1st year, University of Toronto Scarborough

Research project

Tackling Alzheimer’s Disease via Reforming Educational Policies in Thailand
Course: HLTA03: Foundations in Health Studies II

A person standing outside with glasses and short black hair, smiling at the camera.

About Sapolnach

What is your major and expected year of graduation?
"I am pursuing a specialist in neuroscience (co-op) and a minor in applied statistics at the University of Toronto Scarborough. I am expecting to graduate in 2024."

What does it mean to you to win this prize?
"Winning this prize during my first year of undergraduate studies makes me believe that anyone who is determined to improve their researching skills can effectively utilize the boundless sea of information to potentially create new ideas and impact our community. I feel incredibly honoured to have my first step into health research recognized. It fueled my aspiration to become an interdisciplinary physician-scientist who would tackle health issues at the micro-, meso-, and macro-level."

What inspired you to choose this research subject?
"My electives, Foundations in Health I & II (HLTA02/03), made me realize that healthcare professionals and researchers have to integrate the socio-cultural aspects of health into their practices in order to truly solve the current health issues. I am from Thailand, and I have always wished to combine my passion for neuroscience with other disciplines to improve Thai and global healthcare. Knowing that there has not been an effective cure yet for Alzheimer’s disease, I saw the need to search for long-term solutions. Therefore, my paper integrated the idea of cognitive reserve, where less educational attainment and stress decrease lifelong-accumulated cognitive network (cognitive reserve), which can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s pathology. This inspired me to argue how reforming educational policies and transforming ideas into real actions would provide long-term solutions to the incurable aspect of Alzheimer’s disease."

What did you learn about information-seeking, research, and/or libraries while completing your project?
"My love and appreciation for finding the most effective search queries have increased. As a first-year student with limited experience, I have to explore the tutorials of each database one by one, and it was initially overwhelming! But when I started implementing complex search queries in OVID Medline (the first database I learned), I gained more confidence in familiarizing myself with other databases like Scopus, ProQuest, etc. It would have been difficult to write high-quality and impactful papers without these newly learned skills. Lastly, completing my health studies project makes me feel certain that if there would be any new searching technologies in the future, I would be able to implement such cutting-edge research resources into my research."

“Sapolnach’s paper stood out as exceptional because the information sources he used incorporated social, economic and political lenses, which clearly showed his learning in our course...His ability to span across key sources in the literature from diverse fields, and apply/describe these connections clearly, showed his exceptional research, thinking and writing skills.” 

- Professor Nida Mustafa, Instructor for HLTA03 Foundations in Health Studies II 

Will Gotlib
2nd year, Victoria College, Faculty of Arts & Science

Research project

Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Audiences and the Fallout of the Talkies, 1910-1968
Course: CIN201: Film Cultures I 

A person with long blonde hair and light blue sweater, smiling and standing outside in nature

About Will 

What is your major and expected year of graduation?
"I’m an undergraduate student at Victoria College, pursuing a double major in Cinema Studies and Computer Science through the Faculty of Arts & Science. I’ll be graduating in 2023."

What does it mean to you to win this prize?
"It’s an honor to be among the selected applicants! In a very challenging, alienating year, receiving this prize was an unexpected and heartening recognition."

What inspired you to choose this research subject?
"I stumbled onto my topic indirectly while scrolling through archived film-oriented technical journals as part of my initial search for ideas. I decided to pursue it almost immediately. We spent the first term of CIN201 studying silent film. The screenings opened my eyes to the flexibility of film form and questions of what makes a “complete” film experience, both of which drove my interest in this topic. I had never heard anything on the deaf and hard-of-hearing related to film history before, so putting together the research was exciting."

What did you learn about information-seeking, research, and/or libraries while completing your project?

"I’d never done a true research project before, completely open and restricted to primary sources, so I learned a lot in the process for this essay. I essentially re-learned how to perform research at all, using digital library resources and crafting search terms to get the best results out of intimidating databases of innumerable documents. I felt like I was reading between the lines, compiling several dozen sources to synthesize and discover an area of film history which was totally new to me."


“Among the most challenging research projects are those that attempt to depict a phenomenon that barely registers at the time of its existence. Will Gotlib’s excellent paper on how the film industry responded to the deaf and hard of hearing amongst its audience is a sterling example of how assiduous research can overcome the many obstacles that face such a project...His approach paid off, resulting in an exceedingly well-written and exhaustively researched paper that is a model for how disability studies can interact with film historical research.” 

- Professor Charlie Keil, Instructor for CIN 201: Film Cultures I

Arielle Earn 
4th year, Victoria College, Faculty of Arts & Science

Research project

Diverse Perceptions of Harm Across the Plastics Lifecycle
Course: EEB498: Advanced Research Project in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

A woman with mid-length brown hair and black long-sleeve shirt smiling at the camera, sitting at a park

About Arielle 

What is your major and expected year of graduation?
"I am double majoring in Biodiversity & Conservation Biology and Political Science, and I plan to graduate at the end of August 2021."

What does it mean to you to win this prize?
"Winning this prize was very encouraging for me. Having the research I have been doing over the last year of my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto recognized among such an impressive group of young investigators validates my own excitement for the work, and is a wonderful celebration of the culmination of a lot of fascinating research."

What inspired you to choose this research subject?
"I have been working on the problem of plastic pollution since the beginning of my time at U of T in the Rochman Lab. In my final year I wanted to embrace the political science part of my degree by doing some interdisciplinary research on the plastic problem. With this goal, we aimed to create a framework for thinking about the many ways plastics can cause harm, not only at their end of life (as pollutants), but across their whole lifecycle. The opportunity to work with two supervisors from different departments made for a collaborative and really creative research project that involved a lot of different information-finding techniques and allowed me to tap into both the ecological and political interests surrounding an environmental problem that I am really passionate about."

What did you learn about information-seeking, research, and/or libraries while completing your project?
“Doing this full year research project taught me a lot about how many different ways there are to do research, and about the seemingly limitless resources and search techniques used by researchers from different disciplines. Primarily though, I learned how to ask for help, from each of my supervisors, who had their own wealth of ideas and research skills, but also from the research librarians at the University of Toronto who were able to help me navigate and overcome a number of researching roadblocks. My project involved a lot of collaboration and thinking about the different types of knowledge bases that exist in the world already, and how to use them effectively to do interdisciplinary research.”

“Arielle undertook an ambitious interdisciplinary research project interrogating different perceptions of harm from plastics. The work required her to develop core definitions for her terms that vary across disciplines, seek out and integrate a wide range of primary and secondary sources, and apply her own concepts to policy documents. In this process, she demonstrated independence in her research, strategic use of university resources and a willingness to reach out to experts for help, clear engagement with methodological as well as substantive texts, and a clear understanding of the limits of her work—but also an ambitious future research agenda emerging from her findings.”  

- Professor Kate Neville, Instructor for EEB498, Advanced Research Project in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Allan Dok Lun Cheung 
4th year, Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering 

Research project

Large-Eddy Simulation (LES) of Lean Premixed Hydrogen Deflagration in Vented Vessels
Course: CHE499: Thesis 

A person with short black hair and black shirt, smiling at the camera

About Allan

What is your major and expected year of graduation?
“I major in Chemical Engineering from the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering and will be graduating in June 2021.”

What does it mean to you to win this prize?
“Winning the University of Toronto Libraries’ Patricia and Peter Shannon Wilson Undergraduate Research Prize means everything to me. I am humbled and honored to be selected as 1 of only 6 students from the University of Toronto out of so many great research projects across many disciplines. This award is both an acknowledgment of my hard work as well as further motivation to improve and become the best researcher I can be, in the field of computational fluid dynamics and aerospace sciences. I plan on contributing even more to this research field in the coming years."

What inspired you to choose this research subject?
"Throughout my undergraduate experience in chemical engineering, I have been drawn to transport-physics based courses such as in fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, and chemical reaction engineering. In addition, over my co-op experiences working at Honda and Bombardier Aerospace, I realized computational fluid dynamics (CFD) can be a powerful tool for engineers during the design process. As such, I gravitated towards CFD with an interest in combustion and turbulence modelling, topics which are not covered in undergraduate studies. A lot of CFD modelling research I was interested in was being conducted at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS). I soon found Professor Groth’s “UTIAS CFD and Propulsion Group” who decided to take me on as an undergraduate thesis student where I learned CFD in a very rigorous manner."

What did you learn about information-seeking, research, and/or libraries while completing your project?
“The most important thing I learned in the information-seeking and research process while completing my undergraduate thesis was patience and confidence. Performing a year-long research topic taught me more about myself than anything else – more specifically, that it is okay not to know everything. I learned that good research is not done by individuals, rather it is being resourceful with the network of people around you. For me, this was the master’s student, Mohamed Khalil, who I worked closely with and my supervisor, Professor Groth. Finally, the TSpace repository and journal databases available to me was critical in my success as it helped accelerate my understanding of the complex mathematical models that I had to use in the CFD solvers.”

“This is a very challenging field of study for a research at the B. A. Sc. level; however, Allan has clearly demonstrated his strong intellectual and academic abilities during the course of his thesis studies...Allan made quite extensive use of the University of Toronto Library resources and database services when reviewing the relevant literature as part of his efforts to understand the field and state-of-the-art for LES applied to vented vessels.  This background literature review was vital to preparing the way forward for the theoretical accomplishments of his thesis.”  

- Professor Clinton P.T. Groth, Instructor for CHE499, Thesis Course in Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering

Shrieda Jain
4th year, University College, Faculty of Arts & Science

Research project

Supporting the Self-Medication Hypothesis for Schizophrenia
Course: PSY493: Cognitive Neuroscience 

A person with mid-length hair and pink floral top, smiling at the camera outside

About Shrieda

What is your major and expected year of graduation?
“I have just graduated in June 2021 with a double major in Neuroscience and Physiology from University College.”

What does it mean to you to win this prize?

"It is an incredible honour to receive recognition for an undergraduate project by librarians and faculty members from the University of Toronto, a university that is well-reputed for its research. Receiving this award is an amazing way to end my undergraduate education; it is certainly a great source of encouragement and motivation for me to continue pursuing academia as I begin my Master’s degree this year!"

What inspired you to choose this research subject?

"This subject is of deep interest and concern to me since I know a close friend personally afflicted with schizophrenia. Stable emotional support is crucial to those with this disorder, and as I meet more people who have loved ones with schizophrenia, I realize how integral it is for those supporting them to have a holistic understanding of what risks their loved ones can be most vulnerable to. I also wanted to contribute to increasing knowledge about the patterns of nicotine consumption found within schizophrenic populations, since it is still a debated topic within the field. This project helped me considerably in supporting the person I know by helping them understand their habits."

What did you learn about information-seeking, research, and/or libraries while completing your project?
“This past year has been a very turbulent time for the world due to the pandemic, and switching to an online curriculum has affected our ability to connect with integral resources crucial to the research process, such as interacting in person with librarians, professors, and teaching assistants. However, it made me dig deeper within UTL libraries, and I found an abundance of great resources and library guides that helped me use health science databases effectively. This along with getting accustomed to using virtual communication for asking questions, it soon became incredibly fulfilling to carry out research with just online resources, without losing any quality in the depth or comprehensiveness of my research.”

“The use of sources in her essay greatly contributed to the flow of information. Where there is no clear consensus for nicotine for self-medication in schizophrenia, Shrieda needed to blend information from a wide variety of sources together while providing a consistent theoretical framework in which to anchor the information. She did this extremely well throughout the essay and managed not only to educate the reader about the topic, but also presented compelling evidence for her chosen theory while addressing limitations to it using the literature and made recommendations for future directions in the field.” 

- Professor Jessica Hughes and Sarah Faber, Instructor and TA for PSY493, Cognitive Neuroscience

Chiara Campagnaro
4th year, Trinity College, Faculty of Arts & Science

Research project

Censoring Petrarch: Responses of sixteenth-century censors and Venetian printers to the Roman Index
Course: VIC 442: The Renaissance Book 

A person with mid-length blonde hair, smiling at the camera and sitting in a GO train

About Chiara

What is your major and expected year of graduation?
“I am a Trinity college student pursuing a double major in History and Renaissance Studies with a minor in Italian. I expect to graduate Fall 2021.”

What does it mean to you to win this prize?
“I am thrilled that the project for my final-year seminar course received this prize. It is certainly an achievement that I will remember from my undergraduate studies. The Patricia and Peter Shannon Wilson Undergraduate Research Prize recognizes the hard work of students and encourages them to continue developing critical skills in their research."

What inspired you to choose this research subject?
"There are a number of reasons why I chose to research the censorship of Petrarch in sixteenth-century Italy: my studies in the Italian Renaissance and Renaissance literature as well as my newfound interest in book culture contributed to the decision to pursue this subject. The nature of the assignment also inspired my research as the thesis for my project truly formed after examining the codexes in the CRRS collection."

What did you learn about information-seeking, research, and/or libraries while completing your project?
“My project included three main components of research from primary and secondary source research, library resources at the CRRS, and digital collections offered by other universities and institutions. I learned how to navigate different research systems while engaging with important materials for my project.”

"In her work on the censorship of Petrarch’s poetry in 16th-century Italy, she not only consulted every edition of Petrarch’s poetry within the CRRS, she also managed to find images of other editions held in libraries around the world. This research led to a multi-layered thesis on the remarkably different ways censors, readers, and printers responded to the banning of certain of Petrarch’s poems…Chiara’s project used a striking breadth of sources, and overcame major challenges in accessing them, to produce a mature and compelling historical analysis.” 

- Professor Shaun Ross, Instructor for VIC442, The Renaissance Book