2022 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

2022 Prize Winners

Eric Yang
1st year, Faculty of Music

Research project
Three Arias from Nixon in China (1987)
Course: TMU130: Music Theory I

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About Eric

What is your major and expected year of graduation?
I am a first-year voice performance student at the Faculty of Music, pursuing German and Digital Humanities minors. Next year, I am switching into the History, Culture, and Theory stream to focus on my studies in music theory. I hope to graduate by 2025.

What does it mean to you to win this prize?
I am deeply honoured to win this prize, especially in my first year. It is very exciting to have my work recognized by my professors and people outside of the faculty. It brings me a great deal of motivation to continue to hone my skills and study the cutting-edge research coming out of music theory departments around the world.

What inspired you to choose this research subject?
I became interested in the opera Nixon in China while browsing music on YouTube. Although it was similar to other minimalistic works of the era, the outlandish plot and brash Americanism got me hooked. I decided to dive deep into the opera to figure out what kept me listening to Nixon in China.

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

While doing research for this project, I was surprised by the amount of information you could find through the music library alone, especially for an obscure work such as this. It seemed that I had access to just about every music theory journal ever published. I came to understand the importance of recognizing key authors in researching theory topics. There’s an unspoken “canon” of important articles and books that are necessary to facilitate yourself with in order to understand every inch of the topic, since for most of these topics, comprehensive texts do not exist. Therefore, my biggest takeaway from this project is to reach out for help. Using the library should be more about talking to the librarians than blindly looking for resources yourself. Trying to do research for this project without the support of my mentors would have been impossible for me to complete, and furthermore, foolish, since I would not have come to any satisfying conclusion without them.


“On the theoretical side, Yang’s “levels of tension” is a new idea within the context of Neo-Riemannian theory. Placing Neo-Riemannian transformations into two categories (basic and compound) is a great way to streamline the discussion of the changing of levels of tension. On the analytic side, Yang’s idea that “SLIDE releases tension” is an original contribution to the SLIDE literature. Overall, the project is effective because it combines existing and new ideas, because it involves Yang’s gut-level intuitions about the piece, and because the ideas are beautifully presented in a poster that makes excellent use of diagrams and clear prose.” 

- Professor Mark Sallmen, Instructor for TMU 130, Music Theory I

Rion Levy
2nd year, Victoria College, Faculty of Arts & Science

Research project

Peter Orlovsky: The Surrealist Beat Poet
Course: VIC391: Independent Study

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About Rion

What is your major and expected year of graduation?
"I am pursuing a specialist in literature and critical theory and a minor in material culture and semiotics at Victoria College. I expect to graduate in 2024."

What does it mean to you to win this prize?
"I am honoured to be one of the winners of the prize. It once again encourages me to continue sharing the research I do independently and it shows me how research is done best when in community.”

What inspired you to choose this research subject?
"I noticed Peter Orlovsky’s name pop up in miscellaneous texts I was reading and grew curious as to who he was. I knew I wanted to start researching during the summer of 2021 and decided to investigate him while a Northrop Frye Centre Undergraduate Fellow. In the early stages, I noticed Orlovsky’s inclination toward the Surreal. When I failed to find any significant research on the surrealistic nature of Beat Generation writing, I decided to investigate the link through Orlovsky."

What did you learn about information-seeking, research, and/or libraries while completing your project?
“This was the largest research project I had undergone to date, and I realized how scattered information still is. I was able to locate a few related archive boxes in the United States but because of the pandemic, was unable to access them since they have not been digitized. As the pandemic eased toward the fall of 2021, I realized the value of accessing libraries’ physical and digital texts to develop the most holistic understanding of the question at hand.”

“At each point in his research, Mr. Levy was eager to go further. He would discuss his discoveries with me, and we would both make suggestions on further avenues of inquiry that they suggested. He then pursued these possibilities with tenacity, ingenuity, and success. He did not rest content with building the best bibliography of Orlovsky, which standard would have allowed him to stop some time ago, but continued to track down everything that he could, and he still continues this effort.”  

- Professor Albert F. Moritz, Instructor for VIC 391, Independent Study

Sapolnach Prompiengchai
2nd year, University of Toronto Scarborough

Research project

Combining Music Listening and Positive Reminiscence Reduces Acute Stress Response in Healthy Populations
Course: PSYC70: Advanced Research Methods Laboratory

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About Sapolnach

What is your major and expected year of graduation?
I am pursuing a specialist in neuroscience (cognitive stream) 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?
It has been an incredible honour to be among the selected applicants for two consecutive years! The award makes me strive to become even more innovative in using the library resources to further explore the unknown questions in the fields of clinical psychology and neuroscience. Winning this prize also motivates me to apply the best research practices, be a critical consumer and producer of knowledge, and grow as a researcher and a communicator. Furthermore, I feel very elated knowing that there is someone out there who emphasizes and values about “how” the students went about searching for literature and information that informed their research.

What inspired you to choose this research subject?
This research paper combining the idea of mental health (i.e., stress) and music with an element of psychotherapy was inspired by my experience at Dr. Anthony Ruocco’s Clinical Neurosciences Laboratory (CNL) and my personal belief in the healing power of music! My research experience at CNL, along with my casual conversations with Jacob Koudys (a Ph.D. candidate at CNL) and Dr. Ruocco, has widely opened my perspective on clinical psychology. I believe my research topics for the PSYC70 coursework reflect an innovative translation of my real-life research experience into my literature searching processes.

What did you learn about information-seeking, research, and/or libraries while completing your project?
One major takeaway I learned was that generating a good research question may involve using resources beyond the traditional databases like ProQuest/PubMed, etc. In this case, I formulated an impactful and feasible research question with the help of psychotherapy videos and bibliographies via databases like ‘APA PsycTherapy’ and ‘Psychology - Oxford Bibliographies.’ Although it took time to slowly make my way through tonnes of databases and resources, I would confidently say that those times spent were priceless. A good literature review not only increases the chances of finding a more suitable research question but also reduces the risk of regretting it midway… wishing that if I were to find XYZ research articles before starting the research assignment, my research could have been better equipped to answer a much more important gap in the literature.

“Sapolnach knew that he wanted to study stress, and it was only after he learned that he could manipulate music listening experiences, and types of reminiscence, and record cortisol levels of participants, that he uncovered, through library searches, a theoretical framework within which he could link these manipulations and measurements. It is this real-world linking of theory, variables to be manipulated, and measurement, that I find remarkable –it reflects a maturity in his thinking that I rarely see in students at this point in their careers.”  

- Professor George S. Cree, Instructor for PSYC70, Advanced Research Methods Laboratory  

Conorr Norquay 
3rd year, Victoria College, Faculty of Arts & Science  

Research project

An Unrealized History of Sound Film: Charles K. Cregier and the Talking Motion Picture Machine
Course: CIN201: Film Cultures I: Art & Industry 

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About Conorr

What is your major and expected year of graduation?
I am a Victoria College student specializing in Cinema Studies, and I am expecting to graduate in 2023.

What does it mean to you to win this prize?
This award has dual importance for me. While it represents the recognition of half a year’s worth of hard work, it also institutionally validates the legacy of the subject of my research. After a century of exclusion from written film histories, this award spotlights Cregier’s reintroduction into record and provides a permanent accessible place for his story to be enjoyed, an act sure to be appreciated by his present-day family. Thus, winning this prize actualizes the objective of my research, and for that I feel immense gratitude.

What inspired you to choose this research subject?
During research for a prior topic on the standardization of wiring practices, I was in the midst of reading a handbook for theatre operators published in 1917. Within, I stumbled onto an offhand reference to a recent film screening using sound film technology a decade before its mainstream popularization. Without finding a single reference to the technology nor its inventor in any written history, I immersed myself in the pursuit of uncovering this hidden story and found myself insatiably passionate about adding new knowledge to the existing literature on sound film innovations. Were it not for my chance encounter with that specific page of that specific text, and my demanding curiosity, I may never have been able to investigate this research subject.

What did you learn about information-seeking, research, and/or libraries while completing your project?
The most important takeaway from this project with respect to research is the necessity of digitizing our historical records and making them publicly accessible. So much of my investigation relied on older documents that were (or were not) preserved; I repeatedly ran up against the roadblock of non-digitized and non-accessible records that caused important details to become absent from the narrative. The prized technology at the heart of my project allegedly exists in the National Archives, yet without an accessible digital record its location and movement have been lost to time. This project has elucidated just how vital archival preservation and digitization efforts truly are to informing research and its conclusions.

“Aside from amassing an impressively broad range of research materials through his intrepid approach, Conorr demonstrated the persistence of a seasoned historian, tracking down leads and personally reaching out to professionals with whom he had had no previous contact. And all of this in pursuit of reconstructing the history of an early sound film inventor whom no other film historian has managed to discover, a fact that I have verified by talking to a number of peers who are experts in the area. On this level alone, Conorr’s achievement is singular and a true revelation.”  

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

Nicollo Abe
4th year, John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design

Research project

Architecture on Modern European Banknotes: In Search of Stability through Abstract Circulation
Course: ARC451H: Mobility and Architecture

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About Nicollo

What is your major and expected year of graduation?
I’m graduating this upcoming June 2022 with a Specialist in Architectural Studies: History and Theory of Architecture, including a History of Art Minor and a Visual Studies Minor.

What does it mean to you to win this prize?

I am incredibly thrilled and honoured to be awarded the Patricia and Peter Shannon Wilson Undergraduate Research Prize. The past four years at university has been a challenging journey, but receiving this prize is very encouraging and instills the idea that hard work truly pays off.

What inspired you to choose this research subject?

Having initially graduated from Sheridan College’s Architectural Technology program, it was difficult for me to step away from having a practical and technical approach towards architecture. Taking the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture multidisciplinary program gave me the opportunity to view architecture under a different light and to consider other aspects that involve architectural design. As such, the ARC 400-level seminar course titled Mobility and Architecture allowed me to pursue such creative lengths while under the helpful guidance of Professor Ipek Mehmetoğlu. When I look back on it, the research subject I landed upon was something that I started to develop mid-way through the semester. This switch proved the be very fruitful as it allowed me to understand how design and history intertwine with one another, and ultimately unearth how symbolism plays a monumental role in the development of both architecture and communities. In the end, I’m proud of the paper that I produced and I’m hoping to continue looking at architecture in creative and unique ways.

What did you learn about information-seeking, research, and/or libraries while completing your project?
What I learned throughout this information-seeking process was the value of images and photos as I frequented the Eberhard Zeidler Library and UofT Libraries’ online database. Whether my primary or secondary sources were printed or digitally sourced, there were many times where I relied upon the images that are embedded in them. Perhaps this was due to the nature and scope of the research, but I found that photographs and illustrations are essential components in knowledge-making and research.

"Nicollo accomplished to critically reflect on [his sources'] contribution to the development of his topic on European banknotes and architectural abstraction and mobility. Nicollo is also brave and open to challenge himself: he had a good research topic at the beginning of the term; later on, inspired by the sources he found, he became curious of another interesting topic...This proves his curiosity for innovation, self-reliability, good understanding and effective use of secondary and primary sources." 

- Professor Ipek Mehmetoğlu, Instructor for ARC451, Mobility and Architecture

Tessa Di Vizio
4th year, Trinity College, Faculty of Arts & Science

Research project

With More than a Little Help from “Our Canadian Friends” : Canada, the United States, and the Canadian Caper, 1979-1980
Course: TRN419Y: Comparative American, British, and Canadian Foreign Policy

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About Tessa

What is your major and expected year of graduation?

I am a member of Trinity College, where I double-major in International Relations and Political Science and minor in History. I will be graduating in June 2022.

What does it mean to you to win this prize?
I am very grateful and honoured to have won this prize. It is a great capstone to my undergraduate studies as it not only is an acknowledgement of the culmination of months of hard work but also encourages me to continue my research endeavours.

What inspired you to choose this research subject?
I became aware of the Canadian Caper from a variety of popular accounts, most notably from the CIA’s perspective in Argo. I was struck by such an emphasis on the American role and marginalization of the Canadian role. I knew that while the US lacked on-the-ground access to Iran during the hostage crisis, its allies did not; they could help fill this gap. I suspected Canada played a larger role than the popular narratives had implied, and I used archival sources, memoirs, and secondary literature to elucidate Canada’s intelligence role and relations with the US at the time.

What did you learn about information-seeking, research, and/or libraries while completing your project?
Research is not a solitary process of scouring library stacks and databases for sources. I felt part of a scholarly community having worked with researchers, archivists, and librarians to explore a wealth of primary sources as well as some secondary literature on my topic. It was fascinating to see the range of archival materials available (and easily accessible to undergraduates) at UofT, and I particularly enjoyed searching through the Victoria and Trinity College archives for files for my research.

"Tessa’s essay was thoughtful and innovative in that it accomplished two things: First off, it located the “Canadian Caper” within a broader historiography of US-Canadian relations, and US-Canadian intelligence relationships therein. Second, she was able to offer new and corrective descriptions and analyses of the Canadian effort in Iran based on the archival materials she studied. This was enormously effective, allowing the paper to both provide context and locate the historiographical intervention while also offering new and original research evidence." 

- Professor Timothy Sayle, Instructor for TRN419Y, Comparative American, British, and Canadian Foreign Policy