Valedictorian – Heather Whittaker – Faculty of Science
Considered one of the top undergraduate students in Canada working in biomedical research, Heather Whittaker is described as “dynamite” and “explosively bright”. She is a resourceful, driven, award-winning student with a passion and curiosity for neuroscience — particularly the physiology of the aging brain. She plans to become a practicing physician involved in clinical research, and wants to have direct involvement in the care of people with dementia.
Whittaker has spent her last two summers engaged in undergraduate research with a focus on Alzheimer’s disease. She is currently working with Dr. Melanie Martin, Chancellor’s Research Chair and Associate Professor of Physics at UWinnipeg, to develop new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods for earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, a disease which afflicts nearly, 747,000 Canadians. Whitaker has published a paper with Martin and has a second one in the works, to be published in the fall.
Whittaker discovered her path by volunteering at Grace Hospital, which she still finds time for once a week. At Grace she works with mostly older adult patients, many of whom have cognitive deficits, including dementia. This is where she observed how challenging it is to cope with such disorders, both for patients and their families. The experience sparked her interest in the aging brain and led her to a volunteer position with the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba.
Whittaker has earned more than a dozen awards and scholarships. Her long list includes the prestigious Isbister Undergraduate Scholarship; Gold Medal for Achievement in a Major (3-Year), Biopsychology; Chancellor’s Gold Medal for the Highest Standing in Science (a medal for overall achievement in a 3-Year degree); and the Governor General’s Silver Medal.
This fall, Whittaker heads to Europe to begin her Master’s Degree and continue her research in clinical neuroscience at University College London, a world-class dementia research centre.
The University of Winnipeg community congratulates Heather Whittaker for her many accomplishments.
For more information on UWinnipeg’s Convocation visit Spring 2015 Convocation.
Naniece Ibrahim, Communications Officer, UWinnipeg
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