Six graduate students receive thesis prizes celebrating their research contributions

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Six recent graduates of the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) have been named recipients of the FGS Thesis and Dissertation Prize. “The research conducted and presented by these wonderful graduates represents countless hours of hard work and dedication to their respective fields,” said Tom Loebel, dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies. “I am incredibly proud of their achievements and, on behalf of the graduate community at York, I thank them for their immense research contributions.”

The Thesis and Dissertation Prizes are distributed by FGS to celebrate exceptional master’s and PhD theses from the previous calendar year. This year’s recipients will be invited to the FGS Scholars Reception in November where their work will be showcased and recognized.

Master’s recipients

Lesley Chan, Film
The Urge to Run a Lap

The Urge to Run a Lap, a 14-minute experimental film, was described by the examining committee as “an enchanting, deeply original film … exploring memory and the intimate world of a maternity home with deep sensitivity, ethical insight and aesthetic verve.” Set in a Hamilton, Ont., home for teen mothers, the film tells an autobiographical story of a feminist subject using sophisticated visuals and cinematography.

The film and corresponding paper references Chan’s own experiences in such a home as a teen mother, and how they informed the production of her capstone project. Her supporting paper was considered by her program to be “one of the most accomplished written in our program in the past five years.”

Lana Forman, Music
The Positivistic Mysticism of Alexander Scriabin: An Analysis of the Three Études, Op. 65

Forman’s research examines Russian composer Alexander Scriabin’s Études – one of the composer’s smaller-scale works. Using her knowledge of the Russian language and her background as a performing pianist, Forman has made impactful contributions to the analysis of an influential composer, shining a light on the influences that informed much of his later works.

“In this outstanding thesis, Ms. Forman has managed to combine a study of the composer’s harmonic language with its esoteric theosophical meaning, and to show its relationship to his theory of sound and colour,” said Mark Chambers, graduate program director in music. Chambers also noted that it is rare to come across a thesis at the master’s level with such a command of the wide-ranging literature on Scriabin in various languages.

Julia Gauberg, Biology
The Barrier Properties of the Skin of Aquatic and Semi-Aquatic Vertebrates

The examining committee described Gauberg’s MSc thesis as “at the level one would expect for a PhD” and acknowledged her as being in the top five per cent in her graduate program. Her focus is in the epithelial physiology field, examining tight junction (TJ) proteins linking skin cells that allow the skin of aquatic vertebrates to act as a protective barrier. This work contributes to the limited knowledge currently surrounding TJ proteins in aquatic vertebrates and abiotic and biotic aspects of specific fish and amphibians.

She has also received acclaim for numerous scientific articles published in international journals, as well as for her external funding successes through the Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) programs.

Doctoral recipients

Manfred Becker, Communication and Culture
The Frankenbite: Ethics and Reality in the Post-Production of Factual Programming

Becker’s dissertation explores the intersection of ethics and editing in visual programming. Steve Bailey, graduate program director in Communication and Culture, noted “frankenbiting” as “the process of selectively extracting pieces of video and reassembling them, often with significant consequences as to the meaning.” Through interviews with approximately 50 editing professionals, Becker was able to provide a detailed analysis of this phenomenon and its implications at a critical juncture of modern programming.

Becker recently joined the Department of Cinema and Media Arts at York University as an assistant professor with a full-time faculty position, and previously taught editing and story editing at York University and Ryerson University, as well as at Seneca and Humber College.

Brock Harpur, Biology
Population Genomics Approaches to Understanding the Genetics and Evolution of Social Insects

Using genomics – the branch of molecular biology concerned with the structure, function, evolution and mapping of genomes – Harpur’s work has enhanced our understanding of the sociality in insects, particularly in honey bees. His findings have made contributions to not only the broader scientific community but to the beekeeping industry in Canada, as well.

Harpur’s dissertation had the unique distinction of having the majority of its sections already published in several prestigious international journals prior to his defence, including a first-author paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Bridget Stutchbury, graduate program director in biology, noted that even established faculty members may not have the opportunity to have their work featured in this elite journal.

Bryan Nelson, Social and Political Thought
Democracy Against: The Antimonies of Politics

Nelson’s research examines theories of radical democratic politics in contemporary continental philosophy, specifically Jacques Rancière, Claude Lefort and Miguel Abensour. His research and analysis in this area provide insights on how democracy is critiqued, and is a commendable contribution to political theory.

Associate Professor of sociology Brian Singer noted the dissertation as “an exceptional piece of work, both in exposing three thinkers who are not sufficiently known in the English-speaking world, and in drawing out, on the bases of their thought, a deeper consideration of the uncompromising, ever-renewed resourcefulness of democratic principles.”