Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

StFX grad student receives NSHRF Quest Award for greatest promise for health research in the province

August 21st, 2017
Bryan Ewenson

StFX computer science graduate student Bryan Ewenson has won a prestigious award from the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation (NSHRF) for demonstrating the greatest promise for health research in the province.

Mr. Ewenson of Dieppe, NB is the 2017 recipient of The Quest - John Ruedy Award, presented annually to the graduate student researcher at a Nova Scotia university who demonstrates the greatest promise and potential for excellence in health research. The award honours John Ruedy, an outstanding example of leadership in health and health research in Nova Scotia.

The recipient is selected from among applicants with the highest standing in the Scotia Scholars Award competition. Selection criteria includes future plans, long-term goals, career expectations, and prospective contribution to the field of health research. In addition to this recognition, the Nova Scotia Health Authority contributes an annual award of $5,000 to assist the recipient in furthering his or her research.

“It’s very exciting that Bryan is the second ever Quest Award recipient from StFX, both occurring in the past four years,” says Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation CEO, Krista Connell. “It’s indicative of the strong and growing research community at StFX, and it’s notable that Bryan comes from the non-traditional health research faculty of computer science.”

Mr. Ewenson’s research is in the field of bioinformatics, a combination of computer science and biology. He is working under the supervision of Dr. Jacob Levman, Canada Research Chair in Bioinformatics in StFX's Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science Department.

“The research is focused on improving the existing diagnostic tools for autism using machine learning techniques on the MRI scans of patients. In short, I will be attempting to apply proven techniques from the field of computer science to this particular problem of autism diagnosis,” says Mr. Ewenson, a StFX computer science graduate starting his M.Sc. this year.

“The award will definitely make it easier to pursue the research that I'll be working on. Having more funding means that I'll be able to focus more on actually doing my research and less about how I'll be able to afford living expenses during this time,” he says. 

Mr. Ewenson says he wasn’t overly familiar with bioinformatics prior to the final semester of his undergraduate when he attended a seminar on Dr. Levman’s research and found it to be some of the most interesting work he had encountered. “Before this, I wasn't sure what exactly I wanted to do after graduating, but learning about what can be done in this field inspired me to come back to StFX and pursue further education under the supervision of Dr. Levman.

“My time at StFX has provided me with countless opportunities to work with some amazing people, both students and faculty,” he says.

“Everyone that I've associated with has been very supportive during my time here and it has been a great four years. I've spent a lot of time bouncing ideas off of friends and colleagues in the Annex, the people there made it one of my favourite places on campus. I certainly don't think I'd be where I am now without the people that I've met at StFX.” 

As for the future, he says he’d love to continue to work in the field of bioinformatics. “It's something that I'm really passionate about and that I can feel good about. In particular, I'd like to work on similar work that has medical applications, since I feel like that is the most worthwhile sub-field of bioinformatics. At the end of the day, I'd just like to know that the work I'm doing may have a positive impact somewhere down the line.” 


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