Meet the 2021 Governor General’s Gold Medal recipients

The Governor General’s Gold Medal is an opportunity to honour the best in the graduating class within the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. One gold medal is awarded to the graduate student who has achieved the most outstanding academic record as a master’s student completing a thesis. And a second gold medal is awarded to the student who has achieved the most outstanding academic record as a doctoral student.

This year’s master’s recipient is Nevena Rebic from the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Under the supervision of Dr. Mary De Vera, Rebic examined how female patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) make decisions about pregnancy and managing their condition. For their MSc thesis, Nevena employed a constructivist grounded theory design, informed by a Feminist Intersectional framework, to conducted a multimethod qualitative study examining how female patients with RA across Canada form decisions and evaluate the benefits and risks of having children, pregnancy, and using medications perinatally.

“I have truly struggled to answer this question. On the one hand, I have been walking on clouds since I received the news. My family now jokingly refers to me as “the Gold Medalist”, particularly when I start preaching about what “the data shows” about a topic of contention that’s come up around our dining room table. On the other hand, my time as a graduate student and advocate has made me extremely cognizant of the inequities inherent to achieving success in academia,” said Rebic.

“In short, this achievement has been a humbling reflection of the immeasurable gratitude and debt I owe to the people and the experiences that have made it possible for me to achieve it. It is a testament to the many failures and rejections that came before it and the privileges that have allowed me to explore my curiosities free of the fear of failure. It is a tribute to the people that have made it possible for me to pursue and direct my learning as a graduate student, including my graduate supervisor, fellow students, family, and friends. Finally, and most notably, it is a testament to the patient and community partners who have dedicated their time and insurmountable labour to working, teaching, and learning with me. To the women who participated in MOTHERS, the study that shaped my MSc thesis, I cannot begin to describe how much I have learned and continue to learn from you. You are truly inspirational – thank you for trusting me with your stories,” said concluded the MSc graduate.

This year’s doctoral recipient is Dr. Madeleine Ransom from the Philosophy program, in the Faculty of Arts. Under the supervision of Drs. Dominic Lopes and Murat Aydede, Dr. Ransom’s main thesis is that it is possible for perceptual experience to change its phenomenal character as the result of learning new perceptual categories.

“It’s very meaningful for me to receive external recognition for my work while in grad school. I don’t think it’s good practice in general to measure the quality of your work through external recognition, but it’s a nice affirmation that you’re doing something right,” said Dr. Ransom.

“It’s also very significant for my family, my father in particular. He is a genetic scientist at McGill, where he works primarily on cystic fibrosis. He received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012, and so, when we next see each other in person, we are going to take a (very nerdy) photo of both of us with our medals. Even as an adult, it’s nice to make your parents proud,” she concluded.

Of Dr. Ransom’s research, her supervisors, Drs. Lopes and Aydede, wrote, “A deep, unspoken feature of philosophy since the seventeenth century has been its tendency to treat human cognition as static, and not as a cluster of systems under development. Thus, even as philosophers now engage with cognitive psychology, social psychology, and even clinical psychology, relatively few read developmental psychology. Madeleine is the first philosopher to look at perceptual expertise as learned competence. She’s bold and original, someone who thrives on thinking outside the box.”

Tuesday, 01 June 2021