Killam Awards for Excellence in Mentoring


Likely in September 2024

Annual Value

A commemorative certificate and a cash award of $5,000 will be presented to each recipient at Fall Convocation..


Permanent Resident

Degree Level


The Killam Awards for Excellence in Mentoring recognize outstanding mentorship of numerous graduate students over many years. The awards will be adjudicated by a committee chaired by the Associate Dean, Funding, of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. The Killam General Endowment at the University of British Columbia (administered by the Office of the Provost and Vice-President Academic) provides the funds for the awards.

For recent citations of Killam Awards for Excellence in Mentoring winners, see the "Previous Award Winners" section below.



All continuing academic staff members with a partner, clinical, tenure or grant tenure appointment at the UBC Vancouver Campus are eligible to be nominated. Nominees may be at any stage in their academic career, but one award will recognize faculty members in the mid-career category – that is, for those who have held university appointments for less than 12 years – and the other will recognize faculty members in the senior category – that is, for those with 12 or more years of university service. Years of university service will be counted as of the nomination deadline.  Please subtract any leave time the nominee has taken - parental leave, sabbatical, etc.

Unsuccessful nominations from previous years may be submitted for subsequent competitions, to a three-year limit.  See ‘Nomination Procedures’ for details. 

Evaluation Criteria

The awards recognize one senior and one mid-career faculty members’ outstanding ability to foster the intellectual, professional, and personal development of graduate students.   The following attributes of an effective mentor will be considered by the committee in evaluating applicants:

  • Models excellence in scholarship, professional conduct, and integrity, instilling a desire in students to emulate these qualities
  • Encourages, inspires, and supports diverse students to reach their full potential in ways that are tailored to each individual
  • Fosters the development in students of competencies in critical thinking, scholarly rigour, breadth of understanding and creativity, and professional competencies in areas such as written and oral communication, scholarly integrity, and interpersonal interactions
  • Promotes and models a climate of respect, inclusion, and collegiality
  • Integrates students into the culture of the discipline, and helps them network with relevant individuals
  • Assists students to explore career options and to find fulfilling post-graduate positions
  • Advocates for students when necessary, and encourages them to make best use of institutional and professional opportunities (e.g., professional development workshops and courses, conferences)
  • Shows compassion for students, and is involved with their personal development as well as professional development

For nominees in the senior category in particular, mentorship will be looked at as activities that go beyond excellent research supervision and training, and will extend to personal development, and service to the scholarly community.

Nominations will be adjudicated in recognition of the faculty members’ proven ability in these areas. Preference will be given to faculty members who have displayed sustained mentorship activity over many years involving many students. The awards will be awarded based on the quality and extent of mentoring of graduate students.

Graduate student mentorship activity from institutions prior to UBC is acceptable to be considered as part of the mentorship record.

Nomination Procedures

As departments are limited in the number of faculty members they can nominate, Department Head approval of the potential nominee must be obtained by the nominator before proceeding to assemble a nomination package.

Nominators: Faculty members may nominate a faculty member for this award (fill out the nomination form); mentees/students cannot nominate a faculty member.  However, mentees/students may suggest to the Department Head a potential faculty member to be nominated and may contribute a letter of support for the nomination.

Re-nominations: Unsuccessful nominations may be submitted for subsequent competitions, to a three-year limit. Nomination packages (or portions thereof) may be updated for subsequent competitions or the packages may be carried forward unchanged. Nominations will not automatically be carried forward: departments must contact to ask that the package be included in the current competition. Any amended materials are to be submitted via the Qualtrics link.

Each department may submit up to two nominations, one per category (‘mid-career’, ‘senior’).  The two nominations may be new nominations or nominations carried forward from previous competition years (re-nominations). 

A complete nomination package will consist of the following, submitted as 1 PDF document per nominee by 15 September 2023 at 4:00 pm PT.

  1. Nomination Form, which includes:
    • Up to a two-page statement detailing why the nominee qualifies for the award
    • A one-page statement by the nominee describing his or her philosophy on mentoring, and how he or she views the role, including comments on approaches to promoting student success
  2. Mentoring Record form: Completed by nominee.  A list of all graduate students mentored, including brief descriptions of any notable circumstances of students.
    • It is acceptable for nominees to include graduate student mentorship activity from prior institutions.
    • As this award is specifically for graduate student mentorship, materials regarding undergraduate teaching or mentoring, or postdoctoral mentoring, will not be considered for this competition and should not be included in nomination packages.
  3. Up to five letters of support from individuals who are being/were mentored by the nominee, each including a summary of the author’s experience with the nominee and subsequent career development.  Letters from current or former graduate students will carry more weight.
    • Letters should include details and examples of the author’s experience with the nominee
    • Letters should reflect on the author’s mentoring experience with the nominee and how the experience enabled them to succeed in their subsequent career.
    • Letters must have one author each; a letter with multiple authors will not be considered.
    • Original, and scanned copies sent by email directly to the department are acceptable
    • Letters must be signed by the author
    • Letters must be a maximum of 2 pages
  4. The nominee’s current curriculum vitae
    • If the nominee is not already using this format, please encourage them to use the CV for the Professoriate Stream template on the bottom of this UBC HR webpage.

Complete nomination packages should be submitted via the Qualtrics form (link is below).  Please do not upload nominations to UBC SharePoint.


Previous Award Winners


Sara Shneiderman

An Associate Professor jointly appointed in the Department of Anthropology and the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, Dr. Shneiderman is recognized for her extraordinary commitment as a mentor to her students. Dr. Shneiderman has shown profound dedication in supporting her students and developing their academic careers, guiding them through their fieldwork, sharing her expertise, and helping them to think creatively and hone their skills. As Graduate Director for UBC’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, she carries this approach to over 100 masters students pursuing careers in government and civil society, in Canada and internationally. Dr. Shneiderman exemplifies the qualities of an outstanding mentor, demonstrating unwavering support and commitment to her students.


Marina Von Keyserlingk

Dr. Marina von Keyserlingk, or ‘Nina' as she is called by her students, is a Professor in the Applied Biology Program and co-leader of the Animal Welfare program. Dr. von Keyserlingk has been consistently recognized as a compassionate leader and role model, both in her field and as a mentor. Taking a holistic approach to her mentorship, she tailors her teaching and mentoring to meet the unique challenges and needs of each student, adapting to best support their personal and professional development. Dr. von Keyserlingk has been instrumental in fostering strong collaborative relationships between her students and fellows, empowering them to become leaders and mentors in their own right. Her proven success and dedication as an outstanding mentor have enabled her students to go on to develop successful careers in academia, in government, and beyond.


Sarah Burke

A Professor in Physics and Chemistry, Dr. Burke provides constant opportunities to hone essential skills in areas such as critical thinking, public speaking, and grant writing.  Dr. Burke tailors her mentoring approach, by adapting graduate student’s projects, and her mentoring, to each student’s evolving needs and career aspirations.  As co-creator of the Quantum Electronic Science & Technology Program, she has also been pivotal in developing and supporting graduate students with workshops, scholarships, mentoring opportunities, and research experiences.  Dr. Burke exemplifies the qualities of an outstanding mentor, whose focus is to nurture the intellectual, professional and personal development of graduate students.

Toni Schmader

Dr. Schmader’s Psychology students credit her for being one of the most transformative forces in shaping their own intellectual abilities in their careers.  She inspires deep theoretical engagement with research, pushing her graduate students to appreciate the broader connections between their own research areas and broader applications to society. Her whole-person mentorship philosophy translates into highly tailored guidance and ensures that mentees are empowered with a robust set of tools to grow not only as scientists but as individuals.  Dr. Schmader sets an example for how a scientist should be as an intellectual, a community citizen, and as a mentor. 


Mary De Vera

Dr. De Vera’s Pharmaceutical Sciences students describe her as hands-on and supportive mentor and enthusiastic teacher, with a holistic mentoring style that recognizes each student’s needs.  Dr. De Vera is committed to providing her trainees with exposure to various opportunities to expand their skills and networks, such as involving her trainees in the preparation of grant proposals.  She is also an advocate for women in STEM, lending her experience to numerous organizations on campus.  Dr. De Vera embodies excellence in mentorship, encouraging and inspiring individuals to reach their full research and academic potential. 

Leila harris

A Professor in Resources, Environment and Sustainability and the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice, Dr. Harris exemplifies a uniquely empowering and inclusive mentorship style that supports the development of thoughtful, rigorous, and productive researchers, as well as diverse global citizens and leaders.  According to her mentees, Dr. Harris encourages her students to high standards of scholarly integrity, productivity, and research ethics.  Through her EDGES lab, she models a supportive and collaborative environment with peer-to-peer learning.  As one of Dr. Harris’s mentees notes, “Leila provides an example of the type of mentor I strive to be”.


Kiran Soma

A Professor in Psychology, Dr. Soma’s students describe him as “the best of the best,” a mentor who tailors his approach to each of his students, adjusting his style to their individual needs. He is a passionate advocate for diversity and equity in science, who carefully considers issues related to equity, diversity and inclusion in science and is intent on building a respectful and collaborative environment for all those around him. Dr. Soma is consistently described as possessing the ability to hold high standards for the trainees around him, in a way that fosters growth, education and the desire to meet and exceed his expectations. He shows the utmost compassion for his students and postdocs and gives so much of his time to aid their personal development. His kindness, encouragement, scientific integrity, and passion for science have had a lasting, positive influence on the personal and professional development of many students, postdocs and colleagues.

Karthik Pattabiraman

Dr. Pattabiraman’s Electrical and Computer Engineering students describe him as a great coach, mentor, and supporter of their work. While all doctoral advisors are expected to teach their students how to properly conduct research, Dr. Pattabiraman never does so in a way that spoon-feeds his students. He spares no effort to cultivate his students’ potential and help bring that out. According to his mentees, he is always ready to ask the right questions and listen, showing both patience and understanding. Dr. Pattabiraman makes conscious efforts to foster a culture of respect and friendship between himself and his students, and the between students themselves. He understands the ability, passions, personality, career plan of each student, and what makes them motivated and productive. As a result, his excellent mentorship not only inspires his students to complete their degrees, but it also helps them to begin their career both in and outside of academia.


Molly Babel

An Associate Professor in Linguistics, Dr. Babel has been enthusiastically described by her students as an incredible scholar, and inspirational mentor and role model, who demonstrates immense dedication, care, and integrity in all her interactions with students. She has high growth expectations for her students, and helps to ensure they reflect on the broader context and value of their areas of research. It is noteworthy that she encourages and supports her students to follow their own interests and passions in their research questions and career development, and instills a significant sense of self-confidence and resilience as they navigate their program and ongoing careers.

Leonard Foster

Dr. Foster’s Biochemistry and Molecular Biology students describe him as an outstanding scientist and mentor who cares deeply about his students’ learning, creativity, growing independence, career development and wellbeing. He engages each individual on their own terms, drawing out their interests and goals, and actively seeks out ways or opportunities to help them fulfil them. He is consistently described as a role model, not only for his scientific achievements and mentorship, but also for championing gender equity, work-life balance, and the destigmatization and support of those with mental health challenges. He has had, and continues to have, a profound impact on innumerable students, postdocs, staff and colleagues.


Matei Ripeanu

A Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering, Dr. Matei Ripeanu is an extraordinary mentor and role model who prioritizes the holistic development of students in critical thinking, breadth and creativity, and thoughtful citizenship in the workplace and world. His approach is remarkably student-centric, and he purposely works to ensure students are able to build on their strengths and follow their passions, both in their research questions and career aspirations. He encourages and proactively seeks ways for students to develop relevant skills and experience, and is a lifelong mentor, sponsor, and advocate for them as they go on to their chosen careers in industry and the academy.

Thomas Kemple

Professor Thomas Kemple’s Sociology students and colleagues have singled him out as an exceptional mentor who devotes enormous time and effort into every mentoring relationship. He actively encourages students to carry out creative and independent research that aligns with their interests, while ensuring that the work meets the highest standards of scholarly rigour. His students consistently extol his compassionate mentoring style, and are indebted to the personal support he provides to help them carve out their own paths. As Dr. Kemple’s colleague states, he brings a ‘fundamental humanity to his mentoring which helps his students navigate the choppy waters of graduate school.


Eric Jan

An Associate Professor in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Dr. Eric Jan is passionate about mentoring students to reach their full potential as researchers. His students appreciate his active engagement with them, but also highly value the freedom he provides to develop and explore their own ideas. His own curiosity and excitement about research are contagious, and his students recount the many ways he has helped them develop the practical skills needed for effective research and communication. Dr. Jan encourages his students to follow their own passions, and actively supports them to achieve their career goals, both within and outside the academy.

Anne Martin-Matthews

A sociology professor in the field of aging, Dr. Anne Martin-Matthews embodies all that it means to be an outstanding mentor. Her students describe her as an incredible role model, with the highest level of integrity, kindness, generosity, and commitment to excellence in all her scholarly and professional activities. She is a constant guide, critic, supporter, listener, and inspirer for all those who have worked with her.  Her mentorship has extended well beyond her own students, and through her national initiatives, she has ignited the desire of a generation of researchers to improve the quality of life of elders and caregivers, and to achieve the highest standards of academic scholarship.


Kevin Bennewith

Dr. Kevin Bennewith, an Assistant Professor in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine who carries out research on tumour cells with the BC Cancer Agency, is an exemplary mentor, recognized for consistently putting the interests of his students first, even ahead of his own. He enables his students to take ownership of their work, fostering a collaborative environment among his trainees that creates opportunities for them to contribute and learn. His students describe Dr. Bennewith as a role model through and through, embodying scholarly integrity and expecting it from all those he mentors.

Sally Thorne

Dr. Sally Thorne, a Professor in the School of Nursing, is internationally recognized in the fields of cancer and chronic illness, generating practice-based knowledge that enhances the health of individuals, populations, and health care systems, while advancing the nursing discipline.  Dr. Thorne is an inspirational mentor who models authenticity, integrity, respect, and compassion, consistently displaying empathy and accommodation for the challenging circumstances that can arise in a student’s tenure.  She has well-developed coaching qualities which pervade all her interactions, strategically tailoring her approach to bring out the strengths of each individual and encourage her students to develop as independent researchers.


Jennifer Shapka

Dr. Jennifer Shapka’s research focuses on how technology influences the developmental well-being of children and adolescents. Sought out by students with diverse backgrounds in psychology, technology, and education, Dr. Shapka is always open to innovative research ideas. She creates opportunities for her students to excel by approaching supervision from an individual perspective; the results can be seen in her students’ success in obtaining scholarships, going on to successful academic or professional careers, and making important contributions to their fields. On a more systemic level, Dr. Shapka has been instrumental in developing and implementing departmental policy focused on supporting graduate students.

Nicolas Jaeger

Dr. Nicolas Jaeger provides an outstanding example of someone who combines excellence in research and innovation with generous graduate mentoring. Unstinting with his time, Dr. Jaeger devotes his considerable energies to helping each student develop the confidence they need to become successful research engineers. Dr. Jaeger also devotes additional hours to students whose first language is not English, taking the opportunity to train them not only in English grammar but also in critical thinking.  He works to provide all his students with the tools necessary to produce work that they, and UBC, can be proud of.  


Purang Abolmaesumi

Both at UBC and previously at Queen’s University, Dr. Purang Abolmaesumi has fostered a richly interdisciplinary and collegial environment in support of his students.  Possessing the rare gift of seeing the true potential of his students, Dr. Abolmaesumi has been a transformative influence for many students – not only those whom he has directly supervised, but also the entire Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program, for which he has served as Graduate Advisor for more than four years.  The fruit of his personal commitment to his students can be clearly seen in their educational and career successes, as well as in the enduring affection his students have for him.  

Wan Lam

Known for fostering an immensely welcoming and supportive family atmosphere, Dr. Lam is an engaged and caring mentor to his students and the wider research community. The exceptional success of his students speaks to Dr. Lam’s generosity and commitment to excellence; that his students have been successful in a variety of fields (academia, medicine and even law) speaks to his steadfast determination to give his students both the freedom and responsibility to thrive.  Pairing an infectious love of science with genuine care for his students, Dr. Lam has had a profound impact on the future of his discipline. 

Jo-ann Archibald

Dr. Jo-ann Archibald has an international reputation as an outstanding scholar, and through her mentorship and leadership of numerous initiatives, has helped transform Indigenous education in Canada.  The many graduate students she has mentored consistently praise her for her holistic approach to mentorship, engaging their physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual needs in ways that transcend their often isolating programmatic experiences.  Her high standards, wise and caring counsel, and commitment to instilling in her students a sense of responsibility for others have contributed to her students’ success in making a positive impact as leaders in their fields and communities after graduation.


Rabab Ward

Dr. Rabab Ward has been widely admired as an exemplary researcher, teacher and mentor throughout her highly distinguished career of over 30 years in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.  Students from her very first PhD graduate in 1985 to current lab members expressed deep appreciation for her profound generosity of time and spirit, unwavering commitment to research excellence, tireless dedication to students’ professional skill development, and facilitation of outstanding career opportunities within and beyond the academy.  Dr. Ward has nurtured a generation of confident, ambitious researchers who carry forward her passion for mentoring and social contribution.

Laurel Schafer

Since joining the Department of Chemistry in 2001, Dr. Laurel Schafer has had an extraordinary record of attracting and mentoring award-winning students and postdoctoral fellows, guiding them to reach their full potential in a wide range of successful careers.  Her trainees extol her ability to recognize and build on the unique interests and attributes of each individual, fostering their curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking skills by example and through persistent encouragement and constructive criticism.  Her laboratory is renowned for its respectful, ethical, and supportive dynamics, and students cherish her active and caring engagement in their lifelong academic, professional and personal development.


Carl Leggo

Dr. Carl Leggo is considered by colleagues and graduate students, “simply superior at graduate mentoring”. He joined the Department of Language and Literacy Education in 1990 and has supervised a remarkable cohort of doctoral and masters students [236 total supervised and co-supervised]. He is lauded for his “critical compassion”, “wisdom” and unstinting dedication to his mentees’ intellectual development and personal well-being. A distinguished scholar and poet, Dr. Leggo encourages his students to develop innovative approaches to research and publication because he “engages, listens closely and deeply, and enters into a dialogue at the end of which new pathways and possibilities most often emerge.”

Mark MacLachlan

Since joining the Department of Chemistry in 2001, Dr. Mark MacLachlan has established a dynamic research program that has nurtured and a remarkable cadre of graduate and postgraduate scholars. Those he has supervised – many of whom now hold significant academic and professional posts – praise Dr. MacLachlan’s “enthusiasm and vigor,” his effective guidance of their research, encouragement of “learning through self-direction and self-discovery,” and “faith in their ability to generate ideas.” Alongside scientific and scholarly inspiration, stands his availability, timely communication, “caring” mentorship and strategic advocacy for each student’s professional advancement well beyond graduation.

Joanna McGrenere

Dedicated to the intellectual growth and personal well-being of her many graduate students, Dr. Joanna McGrenere joined the Department of Computer Science in 2002. She is highly respected as a graduate mentor by students and colleagues alike, particularly for the way in which she prioritizes graduate supervision. One complimented “Joanna‘s outstanding ability to create positive relationships and constructive interactions in which she enables research excellence.” Another recalled how “all feedback, even criticism, is provided in a respectful, non-confrontational manner, giving students the scaffolding necessary for them to take ownership of their progress.”


Further Information

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