York U PhD student receives prestigious Nelson Mandela award distinction

A York University graduate student is among the first cohort of recipients to earn a new distinction of the Canada Graduate Scholarship (CGS) created to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s legacy.

Jordana Waxman, who is pursuing a PhD in clinical development psychology, was one of two doctoral applicants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) selected for the Canada Graduate Scholarship to Honour Nelson Mandela.

CIHR and the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) select up to 10 doctoral CGS recipients whose work is aligned with one or more of the five areas championed by Mandela – national unity; democracy, freedom and human rights; leadership; children’s participation in society; and children’s health – to receive this distinction.

Candidates selected are among the highest-ranked CGS award winners.

Waxman will receive funding of $105,000 over three years to continue her research at the Opportunities to Understand Childhood Hurt (O.U.C.H.) Lab at York U. She is currently investigating the influence of parental and infant factors on childhood pain reactivity and regulation over the first years of life.

“My doctoral research seeks to bridge the gaps in the available research by studying how behavioural and physiological responses to infant pain/distress develop in the second year of life,” she said. “Our goal is to better understand the development of distress regulation and to determine the relationships between distress regulation and broad infant mental health indicators.”

Her research at York began in 2013, and will continue for at least another five years. It is funded by CIHR (for three years) and the Natural Sciences  Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) (for five years).

“Jordana has worked tirelessly since she came to York, mobilizing a new direction to the O.U.C.H. Lab's program of research in better understanding infants in pain,” said Rebecca Pillai Riddell, an associate psychology professor at York who runs the lab.

Waxman attributes her success with the project to the collegial environment of the O.U.C.H. Lab. Riddell’s input, she said, was integral in distinguishing her work as a top-ranked research project.

“Not only is the laboratory equipped with state-of-the-art technology that is needed to conduct my research, it is also an extremely supportive environment,” said Waxman. “The O.U.C.H. Laboratory consists of an amazing complement of undergraduate volunteers and thesis students, as well as graduate students, who are hard-working and have supported me in my research and clinical endeavours. Most importantly, my supervisor, Dr. Pillai Riddell, is an expert in the field of infant pain, and has worked collaboratively with me during the creation of this research project.”

The award enables Waxman to focus on her research, and gives her the opportunity to collaborate nationally and internationally with leading researchers in the field of infant pain.

“I was and am still so honoured and grateful to be recognized as a student conducting research in child health, an area that Nelson Mandela was extremely passionate about and tirelessly supported,” she said.

CGS competitions are administered by CIHR and SSHRC. CGS awards that include “in Honour of Nelson Mandela” will be given to up to 10 CGS doctoral recipients and up to 10 CGS master’s recipients across the three tri-council agencies (CIHR, SSHRC and NSERC).

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