Three graduate students earn Governor General's Gold Medal awards for academic excellence

Three York University graduates are this year’s recipients of a Governor General’s Gold Medal, awarded for achieving the highest academic standing. The medals are the most prestigious recognition presented to graduate students. This year’s recipients are Siobhan Angus, Athina Peidou and Stephanie Raposo.

Awarded by the Governor General of Canada, the Governor General’s Academic Medals recognize the outstanding scholastic achievements of students in Canada. They are awarded to the student graduating with the highest average from approved university programs – gold medals at the graduate level and silver medals at the undergraduate level.

“The Governor General’s Gold Medals are a recognition not only of academic excellence, but of the many contributions these graduates have made to enriching their respective fields of study and life at York,” said President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton. “The entire York community is extremely proud of Stephanie, Siobhan and Athina, and we wish them the very best in their future endeavours."

About the recipients

photo of Siobhan Angus

Siobhan Angus

Siobhan Angus earned a PhD in art history and visual culture from York University, with a dissertation on the visual culture of resource extraction in Canada with a focus on visual archives, labour history and environmental justice.

“Receiving the Governor General’s Gold Medal is a great honour and validates the direction and nature of my research interests,” said Angus. “I am grateful for the recognition of my research, which was made possible from the support of the wonderful community at York.”

Angus credits the faculty, staff and students in the art history and visual culture program for helping her to develop and refine her research program – in particular, her advisor Sarah Parsons. York, she said, provided her with essential support for fieldwork and conference travel. Angus was also the recipient of the Susan Mann Dissertation Scholarship, which allowed her to focus on research and writing.

“Due to the interdisciplinary nature of my project and York’s commitment to environmental studies, York was the right choice to develop my research in environmental art history,” she said.

Next year, Angus will be a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of the History of Art at Yale University, the William H. Helfand Visual Culture Program Fellow at The Library Company of Philadelphia, and a visiting scholar at the Yale Center for British Art.

photo of Athina Peidou

Athina Peidou

Earth and Space Science and Engineering PhD student Athina Peidou has made incredible strides with her research focused on satellite-based gravity field maps.

In 2020, Peidou discovered the solution to a problem that has occupied the international scientific community for more than 18 years. Co-written by her supervisor Professor Spiros Pagiatakis, Peidou’s published her findings in the paper “Stripe mystery in GRACE geopotential models revealed” in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

“This award recognizes our scientific discovery on rooting the cause of the disturbing thick lines shown in satellite-based gravity field maps, which obscure geophysical signals. I look at this award as a reminder that we should always do our best regardless of the challenges, the great effort and commitment it takes to achieve our goals,” said Peidou.

In 2019, she earned the International Association of Geodesy Young Authors Award for her work on the paper titled “On the feasibility of using satellite gravity observations for detecting large-scale solid mass transfer events” published in the Journal of Geodesy.

Peidou credits her success to her decision to pursue studies at York University.

“Undoubtedly, it was one of the best choices of my life to do my PhD at York U and work with my supervisor, Dr. Spiros Pagiatakis. His exceptional supervision in combination with the York U community made my grad life experience memorable,” she said. “York University feels like home to me.”

Peidou will start work in the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a research Fellow where she will be working on the GRACE space gravity mission.

“I am very excited to continue doing research on one of the most useful space missions in the field of climate change,” she said.

photo of Stephanie Raposo

Stephanie Raposo

Stephanie Raposo earned a PhD in social and personality psychology, doing researching under the supervision of Professor Amy Muise in the Sexual Health and Relationships (SHaRe) Lab. Her research focused on implicit theories of sexual satisfaction and how couples can sustain intimate connections.

“I am grateful for the special honour of receiving a Governor General's Gold Medal. For me, this medal reflects the value of research on relationships and sexuality,” she said. “This recognition motivates me to continue learning and disseminating more of what I am passionate about: how committed couples can maintain their relationship and sexual well-being, especially in the face of sexual challenges."

Raposo says the medal is also reflective of the incredible mentorship she received from Muise, and the support she received from faculty and students in the Psychology Department and the SHaRe Lab.

Raposo says she chose to pursue graduate studies at York University because of its innovative and collaborative research community that features ongoing discussions of recent research findings and new directions, as well as several initiatives for funding and promoting cutting-edge programs of research.

"The encouragement I have received thus far has made my experience even more fulfilling than I could have imagined, and I am grateful for the opportunities that I have had to become immersed in the academic community at York University," she said.

She plans to continue working on her dissertation research, which draws on implicit theories of sexual satisfaction – people’s lay beliefs about how to maintain a satisfying sexual relationship – and attribution theories in psychology to investigate novel questions about how couples can sustain their intimate connections, even when experiencing declines in sexual desire.

About the awards

For more than 140 years, the Governor General’s Academic Medals have recognized the outstanding scholastic achievements of students in Canada. They are awarded to the student graduating with the highest average from a high school, as well as from approved college or university programs. Pierre Trudeau, Tommy Douglas, Kim Campbell, Robert Bourassa, Robert Stanfield and Gabrielle Roy are just some of the more than 50,000 people who have received the Governor General’s Academic Medal as the start of a life of accomplishment.

Today, the Governor General’s Academic Medals are awarded at four distinct levels: Bronze, at the secondary school level; Collegiate Bronze, at the post-secondary, diploma level; Silver, at the undergraduate level; and Gold, at the graduate level. Medals are presented on behalf of the Governor General by participating educational institutions, along with personalized certificates signed by the Governor General. There is no monetary award associated with the medal.

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