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SFU neuroscientist wins Governor General’s gold medal

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June 3, 2002
Ashley Monks is this year’s golden boy of grad students.

The straight-A student is winner of the Governor General’s gold medal in graduate studies. "I really didn’t expect to receive it," Monks says from Michigan State University in East Lansing, where he is a post-doctoral fellow in the neuroscience program. "It’s a wonderful honour," adds the Montreal native, who attended high school at Lower Canada College.

The award is one of many Monks received during his graduate career at SFU. Earlier this year, he earned a 2002 Natural Sciences and Engineering Council (NSERC) prize worth $5,000 for his research on how the nervous system in adults changes in response to hormones. That topped a $38,000 NSERC grant he received two years earlier at the start of his PhD work.

Monks partly credits the collegiality of SFU colleagues for his success, as well as a mentorship with neuroscientist and associate professor Neil Watson. "There was an atmosphere of collaboration. The freedom to pursue ideas was encouraged," says Monks, who did an undergrad psychology degree at Montreal’s McGill University.

A Canadian Institutes of Health Research postdoctoral fellowship netted Monks $125,500 over a three-year period for postdoctoral work at MSU. Monks’ exploratory research has branched off. He is now looking at the effect of hormones on nervous system development during pregnancy and after birth, as well as investigating potential methods of rescuing neurons from dying.

Monks expects to return to Canada to take up a permanent research position.

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(digital photo available)

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