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Mani Ranjbar Thomas Humphries Heather Whiteside

Pacific Century scholars (l to r) Mani Ranjbar, Thomas Humphries and Heather Whiteside.

Graduate scholarships keep grads here

May 1, 2008

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By Stuart Colcleugh

When Thomas Humphries applied last year for a 2007–08 graduate fellowship at SFU he got more than he bargained for. Along with the fellowship, he was one of 50 SFU recipients of B.C.’s new Pacific Century Graduate Scholarship (PCGS), worth $10,000.

"It was a great surprise," says the applied mathematics PhD candidate, who is working on promising new research related to a medical imaging technique called single photon emission computed tomography.

"The scholarship has allowed me to focus more on my research and not have to carry as much of a load as a teaching assistant."

The B.C. government committed $10 million over four years to finance 1,000 Pacific Century scholarships for master’s, doctoral and post-doctoral students at B.C.’s four research-intensive universities — SFU, UBC, UVic and UNBC.

SFU was allocated 202 of the merit-based scholarships to be distributed over four years to students in research-intensive graduate programs, with more than 20 per cent of them earmarked for international and aboriginal grad students.

For the program’s remaining three years, SFU will combine the PCGS with funding from other sources to guarantee Pacific Century scholars $29,000 for their first two years of graduate study.

SFU engineering science PhD student Mani Ranjbar, who is a member of the Laboratory for Robotic Vision research team, says many Iranian students like him have their visa applications rejected by the Canadian Embassy in Tehran due to a lack of financial support.

"Having the $10,000 from PCGS combined with $12,000 support from my supervisor, Dr. Parvaneh Saeedi, made my application a successful one. Without that, I doubt I would have been here now."

Pacific Century scholar Heather Whiteside, a political science doctoral candidate researching public-private partnerships in B.C. and Canada, says "the PCGS has allowed me the time required to undertake an extensive literature review in my field. That has proven crucial."

SFU graduate studies associate dean, George Agnes, says the PCGS program is a good first step towards what he hopes will eventually be a permanently funded B.C. graduate scholarship program.

"It’s a way to increase accessibility to graduate school in general, be more competitive for attracting new graduate students from outside the province, and prevent B.C. grad students from going elsewhere, particularly to Ontario, which has had a graduate scholarship program for years.

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