Roberta Bondar Graduate Student Excellence Award

On recommendation of the Department of Biology, University of Toronto Mississauga, the Roberta Bondar Graduate Student Excellence Award is to recognize outstanding Ph.D. candidate(s) at the Department of Biology who are UTM affiliated in honor of their demonstration of outstanding research excellence and positive contributions to extracurricular activities that enhance community life at UTM.



  • Ruth Lillian Rivkin,  PhD student, Marc Johnson Lab Ruth Lillian Rivkin

Ruth has established herself as an emerging leader in the field of evolutionary ecology, evidenced by the papers she has published, talks and posters she has given, and awards she has received. In terms of extracurricular contributions, Ruth served as the President of the UTM Biology Graduate Student Society during 2016 and 2017. She was also a member of the Biology Executive Committee, and served as the Treasurer of the University of Toronto Mississauga Association of Graduate Students. In 2018, she co-organized an international symposium at UTM. Ruth has played a leading role in improving the mental health and wellness of graduate students at UTM. Her advocacy and action on this important subject began in September 2018 when she served the Student Advisory Committee for the Health and Counseling at UTM. It was at this time that she also founded and began to lead “Path to Resilience”, a graduate student peer support group. As the organizer of this group she led weekly peer support meetings for graduate students focusing on mental health and wellness of student, which included monthly workshops with counsellors on health and wellness. This has been an incredibly important initiative that has had a large positive impact on increasing the well-being of our graduate students.


  • Arjan Banerjee, PhD student, Sasa Stefanovic Lab Arjan

Arjan has developed a very exciting research project working on problems of organellar genome evolution in plants in general, and in particular on plastid evolution in heterotrophic plants. Arjan has an outstanding ability to do lab and analytical work, but he is equally motivated and prolific when it comes to publications. His first paper on the parasitic genus Cuscuta was published
relatively early on in his career and in a very good journal (Plant Molecular Biology), with the reach well beyond the plant systematics community. Earlier this year Arjan was asked to provide a dispatch, an invited opinion piece, for the Journal of Experimental Botany on the topic of plant-to-plant communication via parasitic bridging. At an early stage of career, this is a rare honour, not frequently extended to many postdoctoral fellows let alone graduate students.

Arjan served in 2017-2018 as the President of UTMAGS and worked to improve the UTM graduate student experience, to represent graduate students effectively in governance, and to design programming aimed at providing grads with opportunities to develop themselves professionally and to foster cross-departmental interaction. He was a voting member on the UTM Campus Affairs Committee (2017-18) and on the UTM Campus Council (2018-19), as well as on the search committee established by the Principal for the position of Chief Administrative Officer (2017-18). In the biology department, he served on the seminar sub-committee (2016-18) and on the curriculum committee (2016-17). His involvement in the graduate community was recognized with the UTM Graduate Student Leadership Award in 2018. Arjan has volunteered 242 hours with Let’s Talk Science (LTS) since 2015. Since 2017, Arjan has been the lead organizer for Mississauga’s chapter of Science Rendezvous, Canada’s largest science festival held in May every year.