One to Watch Award

Gala Award

Presented annually to a recent alumnus/alumna (who graduated less than 10 years ago) from either an undergraduate or graduate program who is making significant contributions in their field of endeavour, setting an example for future Queen’s alumni to follow.

Idrees Ali

2020 Recipient

Idrees Ali


Since graduating from Queen’s, journalist Idrees Ali has shed light on pressing national security, foreign policy, and humanitarian challenges around the globe. He has reported on issues such as death threats faced by journalists in Pakistan, which earned front page coverage in the Washington Post. Ali is currently the national security correspondent covering the Pentagon at the Reuters News Agency in Washington, D.C., and has demonstrated persistence in holding government officials to account. His work in journalism is a true inspiration to the Queen’s community.

Past Award Recipients

Elamin Abdelmahmoud believes that for years everyone thought social media might be the biggest challenge for media organizations. Now, he sees social media is the biggest opportunity. He’s proving this theory as social media editor at BuzzFeed Canada and BuzzFeed News, the leading independent digital media company worldwide. As a regular commentator for CBC’s The National, Mr. Abdelmahmoud continues to be an influencer and has a growing group of dedicated social media followers.

Mr. Abdelmahmoud’s career in media has its roots at Queen’s. He learned the ropes in delivering news as a writer for the Queen’s Journal and news director at CFRC Radio. It was only natural that after graduating he would find a home for his talents first at the CBC, and then as an online producer with TVO’s flagship news magazine, The Agenda with Steve Paikin and social media specialist for current affairs and documentaries.

As a student, Mr. Abdelmahmoud was involved in the Model UN in 2006, the Co-Chair of ThankQ in 2009-10, and MiniU/Spring Reunion volunteer in 2011. As an alumnus, he was named Vice-President, Communication for the QUAA Toronto Branch and worked diligently to maintain membership engagement. In 2014, he participated as moderator at Principal Daniel Woolf’s panel discussion on mental health, and in 2016 he sat on the social media panel at the Alumni Volunteer Summit, where he provided insight and advice on best practices for leveraging social networks.

Turning a great idea into reality requires innovation and ambition. Taylor Mann, Artsci’14, Scott Mason, Artsci’15, and Oleg Baranov, Sci’15, demonstrated these traits when they founded their company, CleanSlate UV, a potentially life-saving device for infant care in hospitals.

The idea came from a friend of Taylor Mann’s, a nurse who explained to Mr. Mann that newborn infants in hospitals are at risk from the smallest exposure to germs found on items brought in by visitors and patients, such as cell phones. Mr. Mann, Mr. Mason, and Mr. Baranov set out to create a device that would ensure that phones pose one less risk to an infant’s health.

CleanSlate UV developed an innovative solution that uses UV-C light to rapidly sanitize cell phones, tablets, and other devices by destroying microorganisms. Not only does this process kill cold and flu viruses, but also successfully attacks a multitude of hospital pathogens, the dangerous superbugs that concern most hospitals.

CleanSlate UV, a product of the Queen’s Dunin-Deshpande Innovation Centre, received an award of $657,000, a second-prize finish in 43North, a U.S. - based business competition. They have already sold the product to hospitals in Ontario and New York State.

“We wanted to do something that was beneficial to the world. We didn’t want to build another app. We wanted to do something that would have a real-world application,” says Mr. Mann.

CleanSlate UV has already made a positive impact on the world. With its potential yet to be realized, its founders are certainly ones to watch.

Taylor Mann, Scott Mason, and Oleg Baranov were honoured at the QUAA Alumni Awards Gala on April 8, 2017.

As a passionate and creative person who has launched four successful companies before turning 30, Michele Romanow, Sc’07, MBA’08, is definitely “one to watch.”

While a student at Queen’s, Ms. Romanow established The Tea Room, located in Beamish-Munro Hall. The zero-consumer-waste coffee shop is still going strong on campus and is a great place for students and faculty to connect over an exotic tea or cappuccino.

After graduating from Queen’s, Ms. Romanow moved on from the café scene to e-commerce. Her venture, Buytopia, an online service that allows shoppers the chance to get 50-90 per cent discounts on products and services for a very limited time, has grown to 2.5 million subscribers and ranked number three on the list of fastest growing Canadian companies. She is on the list of 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada and ranked among the top 20 most disruptive Millennials on a Mission according to Forbes.

Ms. Romanow’s latest venture, SnapSaves, is a mobile couponing app that gives shoppers cash back when they buy certain items in the grocery store. The American corporate giant Groupon purchased SnapSaves in June, 2014 and relaunched it in the U.S. as Snap by Groupon.

Most recently, Ms. Romanow was named the latest dragon for the popular CBC show, Dragon’s Den, where she will provide input and advice to an important demographic – Millennial consumers.

Ms. Romanow continues to be a great ambassador for Queen's and finds time in her busy life to return to campus and talk with students about entrepreneurship.

Michele Romanow was honoured at the QUAA Alumni Awards Gala on April 2, 2016.

Dr. Matthew Lato graduated in 2006 with an Honours degree, BSc. ENG, in Mineral and Energy Exploration. Following graduation, Dr. Lato put his passion for research to work to pursue a PhD. Shortly after receiving his PhD, Dr. Lato accepted a position with the prestigious Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI), in Norway. There he made his mark on the geotechnical community, receiving accolades for his work on everything from underground excavations to slope stability projects.

As an Adjunct Associate Professor at Queen’s, Dr. Lato is a source of encouragement and inspiration to his students and takes the time to ensure the material he teaches is interesting and engaging.

Dr. Lato is also founder and owner of RockSense GeoSolutions Incorporated, which has recently been acquired by BCG Engineering. In the industry, Dr. Lato has worked around the globe and has proven that he’s not only a talented researcher but an exceptional engineer as well. His achievements in both industry and academia are incredible, considering he’s only 29 years old. With so much of his career still ahead of him, Dr. Lato is definitely one to watch.

Dr. Matthew Lato was honoured at the QUAA Alumni Awards Gala on March 28, 2015.

2014 Jeffrey Gallant, Com'11

2012 Max Bailey, Sc'11

2011 Gemma Boag, Artsci'08

2010 Vincent Chan, Meds'05

2009 Stefanie Reid, Artsci'06

2008 Stephanie Case, Artsci'04

2007 Aaron Pereira, Artsci'04

2006 Lindsay Higgs, Artsci’04

Award Eligibility & Criteria

Candidates should be:

  • A Queen’s alumnus/alumna who graduated less than 10 years ago
  • Someone who has accomplished early success in one or more fields of endeavor which augurs well for future leadership and accomplishment
  • An inspiration to the Queen’s community

For more information about alumni awards, please contact Lenore Klein, 613-533-6000 ext 78691.