Heidi Ploeg (Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Smith Engineering) and Asha Varadharajan (Department of English, Arts and Science) are this year's recipients of the Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Supervision.

Professors recognized for efforts in graduate student supervision

The commitment of Queen’s academic supervisors is a key element to making the university’s graduate student experience exceptional. Supervisory relationships help promote a research culture where students are supported to address pressing challenges facing our communities, society, and make meaningful contributions to their field of research.

Each year the School of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (SGSPA) recognizes two leading graduate supervisors with the Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Supervision. The 2024 recipients are Heidi Ploeg, Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Smith Engineering, and Asha Varadharajan, Department of English, Arts and Science.

“Each year we receive many inspiring nominations that recognize faculty members who exemplify the highest standards of graduate supervision at Queen’s,” says Fahim Quadir, Vice-Provost and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs. “We congratulate Dr. Varadharajan and Dr. Ploeg, and all nominees, for their outstanding commitment to leadership and mentorship and for their ongoing contributions to enriching the academic experience of our graduate community.”

Learn more about this year’s recipients:

Asha Varadharajan
An Associate Professor in the Department of English, Dr. Varadharajan has supervised 16 PhD dissertations, three master’s theses, four postdoctoral fellows, and has served on more than 40 examining committees in a range of departments. Her supervision is founded upon respect for the intellectual autonomy of students, awareness of disciplinary demands for critical excellence and professionalization, and acute attentiveness to student needs and aspirations. She has supervised projects across historical periods, deploying a range of cross-disciplinary methodologies, and traversing geographical and cultural boundaries. Her emphasis throughout has been on erudition rather than expertise, so that her students can translate what they know in contexts and constituencies that would otherwise be alien to them. She insists on the pleasures of the intellect as the best antidote to the pervasive culture of anxiety and strikes a delicate balance between pragmatism and idealism to ensure her students thrive rather than merely survive. 

Heidi Ploeg
A Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and Smith Engineering Chair for Women in Engineering, Dr. Ploeg directs the Queen’s Bone and Joint Biomechanics (Q-BJB) Lab, in the Centre for Health Innovation. Her lab’s objective is to understand the human musculo-skeletal system better in order to aid the development of biomechanical and safe solutions for the care and treatment of diseased or injured systems.

About the award

The Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Supervision recognizes supervisors who demonstrate outstanding excellence in advising, monitoring, and mentoring graduate students. Excellence is judged on the quality of supervision and mentorship in facilitating the acquisition of skills and resources needed for students to succeed as scholars and professionals. The criteria for the award reflect supervisors who inspire students to push scholarly boundaries, pursue their career and academic goals, offer quality feedback and guidance, and broadly support a culture of supervisory excellence within their school/faculty and/or university. Preference is given to faculty members who have displayed sustained mentorship activity over many years.

This story was originally published in The Gazette.