Leaders in graduate student supervision

Leaders in graduate student supervision

By Communications Staff

November 22, 2016


Jane Errington (History) and Robert Stanley Brown (Chemistry) are the winners of the 2016 Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Supervision. The award, presented by the School of Graduate Studies, recognizes outstanding supervisors who demonstrate excellence in advising and mentoring graduate students through their training.


A professor of history at Queen’s and professor emeritus and former dean of arts at the Royal Military College of Canada, Jane Errington joined the faculty at Queen’s more than 20 years ago. Since then, she has supervised 41 master’s and 17 PhD students to completion and is currently supervising one master’s and seven doctoral students. The author of three award-winning books and numerous articles that explore life and society in British North America in the first half of the 19th century, Dr. Errington was the recipient of the Cowan Prize for Excellence in Research, the RMC Teaching Excellence Award. RMC recently awarded her an honorary degree in recognition of her work. But as she herself notes, “it is teaching that offers constant delight. And working with graduate students is one of the greatest privileges one can have. The give and take of classes and conversations with bright and hardworking students mean that I always learn much more than I ever teach, and I am constantly challenged to rethink my own understanding of the past, and the present. And watching students go on to productive and rewarding careers in numerous walks of life is infinitely satisfying. I am always grateful for the opportunity to work with such committed, enthusiastic, and very talented individuals.”

Students have found Dr. Errington’s academic direction to be both rigorous and precise but, most importantly, warm and empowering.  She is an exceptional seminar leader, encouraging quality discussion and productive debate.  As well as providing timely and high-quality feedback, and being generous with her time and availability, Dr. E. (as she is known to her students) helps in practical ways, such as organizing an annual graduate student conference in which current and former students can hone their skills as presenters and panel chairs.  Dr. E. understands how isolating graduate school can be, and hosts regular potlucks in her home for her students to come together and form friendships and networking groups.  Recognizing that not all students go on to careers in academia, she actively supports their explorations of other options with advice, suggestions of workshops, and provision of letters of reference.


A professor of Chemistry at Queen’s from 1995 until 2014 and former department head from 1995-2000, R. Stan Brown is currently a professor emeritus. Over the course of his career, Dr. Brown has supervised the research programs of five master’s and 15 PhD students, as well as over 30 post-doctoral and research associate scientists. This research has encompassed diverse areas in chemistry including X-ray and UV photoelectron spectroscopy, model enzymes, bio-organic and bio-inorganic chemistry, catalysis and, most recently, the metal ion catalyzed cleavages of carbon esters and phosphate esters such as pesticides and chemical weapons. The names and contributions of these researchers can be found in over 187 research publications in leading chemical journals, nine patents/patent applications and nine book chapters. The findings and interpretation of much of this work is incorporated into leading textbooks at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Dr. Brown has received university, national and international recognition as the recipient of 10 prestigious research awards, two teaching awards and four fellowships including a Killam Research Fellowship and Fellowship in the Royal Society of Canada. He has contributed extensively to the chemical profession by serving as a board member and president of the Canadian Society of Chemistry and as a member of the NSERC Chemistry Grant Selection Committee.

Former students have commented on Dr. Brown’s approachability and responsiveness in providing timely, honest and high-quality commentary and feedback, while at the same time contending with a heavy academic and administrative workload. As a skilled communicator, he stresses the importance of structure and clarity in oral and written expression, and has gone out of his way to find appropriate English language courses for international students so that they might excel with no barriers to communication. “You will do famously” has been Dr. Brown’s constant encouraging refrain to graduate students before nerve-provoking hurdles such as exams, oral presentations and PhD defences. The joy he conveys in the accomplishments of his students and research teams has been inspirational.