Lakehead University celebrated exceptional researchers at R and I Awards of Excellence

March 4, 2021 – Thunder Bay and Orillia, Ont.

Lakehead University held its Research and Innovation Awards of Excellence reception virtually on Thursday, March 4 to celebrate the exceptional achievements of professors, partners, and students.

Lakehead named Dr. Edward Rawana and Dr. Mitchell Albert the 2021 Distinguished Researchers for their work in social science and science, respectively.

Photo of Dr. Ed Rawana

Dr. Rawana, a Professor in the Department of Psychology and at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, is also the Director of the Centre of Education and Research on Positive Youth Development and a child and adolescent psychologist.

He started at Lakehead University as a Sessional Lecturer in the Department of Psychology in 1985, became an Adjunct Professor in 1987, and began a tenure track position as Assistant Professor in 2004.

Dr. Rawana’s career in psychology has been a continuous and colourful journey toward the subject he is most passionate about: strengths. He is highly active in exploring and promoting the assessment of psychological strengths and incorporating this information into practical methods that address issues of education, addiction, and mental health. 

His research has three goals: to impact the theoretical/research literature pertaining to the influence of psychological strengths on the development of children, adolescents, and adults; to develop psychometric instruments for use in the assessment of psychological strengths of individuals; to focus on the assessment of psychological strengths in the Canadian population of Indigenous children and adults, especially students at Lakehead University receiving services through the Office of Indigenous Initiatives.

Dr. Rawana co-created a psychometric tool called the Strengths Assessment Inventory (SAI) for children and adolescents, which has been used more than 3,000 times and is featured on its own website at It has attracted considerable attention from a wide range of professionals who also work with youth in varying capacities throughout Canada and internationally. 

Dr. Rawana also provides training and consultation to teachers, parents, and clinicians on the implementation of these strength-based methods, with an emphasis on providing a framework for utilizing strengths in addressing behavioural challenges in children and youth.

His work in the growing area of strengths involving children, adolescents, and their families has resulted in the authoring or co-authoring of over 30 academic and professional publications on the subject. 

This includes the foundational book Reshaping School Culture: Implementing a Strengths-Based Approach in Schools, which lays out fundamental concepts of a strengths-based approach and its application within the educational system. His most recent co-authored book is a companion manual, Strengths and the Ontario Language Curriculum: Strengths-Based Lessons for Grades 4-6.

“My research is focused on the concept of psychological strengths developed by individuals to enhance their self efficacy and to address life challenges,” he said in his acceptance speech.

“It has been gratifying to see this concept be adopted in our community and elsewhere to enhance the mental health, well being and academic achievements of students in the schools.”

Dr. Rawana thanked his family, the Office of Research Services, and other colleagues for their contributions to this important research, including Dr. Keith Brownlee, and the staff and graduate students at the Centre of Education and Research on Positive Youth Development for their significant contribution to his research.

Photo of Dr. Mitchell Albert

Dr. Albert is a Professor in Chemistry, a Lakehead University/Thunder Bay Regional Health Research Institute (TBRHRI) Chair in Molecular Imaging and Advanced Diagnostics, and a Scientist with TBRHRI. He joined Lakehead University and TBRHRI in the spring of 2011.

Dr. Albert is also an Adjunct Professor in Biology, Health Sciences and Physics at Lakehead University and an Adjunct Professor at the Northern Ontario Medical School.

He is a pioneer in the field of hyperpolarized (HP) noble gas magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) since its beginnings in the 1990s, when he co-invented this technology during his graduate studies at Stony Brook University.

Dr. Albert’s HP gas MRI invention changed the course of the pulmonary imaging field since it provided, for the first time, a way to directly visualize the ventilation and gas exchange in the lungs, which is something that other imaging modes cannot readily provide.

“This is important because gas exchange in the airways and lungs is paramount to etiology and understanding of small airway diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung fibrosis, and other diseases of the lungs,” Dr. Albert said.

For this contribution to research, he was awarded the US Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers by President Clinton in 1999. He also received a prestigious US National Science Foundation Career Award for his contributions to the development of this technology and contributions to training of highly qualified personnel in this field.

Dr. Albert and his team recently began using HP xenon MRI to study the brain, and imaged the brain of participants with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) for the first time using HP xenon MRI. They went on to demonstrate the use of HP xenon MRI to acquire functional MRI (fMRI) images of the brain with superior sensitivity and signal strength compared to conventional methods.

During Dr. Albert’s career, his research innovation, scientific rigor, and insight has been amply rewarded in terms of funding awards totaling approximately $16.5 million.

Over the past 10 years at Lakehead University, he has been awarded 18 grants totaling approximately $6.6 million to support his research.

His research involved an investigator-initiated clinical trial at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Research Institute, and he is happy to see that his imaging invention has recently been approved for clinical use in the UK and is close to approval in the US and Canada.

“It is gratifying that our dream from 30 years ago is starting to be used in clinics at hospitals,” Dr. Albert said during his acceptance speech.

“Although I am receiving this award today, it was my students, staff and collaborators who did all the hard work. A hearty thank you to all of them, and thanks for choosing me to receive this award.”

Dr. Andrew P. Dean, Lakehead’s Vice-President, Research and Innovation, said he was exceptionally proud of the University’s researchers.

“Congratulations to Dr. Rawana and Dr. Albert, and to all Lakehead University researchers,” Dr. Dean said. “This has been a very different R and I Week with it being entirely online. I would like to thank everyone who participated, including the general public, students, faculty and staff, and all of our speakers as well.”

Award Recipients

Three-Minute Thesis

  • Third Place: Shadiya Aidid, Master of Health Sciences (Supervisors: Dr. Charles Levkoe and Dr. Lindsay Galway
  • Second Place: Taha Sadeghi, PhD in Biotechnology (Supervisor: Dr. Leila Pakzad)
  • First Place: Ashley Faulkner, Master of Science, Biology (Supervisor: Dr. Ingeborg Zehbe)

Graduate Studies Research Excellence Awards

Natural Sciences and Engineering Category

  • Oleksandr Grynko, PhD in Chemistry and Material Science, (Supervisor: Dr. Alla Reznik) 

Social Sciences and Humanities Category

  • Keri-Lyn Durant, PhD in Educational Studies (Supervisor: Dr. Pauline Sameshima)

Canadian Institutes of Health Research Category

  • Rebecca Tzalazidis, PhD in Clinical Psychology (Supervisor: Dr. Kirsten Oinonen)

Graduate Student Conference Poster Winners

  • Winner Engineering Category: Joseph Higginson, MSc in Chemical Engineering (Supervisor: Dr. Ehsan Behzadfar) 
  • Winner NSERC Category: Jocelyn Bel, PhD in Biotechnology (Supervisors: Dr. Neelam Khaper, Dr. Simon Lees)
  • Winner SSHRC Category: Cassandra Burgess, PhD in Educational Studies (Supervisors: Dr. Sonia Mastrangelo, Dr. Alex Lawson)
  • Winner CIHR Category: Jessica Allingham, PhD Chemistry and Material Science, (Supervisors: Dr. Michael Campbell, Dr. Wely Floriano)

Indigenous Partnership Research Award

Award recipients are Dr. Chris Murray, Department of Sustainability Sciences, Orillia campus, and Nancy Assance, Department of Education, Beausoleil First Nation for their research project, “Agaaming – Across the Bay: Beausoleil First Nation Wind and Water Monitoring Project.”

Ingenuity Award

  • Nehikhare Patrick Igbinijesu, Master’s student in Social Justice Studies for his company “Manilla”

Community-Engaged Research Award

  • Dr. Kathryn Sinden, School of Kinesiology in partnership with Thunder Bay Fire Rescue/Thunder Bay Professional Firefighters Association for the research project, “Protecting those who protect us: Supporting development of a mental health management strategy for Thunder Bay Fire Rescue.”

Canada Research Chair Award

  • The Canada Research Chair holder is Dr. Lindsay Galway, Department of Health Sciences.

Senate Research Committee Awards

 Contribution to Research Award

  • Dr. Amir Azimi, Civil Engineering
  • Dr. Salimur Choudhury, Computer Science
  • Dr. Max Haiven, English

 Distinguished Researcher Award

  • Dr. Mitchell Albert, Research Chair and Professor in Chemistry
  • Dr. Edward Rawana, Psychology 


– 30 –



Media: For more information or interviews, please contact Brandon Walker, Media, Communications and Marketing Associate, at (807) 343-8177 or



Lakehead University is a fully comprehensive university with approximately 9,700 full-time equivalent students and over 2,000 faculty and staff at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead has 10 faculties, including Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Graduate Studies, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Law, Natural Resources Management, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Science & Environmental Studies, and Social Sciences & Humanities. Lakehead University’s achievements have been recognized nationally and internationally, including being ranked, once again, among Canada’s Top 10 primarily undergraduate universities in Maclean’s 2021 University Rankings; as well as included in the top half of Times Higher Education's 2020 World Universities Rankings for the second consecutive year, and 98th among 766 universities from around the world in THE's 2020 Impact Rankings (which assesses institutions against the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals). Visit