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O'Brien Fellows
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2023 O'Brien Fellows

(see previous years recipients)

Amy Johnston

Doctorate in Philosophy (PhD) in epidemiology – University of Ottawa

amy johnston 2023

Amy Johnston is a PhD candidate in the School of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Ottawa, and a doctoral trainee at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. She holds a Master of Science with a specialization in Health Services Research and a Master of Biomedical Technology, both from the University of Calgary. In 2018, Amy earned professional certification in Public Health, administered by the National Board of Public Health Examiners (Washington, DC). Amy is passionate about women’s cardiovascular health and in supporting women in science and has been active in raising awareness through advocacy campaigns and community engagement as a member of the Canadian Women’s Heart Health Alliance and a co-organizer of Soapbox Science events in Ottawa. She is also passionate about empowering people with disabilities to experience the sport of skiing through her volunteer work as a ski instructor with Canadian Adaptive Snowsports for the past 10 years. Building on her PhD training in women’s cardiovascular epidemiology, and leveraging prior academic and translational experience, Amy’s professional goal is to obtain a tenure-track appointment within a Canadian academic institution as an independent researcher in the field of women’s cardiovascular health.


Abbie LeBlanc

PhD in Government – Harvard University

abbie leblanc 2023

Abbie LeBlanc is a PhD candidate in Government at Harvard University studying political theory. Her academic career began at St. Thomas University, where she graduated with honours in Political Science, Human Rights, and Great Books in 2019. She then completed an MA at McGill University in 2021. Her MA thesis on Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Émile is published in Review of Politics and considers the intersection of property and gender in Rousseau's thought. Her current dissertation research focuses on early modern political thought and settler colonialism. She is also working on articles about Míkmaw political thought, Adam Smith, and Thomas Hardy.

Born and raised in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Abbie enjoys spending time at home with her family and dogs. She is grateful for the support and recognition of the O'Brien Foundation. 

Christiana Loral Myers

Doctorate in History of Art – University of Glasgow

christiana loral 2023

Christiana Myers is a curator, writer, educator, and artist based in Menagoesg/Saint John, New Brunswick. She holds a BFA from Mount Allison University, a MLitt Curatorial Practice from the Glasgow School of Art, and is currently undertaking her PhD studies in Art History at the University of Glasgow.

Her research explores the representation and contextualization of COVID-19 in contemporary art by analyzing the artistic and curatorial use of epidemiological metaphor. It investigates the ways in which the virus has been employed or weaponized symbolically amid concurrent crises of health and social injustice, and how these characterization methods may reflect, or influence, art historical narratives and social dynamics of illness.

Christiana has undertaken projects in Atlantic Canada, Montreal, Finland, and Scotland and, locally, has worked with the New Brunswick Museum, Third Space Gallery, the New Brunswick College of Craft & Design, and the provincial Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture. Her recent writing on disability and access, public art, museological practice, and the intersection of art with climate justice have appeared in Canadian Art, C Magazine, and publications by the Owen's Art Gallery, Goose Lane Editions, the Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity, and the Maritime Edit, among others.


Everett Avison Patterson

Doctorate in Physics (Quantum Information Specialization)

Everett Patterson 2023

Everett Patterson was born and raised in Moncton, New-Brunswick. While there, he was proudly enrolled in the local francophone public school system. In his final year of high school at École L’Odyssée, Everett completed three courses at Université de Moncton, before completing his BSc Honours in Mathematics and Physics at Mount Allison University in Sackville, where he was awarded the Don Norton Memorial Award in recognition of his outstanding contribution to student life. It was at Mount Allison University that Everett began his research endeavours in theoretical physics, completing his undergraduate thesis under the supervision of Dr. Nathaniel Johnston, working on quantum entanglement theory. Since then, he completed his MSc in Physics supported by an NSERC scholarship at the University of Waterloo looking at the intersection of relativity and quantum theories. It is in this field of Relativistic Quantum Information that Everett is pursuing his PhD at the University of Waterloo and its Institute for Quantum Computing under the supervision of Dr. Robert Mann. Everett hopes to eventually continue his exploration of the fundamental structure of our universe while also training the next generation as a university professor. Outside of his academic pursuits, he enjoys playing and coaching ultimate (frisbee) as well as leading math and science outreach and enrichment programs. Everett very grateful for the support and recognition of the O’Brien Foundation in his academic endeavours. . 

Jacob Barry

Doctorate in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies – Western University

Jacob Barry 2023

Jacob Barry (they/them) identifies as a queer, trans non-binary person and is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at the University of Western Ontario, Canada under the supervision of Dr. Greta Bauer. Their doctoral research utilizes a community-based approach to institutional ethnography with the goal of highlighting Two Spirit, trans, and gender-diverse (2STGD) people’s experiences accessing and engaging with care in New Brunswick, Canada. In addition, their research looks to understand the policies, practices, and procedures that impact how care providers provide gender-affirming care. Jacob is the founder and Executive Director of TransCare+, a non-profit organization that focuses on 2SLGBTQIA+ health, care, and wellness. TransCare+ works with queer and gender diverse communities, care providers, and researchers to identify, develop, and provide services and resources that meet the needs and desires of queer and gender diverse folks across Canada. In addition to their academic and non-profit work, Jacob currently works as a Clinical Coordinator for Two-Spirit, Queer, and Trans Pathways NB and sits as a Trans Patient Experience Advisor on Horizon Health’s 2SLGBTQ+ Inclusion and Diversity Committee. Despite pursuing their doctoral education outside of New Brunswick, Jacob remains committed to improving the healthcare system for all New Brunswick residents, especially those from equity-deserving communities.


Tovah Shalom Kashetsky

Doctorate in Biology – University of Ottawa

Tovah Shalom Kashetsky 2023

Born and raised in Saint John, New Brunswick, it is where Tovah's love for animals and science began. As a kid, she would spend her summers catching salamanders, tadpoles, and insects at local parks. Little did she know how useful these insect-trapping skills would be during her PhD. She currently lives in Ottawa, Ontario, where she studies the behaviour and cognition of solitary bees. Yes, bees can be solitary. In fact, 90% of bee species live alone or in “weak” social groups, where no queens or workers exist, and each female has her own nest. Currently, she is researching if solitary bees that nest in above-ground cavities prefer nesting near other solitary bees, or if they choose to nest in isolation. Perhaps the presence of other nesting bees means that the nesting area is a good place to raise offspring. On the other hand, the presence of many nests may attract brood parasites—certain bee and wasp species that kill host bee larvae to take over their nest. Her research will help mitigate parasites and improve rearing practises for cavity-nesting bees used in research, agriculture, and conservation. When she's not conducting research, she enjoys running, hiking, visiting art galleries, playing board games, and watching movies.

Vanessa Veilleux

Doctorate in Life Sciences – Université de Moncton

Vanessa Veilleux 2023

Vanessa Veilleux is originally from Saint-Basile, New Brunswick. She graduated from the Health Sciences preparatory program and obtained a Bachelor of Science with a specialization in Biochemistry from Université de Moncton. Over the years, she has developed a true passion for scientific research. Eager to learn and expand her knowledge, she pursued her graduate studies in cancer research at Université de Moncton. Her passion for her research project led her to transfer to the Ph.D. program in life sciences to further deepen her knowledge.

During her graduate studies, she had the opportunity to present her findings at numerous conferences, where she distinguished herself at both provincial and international levels. She was selected as a discussion group leader at a global conference, gave interviews to promote scientific research, and served as a lecturer at the University of Moncton. All of these experiences allow her to share her knowledge and transmit her passion for science.

Her research focuses on the role of platelet microparticles in breast cancer. This project aims to study the impact of these vesicles on cancer cells and disease progression. The study characterizes the pathological mechanisms at the cellular and molecular levels to contribute to future therapeutic strategies. She hopes to one day be able to help people affected by any form of disease, rare or common, and become a researcher in the biomedical field in New Brunswick.

Vanessa is very grateful and honoured to receive support from the O'Brien Foundation for her studies.


Michaela Ritchie

PhD in Experimental Psychology – UNB – Saint John Campus

Michaela Ritchie 2023

Michaela is a second-year PhD student in Experimental Psychology at the University of New Brunswick Saint John, with a focus on memory and cognition. Her research primarily focuses on the generation effect, a phenomenon where generating information improves memory retention compared to passive learning or reading. The aim is to further investigate the mechanisms behind the generation effect and its implications for learning.

She is especially intrigued by the use of electronics for learning and how they interact with the cognitive processes of students. Therefore, she plans to explore the potential benefits and drawbacks of incorporating electronic devices into classroom settings. As part of the PhD program, she will also be teaching Foundations in Perception and Cognition in winter 2024.

Michaela is proud to be a member of the Music and Multisensory Processes lab, where she works under the supervision of Dr. Jonathan Wilbiks, who is recognized for his research in cognitive psychology. Being part of this lab has provided her with opportunities to collaborate with other researchers and learn new techniques in data analysis. She is optimistic that her research could lead to a better understanding of how to optimize learning and memory processes.

Aside from her academic interests, she enjoys reading, playing and writing music, and maintaining an active lifestyle. She believes that a healthy balance of intellectual, creative, and physical activity is essential in maintaining productivity and well-being.

Julianne Gerbrandt

Doctorate of Philosophy in Education Studies – University of New Brunswick

Julianne Gerbrandt 2023

Julianne is a PhD student in Education Studies at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) in Fredericton. She lives with her partner and three children in Harvey, NB, where they have a small homestead with dozens of fruit trees, dairy goats, pasture pigs, chickens, ducks, and a retired racehorse.

Before beginning her doctoral studies, Julianne was an elementary French immersion teacher in ASD-W. She is the recipient of a Canada Graduate Scholarship – Doctoral (CGS-D) for her research situated at the intersection of mathematics education, French immersion and critical studies. She is particularly interested in exploring how language and culture influence the teaching, learning, and doing of mathematics in the classroom, and what this reveals about systems of power in society at large. Julianne teaches courses in mathematics education and French second language education to teacher candidates in the Faculty of Education at UNB.


Anne Laurie

Ph.D. in Education specializing in Child Studies – Concordia University

Anne Laurie 2023

Anne is a PhD Candidate in Education, specializing in Child Studies at Concordia University in Montréal. She grew up outside Fredericton and now calls Montreal and New River Beach home. She completed her B.A. in Sociology and Psychology at Concordia and a Masters in Interdisciplinary Studies at UNB. During her Masters, she had the privilege to work with First Nations communities across Canada. Always a champion for everyone to have fair opportunities, her travels to these communities ignited a passion for developing culturally-sensitive assessments for children from culturally- and linguistically-diverse backgrounds, an urgent need in today’s diverse society.

She returned to Concordia to do her PhD under the supervision of Dr. Diane Pesco. With the help from a FRQSC fellowship and numerous awards, she developed a curriculum-based dynamic assessment of narratives for Filipino immigrant children across New Brunswick, publishing her work in peer review journals. She recently started a business to extend her assessment to an online platform and to validate it with children across the province. She hopes all children will receive the appropriate services at the right time.

Anne walks the beach and nature trails at New River Beach with her dog, cycles Fundy Shores, inline skates, cooks, gardens, and peruses the provincial archives. She is honoured and grateful to receive support from the O’Brien Foundation.

Madelaine Empey

Doctorate in Biology – University of Ottawa

madelaine 2023

Madelaine is a PhD student at the University of Ottawa researching the effects of insecticides on Canadian amphibians. Originally from Saint John, New Brunswick, her lifelong passions have been centred around conservation, focusing on amphibians. She thanks the New Brunswick Museum (NBM) for fostering her love for nature and frogs, as she worked there for numerous summers.

Working at the NBM and interacting with the various scientists there sparked her interest in research and the want to contribute to protecting our natural heritage. Her research aims to establish a novel approach toward providing critically missing baseline data on the metabolic effects of mosquitocides on amphibians. These products are used globally, yet their impact on amphibians has yet to be studied, especially in Canada. So far, there have been no studies on metabolic disruption in tadpoles, and her studies will be one of the first to address this knowledge gap. Using this method with Canadian wood frogs, leopard frogs, and chorus frogs will help to establish if these species are at risk of developing metabolic disorders by exposure to standard levels of insecticides. These studies are especially important for the chorus frog, which is considered vulnerable. She plans to contribute to formulating regulations and policies on the local use of these insecticides. The knowledge generated by this research can mitigate the risks that mosquitocides pose to frogs and toads, of which 44% are listed as threatened or endangered in Canada.

Her other passions include hiking, reading, writing, gardening, and using nature in her art.

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