Pair of KITE trainees receive prestigious NSERC Scholarships

Recipients of award receive $35,000 per year in funding for three years.

KITE trainees Niroshica Mohanathas and Katherine Bak have been named recipients of the prestigious Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, (NSERC) Canada Graduate Scholarships – Doctoral (CGS D) award.  

The scholarships are bestowed annually on exceptional doctoral students at Canadian research institutions. 

The CGS D program supports and promotes research excellence in a wide variety of disciplines and broad fields of health; natural sciences and engineering; and social sciences and humanities; by providing recipients $35,000 per year in funding for three years to support candidates’ doctoral studies.  

“I’m thrilled and honoured to receive this award. It’s something I’ve actually been working towards and hoping for since I decided to pursue graduate studies,” said Mohanathas who is a member of the Multisensory Integration in Virtual Environments (MIVE) Laboratory and a PhD student in the University of Toronto’s (UofT) Department of Psychology.

“I couldn’t have received this recognition without the guidance of my principal investigator Dr. Jennifer Campos, and support from my lab mates, family, friends and partner.”

Mohanathas’ research explores the impact of age-related hearing loss and hearing aids on balance with the goal of preventing falls in older adults. Mohanathas will use KITE’s virtual reality simulator, StreetLab, to evaluate how healthy older adults and older adults with age-related hearing loss, who wear hearing aids, can listen while balancing—a common challenge for older adults.

“The aim is to evaluate assistive technologies like hearing aids in order to improve listening and mobility performance in older adults to support them in aging well,” said Mohanathas.

Meanwhile, Katherine Bak studies how age-related hearing loss impacts driving performance.

“I’m so excited and grateful to receive this scholarship that I have been working towards for many years,” said Bak, who is also a member of the MIVE team.

“This will allow me to concentrate on producing a high-quality project without having to worry about my financial obligations. I want to give a special thank you to my supervisor, Dr. Campos, for her support throughout the award process.”  

Bak’s research project aims to test the driving performance of older adults with hearing loss using KITE’s state-of-the-art driving simulator, DriverLab, to recreate a variety of everyday driving tasks.

“The link between hearing loss and driving is understudied,” said Bak, a PhD student with UofT’s Department of Psychology. “We tend to think about vision and cognition being important factors for driving, which they are, but we also rely on our ability to hear as well. For example, you may have to listen for someone’s horn honking, or for a siren, or carry a conversation with a passenger.”

Applications for this award are reviewed by the Canadian institution the student attends and the agency distributing the award.  Winners are chosen based on their research project’s feasibility and potential as well as their academic achievements.