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Celebrating the accomplishments of two outstanding biomedical sciences grads

Angie Awadallah and Brendan Haidamous recount their journeys at TMU as recipients of the TMU Gold Medal and Governor General’s Academic Silver Medal
June 25, 2024
Angie Awadallah and Brendan Haidamous holding their medals

Angie Awadallah, TMU Gold Medal recipient and Brendan Haidamous, Governor General's Academic Silver Medal recipient. Photo credit: Harry Choi

Two exceptional biomedical sciences graduates were recognized for their accomplishments as they walked across the stage this spring.

Angie Awadallah received the prestigious TMU Gold Medal for her academic achievements, contributions to microbiology research and dedication to the university community. She served as President of the Biomedical Sciences Course Union and was highly involved in university committees and student organizations. Beyond her impact within the Faculty of Science, she contributed significantly to campus accessibility as a team member for the Department of Athletics and Recreation. She was also often found participating in student mentorship programs and cultural associations throughout her undergraduate career. 

Brendan Haidamous was recognized with the Governor General’s Academic Silver Medal for attaining the highest academic standing upon completing his bachelor's degree at TMU, graduating with a remarkable CGPA of 4.33. Throughout his undergraduate journey, Haidamous juggled his studies alongside his role as Vice-President of Operations for UNICEF at TMU, was a part-time research assistant for the Olson Lab and a co-op peer advisor at the Career, Co-op & Student Success Centre.

Read about their journeys at TMU:

Angie Awadallah, TMU Gold Medal

Angie Awadallah

Angie Awadallah. Photo Credit: Harry Choi

Receiving the gold medal means that I was lucky enough to be placed in an environment that allowed me to thrive. Choosing TMU was one of my best decisions because it provided me with an academic setting where the professors are experts in their fields and are deeply committed to the success and growth of their students. Their guidance and willingness to engage with students made all the difference in my academic achievements.

This recognition also reflects the wealth of opportunities that were available to me at TMU. I was able to engage in meaningful research that I was passionate about and present my findings at conferences. These opportunities also extended to on-campus employment, which was flexible around my academic schedule and leadership roles in various student groups and organizations. 

Most importantly, this medal is a testament to the unconditional support of my family. I could not have possibly done it without their encouragement and faith in me. I’m a product of my environment and the support system that I’m privileged and immensely grateful to have. This achievement does not just celebrate my individual efforts; it’s a reminder of the place that nurtured me for the past four years and the family that always has my back. 

Angie Awadallah and her family

Angie Awadallah and her family. Photo Credit: Harry Choi

One of my proudest accomplishments has been receiving not one, not two, but three research-related awards, including the prestigious NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award. These awards gave me the opportunity to remain a part of Dr. Dustin Little’s esteemed lab. My time in the lab has honestly been the highlight of my academic journey. I’m so incredibly lucky to have spent most of my time outside of class in the lab. I was surrounded by exceptionally talented and inspiring individuals. They truly made me a better scientist and a better person. 

My proudest accomplishment, therefore, extends beyond the actual awards themselves to the lasting bonds I have formed with my lab family. These relationships have shaped my growth in ways I could not even imagine. I’m hopeful that they will continue to enrich my life long after my time at TMU.

One of the things that got me through these past four years was something that my dad always used to say to me whenever I was faced with an outcome I did not like. He would say that I’m responsible for my pursuits, not the outcome. I initially struggled with this mindset because it was difficult to accept that I couldn’t control every result. However, embracing the philosophy that what truly matters is doing your best brought me greater happiness and satisfaction. Sometimes you’ll study really hard for a test, and not get the score you desired. Sometimes you’ll gain all the experience you need for a job, and you’ll get rejected. And that’s perfectly okay. As long as you give it your best shot, that’s all that you’re accountable for. As students, it’s second nature to blame ourselves for things that are out of our control. It's important to remember that regardless of the outcome, your efforts are worth celebrating.

Apart from that, I really encourage you not to shy away from stepping out of your comfort zone. That’s when you’ll actually learn new skills and meet new people. I’m not the same person I was four years ago, and much of my personal growth during those years stemmed from embracing opportunities that I was initially hesitant to pursue.

Brendan Haidamous, Governor General’s Academic Silver Medal

Brendan Haidamous

Brendan Haidamous. Photo Credit: Harry Choi

Receiving the Governor General’s Academic Silver Medal is a tremendous honour and an incredibly humbling experience to be recognized among such talented students. It is a testament to the countless hours of hard work and dedication I have invested throughout my academic journey. It also validates the long nights spent studying, balancing a heavy workload and the determination to overcome every academic challenge thrown my way.  

When I began my undergraduate studies in biomedical sciences at TMU, I could hardly have imagined that I would be honoured with such a prestigious accolade. Throughout my journey, I was faced with numerous challenges, from understanding complex scientific concepts to balancing coursework with research and extracurricular activities. These challenges were significant, often making the journey feel overwhelming. However, they also fueled my resolve to excel and make the most of my opportunities.

This award symbolizes not only personal achievement but also the unwavering support and encouragement I have received from professors within the Faculty of Science, my family and peers. This recognition inspires me to continue striving for excellence, set higher goals and contribute positively to my community and society.

One tip I have for excelling in your studies is cultivating a generous curiosity and passion for learning. Academic success is not solely evaluated by achieving high grades but by your ability to apply your learned knowledge in meaningful ways. Rather than solely focusing on achieving good grades in all your classes, strive to truly understand and engage with the material by approaching each subject with an open mind and seeking to make connections between different areas of knowledge. Do not hesitate to ask questions in class, during office hours or in study groups.

Additionally, time management is crucial; creating a balanced schedule that allows for adequate studying and time for hobbies is also essential for maintaining your well-being and productivity. Ensuring that you get enough sleep, engage in physical activities that you enjoy and eat well-balanced meals is equally important as dedicating time to your studies. Academic challenges will always be inevitable as they are part of the process, but cultivating a positive mindset and viewing them as opportunities for growth and learning will make it easier to navigate them.

My most memorable moment at TMU was completing and defending my undergraduate thesis research project on understanding the molecular basis behind neurodevelopmental disorders. This experience consisted of over a year of rigorous study and intensive dedication that taught me the value of teamwork and critical thinking and allowed me to better appreciate the field of scientific research.

The journey was filled with moments of doubt and difficulty but was also incredibly rewarding. Working closely with my thesis supervisor, Dr. Michael Olson, provided me with invaluable guidance, support and mentorship as I learned how to approach complex problems, apply classroom knowledge to real-world situations and develop critical thinking skills. Successfully completing and defending my thesis was a defining moment in my time at TMU, as it showcased the culmination of my efforts and my dedication to the field of biomedical sciences. It validated my hard work and reinforced my passion for my field of study, preparing me for future academic and professional endeavours while standing as a testament to what can be achieved through determination and hard work.