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Biology student Gracie Grift wins the Sir William Stephenson Scholarship

Tue. Mar. 19, 2024

Gracie grift smiling

A friendly face you can often find studying in the Aboriginal Student Services Centre on the second floor of Lockhart Hall, Gracie Grift has spent her undergraduate career working to support her peers as President of the University of Winnipeg Indigenous Students’ Association and improve our understanding of respiratory physiology as part of Dr. Yannick Molgat-Seon’s team of researchers.

A skilled student and reliable volunteer, Gracie is currently in the fourth year of her Honours Biology degree. “When I first came to UWinnipeg, I knew I wanted to develop a strong relationship with the professors teaching me and my fellow Indigenous students.” says Gracie. “Their passion, coupled with the academic opportunities offered to me during my first year as part of the Pathways to Education program have shaped my experience as an undergrad so far.”

Not one to limit her time to just one organization, Gracie has spread her volunteerism across campus, including working as a youth instructor as part of the Wiii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre’s after school science program, Vice-President of the University of Winnipeg Indigenous Science and Engineering Society, and most recently as Infinity Women’s Secretariat Delegate on the Winnipeg Youth Advisory Council under the Manitoba Metis Federation. “Part of what drives my ambition as a volunteer is helping encourage Indigenous inclusion and cultural continuity for students who come to UWinnipeg hoping to see their heritage represented on our campus.” says Gracie. “Promoting mentorship opportunities across departments and helping new Indigenous students seek their own success in the world of STEM is a rewarding process I am proud to support.”

Gracie’s talents in the classroom have helped net her both the Dr. Annette Trimbee Indigenous Excellence Scholarship and Sir William Stephenson Scholarship earlier this year. “Being awarded the Sir William Stephenson Scholarship in January was extremely exciting. Being recognized by others who saw the value in my work was an honour. Receiving such a considerable scholarship also allows me to continue volunteering without having to stress over my finances.” says Gracie. “Earning Dr. Annette Trimbee’s Scholarship was something I was also truly excited to be a part of. Dr. Trimbee is a strong leader in the Métis community and has always inspired me through her own success. She has shaped what is possible for Métis people to achieve, which made receiving this award such a surreal moment.”

As part of her time in the respiratory physiology lab, Gracie has been part of a team tasked with analyzing how male and female breathing mechanics influence their respiratory capabilities. Her aim as a researcher involves bridging the gap between our understanding of female breathing mechanics and how they differ from their male counterparts, saying that, “there is a considerable level of knowledge disparity in this area of respiratory science that our lab is attempting to remedy via our research. I’m proud of what we have accomplished because the studies we handle act as a precursor to developing better diagnosis and treatment plans for individuals with respiratory issues.” Currently, Dr. Molgat-Seon’s team are working on a study that seeks to analyze how male-female differences in breathing mechanics affect the activation of inspiratory muscles during exercise.

When asked about her plans after graduation, Gracie voices her interest in pursuing medicine and completing her Masters in Public Health— “As an Indigenous person, my goals are centered around my commitment to bettering and representing my community. Culturally relevant research and care is lacking across Canada, and I want to be there to improve the practical application of these initiatives and help other Indigenous people moving through our healthcare system.”

Gracie hopes to graduate in 2025 and continue her education at the University of Manitoba.