Leadership and Exemplary Service Award

Presented by the Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology and the Pharmacology Graduate Students Association, this award was established to recognize up to two (2) current graduate students or postdoctoral fellows from the Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology who have contributed significantly to student life and/or demonstrated exemplary leadership in the past academic year. As student experience is more than coursework and research, this award recognizes trainees who go above and beyond and who, through their passion and good will, make sustained contributions to the student experience.

Eligibility criteria

  • Current graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology
  • Have not received this award previously during their graduate or postdoctoral career
  • Leadership and service may be exclusively to a lab, event, or to the Department more broadly, or to a combination of all three
  • Contributions made as part of a paid position (e.g., internships) are not eligible
  • Non-Departmental volunteer roles may be considered if they provide essential context for the Departmental leadership roles listed in the nomination form

Nomination process

  1. Nominations can be submitted by Faculty, staff, alumni, postdoctoral fellows or students (either self or peer-nomination). Members of the award adjudication committee not permitted to submit a nomination.
  2. Nominations should cover the contributions of the individual over the past year.
  3. Nominations should consider the value and impact of the individual’s contributions, rather than the title of positions held
  4. Nominations must include concrete examples of how the individual has contributed to one or more of these areas and directly impacted the Department community:
    • Exhibited exemplary leadership on committees
    • Demonstrated influence on student/postdoc affairs
    • Improved the quality of life for students/postdocs through sustained and/or high-impact volunteer service
    • Engaged in promoting equity, diversity, and inclusivity in student/postdoc life and within the Department/broader U of T community
    • Inspired and facilitated the personal and/or professional development of others within the Departmental community
    • Contributed to the co-curricular experience and to student life more broadly
    • Provided leadership and/or service directly facilitating the engagement of fellow students/postdocs in U of T’s extra-curricular activities
    • Demonstrated commitment to fostering a sense of community at the Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology

Word limit for nominations is 300 words. Please submit nominations to vipresearchday@gmail.com by 5 PM on Monday, May 6, 2024

Current Recipients

2023-2024: Alec Langlois; Jonathan Chow

AlecAlec Langlois is a fifth year PhD student in the Tyndale Lab. His work focuses on genetic variation in CYP2A6, the gene coding for the primary nicotine-metabolizing enzyme, and its associations with nicotine metabolism. Building on his service in the Pharmacology Graduate Students Association since the first year of his doctoral studies (2019), this year he was elected as PGSA Co-President. In addition to his work with the PGSA, Alec participated as a mentor in the Pharmacology and Toxicology Students’ Association’s undergraduate mentorship program (2023-2024), continued his work as a TA in several PCL courses (for which he was recognized with the 2023 Teaching Assistant Excellence Award), and contributed to the work of the department’s faculty search committee.

ChowJonathan is honoured to receive this year’s Leadership and Exemplary Service Award. In now his fifth year with the Pharmacology Graduate Students Association (PGSA), Jonathan currently serves as one of the team's co-presidents where he leads a team of amazing student leaders in organizing academic, professional development, philanthropic, mental health & wellness and social events for students. He also is involved in undergraduate teaching as a teaching assistant for two courses. Jonathan hopes to be able to continue serving the department and inspire others to take on leadership and departmental service opportunities, and improve the graduate student experience.

Past Recipients

2022-2023: Sierra Codeluppi; Ella Bing Xin Song

Photo of Sierra

Sierra Codeluppi is a fourth year PhD student in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology under the supervision of Dr. Mounira Banasr in the Neurobiology of Depression and Aging Lab at CAMH. Sierra also holds a Bachelor of Arts and Science in Neuroscience and Philosophy. Currently, her research focuses on astroglial dysfunction in the behavioural and cellular changes associated with chronic stress. Within the department, Sierra has actively taken on several leadership roles. She is an active member of the Pharmacology Graduate Students Association as the CAMH student representative and has co-led and organized several departmental events this year such as the summer retreat and CAMH board game night. She has also assisted others with events as needed, always available to provide a helping hand. Sierra is also an active member of her lab environment where she organizes weekly lab meetings and is the student representative on the Animal Care Committee.  She is also co-leading the Temerty Faculty of Medicine Showcase team to organize the first ever faculty-wide conference for students, faculty, and staff to showcase their work. Finally, Sierra was previously the vice-president external and executive at large of the University of Toronto Graduate Student Union where she provided support to graduate students across the university.


Photo of EllaElla Bing Xin Song is a PhD student in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at UofT under the supervision of Dr. Krista Lanctôt. Her research focuses on exploring potential biomarkers as novel therapeutic targets for cognitive-enhancing treatments in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or mild Alzheimer’s disease (AD). She is passionate about fostering a sense of community and enhancing professional development programming for graduate students. She currently serves as the President of the Sunnybrook Research Institute Student Network (SSN), the Professional Development Director of the Pharmacology Graduate Students Association (PGSA), and the Life Sciences Career Expo Associate of the Life Sciences Career Development Syndicate (LSCDS). Additionally, to support the approval and implementation of academic policy and regulations for graduate studies at UofT, she serves as the Life Sciences Student Representative on the Graduate Education Council and the student representative on the Graduate Academic Appeals Board.

2021-2022: Alaa Alsaafin; Martino Gabra

Photo of Alaa AlsaafinAlaa Alsaafin is in the last stretch of her PhD degree, where she is investigating associations between genetic variation and substance use acquisition and escalation in youth. As a graduate student, Alaa realizes the importance of celebrating and empowering other students in order to foster a deeper connection, and a more inclusive community. She has a strong passion for promoting positive change in different facets of graduate student life, whether at the individual, departmental, or faculty level. Among the many engagements she undertook during graduate school, Alaa was recently the President of the Pharmacology Graduate Students Association (PGSA) and the Life Sciences Career Development Syndicate (LSCDS). In 2022, she received a number of leadership awards, including the UTFA Al Miller Memorial Award, Graduate Community Development Fund, Leadership and Exemplary Service Award, and the Departmental Teaching Assistant Excellence Award. Alaa is currently an undergraduate course instructor for PCL201.


Photo of Martino GabraMartino Gabra completed his PhD in 2022 from Dr. Leonardo Salmena’s Lab. His thesis focused on identifying the roles of microRNAs in Acute Myeloid leukemia through high throughput screening methods. Throughout his PhD, he was an active participant and leader in a number of student-led initiatives that focused on improving student life. He lobbied for increased stipend pay with the Graduate Representation Committee, introduced the Elefant document with Sasha Marakhovskaia, and participated in several events to bring students together. Martino currently works as a Scientist at Deep Genomics where he continues to contribute to the field of small RNA therapeutics.

2020-2021: Alison Jee; Aleksandra Marakhovskaia

Alison's PhotoAlison Jee has been an active member in the PharmTox community and in the PGSA. In 2020-2021, she served as PGSA Co-President, where she helped transform the brand and reach of the PGSA to graduate students, postdocs, and faculty. She played key roles in the creation, logistics planning, and execution of exciting and engaging PGSA events, including social nights, alumni talk series, mentorship program, VIP planning, philanthropy apparel sale, first-year welcome event, and more. Alison is innovative and she always brings great ideas to the table - she played an important role in the vision and creation of the PharmaCulture and PharmTalks initiatives, as she identified a clear gap (whether in the promotion of culture diversity in the Department or through informal discussions among peers) and executed these event series to help with these matters. We are grateful for Alison’s vision and support in the PGSA and department. 


Aleksandra's Photo

 Aleksandra Marakhovskaia is a fantastic member of the PharmTox community and the PGSA. In 2019, Aleksandra, in collaboration with the Pharmacology Graduate Student Associate (PGSA), applied for and secured funding for Mental Health workshops through SGS event fund to facilitate a conversation around mental health in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. Her efforts brought much needed attention to the problems facing many. Along with other fundraising and social initiatives, Aleksandra also co-initiated with another graduate student - Martino Gabra - the creation and piloting of Principles Transparency Agreement. This documents has helped to facilitate open and fair conversation between graduate students and their supervisors, with a clear aim to increase communication and overall satisfaction in our programs for both students and supervisors. In 2022, Aleksandra was awarded a prestigious and competitive award from the Graduate Community Development Fund (GCDF) for her contribution to the betterment of our graduate community.