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Student Leader Chosen as Science's Valedictorian

Breast cancer researcher Shawn Hercules was chosen to be the valedictorian for the Faculty of Science's Fall 2021 graduating class. 

Shawn earned his PhD in Biology, with his research focused on understanding the epidemiological and genetic profiles of women of African ancestry in Nigeria and Barbados who have aggressive and difficult to treat triple negative breast cancer. 

Shawn HerculesShawn received the Mary Keyes Award for Outstanding Leadership and Service to McMaster earlier this year, in recognition of his work as President of McMaster's Graduate Students Association. 

“I am very happy for Shawn who was the most outgoing and charismatic of all my PhD students thus far," says Juliet Daniel, Biology Professor and  Associate Dean of Research. "Shawn thrives on science communication and I am excited to see what the future has in store for him.”

Before starting his PhD at McMaster, Shawn completed a Master of Public Health at the University of the West Indies - Cave Hill Campus in Barbados, where he focused on chronic diseases and social determinants of health research. 

"My time at McMaster has helped me to see science through a collaborative lens. I was grateful for the opportunities to collaboratively work with professors, clinicians and trainees across different departments and faculties at McMaster, as well as with colleagues both nationally and internationally. Working with these collaborators for my graduate research allowed me to fully see that complex scientific questions can be answered more efficiently when we bring our individual expertise and lived experiences together in a collaborative manner.

"Most importantly, my time at McMaster helped me to come to realize the power of authenticity and showing up completely as Shawn Hercules. This opened many doors for me, but especially through science communication. I co-produced “Science Is A Drag” which took place in July 2019 and March 2020 in Toronto in collaboration with RCI Science. These events featured scientists performing in drag and communicating their research to challenge cis-heteronomative stereotypes in science. These are just a few examples but every step of the way, I know that my time at McMaster has helped me to create a brighter world, perhaps in other ways that I may not know of right now."

Valedictorians are chosen by a selection committee based on the nominees' academic excellence, personal characteristics, as well as interpersonal and communication skills. 
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