Dr. Chris Willie Graduate Prize for Excellence in Research

Research participant at high altitude exercising while oxygen and carbon dioxide being measured.

Established to honour a brilliant young scientist and educator, the prize is presented at the Symposium

Dr. Chris Willie was one of the first PhD students to graduate (2009 to 2014) from the School of Health and Exercise Sciences at UBC Okanagan. During this time, Chris obtained the highest level of excellence in Research in the context of prestigious awards (Vanier Scholar, Governor General’s award, Michael Smith Fellowship) and publications (n=50 and counting, including four papers with >200 citations in some of the best physiological and clinical journals).

Chris conducted and published research in over 10 different countries, with a focus on the mechanisms that regulate cerebral blood flow in humans. In addition to research, Chris had a passion for scientific communication and teaching. The latter was conducted at the University of Calgary and St. Mary’s in Calgary, at UBCO in Kelowna, and also during various full-time classes which Chris taught at Quest University in Squamish, B.C. His passion for teaching was highlighted in pedagogical publications, but also in extensive mentorship for many undergraduate and graduate students in the classroom, laboratory and field.

“Science is my lens to the world, the process by which I live, work and play. I believe in results, respect effort, and see passion as the ultimate virtue.”—Dr. Chris Willie


Although Chris’s accomplishments in science and education at this stage of his career were exceptional, they were likely secondary only to his experiences and successes in the mountainous environment. In more than 15 different countries, Chris excelled at the highest level of climbing (including rock, ice and alpine). These accomplishments included establishing new routes in the Rockies, Himalayas, Patagonia and Baffin to name a select few. Climbing with Chris was equally as educational and inspirational as doing science with him.

Chris had an infectious personality, compassion and drive for many things in life, and lived it to the fullest. He was incredibly articulate and pragmatic in his approach to science and life, and his close friends and family were always his number one priority. The Dr. Chris Willie Graduate Prize for Excellence in Research embodies many of these key values: scientific articulation, passion and excellence in science. The finalists of the Prize are based on the top two abstracts and presentations from each of the seven symposiums chosen by a panel of international experts. The finalists and winner of the Dr. Chris Willie Prize will be announced at the closing remarks of each conference.

Past Winners:
2018 – Ryan Hoiland (UBC) / Wesley Lefferts (Syracuse U)

2020 – not held due to COVID

2022 – Bryony Curry (UBC) / Khushali Parikh (U of Windsor)

2024 – Josh Bovard (UBC) / Sydney Hilton (U of Guelph)