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Convocation 2013: meet UTSC's first PhD in environmental science

Cindy Bongard is the first PhD to graduate from UTSC's environmental science program (photo by Ken Jones)

Cindy Bongard's successful defence of her PhD dissertation marked a milestone - not just in her own life but also in the life of the University of Toronto Scarborough.

Bongard is the first PhD to graduate from UTSC's groundbreaking doctoral program in environmental science.

"I was positively overwhelmed by the knowledge and passion of the faculty at UTSC," says Bongard, who also completed her Bachelor of Science degree at UTSC in 2006. "It was their energy and expertise that kick-started my decision to pursue graduate studies in the first place."

Professor Roberta Fulthorpe supervised Bongard's dissertation.

"I knew Roberta prior to beginning my graduate studies," says Bongard. "I already had a great deal of respect for her passionate involvement in conservation of pristine spaces, as well as her recognition of threats to sustainability arising from anthropogenic influences."

Bongard used molecular techniques to characterize fungal communities in native plants that persist in sites that have been invaded by more aggressive plants, such as dog-strangling vine. Her work might contribute to restoration strategies in areas where invasive species are a problem.

"Cindy Bongard masterfully defended her thesis and in doing so made history," says Professor William Gough, vice-dean of Graduate Education and Program Development at UTSC. "Her department and the university are exceptionally proud of her accomplishment."

Begun in the fall of 2010, UTSC's doctoral program in environmental science prepares the next generation of scientists to explore and grapple with the most pressing environmental challenges of our time. It is the first PhD at U of T to be solely administered on the UTSC campus.

Read more about the program.

Andrew Westoll is a writer with the University of Toronto Scarborough.