IGSP student Nandini Maharaj awarded SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship and Affiliated Fellowship


Nandini Maharaj has been awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Doctoral Fellowship, as well as an Affiliated Fellowship through the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

An Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program doctoral student whose home department is the School of Population and Public Health, Ms. Maharaj took up the 24-month SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship in May, and this month took up the 12-month Affiliated Fellowship.

Her doctoral research is investigating how people experience the human-companion animal relationship as they are recovering from and living with cancer, and will explore the meaning and significance of this relationship to their cancer journey. From a healthcare perspective, it could help researchers learn about people’s daily experiences as they are living with cancer, how important pets are to them, and how health care providers could better support this relationship.

But it is not just how a pet might affect people’s health – she looks at the mutual relationship between companion animals and people, and has found through interviews for her research that people living with cancer value how their pets make them feel and want to do whatever they can to give their pets a good life.

“They get so much from their pets, they want to give back.”
Doctoral student Nandini Maharaj

This impact is something to which Ms. Maharaj can relate. She is pictured with her dog, Dally, who she says is integral to her research, helping her to learn about these relationships, and who checks in on her while she is working. Dally has had a number of health issues in recent years, and Ms Maharaj says she is continually inspired by his resilience. He has been properly acknowledged – Ms. Maharaj says she has thanked Dally in each of her published articles. “This is a forever relationship.”

The Fellowships come in the fourth year of her doctorate and while the funding has been a boost to her spirits, she says the awards have reinforced her resolve to pursue research on the human-companion animal bond regardless.

Her Master’s research, completed with the Counselling Psychology program in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, and Special Education, focused on how people described their relationship with their dog and how both people and dogs contributed to developing an enduring and meaningful relationship.

Ms. Maharaj is slated to complete her PhD next year. She is supervised by SPPH Professor Arminee Kazanjian and Educational and Counselling Psychology, and Special Education Professor Bill Borgen.