The University of Winnipeg



Meet UWinnipeg’s Postdoctoral Fellows

Drs. Michael Beck, Kirsten Van Houten, and Katherine Dearborn in Riddell Hall Atrium.

Left to right: Drs. Michael Beck, Kirsten Van Houten, and Katherine Dearborn are three of 10 Postdoctoral Fellows at UWinnipeg.

From protecting endangered species, promoting human rights efforts, and making advances in digital agriculture, Postdoctoral Fellows (PDFs) are contributing to world-class research at The University of Winnipeg. There are currently 10 PDFs at the University working with a variety of faculty members and students. 

PDFs are individuals who’ve completed a doctoral degree within the last five years and are engaged in research and training at the University under the supervision of a faculty member. Their growing presence on campus is a testament to the quality of research conducted across UWinnipeg’s departments and faculties, and is also reflective of UWinnipeg’s growing reputation for innovation and impactful research.

“Postdoctoral appointments offer recent PhD’s the valuable opportunity to lead research and work on teams,” said Dr. Jino Distasio, Vice-President of Research and Innovation. “For The University of Winnipeg, this has provided dozens of postdoctoral experiences that add to the breath and scope of work being done on campus. This is a vital aspect of the research process and the benefits are tremendous not only for the postdoc, but for the broader community as many of our recent appoints have brought emerging scholars from around the globe.”

Dr. Katherine Dearborn

Dr. Katherine Dearborn has always loved the outdoors. 

After graduating from UWinnipeg in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies (Forest Ecology Stream), she moved on to Queen’s University, obtaining a PhD in Alpine Ecology in 2017. 

Looking to move back home, Dr. Dearborn got in touch with Dr. Richard Westwood, Professor in the Department of Biology, and he secured her a one-year grant to build a species distribution model for an endangered prairie butterfly in 2020.

“After I wrapped up the species distribution model I was initially brought on for, Dr. Westwood and I secured a different grant from the Canadian Wildlife Service to develop a species reintroduction plan for a closely related (and even more endangered) prairie butterfly,” Dr. Dearborn explained. ” I’ve also been teaching courses in Biology and Environmental Studies and Sciences here at UWinnipeg, which I’ve really enjoyed.”

While she doesn’t know what the future holds, Dr. Dearborn says she would like to continue teaching, as well as work as a research scientist.

“I’d be happy to secure a position as an instructor if the right one came along, or just continue tacking single-course contract teaching positions onto my research contracts,” she said. “I think I might prefer working for the Nature Conservancy of Canada or Ducks Unlimited, either as a researcher or conservation biologist.”

Dr. Kirsten Van Houten

Dr. Kirsten Van Houten is passionate about how local communities contribute to peacebuilding and human rights efforts. 

Before arriving at UWinnipeg, she completed her Bachelor of Arts (Combined Hons) in Human Rights and Law from Carleton University, a Master’s in International Development Studies from Dalhousie University, and then a PhD in International Development Studies from the University of Ottawa. 

“I received my postdoctoral fellowship through an external hiring process,” she explained. “I was aware of the work of many of the faculty members here at UWinnipeg, and was keen to find an opportunity to join Global College. I am working with Drs. Lloyd Kornelsen and Shauna Labman, whose research relates closely to my work.” 

Dr. Van Houten has two ongoing research projects related to Canadian foreign policy. 

The first is the production of an edited volume that is being co-edited by the former Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, Alex Neve, on Canadian foreign policy at the human rights and peacebuilding nexus. The second project examines the development of Voices at Risk: Canada’s Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders. 

She hopes her work will eventually lead to a career conducting social science research and becoming a university professor. 

“I hope that my postdoctoral fellowship will help to contribute to obtaining a tenure-track position at a Canadian university related to peacebuilding, human rights, and international development.” 

Dr. Michael Beck

Dr. Michael Beck has a long history in academics.  

He spent his post-secondary studies in Germany at the University of Kaiserslautern, obtaining a Master’s in Mathematics and a PhD in Computer Science in 2016. 

After two postdoctoral fellow stops at City University of Hong Kong and the University of Manitoba, he arrived at UWinnipeg in 2019, where he worked under the supervision of Drs. Christopher Henry and Christopher Bidinosti on the TerraByte Project. 

“We’re researching in digital agriculture, which involves databases, data analysis, machine learning, and building robots,” he said. “This required a lot of learning on the job, but this postdoc time was very exciting facing and overcoming new challenges basically on a daily basis.”

In 2022, Dr. Beck officially became a faculty member in the Department of Applied Computer Science.

While he continues working with Drs. Bidinosti and Henry to tackle problems in digital agriculture, he is establishing his own research program on campus centered on data analytics, where his background in mathematics, particularly the stochastics and statistics parts, will be key.

“Like for almost every assistant professor, the big goal is to create my own sustainable research program. That includes attracting students at all levels to my research and finding funding to support them,” he said. “In terms of an academic career, the next important step is the promotion to being a full professor at UWinnipeg.” 

On Tuesday, May 16, the UWinnipeg Research Office will be hosting a virtual and in-person Postdoctoral Fellow Panel from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in Room 3C12 (Centennial Hall)Drs. Dearborn, Van Houten, Beck, and Michael Lang, Research and Development Scientist with Sino Canada Health Institute Inc., will be on the panel.

If you’d like to attend virtually, please contact Dylan Jones (