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Allan Rock announces $40,000 in prizes for Canada’s top science promoters


Ottawa,ON November 18, 2003 Industry Minister Allan Rock today named two individuals and three groups as winners of the 2003 Michael Smith Awards, which are national prizes for outstanding achievement in the promotion of science in Canada. Named after the late Canadian biochemist and Nobel Laureate, the prizes are sponsored annually by Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

Individual winners ($5,000 each) this year are:
– Philip C. Eastman (Waterloo)
– Scott Mair (Victoria)

Organizational winners ($10,000 each) are:
– Native Access to Engineering Programme (Montral)
– Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (Toronto),
– Students on Ice (Ottawa)

For more than 30 years, Philip C Eastman, a professor of physics at the University of Waterloo, has brought his passion for physics to seniors, libraries, scouting groups, children and church groups through his ‘circus of physics’ presentations. In 1969 he created the Sir Isaac Newton exam, a mix of challenging physics questions and offbeat humour. Many of today’s young scientists and high-tech talent remember the fun of taking the test and it remains an important legacy of Dr Phil’s to this day.

Over his 20-year career, Scott Mair has brought the wonder and fun of science to literally hundreds of thousands of Canadians. Mr Mair was a pioneer in bringing theatre and science promotion together as part of his work with Alberta Parks. He forged partnerships and founded the Evergreen Co-Op Theatre, which continues its work today. Building on his early work, he launched into leadership with the Royal Tyrell Museum of Palaeontology and has most recently taken on the role of site manager/curator at the Craigflower National Historic Site, a property of The Land Conservancy. His achievements in building strong educational programming and sharing his expertise with others have been recognized as best practices by science teachers and interpreters across Canada.

Based at Concordia University, the Native Access to Engineering Programme (NAEP) was established in 1993 to encourage more Aboriginal students to enter the engineering profession in Canada. At first, NAEP was aimed primarily at Aboriginal students in Qubec, but by promoting an understanding of science, mathematics, engineering and technology, it has evolved into a service for teachers, parents, Elders, the engineering profession and academia across Canada.

In 2003, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada is celebrating its Royal Centenary by enticing thousands of people from all walks of life into exploring the universe and its "astonishing beauty." With an imaginative array of activities and resources, more than 4,600 enthusiastic volunteers in 26 centres across the country are taking science to parks, community festivals, malls, and even wineries, sharing their knowledge and passion for astronomy.

Since 1999, Students on Ice has carried out five educational expeditions and has helped introduce some 250 students, teachers, and scientists to the polar oceans while aboard icebreakers that have been converted to provide living quarters, laboratories, and classrooms. Participants, from Canada and around the world, grapple with the key environmental issues affecting the planet and learn about scientific research, guided by some of the world’s top experts in oceanography, botany, marine biology, environmental sciences, geomorphology, flora and fauna, history, and glaciology.

“The research taking place at institutions across the country is helping Canada achieve its goal of becoming one of the top five countries in the world for research and development performance,” says Dr Rey Pagtakhan, minister of veterans affairs and secretary of state (science, research and development). “Awards, such as the Michael Smith Awards demonstrate the Government of Canada’s commitment to world-class research.”

On behalf of Minister Rock and the federal government, the Honourable Susan Whelan, Minister of International Cooperation, will present each winner with a medal bearing Dr Smith’s likeness in a ceremony at the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Michael Smith won a Nobel Prize in 1993 for his breakthrough contribution to genetic research.