Ottawa, ON – The winners of Canada’s top science and engineering awards, including the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering — the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)’s top science prize — have been announced.
Gilles Brassard from the Université de Montréal, the internationally acclaimed inventor of quantum cryptography and quantum teleportation, has won this year’s Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering.
Another 18 recipients will share five NSERC prizes: the John C Polanyi Award, the Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering, the EWR Steacie Memorial Fellowships, the Howard Alper Postdoctoral Prize and the André Hamer Postgraduate Prizes.
The Herzberg Gold Medal is awarded to an individual who has demonstrated sustained excellence and influence in research for a body of work conducted in Canada that has substantially advanced the natural sciences or engineering fields.
Ranking among the most influential computer scientists in the world, 2010 winner Gilles Brassard is recognized as the founder of quantum information science in Canada and one of its earliest pioneers worldwide. Dr Brassard’s most celebrated breakthroughs are the invention of quantum cryptography and quantum teleportation, both universally recognized as fundamental cornerstones of the entire discipline. His other influential discoveries include privacy amplification, entanglement distillation and amplitude amplification.
In addition to the Herzberg Gold Medal winner, two other researchers were recognized as finalists. Brenda Milner from McGill University was recognized for her work to create an entirely new field of research, a combination of psychology and neurology that is now known as cognitive neuroscience. Her work has helped this emerging field bloom into an invaluable tool for learning about the human brain. Stephen Withers of the University of British Columbia was also honoured for his role as one of the world’s top experts in understanding how carbohydrates, also known as sugars, perform a host of biological functions that include regulating metabolism, storing energy and providing structural support for cell walls.
And winners of the five NSERC awards represent the full spectrum of high-quality research in Canada. They consist of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, established researchers and interdisciplinary teams.
“These award winners are wonderful examples of what Canadian science has achieved. They highlight the great promise of breakthrough discoveries,” said Dr Suzanne Fortier, president of NSERC. “All Canadians should be very proud of what these women and men have accomplished.”
The awards range from honouring researchers for a lifetime of achievements that have had an impact on science and engineering in Canada and around the world, to celebrating new and emerging researchers who are pushing the boundaries of discovery and innovation.
The NSERC categories and prizewinners are as follows:
Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering. Sanjeev Chandra, Thomas Coyle, Javad Mostaghimi and Valerian Pershin, all from the University of Toronto, were recognized for their work as a team to develop innovative thermal coating technologies whose applications range from engines to chemical reactors. They have also begun work on coatings with applications in medicine for joint and dental implants, and as a low-cost process for manufacturing fuel cells and solar panels.
NSERC John C Polanyi Award. A team comprised of Christian Marois of the National Research Council Canada; David Lafrenière of the University of Toronto; and René Doyon of the Université de Montréal, were applauded for capturing the first-ever image of a planetary system outside of our own solar system and have opened the door to imaging other distant regions of space in the search for additional planets.
NSERC EWR Steacie Memorial Fellowships. Alexandre Blais from the Université de Sherbrooke received this award for his research that tackles key problems in the development of quantum computing technology that will provide unprecedented speeds of information processing.
Guy Moore, a researcher at McGill University, was recognized for his research in quantum physics and exploring fundamental questions about the origins of the universe. He is examining the theory of quantum chromodynamics, a component of theoretical physics that explains the interactions of quarks and gluons, the fundamental elements that make up matter.
Jody Culham, a researcher at the University of Western Ontario, was recognized for her research exploring how visual information is interpreted by the human brain to guide actions. Her work will contribute to the development of brain-machine interfaces, enabling neural implants to guide the actions of robotic arms on real-world objects.
Rees Kassen from the University of Ottawa received this award for his work investigating the genetic mutations that cause adaptation in evolution. His pioneering research uses populations of microbes to test theories of evolution and adaptation.
Shana Kelley from the University of Toronto is developing low-cost diagnostic technologies to be used in developing countries. She has developed a chip-based sensor that can detect trace quantities of DNA, RNA and protein analytes in samples, and that has already been applied for early diagnosis of cancer.
Diane Srivastava of the University of British Columbia was recognized with this award for her work exploring the impact species have on their ecosystem. Her findings will shed significant light on the delicate balance between animals and their environments, and the far-reaching impacts of extinction.
NSERC Howard Alper Postdoctoral Prize. Graham Scott of the University of British Columbia was recognized for his work in advancing our understanding of respiratory physiology that will help improve athletic performance and may have impacts in medicine.
NSERC André Hamer Postgraduate Prizes. Nadine Borduas of the University of Toronto received this prize for developing new reliable tools for chemists to use when conducting synthesis of molecules for a biological product and to help advance the entire field of green chemistry.
Delphine Bouilly of the Université de Montréal was also recognized with this prize for exploring the electrical properties of carbon nanotubes and assessing their suitability for use in electronics.