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Toronto chemist wins prestigious Royal Society of Chemistry Prize


Toronto, ON – The Royal Society of Chemistry has announced that Professor R J Dwayne Miller is its Centenary Prize winner for 2016.

Professor Miller is director of the Atomically Resolved Dynamics Department of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg, Germany, with a secondary appointment as professor of chemistry and physics at the University of Toronto.

He works to track chemical reactions on the atomic level using ‘atomic movies’, a method of observing the movements of atoms in real time. By doing so he has shown that chemistry can be distilled down to a handful of key atomic motions. This insight will have profound implications for our understanding of biological processes and how to treat disease.

“I was born in Winnipeg,” he said. “Both of my parents grew up on homestead farms in northwest Ontario and never finished high school. I was the first in my family to go to university [the University of Manitoba]. Everyone, no matter what background, can do science and make a difference.

“The receipt of the RSC Centenary Prize is a career highlight,” he added. “It allows the telling of a great story with respect to achieving one of the dream experiments in science and how basic science can lead to major benefits to society in unexpected ways. It is a great honour for me to achieve this award and to carry the torch for why science matters.”

The prize recognizes outstanding overseas chemists, who are exceptional communicators, and invites the winners to give lectures in the UK.

An illustrious list of 47 previous winners of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s awards have gone on to win Nobel Prizes for their pioneering work, including Harry Kroto, Fred Sanger and Linus Pauling.

“It is an honour to recognize the illustrious achievements of our prize and award winners in our 175th anniversary year,” said Dr Robert Parker, chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry. “We were founded in 1841 by a group of academics, industrialists and doctors who understood the power of the chemical sciences to change our world for the better. Our winners share that vision and are advancing excellence in their fields, whether through innovative research or inspirational teaching and outreach.

“We are proud to celebrate and support the work of inspiring and influential individuals, whose work has the potential to improve so many lives.”

Prize winners are evaluated for the originality and impact of their research, as well as the quality of the results which can be shown in publications, patents, or even software. The awards also recognize the importance of teamwork across the chemical sciences, and the abilities of individuals to develop successful collaborations. There are over 60 prizes and awards available in the society’s main portfolio, covering all areas of the chemical sciences.