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Minister Clement Celebrates Canadian Research Excellence

Ottawa, February 14, 2011– Today, the Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry, and Suzanne Fortier, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), announced the winners of Canada's top natural sciences and engineering prizes awarded by NSERC.

"Our government is committed to developing, attracting and retaining the world's best researchers here in Canada," said Minister Clement. "We are proud to support NSERC as we honour our country's top natural scientists and engineers, and highlight the many ways in which their work is improving the lives of Canadians and people around the world."

Among the six prestigious prizes given today was the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering, a $1-million grant that was awarded to Geoffrey Hinton, a renowned computer scientist from the University of Toronto. Dr. Hinton's work in machine learning has led to major advances in artificial intelligence, with applications that include monitoring industrial plants for improved safety, creating better systems for voice recognition and reading bank cheques. The NSERC Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal guarantees Dr. Hinton $1 million in research funding over the next five years. This announcement is another example of how the Government of Canada is harnessing the power of innovative digital technologies to develop new and improved services for Canadians.

"Canadian scientists and engineers are conducting some of the most ambitious, creative and successful research programs in the world," said NSERC President Suzanne Fortier. "These award winners represent the full spectrum of our country's research talent, from students just embarking on their careers to seasoned researchers making internationally recognized discoveries."

Minister Clement also announced the following prize winners:

  • The team of Guy Dumont and Mark Ansermino, both of the University of British Columbia, winners of the Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering;
  • Victoria Kaspi, of McGill University, winner of the NSERC John C. Polanyi Award;
  • Six winners of E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowships:
  • Rowan Barrett, of Harvard University, winner of the NSERC Howard Alper Postdoctoral Prize; and
  • Two winners of NSERC André Hamer Postgraduate Prizes:

The prizes will be formally presented during an evening ceremony hosted by Governor General David Johnston. Recipients of NSERC's Synergy Awards for Innovation, which were announced last fall, will also be recognized at the ceremony.

Canada leads the G7 in the amount of research and development performed by universities and colleges as a percentage of gross domestic product.

See the backgrounder below for more details about all the award winners.

Note to the Editor:Please visit our online Media Room for profiles, images and videos of the winners.

For further information (media only), please contact:

Heather Hume
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Tony Clement
Minister of Industry
Tel.: 613-995-9001

Media Relations
Industry Canada
Tel.: 613-943-2502

Danielle Nasrallah
Senior Communications Advisor
Tel.: 613-996-3861


Winners of Canada's Top Natural Sciences and Engineering Prizes

Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering

The Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering, NSERC's highest honour, recognizes research contributions characterized by both excellence and influence—two qualities that defined Dr. Herzberg's illustrious career, which included the 1971 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

The Herzberg Gold Medal is awarded each year 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 fields of the natural sciences or engineering. The award celebrates Canada's most outstanding scientists and engineers, raising public awareness about the major contributions that Canada's top researchers make to international science and technology, and to improving the lives of Canadians.

Value:The winner receives $1 million in research funding over five years.

2010 winner:

University of Toronto computer scientist Geoffrey Hinton is among the world's leaders in the field of machine learning. His contributions to artificial intelligence have led to major advances in the field. Algorithms developed by Dr. Hinton have been used in a wide variety of applications, including monitoring industrial plants for improved safety, creating better systems for voice recognition and reading bank cheques. In studying the workings of the human brain, Dr. Hinton's work has also contributed to advances in cognitive psychology and neurobiology.

Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering

In tribute to the pursuit of research excellence the late Canadian scientist Bertram N. Brockhouse exemplified and inspired, NSERC offers an interdisciplinary research prize in his name. Dr. Brockhouse won the 1994 Nobel Prize in Physics.

The Brockhouse Canada Prize recognizes outstanding Canadian teams of researchers from different disciplines who have combined their expertise to produce achievements of outstanding international significance in the natural sciences and engineering in the last six years.

Value:The winners receive a $250,000 team research grant.

2010 winners:

Electrical engineer Guy Dumont and anesthesiologist Mark Ansermino, both from the University of British Columbia, have created intelligent devices and systems that help anesthesiologists monitor patients' vital signs more effectively during operations. The devices have proven effective during hospital clinical trials. The team's future work will focus on translating these advances into safer, more sustainable healthcare in Canada and globally.

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