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Governor General of Canada Honours Top Science and Engineering Achievements

Ottawa , February 27, 2012– Canada's top researchers in the natural sciences and engineering will be honoured today at an awards ceremony hosted by His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada. The achievements being recognized include groundbreaking discoveries about Earth system science, unlocking the codes that control human genetics, and using the characteristics of carbohydrates found inside cells to help combat disease. The 19 individuals and teams are winners of seven prestigious prizes awarded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

"Investing in science and technology has a direct impact on our quality of life," said the Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology). "The accomplishments of these winners demonstrate how these investments benefit Canadians and our economy."

Among the prizes is NSERC's highest honour—the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering—awarded to W. Richard Peltier, a renowned physicist from the University of Toronto. Dr. Peltier helped pioneer Earth system science—a discipline that studies interactions between the land, atmosphere, water and the biosphere as an integrated system. He has developed powerful analytical tools to understand how climate has evolved over millions of years, and to test the quality of models used to project future changes.

The NSERC Herzberg Gold Medal recognizes the sustained excellence and influence of the winner's research. It guarantees Dr. Peltier $1 million in discovery research funding over the next five years.

"Canada's researchers are second to none when it comes to the quality and creativity of their work," said NSERC President Suzanne Fortier. "From students just embarking on their careers to seasoned researchers with well-earned international reputations, we can be extremely proud of the talent we help nurture."

A new prize introduced today—the NSERC Gilles Brassard Doctoral Prize for Interdisciplinary Research—will honour an outstanding doctoral student whose work exemplifies interdisciplinary research. The award was established by Gilles Brassard, winner of the 2009 NSERC Herzberg Gold Medal.

Also being announced today are prizes for top graduate students, outstanding university-industry partnerships, groundbreaking discoveries and excellence in multidisciplinary research. Other researchers to be recognized at today's celebration include the following:

  • Brendan John Frey and Benjamin J. Blencowe from the University of Toronto, winners of the NSERC John C. Polanyi Award;
  • The team of David R. Bundle, John S. Klassen and Todd L. Lowary of the University of Alberta; and Glen Douglas Armstrong and Kenneth K.S. Ng of the University of Calgary; winners of the Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering;
  • Four winners of Synergy Awards for Innovation:
    • Rung Tien Bui of the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, in partnership with Rio Tinto Alcan;
    • Roussos Dimitrakopoulos of McGill University, in partnership with BHP Billiton Canada Inc., AngloGold Ashanti Limited, Barrick Gold Corporation, De Beers Canada Inc., Newmont Mining Corporation and Vale Exploration Canada Inc.;
    • Eugene Fiume of the University of Toronto, in partnership with Autodesk, Inc.; and
    • Yun Zhang of the University of New Brunswick, in partnership with PCI Geomatics;
  • Six winners of E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowships:
    • Alisdair B. Boraston, University of Victoria;
    • Sheelagh Carpendale, University of Calgary;
    • Mark MacLachlan, The University of British Columbia;
    • Randall V. Martin, Dalhousie University;
    • Robert Schober, The University of British Columbia; and
    • Robert Seiringer, McGill University;
  • Alex Hayat, winner of the NSERC Howard Alper Postdoctoral Prize; and
  • Five winners of NSERC André Hamer Postgraduate Prizes:
    • Christopher Willie (doctoral);
    • Matthew Florczynski;
    • Sébastien Loranger (master's);
    • Jimmy Ly (master's); and
    • Talena Rambarran (master's).

A full description of the NSERC prizes and winners can be found in the backgrounder.

NSERC is a federal agency that helps make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for all Canadians. The agency supports some 30,000 post-secondary students and postdoctoral fellows in their advanced studies. NSERC promotes discovery by funding more than 12,000 professors every year and fosters innovation by encouraging about 2,000 Canadian companies to participate and invest in post-secondary research projects.

For further information (media only), please contact:

Stephanie Thomas
Special Assistant (Communications)
Office of the Honourable Gary Goodyear
Minister of State (Science and Technology)
Tel.: 613-960-7728

Martin Leroux
Media Relations and Public Affairs Officer
Tel.: 613-943-7618

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


NSERC Awards Ceremony

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 and its predecessor—the Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering—have been awarded each year, since 1991, 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 up to $1 million in research funding over five years.

2011 winner:

W. Richard Peltier
University of Toronto

W. Richard Peltier's research has helped pioneer Earth system science—a multidisciplinary, holistic approach to explaining how the Earth functions. His seminal contributions to geophysics, atmospheric physics, and climate change research have spawned a new sub-discipline in the solid Earth and climate dynamical sciences. Using sophisticated mathematical concepts, his models depict how climate evolved over the past 750 million years, and project how it will evolve in the future. His research on ice-age climate variability is considered the gold standard for scholarship on past climate change. He is the founding Director of the University of Toronto's Centre for Global Change Science.

NSERC John C. Polanyi Award

Created in 2006, the NSERC John C. Polanyi Award is named in honour of Canada's 1986 winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The award is given to an individual or team whose research, conducted in Canada, has led to a recent outstanding advance in any NSERC-supported field of the natural