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Past Winner
1998 E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship

Louis Taillefer


McGill University

Dr. Thomas A. Brzustowski, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), today announced that McGill physics professor Louis Taillefer has been awarded one of the country's top research awards - a 1998 E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship.

"Dr. Taillefer is an international leader in one of the hottest areas of modern science: the race to describe and understand the physical properties of unconventional superconductors," said Dr. Brzustowski. Some of these novel materials lose their resistance to electricity at much higher temperatures than other superconductors, which must be chilled to close to absolute zero and thus are impractical for most applications. Suggested uses for the new materials range from heat-free computer components to efficient and powerful magnets, and "wires" that allow zero-cost electrical transmission.

"Widespread use of these superconductors will depend on fundamental research by condensed matter physicists such as Dr. Taillefer," Dr. Brzustowski added. "He has made seminal contributions to the understanding of superconductor properties."

In adding his congratulations, Dr. Ron Duhamel, Secretary of State (Science, Research and Development), said, "Dr. Taillefer's exceptional research, along with that of other young university researchers like him, creates a better future for all Canadians. Research and innovation are key to leading Canada into the new millenium."

Much of Dr. Taillefer's success can be attributed to his first-rate abilities as an experimental physicist, in particular his extraordinary talent for producing superconductor crystals of the highest purity and perfection. He grows top quality crystals of the materials under study, and generously provides samples to others, while using his own battery of sophisticated experimental techniques to make them reveal their unusual physical properties. His most recent successes are observations of novel electron behaviour in two superconductors: yttrium-barium-copper-oxide and the heavy-fermion metal uranium-platinum-3.

Dr. Taillefer's papers are highly respected in the world scientific community. In 1997, he published five articles in Physical Review Letters and one in Nature, the two most prestigious journals in the field. While most of his work is carried out in the low temperature facilities that he has built at McGill, several projects involve international collaborations at major neutron beam facilities and synchrotrons. He has been an Associate in the Superconductivity Program of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research since 1992.

His assistance to young researchers is equally impressive. In the five years prior to his nomination, he had supervised the research projects of 17 undergraduate students. Of the thirteen who graduated, all went to graduate school and 11 chose to remain in condensed matter physics. He attracts outstanding graduate students and research associates; all of his Ph.D. students have been awarded NSERC scholarships.

The Steacie Fellowship will permit him to explore a number of avenues opened up by his recent work on heat transport. He also hopes to pioneer ultrasound spectroscopy as a new technique to probe the electronic properties of high temperature superconductors.

The NSERC fellowship is one of only four awarded each year. The honour is given to university researchers who are capturing international attention for outstanding scientific or engineering achievement. NSERC will provide McGill with the full amount of Dr. Taillefer's salary for up to two years. The fellowship will free him to pursue his innovative research full-time, as well as obtain significant new research funding from NSERC.

The three other 1998 Steacie fellows are Sara Iverson, Dept. of Biology, Dalhousie University; Jonathan Schaeffer, Dept. of Computing Science, University of Alberta; and Michael Ward, Dept. of Mathematics, University of British Columbia.

The E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowships will be presented by His Excellency The Right Honourable Roméo LeBlanc, Governor General of Canada, in a ceremony at Rideau Hall, Ottawa, on April 27.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada is the national instrument for making strategic investments in Canada's capability in science and technology. NSERC supports both basic university research through research grants and project research through partnerships of universities with industry. NSERC also supports the advanced training of highly qualified people in both areas.