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Government of Canada celebrates Canada’s top natural sciences and engineering research talent

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Prizes recognize research excellence by honouring some of the world’s best and brightest

General news

November 17, 2021

As Canadian scientists and engineers leave their mark on the world stage with their internationally recognized research, we are proud to celebrate excellence by honouring outstanding researchers whose contributions are having a tremendous impact on society.

Today, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and Professor Alejandro Adem, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) announced this year’s recipients of NSERC Prizes. Twenty-six of Canada’s world-leading scientists and engineers, and ten of their industry partners, received NSERC prizes recognizing their contributions in a range of research fields. Topics explored include advancements to our understanding of the causes of wild bee decline in urban landscapes, exploring the neural links that connect rhythm and movement in the brain, understanding and responding to the health implications of traffic pollution, and devising innovations in ultrasound technology.

Dr. Sajeev John is this year’s recipient of Canada’s most prestigious science prize, the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering, worth up to $1 million. Dr. John is a world- renowned theoretical physicist whose pioneering research enables photons to be trapped and controlled in an optical microchip. Thanks to his discoveries, it may be possible to process information optically rather than electronically, enabling a supercomputing technology more stable and scalable than quantum computers. His team has also applied their light-trapping ideas into the design of flexible, light-weight, thin-film silicon solar cells that can be coated on a variety of surfaces, with unprecedented sunlight capture capabilities and power-conversion efficiencies well beyond that of standard solar panels.

Dr. Hanadi Sleiman is receiving this year’s John C. Polanyi Award in recognition of her ground-breaking discovery and ongoing contributions to the field of DNA nanotechnology. The Sleiman group created a unique class of DNA nanostructures to be used as drug delivery vessels for precision medicine, which aims to tailor a patient’s treatment plan based on the individual’s genetics and environment. Ultimately, Dr. Sleiman’s breakthroughs will help doctors and pharmaceutical companies bypass drug resistance and generate greater success rates for a range of cancer treatments.

NSERC celebrates research excellence with a wide range of prizes. Individual awards focus on accomplishments that range from innovative discoveries by young researchers to lifetime achievement and influence. 


- “Congratulations to the recipients of this year’s prestigious NSERC prizes for their outstanding contributions to science and research. Thanks to their hard work and dedication, these Canadian researchers will help create greener and healthier communities from coast to coast to coast.”
The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

- “At NSERC, we pride ourselves on funding excellence in discovery and innovation, with an emphasis on 'excellence.' The recipients of NSERC prizes are nominated by their peers and colleagues and regarded as leaders in their fields. By any measure, the visionaries, explorers and problem-solvers we are celebrating today are not just some of the finest researchers in Canada, but among the finest in the world.”
Professor Alejandro Adem, President of NSERC

- “The Herzberg Canada Gold Medal is an honour of unique distinction. I am very grateful to the University of Toronto, NSERC, and my other funding partners for supporting my research over the past 32 years. This extraordinary NSERC Herzberg Award will enable me to further engage aspiring young scientists and bring to broader fruition the light-trapping mechanisms of photonic crystals in renewable energy sciences, environmental remediation, medical and information technologies.”
Dr. Sajeev John, Professor of Physics, University of Toronto

Quick facts

  • Honouring the memory of Canadian Nobel laureate Gerhard Herzberg, the NSERC Herzberg Gold Medal is the agency’s highest honour. It provides recipients with up to $1 million in discovery research funding over five years.
  • Today’s ceremony celebrates the outstanding achievements of recipients who received five NSERC prizes totaling up to $3.7 million.
  • NSERC-funded researchers are honoured every year for achievements that showcase the high caliber of talent and the innovative research taking place in Canadian universities and colleges.

Associated links

Full list of NSERC prizes, this year’s winners and their profiles


John Power
Senior Manager, Communications and Media Relations
Office of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

Media Relations
Innovation, Science and
Economic Development Canada

Media Relations
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

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