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Government of Canada honours exceptional scientists and engineers

Top prize awarded to researcher for remarkable breakthroughs and international leadership in artificial intelligence

News release

November 1, 2023

Scientific research is the driving force that keeps Canadian society moving forward. It takes remarkable perseverance and ingenuity from scientists and engineers to make the discoveries and develop the technologies that help grow the economy, protect our environment, and improve the wellbeing of Canadians.

Today, Professor Alejandro Adem, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), announced the recipients of this year's NSERC Prizes. Twenty-two of Canada’s world-leading scientists and engineers and six of their industry partners received awards recognizing their exceptional work and contributions to research and training in a range of fields. Their achievements include groundbreaking work in artificial intelligence, advancements in vision health, innovations that enabled the critical production of COVID-19 test kits, and pioneering contributions to the study of plastic pollution in aquatic habitats.

Yoshua Bengio has been awarded Canada’s most prestigious science prize, the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering, worth up to $1 million. His research and career have led to remarkable discoveries and breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, and his valued leadership has influenced the development and application of artificial intelligence around the world. Professor Bengio’s research has a humanistic dimension, as it is aimed at developing technologies that will benefit all and contribute to sustainable development.

Peter Vanrolleghem, a widely recognized expert in the field of water engineering, is the recipient of the NSERC Donna Strickland Prize for Societal Impact of Natural Sciences and Engineering Research. Professor Vanrolleghem has focused on developing and implementing advanced methods for modelling water quality in integrated urban wastewater systems, such as sewage and stormwater systems. His research has resulted in practical applications and helped to improve the health of humans and the environment.

Cathleen Crudden has been awarded this year’s John C. Polanyi Award in recognition of her breakthrough discovery in organic-on-metal coatings and overall contribution to the advancement of the field of chemistry. She is now collaborating with an array of international partners to advance the use of these novel nanomaterials in cancer treatments, as next-generation coatings for semiconductor chips, to improve pipeline protection, and to protect the surface of offshore wind turbines from corrosion.

Heather Sheardown and the C20/20 team at McMaster University, the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo have been awarded this year’s Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering. C20/20 has become an internationally recognized innovation centre for its ophthalmic therapies and devices, and for the wide-ranging training and mentoring of highly qualified personnel, whose impact has improved the lives of millions of Canadians suffering from ocular diseases and vision impairment.

NSERC also announced six recipients of the Arthur B. McDonald Fellowships, which recognize early-stage academic researchers in the natural sciences and engineering, and celebrated outstanding collaborations that are models of effective partnerships between organizations and colleges or universities by awarding four Synergy Awards for Innovation.

Quotes

“Thanks to the researchers honoured today, we are able to make tremendous contributions to science and research that help guide our decisions and create a culture of innovation in Canada. Congratulations to this year’s recipients of the prestigious NSERC Prizes, who are leaders, pioneers, and also great sources of inspiration for the next generation of scientists and engineers.”

The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

“The natural sciences and engineering research community shines brightly today as we honour this year’s recipients of the NSERC prizes. In celebrating the work of these remarkable individuals, we recognize the impact of their contributions and their leadership in Canadian discovery and innovation. Their achievements have advanced the frontiers of knowledge worldwide and added to a legacy of outstanding Canadian scientists and engineers who inspire the next generation of researchers.”

Professor Alejandro Adem, FRSC, President of NSERC

“I am greatly honoured to receive the Herzberg Gold Medal from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and to add my name to the long list of scientists with exceptional contributions who have preceded me. I’m also very thankful for the incredible support my colleagues, students, collaborators and I have received from the Government of Canada in our quest towards understanding the principles underlying intelligence and the synergy between mapping biological intelligences and designing artificial ones, for the benefit of all. Without it, Canada's AI ecosystem would not have become what it is today.”

Professor Yoshua Bengio, Université de Montréal

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.
  • This year’s awards ceremony honours 28 recipients (22 researchers and 6 industry partners) with six different 2023 NSERC prizes totaling $4.05 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 link

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

Contact

Media Relations
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
media@nserc-crsng.gc.ca

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