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Past Winner
2000 Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering

Howard Alper


University of Ottawa

Howard Alper
Howard Alper

Tom Brzustowski, President of NSERC, has announced that the University of Ottawa's Howard Alper is the first winner of the prestigious new Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering.

The award will be presented at 10 a.m. this morning at Rideau Hall by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada.

The new prize guarantees that Dr. Alper – a chemist renowned for his work in developing tools to synthesize and modify molecules – will receive a million dollars from NSERC for his research over the next five years. In Dr. Alper's case, that means an additional $345,000 on top of NSERC's existing investment in his research.

The three finalists for the first Herzberg award were Alper, David Regan of York University and David Schindler of the University of Alberta.

"That we have such extraordinary talent in Canada is a great credit to our country," said the Honourable Brian Tobin, Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for NSERC. "Like Gerhard Herzberg, all three finalists are distinguished by the excellence of their research and the influence of their leadership. The Government of Canada extends its congratulations and best wishes to the winner of the new Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering, Dr. Howard Alper."

"Howard Alper has had a truly outstanding influence on Canadian research," said Brzustowski. "His methods are acclaimed for their simplicity and for their practical application to compounds that are of great interest to synthetics industries. Pharmaceutical companies use them in their search for new drugs to counter the serious problem of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. He has also devised new forms of synthesis that are highly 'atom efficient,' i.e., they build new molecules with little or no waste. Outside the laboratory he has turned his extraordinary energy to raising the profile of research in Canada and building bridges between the research community and government and industry."

The Medal selection process involves both international peer review of the nominees and adjudication by a distinguished NSERC jury. This year's panel was chaired by Dr. Joseph Hubert, Université de Montréal, and included Dr. Agnes Herzberg, daughter of the late Nobel chemist and herself an internationally distinguished statistician.

The three finalists each receive the NSERC Award of Excellence which consists of a crystal sculpture, and Regan and Schindler also receive $50,000 each to be added to next year's research grant.

An internationally renowned psychologist, David Regan was the first to demonstrate the brain processes that underlie collision avoidance. His revolutionary findings have proven extremely important for improving safety for car drivers and pilots as well as for the design of human-machine interfaces.

David Schindler is one of the world's leading environmental scientists, acclaimed for his influence on the study of lake ecology and for convincing governments in many countries to legislate controls on acid emissions and phosphorous detergents. His lake experiments excited the world of environmental science and provided the critical understanding needed to protect freshwater ecosystems.

"Our expert panel had a very difficult challenge in picking one out of the Award of Excellence winners to be the Herzberg medalist for 2000," said Brzustowski.