Achievements of McGill Professors celebrated in latest round of NSERC prizes

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Published: 25Oct2022

McGill University announced that six of its Professors (two individually, four as part of a multi-institutional team) have been declared winners of this year’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) prizes. These prestigious awards range from individual awards for innovative discoveries by young researchers to recognitions of lifetime achievement and influence. The McGill-based recipients are as follows:

  • 2022 Arthur B. McDonald Fellowships: Dr. Blake Richards
  • 2022 Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering: Dr. Patrick Boyle, Dr. Matt Dobbs, Dr. David Hanna, and Dr. Victoria Kaspi, together with a team of McGill University Post Docs, Graduate Students and Engineers (all members of the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment [CHIME] team which is co-led by the University of British Columbia, the University of Toronto, and McGill University)
  • 2022 NSERC John C. Polanyi Award: Dr. Tomislav Friščić

“These awards once again underline the strength of research at McGill,” said Martha Crago, Vice-Principal, Research & Innovation. “Our researchers are at the top of their fields and their work is expanding the understanding of diverse physical phenomenon in a variety of different disciplines. It is with enormous pride that I congratulate these McGill NSERC award winners.”

Arthur B. McDonald Fellowships

Dr. Blake Aaron Richards, School of Computer Science and Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, is the 2022 recipient of the Arthur B. McDonald Fellowship. Dr. Blake Richards’s research program exists at the intersection of neuroscience and artificial intelligence (AI), where he has made notable advances in the understanding of how learning in the real brain may relate to modern AI algorithms. This will lead to novel AI systems that remember their past in a more human-like manner, endowing them with greater understanding of the world and easier interactions with human beings.

"This award is an immense honour for me, and it is particularly meaningful to me because NSERC has been the pillar supporting my entire career as a scientist, from graduate school to today,” said Dr. Richards. “The extra time and research funding that this award provides me will also make it possible for my research group to really accelerate our most exciting projects in the next couple of years."

Up to six Arthur B. McDonald Fellowships are awarded annually to early-stage academic researchers in the natural sciences and engineering (Arthur B. McDonald Fellowships were previously known as the E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowships).

Brockhouse Canada Prize

The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) team is composed of world leaders in cosmology, pulsars, high energy astrophysics and galactic emission, which includes members of Yale University, West Virginia University, the Perimeter Institute, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, National Research Council Canada, and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. This powerful collaboration of experts has designed and built one of the most novel and extraordinarily powerful radio telescopes in the world, which forms an image of the entire overhead sky each day by digitally processing the information received on a compact array of 2048 radio receivers as the Earth rotates. The CHIME team’s array is a vastly improved tool for measuring the cadence of pulsars, the best clocks in the Universe.

"CHIME has changed the landscape for astronomy in Canada,” said Professor Matt Dobbs, and member of the CHIME Team. “Enabled by the technological innovations that made the design and construction of the CHIME telescope possible, the CHIME team is making ground-breaking observations of the radio sky. These include a new view of the transient sky and a new way of probing structure in the universe. Within McGill, the success of CHIME is due to a tight-knit team of researchers that includes graduate students, undergraduates, postdocs, faculty members and engineers."

The Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering recognizes outstanding Canadian teams of researchers from different disciplines who came together to engage in research drawing on their combined knowledge and skills and produced a record of excellent achievements in the natural sciences and engineering.

NSERC John C. Polanyi Award

Solvents account for a significant proportion of waste in chemical-based industries and their elimination remains one of the holy grails of sustainable chemistry. Professor Tomislav Friščić, Department of Chemistry, has developed a methodology for clean, solvent-free chemical synthesis using mechanochemistry—chemical reactions induced and guided by mechanical force rather than solvents. This technique is not only replacing traditional manufacturing processes, but also enabling chemical reactions that were once thought impossible. His breakthroughs have revolutionized the field, and he is poised to lead the “green” revolution of chemical manufacturing.

Created in 2006, the NSERC John C. Polanyi 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 sciences or engineering.

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About McGill University

Founded in Montreal, Quebec, in 1821, McGill University is Canada’s top ranked medical doctoral university. McGill is consistently ranked as one of the top universities, both nationally and internationally. It is a world-renowned institution of higher learning with research activities spanning three campuses, 11 faculties, 13 professional schools, 300 programs of study and over 39,000 students, including more than 10,400 graduate students. McGill attracts students from over 150 countries around the world, its 12,000 international students making up 30% of the student body. Over half of McGill students claim a first language other than English, including approximately 20% of our students who say French is their mother tongue.

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