McGill celebrates two Killam Prizes


Jurist Roderick Macdonald, engineer A.P.S. Selvadurai each awarded top research prize

Two McGill University researchers are among the five recipients of the $100,000 Killam Prizes for 2007. Roderick Macdonald of the McGill Faculty of Law and A.P.S. (Patrick) Selvadurai of the Faculty of Engineering have each been awarded a Killam, Canada’s most distinguished annual award for outstanding career achievement in research.

The awards were announced today by the Canada Council for the Arts, which administers the Killam program. This brings to 16 the number of McGill researchers who have received Killams since they were first awarded in 1981.

“I am delighted that two so uniquely distinguished McGill researchers are being recognized with Killams this year,” said Professor Heather Munroe-Blum, McGill Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “Each, in his own way, has made an exceptional contribution to his field and to society: Patrick Selvadurai by being consistently at the forefront of efforts to reconcile scientific advancement and environmental protection; and Rod Macdonald as the legal conscience of a nation in transition.”

Professor Macdonald, the F.R. Scott Professor of Constitutional and Public Law at McGill, is internationally respected as one of the great jurists of his day and among Canada’s most influential public intellectuals and theorists. He is revered among past and current students as a brilliant and engaging professor of civil law, commercial law, administrative law, constitutional law, and jurisprudence.

Known for his ability to conceptualize the law in all of its social and theoretical applications and interdisciplinary dimensions, Professor Macdonald is consulted frequently by governments for his legal expertise. His opinions have helped guide Canada’s national debates on issues ranging from constitutional realignments to aboriginal rights to institutional child abuse. He joined McGill’s Faculty of Law in 1979, where he served as dean (1984-1989) and in 1996 was appointed to the F.R. Scott Chair. “This was a great surprise and a tremendous honour,” said Prof. Macdonald. “I pray that I’ll never forget to acknowledge and honour all those whose everyday contributions to advancing knowledge, to furthering understanding of society, and to enriching the lives of others have far exceeded mine.”

Professor Macdonald served as founding president of the Law Commission of Canada (1997-2000), where he built a renowned institute of legal research. Today, he serves on the Canadian delegation to the Secured Transaction Project of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law. He is a member of the Royal Society of Canada and was the first Law Fellow of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.

A.P.S. (Patrick) Selvadurai is William Scott Professor and James McGill Professor in McGill’s Department of Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics. An international leader in the fields of theoretical, applied and computational mechanics, as well as applied mathematics and geomechanics (the discipline dealing with the application of the principles of mathematics, mechanics and physics to the study of earth materials), he has profoundly influenced engineering activities in nuclear waste management, among other areas. “The world that we leave behind is going to be a lot more challenging for our children than it has been for us,” Professor Selvadurai said. “It’s a great honour to be recognized for my small part in mitigating that challenge.”

Born in Sri Lanka, Professor Selvadurai moved to Canada in 1975, chaired Carleton University’s Department of Civil Engineering from 1982 to 1991 and McGill’s Department of Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics from 1993 to 1997. As a scholar, Professor Selvadurai has produced more than 400 articles and fifteen authored or co-edited books, at least five of which are now standard texts. He has held visiting professorships at numerous institutions worldwide and received many international honours, including the Humboldt Senior Scientist Award and the Max Planck Research Prize. He was the first civil engineer to receive the Killam Research Fellowship.

“This is terrific news,” said Professor Denis Thérien, McGill’s Vice-Principal of Research and International Relations. “The only thing better than hearing we’ve won a Killam is hearing we’ve won two, and the work of both Rod Macdonald and Patrick Selvadurai perfectly embodies McGill’s spirit of research without borders; each has made our world better in vastly different ways.”

The Killam Prizes were inaugurated in 1981 and financed through funds donated to the Canada Council by Mrs. Dorothy J. Killam in memory of her husband, Izaak Walton Killam. The prizes were created to honour eminent Canadian scholars and scientists actively engaged in research, whether in engineering, natural sciences, humanities, social sciences or health sciences.

This year’s other three Killam Prize recipients are J. Richard Bond of the University of Toronto, Robert Hancock of the University of British Columbia and Shana Poplack of the University of Ottawa. The Canada Council will present the Killam Prizes at a dinner and ceremony on Monday, April 23, in Ottawa.

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Kirsten Martin
McGill University
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