McGill researchers receive prestigious NSERC award


McGill researchers have received recognition from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) for outstanding university-industry collaborations and research at the graduate level.

Prof. Derek Gray, of the Department of Chemistry, and Prof. In-Ho Jung, of the Department of Mining and Materials Engineering, will each receive a Synergy Award for Innovation. These awards were launched by NSERC in 1995 to recognize partnerships between universities and industry in natural sciences and engineering research and development. Since their inception, the awards have honoured the most outstanding achievements of university-industry collaboration in the natural sciences and engineering. Each winner receives a $200,000 research grant.

“The Synergy Awards for Innovation recognize outstanding achievements that have resulted from partnerships between university researchers and industry,” says Suzanne Fortier, President of NSERC. “These awards honour collaboration as the foundation of achievement and highlight Canadian innovations.

Partnership with two or more companies

Derek Gray, McGill University
FPInnovations, ArboraNano, and CelluForce

The development of industrial-scale production for cellulose nanocrystals has sparked increased interest in this innovative product, with more sectors turning to the forest products industry as a source of environmentally friendly raw materials. Purified cellulose nanocrystals are a natural, renewable, biodegradable, non-toxic nanomaterial with unique characteristics that range from optical properties, like forming iridescent coloured films, to reinforcing additive for other materials. The pioneering work of Derek Gray’s team at McGill University developed the initial extraction recipe and discovered the optical properties of nanocrystalline cellulose. In January 2012, CelluForce opened a commercial demonstration plant in Windsor, Quebec, creating 30 permanent jobs.

Leo Derikx Award (pre-competitive partnership with multiple companies)

Arthur Pelton, Patrice Chartrand and Christopher Bale,
École Polytechnique de Montréal
In Ho Jung, McGill University
Rio Tinto Iron & Titanium, Alcoa Technical Center, Corning Incorporated, Teck Metals Ltd., Xstrata Process Support, General Motors of Canada, Rio Tinto Alcan, Research Institute of Industrial Science and Technology

The recipients of NSERC’s 2012 Leo Derikx Award have created a diverse chemistry simulation software tool named FactSage. It allows users to perform complex chemical equilibrium calculations using a vast, critically evaluated database, saving time and costs associated with physical experimentation.

The software is one of the largest fully integrated database computing systems in chemical thermodynamics in the world. Run on a personal computer, it is used in fields as diverse as materials science, metallurgy, glass technology, nuclear waste disposal, solar energy storage, combustion and ceramics. This software is currently used by over 500 industrial, governmental and university laboratories in 43 countries.

Graduate students also honoured

Graduate students were also among the honorees at last night’s event. Thomas A. Fox, of McGill’s Department of Geography, received one of the $10,000 André Hamer Postgraduate Prizes (master’s and doctoral levels). The NSERC André Hamer Postgraduate Prizes are awarded to the four most outstanding candidates in NSERC's postgraduate scholarships competition at the master’s level. The prizes were established by Arthur McDonald, winner of the 2003 Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering, in memory of André Hamer, a very promising young scientist who passed away in 2003.

Thomas Fox is studying agricultural practices in Kerala, India to better understand strategies for balancing the needs of agriculture and biodiversity. He will set up a series of plots in rice fields of varying intensity that are located in diverse landscapes. His findings will contribute to humanity's goal of preserving biodiversity while meeting the world's food requirements.

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