From extreme cold to mining returns, it’s all about math


NSERC honours McGill researchers for basic research, industry collaborations

Two McGill researchers are among this year’s recipients of prestigious prizes awarded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

Prof. Roussos Dimitrakopoulos, of the Department of Mining and Materials Engineering, is the recipient of a 2011 Synergy Award for Innovation. Since their inception, the awards have honoured the most outstanding achievements of university-industry collaboration in the natural sciences and engineering. Dimitrakopoulous has developed new mathematical modeling techniques for forecasting mine planning and production that take into account uncertainty in the supply of minerals and in meeting market demands. These techniques have helped mining companies generate a much higher return on investment as well as increased metal production from the same asset.  Prof. Dimitrakopoulos has worked with six global mining companies over the past 15 years – BHP Billiton, Anglo Gold Ashanti, Barrick Gold, De Beers, Newmont and Vale – and appreciates the value of this long-term partnership.

“They serve as a think-tank for the research we are conducting and are particularly interested in identifying long-term, strategic areas of problems to be solved through shifting established paradigms,” says Dimitrakopoulos. “In return, they understand that our work leads to advances that will have positive financial, environmental and sustainability implications for our industrial partners and the broader society.” The award will also lead to the appointment of five research fellows who will work with the different industry partners, an opportunity for doctoral students from disciplines such as computer science, earth sciences and math to gain experience of working directly with industry.

Prof. Robert Seiringer, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, has won one of the Steacie Memorial Fellowships for 2011. Seiringer’s research involves using modern mathematical techniques to learn about physics, and in particular about the nature of solids, fluids and gases. His current research has added to the understanding of matter at extremely cold temperatures – at absolute zero or −273.15° Celsius.

“One of the interesting things is that the same equation is used to describe water and ice,” says Seiringer. “This is mathematically very curious.” The Steacie award will allow Seiringer to devote the next two years to his research (recipients are relieved of their teaching duties), working on equations that will help physicists better understand various aspects of the natural world.

NSERC’s E.W.R Steacie Memorial Fellowships honour the memory of Dr. Edgar William Richard Steacie, an outstanding chemist and research leader who made major contributions to the development of science in Canada during, and immediately following World War II. Steacie Fellowships are awarded annually to enhance the career development of outstanding and highly promising scientists and engineers who are faculty members of Canadian universities.

“Canada’s researchers are second to none when it comes to the quality and creativity of their work,” said NSERC President Suzanne Fortier. “From students just embarking on their careers to seasoned researchers with well-earned international reputations, we can be extremely proud of the talent we help nurture.”

“We thank NSERC for their ongoing support of our researchers, and congratulate Professors Seiringer and Dimitrakopoulos on receiving such prestigious awards,” said Rosie Goldstein, McGill’s Vice-Principal (Research and International Relations). “NSERC plays an invaluable role in promoting both basic scientific research and innovative collaborations between researchers and industry.”

For more information about the awards:



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