The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) recognized the country’s best and brightest this spring in a ceremony at Ottawa’s Rideau Hall, where Governor General Julie Payette hosted the presentation of the granting council’s major scientific awards. The most outstanding of these prizes went to Lewis Kay, a professor in the University of Toronto’s Department of Biochemistry, who won the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering. Kay’s work focuses on innovations in nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, which he has developed to yield images of proteins in motion. This and other fundamental work in molecular biophysics also led to him being invested as a Companion in the Order of Canada in a separate Rideau Hall ceremony. Kay had previously received the Canadian Society for Chemistry’s E.W.R. Steacie Award in 2013.


The NSERC John C. Polanyi Award, which acknowledges the contributions of researchers responsible for outstanding advances in their field, went to Michael Organ, a professor in the University of Ottawa’s Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences. Organ’s specialty has been the creation of catalysts that have shaped new products in pharmaceutical and agricultural industries, as well as the introduction of new materials and the advent of green chemical processes. Organ now directs uOttawa’s Centre for Catalysis Research and Innovation, as profiled in ACCN Canadian Chemical News [Chemical investigators featured prominently in Canada].

One of NSERC’s Synergy Awards for Innovation, which highlight examples of university-industry collaboration, singled out Western University Civil and Environmental Engineering professor Jason Gerhard’s work with Savron, a division of Geosyntec Consultants International Inc. Together they have been working on a novel land remediation technique that smoulders chemical contaminants until all that is left is clean soil. This low-cost, energy efficient technology has been demonstrated in the field and is now attracting international interest.

Todd Hoare, a professor in McMaster University’s Department of Chemical Engineering, was among this year’s winners of NSERC’s E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship, which is intended to advance the career of promising investigators. This support should accelerate his leading efforts in the application of hydrogels and nanogels in areas such as drug delivery and tissue repair.

Another prominent honour for Canadian scholars is the Killam Research Fellowship, awarded annually by the Canada Council for the Arts to individuals across research disciplines. This year the list included Hanadi Sleiman, a professor at McGill University’s Department of Chemistry and Health Sciences, where she holds the Canada Research Chair in DNA Nanoscience. Her laboratory is exploring the use of DNA as scaffolding for intricate molecular structures and these accomplishments also earned her the 2018 R.U. Lemieux Award from the Canadian Society for Chemistry.