Mario Pinto

Incoming NSERC president Mario Pinto and Simon Fraser University PhD chemistry student Sankar Mohan hold a mug carved from the root of the Sri Lankan Salacia reticulata tree, which is used to serve a tea that controls blood sugar levels. Pinto and Mohan deduced that the structures of the compounds in the wood could be used in the treatment of obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

B. Mario Pinto, FCIC, takes on his latest leadership role this fall as president of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). Pinto, the former vice-chair of the Chemical Institute of Canada and former vice-president, research at Simon Fraser University (SFU), is the third chemist to head NSERC. He follows in the footsteps of former Queen’s University chemistry professor Suzanne Fortier, FCIC, who left NSERC in 2013 to become vice-chancellor of McGill University. The other chemist who helmed the 36-year-old institution was Peter Morand, a former chemistry professor who led NSERC from 1990 to 1995.

NSERC was created in 1978 and reports to Canada’s Minister of Industry. The largest funder of science and engineering research in Canada, NSERC has an annual budget of $1.1 billion. It supports the research programs of faculty in the natural sciences and engineering and also supports post-secondary students and post-doctoral fellows from universities and colleges across Canada. It also fosters innovation by encouraging Canadian companies to participate and invest in post-secondary research and training.

“On behalf of the CIC, I congratulate Mario on his appointment,” says Chair Bruce Lennox, FCIC. “With his national and international reputation as a researcher and administrator extraordinaire, he is well positioned to lead Canadian science and engineering into the next decade,” Lennox says. “I am delighted that the entire science and engineering community in Canada will benefit from what the chemical sciences community has known for many years — Pinto is a person of exceptional vision, energy, and thoughtfulness.”

A highly regarded pioneer in the field of chemical biology as well as an SFU chemistry professor, Pinto is the former president of the Canadian Society for Chemistry (CSC) and the International Carbohydrate Organization. He was elected to the Academy of Sciences of the Royal Society of Canada in 2003 and was a founding member of the Centre for Drug Research and Development, which provides expertise and infrastructure to enable researchers to advance promising earlystage drug candidates. His numerous awards include the CIC 2014 Montreal Medal and three CSC awards: the 2013 Alfred Bader Award, the 2012 R.U. Lemieux Award and the 2002 Bernard Belleau Award.