University Professor Dick Peltier leads the pack with the Herzberg Gold
TORONTO, Feb. 27, 2012 /CNW/ - Five U of T researchers and students have
been awarded prizes from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council
(NSERC) in recognition of their scholarly achievements.
The marquee award, the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science
and Engineering, went to U of T physicist Prof. Dick Peltier, a pioneer
in Earth system science.
The medal, which comes with $1 million, is named for Canadian Nobel
Laureate Gerhard Herzberg and awarded annually for outstanding and
sustained contributions to Canadian research in the natural sciences
and engineering. It is widely considered the most prestigious award a
natural scientist or engineer can win.
Other U of T researchers and students honoured included Professor
Brendan Frey, Professor Benjamin Blencowe, Professor Eugene Fiume,
post-doctoral fellow Alex Hayat and Master's student Matthew
"That U of T is home to five winners of this year's NSERC prizes is a
reflection of the astonishing breadth of talent at our institution,"
said Professor David Naylor, the university's president. "I'm
especially proud of the fact that these honours have been awarded to
scholars with decades of experience and to others who are just
beginning their research careers. I extend congratulations to all the
winners—and my thanks to NSERC for its continued support of Canadian
University Professor Peltier was cited for seminal contributions to
geophysics, atmospheric sciences and climate change research. Using
sophisticated mathematical concepts, Peltier builds models that depict
how climate has evolved over the past 750 million years and project how
it will change in the future. His research on ice-age climate
variability is considered the gold standard for scholarship on past
climate change. The Herzberg Medal is the latest in a long line of
honours for Peltier, which includes the 2002 Vetlesen Prize (often
called the Nobel of earth sciences) and the 2010 Bower Award. At U of T
he holds the title University Professor, which is the highest honour
the University bestows on its faculty members.
The John C. Polanyi Award was shared by Professor Frey of the Edward S.
Rogers Sr. Department Electrical and Computer Engineering, the
Department of Computer Science and the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and
Biomolecular Research, and Professor Blencowe of the Donnelly Centre
for Cellular and Biomolecular Research and the Department of Molecular
Genetics. The pair has taken a major step forward in understanding how
the human genome can do so much with what seems like a relatively small
number of genes. Their discovery of a sophisticated DNA code that cells
use to rearrange parts of genetic messages in a process called
"splicing" sheds new light on how our bodies function and how DNA
mutations can result in disease.
Given in honour of John Polanyi, a U of T professor of chemistry and
1986 Nobel Laureate, the award recognizes a recent scientific advance.
Professor Fiume of the Department of Computer Science won one of four
Synergy Awards for Innovation, which recognize partnerships between
universities and industry. Fiume and his industrial partner, Autodesk,
were recognized for making Canada a leader in the expanding field of
visual modelling, which is used in filmmaking, architecture and
medicine, among other fields. Research emerging from the partnership is
being used by industry to conceptualize green buildings, improve
environmental performance, design safer cars and diagnose disease.
Hayat, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Physics, won the
Howard Alper Postdoctoral Prize, which recognizes academic excellence,
existing and potential research contributions, interpersonal and
communications skills and leadership abilities.
Florczynski, a Master's student in the Institute of Medical Sciences,
won one of four André Hamer Postgraduate Prizes, awarded to the most
outstanding candidates in NSERC's postgraduate scholarship
"It is important to note that the work of these researchers has a direct
impact on global society, from climate change to genetics to innovative
technology that is used in a variety of fields that matter to all of
us," said Professor Paul Young, U of T's vice-president research.
The winners were honoured in a ceremony hosted by the Governor General
in a ceremony in Ottawa on Feb. 27.
Please note that photos and B-roll are available upon request.
SOURCE University of Toronto
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