5 Canadians win $100,000 Killam Prizes for research with global reach

CPT108178692_highThe Canadian Press

TORONTO - Five of the country’s top scholars and scientists have been named winners of the 2014 Killam Prize, created to honour Canadians who have made contributions to research that has had far-reaching national and international impact.

Winners of the annual Killam Prize, administered by the Canada Council of the Arts, each receive $100,000. The awards were endowed by Dorothy Killam in memory of her late husband, Canadian industrialist Izaak Walton Killam.

The winners are:

—Sajeev John, University of Toronto, a physicist and pioneering theoretician in photonic band gap (PBG) materials, a new class of optical materials sometimes referred to as “semiconductors of light.” His work has the potential to help save lives as PBG materials could eventually be used for optical communications processing, clinical medicine, lighting and solar energy harvesting.

—Andreas Mandelis, University of Toronto, an engineer who specializes in diagnostic applications of lasers in applied physics, materials science and biomedical engineering. His fundamental and applied research has led to non-invasive biomedical and dental technologies, and non-destructive methods for monitoring structural faults in industrial materials ranging from cars to aerospace products and optoelectronic devices.

—James Miller, University of Saskatchewan, an historian whose research and teaching has focused on the history of relations between Canada’s indigenous and immigrant peoples over the past four centuries. His public presentations, publications and counsel have enriched and informed national discussions and public policy related to residential schools, treaty rights and native-newcomer relations.

—Frank Plummer, University of Manitoba, is the chief scientific officer of the Public Health Agency of Canada and director of the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. Best known as a tenacious HIV/AIDS researcher and vaccine crusader, Plummer was the first investigator to track transmission rates among heterosexual women in Kenya, leading to the discovery of effective HIV prevention strategies that were adopted worldwide. His finding that some women have a natural immunity to HIV has fuelled the search for an effective vaccine.

—Fraser Taylor, Carleton University, introduced the world to the power of cybercartography, an enhanced form of multimedia mapping using geographic information management, to deepen our understanding of socio-economic issues. In Canada, and around the world, his cybercartographic atlases have delivered new perspectives and a way to comprehend complex issues such as trade and economic patterns, international development and the risk of homelessness.

“The Canada Council joins all Canadians in paying tribute to this year’s Killam Prize winners — individuals who have boldly and consistently pushed the boundaries of our understanding of the world,” Joseph Rotman, chair of the Canada Council, said in a statement.

“Each has aspired to excellence in their chosen disciplines and to improving the lives of people around the globe through their research and scholarly pursuits.”

© The Canadian Press, 2014