Honours galore for McGill research leaders

A tip of the Kudos crown this week goes out to: Professor Wagdi Habash, Prix du Québec winners Nancy Adler and Mark Wainberg, Professor Desmond Morten, new Canadian Medical Hall of Fame inductees Drs. Albert J. Aguayo and Jonathan C. Meakins, and Dr. Rémi Quirion. Read about how they've been honoured here:

By McGill Reporter Staff

De-ice man cometh to collect his prize

The Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) presented its inaugural James C. Floyd Award for Recent Canadian Aerospace Achievement to Mechanical Engineering Professor Wagdi Habashi earlier this week. Named in honour of the chief engineer of the legendary AVRO CF-105 interceptor fighter jet, the award recognizes the outstanding contribution to and significant impact on the Canadian aerospace industry in the areas of technology, politics, entrepreneurship, research or policy.

Habashi was recognized for his groundbreaking development of the FENSAP-ICE simulation system for the in-flight icing certification of aircraft, rotorcraft, jet engines and UAVs. Given the challenges he faced getting there, he was undoubtedly recognized for his determination, too.

Most airplane flyers are aware of pre-flight delays due to the need for liquid de-icing. However, the icing that can accumulate during a flight can often be a far more serious problem. As recently as 1995, NASA and ONERA (a French aerospace lab) had a monopoly on the only two computer codes used to address in-flight de-icing. Habashi proposed a way that innovative icing mathematical simulation tools could be developed that were so similar to the computational aerodynamics methods that the two efforts could be done concurrently. He received initial development funding from NSERC and launched FENSAP-ICE, a much more modern tool for simulating aircraft icing. Habashi also went onto establish Newmerical Technologies International where, as president, he oversees the international deployment of this technology.

A graduate of McGill, Habashi joined the Faculty of Engineering in 2000, and holds the NSERC-J.-Armand Bombardier-Bell Helicopter-CAE Industrial Research Chair for Multidisciplinary Computational Fluid Dynamics. He is also Honorary Professor of TongJi University (Shanghai).

Habashi is a co-founder of the supercomputer consortium CLUMEQ, the Canadian Society of CFD and Quebec’s longstanding joint Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering. Recognized around the world as a pioneer in his field, Habashi has received numerous scientific and industrial awards and accolades, including the Steacie Award and the Killam Prize in Engineering in 2009. Passionate about this country’s success Habashi said, “Canada is a world leader in aerospace research and technology; we do not follow. Our government needs to be committed to this industry, and not just ‘involved.’”

McGill pair cop top honours from Quebec City

Again this year, McGill researchers are among the winners of the Prix du Québec, which were announced on Nov. 1 at a news conference in Montreal. Professor of Organizational Behaviour and International Management at the Desautels Faculty of Management and creative powerhouse Nancy Adler, and renowned HIV/AIDS researcher and activist Mark Wainberg received the highest honour conferred by the provincial government in recognition of their contribution to the social and scientific advancement of Quebec.

“It is a great honour for McGill to have Professors Adler and Wainberg – a social scientist and a health scientist – awarded with Prix du Québec this year,” said Principal and Vice-Chancellor Heather Munroe-Blum. “The awards are a testament to McGill’s diverse strengths, superb talent and its focus on innovative, world-class research. And, while the transformative work of Professors Adler and Wainberg is recognized around the world and throughout Canada, it is always particularly gratifying to be recognized at home.”

Adler, winner of the Prix Léon-Guérin for the humanities, has been a pioneer in the increasingly important integration of art and design with business and societal leadership. An accomplished artist as well as a respected management researcher, Adler has brought artistic approaches into her work with managers and executives worldwide for more than a decade. Her innovative approach has helped shape an emerging trend at universities around the world, as top business schools increasingly weave lessons from the arts and design into their curricula.

Wainberg, Director of McGill’s AIDS Centre, will be awarded the Prix Wilder-Penfield in biomedical sciences. He was one of the first Canadian scientists to study HIV/AIDS and in the late ’80s his research team was credited with the first identification of the anti-viral properties of 3TC, a widely used HIV drug. In addition to contributing significantly to our knowledge about HIV drug resistance and replication, Wainberg has been a tireless voice in advocating for funding of HIV-prevention programs and universal access to prevention, care and treatment programs.

Desmond Morton takes Pierre Burton Award

Steady scholarship, dry wit and an appetite for public debate are the qualities that have made Desmond Morton this year’s winner of the Pierre Berton Award, Canada’s History Society announced recently.

McGill’s Hiram Mills professor of History, Morton has written over 40 books on military, political and labour history in Canada.

The Award selection committee noted that the Pierre Berton Award particularly recognizes Morton’s tireless advocacy of accessible Canadian history. He once facetiously suggested that Canadian history be banned from schools as “unfit for young minds. Then, of course, those young minds would read it avidly, with flashlights under the covers.”

Medical Hall of Fame opens doors for McGill pair

One is an unquestioned leader in neural regeneration and an eminent neuroscientist with a contagious passion for discovery. The other was an outstanding teacher, a brilliant investigator and an innovative leader and Dean of McGill’s Faculty of Medicine in the early 1940s. Both Drs. Albert J. Aguayo and Jonathan C. Meakins (1882 – 1959) exemplify the highest degree of distinction in terms of their contributions to human health in Canada and, as such, are being inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame for 2011.

“This is extraordinary news and a great honour for the Faculty to have not one, but two of its pioneers inducted this year,” said Richard I. Levin, Vice-Principal of Health Affairs and Dean of Medicine at McGill. “The names Drs. Aguayo and Meakins evoke qualities that are hallmarks of the health sciences at McGill, among them, a burning curiosity, great passion and leadership. This prestigious recognition by the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame is richly deserved.”

Aguayo is a McGill neuroscientist best known for his groundbreaking research into the central nervous system and for challenging the commonly held notion that the central nervous system could not regenerate after illness or trauma. By utilizing some of the most advanced anatomical and physiological techniques then available, his team was the first to show adult mammals’ central nervous systems could restore nerve fibres and function. Neural repair today stands in a prominent position due to his exceptional research.

Meakins, a Hamilton, Ont. native, graduated from McGill in 1904. At the age of 28, following further studies at Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore, Md., and at Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, Meakins returned to McGill and was appointed lecturer in Medicine and Pathology, and in 1912, director of Experimental Medicine. In 1924, he assumed the titles of professor and chair of Medicine, physician-in-chief at Royal Victoria Hospital and, perhaps his greatest legacy, director of the McGill University Clinic. It was at the Clinic that Meakins demonstrated his pioneering spirit by initiating collaborations between basic medical scientists and clinicians. Less than two decades later, he was named Dean of the Faculty of Medicine.

Quirion honoured by INRS

Quebec’s Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) has awarded an honorary doctorate to Dr. Rémi Quirion for his achievements in the fields of neuroscience and mental health, such as his research into Alzheimer’s disease, pain, schizophrenia, and the role that certain peptide neurohormones play in anxiety and depression. Quirion is the Scientific Director of the Douglas Mental Health University Institute’s Research Centre, a professor at McGill’s Department of Psychiatry, the Faculty of Medicine’s Vice Dean for Life Sciences and Strategic Initiatives, and Senior University Advisor for Health Sciences Research.

In 2009, he was appointed Executive Director of the International Collaborative Research Strategy for Alzheimer’s Disease, an initiative of the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.