The Canada Council awards the annual Killam Prizes to distinguished Canadian scholars in the fields of health sciences, natural sciences, engineering, social sciences and humanities. Five $100,000 prizes are awarded each year—one in each field—and on May 11, McGill researchers took home three of them. Philippe Gros (health sciences) is James McGill Professor in Biochemistry in the Rosalind and Morris Goodman Cancer Centre; his groundbreaking genetics research has led to the identification of the gene that causes spina bifida, the isolation of the cancer resistant “mdr” family of genes, and the identification of new genes that give rise to susceptibility to malaria. Wagdi G. Habashi (engineering) is a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and an international leader in the field of computational fluid dynamics, which is crucial to dealing with the potentially dangerous problem of in-flight icing of aircraft. François Ricard (humanities) is a professor in the Department of French Language and Literature and James McGill Chair in Quebec Literature and Modern Fiction; he is one of the top historians of contemporary Quebec society, and has won acclaim for his work on Canadian writer Gabrielle Roy. “We are immensely proud of these distinguished scholars, all of whom have received numerous honours throughout their remarkable careers,” says McGill University Principal and Vice-Chancellor Heather Munroe-Blum. “The University joins me in offering them our most sincere congratulations on this prestigious recognition of their accomplishments.” Nineteen McGill researchers have now received a Killam Prize since its inception in 1981.
In other Killam news, McGill physicist Robert Brandenberger received one of the Canada Council for the Arts’ nine 2009 Killam Research Fellowships. Brandenberger studies models of the very early universe that connect the theory of fundamental forces of nature with cosmological observations. The fellowship provides $70,000 a year for two years and will give Brandenberger the chance, he explains, “to focus more intensively on the challenging research goal of trying to connect superstring theory as the theory that unifies all forces of nature with cosmological observations.”
“Whether you’re talking about the Killam Prizes or the Killam Fellowships, one thing is certain: You are talking about a program that unambiguously caters to excellence as the exclusive criterion,” says Denis Thérien, McGill’s Vice-Principal (Research and International Relations). “We in Canada are most fortunate to have access to such a generous and excellence-driven program because it supports and honours the research leaders in our institutions. It’s a reminder that a university’s main business is the production of deep knowledge, as well as the education of highly skilled, highly trained students.”
A jury of 14 eminent Canadian scholars selects the recipients of the Killam Prizes and Fellowships. The program is funded through lifetime and testamentary gifts from Dorothy J. Killam, in memory of her husband, Izaak Walton Killam.
On May 11, McGill Principal Heather Munroe-Blum (left) and Vice-Principal (Research and International Relations) Denis Thérien (right) joined George Cooper, Managing Trustee of the Killam Trusts (second from right) in the Life Sciences Complex to honour new Killam Prize laureates (left to right) Philippe Gros, François Ricard and Wagdi G. Habashi.