Posted February 6, 2009
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Education Recognition

Queen’s Biology professor wins prestigious 3M Fellowship

Kingston - Queen's Biology professor John Smol, considered the world's leading paleolimnologist, has been awarded a prestigious 3M National Teaching Fellowship.

Dr. Smol, Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change, is one of 10 recipients across Canada of the award, presented annually by 3M Canada and the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.


Renowned lake ecologist John Smol
has been awarded a 3M National Teaching
Fellowship. Photo by Sandra Murray

Paleolimnologists are lake scientists who study the effects of human and natural impacts on aquatic ecosystems using the information contained in lake sediments.

The 2009 3M citation states: "John's international recognition as one of Canada's foremost environmental scientists, coupled with his award‐winning teaching programs for undergraduates, graduate students, and the public at large personifies teaching and educational leadership at its best…As he melds exciting research discoveries into teaching, John's audience is primarily his students but also policy makers, the media, and the public at large. He believes entering a 'sacred trust' with students gives them 'roots and wings,' demonstrating an extraordinary generosity, sharing his expertise and time."

Dr. Smol is founder and co-director of the Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Lab (PEARL) at Queen's. Considered the world's premier paleolimnology training grounds, this lab addresses aquatic issues ranging from the impact of sewage and fertilizer run-off on lakes and rivers to the impact of acidic deposition and other contaminants on freshwater life, and climate change.

Describing his overall philosophy in both lab and classroom as a blending of research and teaching, Dr. Smol notes, "If you are excited about research, and research is simply trying to find answers to questions that you, as a curious person, pose, you will almost certainly be excited about communicating your findings and ideas."

In 2004 the Queen's lake ecologist was recognized as Canada's top scientist with the Herzberg Gold Medal. His previous teaching awards include the university's Chancellor A. Charles Baillie Teaching Award (2006); the inaugural Award for Excellence in Graduate Supervision (2006); the Biology Department's Best Professor Award (1998 and 2001); and the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society's W.J. Barnes Teaching Excellence Award (2000).

In November, Dr. Smol will join the nine other new 3M Fellows from University of Alberta, McMaster, York, Trent, Université du Québec and University of Saskatchewan at a three-day retreat in Quebec, where the winners will share their teaching experiences.

This is the seventh 3M Fellowship received by a Queen's professor since the award's inception in 1986. Previous recipients are the late Bill Barnes (Department of English, 1992), Peter Taylor (Mathematics and Statistics, 1995), Mark Weisberg (Law, 1995), Morris Orzech (Mathematics and Statistics, 2000), Christopher Knapper (former director of the Instructional Development Centre, 2002) and Leo Jonker (Mathematics and Statistics, 2004).

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