From a cancer treatment breakthrough and a face mask shown to kill both viruses and bacteria, to a first-of-its-kind battery to boost the performance of electric cars and pioneering software to advance quantum computers, seven up-and-coming researchers and a trailblazing company are being recognized for their game-changing achievements in Canadian research.
Backed by strong industry support, the awards, presented by Mitacs — a national innovation organization that fosters growth by solving business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions — celebrate students, professors and business owners who have made significant achievements while participating in Mitacs-funded programs. They include six awards for outstanding innovation, one for exceptional leadership and one for commercialization of a novel idea.
The 2020 Mitacs Awards event partners and sponsors include: Ciena, Platinum Partner; NRC IRAP, Event Supporter; The Hill Times, Media Partner; Sanofi Pasteur, Gold Sponsor; and Saab, Silver Sponsor.
“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to all the winners, and wholeheartedly thank you for your incredible work to drive Canadian innovation,” said the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. “The Government of Canada understands how important it is to support collaboration between industry and academia, which is why we’ve provided support to Mitacs this year for more than 15,000 internships with $119 million in funding – because projects like these are where the sparks of innovation really start to fly.”
The 2020 Mitacs Award winners are:
Mahdiyeh Hasani , a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Food Safety at University of Guelph, who is earning the Mitacs & NRC-IRAP Award — Commercialization for her work to quickly pivot a decontamination unit originally designed for fresh produce into what may soon be a tool every home can use to sanitize household items against the coronavirus and other germs. Originally adapted by Hasani to sanitize N95 respirators at the start of the pandemic, the unit is now being applied to a range of different items, including gowns, goggles, reusable grocery bags, phones, keyboards, toys, shoes and luggage. The goal is to provide mini sanitization units to long-term care homes, day cares, hospitals, airports, retail businesses, schools and households.
Taylor Jamieson-Datzkiw, a MD-PhD student at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology and the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, who is earning the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation — Indigenous for her work to create new cancer-killing viruses to treat aggressive breast and ovarian cancers when other therapies stop working. The viruses have been shown to overcome resistance to PARP inhibitors, a cancer therapy to which patients often develop resistance.
Ilaria Rubino , a researcher working in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering at University of Alberta who is earning the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation — International for her work to develop a first-of-its-kind face mask capable of killing both viruses and bacteria within five minutes of surface contact. Featuring a unique salt coating, the mask has been shown to effectively kill viruses and bacteria before they have a chance to penetrate the coverings.
Pui Yee Nikkie To , a recent Master of Inclusive Design graduate at OCAD University, who is earning the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation — Master’s for her work to help the more than 74,000 children and youth with special needs by ensuring complex sensory needs are met when designing children’s treatment centres. What’s unique about To’s approach is that it applies sensory attributes such as sight, sound, smell, position and touch in designing the centres.
Audrey Taylor , a researcher in the Department of Chemistry at Simon Fraser University, is earning the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation — PhD in recognition of her work to improve lithium ion batteries needed for electric cars by giving battery developers the tools to ‘see’ inside them. She has developed a high-tech tool that enables rapid testing of the particles inside a lithium ion battery at the nano scale to enable maximum battery performance and longevity.
Mathieu Lapointe , a researcher in the Department of Chemical Engineering at McGill University, is earning the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation — Postdoctoral for his work to remove microplastics during water treatment, ensuring safe drinking water and helping to combat the growing environmental problem of microplastic accumulation in aquatic ecosystems, soils and surface waters.
Pamela Wright a professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management at the University of Northern B.C., is receiving the Mitacs Award for Exceptional Leadership — Professor , for her work to conserve critical Northern lands and key outdoor recreation areas that up until now have been flying under Canada’s conservation radar. One of her projects involves conducting research to help communities, the outdoor recreation industry and governments in B.C. and Alberta understand the impacts of recreation and tourism on their forests, and take steps to identify where and how the public can safely enjoy the outdoors.
Vancouver-based 1QBit Information Technologies Inc. will be receiving the Mitacs Award for Exceptional Leadership — Industry for its pioneering work to advance quantum computers. The company is making breakthrough strides in developing the next evolution of computing software that aims to solve the world’s most challenging and complex problems by employing new types of computing hardware.
“Over the past decade, the Mitacs Awards have grown to become one of Canada’s top research and innovation celebrations,” said Mitacs CEO and Scientific Director John Hepburn. “The awards highlight outstanding examples of industry-academic collaborations and celebrate the remarkable accomplishments of Mitacs interns, as well as industry and academic partners. The collaborations provide immediate and long-term benefits to Canada, helping to drive innovation through this pandemic and build resiliency for future success.”
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