Canada's up-and-coming innovators honoured at 5th annual Mitacs Awards
Ottawa, ON – Six researchers from across Canada were recognized last night for their efforts to advance innovation and transform the lives of Canadians. Their contributions range from enhancing children’s literacy and discovering new galaxies to uncovering cancer-fighting natural remedies. The innovators were recognized at the 5th annual Mitacs Awards, which honours the work of outstanding participants in Mitacs’ research and training programs.
Following a keynote speech by the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, Mitacs celebrated the exemplary young researchers, who are among the thousands of leaders taking part in its programs each year.
Mitacs Postdoctoral Award for Outstanding Innovation
Pamela Ovadje, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at University of Windsor. While undertaking a Mitacs Accelerate internship with Advanced Orthomolecular Research, a Calgary-based supplement formulator, Pamela helped revolutionize the field of natural health research by scientifically validating the anti-cancer properties of several plant extracts.
She successfully demonstrated that cancer patients may benefit from dandelion root and long pepper extracts when they are used as therapeutic interventions to treat some forms of highly aggressive cancer, including blood, colon, and pancreatic cancers. Pamela’s findings have since led Health Canada to approve human clinical trials.
Mitacs PhD Award for Outstanding Innovation
George Conidis, a PhD student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at York University. In collaboration with Dr. Michael Richer of the Observatorio Astronómico Nacional and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México with support from a Mitacs Globalink Research Award, George discovered 174 outer-lying groups of galaxies similar to our own, for the first time.
George combined observations from a telescope with leading-edge computer technology, such as big data analytics and pattern recognition, to solve problems that have perplexed astronomers for years.
Mitacs Master’s Award for Outstanding Innovation (two recipients)
Hugo Vihvelin, a master’s student in the School of Biomedical Engineering at Dalhousie University. In partnership with Halifax-based Daxsonics Ultrasound, Hugo undertook a Mitacs Accelerate internship to design smaller and more efficient electronics for use in ultrasound-based therapies. Typical ultrasound devices, made with silicone, can be large and cumbersome for medical applications such as physical therapy or cancer treatment. Under the supervision of Professor Robert Adamson, Hugo discovered a suitable alternative to silicone that offers superior performance while making the size of the device appropriate for use in therapy. His research led Daxsonics to patent the technology and design a new product which can be sold for medical applications worldwide.
Mitacs Master’s Award for Outstanding Innovation (two recipients)
Gabriel Gagnon-Turcotte, a master’s student in the Department of Electrical Engineering at Université Laval. During a Mitacs Accelerate internship with Doric Lenses, Gabriel developed a revolutionary new device for use in studies of the brain. The device allows researchers to study the brain circuitry of laboratory animals in real-time and provides rich information that could lead to new insights in the treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Mitacs Undergraduate Award for Outstanding Innovation
Alberto Solis Serrano, from Mexico’s Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León. He spent the summer of 2015 at the University of Alberta through the Mitacs Globalink program. Under the supervision of Professor Patricio Mendez in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, Alberto successfully developed a series of mathematical equations that bridge theoretical predictions with experimental results in the development of friction-stir welding (FSW) technology.
FSW is a welding technology used to manufacture space shuttles, navy combat ships, jumbo jets, and high-speed trains. It is unique in that, unlike traditional welding techniques, it does not use heat to melt the materials together. This creates a stronger, more robust weld that can withstand extreme conditions demanded by these high technology vehicles. Alberto’s research will be published in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Journal of Heat Transfer.
Mitacs & National Research Council-IRAP Award for Commercialization
Prune Lieutier, a PhD graduate from the School of Media Studies and Practical Arts at the Université du Québec à Montréal. During her Mitacs Accelerate research project with Éditions André Fontaine, Prune created an interactive tool for children aged 3–8 years to incorporate music, sound and animations into digitized educational books. Involving the child in the development of the book through the interactive tool enhances their learning and contributes to an enriched reading experience. The project led Éditions André Fontaine and Prune to co-found a new company, Boîte à Pitons, in order to design, produce, and market interactive digital experiences for young readers based on Prune’s technology.
Two leaders in the business and academic communities, respectively, are also recognized for their contributions to innovation in Canada.
Mitacs Industry Award for Outstanding Leadership
Montreal-based startup incubator TandemLaunch for its contributions in creating opportunities for Canada’s next generation of entrepreneurs. Founded by former Mitacs Accelerate intern Helge Seetzen, TandemLaunch supports the development of new start-ups based out of technologies created at four Montreal-area universities.
Since 2011, TandemLaunch has incorporated Mitacs internships within their incubation program, allowing the companies to build on their research capacity and grow into profitable enterprises. TandemLaunch encourages start-ups to incorporate research and development into their growth strategies, keeping them at the cutting edge of their respective industries. Graduates of the TandemLaunch program include Montreal-area companies Mirametrix, MixGenius, AlgoLux, and SportLogIQ.
Mitacs Professor Award for Outstanding Leadership
Simon Barnabé, a professor from the Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Physics at Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières for his instrumental role in fostering research collaborations between industry and academia in Trois-Rivières. Having initiated and supervised many Mitacs Accelerate internships in recent years. Professor Barnabé has built strong research collaborations with over a dozen Quebec companies, as well as other non-academic partners in research.
His work fostering these relationships has contributed to enhanced relations between his university and industry in Quebec, and has been instrumental in growing the careers of his many students both in and out of the lab. The award honours his deep commitment, outstanding leadership, and talent to merge industry with academic research.
Alejandro Adem, Chief Executive Officer and Scientific Director, Mitacs
“We congratulate all of the award recipients, each of whom plays a vital role in advancing our country through the development of new products, services, and technologies. They are true ambassadors for all that we stand for at Mitacs, including effective leadership, strong problem-solving skills, and the insight to turn complex research challenges into life-changing discoveries.”
Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, Government of Canada
“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I congratulate all of the Mitacs awards recipients. Their accomplishments are inspiring and I applaud their success in putting knowledge and good ideas to work.”
Mitacs is a national, not-for-profit organization that has designed and delivered research and training programs in Canada for 15 years. Working with 60 universities, thousands of companies, and both federal and provincial governments, we build partnerships that support industrial and social innovation in Canada. For more information on Mitacs, visit www.mitacs.ca.
The 5th Mitacs Awards are sponsored by Sanofi Pasteur and supported by media partners, the Hill Times and Embassy.
Photo (left to right): Prof. Simon Barnabé, Université du Quebec à Trois-Rivières; George Conidis, York University; Matthew Smith, TandemLaunch; Prune Lieutier, Université du Québec à Montréal; Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, Government of Canada; Pamela Ovadje, University of Windsor; Hugo Vihvelin, Dalhousie University; Gabriel Gagnon-Turcotte, Université Laval; Alejando Adem, Mitacs
Mitacs gratefully acknowledges the support of the Government of Canada, the Networks of Centres of Excellence's Industrial Research and Development Internship Program, the National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and Western Economic Diversification Canada, along with Alberta Innovates Technology Futures, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland & Labrador, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Quebec, and the Government of Saskatchewan.