From bionic ears to brain-injury blood tests, annual awards recognize innovators

Ottawa, ON Members of the innovation community convened at the 2018 Mitacs Awards to recognize five researchers for their groundbreaking work. Their innovations advance fuel cells, mental health and medical diagnosis, work-site safety, and improve quality-of-life for persons with spinal-cord injuries.

The annual ceremony honours the work of outstanding participants in Mitacs’s collaborative research internship programs. Three leaders in the academic and business communities were also recognized for their contributions to a more sustainable and prosperous Canada.

Following remarks by the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport and Her Honour, the Honourable Lois E. Mitchell, CM, AOE, LLD, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta; members of the innovation and research community celebrated the winners, who are among thousands of talented researchers that take part in Mitacs’s programs each year.

This year’s event marked the start of the organization’s 20th anniversary.

The recipients of the 2018 Mitacs awards are:

Mitacs & NRC-IRAP Award for Commercialization
Rachel Bouserhal developed a novel, noise-cancelling, digital ear plug programmed with an advanced voice-quality algorithm to enhance communication between workers at loud industrial sites such as airports. Her research was commercialized in partnership with EERS Global Technologies of Montreal. She is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at École de Technologie Supérieure.

Watch the video interview.

Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation Undergraduate
Xiaoran Zhang contributed to advancing artificial intelligence research applied to MRI models of the heart while on a Mitacs Globalink Research Internship at the University of Alberta’s Department of Radiology and Diagnostic Imaging. He is an undergraduate researcher from the Beijing Institute of Technology, China.

Watch the video.

Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation — Master’s
Emily Giroux helped improve quality of life for those with spinal cord injuries by connecting them with researchers and policymakers using a knowledge-translation approach to build consensus on priorities for research and care. Her research was conducted with Spinal Cord Injury Ontario and the Ontario SCI Alliance. She is a master’s student in the School of Health and Exercise Science at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan campus.

Watch the video interview.

Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation — PhD
Lyna Kamintsky developed a technology to more accurately diagnose brain and eye-vein injuries. This technology, developed in partnership with Halifax start-up Emagix, could ultimately lead to more targeted, personalized treatments for preventing sight loss in people with diabetes as well as new therapies to treat traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other neurological conditions.  Lyna is a PhD student in the Department of Diagnostic Radiology at Dalhousie University. The award was sponsored by Element AI.

Watch the video interview.

Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation — Postdoctoral
Paul Addo developed a novel technology that captures, stores, and transforms carbon dioxide into fuel and chemical products. The research was conducted in partnership with Alberta-based ATCO. He is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Calgary.

Watch the video interview.

Mitacs Award for Exceptional Leadership — Professor
Scott Hinch devised state-of-the-art tracking and monitoring research of small fish in support of conservation efforts for wild Pacific salmon in collaboration with the Pacific Salmon Foundation, St’át’imc Eco Resources, and BC Hydro. Dr. Hinch is a professor in the Forest and Conservation Sciences Department at the University of British Columbia. The award was sponsored by Ciena.

Watch the video interview.

Mitacs Award for Exceptional Leadership — Professor
Sébastien Tremblay improves urban security systems and gaming, and other digital technologies using cognitive psychology research. A professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences at Université Laval, he works in collaboration with Thales, Ubisoft, and other Quebec companies. The award was sponsored by Ciena.  

Watch the video interview.

Mitacs Award for Exceptional Leadership — Industry
Hydrogen In Motion, a Vancouver-based clean energy start-up, earned a Mitacs Award for developing and commercializing a breakthrough material that economically and efficiently stores hydrogen. The new material makes hydrogen a viable alternative to carbon-emitting fuels. Hydrogen In Motion CEO Grace Quan accepted the award on behalf of the company.

Watch the video interview.


Alejandro Adem, Chief Executive Officer and Scientific Director, Mitacs

“These award winners embody the magic that happens when companies and researchers collaborate to tackle the issues that affect Canadians every day. Not only do their breakthroughs address fundamental questions in health, energy, and environment, they advance solutions that bring prosperity for us all. We are so proud of the innovations we have enabled over the past 20 years and look forward to a very bright future.”

The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Government of Canada

“Mitacs is equipping Canadians with the tools, skills and experiences they need to contribute to a strong and growing economy, and those awarded tonight are new examples of the success of Mitacs’s programs. Building on the success we have had so far through our partnerships, our government announced in the Fall Economic Statement an additional $7 million over five years to Mitacs to expand its International Incubators Internships program and help more Canadians succeed in the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, Government of Canada

“The talented individuals being honoured today represent the mobilization of the best and brightest from all disciplines and all sectors to address the most pressing social, economic and environmental challenges of our times. In the process, they have helped grow our economy and improve the standard of living and quality of life for Canadians.”

David Lametti, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Government of Canada

“Over the last 20 years, Mitacs has helped students, graduates, professors and businesses make their research projects successful, and these award winners are perfect examples of the tremendous results we can get when we work together. Congratulations to tonight’s award winners!”


About Mitacs:

  • Mitacs is a not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and innovation in Canada for business and academia.
  • Working with more than 60 universities, thousands of companies, and federal and provincial governments, Mitacs builds partnerships that support industrial and social innovation in Canada.
  • Mitacs is funded by the Government of Canada and each of the provinces, as well as Canadian universities and international partners.
  • The 8th annual Mitacs Awards are sponsored by the Ciena, Element AI, Sanofi Pasteur, Shaw Centre/Ottawa Tourism, Startup Canada, and Trojan Technologies, in conjunction with event supporter the National Research Council of Canada, and media partner, The Hill Times.


Photo (left to right): The recipients and dignitaries present at the 2018 Mitacs Awards, including Paul Addo, University of Calgary; Grace Quan, Hydrogen In Motion; Lyna Kamintsky, Dalhousie University; Alejandro Adem, Mitacs; the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport; Rachel Bouserhal, École de Technologie Supérieure; Emily Giroux, University of British Columbia – Okanagan; and Professor Sébastien Tremblay, Université Laval.