Outstanding up-and-coming researchers honoured at 2nd Annual Mitacs Awards Reception

Ottawa – From decreasing patient radiation exposure in CT scans to transforming sugar into biofuel, students across the country are advancing industry innovation, creating new jobs, and transforming the lives of Canadians through their research. On Wednesday evening, the 2nd Annual Mitacs Awards Reception was held to recognize the amazing contributions of these emerging researchers, who are participating in Mitacs programs aimed at fostering research and innovation, as well as forging stronger bonds between academia and businesses across Canada.

Following a keynote speech by the Minister of State for Science and Technology and Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, the Honourable Gary Goodyear, Mitacs highlighted and rewarded five of the most meritorious among the thousands of young researchers who take part in its programs each year.

“Through its continuing efforts to build partnerships across sectors of the Canadian economy, Mitacs does more than facilitate collaboration. It helps shape the landscape of research, development and commercialization, said Minister Goodyear. “Our Government will continue to stand behind every young person who takes his or her first steps toward a science-based career.”

Minister Goodyear was the first to offer congratulations to Lisa-Marie Collimore, a postdoctoral fellow from the University of Toronto at Scarborough who partnered with publishing giant Pearson to conduct research on the potential marketability of a peer- and self-assessment tool called Cogneeto for students in K-12, during her Mitacs-Elevate fellowship. The research led to the rebranding and further development of a former product which is now marketable to every elementary and secondary school in North America.  Ms. Collimore won the Mitacs-IRAP Award for Commercialization.

Next, the Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and the Asia-Pacific Gateway, congratulated Sachin Goel, an Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur undergraduate student who interned with the University of Toronto to conduct research involving the transformation of sugars into biofuel (a novel alternative to conventional fuel) during his Mitacs Globalink internship.  The research resulted in the creation of a strain of E-coli that can utilize sugars simultaneously to efficiently produce Biofuel.  Mr. Goel won the Mitacs Undergraduate Award for Outstanding Research Achievement.

Minister Fast then honoured Oualid Haddad, a University of Guelph postdoctoral fellow from the Department of Integrative biology who conducted research during his Mitacs Elevate fellowship involving the construction of a novel cell stretcher/incubator device that could be used to study the response of live cells to large-scale mechanical strain.  The research led to the completion of a motorized incubator device that now enables researchers to observe live cells for days at a time as they are stretched under a microscope.  This research may help to cure a devastating skin blistering disease called epidermolysis bullosa simplex.  Mr. Haddad received the Mitacs Postdoctoral Award for Outstanding Research Achievement.

This was followed by the Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, recognizing the work of Joanna Triscott, a University of British Columbia graduate student who partnered with BC Children’s Hospital through a Mitacs-Accelerate internship to conduct research involving the personalization of treatment for pediatric brain tumors via the nanoString technique which examines the expression of genes in fixed tissues at nanoscale levels with great accuracy.  Because of this research, BC Children’s Hospital can how examine all new cases of pediatric brain tumors throughout the entirety of Western Canada with precision and accuracy – thus reducing the (often excessive) intensity of treatment for children with cancer while still effectively treating the disease.  Ms. Triscott won the Mitacs Graduate Award for Outstanding Research Achievement.

Finally, the Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of National Revenue, offered congratulations to SayedMasoud Hashemi Amroabadi, a University of Toronto biomaterial and biomedical engineering student who partnered with Toshiba Medical Systems to conduct research on a novel adaptation of the Total Variation minimization image de-noising approach through a Mitacs-Accelerate internship.  The research led to a 78% reduction in image noise which facilitates a corresponding decrease in the patient radiation exposure required for high quality CT images.  Mr. Amroabadi won the Mitacs Award for Novelty in Application.

“Our Government is proud to have invested in Mitacs to facilitate the Globalink, Accelerate and Elevate programs,” said Minister Yelich, who provided closing remarks.  “Tonight’s award recipients are the leaders of tomorrow, and they are strengthening Canada’s international engagement, while fostering commercialization and business innovation.”

“I would like to extend my congratulations to the five up-and-coming researchers highlighted this evening,” said Mitacs CEO and Scientific Director, Dr. Arvind Gupta. “However, we must not overlook the thousands of students at Canadian universities which participate in Mitacs programs each year, all of whom play a vital role in the development of new products, services and technologies which will improve the lives of not only Canadians, but people around the world.”

Mitacs would like to acknowledge the following governments for their partnership: the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, Western Economic Diversification Canada, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the Networks of Centres of Excellence’s Industrial R&D Internship Program, the National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program, the Province of Alberta, the Province of British Columbia, the Province of New Brunswick, the Research and Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Province of Nova Scotia, the Province of Ontario, the Province of Québec, le Fonds de recherche Santé and the Province of Saskatchewan.