Up-and-coming researchers honoured for breakthrough discoveries at 7th annual Mitacs Awards

Ottawa, ON — Five researchers from across Canada were recognized last night for their innovative efforts to transform the lives of Canadians. Their contributions include research to stop cancer from spreading, helping elite athletes overcome sleep disturbances, and making Canada’s heavy oil recovery process more efficient.

The innovators were recognized at the 7th annual Mitacs Awards, which honours the work of outstanding participants in Mitacs’ research and training programs.

Following remarks by the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, Mitacs celebrated the exceptional researchers, who are among the thousands of leaders taking part in its programs each year.

Mitacs & National Research Council-IRAP Award for Commercialization: Amy Bender, a postdoctoral fellow from the Faculty of Kinesiology at the University of Calgary. During her Mitacs internship with the Centre for Sleep and Human Performance (CSHP), Amy developed a first-of-its-kind online tool that accurately identifies sleep disturbances in elite athletes and recommends effective treatment plans, ultimately improving their athletic performance.

Mitacs Undergraduate Award for Outstanding Innovation: Houssem Zouaghi, from Tunisia’s Higher Institute of Multimedia Arts of Manouba. Houssem spent the summer of 2016 at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC, through Mitacs’ Globalink program. Under the supervision of Professor Andrew Park in the Department of Computing Science, Houssem designed an adaptive crowd-control simulator for police and counterterrorism efforts. His simulator could one day help police to plan counterterrorism tactics in the event of riots, or to train officers in effective crowd control measures.

Mitacs Master’s Award for Outstanding Innovation: Justine Behan, a graduate of the Ingram School of Nursing at McGill University. With support from a Mitacs award, Justine conducted an ethnographic study aimed at improving the lives of children living with cancer in India. Her work involved collecting data at three different study sites in New Delhi to better understand how young cancer patients participate in health-related decisions. Justine’s project provided much-needed empirical findings to spearhead childhood ethics research in India that is specific to pediatric oncology.

Mitacs PhD Award for Outstanding Innovation: Caitlin Miron, a PhD student in the Department of Chemistry at Queen’s University. In collaboration with the European Institute of Chemistry and Biology in France, and with support from a Mitacs award, Caitlin broke new ground in the biochemistry world with her discovery of a DNA binder that could ‘switch off’ cancer cells and prevent them from spreading. Her finding is expected to be ready for licensing by pharmaceutical companies within two to five years.

Mitacs Postdoctoral Award for Outstanding Innovation: Qingwang Yuan, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Regina’s Department of Engineering. While undertaking a Mitacs fellowship with the Saskatchewan Research Council, Qingwang developed a computer model that significantly improves the enhanced oil recovery process, allowing oil companies to recover the most oil possible from large reservoirs. By applying novel mathematical equations and algorithms, Qingwang’s model accurately simulates what’s happening when the solvent meets the heavy oil, giving oil companies the information they need to make the recovery process more efficient.

Two leaders in the academic and business communities, respectively, were also recognized for their contributions to innovation in Canada.

Mitacs Professor Award for Outstanding Leadership: Steve Liu, from the School of Computer Science at McGill University. Professor Liu was recognized his strong commitment, outstanding leadership, and exceptional talent to merge industry with academic research. Through a Mitacs project with Aerial Technologies, Professor Liu led a group of graduate students on the research and development of device-free, human activity recognition technologies using standard Wi-Fi signals. The research achievements contributed largely to the establishment and growth of Aerial Technologies, and helped the company raise more than two million dollars in funding to accelerate the commercialization of their technologies.

Mitacs Industry Award for Outstanding Leadership: OPAL-RT TECHNOLOGIES for its contributions in creating opportunities for fostering Canadian innovation through industry-university collaborations in the technology sector. Since 2013, Mitacs and OPAL-RT have partnered with McGill University, Polytechnique Montréal, Université de Sherbrooke, and Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières on Mitacs research internships. In collaboration with Mitacs, OPAL-RT is helping to foster a new approach to Canadian industrial R&D.


Alejandro Adem, Chief Executive Officer and Scientific Director, Mitacs

“Mitacs is passionate about creating a more innovative Canada through our partnerships with academia and industry. These award winners represent the best and brightest minds across our country whose work is at the leading edge of their respective fields. Mitacs is honoured to provide a platform to help facilitate research that strengthens networks, improves economic performance, and creates jobs.”  

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

“Our government is committed to giving students the skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow.  We’re proud to support the Mitacs internships, which give students the opportunity to solve real-world business problems, strengthen innovation in Canada and create a more talented, job-ready workforce. Congratulations to all the award winners!”

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

 “The annual Mitacs Awards celebrate the some of the very best people in Canadian research and innovation. This event allows us to recognize their outstanding leadership and achievements that pave the way to new discoveries, innovations, and opportunities. I want to congratulate all of the students receiving this year’s awards and I look forward to their many future successes in science.”


About Mitacs

Mitacs is a national, not-for-profit organization that has designed and delivered research and training programs in Canada for 18 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 Government of Canada, along with Alberta Innovates, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Quebec, and the Government of Saskatchewan invest in Mitacs research.

The 7th Mitacs Awards are sponsored by the Consortium for Aerospace Research and Innovation in Canada (CARIC), Intertask Conferences, Pure Technologies, Sanofi Pasteur, Shaw Centre/Ottawa Tourism, and Trojan Technologies, in conjunction with event supporter National Research Council Canada, and media partner, The Hill Times.

Photo: The recipients and dignitaries present at the 2017 Mitacs Awards, including Alejandro Adem, Mitacs; Professor Steve Liu, McGill University; Amy Bender, University of Calgary; Caitlin Miron, Queen’s University; Houssem Zouaghi, Higher Institute of Multimedia Arts of Manouba; Justine Behan, McGill University; Jean-Nicolas Paquin, OPAL-RT TECHNOLOGIES; Qingwang Yuan, University of Regina; Mona Nemer, Chief Science Advisor, Government of Canada; and Diane Gray, Chair, Board of Directors, Mitacs.