Excellence in Ontario university research honoured as the Polanyi Prizes turn 30

Excellence in Ontario university research honoured as the Polanyi Prizes turn 30

TORONTO,  Nov. 15, 2017 − The Polanyi Prizes celebrate today three decades of recognizing ground-breaking Ontario university research, with the announcement of the five 2017 winners of the prestigious prize honouring Ontario’s Nobel winner, John Polanyi.

Researchers honoured in this 30th-anniversary year include those working on better measurement and treatment of asthma, algorithms to help understand the complex working of proteins in human cells, and the root causes of the gender imbalance in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

“Today’s outstanding winners, like the previous recipients over 30 years of the Polanyi Prizes, demonstrate the truly game-changing research taking place on university campuses across Ontario,” said David Lindsay, President and CEO of the Council of Ontario Universities.

“Researchers at Ontario universities think big, and will continue to think big, in their pursuit of discoveries that advance human knowledge, drive social progress, and create a better future for individuals, the communities we live in, and our province.”

Polanyi Prizes are awarded each year to innovative researchers who are either continuing postdoctoral work or have recently gained a faculty appointment. Each of this year’s winners will receive $20,000 in recognition of their exceptional research in the fields of chemistry, economic science, literature and physiology/medicine.

The 2017 Polanyi Prize winners are:

Chemistry: Dr. Mathieu Lavallée-Adam, Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology, University of Ottawa

Dr. Lavallée-Adam’s algorithms vastly improve the capability of mass spectrometry (a common method for identifying the chemical make-up of a substance) to observe and understand protein interactions in human cells, potentially leading to better drug treatments for a range of diseases, including cystic fibrosis.

Economic Science: Dr. Ismael Mourifié, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, University of Toronto

Dr. Mourifié is analyzing data to determine what barriers, including economic and social, play the greatest role in deterring women from studying STEM subjects and entering related professions.

Physiology/Medicine: Dr. Sarah Svenningsen, CIHR and CRRN Post-Doctoral Fellow, McMaster University and Robarts Research Institute, Western University

Dr. Svenningsen’s research shows that the use of medical imaging and computer programs can dramatically improve asthma measurement and intervention, potentially leading to personalized treatments and better outcomes.

Physiology/Medicine: Dr. Areti Angeliki Veroniki, Postdoctoral Fellow, Li Ka-Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael’s Hospital, University of Toronto

Dr. Veroniki’s research focuses on analysis of individual patient data to improve Knowledge Synthesis – the discipline of synthesizing the results of different medical studies – to better identify which treatments are most effective for different patient types. 

Literature: Dr. Vinh Nguyen, Assistant Professor, Diaspora Literatures and East Asian Studies, Renison University College, University of Waterloo

Dr. Nguyen is researching the shared historical and political connections between three separate refugee waves to Canada in the post-war era, with the aim of dispelling the common myth that refugees tend to be apolitical and passive.

“The Prizes have been celebrating the accomplishments of Ontario’s young scholars for the past 30 years. The province − and those who live in it − have benefited not only from their marvelous discoveries, but also from the clear evidence that Ontario supports fundamental research, now and into the future,” said Dr. John C. Polanyi, University of Toronto. The prizes were created by the Ontario government in 1987 to honour Dr. Polanyi’s achievement in winning the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Deb Matthews, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, said: “It is an honour to recognize the recipients of this year’s 30th-anniversary Polanyi Prizes. Polanyi Prize winners have always represented the best university-based researchers across Ontario, and this year’s group is no exception. These young researchers are reinforcing our province’s reputation as a centre for excellence and innovation, while changing the way we approach key issues that directly affect our people.”

For more information on the work of this year’s winners, click here.

To watch a video celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Polanyi Prizes, click here.


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For further information, please contact:

Wendy McCann
Senior Director, Communications
Council of Ontario Universities
416-979-2165 ext. 233
416-473-4829 (cell)
Email Wendy McCann