Polanyi Prizes Celebrate Five Ontario Researchers for their Outstanding Achievements

Five of Ontario’s brightest researchers to receive prestigious Polanyi Prizes honouring Nobel winner

2015 John Charles Polanyi Prize

Today five researchers from a number of Ontario’s leading universities will be awarded the 2015 Polanyi Prize for advancements in research that could, among other things, predict which populations are most at risk of committing violent offences, enable innovations for solar and lighting technologies, and lead to a more personalized approach in the treatment of common diseases.

“It is a great honour to be given the opportunity to recognize the amazing contributions of these emerging researchers,” says Patrick Deane, Chair of the Council of Ontario Universities (COU), President of McMaster University, and the 1988 winner of the Polanyi Prize for Literature.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is to encourage the next generation of researchers as they continue to expand the boundaries of knowledge and work to improve the lives of many.”

Polanyi Prizes are given each year to five exceptional young 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 contributions and accomplishments in the fields of Physics, Chemistry and Physiology or Medicine.

The winners of the 2015 Polanyi Prizes and the areas of research for which they are being honoured are:

Physiology/Medicine: Through the examination of Swedish national registries, Kelly Babchishin, Royal’s Institute of Mental Health Research (University of Ottawa), is recognized for research that seeks to determine whether violent behaviour can be predicted. She believes that if we know the why, then we can better prevent violence and reduce the number of people affected by it.

Physics: Riccardo Comin, University of Toronto, wins for research that is shining new light on emerging materials that could clear the way for cheaper and more efficient solar cells and LEDs. His goal: to reveal the secrets behind the exceptional performance of perovskites, and use this information to envision and design improved solar materials.

Chemistry: Believing that since everyone has a different experience with disease, they should be treated accordingly by health care practitioners, Adam Shuhendler, University of Ottawa, is recognized for his research which examines the therapy response to common diseases and takes a personalized approach to the study of treatment.

Physiology/Medicine: Recognizing that no two knees, hips or joints are the same, Matthew Teeter, Western University, wins for research that explores better ways to design and evaluate hip, knee, and shoulder replacement implants through the use of micro-imaging scans, moving X-rays, and wearable sensor technologies.

Chemistry: Benoit Lessard, University of Ottawa, takes the prize for research that looks at the impact that moisture, oxygen and other gases such as carbon dioxide can have on organic electronics. His research aims to discover new insights that could lead to a new generation of bendable, smart, highly specific and tunable organic electronic sensors.

Bonnie M. Patterson, President and CEO of COU, recognizes the importance of promoting and encouraging the work being done by thousands of researchers across the province.

“These winners are true ambassadors for academic excellence, problem-solving and innovation,” says Patterson.

“We will continue to celebrate the tremendous breadth and value of the research being conducted on campuses and in laboratories across Ontario and how this work affects everyday life, both now – and in the future.”

The Polanyi prizes are created and funded by the Ontario government and are administrated by COU. The winners will be presented with their awards at a ceremony at the University of Toronto’s Massey College at 11:15 am.

For more information on the research recognized by the Polanyi Prizes, click here.

Additional quotes:

“My warmest congratulations to this year’s Polanyi Prize recipients. This prestigious award recognizes exemplary researchers who have made impressive contributions to their fields at the start of their career. Their innovative work is an excellent reminder of why it is so important to support our researchers – because their work is helping improve the lives of everyday Ontarians, while creating a dynamic business climate.  Congratulations once again, I look forward to seeing what you accomplish in the years to come.” – Reza Moridi, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities and Minister of Research and Innovation

“For almost thirty years, the Polanyi Prizes have celebrated the province’s most talented researchers, faithfully – and correctly – believing that Ontario can cultivate the next generation of Nobel Prize winners. Thank you to the province for valuing the free inquiry that must precede every great discovery.” – Dr. John C. Polanyi, Nobel Laureate, Chemistry


COU is the voice of Ontario’s universities, promoting the value of education, research and innovation that leads to social, cultural and economic success.

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For further information, please contact:

Wendy McCann
Director, Strategic Communications and Media Relations
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