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Constance Backhouse, Sherrill Grace, Frank Hawthorne, Peter St George-Hyslop and Michael Sefton to Receive $100,000 Killam Prizes

by NationTalk on April 29, 2008885 Views

Ottawa, April 29, 2008 – Five prominent scholars from the University of Ottawa, the University of British Columbia, the University of Manitoba and the University of Toronto will be honoured with the 2008 Killam Prizes, Canada’s most distinguished annual awards for outstanding career achievements in engineering, natural sciences, humanities, social sciences and health sciences.The $100,000 awards to Constance Backhouse, Sherrill Grace, Frank C. Hawthorne, Peter St George-Hyslop and Michael Sefton were announced today by the Canada Council for the Arts, which administers the Killam program.

The Killam Prizes were inaugurated in 1981 and financed through funds donated to the Canada Council by Mrs. Dorothy J. Killam in memory of her husband, Izaak Walton Killam. The Prizes were created to honour eminent Canadian scholars and scientists actively engaged in research, whether in industry, government agencies or universities. When the Canada Council was created in 1957, its mandate was to support both the arts and scholarly research; although this changed with the creation of separate research councils, the Canada Council retained responsibility for the Killam program. The Killam Fund at the Canada Council was valued at approximately $70.4 million as of March 31, 2007. The Killam Trusts, which fund scholarship and research at four Canadian universities, a research institute and the Canada Council, are valued at approximately $400 million.

The Canada Council will present the Killam Prizes at a dinner and ceremony on Monday, June 16 at 7 p.m. (ceremony to begin at approximately 9:00 p.m.) at the Vancouver Island Room of the Fairmont Hotel, 900 West Georgia Street in Vancouver. This event is open to the media; to arrange interviews with the winners, contact Donna Balkan at 1-800-263-5588, extension 4134 or Heather McAfee at extension 4523.

Biographical notes

Constance Backhouse – University of Ottawa – Social Sciences

One of Canada’s foremost experts on women and the law and a highly regarded scholar and human rights advocate, University of Ottawa Law Professor Constance Backhouse has garnered many distinctions and awards for her path-breaking writings on sexual harassment in the workplace and other forms of gender and race discrimination.

By showing how systemic inequality can be embedded in legal processes and decision-making, Prof. Backhouse illuminates key social justice themes of the 19th and 20th centuries. Her book The Secret Oppression: Sexual Harassment of Working Women (1979), the first to be published in Canada on this topic (the second in North America), established her reputation and led to a national round of scholarly presentations and public addresses. Her comprehensive description of women’s historical experience in law, Petticoats and Prejudice: Women and Law in 19th Century Canada (1991) won the Willard Hurst Prize in American Legal History. The culmination of her work on racial discrimination in Canadian legal history, Colour-Coded:
A Legal History of Racism in Canada, 1900-1950, was awarded the noted 2002 Joseph Brandt Award.

The University of Ottawa acknowledged Prof. Backhouse’s exceptional contribution to research and teaching by appointing her a University Research Chair and a Distinguished University Professor. Canada’s law fraternity recognized her signal contribution to the legal profession with the Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for outstanding research in law (2006) and election as a “bencher” of the Law Society – an honour accorded few academic lawyers. Prof. Backhouse has also been recognized with a Bora Laskin Human Rights Fellowship (1999), a Jules and Gabrielle Léger Fellowship (2006), and a Trudeau Fellowship (2006). She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Prof. Backhouse holds a BA from the University of Manitoba, an LL.B from Osgoode Hall Law School, and an LL.M from Harvard Law School.

Sherrill E. Grace – University of British Columbia – Humanities
Acclaimed worldwide as a pioneer in Canadian literary studies,

Dr. Sherrill Grace has worked tirelessly to transcend the intellectual boundaries of research and scholarship in culture and the arts through cross-disciplinary collaboration.

In her renowned book Canada and the Idea of North – a synthesis of 150 years of representations of the Canadian North in art, music, fiction, poetry, and drama – she spawned an imaginative conception of “the north” that has become a touchstone in discussions of Canadian identity. In her influential writings – 18 books and over 200 chapters and articles – she has drawn on her vast erudition in such areas as theatre, literature, autobiography, the relationships between literature and the other arts, scholarly publishing and women’s writing to shape new understandings of such towering Canadian figures as Margaret Atwood, Malcolm Lowry and Tom Thomson. In theatre, another major focus, she has written a biography of playwright Sharon Pollock, Making Theatre: A Life of Sharon Pollock; examined connections between drama and expressionism; and organized an international symposium at the University of British Columbia – where she is a professor of English and a Distinguished University Scholar – on the relationships between autobiography and performance. This event produced the co-edited book Theatre and AutoBiography, with contributions from academics and artists.

Dr. Grace’s intellectual and social involvement as scholar, researcher, and teacher – as well as her unflagging experimentalism – has led to an unbroken record of major grants and awards, including a UBC Killam Prize for Graduate Teaching and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada grant to study Canadian representations of war across the arts. Elected to the Royal Society in 1991, she holds significant positions on numerous learned journals and committees and is in constant demand as a speaker around the world.

In addition to a BA from the University of Western Ontario, Dr. Grace holds an MA and a PhD from McGill University.

Frank C. Hawthorne – University of Manitoba – Natural Sciences

One of the world’s foremost Earth scientists, Frank Hawthorne has devoted his career to bringing an arsenal of experimental and theoretical techniques to bear on what were previously intractable problems in the areas of mineralogy, crystallography, and geochemistry.

Dr. Hawthorne’s work on quantitatively predicting mineral stability as a function of chemical bonding at the atomic level has advanced mineralogy beyond traditional descriptive methods. His goal – to combine chemical theory and mathematics with new and innovative ways of understanding minerals – has led to groundbreaking research on crystal structures and crystal chemistry of complex minerals, and to advances in a number of topical areas, including environmental mineralogy (e.g., the disposal of high-level wastes). His numerous books and some 500 papers in scientific journals have resulted in acclamation as the world’s most highly cited geoscientist for the decade 1997-2007.

A philosopher, theorist, experimentalist and respected mentor to young scientists, Dr. Hawthorne has assembled a world-class group of colleagues at the University of Manitoba, where he is a Distinguished Professor of Geological Sciences. He has served with distinction in many professional organizations and contributes to mineralogical societies and symposia worldwide. Dr. Hawthorne has received many awards, including the principal medals for research from the Royal Society of Canada, Mineralogical Association of Canada, Mineralogical Society of Great Britain, and Geological Association of Canada. He was awarded a Canada Research Chair in Crystallography and Mineralogy (2001), an Officer of the Order of Canada (2006), and a Foreign Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (2006).

Dr. Hawthorne holds a B.Sc from Imperial College, London, and a PhD (Geology) from McMaster University.

Peter St George-Hyslop – University of Toronto – Health Sciences

Internationally celebrated for his transformative research into the basic causes and mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases in humans, Dr. St George-Hyslop was the first to dramatically increase our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. St George-Hyslop’s groundbreaking insights into the basic biology of cells and molecules – including the discovery and characterization of a previously unrecognized form of protein processing critical to both embryonic development and to normal aging – have opened up new avenues of research, laying the groundwork for therapies to treat genetically complex brain diseases. His publication citations alone number 9,000. He has also made significant contributions to the understanding of Parkinson’s disease, motor neuron disease, inflammatory bowel disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Dr. St George-Hyslop’s influence extends well beyond the university/hospital community. In addition to his major roles as Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto and at the University of Cambridge, he is also Director of both the Toronto Western Research Institute (Toronto Western Hospital) and the Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases (University of Toronto). He is often invited to speak about Alzheimer’s disease to public audiences. Dr. St George-Hyslop also plays a key role in job creation and in retention of highly skilled workers in Canada’s biotechnology industry. He serves on scientific advisory panels of many Canadian biotech and pharmaceutical companies, as well as on the board of a Canadian venture capital company that supports early-stage biotech companies. He has founded two successful Canadian biotech companies.

In addition to receiving numerous other prestigious international and national awards, Dr. St George-Hyslop was named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (2002), a Fellow of the Royal Society of London (2004) and Member of the Institute of Medicine of the US National Academies of Sciences (2007) – one of only a handful of Canadians to be so honoured.

Dr. St George-Hyslop, who holds an MD degree from the University of Ottawa, did further post-graduate work in internal medicine, neurology and molecular genetics at the University of Toronto and Harvard Medical School.

Michel V. Sefton – University of Toronto – Engineering

An international leader in the area of biomedical engineering, biomaterials and regenerative medicine, University of Toronto Professor Michael Sefton was one of the first to recognize the importance of combining living cells with synthetic substances (polymers) to create artificial organs and tissues – a field now known as tissue engineering.

Dr. Sefton’s lab pioneered the use of biocompatible materials in artificial tissues. His seminal work led to the discovery of therapeutic biomaterials (materials with drug-like qualities) that exploit biological responses

(e.g., blood vessel formation) to create innovative medical devices. His current groundbreaking research into the creation of modular tissue components seeks to create cardiac muscle to treat heart failure and pancreatic tissue to treat diabetes, among other possible applications.

Beyond his pioneering research contributions (including numerous publications, reviews, invited papers, and nine US and international patents), Dr. Sefton has nurtured a network of bioengineering talent that, today, spreads well beyond Toronto. Testament to his visionary leadership has been his active engagement in the commercialization of biotechnology (e.g., he created Rimon Therapeutics Ltd with a graduate student), his development of novel university-industry partnerships (e.g., the Toronto Tissue Engineering Initiative and the proposed Canadian Regenerative Medicine Network) and his direction of the highly respected Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering.

A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, Dr. Sefton serves on a number of major journal editorial boards, on advisory boards for US medical device companies and US and Irish academic centres, and on boards of Canadian organizations and companies.

Dr. Sefton obtained a B.A.Sc (Bachelor of Applied Science) from the University of Toronto and his Sc.D (Doctor of Science) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Corporate sponsor
Promotion of the Killam Prizes is sponsored by Scotiabank Group through support for the awards dinner and celebratory announcements in newspapers across Canada. Scotiabank is committed to supporting the communities in which we live and work, both in Canada and abroad. Recognized as a leader internationally and among Canadian corporations for its charitable donations and philanthropic activities, in 2007 the Bank provided more than $43 million in sponsorships and donations to a variety of projects and initiatives, primarily in the areas of healthcare, education, social services and arts and culture. Visit Scotiabank’s web site.

General information
The Canada Council for the Arts, in addition to its principal role of promoting and fostering the arts in Canada, administers and awards a number of distinguished prizes in the arts, humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, health sciences and engineering. Among these are the Killam Research Fellowships, the Molson Prizes, the John G. Diefenbaker Awards, the Governor General’s Literary Awards, the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts and the Walter Carsen Prizes for Excellence in the Performing Arts.

For more information about these awards and prizes, including nomination procedures, contact Carol Bream, Director of Communications and Director of the Killam Program, at 613-566-4414 or 1-800-263-5588, ext. 5201, or by e-mail; or Janet Riedel Pigott, Acting Director of Endowments and Prizes, at 613-566-4414 or 1-800-263-5588, ext. 5041, or by e-mail.

For more information:
Donna Balkan
Senior Communications Manager
1-800-263-5588 or (613) 566-4414, ext. 4134
Email this contact

Heather McAfee
Acting Public Relations Officer
1-800-263-5588 or (613) 566-4414, ext. 4523
Email this contact

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