U of T makes impressive showing in Royal Society honours

Sub-title: 
Three medalists, one award winner, nine fellows celebrated by prestigious scholarly society
Author: 
Jenny Hall

U of T made an impressive showing in this year’s Royal Society of Canada honours. Three scholars won medals, one took home a research award and nine more have joined the ranks of the nation’s premier scholarly society as fellows.

The Royal Society of Canada (RSC) comprises the Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada. Its mission is to recognize scholarly, research and artistic excellence, to advise governments and organizations, and to promote a culture of knowledge and innovation in Canada.

Stephen Clarkson of the Department of Political Science won the Konrad Adenauer Research Award, which promotes academic collaboration between Canada and the Federal Republic of Germany. Clarkson is working with colleagues at Berlin’s Free University on how norms and institutions privileging foreign corporations’ investments are entrenched and resisted in Europe, North America and South America.

Nick Eyles of the Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences at U of T Scarborough won the McNeil Medal for the Public Awareness of Science, given to a scholar who has demonstrated outstanding ability to promote and communicate science to students and to the public. Eyles was cited for his work as host of CBC’s Geologic Journey – World, and for writing general interest books about geology.

Ray Jayawardhana of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics won the Rutherford Memorial Medal in Physics, given for outstanding research in physics and chemistry. He was cited as a leader in the study of extra-solar planets, brown dwarfs and young stars. Using the world’s largest telescopes, he is furthering our understanding of the origin, evolution and diversity of planetary systems.

Douglas W. Stephan of the Department of Chemistry won the Henry Marshall Tory Medal, given for outstanding research in any branch of chemistry, astronomy, mathematics, physics or an allied science. Stephan’s research group has developed commercial catalysts for polymerization, hydrogenation and metathesis. In recent years the group has uncovered the concept of “frustrated Lewis pairs,” a dramatic paradigm-shifting breakthrough permitting the use of simple main group compounds in metal-free hydrogenation and hydroamination catalysis.

“It’s unprecedented for U of T researchers to win four RSC medals and awards in a single year,” said Professor Paul Young, U of T’s vice-president (research and innovation). This fantastic showing—and the fact that these honours recognize a remarkable breadth of scholarship—is testimony to the enduring excellence and impact of our research community.”

In addition, nine researchers were honoured with fellowship in the RSC, bringing to 351 U of T’s total number of RSC inductees since 1980.

“Fellowship in the Royal Society of Canada is a great honour for a researcher,” said Young, himself a RSC fellow and medalist. “It recognizes excellence in creativity and discovery and outstanding scholarship that is contributing to knowledge and progress. My congratulations to this year’s new fellows.”

Young also noted that U of T’s 351 fellows represent the society’s largest contingent among Canadian universities. “I’m delighted that University of Toronto research has been cited consistently over the years as worthy of recognition by the RSC,” he said.

The 2013 fellows are:

Jonathan Abbatt, Department of Chemistry:  Abbatt is recognized worldwide as a leader in atmospheric chemistry. He applies state-of-the-art experimental methods to study how aerosol particles promote cloud formation and interact with atmospheric gases, leading to improved model predictions of stratospheric ozone depletion, global and urban pollution and climate change. His work bridges the atmospheric science and chemistry communities, and provides a firm foundation for quantitative assessments of societally-important environmental phenomena.

Emanuel Adler, Department of Political Science: Adler is one of the world’s foremost scholars of international relations. He is a leader of the field’s “constructivist” approach, which successfully challenged the field’s dominant paradigms, a program-builder and a dedicated teacher and mentor. His scholarship is theoretically ambitious, empirically rigorous and intellectually pluralistic, which explains why he is among the three most widely-cited international relations scholars in Canada. 

Jutta Brunnée, Faculty of Law: Brunnée is among the world’s most influential scholars in international environmental law, international law and international legal theory. She has made groundbreaking contributions to the understanding of environmental treaty design, including lawmaking and compliance processes, and international climate change law. Her award-winning work on “interactional law” advances a novel theory of international legal obligation and offers profound new insights into how international law influences international actors.

Joseph Heath, Department of Philosophy, Centre for Ethics and School of Public Policy and Governance: Heath is an international leader in political philosophy and the theory of rationality, as well as one of Canada’s leading public intellectuals. He has made fundamental contributions in two areas: the understanding of the relations between rationality, morality and culture, and the foundations of business ethics. 

Ato Quayson, Department of English: Quayson is internationally acknowledged as one of the most prolific, influential and innovative Africanists. His large body of work—five single-authored monographs, six edited and co-edited collections and over 40 essays—extends from African studies to other fields, including disability studies, diaspora and transnationalism studies, urban studies and postcolonial theory. He is the founding director of the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies.

Katherine Siminovitch, Department of Immunology: Siminovitch’s discoveries of genetic and molecular pathways underpinning immunologic diseases have elucidated new paradigms of signal transduction and cell biology, illuminating the mechanisms whereby selected classes of signal transducting effectors link extracellular stimuli to cytoskeletal-driven cell responses or to the attenuation of cell responses required for homeostasis. Her discoveries of molecular pathways responsible for autoimmune disease have also profoundly advanced understanding and potential to ameliorate these common debilitating diseases.

Sali A. Tagliamonte, Department of Linguistics: Tagliamonte’s rich and unique array of firsthand studies of language variation and change has played a major role in advancing the theory and techniques of Sociolinguistics worldwide. Her analyses of African-American varieties, British, Northern Irish and Canadian dialects, as well as child, teen, television and internet language have galvanized a new generation of scholars. She is also the author of acclaimed monographs in sociolinguistic research and methodology.

Evan Thompson, Department of Philosophy: Thompson, on leave from U of T for a year, is a central figure in modern understandings of the nature of consciousness. His groundbreaking work brings perspectives from phenomenology, cognitive science and Buddhism to bear on what has been described as the most difficult problem in the philosophy of mind.

Andrei K. Yudin, Department of Chemistry: Yudin is an internationally renowned scholar who has created new molecules that serve as powerful tools for chemical synthesis. His concept of “forced orthogonality” has enabled the development of entirely new classes of compounds, previously thought to be too unstable to be used as practical reagents. Yudin has also been active in translating these fundamental discoveries into applications that impact the fields of chemistry, biology and medicine.