Government of Canada

Government of Canada

March 16, 2009 19:00 ET

NSERC Honours Leading Edge University of Toronto Researchers

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 16, 2009) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Minister of State (Science and Technology) Gary Goodyear, and Suzanne Fortier, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), today presented both Dr. Ray Jayawardhana and Dr. Brendan J. Frey (University of Toronto researchers) with a prestigious NSERC E.W.R. Steacie Fellowship.

"I offer my most sincere congratulations to each of the researchers we are here to honour today," said Minister of State Goodyear. "Our government demonstrated our commitment to supporting research and development through Canada's Economic Action Plan. The $5.1 billion investment in science and technology initiatives will ensure that these individuals and the thousands of their associates working in labs, universities and research centres across Canada are encouraged to continue innovating for the benefit of all Canadians."

Astrophysicist Dr. Ray Jayawardhana studies brown dwarfs, which are small stars less than one tenth the size of our sun. In these "failed stars" he finds valuable clues about the mysterious processes of star and planet formation. This research is answering fundamental questions about how stars and planets form and exploring the true diversity of planetary systems, generating knowledge that will place our solar system in context within the wider cosmos.

"Even though, in the past 13 years, there have been 330 planets discovered around other stars, that is just the tip of the iceberg because we are so limited by the techniques and technology available to us. We are really not getting the full picture yet," Dr. Jayawardhana says.

Dr. Brendan Frey specializes in developing mathematical frameworks and computer algorithms that can tease important patterns out of masses of data. Dr. Frey's research team is making fundamental discoveries about how biological systems work and how best to engineer artificial systems to solve challenging data analysis problems. Those discoveries are used in global telecommunications systems and have helped to identify causes of human disease.

"What you really want to find are the unusual patterns-the patterns that are striking," Dr. Frey says. "There might be a tiny pattern in the DNA, maybe one mutation in this sea of data, which could be responsible for a gene not functioning properly."

"Today's award winners are great examples of what Canadian science has achieved and the promise of more world class discoveries in the future," Dr. Fortier said. "Canadians can be very proud of what our researchers are accomplishing."

The Steacie Fellowships enhance the career development of younger scientists who are earning international reputations for their research. Up to six Steacies are presented each year; each two-year fellowship is valued at up to $90,000 per year.

"Scientific research has a major, long-term influence on the success of Canadian society," says Frey. "Because of this award, my graduate students and I are more likely to make scientific breakthroughs."

The NSERC Steacie Fellowships honour the memory of Dr. Edgar William Richard Steacie, an outstanding chemist and research leader who made major contributions to the development of science in Canada. Dr. Steacie believed that young researchers are a great national asset and should be given every opportunity to develop their own ideas. He played an instrumental role in setting the direction of the National Research Council starting in the 1950s.

NSERC is a federal agency whose vision is to help make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for the benefit of all Canadians. The agency supports some 26,500 university students and postdoctoral fellows in their advanced studies. NSERC promotes discovery by funding more than 11,800 university professors every year and fosters innovation by encouraging more than 1,400 Canadian companies to participate and invest in postsecondary research projects.

Contact Information

  • Office of the Minister of State (Science and Technology)
    Gary Toft
    Director of Communications
    Natasha Gauthier
    Senior Advisor, Media Relations