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Premier's Discovery Awards Support Ontario's Top Research Talent

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Premier's Discovery Awards Support Ontario's Top Research Talent

The Premier's Discovery Awards celebrate the research excellence of Ontario's most accomplished researchers by highlighting their individual achievements and demonstrating Ontario's attractiveness as a global research centre.

Nominees are evaluated on the impact of their work and its contributions to Ontario's economy and society, and the extent of their international recognition.

This awards program recognizes excellence in research for either a single discovery or a body of work in four categories:

  • Life Sciences and Medicine ($500,000)
  • Natural Sciences and Engineering ($500,000)
  • Social Sciences and Humanities ($250,000)
  • Innovation Leadership ($250,000)

The launch of next year's awards program will also include an Arts and Humanities category to recognize achievement in the study of arts and culture.

The Premier's Innovation Awards recognize and reward Ontario's top researchers and innovators that are successfully turning global challenges into better healthcare, a cleaner environment and Ontario's next generation of jobs.


Life Sciences and Medicine

Dr. Lewis E. Kay
University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario

Dr. Lewis Kay is a brilliant scientist with an international reputation in the field of biomolecular nuclear magnetic resonance, a technology that uses magnetic fields to study the structures of medically important molecules by measuring how these structures change over time due to molecular interactions. Dr. Kay is an accomplished biochemist and has been instrumental in developing new three and four dimensional nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) methods. Dr. Kay's work has revolutionized the field, making it possible for scientists to understand the components of individual molecules. His discoveries are providing new insights into how living systems grow and develop. They also improve techniques for protecting those systems, leading to knowledge about how to prevent illness. The methods developed by Dr. Kay are in use in biological NMR laboratories around the world, including labs researching illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Natural Sciences and Engineering

Dr. Raymond Laflamme
University of Waterloo
Waterloo, Ontario

Dr. Raymond Laflamme is internationally recognized as one of the world's leading quantum information scientists. His study of quantum computers, devices that store and process information at the level of individual atoms, has revolutionized the field. Dr. Laflamme studied at Cambridge University under the direction of renowned physicist Stephen Hawking. He returned to Canada in 2001 to establish the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo and as founding member of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. Dr. Laflamme has developed methods to counteract the effects of errors in quantum computing, resulting in his development of the world's largest functioning quantum computer. These types of advances in quantum computing will significantly increase computational speeds and allow for the processing of large amounts of data. Dr. Laflamme's contribution has led Ontario to world leadership in an area that holds extraordinary promise for the future.

Social Sciences and Humanities

Dr. Shana Poplack
University of Ottawa
Ottawa, Ontario

World-renowned sociolinguist Shana Poplack studies the languages spoken in bilingual and minority-language communities across Canada. Her unique laboratory, one of the most dynamic and productive in the world, houses thousands of recordings of everyday speech in French, English and many other languages. The first to scientifically analyze the universal linguistic strategies of bilinguals, Dr. Poplack discovered that switching between languages is a skill. She demonstrated that the borrowing of English words into French and vice-versa does not alter the underlying grammatical structure of either language. A prolific and highly respected scholar, Dr. Poplack has written numerous influential papers and books, trained a whole generation of sociolinguists and is in great demand as a lecturer worldwide.

Innovation Leadership

Dr. F. Stuart Foster
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
Toronto, Ontario

Dr. F. Stuart Foster's research program focuses on the development of micro imaging systems that allow scientists to study models for diseases such as glaucoma, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. His work is fundamental in enhancing our understanding of developmental biology, speeding the development of new drugs and therapies, and creating new tools for image-guided health research. His technological developments demonstrate an original and distinctive way of combining engineering physics  with a diagnostic focus. Knowledge gained from preclinical tests using this new imaging technology ensures faster, more effective transfer of leading-edge therapeutics to human clinical trials. Dr. Foster's research and its successful commercialization have transformed preclinical imaging worldwide, and will continue to have a far-reaching impact on global health care by allowing new drugs and therapies to be tested more accurately and efficiently.

Quick Facts

  • The Premier’s Innovation Awards are made up of three prestigious awards programs – the Catalyst, Discovery and Summit Awards – that support and promote ideas and discoveries that build on Ontario’s innovation strengths.
  • Last year’s Discovery Award recipients were Dr. Spencer Barrett, Dr. Andreas Mandelis, Dr. Regna Darnell and Dr. Aaron Fenster.
  • Ontario has an international reputation for research excellence in the medical and related sciences, supported by 25 research and academic hospitals employing 10,000 scientists, clinical investigators and other researchers conducting $850 million in research annually.

Additional Resources


“The Discovery Awards program highlights the importance of innovation leadership to the future economic growth of the province of Ontario. The Award provided to me last year, has allowed us to attract and fund top graduate students and support their development into innovators and leaders of tomorrow.”

Dr. Aaron Fenster

Robarts Research Institute, Recipient of the Premier’s Discovery Award for Innovation Leadership in 2007 Dr. Aaron Fenster

“The Premier’s Discovery Award in Life Sciences and Medicine has transformed my research on the evolutionary genetics of invasive plants. It has enabled me to approach difficult and long-standing questions from an entirely new perspective using modern genomic tools. The student and post-doctoral support made possible through the award has strengthened my research team and has also led to new synergisms.”

Dr. Spencer Barrett

University of Toronto, Recipient of the Premier’s Discovery Award for Life Sciences and Medicine in 2007 Dr. Spencer Barrett

“Ontario’s new suite of high-level awards has been invaluable in helping us recognize and retain our best and brightest and will also be a recruitment tool in the years to come. The award recipients are examples of the extraordinary talent we are fortunate to have here in Ontario.”

Dr. David Naylor

President, University of Toronto