Ontario Newsroom

Premier's Discovery Awards

Archived Backgrounder

Premier's Discovery Awards

The Premier's Discovery Awards celebrate Ontario's most accomplished researchers, highlighting their individual achievements and showcasing 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, as well as the extent of their international recognition. Award funding is used for research-related expenses.

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

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


Life Sciences and Medicine

Dr. John Smol
Queen's University

Dr. John Smol has spent his career studying the effects of humans and nature on aquatic ecosystems using the information contained in lake sediments. This branch of science is called paleolimnology and Dr. Smol is considered to be a world leader in its development. His innovative approaches have provided important insights into acid rain, climate change, biodiversity, fisheries, contaminant transport and other lake and river management issues, and led to the development of applications for effective ecosystem management. In recognition of his outstanding scientific influence, Dr. Smol has been honoured with over 30 national and international awards, spanning the fields of biology, environmental and aquatic science.

Natural Sciences and Engineering

Dr. Paul Corkum
University of Ottawa

It was Dr. Paul Corkum's high school physics teacher who inspired him to become a scientist with the concept that for an equation to be correct, the dimensions must balance. From that moment on Dr. Corkum was hooked on physics. Today he's recognized as one of the top physicists in the world, and is best known as the father of attosecond science, one of the major advances in optical science in the 21st century. Dr. Corkum pioneered the attosecond laser pulse, which allowed him to capture the first picture of an electron orbiting a molecule at the almost unimaginable speed of a millionth of a millionth of a millionth of a second. The ultimate goal of Dr. Corkum's work is to control the movement of electrons as they speed along inside molecules, which promises breakthrough applications in fields ranging from quantum computing to diagnostic medicine.

Social Sciences

Dr. Will Kymlicka
Queen's University

Dr. Will Kymlicka is the world's leading expert on multiculturalism and minority rights in democratic societies. Twenty years ago he first advanced the idea that minority rights are fully consistent with the principles of individual freedom, non-discrimination and equal opportunity. At a time when it was assumed that ethnicity would disappear as a result of modernization and secularization, rendering the issue of minority rights outdated, Dr. Kymlicka's premise was nothing short of revolutionary. Today, it's widely accepted internationally and has transformed debates about multiculturalism in democratic societies on the global stage. A consultant to many governments, Dr. Kymlicka examines disagreements, and the potential for resolving them, with the goal of achieving a global consensus on minority rights, a priority in today's world where violent ethnic conflicts are on the rise.

Arts and Humanities

Dr. David Bentley
The University of Western Ontario

Without Dr. David Bentley, a great deal of early Canadian literature might have faded into obscurity. Over a 30-year career, Dr. Bentley has championed the study of 18th and 19th century Canadian poetry both nationally and internationally. He almost single-handedly renewed interest in early Canadian literature, prompting other Canadian scholars to recover and edit literary works, preserving our past for future generations. Dr. Bentley has also enriched our literary landscape by setting the standard for scholarly criticism. As well, by demonstrating and promoting the importance of clarity, accessibility and scrupulous research, he has helped shape two generations of literary scholars.

Innovation Leadership

Dr. Ming Li
University of Waterloo

Dr. Ming Li is a leader in the emerging field of bioinformatics, which uses computers to tackle challenges in life sciences. His work has been influential, widely referenced and profitably commercialized through his company, Bioinformatics Solutions. Dr. Li and his colleagues opened the door to modern homology search methods with their PatternHunter software for identifying structural similarities. Their RAPTOR software for protein structure prediction and their PEAKS software for identifying proteins are used by scientists in leading genomics research centres worldwide to advance drug discovery. To train the next generation of bioinformatics researchers, Dr. Li created the University of Waterloo's co-operative undergraduate bioinformatics program, now rated one of the best in North America.

Additional Resources