OTTAWA, November 17, 2015 — University of Ottawa researchers have been awarded three of the five John Charles Polanyi Prizes funded by the province of Ontario, for research that may lead to smart, “organic” electronics, better violence prevention and new molecular imaging agents to detect disease.
The Council of Ontario Universities (COU) awarded the prizes, which recognize outstanding researchers in the early stages of their career. The $20,000 prizes will allow the three to pursue their research and achieve excellence, while contributing to Canada’s international research profile. This is the first time three faculty members at the University of Ottawa have received the prizes concurrently.
The professors awarded the John Charles Polanyi Prize are:
Faculty of Medicine — Royal Institute of Mental Health Research
Dr. Kelly Babchishin identifies factors that predict the onset of violent behaviour, such as childhood behaviours, psychiatric diagnoses and parental characteristics. Each potential risk factor associated with sexual and non-sexual violent offenders is compared to individuals without a history of violence, using large population-based datasets. Her research can inform prevention practices and treatment for violent offenders.
Faculty of Engineering — Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
With an increasing interest in flexible, inexpensive technology, the demand for organic circuitry will exceed that for silicon electronics. “Organic” electronics, also known as plastic or printable electronics, use polymer or small carbon-based molecule semiconductors, making them flexible, with low manufacturing costs compared to traditional silicon based equivalents. Professor Lessard and his team will design a new generation of sensors that use stimuli-responsive “smart” polymers that show tunable behaviours, such as changes in performance, when exposed to gas. Building these highly specific sensors with ultra-fast response times will allow for on-site detection in a variety of settings ranging from contaminants in drinking water to performance enhancing drugs used by athletes.
Adam J. Shuhendler
Faculty of Science — Department of Chemistry
Professor Shuhendler is using chemistry to develop new strategies for molecular imaging with clinical relevance, designing “smart” molecular tracers that respond to the activity of particular biochemical targets in cells and tissues. By measuring this activity with medical imaging, subcellular processes that can result in the onset of a disease or its reversal through treatment can be detected very early on, before outward signs or symptoms appear. Dr. Shuhendler’s research could have a major clinical impact by enabling personalized medicine through non-invasive imaging techniques. This approach would provide molecular-level information about patients’ diseases while simultaneously updating patients on the success of treatment.
The Polanyi Prize was established in 1987 in honour of John Charles Polanyi, who had received the Nobel Prize in chemistry one year earlier. The prize is awarded annually to five outstanding young researchers in the early stages of their careers at Ontario universities. Researchers are recognized in the areas of economics, literature, chemistry, physiology/medicine and physics.