University of Victoria
The Ring - The University of Victoria's Community Newspaper

November 2003 · Vol 29 · No 13

Inaugural awards salute research excellence

by Patty Pitts
Whether it’s coaxing mould to mimic human proteins to make drug testing more affordable or manipulating molecules to help build faster computers, UVic researchers are making a difference in the lives of people in Canada and around the world.

The university recognized home-grown research excellence last month by presenting the inaugural Craigdarroch Research Awards at a ceremony and luncheon at the Fairmont Empress Hotel. Established this year to mark UVic’s 40th anniversary and the 100th anniversary of its predecessor Victoria College, the awards honoured UVic researchers for work they’ve accomplished over a lifetime, at the start of their careers, and in partnership with others.

Physicist Dr. Alan Astbury, recipient of the Craigdarroch Gold Medal for Career Achievement in Research, delivered the inaugural Craigdarroch address. He told the crowd of researchers, community leaders and colleagues of the importance of funding basic research and supporting young researchers at the start of their careers.

Before coming to UVic 20 years ago, Astbury was one of the leaders in a group of 150 physicists whose experiments at the massive particle accelerator in Geneva led to the discovery of new subatomic particles and the confirmation that, of nature’s four basic forces, two (electromagnetism and the “weak” nuclear force) are actually manifestations of a single force. The experiment’s leader won the 1984 Nobel Prize, and Astbury was subsequently awarded the prestigious Rutherford Medal for Physics.

As the leader of TRIUMF—the Tri-Universities Meson Facility—for seven years, Astbury led the institution to a standing as one of the world’s prime facilities for subatomic research. Astbury is being awarded an honorary degree from UVic this month. (see story>>)

Chemist Dr. Robin Hicks received the Craigdarroch Silver Medal for Excellence in Research. Instead of taking organic material and trying to find a use for it, Hicks manipulates molecules to make new organic compounds that have extraordinary electronic, magnetic or optical properties. This year the Canadian Society for Chemistry recognized Hicks as the best young applied or pure research chemist in the country.

The multi-disciplinary project, “Healthy Youth in a Healthy Society,” was awarded the Craig-darroch Research Award for Project Excellence. This five-year, $2-million project is funded through the Community Alliances for Health Research (CAHR), a program of the Canadian Institutes for Health Research. Through it, Dr. Bonnie Leadbeater and her interdisciplinary research team are heading up several projects that focus on the causes of adolescent injuries.
Issues under examination include: dating violence, peer violence, sexual exploitation of youth, family factors contributing to risky behaviour, and concerns specific to aboriginal youth and those living in communities undergoing economic restructuring.

Dr. Alan Pence (child and youth care) was awarded the Craigdarroch Research Award for Societal Contribution for his role in developing the First Nations Partnerships Programs (FNPP) and the Early Childhood Development Virtual University (ECDVU).

Both programs incorporate a “generative” curriculum, which reflects the ideas and values of the communities it addresses while incorporating Western perspectives. FNPP has delivered a diploma program in child and youth care to nine tribal councils in communities in Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. Through ECDVU, mid-career professionals from 10 sub-Saharan African countries are earning master’s degrees from UVic, primarily online.

Biologist Dr. Will Hintz received the Innovation and Development Corporation Entrepreneurship Award. Since coming to UVic, he’s worked with IDC to establish partnerships and find commercial applications for his research.

Hintz has produced environmentally safe agents for use in managing vegetation growth along power line rights-of-way and his current research involves the engineering of fungi to produce human-like proteins for use in testing therapeutic drugs. The fungal-produced proteins are expected to mimic their human counterparts down to the last sugar attached to the protein backbone. If successful, the manufacturing cost of human therapeutic protein drugs would be dramatically reduced.




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