A world expert on the human use of plants, an internationally renowned physicist, and a historian who brings Canada’s colourful past alive to the world via the Internet are among this year’s winners of the University of Victoria Craigdarroch Research Awards.
The annual awards, which recognize excellence in research, were presented on March 27 at their namesake, Craigdarroch Castle. The castle was home to UVic’s predecessor, Victoria College, from 1921 to 1946.
“We’re very proud of the achievements of this year’s winners,” says Dr. Martin Taylor, UVic’s vice-president research. “Their work clearly demonstrates the world-class calibre of our research and its contributions to the advancement of knowledge and the betterment of society.”
Craigdarroch Gold Medal for Career Achievement in Research
“The plant lady”
Dr. Nancy Turner (environmental studies), winner of the 2006 Craigdarroch Gold Medal for Career Achievement in Research, holds up some crab apples in a photo taken last fall in Hartley Bay, B.C. Turner, considered a world authority on the ethnobotany of the Pacific Northwest, is known as “the plant lady” in the Gitga’at community, where she’s been helping elders and educators document and revive traditional plant knowledge.
Described by her international peers as one of Canada’s “national treasures,” Dr. Nancy Turner (environmental studies) integrates the scientific practice of botany with a rich cultural understanding of the traditional use of plants, especially among First Nations in British Columbia.
From Haida Gwaii to the Hesquiat; from the Ulkatcho Band to the Nitinaht people, Turner is well-known in First Nations communities for helping to document and revive their rich, cultural connection to plants. In fact, Turner is widely acknowledged as the authority on the ethnobotany of the Pacific Northwest.
Throughout her career, Turner has shared that knowledge in the classroom, in community workshops, in the news media, and in more than 20 books where she raises awareness of the fragility of ecosystems and the importance of maintaining a connection to the earth.
Among Turner’s many honours are the Lawson Medal for lifetime contributions to Canadian botany (2002) and the R.E. Schultes Award (1997), which is considered the top international award in ethnobotany. She is a member of the Royal Society of Canada and a University of Victoria Distinguished Professor.
Craigdarroch Silver Medal for Excellence in Research
Dr. Michel Lefebvre (physics and astronomy) is an internationally respected physicist who has made significant contributions to the reputation of Canada and UVic on the world stage of particle physics research.
Lefebvre’s outstanding contributions to science began shortly after earning a PhD from Cambridge University in 1989. Two papers he co-wrote were published in the prestigious journal, Physics Letters. He has since published four dozen or so papers in top journals describing experimental techniques of particle detection.
In the early ‘90s Lefebvre was instrumental in organizing Canada’s participation in ATLAS, the particle detector component of the a massive new proton collider facility being built by the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, or CERN. ATLAS-Canada now consists of 80 scientists from eight institutions, including UVic where Lefebvre led a $5-million project to design and build a key part of the ATLAS detector.
Craigdarroch Award for Societal Contribution
For more than 15 years, Dr. Tom Fleming (curriculum and instruction) has been helping teachers in some of Argentina’s most impoverished areas improve their instructional methods.
In the Basic Education Project (2001-05), he co-led a UVic partnership with the Argentina Ministry of Education and the Canadian International Development Agency to improve basic education for at-risk children in six barrios of Rosario.
The courses, curriculum and resources developed for the project will be used for school reform in another 18 schools in Rosario and 20 more elsewhere in the province of Santa Fe province. The resources will also be compiled into a book and distributed to Argentina’s 23 other provincial ministries of education.
Under Fleming’s direction, the project has made an exceptional contribution to the betterment of society in Argentina. All of the project’s objectives were met or surpassed, changing lives and giving new hope to the country’s most vulnerable social groups.
Craigdarroch Award for Project Excellence
L-r: Smyth, Schofield and Lefebure
Under the B.C. Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources–UVic Partnership Project, created in 2003, university researchers and co-op students in the faculties of engineering, science and the social sciences work side-by-side with ministry staff on a variety of projects related to alternative energy, minerals, and onshore and offshore oil and gas.
Benefits for both parties include increased access to infrastructure, additional research capacity for the ministry, experiential work for students, and additional funding for UVic research. The project has provided UVic with more than $850,000 for 18 research projects and more than 15 co-op student work terms.
On behalf of the project, the award recipients are UVic’s Dr. John Schofield (economics) and Ross Curtis, Dave Lefebure and Ron Smyth from the ministry.
Craigdarroch Award for Research Communication
For Dr. John Lutz, history has never been simply a subject to study, research and teach. Instead, he harnesses every opportunity he can to share history with as many people as possible.
Lutz studies the history of the Pacific Northwest, the history of aboriginal and non-aboriginal relations, European colonialism in the Pacific, and the history of race and racialization. He’s perhaps best known for his popular, award-winning “Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History” website, which invites would-be sleuths to solve real crimes in Canadian history. Other websites focus on the histories of Victoria and Vancouver Island.
Lutz frequently and enthusiastically shares his passion for history with the news media and community groups, speaking on topics as disparate as sex in the fur trade and the history of municipal landscapes. He was also a vocal advocate, through media interviews, for the bid to keep Victoria’s land titles records in this city and accessible to all.
University of Victoria Innovation and Development Corporation Entrepreneurship Award
de Greef, left, and Kerr
In partnership with theInnovation and Development Corporation, James deGreef and Jonathan Kerr—UVic undergraduate students at the time—founded Genologics Life Sciences Software Inc. in 2002.
The company, which is housed in UVic’s Vancouver Island Technology Park (VITP), helps life science researchers and pharmaceutical laboratories to manage, integrate and analyse the large volumes of data generated by genomics and proteomics research. It now employs more than 40 people, has sales offices in Boston, Atlanta, Philadephia and London, England, and is the worldwide market share leader in its field.
While Kerr is now developing software for Kodak Graphic Communications Canada Co., de Greef remains with Genologics as vice-president of product management. Last year, VITP presented Genologics with the Emerging Technology Company of the Year Award for its excellence in innovation while increasing profitability and community involvement and maintaining sound business principles.