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2018 Killam Prize winners: Meet Canadian thinkers setting the standard for their fields

Each year, up to five Killam Prizes of $100,000 are awarded to Canadian scholars who have made "substantial and significant" contribution to their field of studies in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, health sciences or engineering. Meet the 2018 winners, all are brilliant Canadian thinkers who are setting the standard for their fields both in Canada and internationally.

Every year, the Killam Prize of $100,000 is awarded to 5 worthy Canadian scholars

A detail from the Killam Prize poster for Health & Sciences. The Canada Council for the Arts commissioned world-renowned illustrator Raymond Biesinger to create original posters that capture the spirit of creativity, discovery and innovation recognized by the Killam Program. (Raymond Biesinger)
Listen to the full episode53:59

** This episode was originally published on Dec. 19, 2018.

Each year, up to five Killam Prizes of $100,000 each are awarded to Canadian scholars who have made "substantial and significant" contribution to their field of studies in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, health sciences or engineering.

The 2018 recipients with areas of study in linguistics, physics, medicine and film, are setting the standard for their fields both in Canada and internationally.

Innovation and progress are often romanticized as a series of eureka moments born out of dramatic twists and turns in the lab and in the world. But often the discoveries that lead to deep and profound change come as a result of years-long diligence, collaboration, and tiny steps forward. It's only upon looking back at a lifetime's worth of work that a scholar can see the giant leap forward in their work. The 2018 Killam Prize winners all share that in common: a deep and lasting impact on their field brought about through decades-long study and collaboration.

James Pinfold is the 2018 Killam Prize winner for the Natural Sciences. 2:05

Meet the 2018 Killam Prize winners

Walter Herzog: Engineering 

"My mother's words that education is everything and will open doors for life, ring true more so today than they did 50 years ago."

Walter Herzog
Walter Herzog of the University of Calgary is this year's Killam Prize winner in engineering. Walter grew up in Switzerland, the child of parents with a sixth-grade education. Despite his parents' lack of opportunity for higher learning, Walter's mother always told him that education was the route to choice. He did his undergraduate training at the ETH in Zurich, received his doctoral degree from the University of Iowa in biomechanics, and completed his postdoctoral training in Calgary in 1987. Today, Dr. Herzog is a world-renowned pioneer in biomechanics and muscle-contraction study. He is also a self-proclaimed "accidental scientist."  


Vladimir Hachinski: Health Sciences 

"I was at the edges of two fields and I dared to try and build bridges across them. The two big fields are stroke and dementia and I saw a lot of commonality from the beginning and I wasn't afraid to say, look, I see the obvious here."

Vladimir Hachinski
Vladimir Hachinski of Western University is this year's Killam Prize winner in health sciences. Vladimir has transformed the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of the two greatest threats to the brain: stroke and dementia. He co-discovered a link between Alzheimer's and stroke and introduced new concepts and a new clinical diagnosis tool. While Dr. Hachinski is often described in the superlative — most cited; most knowledgeable; best known — he says he attributes his longevity and productivity to the "two ladies in my life": Lady Luck and his wife — both of whom are his constant companions and sources of support. 


James Pinfold: Natural Sciences 

"Essentially, the standard model is complete but I don't believe it's the answer to everything. It can't be. It doesn't incorporate gravity, it doesn't explain dark matter which is the most matter in the universe. There must be a deeper underlying theory. "

James Pinfold
James Pinfold of the University of Alberta is this year's Killam Prize winner in the natural sciences. Dr. Pinfold is an internationally renowned particle physicist. He has led and worked on projects at CERN's Large Hadron Collider where he was a founding member of the ATLAS experiment that. In 2012, ATLAS scientists announced the discovery of the Higgs boson thereby confirming the final part of the standard model of physics. In the last ten years, Dr. Pinfold has been on a search for a new type of physics, one that will help physicists understand the universe — both its largest components as well as its smallest — in ways beyond the standard model. 


Andre Gaudreault: Humanities 

"The first goal I had was to develop the recognition of film studies so that it would be recognized in the university system and I think what I've done has helped a lot to do this."  

Andre Gaudreault
Andre Gaudreault of the Universite de Montreal is this year's Killam Prize winner in the humanities. Andre was part of the organizing push to establish a doctorate in film studies in Canada more than four decades ago. Since that time he was watched film studies evolve from what he describes as an "exoplanet" to a fully formed planet with its own solar system. Andre Gaudreault hold the Canada Research Chair in Cinema and Media Studies. He is a world-renowned historian of early cinema and a pioneer of film narratology.


Janet Werker: Social Sciences 

"One of the things that's remarkable about language acquisition is that when we think about most kinds of learning, we imagine that there really isn't very much there and that, as a function of interacting with the world, we learn things. What's remarkable is that babies are actually prepared to learn any of the world's languages at birth."   

Janet Werker
Janet Werker of the University of British Columbia is this year's Killam Prize winner in the social sciences. Dr. Werker's scholarship is focussed on the study of language acquisition among very young infants. One of the key findings of her work is that newborns come into the world primed to learn language. While they demonstrate a special preference for the language they heard while still in utero, they are able to learn and discern between any number of languages in their environment. Dr. Werker's work shows that babies can thrive in multilingual societies and have no difficulty with managing equally well in both a heritage language and an official language, something she says bodes well for a multicultural place like Canada.
 

The Killam Prizes are among the most distinguished research awards in Canada. They were established by the Killam Trusts and are awarded to Canadian scholars who have made a "substantial and significant contribution to their respective fields in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, health sciences or engineering." 

The prizes are awarded by the Canada Council for the Arts which is Canada's public arts funder with a mandate to foster and promote the study, enjoyment, and production of the arts.

 


 
**This episode was produced by Naheed Mustafa.