Awards and Honours

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How Electric Fish are Helping us Solve the Mystery of the Human Brain

From left to right, Dr. André Longtin and Dr. Len Maler are sitting behind a computer. Behind them are other machines and wires connected to various outputs.

André Longtin & Len Maler

Department of Physics, Faculty of Science / Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Medicine

The human brain is often described as the body’s greatest unsolved scientific mystery. Like computers, the brain relays information across complex networks of circuits and systems in fractions of a second. What has left neuroscientists puzzled is how the brain is able to function at such capacities.

Professors André Longtin from the Department of Physics and Leonard Maler from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine (both from the University of Ottawa’s Brain and Mind Research Institute) have jointly uncovered key features of the neural code that underlie the operation of the brain.

Using electric fish as a model to further understand brain activity, Longtin and Maler traced how signals move during the entire sensory process. They have found neural “signatures” of impending voluntary actions, as well as of attention to objects. The researchers identified specific neural patterns of activity that appear the moment an animal’s attention becomes locked onto an object, i.e. the neural signals underlying sensory focusing.

Their research was recently awarded the prestigious Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering, by the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). Longtin and Maler are now expanding their efforts to unlock another important piece of the neural code: how our senses tap into our memories to gain vital information in order to assist our attention and decision-making.


Using the Common Apple to Grow Human Cells

Professor Andrew Pelling is sitting in his laboratory, wearing blue latex gloves. In his hands is a light pink rose, whose petals he is plucking off and placing into a plastic container on his workbench.

Andrew Pelling

Department of Physics

Scientist and University of Ottawa professor Andrew Pelling has gained a significant amount of attention over the last year. Considering that his lab has used apple slices carved into the shape of ears to grow human cells, his research has certainly turned some heads. Members of the Pelling Laboratory for Physical Manipulation began by carving apple slices to look like human ears, removed the apple’s cells then grew human cells in the remaining cellulose scaffolding.

This innovation came from realizing that cells from animals could grow inside the protein scaffolding of another animal, therefore the attempt was made see if plants could act as the scaffold. His work will also shed light on the normal functioning of cells, which needs a precise balance between biochemistry and mechanical forces to control important processes such as gene regulation, proliferation and movement.

Pelling's ultimate goal is to apply the new knowledge he gains to improve detection and treatments for cancer, muscular dystrophy, heart disease, and other pathoses involving inhibited mechanical properties and behaviours coming from genetic mutations and/or biochemical cues. His work has been in the international media spotlight for many years, with recognition in outlets such as Wired, Huffington Post, NPRScientific AmericanPopular Science, BBC, Der Spiegel, Deutsche Welle and others, as well as numerous highlights in the Canadian media and Scientific media. He was named TED2016 Fellow and TED2017 Senior Fellow.


Recognizing the Hard Work of a Young Researcher

Professor Pascal Audet is outside, wearing a black, button-up jacket, and is looking at a boulder with his right hand leaning on it.

Pascal Audet

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Pascal Audet is one of the most productive early-career researchers in the Faculty of Science; research accomplishments that were recognized in 2016 with a University Research Chair in Solid Earth Geophysics; the first for the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Audet is a highly creative and versatile researcher, and a prolific publisher in the world’s most influential scientific journals such as Nature and Nature Geoscience. Some of his most impactful work includes: (1) estimating the strength of the lithosphere (or tectonic plates) and the implications in terms of thermal and mechanical structure of Earth and terrestrial planets; and (2) developing methods to study the propagations of elastic waves through the Earth to better understand its structure, particularly in subduction zones (seismically active regions of the Earth where one tectonic plate slides under another). Fairly recently, he has added a new aspect to his research: Earth deformation due to surface loads related to anthropogenic activity (i.e., resulting from the influence of human beings), which is defining a whole new field of research with deep societal implications.

He has been awarded several major research awards, including the renowned Sloan Research Fellowship and the Early Researcher Award of Ontario. His work and media contributions are also recognized outside of academia: in February 2015 he was named Personnalité de la Semaine Radio-Canada/Le Droit. Audet was awarded the 2016 Excellence in Media Relations Award: Research, which recognizes outstanding service to the University through sharing of expertise with the wider community through media. Also in 2016, he received the Young Researcher of Year Award, which is presented annually to faculty members who have made exceptional contributions to research and the training of students at the University of Ottawa.


Other awards & honours
2016-2017

Recipient SEC. Award Link
Aris-Brosou, Stéphane
BIO
2016-17 Excellence in Education Prize
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Arnason, John
BIO
Distinguished University Professor
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Audet, Pascal
EES
Excellence in Media Relations Award: Research
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Audet, Pascal
EES
uOttawa Young Researcher of the Year Award
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Blais, Jules
BIO
Frank Rigler Award from the Society of Canadian Limnologists
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Blute, Richard
MAT
(with co-authors) Logic in Computer Science "Test of Time" award
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Boyd, Robert
PHY
Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
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Broadbent, Anne
MAT
André Aisenstadt Prize
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Bui, Tuan
BIO
Ontario Early Researcher Award
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Corkum, Paul
PHY
Honorary Doctorate from Aarhus University
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Flynn, Alison
CBS
3M National Teaching Fellow
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Forrest, Jessica
BIO
Ontario Early Researcher Award
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Keillor, Jeffrey
CBS
2017 Bernard Belleau Award, Sponsored by Vertex Pharmaceuticals (Canada) Inc. (CSC Lectureship)
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Kerr, Jeremy
BIO
Excellence in Media Relations Award: Research
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Kerr, Jeremy
BIO
Discovery Accelerator Supplement
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Longtin, André
PHY
NSERC Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering (with Len Maler, Faculty of Medicine)
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Montpetit, Colin
BIO
1st Prize - Innovative Use of Educational Technology Excellence Award in 2016
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Murugesu, Muralee
CBS
Royal Society of Canada College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists
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Newman, Stephen
CBS
John Charles Polanyi Prizes from the Council of Ontario Universities
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Ogilvie, William
CBS
University of Ottawa Award for Excellence in Teaching
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Ogilvie, William
CBS
Faculty of Science Award for Excellence in Teaching
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Organ, Michael
CBS
Encyclopedia of Reagents for Organic Synthesis (EROS) Best Reagent Award
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Pamenter, Matthew
BIO
Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology Section of the American Physiological Society New Investigator Award
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Pelling, Andrew
PHY
TED Senior Fellow
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Pezacki, John
CBS
Canadian Society for Chemistry - Teva Canada Limited Biological and Medicinal Chemistry Lectureship Award
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Poulain, Alexandre
BIO
Royal Society of Canada College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists
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Roy, Damien
MAT
Faculty of Science Researcher of the Year
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Schneider, David
EES
2015-16 Excellence in Education Prize
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Spanner, Michael
PHY
Discovery Accelerator Supplement
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Stolow, Albert
CBS, PHY
Earle K. Plyler Prize for Molecular Spectroscopy & Dynamics
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Villeneuve, David
PHY
Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Quantum Electronics Award
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BIO: Department of Biology
CBS: Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences
EES: Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
MAT: Department of Mathematics and Statistics
PHY: Department of Physics

Contact

University of Ottawa - Faculty of Science
Research Office
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550 Cumberland St
Ottawa, ON Canada
K1N 6N5
Tel: (613) 562-5986 and (613) 562-5800 ext. 3927