HomeVolume Spring 2005

Luc Devroye, Brian Hall, Linda Hutcheon, Margaret Lock and Nahum Sonenberg to receive $100,000 Killam Prizes for 2005

Ottawa, March 30, 2005 - Five prominent scholars from McGill University, Dalhousie University and the University of Toronto will be honoured with the 2005 Killam Prizes, Canada's most distinguished annual awards for outstanding career achievements in engineering, natural sciences, humanities, social sciences and health sciences.

The $100,000 awards to Luc Devroye, Brian Hall, Linda Hutcheon, Margaret Lock and Nahum Sonenberg were announced today by the Canada Council for the Arts, which administers the Killam program.

The Killam Prizes, inaugurated in 1981, are financed through funds donated to the Canada Council by Mrs. Dorothy J. Killam in memory of her husband, Izaak Walton Killam. The prizes were created to honour eminent Canadian scholars and scientists actively engaged in research, whether in industry, government agencies or universities. When the Canada Council was created in 1957, its mandate was to support both the arts and scholarly research; although this changed with the creation of separate research councils, the Canada Council retained responsibility for the Killam program. The Killam Fund at the Canada Council was valued at approximately $56 million as of March 31, 2004. The Killam Trusts, which fund scholarship and research at four Canadian universities, a research institute and the Canada Council, are valued at approximately $400 million.

The Canada Council will present the Killam Prizes at a dinner and ceremony on Monday, April 25 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Montreal. The media are invited to cover the ceremony, which will begin at approximately 8:30 p.m.

Luc Devroye - Engineering (McGill University)

Luc Devroye is a Professor of Computer Science and an associate member of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at McGill University. His research covers a broad area of applied mathematics, including computer science, statistics and probability theory.

Born in Tienen, Belgium, Dr. Devroye's undergraduate university training was at the University of Leuven, Belgium, where he obtained a B.Eng. in Electrical Engineering in 1971. He finished his education at the University of Texas at Austin, where he received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering in 1976. In 1977, Dr. Devroye was appointed Assistant Professor at McGill University where he was successively Assistant Professor (1977-1981), Associate Professor (1981-1987) and Professor (1987 -present). He was named a James McGill Professor in January 2003.

Luc Devroye's research interests include the probabilistic analysis of algorithms, nonparametric estimation, pattern recognition, and random number generation. His Ph.D. supervisor in Texas, Terry Wagner, had asked him to read the ground-breaking paper of Vapnik and Chervonenkis (1971) which was one of the main catalysts for the new field of machine learning (how to extract information from random data in order to predict, estimate and classify). Extensions and improvements of Vapnik's theory led Dr. Devroye to a number of results in the areas of statistical pattern recognition and nonparametric density estimation. Between 1983 and 2000, he systematically developed a broad theory of density estimation based on combinatorial principles.

In addition to his scientific papers he has published six books, including Non-Uniform Random Variate Generation (Springer Verlag, New York, 1986), A Probabilistic Theory of Pattern Recognition (Springer Verlag, New York, 1996, with L. Gyorfi and G. Lugosi), and Combinatorial Methods in Density Estimation (Springer Verlag, New York, 2001, with G. Lugosi).

Dr. Devroye was awarded an E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship (1987), and a Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany (2004). He became an honorary member of the Belgian Statistical Society in 1997. He has been the recipient of an honorary doctoral degree from the Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium (2002). He has served on the editorial boards of numerous Canadian and international mathematics and computer science journals.

Dr. Devroye has been active on a number of other issues, including the abolishment of tuition fees, and the free dissipation of knowledge to the entire world. He is a vigorous supporter of free electronic journals. He has joined many researchers in projects that would place books, survey papers and didactic material on public web sites. Devroye's own book on random number generation is on his web site.

Brian K. Hall - Natural Sciences (Dalhousie University)

Brian Hall is a leader in the growing field of evolutionary developmental biology, or how body structures change through evolution through changes in embryonic development. He has worked primarily on the development of the skeleton. His work has led to greater understanding of why bone loss occurs when physical activity is reduced, and is fundamental to understanding what goes awry in development to produce birth defects. He is now the George S. Campbell Professor of Biology and a University Research Professor at Dalhousie University. He served as Chairman of Dalhousie's Biology Department from 1978 to 1985.

Dr. Hall received his undergraduate and graduate training in zoology at the University of New England in Armidale, New South Wales, Australia, graduating with a B.Sc. (Hons) and Ph.D. in 1965 and 1969 respectively. He joined the faculty of Dalhousie University as Assistant Professor in 1968. In 1977, he received the first D.Sc. in Biological Sciences from the University of New England.

Since the mid-1970s, Dr. Hall and his laboratory have concentrated on research into skeletal development and evolution, especially the origins of skeletal tissues in the embryos of mice, chicks, fish, frogs, lampreys and alligators. Much of our understanding of the cell and tissue interactions that begin skeletal development comes from studies in his laboratory. Since the early 1990s, he has been instrumental in the reintegration of development and evolution into Evolutionary Developmental Biology, also known as "Evo-Devo". Largely because of Dr. Hall's work, Evo-Devo is now an established scientific field. He wrote one of the leading textbooks on Evo-Devo, a discipline that now has three scientific journals devoted to it.

Throughout his career, Dr. Hall has supervised honours and graduate students, trained post-doctoral fellows and collaborated nationally and internationally. Renowned as an outstanding teacher and lecturer, he is an Honorary Member of the Golden Key International Honour Society and has been a visiting professor at various universities in Australia and the United States. Recent recognition includes the Alexander Kowalevsky Medal from the Saint-Petersburg Society of Naturalists, election as a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, selection as one of three finalists for the Gerhard Hertzberg Gold Medal for Science and Engineering, and an Award of Excellence from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). In addition to the Killam Prize, he holds a Killam Research Fellowship and was Killam Research Professor (1990-1995) and Faculty of Science Killam Professor of Biology (1996-2001) at Dalhousie University.

Linda Hutcheon - Humanities (University of Toronto)

Linda Hutcheon is University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto and has been a visiting professor in Australia, the USA and Europe. A specialist in postmodernist culture and critical theory, she has published eight solo books, over 200 book chapters and journal articles and given over 350 public lectures. One of North America's most distinguished literary theorists, her work has promoted a greater understanding of modern fiction, parody, postmodern literature, irony, feminist theory and ethnic minority writing in Canada.

Dr. Hutcheon has been the recipient of major fellowships and awards (Woodrow Wilson, Killam [Research and Post-Doctoral], Guggenheim, Rockefeller, Connaught, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), Northrop Frye Award) and numerous honorary degrees (in Canada and Europe). In 2000, she was the 112th President of the Modern Language Association of America, only the third Canadian ever to hold this position and the first Canadian woman. In addition to her solo writings, she has also worked collaboratively in large projects involving hundreds of scholars and smaller ones, most with her spouse, Dr. Michael Hutcheon. To date, she has supervised 43 completed doctoral dissertations, with 20 more in progress, and 29 international postdoctoral projects.

It is the complex interrelation of theory with artistic practice that forms the common thread in her diverse academic work. As one of a generation formed by the so-called "rise of theory" as an independent area of literary study and influenced by her years of interdisciplinary and comparative training in institutions in the United States, Italy, and Canada, she is as interested in what art teaches us about theory as in the reverse; that focus has tended to make her work accessible to students and general readers, as well as to specialists.

Apart from her authored and edited books and articles, she has translated the work of Québec writers Félix Leclerc and Madeleine Gagnon and co-edited a book of interviews and stories on the topic of multiculturalism, a project that grew out of her experience as what she calls a "crypto-ethnic": her marital name hides a big part of her cultural identity, since her birth surname had been Bortolotti.

Her interdisciplinary collaborative work with Michael Hutcheon on the intersection of medical and cultural history, studied through the vehicle of opera, has yielded three books thus far: Opera: Desire, Disease, Death (1996); Bodily Charm: Living Opera (2000); Opera: The Art of Dying (2004). Supported by a SSHRC grant, they are currently studying creativity and age in the late style and lives of opera composers.

Margaret Lock - Social Sciences (McGill University)

Margaret Lock is the Marjorie Bronfman Professor in Social Studies in Medicine affiliated with the Department of Social Studies of Medicine and the Department of Anthropology at McGill University. Her particular interest is the relationship among society and culture, technology and the body in health and illness. She has done research in Japan into the revival of traditional medicine, and into social aspects of life cycle transitions including adolescence, the elderly and female midlife.

During the 1990s, Dr. Lock's research focus shifted to a cultural analysis of new biomedical technologies, notably reproductive technologies and organ transplants. Such technologies permit manipulation of what are assumed to be timeless boundaries between nature and culture, thus creating extensive social and moral issues. Lock documented in detail the contested medical, political and ethical debates in Japan and North America in connection with the ambiguous condition of brain death, a condition in which, as a result of technological intervention, patients who have sustained irreversible brain damage can be kept biologically alive.

In recent years, Dr. Lock has started to investigate the implications for society of the rapidly expanding knowledge in molecular and population genetics. She has completed research in connection with the Human Genome Diversity Project, which involved the procurement of genetic material from minority peoples and incited widespread political unrest. Her current project is concerned with dementia, in particular late onset Alzheimer's disease. She has given presentations on her findings at international Alzheimer's conferences, and is writing a monograph based on ethnographic research that illustrates how the various fields of study are brought together in the ongoing search for causes, preventive measures, and effective therapies for the disease.

Dr. Lock has authored four books for which she has received numerous prizes, including Encounters With Aging: Mythologies of Menopause in Japan and North America, and Twice Dead: Organ Transplants and the Reinvention of Death. She has edited or co-edited nine other books and written over 170 scholarly articles. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a recipient of a Canada Council Killam Fellowship (1993-1995), and a member of the Canadian Institute of Advanced Research, Population Program from 1993-2002. She was awarded the Prix du Québec, domaine Sciences Humaines in 1997, the Wellcome Medal for research in medical anthropology in 1997, the Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize in 2002 and, in 2003, the Robert B. Textor prize for anticipatory anthropology.

Nahum Sonenberg - Health Sciences (McGill University)

Nahum Sonenberg has made enormous contributions to our understanding of molecular and cellular biology. His ground-breaking research has led to a better understanding of basic biologic processes in normal and cancer cells and this research is now playing a major role in the creation of new cancer treatments. He joined McGill University in 1979 and is currently the James McGill Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and the McGill Cancer Centre.

Dr. Sonenberg received his B.Sc. and M.Sc. (Microbiology and Immunology) from Tel-Aviv University. Upon completing his Ph.D. (Biochemistry) at the Weizmann Institute of Science (Rehovot, Israel), he joined the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology in Nutley, New Jersey with a Chaim Weizmann postdoctoral fellowship.

Dr. Sonenberg's primary research interest has been to understand the control of protein synthesis. In an initial pioneering discovery, he identified the mRNA 5- cap-binding protein, eIF4E, in 1978. He and his colleagues have continued to make highly significant contributions to our understanding of the factors involved in the recruitment of ribosomes to mRNA. He discovered the IRES (internal ribosome entry site) mechanism of translation initiation in eukaryotes (also referred to as cap-independent translation, used by various types of viruses to usurp the host cell protein synthesis machinery), as well as the regulation of cap-dependent translation by the eIF4E binding proteins (4E-BPs). He discovered that eIF4E is a proto-oncogene, levels of which are elevated in cancer, and subsequently demonstrated that rapamycin (an important anti-cancer drug) inhibits eIF4E activity. Finally, while generating 4E-BP - nock-out- mice, he and his colleagues found that this translation inhibitor plays critical roles in the metabolism of adipose tissue and in learning and memory. Dr. Sonenberg has also had a long term interest in virology, and studies poliovirus, rhinoviruses, HIV and HCV.

In 2002, Dr. Sonenberg was awarded the Robert L. Noble Prize from the National Cancer Institute of Canada. He is an International Research Scholar of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and has been a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada since 1992. Dr. Sonenberg is also a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Distinguished Scientist.