A group of scientists and award winners stand around a podium.

All it takes is a group of amazing individuals to remind us of why we do what we do. Scientists in School recently attended an inspiring ceremony celebrating Canada’s brightest minds in science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) and the environment. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) awarded six prizes to Canada’s best researchers in natural science and engineering who are solving international challenges through scientific inquiry. The prizes, which were awarded to leaders in STEM fields such as green energy, brain research, mathematics and biology, totaled over $3 million.

“I applaud these award-winning researchers for their invaluable contributions to science, engineering and industry. Their hard work inspires young minds while advancing research in areas such as computer science, ocean protection and human health. We all stand to benefit from these groundbreaking projects and inventions that help place Canada at the forefront of scientific discovery.”
— Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities.

For 29 years, Scientists in School has sparked curiosity in Canadian children and youth by making connections to their everyday life through hands-on science investigations. The NSERC Top Researchers Awards are an imperative reminder of what we have always believed: that when they are provided engaging and fun experiences with scientific materials, dynamic role models and the encouragement necessary to see themselves in STEM, every child has the potential to become one of Canada’s best and brightest.

The recipients of the Top Researchers Awards are pillars in STEM role modelling. Take Lewis Kay, a researcher at the University of Toronto, whose breakthrough technological inventions enable humans to “capture images of proteins within human cells.” Physicists and mathematicians around the world have used Kay’s innovative technology, and as a result of his brilliant ideas, NSERC awarded him the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering, the top prize of the evening. We’re also incredibly inspired by Julia Baum, a researcher at the University of Victoria and winner of the E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship, for her fieldwork and fascinating data analysis on the impact of climate change on coral reefs.

Each year, we inspire close to 700,000 Canadian children and youth through our workshops. In each of them, we see the potential to become the next Kay or Baum. We commend the federal government for its commitment to backing scientific discovery and research, and we are excited by what the future holds. The federal government’s 2018 budget will see a “historic investment” in science research, with a proposed $4 billion investment over the next five years in Canadian research, science labs, equipment and more.

This proposed investment not only shows the talented young minds leading this country that their ideas are valued, but also that they are necessary in strengthening Canada’s ability to stand out in competitive STEM fields, and make global contributions to science, innovation and entrepreneurship. However, the fostering of discovery and creativity must start early. We must continue to push forward to ensure that all young Canadians, no matter what path they choose, are given the chance to explore their world through science so that no bright idea gets left behind.

To learn more about the amazing prize winners, visit NSERC’s website.

Photo Credit: Cynthia Münster/NSERC