McMaster scores big with esteemed research prizes
Awards could double their time available for their projects
Two distinguished McMaster professors — one a leader in astronomy and the other a pre-eminent medical doctor — are among six nationwide recipients of a prestigious Canadian research fellowship.
Physics professor Christine Wilson’s research aims to understand how stars are formed — a challenge she also hopes will lead to understanding the origins of our universe, planets and galaxies.
Dr. Deborah Cook’s research will be part of a research consortium working to understand how to potentially modify microorganisms inside of us that are disturbed by critical illnesses.
The research will focus on how probiotics — the equivalent of two containers yogurts a day — might modify them to get people well again.
Wilson, the Canada Research Chair in Extragalactic Star Formation, and Cook, the Canada Research Chair in Research Transfer in Intensive Care, are two of six scholars receiving the Killam Research Fellowships administered by the Canada Council for the Arts.
The fellowships allow the recipients to focus on their research fulltime for two years by providing $70,000 per recipient per year so they can pursue their research.
“It’s very exciting,” said Wilson. “The really nice thing about this Killam fellowship is that it releases me from my teaching so I can focus very intensely on a research project.”
In her case, now is a good time to focus on the project, despite her love of teaching. That’s because she’ll be able to use data from the ALMA telescope — data that is relatively new, she said.
“The data has been growing and now we have enough to do what we call data mining,” Wilson said, adding it will be great having “a large block of uninterrupted time” to hopefully make a lot of progress on her project.
Cook’s fellowship will help accelerate research into how the microorganisms inside us are affected by critical illness and whether probiotics reduce, for example, the risk of pneumonia and C. difficile, and should be part of infection control and health care policy.
Cook, on staff at St. Joseph’s Healthcare, will work with the research consortium she helped found in 1989.
Rob Baker, McMaster University’s vice-president of research, said the Killam fellowships are awarded to outstanding people whose research is very important.
“Only the best of the best get these things,” he said. “You’re doubling or more, the time they can spend on research.”
Without the fellowships, the recipients can only spend about 40 per cent of their time on research, he said.
Christine Wilson: eyes on the stars
Deborah Cook: understanding microorganisms