Waterloo Pioneers of Microbiology Award

Biology building pictures

Department of Biology, then (~1985; above; photo credit: Gracia Murase) and now (2014; below; photo credit: Josh Neufeld).

A recent lunch with Joan Torrie provided me with an opportunity to peer into the unwritten past of our department’s microbiology history.

Joan was one of Biology’s earliest co-op students in the early 1980s. She reflected fondly on microbiology faculty and former students who walked our halls, and recounted stories of micro Christmas parties, practical jokes, and University of Waterloo (“Wonderloo”) buildings then under construction (Davis Centre; see photo below). Importantly, her memories involve former professors Colin Mayfield (“Merlin” to some), Bill Inniss (that’s “two I’s, two N’s, two S’s!”) and Alan Kempton, all of whom were microbiologists in the Department. Dr. Kempton was the faculty member who shepherded these early co-op Biology students, including Joan. Drs. Kempton, Inniss, and Mayfield recognized broad research potential in students, regardless of the strength of their transcripts. Despite the many demands of her degree and health challenges she faced at the time, recognition of her potential and strong research aptitude led one of our early microbiologists (Colin Mayfield) to select Joan as a graduate student. Because she was once given this chance, and in gratitude for the support from both Drs. Kempton and Mayfield, Joan Torrie has championed the establishment of the Waterloo Pioneers of Microbiology Award in the Department of Biology.

The Waterloo Pioneers of Microbiology Award is unique because it honours those “pioneering” faculty who established microbiology as a strength at the University of Waterloo and, on a yearly basis, will recognize research strength in the young “Pioneers of Microbiology” among our incoming departmental graduate students. The intent of the award is to look beyond the transcripts of our graduate students and, by nomination, honour those with demonstrated research potential and scientific creativity. The award fills a unique niche because some of these talented young scientists may be overlooked during the conventional scholarship and award selection processes.

As described on our News website and on our permanent Biology awards page, nominations for the inaugural Waterloo Pioneers of Microbiology Award recipient are welcome from now until November 28.

For this award to exist in perpetuity, or to enable the selection of multiple worthy recipients when appropriate, your help is needed to ensure sustained funds. If you would like to be a part of honouring these early microbiology faculty members at the University of Waterloo and are willing to help ensure that our pioneering student microbiologists are recognized yearly for their potential, please consider donating any amount by following these instructions:

1. Visit the support website for the University of Waterloo.

2.  Under the “What area would you like to support?” tab, please select "Other Faculty, College or University Projects"

3.  As a table of projects opens up, you will be able to select "Faculty of Science" under the Area of Giving title.

4.  From there, choose " Microbiology Graduate Award" in the adjacent menu for the “Project (fund)” tab.

Because this award uniquely links our Department’s microbiology past with the future of microbiology in Canada, we are particularly excited to select our first Waterloo Pioneers of Microbiology Award this year. In addition, we would like to thank Joan Torrie for taking the initiative to celebrate her gratitude to our former faculty members in this lasting way.

And, above all, thank you to all those who choose to contribute to this award, helping to ensure its sustainability for future microbiology graduate students in the Department of Biology.

Davis Centre under construction

William G. Davis Computer Research Centre under construction (~1986; Photo credit: Gracia Murase).