Two Waterloo researchers win prestigious Polanyi prizes
One researcher hopes to contribute to the development of better cancer drugs while the other is expanding our understanding of gravity
One researcher hopes to contribute to the development of better cancer drugs while the other is expanding our understanding of gravityBy Staff Marketing and Strategic Communications
Researchers based at the University of Waterloo have won two of five prestigious Polanyi Prizes given to leading researchers in Ontario this year.
Drew Bennett, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Chemistry, is being honoured for groundbreaking research that may improve treatment for serious diseases like cancer and Parkinson’s. He uses computer simulations to study biological problems.
Eduardo Martin-Martinez, a research assistant professor in Waterloo’s Department of Applied Mathematics and Institute for Quantum Computing, is being recognized for his research examining the interconnections between gravity and quantum theory. The work done by Martin-Martinez has potential applications for quantum computing technology.
The Polanyi Prizes were created to celebrate John Charles Polanyi’s 1986 Nobel Prize, and the areas of research they recognize mirror those of the Nobel Prizes. Winners - researchers in the early stages of their careers - are awarded $20,000 by the Ontario government.
“The province has been loyal to these prizes for over a quarter of a century, believing that the soil of Ontario is suitable to the cultivation of Nobels,” says Dr. Polanyi. “The province is saying something far-sighted, namely that it values the free inquiry essential to discovery. For that, Ontarians owe them a debt of gratitude.”
Bennett’s research uses computer simulations to produce "movies" of how individual molecules interact. The goal is to design new peptides that target and penetrate the membrane of diseased cells, and deliver specific drugs, to ultimately kill them. Promising advances in nanoscale biotechnology are making new drugs and therapies possible, but a major hurdle is the ability to target specific cells.
Quantum technologies currently under development will eventually hit a limit, just as today’s computing devices are about to reach their classical limits. Martin-Martinez, also a Perimeter Institute Visiting Fellow, is one of a handful of researchers already investigating what’s beyond quantum.Martin-Martinez uses quantum information to study gravity’s effects by combining strands of quantum information science and quantum field theory with general relativity. The research not only helps us to better understand spacetime structure, but could one day help explain how spacetime curvature and quantum theory impact information processing – an important element in quantum computing.
"The Polanyi Prize is a wonderful opportunity to recognize the contributions of our postsecondary sector’s top researchers and this year’s recipients have already made outstanding contributions to their field. Supporting researchers here in Ontario helps us to create a dynamic business climate and drives our culture of innovation and I look forward to seeing what these impressive researchers will do in the years to come," says Reza Moridi, Ontario Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities.