Discovery Awards Discovery Awards

2019 Discovery Awards

It was an evening of inspiration as Nova Scotia’s best and brightest were celebrated at the 2019 Discovery Awards for Science and Technology.

Co-presented by Dalhousie University and Saint Mary’s University and in support of the Discovery Centre. A crowd of nearly 600 enjoyed the gala dinner as recipients in four categories were invited on stage to accept their award. Award categories include Professional of Distinction, Emerging Professional, Innovation, and Science Champion.


2019 Science Hall Of Fame Recipients:

Alexander Howard (A.H.) MacKay (1848-1929)

Alexander Howard (A.H.) Mackay (1848-1929) is being inducted posthumously into the Discovery Centre Hall of Fame for his work as a distinguished educator, scientist, and humanist. Pictou native, he was principal of Pictou Academy, shaping it as an acknowledged stepping stone to higher education. He later served as Nova Scotia’s superintendent of education for 36 years 

As superintendent, he took the philosophy he applied in Pictou to elevate science education across Nova Scotia. His reason for an emphasis on training and materials for teaching science in the schools was a passionate belief in the positive impact that scientifically trained students would have on Nova Scotia’s future economy. Another product of Mackay’s legacy is the founding of the Technical University of Nova Scotia, which became Daltech in 1997. 

A.H. Mackay was a versatile researcher his entire life. He pursued active study of a variety of sciences, but he was best known as a botanist. One of his innovations was a rural education program where students observed and recorded changes to local flora and fauna in their neighbourhoods. This phenological nature study is part of the Nova Scotia Museum and has been used by contemporary researchers for benchmark data for investigating climate change in Canada. 

He belonged to the most preeminent scientific organizations of his time, including a fellowship in the Royal Society. He received his B.A. from Dalhousie with honours in mathematics and physics, and later a B.Sc. in biology from the University of Halifax. Perhaps his most important legacy is that a good education balances the humanities and sciences. And while not everyone will pursue science as a career, he believed it was a social good to foster science literacy in young people.  

Dr. Sultan Darvesh

Dr. Sultan Darvesh is being inducted into the Discovery Centre Hall of Fame as a Professor of Neurology and Medical Neuroscience at Dalhousie University and currently holds the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation Irene MacDonald Sobey Chair in Curative Approaches to Alzheimer’s disease. He is also the Director of the Maritime Brain Tissue Bank and the former Assistant Dean, Research–Clinical Departments, Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University. 

As a multidisciplinary clinician-scientist, Dr. Darvesh is fortunate in that research is not only a vocation but also a beloved hobbyHis multifaceted research program combines clinical and basic neuroscience. He has garnered global attention for recognizing the role of a specific enzyme, butyrylcholinesterase, in normal and diseased human brains. In this regard, he has mapped butyrylcholinesterase’s impact on cognition and behaviour, and confirmed that its distribution is altered in brains affected by Alzheimer’s disease. 

Dr. Darvesh is a true champion of research and advocacy across every aspect of his career. While his intense drive and enthusiasm as a researcher sets him apart, his empathy for patients and his ability to inspire his students make him an exceptional leader in neurodegenerative disorders. 

Dedicated to knowledge transfer, Dr. Darvesh has mentored hundreds of students, residents, early-career physicians, and scientists. He is also a leader in the global brain tissue banking network and an authority on aging population policy. In his spare time, he explores his passion for cooking with local ingredients. 

2019 Youth Award Recipient:

Om Agarwal

Om Agarwal is a grade 11 home-schooled student, formally of Citadel High and has been widely recognized for the calibre of his science fair projects, having been a national finalist for several years. This May he achieved his highest recognition – a top ten — at the Canada Wide Science Fair in Fredericton. 

Om’s most recent project is called DetectTimely, an open source, standardized, and comprehensive breast cancer analytics platform that is designed to apply artificial intelligence to interpreting diagnostic test results and deliver speedier and more optimized prognostic outcomes in automated environment. His purpose is to address the prevalence of breast cancer in women against a systemic shortage of radiology shortages experienced in many parts of the world. 

Om describes his motivation humbly, stating that he is “just a fellow human trying to do good in the world.” Involved in science fairs since junior high, he’s forged a productive path of research and prototyping to address a diverse range of societal and human health needs, such as skin lesion identification, depression, emergency medicine, and optimizing plant growth in greenhouses. 

Om is widely published in young scientific journals and has travelled the world doing speaking engagements. Not only does he apply his considerable skills to the world of science, Om is also an outspoken advocate for anti-bullying programs and supporting youth entrepreneurship. He offers this advice to others: “I don’t know the key to success, but I do know the key to failure is obliging to what the world expects you to be.” Check out his website at

2019 Award Category Recipients:

Emerging Professional: Dr. Barret Kurylyk

Dr. Barret Kurylyk is an Assistant Professor of Civil and Resource Engineering and Canada Research Chair in Coastal Water Resources at Dalhousie UniversityAn award-winning researcher, Dr. Kurylyk investigates how water resources respond to climate change and other environmental disturbances. His work informs resourcmanagement and aquatic ecosystem monitoring and management protocols 

Dr. Kurylyk’s aim is to achieve trans-disciplinary solutions to major water security challenges. He hacollaborated with engineers, ecologists, physicists, climatologists, and geographers across five continentsThe quality and quantity of his research have made him Canada’s most highly cited water resources engineer, hydrologist, or hydrogeologist at his age or younger. 

Dr. Kurylyk exemplifies that science and technology improve our quality of life and economic wellbeing. He has had impact on such diverse areas as improving wild Atlantic salmon habitat, measuring deep groundwater flows and hydrologic shifts using new methods, and predicting fresh groundwater depletion due to rising sea levels. 

Outside of his research work, Dr. Kurylyk is an advocate for waterHe is currently serving on the executive of the Hydrology Section of the Canadian Geophysical Union and the Canadian Chapter of the International Association of Hydrogeologists. 

Mentoring talented students is highlight of his workand seeing his students share their work gives him great satisfaction. Growing up in P.E.I. he spent afternoons and weekends fishing, skating, or swimming, and these activities strongly influence his present water research directions 

Innovation: Novonix

Since 2014, Novonix has been an innovator in the Lithium-ion battery testing and materials development spaces. In five years, the company has grown from three to over 20 employees and a variety of products and services and is the only operation of its kind east of Quebec. 

Novonix is a leader in producing ultra high-precision battery testing equipment that can be used to evaluate the state of health of lithium ion cells, which measure lifetimes in decades. Its client list is a who’s who of battery industry giants, including Panasonic, CATL, Dyson, Apple, and GM to name a few. All of these entities want their cells and devices to last the longest and need ways to evaluate their development against competitors. 

Not content with the status quoNovonix is now involved in new materials development for lithium-ion cells. To accelerate these efforts, Novonix supports the work of Professor Mark Obrovac at Dalhousie University in the NSERC/Novonix Industrial Research Chair on metal-ion batteries. This is a financial commitment of more than $300,000 annually. For such a young and small organization to support R&D at this level is vivid demonstration of its commitment to innovation and supporting the growth of the local battery ecosystem. 

Science Champion: Dr. Christine Chambers

Dr. Christine Chambers is a clinical psychologist, Killam Professor at Dalhousie University, and Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in Children’s Pain. Widely published and fully adept at traditional and social media, Dr. Chambers is a leader in knowledge translation and science communication. 

Critical to Dr. Chamber’s research is the full participation of patients (defined by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research as “individuals with personal experience of a health issue and informal caregivers, including family and friends”). Her results are available to her peers and more importantly, to patients, parents, and caregivers, providing new power and knowledge to help advocate for children and alleviate their pain. 

This focus on engagement increases the understanding, appreciation, and application of science to improve health for children and families. Her communication efforts (i.e. social media, media interviews) ensure that relevant research findings about children’s pain are public and accessible. 

She has supervised over 130 trainees to date, including 17 PhD students, all of whom have been awarded training funding and have established independent careers as researchers and/or clinical leaders. Patients are members of her students’ dissertation committees and involved in their research. 

Dr. Chambers is a supporter and role model for women in science, advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion. In addition to her work in the science community, she likes to read, cook, travel, and spend time with her family. 

Professional of Distinction: Dr. Graham Gagnon

Dr. Graham Gagnon is a Professor of Civil and Resource Engineering at Dalhousie University. He also holds a NSERC / Halifax Water Industrial Research Chair at the university’s Centre for Water Resource Studies and, in July 2018, he was appointed Associate Vice President of Research. 

Now in his third five-year term in the NSERC/Halifax Water-funded chair, he is also the first engineering professor to be awarded University Research Professorship at Dalhousie. Such a distinguished and award-winning career has established Dr. Gagnon as a world leader in clean water studies, working with both national and international organizations on a broad array of topics, from water technology to public policy development. 

Over the course of his career in drinking-water research, he has attracted more than $35 million in funding as either principal investigator or co-PI. He has grown the Centre for Water Resource Studies, housing six professors in dedicated research space and with a complement of over 50 trainees and research staff. Recently he began working with Halifax Water to create a second chair. Within this highly multidisciplinary research area, Dr. Gagnon and his team are engaged in development of new technology and analytics, social justice, and policy. 

In a recent article in the Journal of the American Water Works Association, his peers attested that he truly resides at the leading-edge of the water industry network.  

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