Discovery Awards Discovery Awards

2021 Discovery Awards

The Discovery Awards, co-presented by Dalhousie University and Saint Mary’s University, and in support of the Discovery Centre, had nearly 400 community members join together virtually to celebrate and honour the finalists and recipients in six prestigious categories.

Meet the 2021 inductee to the Science Hall of Fame and the 2021  inspiring Youth Award recipient, along with our finalists and recipients for Professional of Distinction, Emerging Professional, Innovation, and Science Champion:


2021 Hall of Fame Recipient:

Dr. Noni MacDonald

Dr. Noni MacDonald is a professor in the Department of Pediatrics, and former Dean of the Dalhousie Faculty of Medicine, as well as holds the prestigious honour of being an Officer of the Order of Canada and Order of Nova Scotia.

Her two current major areas of interest are (1) Vaccines including vaccine safety, hesitancy, demand, pain mitigation, education, and policy; and (2) MicroResearch, building capacity in community focused research in developing countries and now also in Canada.

Dr. MacDonald is a pioneer in the medical community in Canada and internationally. She was the first pediatrician in Canada certified in pediatric infectious diseases by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. She founded the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Ottawa in 1981 and led the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Service at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, serving as Chief until 1999.

It was then that Dr. MacDonald moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia to become the first woman in Canada to hold the position of Dean of a Faculty of Medicine when she took this post at Dalhousie University in 1999. Following this role, she co-founded the Canadian Center for Vaccinology in 2004.

Dr. MacDonald has over 400 peer reviewed publications and was the founding Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health from 1996-2016, the first Canadian pediatric journal. She has been a consultant and advisor to the World Health Organization for over 20 years, serving on the Strategic Advisory Committee on Immunization.

2021 Youth Award Recipient:

Silas Eastwood

Silas Eastwood is this year’s Youth Award recipient. He is a passionate and accomplished grade 10 student at Citadel High School and formally of Halifax Independent School. Silas’ goal is to improve the success rates of CubeSat programs as well as expand the types of mission objectives they can pursue by providing lowcost alternatives to conventional testing facilities and commercial satellite components.

After a busy summer of being on the Dalhousie Space Systems Lab team as a summer student working on their CubeSat project, and co-authoring a paper presented at the Mechanical Engineering Conference, Silas was inspired for his 2021 science fair project, Revolution Evolution. Silas designed a highquality, high-performance space qualified reaction wheel that would be simple, low cost and easy to manufacture and assemble, yet flexible enough to be integrated into a wide range of CubeSat missions. His project competed at the Canada-Wide Science Fair, awarding him the Excellence in Astronomy Award, and the highest honour of a gold medal.

Eastwood’s achievements don’t stop there. His passion for science and space earned an Excellence in Physics Award in 2019. He was also accepted into ATLAS (ATLantic Academy of Space) which introduces high school students to space exploration, artificial intelligence, engineering, and technology through an intensive two-week CubeSat satellite design program at Dalhousie University.


2021 Professional of Distinction Recipient:

Dr. Gail Tomblin Murphy

Dr. Gail Tomblin Murphy is always seeking creative solutions to improve care delivery for patients. Dr. Tomblin Murphy is Nova Scotia Health’s Vice President of Research, Innovation and Discovery and Chief Nurse Executive, providing visionary leadership for research and innovation in Nova Scotia’s healthcare system, following a 30-year career at Dalhousie University as a professor and researcher.

Dr. Tomblin Murphy believes that partnerships and collaboration are critical to enabling innovation and embedding research evidence into decision making. She listens, understands, and brings evidence-informed views forward, enabling health decision-makers to understand how evidence and innovative ideas can help create and reform policy, practice, and care. Dr. Tomblin Murphy has created a Health Innovation, Research and Discovery Hub at Nova Scotia Health – a collaborative environment that pairs leading researchers, innovators, and clinicians with entrepreneurs to improve health and health care. She lead’s Nova Scotia Health’s virtual care strategy, co-leads the Nova Scotia COVID-19 Health Research Coalition, has co-developed a health challenge pitch event on leveraging technology to improve care, and has created a community of scholars to support new researchers. As well, she has been appointed to the national COVID-19 Immunity Task Force leadership group to guide Canada’s epidemic response.

Dr. Tomblin Murphy oversees improvements to interprofessional practice and learning at Nova Scotia Health, which allows Nova Scotians to benefit from leading-edge research and innovation that is advancing care delivery. An expert in health systems and workforce planning, evaluation and research, Dr. Tomblin Murphy is an expert advisor on health workforce to the World Health Organization and Pan American Health Organization.

2021 Emerging Professional Recipient:

Dr. Rita Orji

Dr. Rita Orji’s research is based on the recognition that persuasion is not a “one-size-fits-all” proposition, and the user needs to come first. Dr. Orji is a Canada Research Chair and an Associate Professor at Dalhousie University and is recognized globally as a leader in Persuasive Technologies (PTs) and Behaviour Change Systems for her transformative work on Personalizing Persuasive Systems.

In the area of predictive personalization modelling, Dr. Orji has developed models and frameworks for personalizing PTs based on how individuals respond to design strategies. Her work was among the first to demonstrate the importance of personalizing behaviour change strategies, conducting large-scale evaluations of personalized persuasive systems including mental health, healthy eating, physical activity, sexual behaviour, and alcohol abuse.

Some of these applications are available to the public through app stores and have thousands of users world-wide. Dr. Orji has gained public awareness of her work attracting attention in the local and international community. Her research is making an impact for the social good and transcends areas that affect daily lives – making technology and its applications relevant.

Dr. Orji is also a STEM diversity ambassador, working towards increased participation of women and underrepresented communities in computing. She has conducted outreach programming with Let’s Talk Science and co-organizes an annual girls’ coding bootcamp in Nigeria, attracting sponsorships from powerhouses Unity and Google.

2021 Innovation Recipient:


Maskwiomin’s mission is the ethical commercialization of traditional Mi’kmaq knowledge. Maskwiomin, a Mi’kmaq Skincare company, was founded by Tuma Young and Matthias Bierenstiel for the ethical commercialization of a Mi’kmaq skin remedy.

The company’s name derives from the Mi’kmaq words maskwi (= birch bark) and omin (= oil) which is a re-discovered traditional Mi’kmaq skin remedy of a birch bark extract that has excellent properties for sensitive skin and many skin conditions. The bark extract is compounded as cream or infused into soap – now made in their commercial site in Sydney for customers all over Canada.

Young and Bierenstiel both work at Cape Breton University. More than 25 years ago, Young heard the 1920s story of maskwiomin from two Elders in Membertou First Nation. Beginning in 2013, Young and Bierenstiel successfully worked with the Indigenous community to re-discover maskwiomin through stories and recreation, as well as explored the remedy through science.

They valued open communication with the community, established trust and built a constructive relationship on the value of the commercialization of maskwiomin with an accompanying emphasis on ensuring community benefits.

To date, Young and Bierenstiel have received over $1M in health research funding to study maskwiomin’s medicinal properties. The bark extract is recognized by Health Canada as a cosmetic, and the next research milestone is its registration as a Natural Health Product.

2021 Science Champion Recipient:

Dr. Lisa Barrett

Dr. Lisa Barrett is driven by the belief that health science is at its best when communicated effectively to those who need it most. Dr. Barrett is the Assistant Professor of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Dalhousie University. She has very quickly become one of the most recognized and trusted faces leading the charge against the spread of COVID-19 in Atlantic Canada.

Dr. Barrett has played a critical role in Atlantic Canada’s international recognition for its successful approach in keeping the pandemic at bay. From the start of the pandemic, she has advocated for widespread community testing. She has mobilized teams of healthcare co-workers and volunteers to run pop-up testing events, encouraging everyone – including the asymptomatic – to be tested regularly. Because of Dr. Barrett’s work, regular testing became normalized and necessary to keep communities safe.

A member of the Canadian COVID-19 Therapeutics Task Force, Dr. Barrett continues to lead cutting-edge research that shapes the way the world responds to the global health threat. She is part of a strong team of researchers funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research who examine clinical characteristics and outcomes of confirmed and suspected hospitalized cases of COVID-19.

Dr. Barrett often volunteers her time and expertise to help Nova Scotians. She has been an ally and advocate for marginalized populations in Nova Scotia, including the under-housed and persons who use substances. She recognizes the unique barriers to healthcare that they face and volunteers her time to work with community organizations to address them.

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