Three awarded Killam fellowships

March 24, 2005, vol. 32, no. 6
By Diane Luckow

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Three outstanding SFU researchers have been awarded Killam research fellowships to pursue research projects in English literature, biological sciences, and physics.

The fellowships, administered by the Canada Council for the Arts, enable 14 of Canada's best scientists and scholars to devote two years to fulltime research and writing.

Two SFU professors - biological sciences professor Bernard Crespi and English professor Carole Gerson - received new awards, while physicist Mike Thewalt's existing Killam was renewed.

Crespi, whose biological research explores the evolution of social behaviour, will write the first book to encompass sociality and cooperation in all organisms, including microbes, plants and animals. He expects it will be of use to biologists studying behaviour, to medical researchers analyzing recently discovered social interactions among disease-causing microorganisms and to anyone interested in the biodiversity of life.

Gerson will examine Canadian women in print between 1750 and 1918. She plans to analyse their place in the literary field by examining the material and social conditions that shaped their motivations, writing practices and opportunities for publication, as well as their subsequent reception. “I want to find out whether their North American context, at first colonial, then national, enhanced their sense of purpose and agency by giving them new topics to write about and greater freedom to do so,” explains Gerson. She also plans to compare French-Canadian and English-Canadian women writers during this period.

Thewalt will continue his focus on redefining the limits of semiconductor spectroscopy using his newly designed spectrometer to analyse the spectrum of light emitted by synthetically manipulated silicon. “Analysing the light tells us a lot about the material that we don't know, including what kinds of impurities are in it,” says Thewalt, whose first year of research has revealed some unexpected results. He hopes his research will lead to the discovery of new ways to use silicon, including its use to create a quantum computer for massively complex calculations.

Eighty-three researchers applied to the 38th annual competition. The recipients are chosen by the Killam selection committee of 14 eminent scientists and scholars representing a broad range of disciplines.

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