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Queen’s professor honoured for three pillars of academia

John Smol earns award for his passion for teaching and dedication to his students.

Queen’s University professor John Smol has earned some of the highest research honours in Canada and internationally, but the Lee Lorch Award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) might be one of the most significant based on what it represents to him – acknowledgment of his work as a teacher and a mentor to students, as well as the public-at-large.

The CAUT reserves the annual Lee Lorch Award for members whose teaching, research, and service have contributed significantly to the lives of students, to their institution, to their field of study, and to the community.

“Frankly, it feels odd to receive a reward for doing something that I love,” says Dr. Smol, a professor in the Department of Biology and the Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change. “I have always believed that it is a privilege to be a professor. I love universities because they are keepers and interpreters of our past collective knowledge. I love universities because they are also the place where we create new knowledge; knowledge that can be used to make our lives better.”

Dr. Smol’s research focuses on Arctic and alpine ecosystems, water pollution, and climate change and he is the founder and co-director of the Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Laboratory (PEARL) based at Queen’s.

Winning the Lee Lorch award brings Dr. Smol’s teaching and mentoring award total to 13 – something he’s incredibly proud of.

“A large part of our jobs as professors is to take our knowledge creation and communicate the products of that knowledge,” he says. “Academic institutions remind me about how important it is for our society to have well-informed, articulate, socially active, and especially thoughtful graduates to meet the challenges ahead. This is partly what we do – or at least try to do – in universities.  Namely, mentoring graduates who are ready to tackle the problems that the world has created.”

Brian Cumming, Head of the Department of Biology and former student of Dr. Smol, nominated him for the award.

“The Department of Biology is extremely proud that Dr. Smol will be the recipient of the 2018 CAUT Lee Lorch Award,” says Dr. Cumming. “It recognizes his extraordinary contributions to all aspects of being a professor including: being a leading researcher; teacher and communicator; and his administrative responsibilities. He is especially engaged in explaining how science works, and the contributions that science can make to public policy and decision making, and why we all need to communicate the significance of our findings.”

Dr. Smol received his award on Saturday, April 18 in Ottawa.