Top Canadian honours for two field-leading researchers
March 15, 2023
Two researchers from Queen’s have been awarded prestigious honours from the National Killam Program. The Killam Fellowships and Prizes recognize outstanding career achievements in the health sciences, engineering, humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences that contribute to building Canada's future and increasing the scientific impact of Canadians through research.
Claire Davies (Mechanical and Materials Engineering) is the recipient of one of eight Dorothy Killam Fellowships (valued at $160,000 over two years) to support scholars in carrying out groundbreaking projects, while Praveen Jain (Electrical and Computer Engineering) is one of five researchers nationally to receive a Killam Prize (valued at $100,000), which recognize and celebrate Canada’s most inspiring scholars and thought leaders.
"To have two of our leading researchers recognized with two of Canada’s top honours is an exciting moment for Queen’s and it showcases the impact of our research community," says Nancy Ross, Vice-Principal (Research). "The work of Drs. Jain and Davies represents both career-long achievement as well as research potential, all leading to a more inclusive and technologically advanced society."
Advancing accessible communications
Dr. Davies is recognized internationally for her leadership in engineering strategies to increase independence and engagement for persons with disabilities. Her Killam Fellowship project titled "Participation requires communication" will employ participatory-based research and feedback techniques to seek consensus on and support the development of guidelines for alternative and augmentative communication devices, to inform the new Accessible Canada Act.
People with speech, communication, and physical disabilities experience profound social isolation, marginalization, and participation restrictions. With more than 440,000 Canadians living with significant communications disabilities, there is an urgent need to update our policies to reflect developments in technology that are integrated into everything from the workplace to recreation. And, while international standards exist for software development and interface design, there is little guidance around augmentative and alternative communication hardware such as desk-mounted displays, electronic communication boards, and speech-generating devices.
Research evidence indicates that technologies and augmentative and alternative communication systems support social interaction, and that communication in diverse settings can enable far greater participation. With the new Accessible Canada Act, the hope is that this research project will influence policy in the development of standards requiring universally accessible design across all communication devices.
"Evidence shows that representation of Canadians with disabilities is missing in the workforce," says Dr. Davies. "We must hear their voices in the co-design of tools, systems, and policies to ensure equitable inclusion, and the Dorothy Killam Fellowship will provide the funding and support to help us advance this important discussion."
Powering energy innovations
A trailblazer in the field of power electronics, Dr. Jain has made numerous original, high-impact contributions to high-frequency power conversion technology that have led to its use in telecommunications, space, computer design, induction melting, and renewable energy industries. Dr. Jain is also the named inventor of more than 100 patents and the founder of two successful companies, CHiL Semiconductor and SPARQ Systems, the latter which recently went public through a listing on the TSX Venture Exchange.
As the director of the Centre for Energy and Power Electronics (ePower) at Queen’s, Dr. Jain collaborates with researchers and industry worldwide to develop innovative solutions to energy challenges and believes that distributed renewable power represents the future of energy systems.
In addition to the Killam Prize in Engineering, Dr. Jain has been recognized with numerous international awards and honours for his groundbreaking research. He received the 2021 IEEE Medal in Power Engineering for contributions to the theory and practice of high-frequency power-conversion systems—the highest award in his field. He also received the 2017 IEEE Canada Electric Power Medal, the 2011 IEEE William E. Newell Technical Field Award in Power Electronics, and the 2004 Engineering Medal from the Professional Engineers of Ontario. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a Fellow of the IEEE, a Fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada, and a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering.
"It is a great honour for me to receive the 2023 Killam Prize in Engineering," says Dr. Jain. "This prize symbolizes over 40 years of my life’s work in the practical applications of power electronics and is not something I could have dreamed of growing up in rural India. I am indebted to Queen’s for providing me the world-class research environment to realize this dream."
Queen’s has a long history of engagement with the National Killam Program, dating back to the 1990s. For more information on the Killam Program and past recipients, visit the website.