Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

March 31, 2003

Graduate wins prestigious NSERC prize

A recent University of Guelph graduate has been named the winner of the 2003 Howard Alper Post-doctoral Prize, the most prestigious post-doctoral award made by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

Ryan Gregory, who received his PhD in zoology from U of G last month, was recognized for his work in the evolutionary significance of genome size diversity. The announcement was made in Ottawa today by Industry Minister Allan Rock and NSERC president Tom Brzustowski. Gregory is currently working as an NSERC Post-doctoral Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History’s Institute for Comparative Genomics.

Awarded for the first time in 2001, the Alper Prize is considered one of Canada's premier science and research honours. Every year, an NSERC post-doctoral fellow in one of the natural sciences or engineering disciplines receives the award in recognition of academic excellence and potential for a research career.The winner is awarded $20,000 in addition to their $35,000 fellowship. The 2003 prize will be formally presented during a ceremony in Ottawa at the end of the year.

“I am deeply honoured by the award, and hope to live up to the expectations that go along with it,” Gregory said today. “I am a very proud Canadian, and hope to contribute as much as I can to Canadian science and society in the future.” He added he plans to return to Canada after finishing his NSERC post-doctoral fellowship in New York City.

Gregory, the author of numerous articles published in international science journals, is already considered a leader in his field. While at U of G, he compiled the world’s largest database of animal genome sizes as part of his doctoral research. The online collection includes about 3,000 animal genomes and has become a critical resource for scientists worldwide. Gregory said creating the database revealed that one of the major shortcomings of current comparative genomics is the lack of data about the genome size of invertebrates. So as part of his PhD research, he used a new computerized image analysis technique to make first-time measurements of the genomes of about 400 invertebrates, ranging from insects to spiders to earthworms. He is continuing his invertebrate genome work at the American Museum of Natural History.

“I am delighted that Ryan has won the Alper Prize because he is an exceptionally talented student,” said zoology professor Paul Hebert, who was Gregory’s supervisor and whom Gregory credits for sparking his interest in genome size research. “Ryan has made a major mark on the field of genome size evolution, in part because of his exceptional abilities as a writer.” Hebert added that Gregory also helped develop a new method for genome size determinations that is displacing traditional analytical approaches. “He has begun to fill the void that exists in our understanding of genome sizes for many groups of smaller animals, information that is of key importance in targeting species for full genomic sequencing studies.”

The Alper Prize is named for Howard Alper, president of the Royal Society of Canada and a chemistry professor and vice-rector, research, at the University of Ottawa. In 2000, Alper received the first Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal in Science and Engineering and donated $100,000 of the proceeds towards establishing the award. Alper says the prize is “an acknowledgment of outstanding accomplishments and exceptional promise for the future.”

NSERC is the primary federal agency investing in people, discovery and innovation in science and technology. The council supports both basic university research through grants and project research through partnerships among universities, governments and the private sector.

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