Six new Fellows to the RSC

(Edmonton) In recognition of their outstanding scholarly and scientific achievement, six University of Alberta faculty members have been elected to the Royal Society of Canada.

The new fellows are gastroenterologist Richard Fedorak, political scientist Andy Knight, linguist John Newman, drama professor Jan Selman, Edmonton Protocol transplant surgeon James Shapiro and biochemist Joel Weiner.

“These six U of A professors are leaders in learning and research in the arts and sciences and a reflection of our academic excellence,” said President Indira Samarasekera. “I offer my congratulations to our Royal Society fellows. We are extremely proud that they have been recognized for their outstanding work and its impact on their disciplines and society.” 

The Royal Society of Canada was founded in 1882 and is Canada's oldest and most prestigious scholarly institute. With this year’s inductees, the U of A now has 103 members.

“It seems to me that the more RSC fellows this university has, the higher will be its profile across Canada and the globe,” said Knight, a world leader in the study of international organizations, global governance and human security.

“What [being honoured] says to me is that I must have been doing something right over these years of pursuing my research agenda and that my work must have had some impact on people,” he said. “The U of A provided me with the environment, the stimulation, the supportive colleagues, the research facilities and graduate students, and the encouragement of senior administrators like our provost and vice-president (research), to help me reach to that next level.”

Newman has carried out a sustained program of research on core verbs of language, seeking motivation for linguistic structure in everyday human experience. “Like all the researchers I know, I carry out the research I do because I simply enjoy doing it, not because I am seeking particular awards or prizes” he said. “Membership in the Royal Society of Canada offers opportunities for very special kinds of service to Canada and I am looking forward to making those contributions.”

Selman, a theatre director, dramaturg, editor and scholar who is recognized in Canada and internationally for developing ways of making theatre a potent agent of social change, says her induction is recognition of the U of A's long-standing excellence and outstanding record in theatre, and the fine arts.

“Theatre is a collaborative art� so my colleagues, past and present, in U of A and in the vibrant theatre profession, which is largely made up of U of A alumni, share this honour,” she said. “The U of A has encouraged and supported community engagement and interdisciplinarity, both of which are at the heart of my theatre practice and critical writing.”

The Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry is sending three fellows to the Royal Society of Canada led by Shapiro, who developed a new islet cell transplant procedure that has allowed patients with Type 1 diabetes to discontinue insulin therapy� a remarkable achievement that stands as the biggest breakthrough in the fight against diabetes since insulin was discovered in 1922 by a team of Canadian researchers that included U of A researcher James Collip.

Fedorak, an international leader in inflammatory bowel disease research, says it is a great honour to be nominated to the Royal Society of Canada, especially given that the nomination comes from one’s peers. “The University of Alberta has had a tremendously positive impact on my research over the years and has given me opportunities not only in research, but opportunities in teaching, administration and leadership,” he said. “It has also allowed me to extend my academic activities outside the university onto the national and international stage.”

The acknowledgement of one's peers is also not lost on Weiner, whose contributions to the function of proteins, especially in energy conservation, make him a household name in biochemistry labs around the world. However, he says that, with any recognition, it really reflects on the outstanding abilities of the entire laboratory research team.

"It is not by any means a one-man show. I have been very lucky to have outstanding trainees, research colleagues and collaborators over many years that have allowed me to explore research discoveries and to tackle problems in a multidisciplinary way.”

Weiner also credits his success with the collaborative atmosphere at the U of A, pointing to the creation, along with U of A biochemist Marek Michalak, of the Membrane Protein Research Group in the mid-1980s.

"This is internationally recognized as an outstanding research group and has created an environment that has stimulated recruitment of excellent investigators and trainees and it has allowed all the members research programs to flourish by providing an environment for discussion and exchange of ideas."