Waterloo student, faculty awarded Polanyi Prize
Tao (Toby) Zeng, a post-doctoral student at the University of Waterloo department of chemistry and Jennifer Esmail, professor of English at Wilfrid Laurier Universityare among five recipients of the prestigious Polanyi Prize. “I was quite surprised actually, because this award is a very important award and there are many good scientists eligible for this award in Ontario,” Zeng said.
The Polanyi Prize, named after John Charles Polanyi, a recipient of the 1986 Nobel Prize in chemistry is presented to up to five researchers each year, awarding each $20,000.The other three researchers awarded the prize this year are from the University of Toronto. Esmail said she was proud that she and Zeng were able to represent the universities in Waterloo region.
Zeng, who specializes in theoretical chemistry, joined the University of Waterloo in early 2011 after receiving his PhD from the University of Alberta. He has continued research in microscopic super fluidity. His findings have contributed to further understanding the quantum effect and some of his more practical research looks at the storage of hydrogen in water and how it can be released to produce clean energy.
In the long term, the energy production of hydrogen through water has the potential to replace current fuel sources, like gasoline.“The award mainly encouraged me even more and delivers a message that my research is considered to be good and an important aspect in science,” he said.
Similarly, Esmail stated that she feels honoured that her research in the humanities was recognized with the other four recipients, whose work is in the sciences. “I do really appreciate humanities research is being valued here. Through studying literature and history and cultural texts, we have important things to contribute to cultural conversation,” she said.
Esmail has been at Laurier since July, 2011 and has researched issues of deafness and disability in Victorian literature. She has also studied the history of the era’s media and technology and through literature and historical documents Esmail said she can determine the cultural beliefs of the period. “Literary texts reflect cultural beliefs and they also contribute to forming them in the first place. Literature is an important way at getting at these important historical and current questions,” she said.
—With files from The Record