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2007 NSERC Awards for Science Promotion

Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics

Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario is known around the world as an intellectual haven where some of the world's brightest minds gather to grapple with the fundamental puzzles of the physical universe. The ideas that arise from concentrating such tremendous brainpower on a particular area of physics, simply cannot be measured.

Out of that collaborative process, comes significant contributions to knowledge that must be shared with Canadians and the rest of the world. And that's why, for many, it is the Institute's array of outreach programs spearheaded by a small group of dedicated staff, that leaves the most lasting impression.

In recognition of the importance of scientific research, discovery, innovation and sharing this knowledge, the Institute launched its outreach program in 2000. Since then, thousands of students, teachers and members of the public have been inspired and informed through closer contact with the brilliant thinking and creative spirit that characterizes the Institute.

One of the main attractions is the Public Lecture Series, now in its sixth year, which offers presentations by leading scientists, including Nobel Prize laureates, that consistently attract up to 600 people per event. The public has also taken advantage of special festivals, open houses, and informal drop-in sessions at the Institute.  
In addition, Outreach staff travel the country, providing in-class presentations for high school students and special workshops for science teachers. And in the summertime, teachers and youth from across Canada and around the world take part in science camps on site at Perimeter Institute. These feature presentations and mentorship sessions with the Institute's own leading international researchers. Educators also benefit from lessons on how to make science more lively and interesting in the classroom. Teachers leave these camps with materials to help them confidently explain the mysteries of the universe.

Perimeter Institute recently launched an educational tool for high school physics teachers called “Perimeter Explorations” that is designed to complement and enhance classroom lessons. The first module explores “The Mystery of Dark Matter.”

Perimeter Institute Outreach staff also engage with the media to share information on a wide variety of popular topics in science.

These numerous outreach activities have had a dramatic impact at a national level, raising society's awareness of and appreciation for modern physics and the world-class science being conducted here in Canada.

John Acorn

John Acorn pulls out all the stops when it comes to spreading the word about the wonders of the insect world, sharing his contagious enthusiasm for nature through TV shows, books, radio broadcasts and personal appearances.

The University of Alberta lecturer is widely known as “Acorn the Nature Nut,” thanks to a highly successful TV show that ran for seven seasons. Some 92 episodes were produced, covering every species from arachnids to yucca moths and offering a unique blend of science, humour and musical numbers written by Mr. Acorn himself. Acorn the Nature Nut was twice nominated for a Gemini Award, and continues to entertain and inform audiences across North America through syndication.

Mr. Acorn used the same popular approach in writing a total of 17 books, including 13 field guides that feature his own photographs and sing the praises of various native insects. In addition to providing scientific information, the books contain anecdotes and rhymes that help readers remember the creatures they observe. His other works include several successful children's books about the world of dinosaurs and a general audience book about fossils and paleontology.

Visitors to the Royal Tyrell Dinosaur Museum in Drumheller, Alberta, hear his animated voice in various videos. The museum also sponsors “Deep Alberta,” a radio show written and hosted by Mr. Acorn that focuses on paleontology and natural history. He is often invited to speak at festivals, workshops and conferences, and won the 2006 Canadian Society of Zoologists Public Education Award as well as the 2003 Carr Award for Promotion of Amateur Entomology.