Winnipeg chemist earns prestigious British science award

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A Winnipeg-born scientist who divides his time between Toronto and Hamburg, Germany, is one of this year's winners of a prestigious British science award.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/05/2016 (2393 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A Winnipeg-born scientist who divides his time between Toronto and Hamburg, Germany, is one of this year’s winners of a prestigious British science award.

Prof. R.J. Dwayne Miller has been named a winner of the Royal Society of Chemistry Centenary Prize.

The announcement was made in a Royal Society of Chemistry statement last week.

Miller makes movies about atoms and he is also the founder of Science Rendezvous, an annual Canada-wide event to promote science to the public. It involves more than 160,000 people and an additional 4,000 volunteers in 30-plus cities.

Miller was born in Winnipeg and attended the University of Manitoba, graduating with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry and immunology in 1978.

He chalked up exhaustive post-graduate work before breaking new ground in science.

“Miller works to track chemical reactions on the atomic level using atomic movies, a method of observing the movements of atoms in real time. By doing so he has shown that chemistry can be distilled down to a handful of key atomic motions,” the Royal Society said in a statement announcing Miller’s prize.

“This insight will have profound implications for our understanding of biological processes and how to treat disease.”

Another website, for the Hamburg Centre for Ultrafast Imaging, noted Miller also won a major prize in 2015 from the American Chemical Society for the same work.

“Miller’s first atomic movie of melting, the moment a solid collapses to liquid form, for example led to new concepts in laser surgery that are so precise and gentle there is no scar tissue formation,” the Hamburg site said.

“His team is now collaborating with over 50 surgeons in Hamburg and Toronto to bring this new concept into practice that could solve the longstanding problem of scar tissue in fully recovery of function and aesthetics.”

Miller is a director of a department at the famed Max Planck Institute in Hamburg and he has a secondary appointment as a professor of chemistry and physics at the University of Toronto.

He was also named the University of Manitoba’s 2016 Honoured Alumni of the Year Award in chemistry.

“Miller considers himself a movie director. But instead of highly paid actors, his subjects are tiny molecules and his films are made during ground-breaking scientific experiments,” the U of M said in a playful interview on its website.

“It was in 2003 that he was head of the research group that designed a new generation of electron guns, allowing them to realize a long-time dream to watch atoms in real time during the breaking or making of a chemical bond — the first to ever create a ‘molecular movie.’ They also came up with the first method for performing surgery at the level of a single cell, thereby avoiding scar tissue.”

Some 47 winners of the Royal Society of Chemistry Centenary Prize award have gone on to be named Nobel Prize winners.

The society, founded in 1841, is the oldest society for the science of chemistry in the world. Each year, it names three Centenary winners among the world’s scientists who also have outstanding communications skills.

Each winner goes on to give lecture tours in the United Kingdom and each is feted at a British gala, with a cash award equivalent to about US$10,000, along with the presentation of a medal and a certificate. The gala is held every November in London.

Miller was not available for comment.

 

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

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