Top science students hear Gairdner Award winners speak

 Andrew Fire

Above: Gairdner Award-winner Andrew Fire speaks about HIV research

Each year the Gairdner Awards, a strong predictor of future Nobel Prize consideration, are awarded to top medical and research scientists who have made outstanding contributions to medical science. On Oct. 26, York hosted its inaugural Gairdner High School Lecture. This by-invitation-only event brought together an audience of more than 300 senior high-school students from the GTA to hear exciting presentations from two Gairdner award winners.

Andrew Fire, a 2005 winner and professor of biology in the departments of Pathology and Genetics at Stanford University, discussed his research in small RNA molecules, a field that he has pioneered, and the challenges of developing new medicines (see story in Oct. 26 issue of YFile).

Dr. Tak Wah Mak

Right: Dr. Tak Wah Mak

Dr. Tak Wah Mak, director of the Institute for Breast Cancer Research at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, examined the future of scientific research. As a winner from 1986, Mak also explored his choice to become a scientist and its importance as a career. Dr. Mak also received an honorary doctorate from York in 2004 (see story in the May 26, 2004 issue of YFile.)

The event was developed in cooperation with the Gairdner Foundation and sponsored by the Ontario Genomics Institute, a leading supporter of genome research in Canada. After the presentations, the distinguished guests were invited to join York professors in a lively discussion about genome research. Plans are underway to make the Gairdner High School Lecture an annual event at York.

The lecture helps give students insights into possible careers in the field of science. Students were also exposed to York’s exciting involvement in cutting-edge research and vibrant science community. York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering provided tours of science facilities and research labs to students who explored the Keele campus for the remainder of the day.


Above: From left, Christian Burks, CEO of the Ontario Genomics Institute; Dr. John Dirks, president of the Gairdner Foundation; Dr. Tak Wah Mak; Andrew Fire; Ron Pearlman, dean of York’s Faculty of Graduate Studies; and Michael De Robertis, associate dean of York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering

The Gairdner Foundation was created in 1957 by James Arthur Gairdner, a scholar, athlete and soldier in the Canadian Army, who wanted to recognize and reward the achievements of medical researchers. For more information about the Gairdner Foundation and a history of its prestigious awards, visit

For more information about the Ontario Genomics Institute, visit