Three profs to be named Distinguished Research Professors

Three York faculty members will be named Distinguished Research Professors during spring convocation ceremonies next month.

Kent McNeil, a world authority on aboriginal rights, Debra Pepler, an expert on bullying, and Michael Siu, a pioneer in mass spectrometry, have been nominated by their colleagues for excellence in their fields.

The title of Distinguished Research Professor (DRP) is bestowed on full-time faculty members for sustained and outstanding scholarly, professional or artistic achievement accomplished mostly at York. The title is awarded for life and up to 20 can hold the title at any one time. Upon retirement Distinguished Research Professors add emeritus (DRPE) after their titles and are encouraged to continue their involvement in the intellectual life of the University. There are currently 15 DRPs and 23 DRPEs at York.

Kent McNeil

As one of the world’s leading experts on aboriginal rights, Kent McNeil (right) not only wrote the book on aboriginal property rights used the world over but is much in demand as a speaker and an adviser on land claims and treaty negotiations by academics, governments, First Nations and lawyers.

A professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School since 1987, McNeil specializes in the rights of indigenous peoples, particularly in Canada, Australia and the United States. His first book, Common Law Aboriginal Title (1989), has played a pivotal role in two landmark judicial decisions – the 1992 Mabo decision in Australia and the 1997 Delgamuukw decision in Canada – recognizing aboriginal title. In subsequent legal battles over indigenous land claims, courts in Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and Belize continue to refer to and rely on McNeil’s book, in which title is based on prior occupation of land and includes rights to natural resources on and under that land.

McNeil’s second major book on aboriginal rights, Emerging Justice? Essays on Indigenous Rights in Canada and Australia, was published in 2001 and received two Saskatchewan book awards. One of the six book chapters he has written (which are about to be published in a new compilation) is in the Smithsonian Institution’s Handbook on North American Indians. McNeil is also co-editing a comparative book on indigenous rights in Australia, Canada, Latin America, New Zealand and the US for the Osgoode/Hart Reader series. Now on sabbatical for two years as winner of a prestigious Killam Research Fellowship (see March 3, 2006 issue of YFile), McNeil is completing a major research project into indigenous sovereignty and European colonization in western North America.

"McNeil has a prodigious record of research grants, groundbreaking publications and speaking engagements that span his entire academic career at York University," note his nominators. His work is interdisciplinary and exceptionally influential, they add. He is also "committed to social justice and has devoted his intellectual life to aboriginal rights in the hope that indigenous peoples in Canada and elsewhere may find his legal and historical research to be useful in their ongoing struggle to achieve some measure of justice in today’s world."

Debra Pepler

Debra Pepler  (right) is renowned for her seminal research on bullying. A psychology professor at York since 1988, a member of York’s LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution, and a psychologist at the Hospital for Sick Children, Pepler is an award-winning researcher whose expertise is much in demand by policy-makers, educators and media. She’s had an enormous impact on communities across the country and around the world.

Pepler’s research focuses on children at risk and children in families at risk. She has co-authored four books, dozens of refereed journal articles, book chapters, reviews and government reports. She has been "tirelessly involved in community-based research and public policy development on pressing social issues," says her nominator. She also has an extraordinary record of professional service: she has participated on national advisory committees and the United Nations North American Roundtable, given more than 600 talks, and been a consultant to international organizations interested in reducing school bullying and violence. Pepler is considered a leader in knowledge transfer. Her "research is, by its nature, collaborative, interdisciplinary and bridges the gap between the ‘ivory tower’ of academia and the classrooms and schoolyards where it can be applied," says her nominator.

Pepler and her collaborators were recently awarded a Network of Centres of Excellence: New Initiatives grant of $800,000 to establish PREVNet – Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network, which brings together 38 university researchers and 40 non-governmental organizations in Canada. The grant is one of the largest ever received by a York faculty member, says her nominator. "The importance of her work has been recognized by no less than Canada’s Governor General, who, as part of her national child and youth initiative, has volunteered to sit as PREVNet’s honorary patron."

Michael Siu

Michael Siu (left) is one of Canada’s foremost analytical chemists and has a long and sustained record of groundbreaking research in mass spectrometry. In the past four years alone, he has won three national chemistry awards and been recognized by a Canadian Chinese education group and a community group.

Siu came to York in 1998 to become the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council/MDS SCIEX Industrial Research Chair in Analytical Mass Spectrometry after a long and stellar career at the National Research Council. He has pioneered new instrumentation and methodologies, and done groundbreaking work in electrospray ionization, and protein and peptide mass spectrometry. With researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital and the University Health Network, he has discovered and identified protein biomarkers in endometrial cancer and is working to develop a diagnostic test based on blood. Siu has published over 150 papers and given over 280 presentations.

The director of York’s Centre for Research in Mass Spectrometry and York’s associate vice-president research, science & technology, Siu is the recipient of numerous distinctions including, the 2004 Gerhard Herzberg Award from the Canadian Society of Analytical Sciences and Spectroscopy, the 2005 F.P. Lossing Award from the Canadian Society for Mass Spectrometry for lifetime contributions, and the 2006 Maxxam Award from the Canadian Society for Chemistry for distinguished contribution in the field of analytical chemistry (see the Aug. 2, 2006 issue of YFile). The Hong Kong-born scientist has been recognized by the Federation of Chinese Canadian Professionals’ Education Foundation and recently won a New Pioneers Award in Science and Technology from Skills for Change, a non-profit agency providing learning and training opportunities for immigrants and refugees (see the Jan. 22, 2007 issue of YFile).

Siu is "still in the peak of his scientific career," says his nominator. His most significant contributions have been made while at York and have "already and clearly made him a star and distinguished scientist."