York scientist elected to the Royal Society of Canada

York Professor K.W. Michael Siu has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the highest honour a Canadian scholar can achieve in the arts, humanities and sciences.

This year’s new Fellows will be inducted at a ceremony to be held Nov. 28 in Gatineau, Que.

K.W. Michael SiuA specialist in mass spectrometry whose work is highly regarded by researchers around the world, Siu is also known for service to his field in a number of professional organizations, including president of the Canadian Society for Mass Spectrometry and chair of the Canadian National Proteomics Network Board of Directors.

Right: Professor K.W. Michael Siu

"We are tremendously proud that Professor Michael Siu is elected as a Fellow to the Royal Society," said Stan Shapson, York vice-president research & innovation. "Michael Siu is a pioneering scientist who has made significant contributions to advance research in chemistry, and especially in mass spectrometry, and has made great strides in establishing collaborations and partnerships regionally and internationally."

The citation for his election as a Fellow to the Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences reads:

“Professor K.W. Michael Siu is one of Canada’s foremost bioanalytical and biophysical chemists and an exceptional mass spectrometrist with an outstanding record of innovation and accomplishment. He has made most-significant contributions to understanding the structures, energetics, and ionization and gas-phase chemistries of protonated and metalated peptides as well as peptide radical ions, developing new mass spectrometry (MS) instrumentation in collaboration with Canadian industry, and developing innovative MS technologies and methodologies for proteomics, especially in the discovery, identification, verification and quantification of protein biomarkers for better diagnostics and prognostics of cancers.”

Siu is a Distinguished Research Professor (see YFile May 8, 2007) who did his PhD at Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University and arrived at York in 1998 after a successful career at the National Research Council Canada (NRC) where he first developed some of the pioneering techniques that he uses to help other scientists in their investigations as well as his own. He is director of York’s Centre for Research in Mass Spectrometry, holds an Industrial Research Chair funded by the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council and MDS Analytical Technologies (formerly Sciex), and is developing new instrumentation and methodologies in mass spectrometry in collaboration with the industrial partner.

He is also collaborating with researchers from Mount Sinai Hospital, St. Michael’s Hospital, University Health Network and the Hospital for Sick Children on discovering and verifying protein biomarkers for endometrial, head and neck, brain, and renal cancers. Siu also has extensive collaboration within and outside of York University on proteomics and fundamental chemistry relevant to mass spectrometry.

Since 2005, Siu has also been York’s associate vice-president research, science & technology.

He is the recipient of numerous distinctions, including a New Pioneers Award (see YFile, Jan. 22, 2007), the Maxxam Award for distinguished contribution in the field of analytical chemistry (see YFile Aug. 2, 2006), the 2005 Lossing Award (see YFile Jan. 20, 2006) and the Gerhard Herzberg Award from the Canadian Society for Analytical Sciences and Spectroscopy (see YFile, Sept. 13, 2004).

In an article first published in YorkU magazine’s 2007 Special Research Edition, Siu said he was “in the right place at the right time” to ride the technological revolution in biomolecular analysis: electrospray ionization – a Nobel Prize-winning discovery that made it possible to analyze and measure proteins with hitherto unheard of sensitivity and accuracy. “The concept of moving proteins from the solution to the gas phase in order to weigh them accurately was completely revolutionary. This was entirely virgin territory,” Siu explained. He and his colleagues at NRC quickly modified an existing mass spectrometer and began exploring the new technology’s capabilities. As the technique opened up new possibilities, Siu’s work earned him recognition as an innovator and much sought-after collaborator.