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Polanyi prizes for two early-career University of Toronto researchers

The research of Andrea Charise teaches Ontarians how literature and the humanities are crucial to the way we think about age and generations

Two University of Toronto researchers, Andrea Charise and Rahul Deb, have won esteemed Polanyi Prizes – Charise for her literary research and Deb for his work in economics.

The Polanyi Prizes were created to celebrate U of T chemistry professor John Polanyi’s 1986 Nobel Prize. The areas of research they recognize mirror those of the Nobel Prizes. Winners – post-doctoral researchers in the early stages of their careers – are awarded $20,000 by the Ontario government.

“For 27 years, the Polanyi Prizes have recognized and showcased the brightest young researchers Ontario has to offer,” said Polanyi. “I always look forward to meeting these scholars at the beginning of their promising academic careers and I am pleased that the Ontario government continues to recognize and support venturesome fundamental research across the province.”

Charise is an assistant professor of health studies at U of T Scarborough. Her research focuses on how today’s generational identity and intergenerational conflict were represented much earlier in literature. She also examines the politics and poetics of generational relations in 19th century Britain, which again surface in modern times. Charise says the defining of age-base groups, such as boomers and millennials, is evidence of generational identity and intergenerational conflict in the modern literary imagination. Her research teaches Ontarians how literature and the humanities are crucial to the way we think about age and generations amidst the province’s changing demographic.

Deb (pictured right) is an assistant professor in the department of economics. He developed a theory that is used to determine whether firms involved in competitive bids for business are genuinely competing, or whether they are secretly colluding. This theory will allow market regulators to assess competition or collusion by observing a firm’s strategic behaviour over time.

Deb’s research also outlines a model that allows governments to choose an alternate bidder if there is a distinct social benefit to doing so. Ontarians will benefit greatly from this fair-competition approach to business in support of the province’s competitive economy.

“On behalf of the U of T research community, congratulations to Professors Charise and Deb,” said Professor Peter Lewis, U of T’s interim vice-president, research and innovation. “This is a great honour for two superb early career scholars.”

Along with the two U of T researchers, three others won Polanyi Prizes: in chemistry, Dr. William Bennett of the University of Waterloo; in physiology/medicine, Dr. Jennifer Brunet of the University of Ottawa; and in physics, Dr. Eduardo Martin-Martinez, also from the University of Waterloo.

“It’s my pleasure to honour this year’s recipients of the Polanyi Prize, who are wonderful ambassadors of the world-class research and innovation taking place at Ontario’s universities,” said Reza Moridi, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities and Minister of Research and Innovation. “By continuing to invest in our postsecondary institutions and in programs like the Ontario Research Fund, our province will continue to support and attract the kind of talented academics whose research results in very real benefits for Ontarians.”

Paul Fraumeni is a writer with the Office of The Vice-President, Research and Innovation at the University of Toronto.