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Killam Fellowships awarded to U of T support diverse research

Studies of climate change, greener industrial processes and understanding social and political conflicts in pre-WW1 Germany get boost with national funding

Photo of: James Retallack, Robert Morris, and Jonathan Abbatt

James Retallack, Robert Morris and Jonathan Abbatt.

Half of six new Killam Research Fellowships announced today by the Canada Council for the Arts are going to researchers in the Faculty of Arts & Science at the University of Toronto.

The three tipped to substantially advance their respective fields are atmospheric scientist Jonathan Abbatt and inorganic chemist Robert Morris, both of the Department of Chemistry, and German and European historian James Retallack of the Department of History. Between them, they explore a wide range of topics:

  • Abbatt studies pressing issues in climate research, including the effect of changing temperatures and sea ice on aerosol particles in the Arctic. He is the principal investigator of NETCARE, a Canadian consortium of researchers that encompasses the broad scientific expertise needed to integrate our understanding of the Arctic atmosphere and its impact on climate change. Abbatt says his Killam will enable him to advance his project, Aerosol Particles and Climate: Addressing Fundamental Connections in the Canadian Arctic. “The Killam Fellowship will allow me to visit different network co-investigators and to participate in fieldwork activities,” said Abbatt.
  • Morris works towards a more environmentally sustainable chemical industry. His project, Developing Catalysts Based on Iron, focuses on better understanding newly discovered iron compounds that promise to replace the rare, expensive and sometimes toxic platinum metal catalysts that are currently used for the synthesis of fuels, pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals and fragrances. Further development depends on the discovery of green, efficient and selective catalysts. Morris is already responsible for major breakthroughs in this field and has helped lay the foundation for greener chemical processes. “With this award, we’ll be able to concentrate on the next big push in what has now become a very competitive field of catalyst discovery,” Morris said.
  • Retallack is in the early stages of researching and writing “The Workers’ Emperor”: August Bebel’s Struggle for Social Justice and Democratic Reform, 1840-1913, a biography of the leader of the Social Democratic Party in pre-World War One Germany. Retallack is one of the world’s leading experts on Germany’s missed opportunities to implement liberalism and democracy and steer away from the horrors of Nazism. His study of Bebel’s life will shed new light on the Second Reich’s inner conflicts and explore how Germans distinguished between routine opposition, civil disobedience, and “political terrorism” in a modernizing world. “The Killam Fellowship will enable me and my graduate students to synthesize a vast array of sources and help us understand a crucial moment in German and world history,” said Retallack.

The Killam Fellowships support scholars engaged in ongoing projects of outstanding merit and widespread interest in their fields. The prize affords each recipient the opportunity to spend time focused solely on their research.

“Congratulations to Professors Abbatt, Morris and Retallack and on behalf of the U of T research community, thanks to the Canada Council,” said Vivek Goel, U of T’s vice-president of research and innovation. “These tremendous scholars are doing important work that makes a difference to us all. The Killam Fellowships provide them with a marvelous opportunity to focus and take their work and their impact further.”