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Very rubin observatory, Credit: Rubin Obs/NSF/AURA

Neil Turok appointed to Order of Canada

account_circle By Tenille Bonoguore
Perimeter Director “surprised and very honoured” to receive one of the nation’s highest honours.

When well-known cosmologist Neil Turok moved to Canada to lead Perimeter Institute in 2008, he brought boundless enthusiasm for the great scientific adventure that lay ahead. 

But despite his exemplary research record probing the deep history and distant future of the universe, there was one thing Turok could never have predicted: how warmly Canada would welcome him.

Now, Turok has been named an Officer of the Order of Canada (Honorary) in recognition of his “substantial contributions as a scientist to the field of theoretical physics and cosmology, providing new models that test fundamental theories of the universe.” The appointment will be formally conferred by Canada’s Governor General Julie Payette during an investiture ceremony in the coming year.

Close-up portrait of Neil Turok, next to an image of the Order of Canada medal
Perimeter Director Neil Turok OC (Honorary), and The Order of Canada

While the Order of Canada recognizes individuals of exceptional service and achievement, Turok sees his appointment as a broader recognition of Perimeter’s work, and of all the people whose support is essential to the endeavour.

“I am both incredibly surprised and very honoured to be named to the Order of Canada, even though I am not yet a citizen,” said Turok, who recently submitted his application for full citizenship.

“This never could have happened without the teamwork and support of many people. We are pursuing a powerful ideal together – to discover new truths about nature, to enable brilliant young scientists to blossom, and to share with everyone the wonder and hope that science  brings.” 

Turok said Perimeter has thrived thanks to the support of its public and private partners, and to the open, forward-thinking character of Canadian society: “Canada is a special place to pursue science, internationalism, and a brighter future for the world.” 

As Turok is currently a permanent resident, his official appointment is as an Officer of the Order of Canada (Honorary). Five honorary appointments are permitted each year, and the “honorary” designation is lifted should a recipient later gain Canadian citizenship.

Long-time collaborator and Perimeter Associate Faculty member Ue-Li Pen has known Turok for more than 25 years, working with him first at Princeton, and now as a colleague and collaborator in Canada, where Pen is the Director of the University of Toronto's Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics.

Turok is not just a world-class physicist, a leader in the scientific community, and an enthusiastic mentor, said Pen. He is also a globally minded leader, as evidenced by the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), which Turok founded in 2003. AIMS has since expanded to a network of six centres – in South Africa, Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon, Tanzania, and Rwanda – and has become Africa’s leading institution for postgraduate training in mathematical science.

“His unwavering ideals, both scientifically and for society, have guided his tireless dedication and perseverance,” Pen said. “The results have far exceeded anyone’s dreams. Neil’s initiative has raised Canada’s profile in physics and all of science.”

Perimeter Founder and Board Chair Mike Lazaridis also lauded Turok’s efforts to raise the bar for science in Canada. As Perimeter’s director, Turok has recruited world-leading scientists, established the unique Distinguished Visiting Research Chairs (DVRC) program, led the creation of the Perimeter Scholars International master’s program, and provided unwavering support for the Institute’s successful Educational Outreach programs. 

“Under Neil Turok’s direction, Perimeter has become one of the leading centres for theoretical physics in the world,” Lazaridis said. “The vision and leadership he has brought to all of these initiatives have been inspirational and impactful for all Canadians and ‎Canada’s brand internationally.”   

Among his many honours, Turok was awarded Sloan and Packard Fellowships and the James Clerk Maxwell medal of the Institute of Physics (UK). He is a Canadian Institute for Advanced Research Fellow in Cosmology and Gravity and a Senior Fellow of Massey College at the University of Toronto. In 2012, Turok was selected to deliver the CBC Massey Lectures, broadcast across Canada.

For his scientific discoveries and his work building AIMS, Turok was awarded a TED Prize in 2008, as well as awards from the World Summit on Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the World Innovation Summit on Education. In 2016, he was awarded the John Torrence Tate Medal for International Leadership in Physics by the American Institute of Physics. 

Turok is an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Physics in the UK, winner of the John Wheatley Award of the American Physical Society, and was the Gerald Whitrow Lecturer of the Royal Astronomical Society in 2016.

Throughout 2017, Turok went on a speaking tour across Canada as part of Innovation150, a Perimeter-led collaboration celebrating Canadian ingenuity for the country’s sesquicentennial year. Watch the talk below.

About PI

Perimeter Institute is the world’s largest research hub devoted to theoretical physics. The independent Institute was founded in 1999 to foster breakthroughs in the fundamental understanding of our universe, from the smallest particles to the entire cosmos. Research at Perimeter is motivated by the understanding that fundamental science advances human knowledge and catalyzes innovation, and that today’s theoretical physics is tomorrow’s technology. Located in the Region of Waterloo, the not-for-profit Institute is a unique public-private endeavour, including the Governments of Ontario and Canada, that enables cutting-edge research, trains the next generation of scientific pioneers, and shares the power of physics through award-winning educational outreach and public engagement. 

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