Faculty of Engineering researchers awarded a rare campus-wide Excellence in Research hat trick

Posted on November 02, 2020


Cunningham, Fichtinger and Liu WEB headshots
Michael Cunningham (Chemical Engineering), Gabor Fichtinger (Computing), and Yan-Fei Liu (Engineering) are the 2020 recipients of the Prizes for Excellence in Research.

For only the second time in its forty-year history, the Queen’s Prizes for Excellence in Research have been awarded exclusively to Faculty of Engineering & Applied Science researchers.

Michael Cunningham (Chemical Engineering), Gabor Fichtinger (Computing), and Yan-Fei Liu (Engineering) are committed to advancing knowledge in a variety of fields including polymer chemistry and green engineering, developing technologies for computer-integrated surgery and advancing power conversion systems.

In addition to Computing, Dr. Fichtinger is cross-appointed to the Departments of Mechanical & Materials Engineering and Electrical & Computer Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering & Applied Science (as well as Surgery, and Pathology and Molecular Medicine).

The Prizes for Excellence in Research—Queen’s highest internal research award—have been the signature internal research prize since 1980 and represent an important investment by Queen’s in recognizing research and scholarship across the faculties. This year the awards are going to three recipients, with each being awarded a prize of $20,000, allocated for research and accessible through a special research account. Also new this year was a consideration of overall research impact and efforts in knowledge mobilization through collaborations and partnerships, and in sharing research beyond the academy.

“My sincere congratulations to this year’s recipients of the Prizes,” said Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice-Principal (Research). “Nominated by their peers, Drs. Cunningham, Fichtinger, and Liu represent scholars who have successfully combined research excellence and knowledge translation – a winning combination.”

Michael Cunningham (Chemical Engineering): Dr. Cunningham’s research achievements in polymer chemistry and green engineering have attracted the attention of academics and numerous companies worldwide. He has spent 30 years studying how to reduce the environmental and health-related impacts of processes used to make materials that are essential for a modern society. His research group has pioneered major innovations in developing new water-based processes that eliminate the use of harmful chemicals in manufacturing processes, developed new materials that may replace solvent based products and offer new ways to purify drinking water, and more recently established new protocols for making renewably-sourced materials.

Gabor Fichtinger (School of Computing): Dr. Fichtinger is being recognized for seminal contributions to the development, clinical translation and global dissemination of novel technologies for computational imaging guidance in surgery and medical interventions. He is particularly respected for his ground-breaking work in image-guided interventional robotics. Dr. Fichtinger has also made worldwide impact by championing the development and dissemination of free open source software resources for computer-assisted cancer diagnosis and treatment, particularly targeting countries with limited technological resources. His Laboratory for Percutaneous Surgery is the world leader in this movement; their software offerings have been downloaded over 1 million times, contributing to healthcare, research and commercial development on a global scale.

Yan-Fei Liu (Electrical and Computer Engineering): Dr. Liu is a professor of electrical and computer engineering in the field of power electronics – a scientific field to which he has made numerous original and substantial contributions. His most significant work is concerned with the advancement of high frequency power conversion technology for its use in the telecommunications, computer and lighting industries. He is inventor of over 50 US Patents and has authored more than 90 journal papers. His work has been cited by more than 7,000 independent references and is widely used in industry worldwide.

Traditionally, the prizes are presented to recipients at convocation, and recipients also deliver a public presentation about their research. Given the current COVID-19 restrictions, the university is exploring options to celebrate this year’s recipients and to help them share their research findings with the community.

For further information, or to learn more about previous prize winners, visit the Office of the Vice-Principal (Research) website.

The original version of this story appeared in the Queen’s Gazette.