About Timeline

CIFAR is founded

The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) is founded. Its

Artificial Intelligence, Robotics & Society launches

CIFAR’s first program, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics & Society, is launched

Cosmology launches

CIFAR launches its second research program, Cosmology, later renamed Cosmology

Law & Society launches

CIFAR launches Law & Society, later renamed The Law &

Population Health launches

The program in Population Health launches, bringing together researchers with

CIFAR helps establish robotics institute

CIFAR was the catalyst for the creation of the Centre

Economic Growth & Policy launches

The Economic Growth & Policy program begins. Researchers seek to

Kenneth Arrow joins Advisory Committee

Nobel Laureate Kenneth Arrow joins the Advisory Committee for the

Michael Smith awarded Nobel Prize

Michael Smith, advisor for the program in Evolutionary Biology, is

Why are Some People Healthy and Others Not? published

CIFAR’s Population Health program publishes Why are Some People Healthy

Stefan Dupré appointed CIFAR president

J. Stefan Dupré is appointed to CIFAR as its second

Sidney Altman joins Evolutionary Biology

Nobel Laureate Sidney Altman joins the Evolutionary Biology program as

Nanoelectronics launches

The Nanoelectronics program launches, searching for new, non-silicon technologies that

David Johnston named Honorary Fellow

David Johnston, president of the University of Waterloo, is named

Two Nobel laureates join CIFAR

Nobel laureates Philip W. Anderson and Robert Laughlin join the

George Akerlof receives economics prize

George A. Akerlof, associate fellow in the Economic Growth &

Successful Societies launches

The Successful Societies program launches, seeking to understand, from a

Werner Israel appointed Distinguished Fellow

Werner Israel is appointed a Distinguished Fellow for helping create

Neural Computation & Adaptive Perception launches

The Neural Computation & Adaptive Perception program is launched. The

John C. Polanyi joins CIFAR

Nobel Laureate John C. Polanyi is appointed to CIFAR as

Leland Hartwell joins Advisory Committee

Nobel Laureate Leland H. Hartwell joins the Advisory Committee for

Roger Myerson awarded economics prize

Roger B. Myerson, advisor for the program in Institutions, Organizations

Junior Fellow Academy launches

CIFAR launches the Junior Fellow Academy for young investigators in

Willard Boyle wins Nobel Prize

Former Research Council member Willard Boyle is awarded the Nobel

Human splicing code deciphered

CIFAR Senior Fellow Brendan Frey (University of Toronto), who is

Sackler Colloquium on early adversity

CIFAR and the National Academy of Sciences co-host a prestigious

David Wineland awarded Nobel Prize

David J. Wineland, former advisor to the program in Quantum

Global Call for Ideas

CIFAR launches its first Global Call for Ideas, inviting Canadian

Geoffrey Hinton appointed Distinguished Fellow

CIFAR honours Geoffrey Hinton for his contributions as founding Director

Brain, Mind & Consciousness launches

CIFAR brings together experts in philosophy, law and biology in

Fraser Mustard, CIFAR's founding president

1982

CIFAR is founded

The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) is founded. Its ambitious goal is to explore the scientific and social challenges important to Canada and the world. The Institute is spearheaded by John Leyerle, the University of Toronto’s Dean of Graduate Studies, whose vision inspires respected medical researcher Fraser Mustard. Mustard, previously the vice-president for health sciences at McMaster University and a founding member of its Faculty of Medicine, is appointed CIFAR’s Founding President.

Credit: iStock

1983

Artificial Intelligence, Robotics & Society launches

CIFAR’s first program, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics & Society, is launched. The program’s goal is to advance understanding of digital sensory perception and the neuroscience of vision and motor control. For the next decade, researchers make significant contributions to the fields of computer vision and knowledge representation, until the program’s completion in 1995.

1985

Cosmology launches

CIFAR launches its second research program, Cosmology, later renamed Cosmology & Gravity. It brings together scholars in astrophysics, string theory, relativity and cosmology to foster interdisciplinary research. The successful collaboration opens new lines of inquiry by fellows into the origins, evolution, and dynamics of the Universe.

Credit: NASA

Astronaut Stephen K. Robinson on the Canadarm2 in 2005

1985

CIFAR contributes to Canadarm

With strong industry connections through SPAR Aerospace CEO and Director of the CIFAR Board of Governors, Larry Clark, CIFAR spearheads an industry and academic collaborative report to advise the federal government on an appropriate Canadian contribution to the International Space Station. Their recommendations lead to a renewed focus to develop a second, improved and highly automated version of the Canadarm, which has remained, to this day, a high profile contribution to international space science and a national symbol for Canadians.

Credit: iStock

1986

Law & Society launches

CIFAR launches Law & Society, later renamed The Law & the Determinants of Social Order. The program investigates the influences of state laws and societal norms on each other, as well as the relationship between state and customary law, until its completion in 1997.

A diagram showing one section of the web of life model

1986

Evolutionary Biology launches

CIFAR’s program in Evolutionary Biology begins. Over its two decades of operation, researchers develop a new model of evolution, replacing the “tree of life” with a “web of life” model, wherein genetic material is swapped back and forth, evolutionary paths diverge and then cross once again, and some organisms subsume the genetic material of others. The program closes in 2007, after laying the foundation for much of the evolutionary biology research underway worldwide.

A diagram illustrating the social and environmental factors that influence human health throughout the lifespan

1987

Population Health launches

The program in Population Health launches, bringing together researchers with specializations in economics, public policy, politics, anthropology, child development and immunology, among others. Their findings enhance understanding of the social factors, especially socioeconomic status, that influence health in individuals and groups.

A superconducting magnet hovering

1987

Superconductivity launches

The Superconductivity program launches, drawing together diverse expertise from Canada and elsewhere to investigate newly discovered superconducting compounds. The materials can exhibit superconductivity at much higher temperatures, and consequently conduct electricity at much lower costs, than ever before observed. By understanding the properties of these superconducting materials, fellows aim to identify and design improved alternatives for energy transmission. The program is later renamed Quantum Materials.

1987

CIFAR helps establish applied research consortium

CIFAR’s Artificial Intelligence & Robotics program sets in motion a unique initiative to strengthen interaction between universities and industry on R&D in artificial intelligence by helping to establish the Pre-Competitive Applied Research Network (Precarn). It was recognized for creating numerous partnerships between corporations, research institutes, and government, enabling companies to bring new technologies to market faster and with less risk and, consequently, positioning Toronto as a world centre for AI.

Credit: National Library of Medicine

Walter Gilbert

1987

Walter Gilbert joins Advisory Committee

Nobel Laureate Walter Gilbert joins the Advisory Committee for the Evolutionary Biology program. Gilbert was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1980, sharing one half of the prize jointly with Paul Berg and Frederick Sanger for developing new techniques to determine sequences in nucleic acids, which greatly advanced our ability to rapidly sequence DNA.

1990

CIFAR helps establish robotics institute

CIFAR was the catalyst for the creation of the Centre for Excellence: Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Systems (IRIS), which remained a Centre for Excellence program, funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) for 25 years. IRIS linked academic research programs with industry partners such as the Canadian Space Agency and MD Robotics, developer of the Canadarm. According to founding NSERC President Gordon McNabb, because of CIFAR, IRIS made “a significant impact on the Canadian economy.”

1991

Economic Growth & Policy launches

The Economic Growth & Policy program begins. Researchers seek to understand the relationship between technological change and economic growth, and, in doing so, uncover important insights on the impacts of technology on productivity. The program closes in 2002, having opened doors to new areas of study explored in later CIFAR programs.

Credit: Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service

Kenneth Arrow at the National Medal of Science award ceremony in 2004

1992

Kenneth Arrow joins Advisory Committee

Nobel Laureate Kenneth Arrow joins the Advisory Committee for the Economic Growth & Policy program. Arrow was awarded the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in 1972, shared jointly with John R. Hicks for “pioneering contributions to general economic equilibrium theory and welfare theory.”

1992

CIFAR launches three programs

CIFAR launches three new programs: The Science of Soft Surfaces and Interfaces, Earth System Evolution and Human Development. The Science of Soft Surfaces and Interfaces, which ran until 2000, helped us understand the material properties of organic living systems, which are poorly understood compared to solid or liquid materials. For 22 years, Earth System Evolution investigated the holistic influences of the Earth’s 4.5 billion year-long evolution. Human Development fellows worked to understand social influences on human development, and how societies acquire coping skills to adapt to technological, economic and social change, until 2003.

William C. Winegard in 1992

1992

William C. Winegard named Honorary Fellow

The Honourable William C. Winegard is named an Honorary Fellow “in recognition for all that he has done to promote the importance of science and innovation throughout his career.” Winegard was the Minister of State (Science and Technology) from 1989 to 1990, and the Minister for Science from 1990 to 1993. His assistance in securing federal funding for CIFAR during a critical period of growth helped CIFAR to sustain its research mission and build new partnerships with the private sector.

Credit: NobelPrize.org

Michael Smith in 1993

1993

Michael Smith awarded Nobel Prize

Michael Smith, advisor for the program in Evolutionary Biology, is awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The prize is jointly shared with Kary B. Mullis for “contributions to the developments of methods within DNA-based chemistry.”

The cover image of the book Why are some people healthy and others not?

1994

Why are Some People Healthy and Others Not? published

CIFAR’s Population Health program publishes Why are Some People Healthy and Others Not? The award-winning and often-cited book highlights the gradients of health experienced by groups according to their socioeconomic status. It has a profound influence on the way policy-makers around the world develop, monitor and measure public health programs to take underlying social and economic factors into account.

1994

Seminal cosmology paper presented at CIFAR meeting

At the annual CIFAR Cosmology & Gravity program meeting, associate fellows Lev Kofman (Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics) and Andrei Linde (Stanford University) present their classic paper “Reheating After Inflation” for the first time. It becomes one of the top-cited works in the field, providing a new understanding of events in the earliest moments of the Universe.

CIFAR President Emeritus J. Stefan Dupré

1996

Stefan Dupré appointed CIFAR president

J. Stefan Dupré is appointed to CIFAR as its second President and Chief Executive Officer. Dupré comes to CIFAR after holding many senior academic positions, including Dean of the School of Graduate Studies at the University of Toronto; founding Chairman of the Ontario Council of University Affairs; National Research Council of Canada member; Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada member; and past president of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada. His tenure at the Institute oversees the evolution of its early work on emerging revolutions in superconductivity and gravity.

Credit: National Institutes of Health

Sidney Altman in 2011, receiving the Yale University Bouchet Leadership Award

1997

Sidney Altman joins Evolutionary Biology

Nobel Laureate Sidney Altman joins the Evolutionary Biology program as an associate fellow. Altman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1989, shared jointly with Thomas R. Cech “for their discovery of catalytic properties of RNA.”

An electronic circuit

1998

Nanoelectronics launches

The Nanoelectronics program launches, searching for new, non-silicon technologies that can overcome the scaling limitations faced by established semiconductor industries. The group’s strategy focuses on understanding the physical forces and behaviours that increase in significance at the nanoscale. Fellows successfully collaborate and make several breakthroughs for the next 15 years, including manipulating the spin states of three interacting electrons for the first time and creating one of the world’s smallest electronic circuits.

Credit: NASA

Graphic showing the progression towards a Snowball Earth

1998

Snowball Earth theory reveals planet’s past

Paul Hoffman (University of Victoria) and Daniel Schrag (Harvard University) in CIFAR’s program in Earth System Evolution, change the prevalent thinking with their “Snowball Earth” theory. They find geological evidence showing that our planet was covered in ice 600-700 million years ago, and that it emerged from its frozen shell as a result of extreme greenhouse conditions caused by a massive buildup of CO2. Their work has profound implications for our modern-day understanding of climate.

Credit: MIT Press

Cover image of General Purpose Technologies and Economic Growth

1998

General Purpose Technologies and Economic Growth published

Researchers in CIFAR’s Economic Growth & Policy program produce a volume of collected essays titled General Purpose Technologies and Economic Growth edited by Elhanan Helpman (Harvard University). The book becomes the standard reference on the role of technology in the economy and continues to have a significant impact on views about the nature and impacts of technological change.

Credit: Sgt Serge Gouin, Rideau Hall © Her Majesty The Queen in Right of Canada represented by the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General (2010)

His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, C.C., C.M.M., C.O.M., C.D., Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada

1999

David Johnston named Honorary Fellow

David Johnston, president of the University of Waterloo, is named an Honorary Fellow for devoting “his outstanding talents to the task of mobilizing the resources without which CIFAR would have ceased to exist.” David Johnston chaired the Advisory Committee for CIFAR’s Law & Society program from 1987 to 1990, and served as Chair of the Board from 1994 to 1999.

Credit: Markus Pössel

Philip W. Anderson (left) and Robert Laughlin (right)

2000

Two Nobel laureates join CIFAR

Nobel laureates Philip W. Anderson and Robert Laughlin join the Superconductivity program as associate fellows. Anderson was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1977, shared jointly with Sir Nevill Francis Mott and John Hasbrouck van Vleck “for their fundamental theoretical investigations of the electronic structure of magnetic and disordered systems.” Laughlin was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1998, shared jointly with Horst L. Störmer and Daniel C. Tsui “for their discovery of a new form of quantum fluid with fractionally charged excitations.”

A microscopic image of a photonic crystal

2000

First 3D silicon photonic crystal invented

Sajeev John and Geoffrey Ozin (University of Toronto) in CIFAR’s Nanoelectronics program invent the world’s first three-dimensional photonic crystal made from silicon. The new structure, which allows information to be processed and transmitted more efficiently and effectively by optical means, has the potential to create more advanced and faster computers.

George Akerlof in 2006

2001

George Akerlof receives economics prize

George A. Akerlof, associate fellow in the Economic Growth & Policy program, is awarded the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. The prize is jointly shared with A. Michael Spence and Joseph E. Stiglitz “for their analyses of markets with asymmetric information.” Akerlof is later appointed Co-Director of the Social Interactions, Identity & Well-Being program, and a Fellow of the Institutions, Organizations & Growth program.

CIFAR President Emeritus Chaviva Hošek

2001

Chaviva Hošek appointed CIFAR president

Chaviva Hošek is appointed to CIFAR as its third President and Chief Executive Officer. Prior to her appointment, Hošek served as the Director of Policy and Research in the Prime Minister’s Office; the Minister of Housing for the Province of Ontario; president and executive member of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women; and a Professor of English Literature at the University of Toronto. Under her leadership, CIFAR begins its investigation of early childhood development.

2002

Successful Societies launches

The Successful Societies program launches, seeking to understand, from a variety of perspectives, the influences that make a society successful. Fellows investigate questions of collective identities and effects on well-being, multicultural integration, and the role of institutions as social resources.

2002

Quantum Information Processing launches

CIFAR launches the Quantum Information Processing program, later renamed Quantum Information Science. The program brings together researchers from both theoretical and experimental backgrounds to harness the unconventional behaviour of quantum mechanics, and advance understanding of quantum computing.

Credit: Paloma Baytelman

Richard J. Roberts in 2007

2002

Richard J. Roberts joins Advisory Committee

Nobel Laureate Richard J. Roberts joins the Advisory Committee for the Evolutionary Biology program. Roberts was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1993, shared jointly with Phillip A. Sharp “for their discoveries of split genes.”

Credit: University of British Columbia

CIFAR Distinguished Fellow Robert G. Evans

2002

Robert G. Evans appointed Distinguished Fellow

Robert G. Evans is appointed a Distinguished Fellow for serving as the founding Director of CIFAR’s Population Health program from 1987 to 1997, and for his groundbreaking research in social and economic health determinants. He continues as a fellow until the program’s completion in 2003.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

CIFAR Distinguished Fellow Werner Israel

2003

Werner Israel appointed Distinguished Fellow

Werner Israel is appointed a Distinguished Fellow for helping create CIFAR’s Cosmology & Gravity program in 1986, and for his pioneering work in understanding the detailed structure of black holes.

Former CIFAR Advisor Anthony J. Leggett

2003

Anthony Leggett awarded Nobel Prize

Anthony J. Leggett, Advisory Committee chair for the Quantum Information Science program, is awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. The prize is jointly shared with Alexei A. Abrikosov and Vitaly L. Ginzburg “for pioneering contributions to the theory of superconductors and superfluids.”

Credit: Thomas Boyce

A researcher in CIFAR Senior Fellow Thomas Boyce's lab entertains a child

2003

Experience-based Brain & Biological Development launches

CIFAR launches the program in Experience-based Brain & Biological Development from questions that arose from CIFAR’s Population Health and Human Development programs. The program aims to understand how early social experiences affect mental and physical health throughout a lifetime. Not restricting itself to either the side of the ‘Nature vs. Nurture’ debate, fellows seek to understand interactions between the two. The program is later renamed Child & Brain Development.

2004

Neural Computation & Adaptive Perception launches

The Neural Computation & Adaptive Perception program is launched. The goal of the collaboration is to understand the architecture and mechanics of the brain, and how some of its processing abilities might be replicated in digital systems. The research has become the basis for the machine learning approach known as deep learning, which is used for voice recognition, image captions, translations and many other technologies. Affiliated researchers have been hired by Google, Facebook and Baidu and their collaborations continue to transform technology.

2004

Institutions, Organizations & Growth launches

The program in Institutions, Organizations & Growth launches, investigating the factors that lead to economic inequalities in different countries. Researchers focus on the complex interactions between economic growth, organizations, and institutions such as systems of government, law, or community values. The insights fellows continue to generate have informed policy around the world on subjects including trade and the rights of women.

John C. Polanyi at a CIFAR meeting in 2007

2005

John C. Polanyi joins CIFAR

Nobel Laureate John C. Polanyi is appointed to CIFAR as a senior fellow in the Nanoelectronics program. Polanyi was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1986, shared jointly with Dudley R. Herschbach and Yuan T. Lee “for their contributions concerning the dynamics of chemical elementary processes.”

2005

Social Interactions, Identity, & Well-Being launches

The Social Interactions, Identity, & Well-Being program begins, bridging theoretical identity research and empirical studies in well-being. It draws together researchers from economics, public policy, social psychology and sociology, and integrates non-financial factors valued by individuals in their decisions and well-being into economic research. Fellows of the program study social networks, community engagement, attitudes towards diversity and recessions.

2005

Quantum dot control advanced

Using a method borrowed from string theory, Ian Affleck (University of British Columbia) in CIFAR’s Quantum Materials program advances the ability of scientists to measure and affect the behaviour of quantum dots – artificial atoms whose properties can be controlled by adding or removing a single electron. Quantum dots could be components in a new generation of electronic tools that are smaller than what the human eye can see.

Credit: National Institutes of Health

Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman

2005

Daniel Kahneman joins CIFAR

Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman (Princeton University) is appointed to CIFAR as an advisor for the Social Interactions, Identity & Well-Being program. Kahneman, also a former associate fellow in the Artificial Intelligence & Robotics program, was awarded the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in 2002. The prize was divided equally between Vernon L. Smith and Kahneman, who was recognized “for having integrated insights from psychological research into economic science, especially concerning human judgment and decision-making under uncertainty.”

Credit: Charles Boone

A network map showing genetic interactions

2005

Genetic Networks launches

The Genetic Networks program launches, investigating how genes function in both normal and abnormal cells of simple model systems, such as yeast and worms. Fellows study gene interactions, how well they are conserved across species, and the implications for preventing the onset of human disorders or diseases.

Credit: Cambridge University Press

The cover image of Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy

2005

Game theory introduced to economic theory

Avner Greif (Stanford University) in CIFAR’s Institutions, Organizations & Growth program introduces game theory into the study of economic history, and shows how to explain the emergence of institutions and their decline as a result of strategic interactions between economic and political factors. His book Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy: Lessons from Medieval Trade becomes required reading in the field.

Credit: Edelman

Nobel Laureate Leland H. Hartwell

2006

Leland Hartwell joins Advisory Committee

Nobel Laureate Leland H. Hartwell joins the Advisory Committee for the Genetic Networks program.  Hartwell was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2001, shared jointly with Tim Hunt and Sir Paul M. Nurse “for their discoveries of key regulators of the cell cycle.”

Credit: NobelPrize.org

Nobel Laureate Roger B. Myerson

2007

Roger Myerson awarded economics prize

Roger B. Myerson, advisor for the program in Institutions, Organizations & Growth and the earlier Economic Growth & Policy program, is awarded the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. The prize is jointly shared with Leonid Hurwicz and Eric S. Maskin “for having laid the foundations of mechanism design theory.”

Credit: Shutterstock

2007

Integrated Microbial Biodiversity launches

The Integrated Microbial Biodiversity program launches, using new techniques to isolate, cultivate, and study the microbes that populate Earth’s air, water, and soil. Researchers use advances in molecular and computational biology to learn how these creatures thrive in dramatically different and changing environments around the world, with implications for industry, climate and medicine.

Credit: Shutterstock

2007

First full human genome published

Stephen Scherer (Hospital for Sick Children, University of Toronto) in CIFAR’s Genetic Networks program makes headlines by collaborating with U.S. biologist Craig Venter to publish a sequenced genome, the first entire DNA makeup of an individual.

A illustration of quantum oscillations

2007

Quantum oscillations observed

CIFAR fellows Walter Hardy, Ruixing Liang (University of British Columbia), Louis Taillefer (Université de Sherbrooke), and Cyril Proust (Université Toulouse) in CIFAR’s Quantum Materials program make a major breakthrough by observing “quantum oscillations” in a copper-oxide superconductor. The discovery provides direct insight into the nature of electron behaviour in these materials and causes a paradigm shift in the field, bringing researchers closer to solving the mystery of high-temperature superconductivity.

The first cohort of CIFAR Junior Fellows

2008

Junior Fellow Academy launches

CIFAR launches the Junior Fellow Academy for young investigators in the first four years of their academic careers. The initiative supports developing leadership in the international research community, and provides opportunities for scholars to learn from peers and experts alike in CIFAR program meetings. It is later renamed the Global Scholars Program.

CIFAR Distinguished Fellow W. Ford Doolittle

2008

W. Ford Doolittle appointed a Distinguished Fellow

W. Ford Doolittle is appointed a Distinguished Fellow for his contributions as founding Director of the Evolutionary Biology program, his exemplary research of the “web of life” model of evolution, and for playing a key role in establishing the Integrated Microbial Biodiversity program.

2008

2 million year old life found under ice

Researchers in CIFAR’s Earth System Evolution program help discover life in a lake that has been trapped under a glacier for nearly two million years. This discovery hints at the possibility of life in other inhospitable environments, such as Mars or Jupiter’s icy moon Europa.

Credit: Prolineserver

Former Research Council member Willard Boyle at a press conference after winning the Nobel Prize

2009

Willard Boyle wins Nobel Prize

Former Research Council member Willard Boyle is awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. Boyle shares one half of the prize jointly with George E. Smith for inventing an imaging semiconductor circuit now widely used in photography.

Credit: Cambridge University Press

Cover image of Successful Societies: How Institutions and Culture Affect Health, edited by Program Co-Directors Peter Hall and Michèle Lamont

2009

Successful Societies published

Researchers in CIFAR’s Successful Societies program launch their landmark book, Successful Societies: How Institutions and Culture Affect Health, at the World Bank. The book helps to create a unified theory of the social interaction and public policy characteristics of successful societies that optimize health for citizens.

Cover from CIFAR Reach magazine, winter 2009

2009

Missing women

Siwan Anderson (University of British Columbia) in CIFAR’s Institutions, Organizations & Growth program uses data from the UN and WHO to discover that a large number of missing women in India and China died as adults. While gender bias at birth only accounts for a fraction of the colossal number of missing women, an overwhelming proportion of all female deaths are the results of inequality.

Credit: Science magazine

A computational system mimics the biology of RNA splicing by correlating DNA elements with splicing levels in healthy human tissues

2010

Human splicing code deciphered

CIFAR Senior Fellow Brendan Frey (University of Toronto), who is part of CIFAR’s Genetic Networks and Neural Computation & Adaptive Perception programs, deciphers a splicing code in DNA. By combining the power of computing with biological analysis, his team is able to decipher the biological instructions, or “splicing code,” that cells use to rearrange gene parts, providing greater potential to identify the root causes of genetically based diseases.

Credit: Sara Long

Canadian bank notes, which include security features that use photonic colour

2010

New nanomaterials improve bank notes and other tech

CIFAR Fellow Geoffrey Ozin (University of Toronto) generates pioneering patents based on two new classes of nanomaterials, periodic mesoporous organosilicas (PMO) and photonic crystals (PC). Using the platform technology of photonic colour, spinoff company Opalux Inc. is founded to work with strategic partners to commercialize new technologies and applications, such as interactive bank notes, full colour dynamic reflective display, security devices and chemical and biological sensors.

Credit: Google Streetview

Google Streetview uses convolutional neural networks to blur car licence plates, faces and addresses

2010

Brain-inspired machine learning improves computer vision

Google uses convolutional neural networks, an avenue of deep learning developed by CIFAR Senior Fellow Yann LeCun (New York University), to identify faces and car licence plates in its Streetview application. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the research arm of the US Defense Department, also uses it to detect large obstacles from afar.

Credit: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

The cover of "Biological Embedding of Early Social Adversity: From Fruit Flies to Kindergartners," a special volume of PNAS

2011

Sackler Colloquium on early adversity

CIFAR and the National Academy of Sciences co-host a prestigious Sackler Colloquium titled “Biological Embedding of Early Social Adversity.” Researchers in CIFAR’s Experience-Based Brain & Biological Development program (now Child & Brain Development) lead the conference, sharing their cutting-edge insights into how early experiences set trajectories for the remainder of life. The colloquium led to a PNAS volume of research examining how and why experiences interact with biology, marking clear directions for the new field of developmental neuroscience.

Credit: Aephraim Steinberg

3D plot showing how a photon can behave like a wave and a particle

2011

Photons tracked on quantum journey

In an experiment previously believed to be impossible, CIFAR Senior Fellow Aephraim Steinberg (University of Toronto) and Global Scholar Krister Shalm (University of Waterloo), part of CIFAR’s Quantum Information Processing program, become the first to track the average paths of photons passing through a double-slit set-up. This experiment offers insights into the dynamics that may drive quantum computers one day.

Credit: Claudio Slamovits

Oxyrrhis marina, a microbial predator uses a protein acquired from a bacterium to harvest energy from sunlight

2011

New protein that helps photosynthesis found

CIFAR Senior Fellow Patrick Keeling and Fellow Claudio Slamovits (University of British Columbia), fellows in CIFAR’s Integrated Microbial Biodiversity program, describe a new protein in a marine microbial predator that likely allows it to harvest energy from sunlight. The protein, called proteorhodopsin, was acquired from a bacterium by lateral gene transfer. The discovery could be used to build artificial photosynthetic systems, such as those that convert solar energy to electrical energy.

Credit: Bengt Nyman

David J. Wineland in Stockholm in 2012

2012

David Wineland awarded Nobel Prize

David J. Wineland, former advisor to the program in Quantum Information Processing (now Quantum Information Science), is awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. The prize is jointly shared with Serge Haroche “for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems.”

Alan Bernstein in 2013

2012

Alan Bernstein becomes president

Alan Bernstein is appointed as CIFAR’s President and Chief Executive Officer. Bernstein was previously the executive director of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, inaugural president of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Director of Research for the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute. His leadership initiates a refreshed vision for CIFAR as it enters its fourth decade, emphasizing an outward focus and increased transparency.

Cover of the 2012 World happiness report

2012

First World Happiness Report published

John Helliwell (University of British Columbia), co-director of CIFAR’s Social Interactions, Identity & Well-Being program, co-edits The World Happiness Report, commissioned for the United Nations Conference on Happiness in April 2012. The report provides the world’s first comprehensive review of the growing body of research that uses subjective well-being as a measurement for the quality of life.

Credit: Cambridge University Press

The cover of Social Resilience in the Neoliberal Era

2013

Social Resilience in the Neoliberal Era published

Fellows from CIFAR’s Successful Societies program publish the book Social Resilience in the Neoliberal Era. The book is an interdisciplinary collaboration that explores the rising trends of market privatization and deregulation and their impacts on society. Authors examine changes in cultural attitudes and values, how communities best adapt to change and why different nations respond with unique policies to neoliberalism.

2013

Global Call for Ideas

CIFAR launches its first Global Call for Ideas, inviting Canadian and international researchers to submit proposals for new research programs. Research questions must be sufficiently bold, ambitious and complex enough to sustain interdisciplinary collaboration. The Call receives 262 Letters of Intent, submitted from 28 countries on five continents. Four proposals are selected to move on to the start-up phase.

Credit: John Guatto, University of Toronto

From left: Ilya Sutskever, Alex Krizhevsky and University Professor Geoffrey Hinton of the University of Toronto's Department of Computer Science

2013

DNNresearch purchased by Google

The success and commercial potential of deep neural networks prompts Google to acquire CIFAR Distinguished Fellow Geoffrey Hinton’s start-up company, DNNresearch, and hire Hinton and his team. His work is applied to create a much improved image search feature in Google+. In June 2013, Microsoft also announces it has applied deep neural networks to significantly boost the speed and accuracy of speech recognition in its Windows Phone.

Credit: Josh Valcarcel

CIFAR Distinguished Fellow Geoffrey Hinton

2014

Geoffrey Hinton appointed Distinguished Fellow

CIFAR honours Geoffrey Hinton for his contributions as founding Director of the Neural Computation & Adaptive Perception program, former Fellow in the Artificial Intelligence & Robotics program, and for his pioneering work on deep learning. Hinton’s work has fuelled the movement toward creating machine learning algorithms that are inspired by the function of the human brain. Hinton joined CIFAR in 1987 and he currently serves on the NCAP Advisory Committee.

2015

Brain, Mind & Consciousness launches

CIFAR brings together experts in philosophy, law and biology in the new Brain, Mind & Consciousness program to study what consciousness is, when it exists, and how the brain is involved. The research has implications for understanding the human experience, technology and disorders like schizophrenia.

2015

Bio-inspired Solar Energy program launches

The idea of better solar energy inspired by biology initiates a new program called Bio-inspired Solar Energy. Fellows seek to understand how plants convert solar energy into usable forms through photosynthesis. With this knowledge, they hope to replicate the process for cheaper, more efficient and reliable energy.

2015

Humans & the Microbiome program launches

A new program called Humans & the Microbiome takes an integrated approach to study the relationship between humans and the diverse bacteria species that call them home. By bringing together researchers of different disciplines, the program aims to learn more about the role bacteria play in human evolution, behaviours and health.

2015

Molecular Architecture of Life launches

A new program in Molecular Architecture of Life takes on the challenge of building a picture of the individual steps that lead to the biological processes we call life. New discoveries could lead to improved diagnosis, drug delivery, and a better understanding of life on Earth.

Nobel Laureates Brian Kobilka (left) and Eric Wieschaus (right)

2015

Two Nobel laureates join CIFAR

Nobel laureates Brian Kobilka and Eric Wieschaus join the Advisory Committees of the Molecular Architecture of Life program and the Humans & the Microbiome program, respectively. Kobilka was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2012, shared jointly with Robert J. Lefkowitz “for studies of G-protein-coupled receptors.” Wieschaus was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1995, shared jointly with Edward B. Lewis and Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard "for their discoveries concerning the genetic control of early embryonic development."