Elizabeth Gerrits: Leaving a legacy for future research leaders

by Lindsay Jolivet News 21.07.2016

Elizabeth Gerrits is a strong believer in supporting future leaders.

As a former social worker with experience in youth employment, she feels CIFAR’s Global Academy is an important supporter of students, postdoctoral fellows and early-career faculty members. 

“A young researcher has a lot of pressures,” she says. “Your academic career, your research career, your administrative responsibilities, your mentoring of other young people. So where does their continuing growth and development come in? CIFAR offers that.”

After being an annual donor to CIFAR for over 10 years, Gerrits decided that a gift in her will was a natural extension of her investment in future research leaders and innovative research.

“CIFAR was at the top of my list because I really believe in the CIFAR mandate,” she says.

As a former director of research programs at CIFAR, she has a deep understanding of that mandate: to connect leading researchers across disciplines in programs that address questions of importance to the world.

“We are extremely grateful to Liz for her support,” says Kara Spence, Vice-President Advancement. “She worked closely with the CIFAR fellows and was inspired by their work and their research breakthroughs. Now, through her generous annual and legacy gifts, her support will continue to help CIFAR Fellows address some of our toughest global challenges.”

For Gerrits, one of the world’s major challenges is uncovering the physics of matter, from superconductivity to super-dense neutron stars that can have a mass double that of the sun.

“Understanding matter is hugely important to almost everything we do,” Gerrits says. For example, superconducting materials that work at room temperature could make our power grids and other technologies vastly more efficient and inexpensive.

As an employee, she enjoyed seeing CIFAR fellows develop their research over time and build lasting relationships through collaboration. “I just love that process.” She appreciates CIFAR’s commitment to supporting sustained collaboration.

Gerrits also developed a love for space science and physics through her work at CIFAR, where she was involved in the operation of the programs in Cosmology & Gravity and Quantum Materials, among others. She saw an early glimpse into major projects such as the Thirty Metre Telescope.

“I can go back and say ‘Wow, I listened nine years ago when these things were just starting.’”

Beyond listening, she says she felt that she could really make a difference at CIFAR. “What I like about CIFAR is that the staff, the donors, the researchers and their institutions form a partnership,” she says.

She is proud to support collaboration and discovery as part of her legacy. “I had the honour of working with some of the most dedicated and brilliant individuals in the world and I valued and enjoyed every minute,” she says. By remembering CIFAR in her will, Gerrits knows she is helping the next generation of researchers continue the search for answers to the world’s most complex issues.

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