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Paul McNicholas Makes History With Steacie Prize for Natural Sciences

Paul photoPaul McNicholas has made history by winning the Steacie Prize for Natural Sciences.

It's the first time one of Canada's most prestigious awards for early-career scientists and engineers has been awarded for research in statistics. Paul, a professor in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics, is a leading expert in developing new statistical and machine learning methods to analyze complex datasets.

“Paul has had a tremendous impact in attracting excellent graduate students and postdocs to our department and raising the profile of research in statistics at McMaster and in Canada," says Chair Matheus Grasselli."It’s safe to predict that the well-deserved Steacie Prize will only make this trend even stronger”

First awarded in 1964, the Steacie Prize in Natural Sciences is named for E.W.R. Steacie, a physical chemist and former president of the National Research Council of Canada. The prize is administered by the Trustees of the E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fund, a private foundation dedicated to the advancement of science and engineering in Canada. The prize is awarded to a researcher who's 40 years of age or younger and conducting outstanding research in Canada. Thirty-three researchers were nominated this year.

Paul is a University Scholar in McMaster’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics, the Director of McMaster’s MacDATA Institute and the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Computational Statistics. Paul has received several other awards for his research, including an E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship in 2019. He was inducted into the College of the Royal Society of Canada in 2017 and earlier this year was appointed Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Classification.

Paul is the co-author of more than 100 peer-reviewed papers and two books. Besides his own methodological research, Paul has contributed to a range of inter-disciplinary research projects, from identifying developmental trajectories of children on the autism spectrum and discovering the factors that best predict mental health challenges in local immigrant and refugee children, to determining which crops will grow best in developing countries.

“Paul’s incredible knowledge of – and enthusiasm for – all things data have allowed him to make significant contributions across a number of disciplines,” says Karen Mossman, McMaster’s vice-president, research. “We see this first-hand at McMaster and I’m so pleased to see his talents recognized on the national stage with this esteemed prize."

“I have had the great good fortune to work with so many excellent graduate students, postdocs and other collaborators. Without them, and their work, I surely would not have received this prize,” said McNicholas. “I am humbled to be the first recipient of the Steacie Prize for research in the field of statistics, and I regard it as an important recognition of the importance of statistics research in Canada and beyond.”
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