MSE researcher, Dr. Jason Tam, receives Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation – International


Photo courtesy of MITACS: Director General of Investment and Innovation at Global Affairs Canada, Emmanuel Kamarianakis    (left), presenting the Award to Jason Tam (right). 







Congratulations to Jason Tam (MSE 1T2+PEY, PhD 1T8) for being honored with the 2019 Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation – International. The award was presented at the Mitacs Awards ceremony in Ottawa on November 26.

Mitacs Awards celebrate students, professors, and business owners who have made significant achievements in innovation while participating in Mitacs-funded programs. The Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation–International is presented to an undergrad, a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow who has made a significant achievement in research and development innovation through international collaboration during their Mitacs-funded research.

While working on his PhD research, Jason gained a two-month research internship at Professor Hiromichi Ohta’s laboratory at the Hokkaido University (Japan). During the internship, Tam used highly specialized equipment to fabricate atomically smooth ceramic surfaces from rare earth oxides in a high vacuum environment. He then conducted experiments on the wetting properties of rare earth oxide ceramics. The findings appeared in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A and showed that the water repellent properties of ceramic coatings derived from rare earth oxides are not intrinsic, meaning their ability to repel water is not naturally occurring. Instead, Tam found that the coatings become more water repellent when they are exposed to ambient air and that they lose their ability to repel water when they are exposed to high temperatures. This discovery has implications for a broad range of industrial applications including steam turbines, power generation heat exchangers, and aircraft engines, all of which require extreme water repellency under harsh conditions.

“This research, and article, came about through the strong relationship between U of T and Japan,” said Tam. “It’s a testament to the international partnerships cultivated by the University and the commitment to advance fundamental research. Now we know that wetting properties of rare earth oxides are impacted by surface crystallographic orientation and airborne contaminants.”

“Although the idea of this research seems very simple, such experiments have never been done before,” said Professor Uwe Erb, Tam’s doctoral supervisor. “The results of this fundamental study clarified the controversy in the non-wetting mechanism of rare earth oxide ceramics and provides significant advancement to the surface wettability community.”

Tam is one of eight Mitacs award winners nationally, chosen from thousands of researchers who take part in Mitacs programs each year.

“Innovation in Canada continues to be inspired by the groundbreaking work of up-and-coming researchers that touch all industry sectors and help to fuel the economy,” said Jennifer Wilkie, Mitacs interim CEO. “Their achievements are truly remarkable and Mitacs is honoured to support them, and broker important connections between industry, post-secondary institutions and government that make their leading-edge work possible.”

“We know that employers are looking for students and graduates with real-world experience so they can make an immediate impact in the workforce,” said Ross Romano, Minister of Colleges and Universities. “By working with Mitacs to support experiential learning and the innovative work of researchers like Jason Tam, we can help more people get the meaningful, hands-on learning opportunities they need to secure good jobs and support Ontario’s growing economy.”

Read more about the 2019 Mitacs Award winners.