Meet one of NSERC's newset council
members: Dr. Chris Essex


Dr. Chris Essex

Newest NSERC council member Dr. Chris Essex

By Mitchell Zimmer

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) is a national council of 21 distinguished people that determines how to best use hundreds of millions of dollars of public money to help produce high quality research in Canada. To achieve that the council determines what programs and practices NSERC will follow.
NSERC is a significant source of research funding and scholarships at Canadian universities.

As a Professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics, Dr. Christopher Essex received NSERC funding for his research many times over the more than 20 years he has been at Western. Now, he’s feeling a bit of a role reversal. On October 30, the Governor General of Canada appointed Essex to that council, giving Western a direct voice in how research will be funded in Canadian universities.

Essex is Director of the Program in Theoretical Physics. He has been the recipient of several awards, including an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship, a Humboldt Research Fellowship and a Donner Prize, as well as being twice acknowledged for teaching excellence. He has published papers on radiation thermodynamics (which more than 20 years later, are still being cited) as well as on applications of dynamical systems theory, such as chaos cryptography, and the limits of computation. He has done substantial work on anomalous diffusion, especially on superdiffusion (relating to turbulence) and extraordinary differential equations. In connection with that, he is co-discoverer of the superdiffusion entropy production rate paradox.

It is a challenging time to be on this council. With people staying active longer, more qualified people are seeking research grants from NSERC than before. Essex thinks that any strain resulting from increased numbers should be viewed positively. He says, “Ultimately it is a good thing to have more qualified people thinking. ‘More people thinking’ ought to be a slogan for NSERC.”

The appointment comes with a “commission” in the form of letters patent from the Queen. Essex said, “The expression, ‘letters patent’, seemed familiar to me from watching old pirate movies, but the letters given to me do not seem to entitle me to sink anyone’s ship.”