Regally recognized: Dal faculty named to the Order of Canada

- November 30, 2020

Dr. Jeff Dahn, left, and Dr. Kenneth Wilson. (Provided photos)
Dr. Jeff Dahn, left, and Dr. Kenneth Wilson. (Provided photos)

Two researchers from Dalhousie’s Faculty of Science and Faculty of Medicine are being presented with a regal honour.

Dr. Jeff Dahn
of the Department of Physics & Atmospheric Science and Dr. Kenneth Wilson of the Division of Plastic Surgery are two of 114 new appointments to the Order of Canada announced by her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada. Dr. Dahn will be one of 21 Officers and Dr. Wilson one of 85 Members invited to accept their insignia at a ceremony to be held at a future date.

Created in 1967, the Order of Canada is one of our country’s highest honours. Presented by the governor general, the Order honours people whose service shapes our society, whose innovations ignite our imaginations, and whose compassion unites our communities.

More than 7,000 people from all sectors of society have been invested into the order of Canada. Their contributions are varied, yet they have all enriched the lives of others and have taken to heart the motto of the Order: DESIDERANTES MELIOREM PATRIAM (“They desire a better country”). The six-point white enamel insignia they wear symbolizes our northern heritage and our diversity, because no two snowflakes are alike.

Appointments are made by the governor general on the recommendation of the Advisory Council for the Order of Canada.

Canada’s battery man

Dr. Dahn’s official citation recognizes “his ground-breaking research on lithium-ion batteries, and for his mentorship and adroit bridging of academic and industry.” For close to 40 years, he has been at the forefront of research and innovation in battery technology. Now collaborating with Tesla as an industrial research chair, his lab is helping to improve lithium-ion cells for electric vehicles and energy storage.

Dr. Dahn and his team made perhaps their most significant contribution to lithium-ion batteries at Dalhousie University. Along with Post-doc Zhonghua Lu, graduate student Dean MacNeil, he developed certain grades of lithium nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) oxide compounds, ones that when used as the positive electrode, increase the safety and stability of the batteries at larger sizes. Close to 20 years later, these grades of NMCs are widely used in power tool and electric car batteries around the world — and represent several of the 65 or so inventions that his team has patented.

“It is a huge honor to be named an Officer of the Order of Canada,” says Dr. Dahn.  “I am extremely fortunate to have been involved in lithium-ion battery research from the very beginning and to have been able to make a few contributions along the way.  It is incredible to see the way lithium-ion batteries are changing our world and moving us toward a renewable energy future.  I must give thanks to my wife, Kathy, and children, Hannah, Tara and Jackson (All are Dal grads!) for their unwavering support through the long hours required for committed research.”

A leader in pediatric plastic surgery

Dr. Wilson is being recognized “for his expertise in reconstructive and plastic surgery and for his volunteer work on international medical missions.” As the first pediatric surgeon in the Maritimes who focused exclusively pediatric surgery, he expanded what the specialty does in Atlantic Canada.

He is also extensively involved with the Operation Smile organization, a humanitarian group that does cleft lip and palate surgeries for children in under serviced parts of the world. This work has taken him on more than 40 international missions as a surgeon and team leader since 1995. This includes Kenya, Ecuador, Vietnam, Madagascar, China and beyond. He’s the only Canadian to receive a lifetime achievement award from the organization.

“It’s a great honour that I would even be considered,” says Dr. Wilson. “I have been so fortunate in my career to have the opportunity to do so many things, and work with such great people. The award itself is a bonus on top of what has been a fulfilling and wonderful career. It’s the icing on the cake, rather than the cake itself. To be named to the Order of Canada was beyond my expectations.”

Other Dal alumni appointed to/promoted within the Order of Canada include:

Mark Tewksbury (Doctor of Laws – honoris causa ’18), Calgary, was appointed a Companion “for his athletic excellence and sport leadership, and for championing equity, inclusion and human rights, both on and off the field of play.”

B. Denham Jolly (Diploma in Engineering '58 from Nova Scotia Agricultural College, now Dal’s Faculty of Agriculture), Toronto, was appointed a Member "for his contributions to the promotion of equity and opportunity within the Greater Toronto Area’s Black community."

The Honourable Monique Bégin (Doctor of Laws - honours causa '87), Ottawa, was promoted to Companion "for her lifelong contributions to public health, education and global human rights, and for consistently strengthening Canada’s international reputation in these fields.


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