John Charles Polanyi Prizes

Award Overview

Level of Study

Postdoctoral or has a faculty appointment


To honour the achievement of John Charles Polanyi, recipient of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, the Ontario Government established a fund to provide John Charles Polanyi Prizes annually to up to five outstanding researchers or scholars who are in the early stages of their career and at Ontario universities. The prizes, each which is valued at $20,000, will be conferred in the fall of 2021. They are available in the areas of Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and Economic Science, broadly defined.

The John Charles Polanyi Prize is a prestigious award and The University of Toronto is well represented on the list of prize winners.  It is our aim to remain successful in this competition and we continue to encourage graduate units to nominate their strongest, eligible candidates.

Read about the 2019 U of T Prize winners, and past the UofT recipients of the 2018 Polanyi Prize, 2017 Polanyi Prize, 2016 Polanyi Prize and 2015 Polanyi Prize.


To be eligible for an award, applicants must:

  1. Be normally resident in Ontario;
  2. Have received their doctoral degree from any recognized university in the world on or after September 1, 2017, or, if the doctoral degree has not yet been awarded, be confident that they will have completed all degree requirements by May 31, 2021 (an applicant who was on parental leave between the time of completion of the doctorate and the time of application may have their period of eligibility extended by six months);
  3. Either be planning to continue to post-doctoral studies, or hold a faculty appointment, in a recognized publically assisted university in Ontario.

 Enquiries about these criteria may be directed to

Application Process

All applicants must submit to their graduate unit or their supervisor’s affiliated graduate unit (not the Dean of Graduate Studies as indicated in the COU accouncement) an electronic copy of the following documents in a single PDF package by the graduate unit deadline:

  1. The completed application form – attached, and available from available from the Council of Ontario Universities’ (COU) website;
  2. Curriculum vitae (no page restrictions), including information concerning the application. Updates to curriculum vitae will not be accepted after submission;
  3. A summary of the doctoral thesis (1 page max, to be written by the applicant);
  4. A brief statement of research or scholarship to be undertaken during the period of the award, prepared by the applicant (maximum of 2 pages, an additional 1 page is allowed for diagrams, bibliography, etc.);
  5. A non-technical summary of the statement of research or scholarship, written by the applicant (maximum 500 words);
  6. Confidential letters (on letterhead and signed) from four assessors (emailed directly to the nominating unit’s graduate administrator before the unit deadline).
    • Mandatory arm’s length assessors: All applications must have two arm’s length assessors from among the four assessors. Eligible arm’s length assessors include those who have read the applicant’s work, seen them present at conferences, but have not actually been involved with the applicant. The arm’s length assessors cannot be:
      • a relative or close friend, or have a personal relationship with the applicant;
      • in a position to benefit from the funding of the application;
      • affiliated with the applicant’s current and/or proposed institutions;
      • professionally affiliated with the applicant, as a result of (but not limited to): being their supervisor or trainee; collaborating, publishing or sharing funding with the applicant, or having plans to do so in the immediate future.
    • Letters should focus on an evaluation of the applicant’s research or scholarship to date, and the research or scholarship being undertaken.
    • Assessors must read and comment on the statement of research (or writing) being submitted as part of the application.


Applicants do not need to obtain the Dean’s signature or endorsement when submitting the application. The Graduate Awards Office will provide this endorsement to those applications selected by SGS to put forth to COU.

Postdoctoral fellows located at an affiliated hospital should apply through the graduate unit where their supervisor is appointed.

Selection Criteria

John Charles Polanyi prizes recognize truly outstanding researchers and scholars for their work during their doctoral program and, where relevant, in their research and scholarship after doctoral study. The Selection Committee, when it makes its decisions about the applicants to be awarded the prizes, reviews both the record of research and publications and the description of planned research; neither, alone, is sufficient for recognition with a Polanyi Prize.


The SGS Graduate Awards Office will notify those forwarded to SGS the University competition results in late January. The Council of Ontario Universities will announce the Ontario competition results in April 2021.

Contacts & Resources

Please direct all questions regarding the John Charles Polanyi Prizes competition or nomination process at the University of Toronto to:

Sarah Pickering
Postdoctoral Administrative Officer
Phone: 416-946-5254

COU Inquiries
Phone: 416-979-2165, extension 235
COU Polanyi Prizes webpage