From innovation to regulation: Dr. Greg Smallwood awarded the inaugural Ian Shugart Award for Outstanding Career
- Ottawa, Ontario
For 40 years, Dr. Greg Smallwood has been committed to conducting research that benefits the public. He has spent 37 of those years performing research at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and has earned many awards for his research.
On October 24, Dr. Smallwood was honoured with the inaugural Ian Shugart Award for Outstanding Career during the Public Service Award of Excellence ceremony. The prestigious award, given by the Treasury Board, recognizes Government of Canada employees who reflect the values of the public service and who have achieved notable results for Canadians. Senator Shugart passed away on October 25, 2023, after a dedicated and outstanding career in the public service.
The award was a complete surprise to Dr. Smallwood, who takes great pride in his career in public service. "I almost fell over when I found out. I had no idea I was nominated," he said. "I'm humbled and honoured."
Since joining the NRC in 1988, Dr. Smallwood has dedicated his research career to making a social impact. One of his most notable achievements was the development of an innovative black carbon measurement technique that was ultimately used to develop international regulations for aircraft emissions.
Black carbon, more commonly referred to as soot, is an aerosol nanoparticle emitted by combustion. The combustion of diesel engines is among the largest contributors of black carbon.
"It started with developing a new way of measuring black carbon with a technique called laser-induced incandescence," he explained. "We patented that idea and licensed it. We originally thought it would be applied to measure the soot in flames, but then I saw the opportunity to use it to measure exhaust emissions from engines."
For over a decade, Dr. Smallwood used his innovative measurement technique to work with Transport Canada on the development of a new black carbon emissions standard for commercial aviation. The collaboration between the NRC and Transport Canada helped to develop a standardized technical approach to measuring black carbon from aircraft engines.
Results from this collaboration were presented to the International Civil Aviation Organization. From there, Dr. Smallwood was part of a working group that developed an international standard for black carbon emissions from aircraft engines. This standard was incorporated into the Canadian Aviation Regulations in 2019 and was adopted in regulations around the world, including Canadian legislation. His work helped to reduce the environmental and health impacts of civil aviation worldwide.
During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Smallwood had another innovative idea that led to further research with a social impact. He recognized that his Aerosol and Gas Metrology team could repurpose some of the research instruments they used for measuring black carbon to test the effectiveness of N95 respirators acquired from new, unlicensed sources.
"The Public Health Agency of Canada put out a call across Canada to see if any lab could test masks from overseas," he explained. "No one in Canada had the capability. Within 2 weeks, we developed a system to make the measurements and we were testing masks. We knew how important this was to protecting front-line responders across the country."
Under his leadership, the NRC Metrology team developed a unique-in-Canada capability to test N95 respirators for the Public Health Agency of Canada. His team created the Particle Filtration Efficiency Measurement System and contributed to establishing a new Canadian sector to develop and manufacture medical equipment. In 2022, his team won a Community of Federal Regulators Regulatory Excellence award for Regulatory Cooperation and Collaboration. Their efforts were recognized by Health Canada who nominated them for the award.
"Some people study one thing for their entire career, but I have always moved and changed," Dr. Smallwood said. "But ultimately, I've always been in measurement science or metrology. Whether it's for mask testing or measuring black carbon emissions, the goal remains the same for me. My focus is on developing the most accurate instruments that allow others to make high-quality measurements."
Dr. Smallwood's career is outstanding, not just because he is an exceptional scientist focused on public service, but because he also considers service to scientific communities integral to being a scientific leader. At the NRC, he led the charge toward reinvigorating research excellence. From 2018 to 2020, Dr. Smallwood was the first to serve as the President's science advisor. He also served as the secretary for the NRC President's Research Excellence Advisory Committee.
"There are so many people working in the government who are passionate about public service. They understand the incredible responsibility of being employed on behalf of the people of Canada," explained Dr. Smallwood. "To even have been nominated would have been the thrill of a lifetime, but to receive this award, it's a big deal."
Throughout his 40-year public service career, Dr. Smallwood has consistently demonstrated innovation and strong leadership. Whether he is working with government and industry to set regulations for aircraft emissions, leading transformative projects during a pandemic, or contributing to the reimagining of research excellence at the NRC, Dr. Smallwood has a track record of leading impactful projects that benefit not only Canadians but people around the world.