Vancouver-based diamond pioneer and philanthropist Stewart Blusson and his wife, Marilyn, have donated $11 million to quantum materials research at UBC. In recognition of the gift, the Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute has been named in honour of the geology alumnus (BSc ’60).
“This institute is already bringing the next generation of top researchers to Canada and to UBC specifically,” said Stewart Blusson. “The thing about this kind of exploratory research is that you never know when something really significant is going to come out of it. By supporting the institute, we’ve planted the seeds.”
Quantum physics is the study of the unusual behaviour of matter and energy at the atomic level, where the laws of classical physics do not apply. Discoveries in this field are expected to lead to a revolution in computing, electronics, medicine and sustainable energy technologies.
The Blussons are the largest individual donors to UBC, having now contributed more than $60 million to the university. In 1998, they donated $50 million to support fundamental research and academic enquiry, benefitting more than 60 projects.
“The extraordinary leadership and foresight of Stewart and Marilyn Blusson have had a major impact on the university in its first 100 years through their support of emerging fields of research and infrastructure,” said UBC Interim President Martha Piper. “Their incredible generosity has helped our university mature into a globally-renowned hub for research. This latest gift will transform the future of quantum material research here at UBC.”
The Blussons’ gift has been leveraged to secure a total of $93 million for quantum research. In 2015, UBC was awarded $66.5 million from the federal government through the Canada First Research Excellence Fund and $10 million to bring Harvard physicist Jennifer Hoffman to UBC as a Canada Excellence Research Chair.
“It’s been an incredible year for quantum research at UBC and we’re most grateful to the Blussons for their vision and support,” said Andrea Damascelli, director of the Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute. “With this gift we are paving the way for potentially transformative advances in energy, computing power, and new materials.”
Stewart and Marilyn Blusson
Stewart Blusson, a UBC alumnus and geologist, and his wife, Marilyn, are among the most generous philanthropists in Canadian history.
Born in Vancouver, Stewart earned a bachelor’s of science in geology from UBC in 1960, and a doctorate in geology at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1964. After completing his degree, he joined the Geological Survey of Canada, focusing his research on Canada’s far north.
Marilyn and Stewart married in 1980, and a year later, Stewart began work as an independent consultant and prospector. He co-discovered the deposit that gave birth to Canada’s first diamond mine in the early 1990s and established the Ekati Diamond Mine in 1998.
The Blussons have made generous donations to post-secondary institutions, which combined with matching grants from governments, total more than $560 million. UBC alone leveraged $340 million in government funding thanks to the Blussons generosity.
Stewart Blusson has been appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada, received an honorary degree from UBC in 1999, the Logan Medal from the Geological Association of Canada and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and in 2016, was inducted into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame.
The Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute
- The UBC Quantum Matter Institute was created in 2010, under the leadership and vision of UBC professor George Sawatzky.
- It is made up of a research team of 16 professors, plus students, technicians and postdoctoral fellows. The group will grow to 20 professors by 2019.
- Quantum research has received support from the federal and provincial governments through the Canada Foundation for Innovation, BC Knowledge Development Fund, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and Western Economic Diversification.
- In 2012, Sawatzky and Bernhard Keimer, director of the Germany-based Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research, led the creation of the Max Planck-UBC Centre for Quantum Materials. It is the only international Max Planck Centre focused on quantum materials research.
- In January 2015, Andrea Damascelli followed George Sawatzky as the new director of the Quantum Matter Institute.
- UBC welcomed Harvard physicist Jennifer Hoffman as its new Canada Excellence Research Chair in Quantum Materials and Devices Based on Oxide Heterostructures in June 2015.
- UBC received a $66.5-million investment from the Government of Canada through the Canada First Research Excellence Fund to support quantum matter research in July 2015.
- UBC announced the creation of the Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute in March 2016.
- The Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute will move into a new state-of-the-art facility in fall 2016.