The 2020 Gairdner Award Winners: Picturing Science in the Classroom

Every year, the Gairdner Awards celebrate science and research excellence in the medical health areas. Since 1957, they have given out 395 awards – 95 of these recipients would go on to also win a Nobel Prize!

In collaboration with the Canadian Society of Molecular Biosciences and the Michael Smith Laboratories at UBC, these materials were produced to provide a series of articles, comics, videos and accompanying lesson ideas to celebrate the science of a selection of the 2020 Canada Gairdner Awardees. This builds on the Gairdner Foundation’s partnership with CSMB and Michael Smith Laboratories at UBC, which began last year.

Comics and videos are generally good for middle school ages (Grade 7 to 9), whereas the articles are written mostly for Grade 10 to 12 readers. Classroom activities are generally designed for Grade 10 to 12, although some are adaptable for use with younger students. Note that not all activities are in line with COVID related measures.



The full package, which includes articles, comics and classroom activities can be downloaded as a free 42 page pdf here.

We invite you to view and share these documents widely, as they highlight the impact science has in our lives and our understanding of the world.

And many thanks to the students, grad students and post-docs who wrote for this project: Daniela Salas Acosta, Shawn Shortill, Krysta Coyle, Heather Gerrie, Farah Qaiser, Alison McAfee, and Teri Wang. And big kudos for the great illustrations by Armin Mortazavi.

Individual pieces and videos for each of the awards can be found below:


Mina J. Bissell, “Mammary Gland Mysteries, Solved.” The way cells behave depends on more than just their genes, it also depends on what else they can sense around them. Written by Alison McAfee. Art by Armin Mortazavi (article | comic | video)

Elaine Fuchs, “The Elixir of Life and Our Skin.” Studying the cells of our skin paved the way for science that explores the possibility of regeneration in medicine. Written by Daniela Salas Acosta. Art by Armin Mortazavi. (article | comic | video)


Rolf Kemler and Masatoshi Takeichi, “Cadherin and Catenins: A Sticky Situation.” Our cells are able to come together and form tissues and organs by way of specialized proteins that act as a kind of cellular glue. Written by Shawn Shortill. Art by Armin Mortazavi (article | comic | video)


Roel Nusse, “Of Patterns and Cancer in Mice and Flies.” The connections between embryonic development and cancer – Dr. Roel Nusse’s career in science. Written by Krysta Coyle. Art by Armin Mortazavi (article | comic | video)


Guy Rouleau, “From Genes to Medicine.” Using the building blocks of biology to study and solve complex brain diseases. Written by Heather Gerrie. Art by Armin Mortazavi (article | comic | video)


Quarraisha & Salim Abdool Karim, “Beyond the ABCs: How to Prevent HIV.” Developing a gel to prevent sexually acquired HIV infections in women, and empowering women to protect themselves. Written by Farah Qaiser. Art by Armin Mortazavi (article | comic | video)


For more information about the Gairdner Foundation, please visit
For more information about the Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences, please visit
For more information about the UBC Michael Smith Laboratories, please visit