Media Releases

University of Toronto computer scientist awarded Steacie Prize

December 15, 2010

TORONTO, ON – Aaron Hertz­mann, a pro­fes­sor at the Depart­ment of Com­put­er Sci­ence, Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, has been award­ed the 2010 Stea­cie Prize for Nat­ur­al Sci­ences – the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year that a U of T pro­fes­sor has received the pres­ti­gious award that rec­og­nizes out­stand­ing research car­ried out in Cana­da.

Hertz­mann is only the sec­ond com­put­er sci­en­tist to receive the Stea­cie Prize since the award’s incep­tion in 1964.

“The Stea­cie Prize is one of the most pres­ti­gious forms of recog­ni­tion pos­si­ble for a young Cana­di­an sci­en­tist,” says Mer­ic S. Gertler, Dean of the Fac­ul­ty of Arts & Sci­ence.  “Even at this rel­a­tive­ly ear­ly stage in his career, Pro­fes­sor Hertz­man­n’s impact on com­put­er graph­ics research is tru­ly remark­able. I pre­dict we will see many more excit­ing inno­va­tions from him in future.”

Hertz­mann is well-known in the field for his influ­en­tial work link­ing three sep­a­rate research areas with­in com­put­er sci­ence – com­put­er graph­ics, machine learn­ing and com­put­er vision. By focus­ing on the appli­ca­tion of machine-learn­ing tech­niques and Bayesian meth­ods, he has resolved a wide range of com­put­er graph­ics prob­lems. These include: com­put­er ren­der­ing of images in diverse artis­tic styles (an area known as non-pho­to­re­al­is­tic ren­der­ing); auto­mat­ed con­struc­tion of math­e­mat­i­cal and com­pu­ta­tion­al mod­els of human loco­mo­tion for com­put­er ani­ma­tion in film and com­put­er games; esti­mat­ing the three-dimen­sion­al struc­ture of a non-rigid object from a video sequence of that object; and, find­ing new meth­ods for remov­ing the effects of “cam­era shake” from pho­tographs in dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy.

“I am fas­ci­nat­ed by the sim­ple tasks that we as humans do eas­i­ly and unthink­ing­ly, but are extra­or­di­nar­i­ly dif­fi­cult for com­put­ers,” says Hertz­mann. “I espe­cial­ly focus on things with a visu­al com­po­nent.”

His col­lab­o­ra­tions with indus­try include advis­ing Chris Lan­dreth, an Acad­e­my Award-win­ning ani­ma­tor and direc­tor, on cut­ting-edge non-pho­to­re­al­is­tic ani­ma­tion meth­ods for the short film “The Spine” (2009) and apply­ing his cre­ativ­i­ty and skill at Pixar Ani­ma­tion Stu­dios, where he has served as a vis­it­ing research sci­en­tist.

The Depart­ment of Com­put­er Sci­ence is very proud of Hertzmann’s accom­plish­ments. Act­ing Chair Fahiem Bac­chus says: “We’re pleased that Aaron’s sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions to the field of com­put­er sci­ence and beyond are being rec­og­nized with such an impres­sive award. Con­grat­u­la­tions Aaron!”

The Stea­cie Prize, with a val­ue of $10,000, is award­ed annu­al­ly for excep­tion­al research con­tri­bu­tions from a sci­en­tist or engi­neer aged 40 or younger. Win­ners are select­ed by a pan­el appoint­ed by the E.W.R. Stea­cie Memo­r­i­al Fund, a pri­vate foun­da­tion ded­i­cat­ed to the advance­ment of sci­ence and engi­neer­ing in Cana­da.

Recent Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to recip­i­ents of the Stea­cie Prize include Ray Jayaward­hana (Astron­o­my & Astro­physics, 2009), Stephen Scher­er (Mol­e­c­u­lar Genet­ics, 2003), Jer­ry Mitro­vi­ca (Physics, 2001), Ian Man­ners (Chem­istry, 2000), Lewis Kay (Chem­istry, Bio­chem­istry and Mol­e­c­u­lar Genet­ics, 1999) and Sajeev John (Physics, 1996).

See the video for Opti­miz­ing Walk­ing Con­trollers for Uncer­tain Inputs and Envi­ron­ments at


For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact:

Sher­ry McGrat­ten
Com­mu­ni­ca­tions & Liai­son Offi­cer
Com­put­er Sci­ence
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to

Aaron Hertz­mann
Com­put­er Sci­ence
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to