Nov. 15, 2019

They stand apart – UCalgary researchers whose work makes the most difference for others

Peak Scholars celebrated for working closely with communities to create positive impact

A child-friendly MRI machine that looks like a rocket ship. Refining international standards for dance-related injuries. Animal care programs for the Calgary Stampede. Waste-to-energy facilities for mixed-use neighbourhoods.

Those are just a few of the community-engaged research programs at the University of Calgary that were featured at the Peak Scholars Celebration Luncheon for 2019. Peak Scholars’ academic work in knowledge engagement, entrepreneurship, or innovation has resulted in a positive social or economic impact in our communities.

“Peak Scholars are fantastic innovators, mentors, educators, leaders, and entrepreneurial thinkers,” says Dr. Ed McCauley, president and vice-chancellor. “Beyond their achievements in all these areas, Peak Scholars strive to connect their research outputs to opportunities where they can make the most difference for others.”

  • Photo above: Nicole Racine, postdoctoral scholar in the Faculty of Arts, presents at the Peak Scholars Celebration Luncheon. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Each year, deans are invited to nominate scholars from their faculty who have demonstrated excellence in startup ventures, commercialization, knowledge or technology transfer, community engagement, social innovation or research collaboration. Peak Scholars has been held annually since 2014, and has now recognized over 200 scholars.

For the first time in 2019, Peak Scholars nominations were open to postdoctoral scholars. The three postdocs recognized this year, Dr. Sarah Dewell, PhD (Faculty of Nursing), Dr. Kuljeet Singh Grewal, PhD (School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape), and Dr. Nicole Racine, PhD (Faculty of Arts), received a special congratulations from Dr. Andre Buret, interim vice-president (research).

“It speaks to the quality of mentorship postdocs receive when they are encouraged to take their research programs beyond the academy and engage with the community,” says Dr. Buret. “There is something very special about receiving a recognition such as this early in your academic career, so I would like to offer a special congratulations to our postdoc scholars being celebrated today.”

Stace Wills, director of new ventures at Innovate Calgary, joined the proceedings to deliver congratulations to scholars who had patents issued in 2018-19, and also special recognition awards to two spin-off companies who saw significant growth this year: Parvus Therapeutics and Willow Biosciences.

In 2019, Parvus Therapeutics entered into a worldwide collaboration and licence agreement with Genentech to develop, manufacture, and commercialize their novel Navacim therapeutics for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune liver diseases, and celiac diseases.

Willow Biosciences is a synthetic biology company, rooted in innovative cannabinoid production, dedicated to harnessing the therapeutic potential of plants. Willow recently expanded operations to include three facilities in Alberta, California, and British Columbia, and completed a reverse takeover of controlled-substance production company Noramco.

Peak Scholars for 2019 are:

Faculty of Arts

  • Dr. Peter Dawson, PhD: Digitally Preserving Alberta’s Cultural Heritage
  • Dr. Thomas O'Neill, PhD: Creating Healthy and High-Performance Teamwork in Organizations
  • Dr. Nicole Racine, PhD: Maternal Adverse Childhood Experiences in Primary Care: Implications for Maternal-Child Health 
  • Dr. Cora Voyageur, PhD: Indigenous Wellness and Community Building Capacity

Faculties of Arts and Kinesiology 

  • Dr. Sarah Kenny, PhD: Injury Prevention in Dance

Haskayne School of Business

  • Dr. Sandy Hershcovis, PhD: Harassment Policy and Bystander Intervention
  • Dr. Harrie Vredenburg, PhD: Project Reconciliation

Faculty of Law

  • Dr. Anna-Maria Hubert, PhD: Geoengineering Research Governance Project

Cumming School of Medicine

  • Dr. Claire Barber, MD: Patient-Centered Framework for Measuring, Monitoring and Optimizing Rheumatoid Arthritis Care
  • Dr. Shelagh Coutts, MD: CT And MRI in the Triage of TIA and Minor Cerebrovascular Events to Identify High Risk Patients (CATCH)
  • Dr. Kirsten Fiest, PhD: Engaging Patients as Partners in Critical Care Medicine Research
  • Dr. Rebecca Haines-Saah, PhD: Seeing Beyond the Numbers
  • Dr. Catherine Lebel, PhD: Improving MRI Scanning in Young Children
  • Dr. Nancy Marlett, PhD: Patient and Community Engagement Research in Partnership with Alberta’s Strategic Clinical Networks

Faculty of Nursing

  • Dr. Heather Bensler: Indigenous Initiatives Connecting Nursing Students, First Nations Communities and the Broader Calgary through Community Engagement
  • Dr. Eloise Carr, PhD: Enhancing the Lives of People with Chronic Pain Who Live with a Dog: The Human Animal Pain Interactions (HAPI) Network
  • Dr. Sarah Dewell, PhD: Linking Nursing Knowledge and Genomics through Innovative Education
  • Dr. Tam Truong Donnelly, PhD: Breast Cancer Screening Among Arabic Women Living in the State of Qatar

School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape

  • Dr. Kuljeet Singh Grewal, PhD: Influence of Mixed-use Neighborhood Developments on the Performance of Waste-to-Energy CHP Plant
  • Dr. Caroline Hachem-Vermette, PhD: Towards High Energy Performance, Climate Resilient Neighborhoods: Developing Methodologies and Tools Assistant
  • Dr. Tawab Hlimi, PhD: The Green Alley Project

Schulich School of Engineering

  • Dr. Jiaxun (Jennifer) He, PhD: Bioretention for Enhancing Urban Stormwater Management
  • Dr. Pedro Pereira Almao, PhD: Industrialization of Greenhouse Gases (CO2 and Methane) to Produce High Value Carbon Nano-fibres
  • Dr. Derek Lichti, PhD: Imaging Metrology
  • Dr. Amir Nezhad, PhD: Nanobiosensing Technology for Point of Care Detection of Brain Injuries, Cancer and Infection

Faculty of Science

  • Dr. Viola Birss, PhD: Clean Energy Storage and Conversion
  • Dr. Ian Lewis, PhD: Harnessing microbial metabolism to fight infections
  • Dr. Joel Reardon, PhD: Improving Mobile Privacy
  • Dr. Venkataraman Thangadurai, PhD: Advanced Electrochemical Energy Storage and Conversion Technologies: All-Solid-State Batteries and Fuel Cells
  • Dr. Mea Wang, PhD: Innovation at the Intersection of Computing and Networking with Entrepreneurial Thinking

Faculty of Social Work

  • Dr. Kathleen Sitter, PhD: Participatory Visual Media: Creativity, Innovation, and Impact

Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

  • Dr. Cindy Adams, PhD: Novel Model of Communication using a One Health Approach towards Community Engagement
  • Dr. Ina Dobrinski, PhD: Modeling Disease in Swine by Transplantation of Gene Targeted Germ Cells
  • Dr. Ed Pajor, PhD: Knowledge Translation and Community Engagement at the Calgary Stampede

Innovate Calgary Special Recognition

  • Parvus Therapeutics: Dr. Pere Santamaria, MD, Cumming School of Medicine
  • Willow Biosciences: Dr. Peter Facchini, PhD, Faculty of Science

2018-19 Patent Recipients

  • Dr. Gerald Zamponi, PhD and Dr. Philip Diaz, PhD: T-type Calcium Channel Modulator and Uses Thereof (US 10,227,332)
  • Dr. Viola Birss, Dr. Beatriz Molero Sanchez, PhD and Dr. Paul Addo, PhD: High Performance Oxygen and Fuel Electrode For Reversible Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Applications (US 10,147,955)
  • Dr. Daniel Holloway, PhD: Suturing Training Device and Method (US 10,347,155)
  • Dr. Viola Birss, PhD, Dr. Xiaoan Li, PhD and Dr. Daniel Kwok, PhD: Porous Carbon Films (US 10,258,932)