University of Calgary
UofC Navigation

Killam Trust recognizes UCalgary research and teaching leadership

Seven Killam Laureates awarded for excellence in health, community resilience, arts – and Internet security
November 4, 2016
Steve Liang, associate professor at the Schulich School of Engineering, received the Killam Emerging Research Leader Award. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Steve Liang, associate professor at the Schulich School of Engineering, received the Killam Emerging Research Leader Award. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

The Killam Trusts support top-ranked Canadian post-secondary students and professors who are making exceptional contributions to society. The pathfinding work of the nearly 7,000 Killam Laureates from Canada and around the world promote international understanding — fulfilling the Killam dream of a better world.

Seven University of Calgary researchers have been recognized by the Killam Trust for their excellence and leadership. Announced on Oct. 26, the new Killam Research and Teaching Awardees from the Cumming School of Medicine include Matthew Hill, Paul Kubes, Guido van Marle and Campbell Teskey. Julie Drolet, from the Faculty of Social Work has also been awarded, as has Aritha van Herk from the Faculty of Arts and Steve Liang from the Schulich School of Engineering.

Geomatics engineer recognized for research leadership on the Internet of Things (IoT)

When Steve Liang, associate professor at the Schulich School of Engineering received word that he had won the Killam Emerging Research Leader Award, it reaffirmed that his research is making a difference, not only in the world of the Internet of Things (IoT) but also in the lives of his students.

An international leader in the research and development of the emerging field, Liang leads several groups of international experts to develop multiple key enabling standards including Rapporteur for United Nation’s ITU-T working group that is tasked with examining and testing interoperability.

The Killam Emerging Research Leader Award is presented to full-time continuing academic staff who have demonstrated contributions and impact to knowledge and innovation; successful promotion, dissemination, and/or management of research activities; training of graduate students and other highly qualified research personnel.

“What I try to do is build a team, and it’s important to show that the work we’re doing is actually making a difference.” Says Liang. “It can be hard for students because they can be in the lab and sometimes they are not so sure, so it’s good to be rewarded, this award confirms that what we’re doing is relevant.”

When it comes to mentoring and teaching, Dr. Liang is of the mind that it is critical to have a mentor, and also mentions the importance of being coachable. “Having a willingness to be open it makes you understand feedback when sometimes it’s difficult to take, that’s one thing I try to teach my students is that it’s important to listen.”

As a mentor to the next generation of engineers, innovators, and entrepreneurs, he has supervised or co-supervised five postdoctoral fellows (four graduated), six PhD students (one graduated), eight master's students (six graduated), and over 25 undergraduate students.

Tania Khalafbeigi is among the next generation that Liang has had an influence on and she echoes the sentiment of so many when asked about Liang’s impact on his students.  

“It has been great to work with Professor Liang. He is an outstanding and inspiring supervisor, great mentor, and caring friend at the same time. I am so glad that he won this award and I really think he is well-deserved.”

Liang’s research

The IoT has been considered the third wave of information technology revolution after the PC revolution in the 1980s and 1990s and the Internet revolution in the 1990s and 2000s. The IoT offers exponentially expanding opportunities for new functionality, far greater reliability, much higher system efficiency, and capabilities that cut across and transcend traditional industry boundaries. The changing nature of the connected “things” is disrupting value chains, forcing organizations to rethink and retool nearly everything they do internally.

Liang’s goal is to disrupt the silos that exist within the Internet of Things and empower anyone to build connected applications by using the information generated from the world around them.

The Killam Trusts

Prominent Canadian businessman Izaak Walton Killam and his wife Dorothy J. Killam established the Killam Trusts to support advanced education and to help in the building of Canada’s future by encouraging advanced research and study. The Killam Trusts constitute the largest private endowment in Canada and the University of Calgary is privileged to be one of the five Killam universities.

Killam Research and Teaching Awards

  • Killam Emerging Research Leader Award: Matthew Hill, Cell Biology and Anatomy

Hill has become an internationally recognized leader in his field, examining the biological underpinnings of anxiety that appears as both a genetic predisposition or in response to exposure to a persistent stressor. His research program has employed state-of-the-art behavioural, biochemical, pharmacological, genetic and histological techniques in rodent models to assess the contribution of specific neurochemical systems in the regulation of anxiety.

  • Killam Emerging Research Leader Award: Julie Drolet, Faculty of Social Work

Drolet has earned a reputation for research excellence for her work on disasters, climate change, and sustainable development. Working closely with communities, her national and international collaborations include Rebuilding Lives Post-Disaster: Innovative community practices for sustainable development, including partners from Canada, Australia, U.S., India, Pakistan, and Taiwan. And locally, with the Alberta Resilient Communities Project: Engaging children and youth in community resilience post-flood in southern Alberta; and the Labour Market Integration Project: Improving collaboration in Calgary for better employment outcomes for immigrants. Read more about Drolet's work.

  • Killam Research Excellence Award: Paul Kubes, Physiology and Pharmacology

Canadian health sciences leader Paul Kubes is the most highly cited researcher at the University of Calgary, with more than 23,000 citations to date. His research is dedicated to the battle between the immune system and the pathogens that kill more than 500,000 children and adults a year in North America while healing non-infected injured tissues. His research has been published in the most prestigious scientific journals in his field and his stellar research record is matched by his leadership in building multi-disciplinary programs that have been recognized internationally.

  • Killam Graduate Supervision and Mentorship Award: Aritha van Herk, English

Aritha van Herk has been recognized for her exceptional dedication to her graduate students. As one of the University of Calgary’s and Canada’s most accomplished writers and professors, she has dedicated her time and talent to also inspiring, supporting and empowering her students. Her philosophy of quality mentorship and scholarship epitomizes the vision of the university’s Eyes High strategy: “The goal can be nothing less than greatness.” She strives towards that goal by recognizing untapped potential in her students and instilling creativity and imagination as the driving forces of all achievement. For her exceptional mentorship, she has also been awarded the GREAT Supervisor Award (2015) and earlier this year received an Honorary Mention, Excellence in Supervision, from the Graduate Students' Association.

  • Killam Award in Undergraduate Mentorship: Guido van Marle, Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases

Guido van Marle has earned a reputation as an exceptional mentor, based on his demonstrated leadership in introducing, developing and fostering research for undergraduate students. His passion for teaching is evident in his work with the students in the highly successful Bachelor of Health Sciences (BHSc) program. A competitive, research-intensive honours program with an honours thesis research project, the BHSc program is designed to give students a more complete appreciation of health research and the health-care system. BHSc is unique in the way students interact directly with a diverse group of health researchers and professionals. For the success of this program and the many others he has led and supported, he has received the SU teaching excellence award three times and was on the Global Health Team that was awarded the Alberta Internationalizing Teaching and Learning Practice Award of Distinction.

  • McCaig-Killam Teaching Award: Campbell Teskey, Cell Biology and Anatomy

Campbell Teskey has been recognized for his integrity and student advocacy, and for his exceptional commitment and demonstrated excellence in classroom teaching, student supervision, and administration. His accomplishments are best exemplified by his work with the Cumming School of Medicine’s Global Health and International Partnerships program and for his early contribution in the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI). The graduate program that emerged from his work with HBI has become the model within Cumming School of Medicine and he continues to provide assistance to the education directors of four other institutes in the CSM. Most recently, he has coauthored a textbook introducing the field of brain and behaviour at the undergraduate level.