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‘Innovation thrives out of the imagination of the hands you put the materials in’

UCalgary Alumni’s Idea Exchange series brings conversation and collaboration to Houston
March 31, 2017
Among those attending the Idea Exchange event in Houston were Mary Griffin, emcee Robert Wichert and speaker Steven Bryant.

Among those attending the Idea Exchange event in Houston were Mary Griffin, emcee Robert Wichert and speaker Steven Bryant. Photos by Anne Darcy, for Development and Alumni Engagement 

Alumni mingling, including John Lagasca, BSc(Eng)’11, centre.

Alumni mingling, including John Lagasca, BSc(Eng)’11, centre. 

Steven Bryant shakes hands with Ross Warriner, BCOMM’75, BA’71, and William Jewitt, MBA’86, BSc(Eng)’75.

Steven Bryant shakes hands with Ross Warriner, BCOMM’75, BA’71, and William Jewitt, MBA’86, BSc(Eng)’75.

HOUSTON — The University of Calgary has long had significant ties to the Houston region — not surprising, given Calgary and Houston’s similar oil-and-gas backgrounds. Upwards of 400 alumni — largely from the faculties of business, engineering and science — currently live in the area; the Haskayne School of Business’ Global Energy Executive MBA (GEMBA) program includes a Houston residency during CERAWeek every March; and the Faculty of Law operates the International Energy Lawyers Program (IELP) in partnership with the University of Houston. The city, then — in particular, the Petroleum Club of Houston — made for a fitting host for one of UCalgary Alumni’s signature Idea Exchange events on March 7, designed to engage and illuminate alumni, donors and friends about UCalgary’s expertise in clean and sustainable energy.

Emceed by Houston resident and alumnus Robert Wichert, BSc(Eng)’83, president and CEO and COO of Whistler Energy LLC, the event featured a presentation on nanotechnology applications from Steven Bryant, UCalgary’s first Canada Excellence Research Chair in Materials Engineering for Unconventional Oil Reservoirs.

Bryant, who was welcomed by Dean Bill Rosehart of the Schulich School of Engineering, is a world leader in nanoparticle technology. He guided a discussion about innovative approaches to clean and sustainable energy, framed by his own philosophical, often humorous, perspective on change versus innovation. “Innovation thrives out of the imagination of the hands you put the materials in,” said Bryant.

Alumni and friends in attendance were captivated by Bryant’s passionate, unapologetically optimistic take on the future of green energy technology. Speaking to the power of natural materials, such as billion-year-old microbes, Bryant posed the idea of a zero-carbon micro-carrier. This type of nanoparticle can both change the way we extract from oil and gas reserves and improve our environmental stewardship.

“If you start with the materials instead of a process, it changes the way innovation happens,” he said.