University of Calgary

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Students to build solar-powered home

University of Calgary students leading an initiative to build a 100 percent solar-powered home hope to emulate the U of C solar car team’s success while advancing energy-efficient housing.

U of C students, faculty and staff have teamed up on the Alberta Solar Decathlon Project with their counterparts at SAIT Polytechnic and Mount Royal College (MRC). Together, the three Calgary post-secondary schools aim to become the first-ever western Canadian team to enter the international Solar Decathlon competition in 2009.

“We want to create a legacy in Alberta,” says Mark Blackwell, president of the Institute of Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy (ISEEE) Students’ Association at the U of C. “A key goal of this project is to inform and educate the public on how solar technologies can be readily and affordably integrated into housing development.”

The Solar Decathlon is a high-profile event in which 20 teams of university and college students compete to design, build and operate the most energy-efficient solar-powered home. The international competition, sponsored mainly by the U.S. Department of Energy, takes place on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The project has attracted more than $15,000 in seed funding, including a $7,000 contribution from Alberta Advanced Education and Technology. The total budget for the two-and-a-half-year project is about $900,000

Coming soon to a U of C classroom

The Alberta and Canadian film industries will more than double in growth by 2009 and will require graduates with critical and university-level backgrounds to work in such areas as television and film production, screenwriting, film journalism, film development, film festivals, cinema archives and arts funding agencies. The Faculty of Communication and Culture will help students capitalize on opportunities in the industry through its soon-to-be-released film studies degree program. Students will have the opportunity to explore their love of film including animation, documentary, experimental film, and Canadian and Hollywood cinema. They will study director styles, camera movement, editing and acting and also obtain practical experience in the film industry by participating in local film festivals.

For more information: www.comcul@ucalgary

Donations hit $100M milestone

The University of Calgary received more than $101 million in community support this past fiscal year, setting a new fundraising record and significantly boosting the resources directed to improving the student experience. The milestone places the U of C among the top three in Canada among post-secondary institutions for annual fundraising.

More than 9,300 individual donations were received by the university in 2006/2007, ranging from $20 donations to multimillion-dollar donations from several well-known community philanthropists. The great majority of the donations came from Calgary-based individuals, companies and foundations. Passing the $100-million mark places the University of Calgary among a select group of universities and charities in Canada to raise more than $100 million in a single year.


Giving U your energy

In the Spring 2007 issue we asked you, our readers, what you’re personally doing to address global warming. Thanks for all the great feedback; here are a few of your responses:

Personal energy use, from taking the elevator to running the tap, adds up. Rather than focus on a single aspect of energy use, like cycling to work for example, I prefer the flexibility of being aware of how energy is being used. When I’m working on the computer and viewing a bright screen, I turn off the overhead lights and use the light from the screen plus a fluorescent-bulb desk lamp. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator and riding a bike to work is a great way to get exercise outside of the gym, too.
—Ann-Lise Norman, professor, Faculty of Science

I’m a vegetarian and eat a plant-based diet, with as many local, organic and sustainably farmed items as possible. In 2006, the UN reported that raising animals for food creates more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. The whole process is incredibly inefficient—it takes 10 times as much petroleum to create one calorie of animal protein compared to one calorie of plant protein. Eliminating animal protein from my diet and replacing it with high quality and tasty plant proteins has greatly reduced my environmental footprint, improved my health and soothed my conscience at the same time. Even in a city nicknamed “Cowtown,” it’s easy and convenient.
—Kacie Knight, BA’05 

For the last few years I have focused on researching and commercializing “BioHeat,” a renewable solution to Canada’s biggest energy requirement. By cultivating native perennial prairie grasses such as switchgrass on marginal farmlands, we can reduce our fossil-fuel energy consumption while providing a clean source of renewable heat. Changing just 20 percent of Canada’s agricultural landbase to these native prairie species could produce about 80 million tonnes of biomass, or energy equivalent to 700,000 barrels of oil per day. Using BioHeat to displace fossil fuels for heating could prevent the emission of 100 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually, or roughly one-seventh of Canada’s total.
—Claudia Ho Lem, BSc’00

For more reader ideas that address global warming, visit U Extra at umagazine/fall2007/index

Jack Mintz to lead flagship School of Policy Studies

Professor Jack Mintz, former president of the C.D. Howe Institute and world-renowned fiscal and tax policy specialist, will create a new School of Policy Studies at the University of Calgary.

The pan-university School of Policy Studies will launch with a critical mass of more than 100 U of C scholars working in the field. The school will be an international centre of expertise in policy studies, including government, defence, health, economics, and energy and the environment.

It will build on the wealth of policy studies expertise already in place at the U of C, notably in political science, law, business, economics, and energy and environmental studies. The school is expected to attract federal, provincial and municipal government policy makers— both administrators and political leaders— to study with faculty, colleagues and visiting scholars from around the world. Only a handful of Canadian universities have gathered as many public policy experts under the umbrella of one institute.

New professorship brings science education to life

Alumna Leslie Reid, MSc’97, PhD’03, will join a growing movement in post-secondary teaching when she begins her newly created position at the University of Calgary in September, called the Tamaratt Teaching Professorship in Geoscience.

Teaching professorships are gaining momentum among universities because they help build a body of expertise around improving the quality of teaching in classrooms. Faculties of education at universities have historically been the breeding ground for innovation in teaching methods, but now the trend is to challenge all faculties to create positions dedicated solely to improving the quality of teaching and learning, its outcomes and, as a result, the entire student experience for all.

In addition to Reid’s new position, the Schulich School of Engineering recently announced the creation of an endowed chair designed to focus on innovation in engineering education. That new position was funded by a $3-million gift from the Li Ka Shing (Canada) Foundation and matched by the U of C.

For Reid, being a part of a leading edge trend is rewarding. “This is my dream
job,” she says. “I always really enjoyed the teaching component of graduate school and doing public outreach, so it’s always been part of the fabric of me.”

The position was created thanks to a recent $1-million donation by alumni Tara Brister, BSc’82, and Matt Brister, BSc’81, and aims to enhance teaching and learning experiences in science education by incorporating education-focused research with new teaching and learning methods into science courses.

It’s a five-year term that Reid can’t wait to start. In fact, she’s already launched a three-year project called the Science Literacy Project in conjunction with Dr. Liam Rourke, a colleague at the university’s Teaching and Learning Centre. It will identify teaching methods used in science courses for students enrolled in non-science major programs. She’ll then identify what positive changes could be made and begin implementing them. Other areas she will focus on include interactive teaching opportunities, active or inquiry-based learning and three-dimensional thinking to give students a stronger spatial awareness and orientation in their learning.

Hands-on education focuses on energy, environment and economy

University of Calgary students can look forward to getting an enhanced, hands-on education in the interconnected areas of energy, environment and the economy.

Starting this fall, a new energy science concentration in the Faculty of Science’s natural sciences program will permit 15 to 18 undergraduates each year to learn about the scientific principles of renewable and other non-carbon energy sources.

“They’ll learn about things like wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal and nuclear energy,” says George Bourne, director of the natural sciences program and associate dean of undergraduate policy in the Faculty of Science.

The new energy science concentration will be expanded over the next couple of years to offer students in the Faculty of Science, Schulich School of Engineering and Haskayne School of Business a course where they will collaboratively work on a relevant
energy project.

The Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy’s Energy and Environmental Systems (EES) Group will begin introducing this fall its multidisciplinary graduate specialization program. It focuses on four areas: engineering knowledge of energy technologies and systems; science underlying the environmental issues arising from energy use; economics of energy; and the social, legal and regulatory environments in which the energy systems are embedded.

“The goal of the program is to enable graduates to research problems arising from the interaction of energy systems with the social and natural environments that surround them,” says David Keith, director of the EES Group.

Also this fall, the Schulich School will offer a 10-course undergraduate specialization in energy and environment —unique in Canada—to chemical, civil, electrical, geomatics and mechanical engineering students.

The Faculty of Science and the Schulich School of Engineering are also expanding undergraduate programs in petroleum geology and a petroleum minor in chemical and mechanical engineering, and offering a new joint, post-graduate degree in oil and gas reservoir characterization.

U of C acts on sustainability pledge

From analyzing the content of trash, to using corn syrup instead of chlorides to de-ice pathways, to collecting storm water on campus, the University of Calgary is working on several fronts to lead efforts in sustainability.

The recently formed Office of Sustainability is undertaking a sustainability assessment: a comprehensive report of existing sustainability and environmental performance.

“It is only by understanding where we are now that we can achieve greater successes in the future in areas of social, operational and academic sustainability,” said Joanne Perdue, director of the Office of Sustainability.

Perdue and a team of advisors are finalizing a university-wide sustainability analysis to identify strengths and weaknesses in the following areas: collaboration and participation; community health and wellness; curriculum and research; energy and atmosphere; existing buildings; governance and senior administration; land planning and new buildings; operations and maintenance; procurement; solid waste; student forum; transportation and mobility; and water. The analysis will identify short- and long-term priorities as the university’s sustainability efforts progress.

“After three years of quiet progress, we are about to step up significantly the greening of our buildings, our renovations, our curriculum and indeed our thinking,” said Mike McAdam, vice-president (finance and services). “We want to incite a change in institutional culture, so that all campus stakeholders understand the significance of, and their roles in, working towards sustainability.”

Some of the operational projects and initiatives currently underway include the U of C’s storm water management process, energy efficiency retrofits (with approximately 8,100 tonnes CO2eq in annual emission reductions from Phase I projects), green housekeeping and green groundskeeping pilot programs, and solid waste reduction initiatives. As well as reducing the university’s footprint, sustainability projects also offer unique research opportunities through the integration of teaching, research and operations. The report will examine existing collaborations and how the university can further such inter-disciplinary work.

The report will also highlight the achievements by student groups and programs such as the Eco Club, Engineers Without Borders, and the solar car project. It will include the university’s efforts to integrate sustainability into curriculum with its 80 courses addressing the social, economic and environmental elements of sustainability. It will address staff, student and faculty health and wellness on campus, and also outline the many examples of community outreach and participation though the university’s events including Campus Fair, Commuter Challenge and Trash Bash and involvement with organizations such as imagineCalgary and the Canadian Green Building Council.

U of C hosts Iron Science

Science teachers from across the country are planning their most outrageous, entertaining and unusual science experiments in hopes of competing in this fall’s Iron Science, a Canada-wide challenge to recognize the best science teachers in the country.

Iron Science, headed by the U of C’s Schulich School of Engineering along with the faculties of science and education, are partnering with Discovery Channel to stage a national celebration of creative excellence in science teaching. Modelled after the culinary television series Iron Chef, teams of teachers will cook up demonstrations of imaginative science and engineering. The presentations are built around a “secret ingredient” and can be modified to be used in the classroom.

Regional playoffs at science centres across the country will determine which teams will go on to the national final on November 22, 2007 at MacEwan Hall.

“Iron Science solidified great collegial relationships within the department. It provided us with useful tools for our own classrooms and the students at Father Lacombe High School felt that they had the best science teachers,” said Candice Beerman, BSc’00, BEd’02, a science coordinating teacher at Father Lacombe High School and one of the 2006 Iron Science winners.

The winning team—three of them recent graduates of the University of Calgary’s education faculty and all teachers at Father Lacombe High School—transformed themselves into the Iron Maidens, to tell a rock opera about the science of colour, which was last year’s secret ingredient.

This year, teams can apply to enter until September 24. Each team of four must include at least two teachers, and can include other science communicators, friends, celebrities or commentators from any walk of life.

Five regional events across Canada will select the teams for the national final on November 22 in Calgary, which will be a live webcast on For more information, visit: