University of Calgary

Ingenuity awards

July 21, 2009

Six new faculty each win $300,000 Ingenuity research awards

Six University of Calgary researchers received 2009 Ingenuity New Faculty Awards, half of the total awards offered this year from the Alberta Ingenuity Fund.

Worth $300,000 over three years, these significant awards help provide an excellent start that will contribute to researchers' future successes.

"The Ingenuity New Faculty Awards are a tremendous boost to a young researcher's career," said Dr. Rose Goldstein, U of C's vice-president (research). "We appreciate the investment that Alberta Ingenuity Fund is making in our researchers. It's a testament to their strength and potential."

This year, 36 researchers applied for the award. A national selection committee chose 12 finalists, half of which were U of C faculty.

The following are the six award winners and a description of their areas of research.

Sytle Antao, assistant professor in the Department of Geoscience, Faculty of Science

Sytle AntaoIssues of carbon capture and storage (CCS), environmental pollution and climate change are of global concern. Minerals are ideal materials that can play an important role in helping to resolve some of these issues. Antao studies the structures of minerals under high-pressure and high-temperature conditions using state-of-the-art, in situ experimental techniques to investigate their stabilities and properties, and applying the results to mineral physics and earth processes. Antao's research provides insights into the mechanisms by which minerals are formed and why carbon dioxide-containing minerals, for example, have an important role to play in CCS and climate-change issues.

Joern Davidsen, assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Faculty of Science

Joern DavidsenDavidsen is working on a theory to quantify the “worst-case scenario,” a theory that could help understand and predict the extremes of anything from a world-wide financial meltdown to a 100-year flood. He is developing new statistical and probabilistic models for extremes that can be used to examine a wide range of applied problems. In particular, he is developing a mathematical theory of extreme value statistics suitable for cases where individual events are correlated with each other over a wide range of spatial and/or temporal scales.

Jeroen De Buck, assistant professor in the Department of Bacteriology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

Jeroen De BuckDe Buck is researching markers of early infection with Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis in calves, the bacterium that causes Johne’s disease. This chronic, insidious disease, which affects the intestines of ruminant animals, is of great economic significance due to the direct production losses to the dairy industry. The bacterium is also a public health concern as it has been specifically associated with Crohn’s disease in humans.

Peter Dunfield, associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science

Peter DunfieldDunfield is investigating bacteria that metabolise the gases methane and carbon monoxide in extreme geothermal environments. There are more than 150 geothermal springs in western and northern Canada, but most are in remote areas and their microbiology has never been studied. The research will use DNA-based techniques to describe natural microbial communities in situ, along with strategies to grow and identify new bacteria in the laboratory. The physiology and the genomes of promising isolates will be analysed. The ultimate goal of the research is to discover heat-loving or thermophilic bacterial species that might be used in green energy technologies such as bioalcohol production.

Sergei Noskov, assistant professor of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science

Sergei NoskovNoskov uses computer simulations to study how small molecules and ions bind to a particular protein and develops ways to manipulate how this takes place. Accurate models for interactions between small molecules and proteins are key to understanding a wide variety of signaling processes, notably cellular growth and neuronal signaling. Many neurological conditions, for example, result from alterations of ion transport across cell membrane. The computational studies will help in the development of new delivery systems that can work on a single-cell level, such as drug delivery systems based on biological pores, such as ion channels and beta-barel proteins as well as human-produced synthetic pores.

Maria Strack, assistant professor in the Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Science

Maria StrackStrack is researching the fate of Alberta's peat soil carbon stock under climate change. Peatlands cover 16 percent of Alberta's land area and store globally significant amounts of soil carbon. Using a controlled field experiment, soil temperature and water table will be manipulated in a northern Alberta peatland and the response of ecosystem hydrology, vegetation productivity and exchange of carbon dioxide and methane will be determined.

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