Dec. 5, 2022

UCalgary shines at ASTech Awards

33rd annual recognition of research in science and technology features groundbreaking projects developed at UCalgary
Clockwise from top left: Linda Duffett-Leger, Quazi Hassan, Lina Kattan, Casey Hubert, Catherine Lebel, Xin Wang, Ken Schmidt, Ghada Nafie.
Clockwise from top left: Linda Duffett-Leger, Quazi Hassan, Lina Kattan, Casey Hubert, Catherine Lebel, Xin Wang, Ken Schmidt, Ghada Nafie. UCalgary files

The University of Calgary is pleased to celebrate the 2022 ASTech Award recipients for the recognition of the impact their work has on our community, our province, and very often, in the global context.

The Alberta Science and Technology Foundation, or ASTech, is managed by Technology Alberta, and recognizes qualified representatives in industry, academia, entrepreneurship, and government for the important research and innovation taking place throughout the province. Their goal is to celebrate the achievements of individuals and teams involved in the discovery of new ideas and technologies and of the impact their work has on society.

“The ASTech awards our UCalgary community has received reflect the impact the university is making across Alberta,” says Dr. William Ghali, vice-president (research). “We are proud of the achievements of our researchers and alumni who exemplify the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of our university.”

This year, the ASTech Foundation expanded the awards categories and, as a result, received a record number of submissions. UCalgary scholars captured eight top awards, with representation from the faculties of Science, Nursing, Cumming School of Medicine, Schulich School of Engineering, and alumni.

One body of work has developed plans for places like Fort McMurray or Cold Lake to be better prepared if and when a forest fire encroaches on the community. Two others make use of artificial intelligence (AI); one helps to reach people in remote parts of the province to provide mental health supports, and another determines more efficient transportation routes to minimize traffic and maximize delivery times.

A focus on finding ways to program driverless vehicles to allow them to navigate the roads with those operated by people is changing the way we think about transportation. One researcher has discovered ways to more effectively and efficiently remove key metals needed to power e-vehicles from their source using nanoparticles.

Tracking COVID-19 through the monitoring of wastewater has enabled researchers, and through them, community leaders, to better understand the pandemic’s ebbs and flows. And our alumni are everywhere, and we’re proud when they are recognized for their work.

  • Dr. Linda Duffett-Leger, PhD, Faculty of Nursing | Outstanding Achievement in AI/ML Advancement: Social Innovation | Sector: Health Technology – Creating Scalable Digital Solutions to Support the Mental Health and Wellness of Albertans

Duffett-Leger and her team developed artificial intelligence-enabled (AI) tools to virtually deliver much-needed mental health supports and wellness programs across Alberta. Her work focuses on the development of digital technologies to solve real-world health challenges for individuals, families, health-care providers, and communities. Most important, the AI technology provides access to new “smart” tools and virtual delivery systems for real-time information for Alberta practitioners and through them, access to much-needed programs for Albertans.

  • Dr. Quazi Hassan, PhD, P.Eng., Schulich School of EngineeringOutstanding Achievement in Environmental Sustainability: Excellence in Forest Management Research | Sector: Sustainability Solutions/Approaches, Environment – Application of Remote Sensing Technologies in Forest Fire Management

Since 2009, Hassan has been working on forest fire mitigation and occurrence management, primarily using environmental satellite-based remote-sensing technology. His research has led him to develop a model for advanced prediction of forest fires at daily, four- and eight-day intervals. Further work has led to the development of a wildfire risk-modelling framework and, through community engagement, has produced mitigation recommendations for Fort McMurray.

  • Dr. Lina Kattan, PhD P.Eng., Schulich School of EngineeringOutstanding Achievement in Urban Development: Research | Sector – Transportation, Smart Cities, Sustainability

Kattan’s work focuses on connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) that can “see,” “talk,” “hear” and drive themselves. She is devising new traffic and transit control tools for an environment where CAVs and human-driven vehicles can share the road. Her work is providing groundbreaking solutions for urban transportation networks, vital to Canada’s economy. Her efforts will assist Canada to lead in advancing this emerging technology.

  • Dr. Catherine Lebel, MD, Cumming School of Medicine | Social Innovation: Early-Career Change-Maker | Sector – Medical Sciences: Study of Brain Development in Children Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging 

Over the past 10 years, Lebel has made substantial contributions to pediatric neuroimaging and mapped structural and functional brain development across early childhood in unprecedented detail. Lebel has also forged new understanding of how the prenatal environment affects child brain development, both in terms of prenatal substance exposures and psychosocial stress. She and her team continue to investigate brain development in these children to understand how these brain changes may relate to behaviour and learning.

  • Pan-Alberta Team Monitoring COVID-19 in Wastewater, represented by Dr. Casey Hubert, PhD, Faculty of Science, and Dr. Xiao-Li (Lilly) Pang, University of Alberta | Outstanding Achievement in Health: Research | Sector: Alberta’s Wastewater COVID-19 Monitoring

Hubert is part of the team identifying and tracking what can be found in our wastewater and sharing this critical information with the public. Using an efficient and economically effective method, the team uses molecular tracking technology to measure, in real time, the levels of COVID-19 in communities. This technology produces evidence-based data and can be used to measure other infections such as the flu, and is shared publicly to inform officials and citizens alike to make decisions about the health of their communities.

The Pan-Alberta COVID-19 wastewater monitoring program builds on several successful COVID-19 wastewater projects that have been led by researcher teams from the University of Alberta and UCalgary respectively, in partnership with Alberta Health Services, The City of Calgary, and EPCOR. 

  • Dr. Ghada Nafie, PhD, Schulich School of Engineering | Outstanding Achievement in Energy and Environment: Excellence in Clean Energy | Sector: Developing a New Technology for the Clean and Efficient Extraction of Lithium

Lithium is a key element in the manufacturing of e-vehicles, as it is a necessary component in the batteries used to power them. Currently, there isn’t enough of the metal to produce the batteries, with extraction methods expensive, environmentally disruptive, and inefficient. Nafie has developed a game-changing process that uses nanoparticles to extract lithium from aqueous sources, garnering growing industry and government interest in her work.

  • Dr. Ken Schmidt, PhD, PChe, alumnus (PhD'90) | Regional Award – St. Albert

Schmidt is the president and founder of Wilson Analytical, a company that constructs field and laboratory instrumentation for clean-tech measurements. As an Alberta-based professional chemist and entrepreneur he has, over the last 25 years, worked with universities and the mining and energy industries to solve industry-specific problems in sulfur chemistry, catalysis, ceramics, chemical vapour deposition (CVD) coatings, and spectroscopy.

  • Dr. Xin Wang, PhD, P.Eng., Schulich School of EngineeringOutstanding Innovation in Digital Technologies: Research | Sector: AI/ML, Education – Artificial intelligence for Logistics

Companies face an increasingly challenging marketplace with a growing field of competitors, higher customer expectations and complex just-in-time supply chains. Industries rely on transportation and logistics networks to deliver rapid, integrated, and secure solutions to leverage supply chains. Wang’s research employs AI to improve the efficiency and resilience of the logistic network and to find alternatives to traditional approaches to supply chain planning and analysis that simply can’t keep pace.

Congratulations to all the nominees and to all those selected for the 2022 ASTech Awards!

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