Oct. 26, 2023

2023 Killam Emerging Research Leaders celebrated for their scholarly achievements

3 early-career faculty members lauded for their contributions to environmental science, multisensory storytelling, and critical care medicine
Killam Awards
From left: Braedon McDonald, Dan Shugar, and Kathleen Sitter are the 2023 Killam Emerging Research Leaders.

Each year, the University of Calgary awards three early-career scholars the Killam Emerging Research Leader Awards, in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the academy in their first 10 years post-PhD.

This year’s recipients, recognized at the Oct. 19 Killam Celebration, are: Dr. Braedon McDonald, MD, PhD, Dr. Dan Shugar, PhD, and Dr. Kathleen Sitter, PhD.

“Our Killam Emerging Research Leaders represent the impressive calibre of early-career talent we have at UCalgary,” says Dr. William Ghali, vice-president (research). “To have accomplished what Drs. McDonald, Shugar and Sitter have in their early stages of scholarship is admirable, and we are thrilled to recognize them with this honour.”

The Killam Emerging Research Leader Awards are given for research related to the mandate of each of Canada’s research councils: the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).


Dr. Braedon McDonald, recipient of the 2023 Killam Emerging Research Leader Award, pictured with Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) Dr. Leslie Reid, left, and Killam Trustee Brenda Eaton, right.

Sean Phillips, for the University of Calgary

Dr. Braedon McDonald, MD, PhD

Assistant professor, Department of Critical Care Medicine, Cumming School of Medicine and member of the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases

Braedon McDonald is a physician-scientist specializing in critical care medicine, leading highly productive and impactful research on immunity, host-microbe interactions, and critical illness.

McDonald’s research is inspired by the needs of his patients in the intensive care unit (ICU), many of whom suffer from deadly infections.

His research investigates how the immune system interacts with microbes — both the beneficial microbes that live in the gut and promote health, and the pathogenic microbes that cause infections. McDonald has also made groundbreaking discoveries in the role of microbes and the immune system in sepsis, having identified immune mechanisms that drive organ dysfunction in sepsis. This research has led to an entirely new field of translational research to develop treatments for patients with sepsis.

As an Early Career Investigator since 2019, McDonald has published many highly influential papers in top journals such as Nature Medicine, Science, and Cell Host and Microbe. His work has received more than 9,000 total citations to date.

As an educator, McDonald fosters an inspiring and supportive environment with a track record of trainee success. Since he founded his teaching portfolio in 2019, his students have produced an impressive 15 publications, 23 national or international conference presentations, and all of his PhD students have received major scholarships and awards.

McDonald is a sought-after expert in his field, as a Young Investigator lead of the CIHR-funded national sepsis network (Sepsis Canada), as well as co-lead of the Education platform for the Calgary-led CIHR microbiome core program (IMPACTT).

Learn more about McDonald’s research: Two researchers with the Snyder Institute garner national recognition | Interaction between human gut and immune system increases infection risk in critically ill patients

Killam Awards

Dr. Dan Shugar, recipient of the 2023 Killam Emerging Research Leader Award, pictured with Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) Dr. Leslie Reid, left, and Killam Trustee Brenda Eaton, right.

Sean Phillips, for the University of Calgary

Dr. Dan Shugar, PhD

Associate professor, Department of Earth, Energy, and Environment, Faculty of Science and director of the Environmental Science program

Dan Shugar is a global leader in the field of alpine geohazards: catastrophic geologic events that occur in the world’s high mountains and are increasingly linked to climate change. His long-term research goal is to increase disaster resilience by enhancing an understanding of the geophysical drivers of alpine hazards such as landslides and floods, which are often related to changes in climate.

Shugar’s work is of great societal relevance, and his collaborative and international research dissemination efforts have made him a sought-after authority on glacier floods and giant landslides, and the use of Earth observation satellites to study these mountain processes. His expertise has been used by leaders, policy-makers, and community members to make informed decisions following catastrophic events including the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake in Nepal, the 2021 flash flood in the Chamoli district of India, and the 2023 Shovi disaster in Georgia.

While at UCalgary, Shugar established the world-class waterSHED Lab (Water, Sediment, Hazards, and Earth-surface Dynamics). As a mentor and teacher, he emphasizes experiential learning for his students and provides them first-hand real-world experiences doing high-impact field research and with cutting-edge tools.

Shugar has published 45 papers in journals including Science, Nature Geoscience and Nature Climate Change, and is a celebrated scholar as a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and winner of the Grove Karl Gilbert Award for Excellence in Geomorphological Research by the American Association of Geographers.

Learn more about Shugar’s research: Discovery of baby woolly mammoth remains in Yukon permafrost ‘most exciting scientific thing I have ever been part of,’ UCalgary prof says | Global coalition of scientists examine cause, scope of February 2021 disaster in India's Chamoli district | VIDEO: When a Landslide Triggers a Tsunami

Killam Awards

Dr. Kathleen Sitter, recipient of the 2023 Killam Emerging Research Leader Award, pictured with Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) Dr. Leslie Reid, left, and Killam Trustee Brenda Eaton, right.

Sean Phillips, for the University of Calgary

Dr. Kathleen Sitter, PhD

Associate professor, Faculty of Social Work and Canada Research Chair in Multisensory Storytelling in Research and Knowledge Translation

Kathleen Sitter has dedicated her career to creating an accessible society through research and knowledge translation, specifically in the fields of disability, human rights, social justice and inclusion.

Sitter's cutting-edge transdisciplinary program of research explores new ways of conceptualizing how disabled people experience transitions into adulthood and imagine their future. Her scholarship draws on her interdisciplinary training in social work, communication, media, education, and commerce, and using creative technologies and mixed methods in her research and knowledge dissemination.

Sitter is developing a fully accessible sensory research lab, the Multisensory Studio, which will be the first of its kind in the world. It includes a series of sensory suites: visual, sound, tactile, olfactory, gustatory, 4D theatre, a makers workshop and a studio archive, along with an accessibly curated public exhibition space to change how social research is done on a global scale, so that disabled perspectives are at the centre in primary data collection.

Sitter demonstrates deep commitment to supervising and mentoring students at all levels. She is intentional about equitable and inclusive approaches to training, mentorship, and student supervision. Over the past eight years, she has mentored over 100 students in research and practicum supervision in the Faculty of Social Work, Cumming School of Medicine, Werklund School of Education, and the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Arts.

Learn more about Sitter’s research: Now Innovating with Dr. Kathleen Sitter and Multisensory Storytelling (video) | Innovative research into inclusivity for disabled communities is 1 of 14 projects to receive federal funding | Research you can see, smell, hear, taste and touch

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