Nov. 10, 2015

University of Calgary researchers win four ASTech awards

Top researchers recognized for their outstanding achievements in science and technology
From left, Brij Maini, Christian Jacob, Andrew Demchuk.

From left, Brij Maini, Christian Jacob, Andrew Demchuk.

ASTech Foundation

The annual ASTech (Alberta Science and Technology Leadership Foundation) Awards celebration is the academy awards of science and technology in Alberta and on Nov. 6, University of Calgary researchers were honoured for leading in their respective fields.

Christian Jacob’s LINDSAY virtual human project, a collaboration between Cumming School of Medicine and the Faculty of Science, won the award for Innovation in Information and Communication Technology while Brij Maini, an engineer in the Schulich School of Engineering, won the award for Innovation in Oil Sands Research. Reflecting on his award, Maini says, “No matter what you are doing, there is always a better way of doing it that is waiting to be discovered.”

Dr. Andrew Demchuk, Dr. Michael Hill and their team won in the category of society impact for their international breakthrough on stroke treatment.

"This is wonderful recognition of our team. Stroke care and stroke research is a team sport. It will only spur us onward to better stroke care," says Hill, professor, Cumming School of Medicine’s departments of clinical neurosciences, and radiology and a neurologist with the Calgary Stroke Program and Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI).

Computer scientist Jacob says the LINDSAY team “feels humbled by receiving the award and to be among such a distinguished group of innovative, creative and passionate people highlighted and recognized by the ASTech Foundation.”

“It is this kind of recognition that tells us that we are on the right track, and we are even further inspired to continue our mission of illustrating the wonders and beauty of the human body through the lens of computing,” he adds.

Luxmux Technologies, co-founded by Orly Yadid-Pecht, iCore Chair in Integrated Sensors and Intelligent Systems in the Schulich School of Engineering was also named the winner of the 2015 Startup award.

ASTech  is a not-for-profit organization created in 1989 to showcase the substantial science and technology achievements in Alberta, promote the social and economic benefits of these activities and inspire future innovation and leadership.

“We are proud of our researchers and the innovative work done at the University of Calgary and it’s a pleasure to have our work recognized by an ASTech award, which is one of Alberta's highest science and technology honours,” said Ed McCauley, vice-president (research).

University of Calgary ASTech Winners and Finalists

Calgary Stroke Team - Cumming School of Medicine and Hotchkiss Brain Institute (Winner: Society Impact)

Every minute counts when it comes to treatment of a stroke. Dr. Andrew Demchuk, a member of the HBI and leader of both the Stroke Program at Foothills Medical Centre and the Brain and Mental Health research strategy’s Stroke NeuroTeam at the University of Calgary, and his team are pioneers in new research that has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives around the world. Collaboration between academics and clinicians, combining teamwork and technology to quickly open blocked arteries, has made Calgary a leader in stroke research and treatment. “This collaboration is unique in Canada and throughout the world and has resulted in the successful ESCAPE trial which has revolutionized stroke care and improved patient outcomes,” says Dr. Michael Hill, professor in the Cumming School of Medicine’s departments of clinical neurosciences, and radiology and a neurologist with the Calgary Stroke Program. 

Lindsay Project - Christian Jacob - Cumming School of Medicine and Faculty of Science (Winner: Innovation in Information and Communication Technology)

When undergraduate medical education in the Cumming School of Medicine wanted an innovative approach to teach advanced human anatomy and physiology, they brought in computer scientist Christian Jacob, PhD. The result? LINDSAY, a virtual human. The project is an interactive 3D atlas of the human body that can be examined in many platforms, computer, tablet or touch table. When using specialized glasses and a motion camera, the user can even travel inside the human body, perhaps dissect a heart or take a tour of a brain. “With advancements in visualization and interaction technology, the magical universes of the human body will become accessible and possible for everybody to explore,” says Jacob. 

Brij Maini - Schulich School of Engineering (Winner: Innovation in Oil Sands Research)

After 40 years of researching oil production, Brij Maini, PhD, has seen a lot of change. In fact, his work contributed to such transformations, including making the steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) process more efficient by using steam additives, a game changer in the heavy oil industry, one that benefits the environment and economy. Heavy oil production requires water and releases carbon dioxide. “Efficiency is essential in oil recovery which is why it is very important to create processes which use as few resources as possible,” says Maini, professor in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the Schulich School of Engineering. “Water can be recycled and if the amount of steam required is reduced, the amount of carbon dioxide will also be reduced.” 

Luxmux Technologies (Winner: 2015 Startup)

While Luxmux’s technology sounds complicated, what it does is easy to explain. The Silicon Nanophotonic Fourier Transform Near Infrared Spectrometer-on-a-chip device can scan objects and report back on their molecular makeup. With nearly endless industrial and consumer applications like water and air quality monitoring, food composition analysis and skin cancer detection — it may even become a household word. But to start, the company is focusing on the oil industry, to develop the first-of-its kind steam quality analyzer. The analyzer will enable heavy oil producers using in-situ processes like steam-assisted gravity drainage to maintain better control over steam quality — a major factor in optimizing the production process and lowering carbon emissions. 

Saeid Saidi - Schulich School of Engineering (Finalist)

We all know about ring roads but what about ring transit? Saeid Saidi, a PhD candidate in the Schulich School of Engineering, is researching a transportation infrastructure system for Calgary that includes ring transit lines which he believes will promote a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future for the city. “Ring roads, built to avoid traffic congestion, typically move people away from each other to the outskirts while the ring transit model makes a circle within the city, connecting existing lines in new ways,” says Saidi. “As a result, more people will use public transportation, connecting passengers to their destination more directly, and there will be an increase in commercial growth which helps build our economy.”

Wee Yong - Departments of Clinical Neurosciences and Oncology, Cumming School of Medicine and Hotchkiss Brain Institute (Finalist)

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable and often disabling disease. Wee Yong, PhD, is looking at new medications to reduce the attacks on the nervous system and improve the quality of life of those with MS. Clinical trials are already underway in Calgary. “These trials should help us understand the process of repairing the nervous system. They will also give us insights and valuable data on how the brain and spinal cord may recover from the injury inflicted by MS lesions,” says Yong, head of the Division of Translational Neuroscience at the University of Calgary and director of the Alberta MS Network. Read more.