Research

University of Alberta research is helping advance knowledge, improve our world, and shape the future.

Science and technology

A new Medical Isotope and Cyclotron Facility will revolutionize how medical isotopes are manufactured and establish the U of A as a centre of excellence in medical cyclotron research. The facility will produce a safe, reliable supply of isotopes used in 80 per cent of nuclear medicine diagnostic procedures.

Using nanotechnology, researchers created a portable lab-on-a-chip device that can perform the same genetic tests as most fully equipped labs, in less time. Dubbed “the Domino,” the affordable instrument can perform 20 tests at once from a drop of blood to detect blood-borne diseases like malaria.

By successfully harnessing the Barkhausen effect, U of A physics researchers, including two graduate students, solved a mystery that eluded scientists for 100 years. The discovery paves the way for crash-proof computer data storage.

U of A paleontology research on fossils in China led to a string of discoveries about feathered dinosaurs, including new evidence that they used their feathers in mating rituals—findings that reveal links between dinosaurs and animals alive today.

Health and wellness

A team led by virologist Michael Houghton proved a vaccine developed from one strain of the hepatitis C virus can be effective against all known strains—a major step in developing a commercial vaccine to prevent future hepatitis C infections.

In late 1921 and early 1922 biochemistry professor and alumnus James Collip played a key role in discovering insulin. He refined the crude pancreatic extract obtained by Frederick Banting, Charles Best, and John Macleod so it could be used in humans. Eighty years later, the Edmonton Protocol islet cell transplant method developed at the U of A has improved the lives of many Type 1 diabetics.

Water

Through the Water Initiative, multidisciplinary research teams are tackling a host of water challenges linked to energy, food supply, ecosystem health, and public health. Integrating social, economic, legal, and cultural research expertise across the academy, U of A water research increasingly influences legislation, social structures, and policy development.

The U of A is leading the development of water quality, monitoring, treatment, and transport technologies for IC-IMPACTS, a five-year, $30-million Canada-India research collaboration with the universities of British Columbia and Toronto. Part of the Canadian government’s Networks of Centres of Excellence program, IC-IMPACTS brings together researchers and industry innovators to develop technologies to ensure health, safety, and sustainability for remote and rural communities.

The North

As one of the world’s northernmost research universities, the U of A develops and measures past records of climate change, monitors how glaciers and permafrost respond to environmental change today, and engages northern communities in collaborative research on the social, cultural, and economic impact of these developments.

Arts and culture

The U of A is a leader in digital and social science humanities. Using intelligent text analysis and data mining techniques on digital repositories of land-use treaties, court cases, and other historic data, researchers reveal insights on original interpretation and intent that inform legal opinion and policy development today. The university’s English and East Asian studies departments each rank second in Canada for research output.

The U of A’s Kule Institute for Advanced Study conducts and supports socially engaged, interdisciplinary research by humanities, social sciences, and fine arts scholars. Areas of study include ethical stewardship of the planet and cultural expression in the age of advanced technologies.

Food and agriculture

U of A researchers developed a better test for E. coli that is faster, more sensitive, and less expensive than current tests. The new test can be used at food processing facilities, thus preventing E. coli infections from entering the food chain.

An agricultural research program produced two new varieties of top-quality wheat that mature early and are disease-resistant, a boon to prairie farmers.

Energy and the environment

More than 1,000 U of A researchers collaborate on the oilsands and its environmental impact, looking at everything from carbon-capture sequestration and deep geothermal energy to emission reduction, tailings-pond reclamation, and water conservation. The Alberta School of Business is a global leader in resource economics.

U of A land reclamation researchers established the optimal mix of organic materials to regenerate diverse plant life existing before land is disturbed by agricultural or resource-extraction activities. This research informs provincial policy on land development, reclamation, and restoration standards.