UAlberta Facts

Research and Innovation

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

Science and technology

Canada Excellence Research Chair Graham Pearson made the first terrestrial discovery of ringwoodite, a rare mineral, in a rough brown diamond. Analysis confirmed the presence of massive amounts of water 400 to 700 km beneath the Earth’s surface, furthering scientific theories that the Earth’s transition zone may contain as much water as all the world’s oceans.

Physicist Robert Wolkow and his team, who hold a Guinness record for inventing the sharpest object ever made, are developing atomic-scale electronics that will pave the way for ultra-low-power quantum computing devices.

Canada Excellence Research Chair Thomas Thundat leads a team that engineered a micro-sensor capable of analyzing liquids at volumes of only a few trillionths of a litre, less than was previously possible. As part of portable lab-on-a-chip devices, the sensor could have cost-saving applications in medicine, pharmaceuticals, and the energy industry.

Biologist Janice Cooke leads TRIA-Net, a national network of scientists and forest managers dedicated to understanding, predicting, and ultimately preventing the spread of the mountain pine beetle.

Global health

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.

Energy and the environment

In the 1920s, researcher Karl Clark devised the technique for liberating the 175 billion barrels of oil locked up in Alberta’s oilsands. Today, 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, land reclamation, and water conservation.

Arts and culture

Sociologist Kevin Haggerty was one of only five Canadian researchers to receive the 2014 Killam Research Fellowship. Haggerty’s research focuses on the rapid rise of surveillance in democratic cultures and the implications for Western societies.

Water

Through the Water Initiative, multidisciplinary research teams are tackling a host of water challenges linked to energy, food supply, ecosystems, and public health.

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.

Campus Alberta Innovates Program Chair David Olefeldt is studying how boreal wetlands are affected by disturbances like permafrost thaw, wildfires and human activity. His research aims to reveal how the world’s wetlands store carbon and what causes them to release it into the environment.

Food and agriculture

The Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences and India’s MS Swaminathan Research Foundation are partners in a $4.9-million project to alleviate poverty and malnutrition in three Indian communities affected by nutritional deficiencies.

Some of the U of A’s top virologists are working with scientists in South Africa to develop an inexpensive, heat-resistant vaccine to protect livestock from five major infectious diseases.

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 impact of these developments.

In 2013, Earth scientist Duane Froese found a 700,000-year-old horse fossil that yielded the oldest sequenced genome on record. In 2014, he was part of an international team whose analysis of ancient plant DNA and frozen mammoths shed new light on the diet of Ice Age animals dating back 50,000 years.