University of Calgary

University of Calgary

February 27, 2012 14:00 ET

University of Calgary researchers win national accolades

Medicine and science professors awarded Steacie Fellowship and Brockhouse Prize

CALGARY, ALBERTA--(Marketwire - Feb. 27, 2012) - University of Calgary researchers who are international leaders in their fields are being recognized for their outstanding work at Canada's annual awards of excellence in science and engineering today.

Sheelagh Carpendale, a renowned leader in information visualization and interactive technologies in the Faculty of Science's Department of Computer Science, is one of six Canadian researchers to be awarded an E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) at the council's awards ceremony at Rideau Hall this evening. Also attending the ceremony will be Glen Armstrong and Kenneth Ng, who will share the Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering with colleagues from the University of Alberta for their ground-breaking work in glycobiology that is leading to the development of more effective vaccines, drug therapies and techniques to combat antibiotic resistance.

"Investing in science and technology has a direct impact on our quality of life," said the Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology). "The accomplishments of these winners demonstrate how these investments benefit Canadians and our economy."

University of Calgary President Elizabeth Cannon congratulated Carpendale, Armstrong and Ng, saying the awards are fitting recognition of the impact their work is having on society.

"A Steacie Fellowship and the Brockhouse Prize are among the highest honours researchers in our country can receive," Cannon said. "Both these awards provide valuable support for the research projects led by these talented professors and fit squarely with the University of Calgary's strategic direction, Eyes High, to be among Canada's top five research universities by our 50th anniversary in 2016."

E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowships are awarded to university researchers who are earning strong international reputation for original research. Winners each receive grants of up to $250,000 over two years to support their work, while their university receives up to $90,000 per year to replace teaching and administrative duties during the fellowship. Carpendale's research team is one of the few in the world developing interactive tabletop display applications, which receive input through natural human actions rather than a mouse, keyboard or special input device. Her partnership with Calgary-based SMART Technologies has influenced the development of their interactive whiteboards, and has prompted SMART Technologies to include interactive tabletops as part of their multi-touch displays now being used in classrooms and offices around the world.

Carpendale said a Steacie Fellowship will help advance her research that promises to help people better manage information in today's society.

"While information is a crucial part of people's everyday lives, many people find today's technologies awkward, stressful to use, and overly intrusive in their lives," Carpendale said. "The problem is not with the information itself, but rather with its volume and the unwieldy ways currently provided for interacting with digital content. In my research I use a people-centric process to design, develop and evaluate interactive information visualizations so that they support people's everyday work and social practices. My goal is to promote information comprehension by creating appropriate tools that can help people negotiate the transformation of vast amounts of information into knowledge in their everyday lives."

The Brockhouse Canada Prize was established in 2004 in tribute to the late Canadian scientist Bertram N. Brockhouse, who won the 1994 Nobel Prize in Physics. The $250,000 prize recognizes outstanding Canadian teams of researchers from different disciplines who have combined their expertise to produce achievements of outstanding international significance in the natural sciences and engineering in the last six years. This year's prize goes to The Alberta Carbohydrate Science Group that includes Armstrong, Ng and David Bundle, John Klassen and Todd Lowary from the University of Alberta. By combining their expertise in microbiology, x-ray crystallography and nanotechnology, the team is developing new techniques to better understand the chemical and molecular structure of bacteria and viruses in order to develop more effective treatments for a wide range of diseases and toxins including tuberculosis, E.coli, salmonella and C. difficile.

"By understanding the exact shape of key molecules from an infectious bacteria or virus, we can come up with new substances that can combat it or reduce its ability to gain a foothold and cause an infection in the first place," said Armstrong, a professor in the Faculty of Medicine's Department of Microbiology, Immunology & Infectious Diseases and member of the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases. "This is the kind of work that can only be done as a team, because each one of us brings a special set of knowledge and skills to the table."

Ng says the partnership has resulted in their 3-D models of cell molecular structures being applied towards the development of new treatments.

"It's great to see our work being developed in ways that will eventually benefit real patients and the health care system as a whole," said Ng, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. "It is rewarding to be recognized for what we are doing because it is unique on the international stage."

For more information about the 2012 NSERC awards, including profiles and video b-roll of researchers available for media use, visit:

The University of Calgary is a leading Canadian university located in the nation's most enterprising city. The university has a clear strategic direction - "Eyes High" - to become one of Canada's top five research universities by 2016, grounded in innovative learning and teaching and fully integrated with the community of Calgary. For more information, visit

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