Folio News Story
November 3, 2006

McCalla recipients focus on research

Awards allow exclusive pursuit of research

by Folio Staff

Named after Dr. Arthur McCalla, the first dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research at the University of Alberta, the McCalla Research Professorships provide faculty members with an opportunity to further their research and scholarly activities. Recipients are outstanding academics nominated by their Faculty for significant contributions to their field of research. The awards allow a reprieve from teaching duties for a nine-month period, starting September 2006, allowing professors to pursue their research exclusively.

This year's winners share a passion for knowledge but explore a diverse array of research topics, ranging from meat safety and environmental aesthetics to bladder dysfunction, early Earth evolution and much more.

Dr. Lynn McMullen
Dr. Lynn McMullen

Dr. Lynn McMullen (Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Sciences)

The McCalla Professorship has allowed the meat safety expert to initiate her research at the new Agri-Food Discovery Place, which opened this spring. One of the research projects McMullen will investigate during the course of the professorship is the use of high pressure processing to control pathogens like Escherichia coli O157:H7.

Dr. Yasmeen Abu-Laban

Dr. Yasmeen Abu-Laban (Political Science)

Liberal democracies have demonstrated evolving responses to refugees, migrants and minorities since the end of the Second World War, and particularly since the end of the Cold War. However, little attention has been given to the ethical issues related to human migration. During the course of her professorship, Abu-Laban will complete a book that addresses this silence.

Dr. Jane Samson

Dr. Jane Samson (History and Classics)

Samson's project sets British missionary writings into the larger context of science and colonialism in the Pacific world between the late 18th century and the Second World War. She wishes to challenge traditional assumptions about the incompatibility of science and faith in this period. Many missionaries considered themselves to be scientists, contributing to the emerging discipline of anthropology and working with governments on projects like enforced schooling for aboriginal children. However, Samson believes that the faith of missionaries cannot simply be reduced to colonialism. The "good" or "bad" missionaries of traditional historiography deserve a more nuanced analysis in which religion, science and colonialism are all taken seriously, she says.

Dr. Hassan Safouhi

Dr. Hassan Safouhi (Campus Saint-Jean)

Safouhi's research program focuses on new methods for devising molecular integrals used in molecular energy calculations. These calculations are required in a number of fields, particularly theoretical chemistry, physics and molecular biology. This work will ultimately yield a software package to help researchers quickly and accurately solve these calculations.

Dr. Margaret Mackey

Dr. Margaret Mackey (School of Library and Information Studies)

Mackey will use her McCalla Professorship to explore how young people make sense of stories in three different formats: novel, film and digital game. In a project sponsored by SSHRC, Mackey is currently collecting data from small groups of undergraduates to help answer these questions. Over the next year, she will analyze and write up the findings. This project is part of a long-term research program that investigates how reading behaviours may be changing as they are affected by readers' experiences with many different media formats.

Dr. Tayfun Babadagli

Dr. Tayfun Babadagli (Civil and Environmental Engineering)

Babadagli's research focus is on the optimization of oil/heavy-oil recovery techniques and subsurface reservoir characterization. The efficiency of any enhanced oil recovery technique can be improved either by increasing oil recovery or decreasing the cost of injected material (typically steam). The techniques used to enhance oil recovery such as CO2, solvent and surfactant injections, and ultrasonic waves with and without steam injection, have been under investigation by Babadagli's research group. The reduction of the cost of steam (and its environmental effects) can be achieved by utilizing hot, dry rock - geothermal - energy for in-situ steam generation. For the duration of his professorship, Babadagli will focus on research related to the potential techniques to increase the efficiency of oil/heavy oil recovery.

Dr. Hasan Uludag

Dr. Hasan Uludag (Chemical and Materials Engineering)

The root cause of most diseases can be traced down to undesirable changes in our genes. Delivering the correct copy of a gene to patients is the preferred therapy to provide a lasting cure rather than alleviating the symptoms with conventional drugs. But delivering intact genes is challenging since they are readily inactivated in biological environments. Successful gene therapy requires specialized "carriers" to transfer genes into a cell nucleus. Uludag will be devoting the McCalla Professorship to designing efficient gene carriers to correct aberrant genes.

Dr. Rod Wood

Dr. Rod Wood (Law)

During the course of his McCalla professorship, Wood will complete a book on Canadian bankruptcy and insolvency law. Although this may seem a grim topic, it is of utmost importance to a healthy national economy. Bankruptcy law provides the mechanism by which the assets of unviable businesses are redeployed to better economic uses. Liquidation is not the only possible outcome. Instead, the business may attempt to reach an arrangement whereby creditors agree to a plan under which the business will survive. Leading Canadian corporations, such as Air Canada, have used this process. This differs from consumer insolvencies, as there is a strong policy of debtor rehabilitation that helps the bankrupt escape the crushing burden of debt.

Dr. Larry Fliegel

Dr. Larry Fliegel (Biochemistry)

Fliegel's work focuses on the protein that is responsible for removal of acid from cells, a by-product of cell metabolism. This protein is critically involved in heart disease and is involved in abnormal growth of the heart (heart hypertrophy). During the tenure of the McCalla professorship, Fliegel's team will investigate the structure of this protein, how it works and which amino acids of the protein help it function. In addition, his team has developed transgenic mouse models with elevated levels of the protein to study how increased expression promotes heart disease. This research will ultimately lead to more effective inhibitors in the clinical treatment of heart disease.

Dr. Katherine Moore

Dr. Katherine Moore

Moore's research addresses urological issues, including: men's health and recovery of continence, and erectile function after radical prostatectomy, management of long-term indwelling catheters, treatment of urinary incontinence in women and men and issues related to aging and bladder dysfunction. During the tenure of the McCalla award, Moore will prepare manuscripts, present research findings at an international conference, finalize data collection for two research studies and initiate at least one research study.

Dr. John Dunn

Dr. John Dunn (Physical Education and Recreation)

Dunn's research program is in the area of sport psychology. During the period of the McCalla award, he will be conducting independent projects on: perfectionism among athletes, the motivational orientations of children in physical activity settings, and a performance-enhancement intervention with a high-performance sport team. These projects are funded respectively by two grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and by an EFF Small Faculties Support for Advancement of Scholarship grant (U of A). The overriding objective of these projects is to gain knowledge that can be used to enhance the cognitive, affective and behavioural experiences of individuals engaged in competitive sport and physical activity.

Dr. Larry Heaman

Dr. Larry Heaman (Earth and Atmospheric Science)

One long-term objective of Heaman's research program is to provide a better understanding of early Earth evolution, with an emphasis on determining the cause of numerous catastrophic changes that occurred at about 2.5 billion years ago. One research focus is the possible correlation between the sudden onset of global flood basalt volcanism and a dramatic change in climate that may have triggered the first known icehouse conditions and the sudden rise in atmospheric oxygen.

Dr. Bruce Sutherland

Dr. Bruce Sutherland (Mathematical and Statistical Sciences)

The top 10 metres of the ocean contain as much heat as the entire atmosphere above it, which is one reason why the Earth's climate is so sensitive to what is happening in the ocean. The ocean temperature is redistributed due to turbulent mixing, although what governs these processes is poorly understood. Recent observations in the Brazil Basin suggest that substantial turbulence comes from tides, whose energy is converted to small scales by internal waves. Like surface waves, internal waves move up and down due to gravity but do so within the ocean itself. No theory yet predicts how turbulence and internal waves interact and numerical simulations cannot yet resolve these processes. Sutherland's experiments will provide the first measurements of how much energy is extracted from a turbulent patch by internal waves.

Dr. Robert Rankin

Dr. Robert Rankin (Physics)

Rankin's research involves understanding key interacting elements of the Sun-Earth system and the "space weather" they produce at Earth. For example, solar disturbances, like flares and coronal mass ejections, propagate as a highly variable solar wind from the surface of the Sun, through the interplanetary medium to the Earth. These processes are responsible for the northern lights, but can also damage critical satellites, disrupt global positioning satellite systems and ground communications, and endanger astronauts. Rankin's research uses advanced numerical modeling and data analysis to understand how geomagnetic storms develop and how they energize auroral particles producing the aurora and Earth's radiation belts. His work has the objective of advancing our understanding of processes in Earth's magnetosphere, which have both scientific and economic importance. This is a multi-national effort involving the Canadian and European Space Agencies and NASA.

Dr. Allen Carlson (Philosophy)

Carlson's research centres on environmental aesthetics, a newly emergent area of philosophy that studies our aesthetic experiences of both natural and human environments, as well as how they relate to the many other roles that environments play in our lives. His current projects focus on the relationships between our knowledge of the functions of environments and our aesthetic appreciation of them in light of such knowledge. He also explores the links between environmental aesthetics and environmental ethics, especially insofar as the former provides support for the latter concerning issues about our treatment of natural environments.