Gateway Gazette

Eight Canada Research Chairs Announced

Federal funding of $5.8 million supports innovative research and entrepreneurship at University of Calgary

By Drew Scherban

Sheelagh Carpendale, professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Calgary, was announced as a Tier I Canada Research Chair in Information Visualization.
Sheelagh Carpendale, professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Calgary, was announced as a Tier I Canada Research Chair in Information Visualization.

At first glance it looks like a regular university lab, but after a few moments it’s evident that something out of the ordinary is happening here. Researchers swipe at large displays, images moving from left to right, up and down, zooming in and out.

This scene is reminiscent of something from a major motion picture. But this isn’t Hollywood. This is the Innovations in Visualization Laboratory at the University of Calgary and the woman behind the research is Sheelagh Carpendale, PhD, professor with the Department of Computer Science.

A leader in information visualization and interactive technologies, Carpendale is one of eight University of Calgary researchers recognized today as Canada Research Chairs (CRCs). Carpendale will receive $1.4 million over seven years as the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Tier I CRC in Information Visualization.

Technology is used in a variety of powerful ways including a custom-built visualization wall and large tabletop displays. Carpendale’s work focuses on creating innovative ways for people to discover and understand data.

“What I do is make information more accessible,” Carpendale said. “We have used a whole bunch of different types of graphics and image manipulation algorithms so you can actually change the way the information is presented.”

Picture a library, she explains. “If you’re looking for a book you would like to read, you’ll probably drift over to where you found a good one last time … the idea is to incorporate that sort of casual, possibly serendipitous search into an interactive technology.”

Modern society demands that people manage, communicate and interact with digital information at an ever-increasing pace. 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.

“I actually think the time has come to do personal visualization because it’s not just big science and big industry living in an information age,” Carpendale said. “My long-range goal is to design, develop and evaluate interactive information visualizations so that they support people’s everyday work and social practices.”

With the ongoing CRC funding, Carpendale says she will be able to promote information comprehension by creating appropriate tools that can help people negotiate the vast amounts of information they are using and make it applicable to their everyday lives.

The University of Calgary will receive a total of $5.8 million of CRC funding and $400,000 of Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) funding with the announcement of the CRC recipients.

“The Canada Research Chairs Program is vital in supporting innovative research and entrepreneurship at the University of Calgary, which is done in pursuit of knowledge and advances that benefit society,” said Ed McCauley, vice-president (research) at the University of Calgary.

The CRC program was created in 2000 as part of a strategy to position the country as a world leader in research and development. The program is designed to attract and retain leading minds.

University of Calgary Canada Research Chair recipients

  • Tao Dong, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine: NSERC Tier II CRC in Molecular Ecology of Waterborne Microbes. Prof. Dong also received CFI John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF) funding of $150,000 for the infrastructure project, Establishment of a Microbiology Laboratory, associated with his CRC award.
  • Simon Hirota, Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases; departments of Physiology and Pharmacology, and Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases: Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) Tier II CRC in Host-Microbe Interactions and Chronic Disease.
  • Roman Krawetz, McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health, Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases, departments of Surgery, and Cell Biology and Anatomy: CIHR Tier II CRC in Bone and Joint Stem Cell Biology.
  • Paul Kubes, director of the University of Calgary’s Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases; departments of Physiology and Pharmacology; Microbiology,  Immunology, and Infectious Disease; leader of the research theme Infections, Inflammation and Chronic Diseases in a Changing Environment: CIHR Tier I renewal, CRC in Leukocyte Recruitment in Inflammatory Disease.
  • Craig Jenne, Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases; Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases: CIHR Tier II CRC in Imaging Approaches Towards Studying Infection.
  • Larissa Lai, Faculty of Arts: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Tier II CRC in Creative Writing.
  • Justin MacCallum, Faculty of Science: CIHR Tier II CRC in Biomolecular Structure and Design. Prof. MacCallum also received CFI JELF funding of $250,000 for the infrastructure project, Support for Biomolecular Structure and Design, associated with his CRC award.

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