Riley Brandt, University of Calgary
May 22, 2018
Postdoctoral scholars draw on personal experience to pursue groundbreaking research
When concussion management expert Amanda Black and waste management scholar Tanaji More drive innovation and create new knowledge in their fields, the University of Calgary postdoctoral scholars are motivated by events that have helped to shape their lives.
Black, above, specializes in sport-related concussions and has shared her findings with International Olympic Committee officials, while More is a Killam postdoctoral laureate who is revolutionizing waste management research with his focus on landfill solid waste.
When Black examines concussion management and injury prevention, she’s bringing hard-won, personal experience to her work as a researcher. The lifelong, avid athlete has suffered five concussions and multiple injuries. One of those early mishaps as a soccer player in high school cost her a shot at a varsity scholarship and later spurred her to help other athletes.
“When I had my first injury as an athlete, when I was younger, I was stubborn,” says Black, who works in the Integrated Concussion Research Program and the Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre (Kinesiology). “It was an ankle injury that I know now could have been appropriately managed in four to six weeks. It ended up taking over a year to heal. It still causes me problems today.”
Early return to sport informs current research
At the time, she had returned to play soccer too early because she didn’t have someone working with her team who was trained in prevention. Now, the research she’s doing not only identifies ways to prevent injuries from occurring, but allows her to build and evaluate the best ways to provide this information to clinicians, athletes, parents, coaches and teachers.
“One of the Eyes High goals is to integrate the university and the community,” says Black, a PhD in Kinesiology (Sport Medicine) who has spent the past five years studying the management of concussions in youth ice hockey. “This research allows me to work directly with high schools in the Calgary area.”
At this point, her goal is to better understand the needs of the individuals in charge of concussion management in high schools in Alberta and determine how best to provide guidance on concussion management policies and education. She says there is potential for innovation with the development of apps and tools in the future that can assist with the process.
In addition to her research project, she makes an impact by working directly with patients in the acute sport concussion clinic, as a certified athletic therapist — a way the renewed Academic and Research Plans help to shape her workplace. This allows her to apply her concussion research directly into practice, as well as providing concussion education for specific sport teams and organizations.
Innovative researcher takes aim at environmental issues
More, a prestigious Killam award recipient in the Schulich School of Engineering, is helping to invent new sustainable technologies that will have an impact in waste management. He’s working on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from landfill solid waste by determining how much methane gas they emit, with the improved measurement tools.
“This work is quite unique and crucial for validating emerging technologies,” says More, part of a talented, multidisciplinary group in waste management research at the University of Calgary led by Patrick Hettiaratchi, a professor of environmental engineering in Schulich. “It aligns with Eyes High in that we are supporting new areas that help to shape Canadian society.”
More grew up in India. In the summer of 2007, he was startled by his first visit to the Ganges river. India has a $3 billion plan to clean the river, stretches of which are contaminated with waste and sewage. Later that year, he joined the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur to do research in wastewater treatment, and thereafter Institut national de la recherché scientifique (INRS) Quebec to complete his PhD in water science, which helped to shape his academic path.
“It helped me to realize that this kind of work would make me happy and give me satisfaction,” he says, adding that his research advisor from IIT subsequently became involved in the Ganges river cleaning project.
“From childhood, I have been fascinated by the idea of being able to contribute to the betterment of life,” says More. “My wife is expecting a baby in the summer and that is my new fascination.”
About UCalgary's Academic and Research Plans
Students, faculty, staff, and postdoctoral scholars at the University of Calgary move us forward every day in the work they do supporting our Eyes High Strategy 2017-2022. People in the Plans, a series appearing in UToday, explores how our people drive the success of the renewed Academic and Research Plans — the road maps to Eyes High.
The refreshed Academic and Research Plans are based on an integrated model, one that acknowledges the connection between teaching, learning and research. Each plan has three priorities with identified major goals and strategies. Both plans are connected through the value propositions of student experience and impact, and share a common priority of driving innovation. The five priorities included in the Academic and Research Plans will drive human, capital and financial resource allocations over the next five years at the university.