Professor gives grad students an early start in translating research

Donna Richardson

Tania Bubela is known for her innovative research and her passion for engaging and mentoring graduate students. Now, the newly minted McCalla Professor will combine those interests to tackle a priority of both the U of A and the Alberta government: how to translate the research of Alberta faculty and students to address real-world problems affecting communities.

Bubela, associate professor with the School of Public Health, is trained as a biologist and is also qualified in law. She is a national expert on the ethical, legal and social dimensions of novel health biotechnologies. Under the terms of the McCalla Professorship, she will further integrate her teaching and research by developing case-based training modules and instructor resources related to commercialization and translation of publicly funded biomedical research.

Bubela’s approach will cut across disciplines, and she intends to collaborate with colleagues in other faculties, including medicine and engineering.

“As one of Canada’s leading research institutions, the University of Alberta is highly focused on translational research and commercialization,” said Bubela. “Yet there are limited training opportunities available for graduate students. It is important to introduce these concepts about being entrepreneurial at an earlier stage of their training.”

She plans to pilot two training modules that will be available to graduate students in health, life sciences and biomedical engineering programs at the University of Alberta. The aim is to give students an understanding of all of the steps necessary to move research into practical settings.

“It takes a lot to move the research from the laboratory into practical application,” she explains. “There is more to it than a great idea and doing cool research.”

Bubela is enthusiastic about the potential of the training modules for students. “This will contribute to the knowledge base of graduates so they are better able to work with external partners, including industry, in order to better understand the challenges of bringing new technologies to market.”

Kue Young, dean of the School of Public Health, sees this award as well-deserved recognition of Bubela’s work and as a strategic investment for the university.

“Her proposal to integrate research and teaching under the terms of the McCalla Professorship is innovative, exciting and timely,” said Young. “The learning modules she will develop will benefit not just colleagues and students in the school, but also those in other faculties and departments in the life sciences, engineering, law and humanities.”

“In my experience, students learn most effectively when instructors not only have content expertise, but are passionate about their subject matter,” said Bubela. “Students’ research doesn’t need to be purely academic. There are ways to move it forward so that it can of greater value to society.”

The McCalla Professorship is named after the first dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research. McCalla Professors value excellence in teaching, acknowledge the importance of students, conduct themselves in an ethical manner, are collaborative and open to change, take pride in history and traditions, and are committed to integrating their research and teaching.

2014–15 McCalla Professorships

Yasmeen Abu-Laban (Political Science)

Rhonda Bell (Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science)

Tania Bubela (School of Public Health)

Andreas Hamann (Renewable Resources)

Frank Hegmann (Physics)

Armann Ingolfsson (Accounting, Operations and Information Systems )

Patricia Manns (Physical Therapy)

Pierre Mertiny (Mechanical Engineering)

Christina Rinaldi (Educational Psychology)

Read the abstract of each McCalla Professorship recipient at provost.ualberta.ca/AwardsandFunding/mccalla.aspx.