Nov. 29, 2021

How to mobilize the research community to tackle an all-encompassing problem

Peak Scholar Michael Kallos rallies researchers to cross disciplinary boundaries and take on COVID-19, together
Michael Kallos
Michael Kallos. Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

How do you bring together 89 faculty members and student leaders from 10 faculties to work on 42 projects, leading to 27 new grants and $4.7 million in funding for the university?

Ask Dr. Michael Kallos, PhD, professor in the Schulich School of Engineering and Peak Scholar in COVID-19 Innovation Excellence. Kallos has been named a Peak Scholar for his leadership role in UCalgary’s Biomedical Engineering (BME) COVID-19 Response.

In March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to pick up speed in Canada, it became clear that UCalgary was a community of people who wanted to help. Many researchers saw the large and complex problems presented by the pandemic, and knew they had skills and knowledge to contribute — but how and where to best apply them wasn’t always clear.  

Kallos saw a gap forming between the people that needed help, and the people ready to pivot their work and help. He stepped up and formed a collaborative network to connect people and ideas to tackle the complex challenges of the pandemic, in short- and long-term ways. This network included UCalgary students, faculty and staff as well as industry and individuals from the health-care system.

As director of the BME Calgary initiative, Kallos is no stranger to transdisciplinary, highly collaborative work. Biomedical engineering requires that engineers, scientists, kinesiologists, medical and veterinary researchers and nurses be able to work together to solve health and health-care problems. COVID-19 is the kind of complex challenge that biomedical engineering is well-suited to tackle.

Kallos cites the pre-existing transdisciplinary networks as critical. “This really allowed us to move rapidly, we knew people with the skills that were needed and we were able to contact them right away,” he says.

In the video below, Kallos explains how the BME COVID-19 Response was able to mobilize quickly and effectively, and what elements enabled their success.

Since 2014, the Peak Scholars program has celebrated the accomplishments of over 200 scholars at the University of Calgary. These are scholars whose academic work in knowledge engagement, entrepreneurship, tech transfer, innovation or collaborative research has resulted in a positive social or economic impact in our communities. Learn more