2022 Killam Emerging Research Leaders, from left: Aaron Phillips, Amir Sanati-Nezhad and Carly McMorris
2022 Killam Emerging Research Leaders, from left: Aaron Phillips, Amir Sanati-Nezhad and Carly McMorris.

Oct. 27, 2022

Killam Emerging Research Leader Awards recognize exceptional contributions of early-career faculty

Scholars celebrated for research achievements in spinal cord injury, biomedical engineering and neurodevelopmental disabilities

The University of Calgary’s 2022 Killam Emerging Research Leader Awards have been presented to three scholars who are pushing the boundaries of research in their fields. Each year, the university awards Killam Trusts funds to recognize faculty who have made significant contributions to research early in their careers.

“The Killam Emerging Research Leaders have achieved excellence early in their careers and are making great strides in their research and scholarship,” says Dr. William Ghali, vice-president (research). “These Leaders represent UCalgary's research prominence, and we are delighted to support their scholarly pursuits that will change the world.”

The Killam Emerging Research Leader Awards are given for research related to the mandate of each of Canada’s research councils: the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

Dr. Aaron Phillips, PhD, associate professor, Departments of Physiology & Pharmacology, Clinical Neurosciences and Cardiac Sciences, Cumming School of Medicine (CIHR)

Aaron Phillips

Aaron Phillips, recipient of a 2022 Killam Emerging Research Leader Award, with Vice-President (Research) Bill Ghali, left, and Killam Trustee Brenda Eaton.

Sean Phillips, Riverwood Photography, for the University of Calgary

As a member of both the Libin Cardiovascular Institute and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Phillips’s innovative research combines integrated physiology and neuroscience with the aim of further understanding the nervous and cardiovascular systems. 

Early in his career, Phillips made the inaugural discovery that stimulation of a unique location within the spinal cord could improve blood pressure after spinal cord injury. After five years of research, much of this technology is now licensed to industrial partners and in clinical trials to improve patients’ lives.  

Phillips’s work has driven the development of novel therapies for people with neurological health issues. Within the Foothills Medical Centre, he is the director of the RESTORE Network, a platform dedicated to developing translational technology for neurological injury.

“Ongoing support and recognition from Killam and the University of Calgary through the Killam Emerging Research Leader Award is very meaningful to my research program and collaborative network as it acknowledges the work we are doing to help people with spinal cord injury,” says Phillips.

“Together, we are working toward therapies for this condition, and the impact it has on the nervous and cardiovascular systems.”

Phillips’s numerous accolades include the Heart and Stroke Investigator Award, the Brain Canada Future Leader Award, the Arthur Guyton Award in Excellence in Physiology from the American Physiological Society, and the Top 40 Under 40 from Avenue Magazine. He has funding from several organizations including CIHR, NSERC, PRAXIS, Wings for Life, and the U.S. Military through DARPA. He has also published in top journals including Nature, Nature Protocols, Neurology, and Nature Biotechnology.

Learn more about Phillips’s research and the RESTORE Network.

Dr. Amir Sanati-Nezhad, PhD, associate professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Schulich School of Engineering (NSERC), Tier 2 Canada Research Chair

With a joint appointment in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, Sanati-Nezhad explores the development and clinical validation of new point-of-care medical devices and wearable biosensing technologies that rely on biosensors, bioelectronics, nano/biomaterials, and self-powered microfluidic technologies.

Sanati-Nezhad’s research in this field has led to breakthroughs in rapid disease diagnosis and in modelling the dynamics of a multitude of illnesses and injuries, including infectious diseases, cancer, and nerve injury. The technology platforms that have stemmed from Sanati-Nezhad’s expertise and research provide digital sample-to-result test kits that can change the paradigm on how health care is delivered onsite, in rural and remote settings, and in the comfort of home for the future of precision diagnostics and medicine.

“I am deeply honoured to receive a Killam Award for research,” says Sanati-Nezhad. “It is wonderful recognition of the importance of developing new medical device technologies for improving health-care delivery. I am grateful to my fellow research colleagues and trainees who have supported these technology and knowledge advances.”

As a dedicated mentor, Sanati-Nezhad has built a unique training environment that has attracted trainees and highly qualified personnel with a diverse range of skill sets and backgrounds. His innovative work in translating his bio-micro-electromechanical system (BioMEMS) has garnered significant international attention and success. Sanati-Nezhad’s research has led to over 150 peer-reviewed research articles and has been cited more than 4,600 times.

Learn more about Sanati-Nezhad’s research.

Dr. Carly McMorris, PhD, associate professor, Werklund School of Education (SSHRC)

Carly McMorris

Carly McMorris, recipient of a 2022 Killam Emerging Research Leader Award, with Vice-President (Research) Bill Ghali, left, and Killam Trustee Brenda Eaton.

Sean Phillips, Riverwood Photography, for the University of Calgary

McMorris’s research focuses on how to improve the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents with neurodevelopmental disabilities (NDDs) such as autism, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and cerebral palsy.

McMorris’s research journey led to the establishment of the ENHANCE Lab, where she serves as director. She is also the co-director of the Supports, Services, and Other System’s Pillar in the Azrieli Accelerator, where she has made substantial and significant impact in psychological research and in the lives of neurodiverse individuals in Canada.

“Receiving the SSHRC Emerging Research Leader Award is an incredible honour,” says McMorris. “This recognition sheds light on the necessity to support the mental-health needs of neurodiverse youth and young adults, and would not be possible without my ENHANCE lab team, our community partners, and neurodiverse individuals and their families.”

While carving out an impressive reputation for her research, McMorris is also a celebrated mentor, reflecting her commitment to training the next generation of scholars. In addition to her numerous publications, McMorris has been recognized with attainment of an Early Career and Mentor Award by Kids Brain Health Network and as one of Avenue Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 in 2020.

Learn more about McMorris’s research and the ENHANCE Lab.

Aaron Phillips is an assistant professor in the departments of Physiology & Pharmacology and Cardiac Sciences and a member of Libin Cardiovascular Institute and Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM), University of Calgary. He is also the director of the RESTORE Network.

Amir Sanati Nezhad is an associate professor in the Schulich School of Engineering and Tier II Canada Research Chair in Bio-Microelectromechanical Systems. He is a member of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the CSM. 

Carly McMorris is a child clinical psychologist and an associate professor at the Werklund School of Education and an adjunct associate professor in the departments of Psychology at the Faculty of Arts, and Paediatrics and Psychiatry at the CSM. She is also a member of ACHRI, the Owerko Centre, the Hotchkiss Brain InstituteThe Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research & Education, and OIPH at the CSM. 

Child Health and Wellness

The University of Calgary is driving science and innovation to transform the health and well-being of children and families. Led by the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, top scientists across the campus are partnering with Alberta Health Services, the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, and our community to create a better future for children through research.