Jan. 4, 2022

Most-read articles about research in 2021

Understanding the impact of daylight savings, tracking how bucking horses feel about rodeo, and using wastewater to pinpoint infection rates were a few topics of research that got a lot of attention this past year
Most-read research
The view through a multi-photon microscope is part of research to discover cause of excess post-surgical scarring. Kubes' Lab, Snyder Institute for Chronic Disease

In 2021, research at the University of Calgary went big with a meta-analysis of youth mental health in the wake of COVID-19. And it went small, quantum small, by making connections between electrons and the state of consciousness. All around us researchers tackled complex and important problems and opened the door to solutions that changed the world. 

When you are a leading research institution, it is hard to narrow down research-related content for a year-in-review. So, we turned to data and Google Analytics. These are the 10 most-read articles about research on the University of Calgary’s news network according to Google Analytics. For more great research content, browse our UCalgary Research category page. And the most-read news and student stories can be found here and here.

Circadian rhythm expert cautions Albertans against permanent daylight savings time

Graphic by Michael Antle

It was a yes-or-no referendum question on municipal election ballots when Albertans went to the polls on Nov. 18, 2021, but the answer was anything but simple. This news article went viral as Albertans searched for information on how to make the correct choice and what the consequences would be. Dr. Michael Antle, PhD, helped us understand what daylight saving time is, how it works and why neither ballot choice was a good one. In the end, 50.2 per cent of Albertans voted to continue changing our clocks every spring and fall. 

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What The Curse of Oak Island is teaching us about treasures 

The cast of The Curse of Oak Island. From left: Craig Tester, Marty Lagina, Rick Lagina, David Blankenship, Alex Lagina, Steve Guptill and Ian Spooner.

Dr. Ian Spooner, PhD, has spent more than one summer mucking through a swamp on a private island on Mahone Bay. He, along with the rest of The Curse of Oak Island team, are looking for treasure while filming the long-running reality show on History Channel. Spooner says the island is a place where science and story have been stirred together. The UCalgary alumnus gave us a glimpse at his path from PhD student to reality show swamp expert as we learned about the lore of Oak Island. 

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Calgarians can now track traces of COVID-19 in their wastewater

Aerial view of Advancing Canadian Wastewater Assets plant.

University of Calgary files

What’s in a flush? Turns out important information related to COVID-19. Real-time data shows the levels of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater, and that can be used to identify outbreaks early and pinpoint areas of the city where infection rates are high. That data sharing was made possible by a team from the Cumming School of Medicine, Faculty of Science, and Schulich School of Engineering, Advancing Canadian Wastewater Assets, The City of Calgary, and Alberta Health Services. Watch a video to learn more about the project and how it works. 

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UCalgary researchers publish first study on welfare of bucking horses at Calgary Stampede

Calgary Stampede rodeo.

Christy Goldhawk

Animal welfare and rodeo is a hot topic that heats up every summer around the Calgary Stampede. In 2021, vet med researchers gave voice to the animals themselves in that conversation. Over the course of three Calgary Stampedes, researchers went behind the chutes to observe the behaviour of the horses. They were welcomed by the Stampede and joined by animal welfare expert Dr. Temple Grandin. The goal was to find out how the animals feel about participating in rodeo events. The results of the study were published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science and written in such a way that it is accessible to everyone to help inform the conversation. It was the first study to evaluate the welfare of bucking horses and only the fourth published article on the welfare of animals in rodeo. 

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State of consciousness may involve quantum effects, University of Calgary scientists show

The state of consciousness is a mysterious thing, but researchers across disciplines at the University of Calgary are getting closer to understanding it. Their study focused on an anesthetic called xenon that affects consciousness. How it does that was unknown until a UCalgary team developed the first computational and mathematical model which shows that “quantum entanglement” of electrons could play an important role. While the electrons are physically separated, they are linking — or entangling — at a quantum level and that contributes to the conscious experience. Along with providing some answers to the mystery around consciousness, this research could lead to improved anesthetics.

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Researchers study vitamin B3 as potential treatment for deadly brain tumour

Paula de Robles, left, Gloria Roldan Urgoiti and Wee Yong at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre.

Quentin Collier, Department of Clinical Neuroscience

You’ve likely seen it on the label of your morning cereal box, but niacin (a.k.a. vitamin B3) might become a key ingredient in treating glioblastoma. It’s the most common malignant brain tumour in adults and, while there are treatments to control it, glioblastoma is difficult to keep at bay. Enter vitamin B3. After seeing positive results in the lab, UCalgary researchers began clinical trials to better understand the dosages and side effects of using vitamin B3 to treat humans. The clinical trial is the result of research, discovery, and collaboration between teams across the University of Calgary. 

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UCalgary scientists discover genetic condition linked to developmental disorders in children

Yang, left, and Innes reveal rare condition that causes malformations of the cerebral cortex.

Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute

The cerebral cortex is the region of the brain closely associated with information processing, attention, awareness and conscious thought. This wavy outer layer, only a few millimetres thick, is the human brain’s most prominent feature. Without it we’d lose our ability to think, process sensations and communicate using language. Researchers at UCalgary discovered a rare condition that causes malformations of the cerebral cortex. The discovery brings us one step closer to improved diagnostic screening for developmental disorders in children.

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COVID-19: Depression and anxiety symptoms have doubled in youth, help needed, warn UCalgary clinical psychologists

Sheri Madigan, left, and Nicole Racine found that older adolescents and girls are experiencing the highest levels of depression and anxiety.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Using data, two researchers sounded the warning bells most had suspected was coming. Dr. Nicole Racine, PhD, and Dr. Sheri Madigan, PhD, conducted a meta-analysis of 29 studies from around the world that included 80,879 youth. The combined data found that depression and anxiety symptoms doubled in children and adolescents when compared to pre-pandemic times. And the symptoms are compounding over time. The study recommends more mental health supports be put in place to mitigate the sustained mental health effects of COVID-19.

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Canadian scientists and Swiss surgeons discover cause of excess post-surgical scarring

The view through a multi-photon microscope as macrophages (red) congregate at an injury site.

Kubes' Lab, Snyder Institute for Chronic Disease

Healing after surgery is a good thing, but sometimes too much healing can cause complications. University of Bern researchers discovered what causes excess scarring after abdominal and pelvic surgery. Then, they used specialized imaging equipment at the University of Calgary to create a new method to study it further. This international collaboration is now developing possible solutions to prevent this surgical complication.  

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UCalgary researchers discover link between prenatal stress and altered brain development

Deborah Kurrasch and Jessica Rosin.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

They were once thought of as passive bystanders in brain development, but scientists now have evidence that the embryonic brain cells called micrologia might have a lot to do with neurodevelopment disorders like autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. It turns out, micrologia can sense stress and can either shield other brain cells from that stress or signal those brain cells to adapt, which can disrupt brain development. UCalgary researchers found that male cells are much more impacted by prenatal stress and are now researching why.

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