Nov. 22, 2023

UCalgary awarded 2 prestigious Canada Excellence Research Chairs

World-renowned researchers will establish ambitious programs in Indigenous ways of sustainability and quantum science
Urbasi Sinha, left, and Deborah McGregor

Urbasi Sinha, left, and Deborah McGregor

The University of Calgary is celebrating the announcement of two prestigious Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERC) awarded to the institution by the federal government. These sought-after grants are presented to world-renowned scholars who will develop ambitious research and training programs with a high potential for impact.

The two new CERCs to be hosted by UCalgary are:

  • Dr. Deborah McGregor, PhD: Canada Excellence Research Chair in Indigenous Ways of Climate and Water Sustainability for Planetary Health and Well-being  
  • Dr. Urbasi Sinha, PhD: Canada Excellence Research Chair in Photonic Quantum Science and Technologies 

"We are immensely proud and excited to welcome Dr. McGregor and Dr. Sinha to the University of Calgary," says Dr. Ed McCauley, president of the University of Calgary.

"Their ambitious and innovative research programs promise to create significant impact and will spark new ideas, collaborations, and advancements. We are eager to support them in their endeavours and witness the contributions they will make.”

The CERC program will provide both of UCalgary’s new chairs $8 million in funding over eight years, giving the chairs significant time to develop their programs and relationships with academic and local communities, and make significant headway on their research and training goals. UCalgary has only held one prior CERC award from this highly competitive program.  

“Having two Canada Excellence Research Chairs within our faculty is a testament to the caliber of research and innovation that we foster in the Faculty of Science, and at the University of Calgary,” says Dr. Kristin Baetz, dean of the Faculty of Science.

“Importantly both Drs Sinha and McGregor are committed to collaboration not just with fellow academics but also with industry and community partners, and will push the boundaries of knowledge and drive innovation to new heights across campus and beyond.”  

McGregor and Sinha will arrive on campus in mid-2024 to begin their terms.

Dr. Deborah McGregor, PhD

  • Canada Excellence Research Chair in Indigenous Ways of Climate and Water Sustainability for Planetary Health and Well-being  
  • Professor, Faculty of Science and Faculty of Arts

Deborah McGregor is an internationally celebrated scholar and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Environmental Justice. She joins UCalgary from York University, where she was cross-appointed to the Osgoode Hall Law School and the Faculty of Environment and Urban Change.

As the CERC in Indigenous Ways of Climate and Water Sustainability for Planetary Health and Well-being, McGregor will generate understanding of, and build support for, Indigenous leadership in Earth-based reconciliation and justice, focusing on climate change as the overriding symptom of the planetary health crisis.

Her CERC research program will include the creation of unique, co-developed and co-generated knowledge aimed at identifying solutions that promote planetary well-being and justice, for people and for all life.

McGregor designed her program to be responsive to Indigenous communities’ most pressing priorities, including water security, health and well-being, climate change solutions, and effective governance. This transdisciplinary approach will lead to opportunities for McGregor to collaborate with her new UCalgary colleagues in their respective areas of expertise.

“One of the strengths of the University of Calgary is its collaborative approach and how everyone is bringing their expertise to bear on multi-faceted challenges like climate change,” says McGregor.

“This kind of intellectual environment fosters transdisciplinary thinking, where you are designing and planning research to have direct community impact.”

McGregor is excited about the duration of her CERC program, and what the eight years of research time will enable her to co-create and build with Indigenous communities.

“To go to a new place means you're going to need the time and space to really get to know the communities, and for them to get to know you,” she says.

“I do not wish to simply import existing work to a new context. I am open to sharing my experience from working  around the Great Lakes in a way that other people might want to hear, find useful, learn from, and hopefully that sharing leads to are mutually beneficial and reciprocal relationships.”

Dr. Urbasi Sinha, PhD

  • Canada Excellence Research Chair in Photonic Quantum Science and Technologies 
  • Professor, Faculty of Science

Urbasi Sinha is an internationally leading quantum scientist and professor at the Raman Research Institute in Bangalore, India, where she leads the Quantum Information and Computing Laboratory.

Sinha’s CERC in Photonic Quantum Science and Technologies will create a testbed for quantum computing and communication that use qudit systems — technology that could revolutionize our lives by disrupting the foundation of information science.

Classical computing processes information using strings of bits, made up of zeroes and ones. Bits can only exist in a state of zero or one at any given time. Quantum computing use qubits, which are strings of bits that have been manipulated to exist in multiple states at the same time, meaning they can be zero and one at the same time. This results in the incredible processing capacity of quantum computing — but strings of qubits can only be so long before they fail.

Qudits, however, increase the base beyond zeroes and ones to include more numbers that can exist in multiple states at the same time, which circumvents the string-length limitations of qubits. In her CERC program, Sinha’s research will advance quantum interfaces by merging qudit quantum information processing and solid-state quantum memories for creating research in quantum memory architectures for quantum repeaters and quantum computing.

This interdisciplinary program includes developing novel payload platforms for satellite-based quantum communications and exploring various photon sources and integrated photonics-based approaches for the development of new quantum technology protocols. 

Sinha is looking forward to expanding her research program to work on larger science goals, while bridging her efforts in India with new collaborations in Canada.

“I have always believed that science is global and that it is through international as well as national alliances and collaborations we can achieve more than what we would do working in silos,” she says.

“The CERC gives me an opportunity to put these words to action. Not only does it allow me to expand our activities to a different country and environment, it also provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to contribute towards quantum ecosystem development in India and Canada in parallel.”

Sinha is excited to join UCalgary’s thriving quantum community, which includes the Institute for Quantum Science and Technology, Quantum City, and Quantum Horizons Alberta initiative.

“I look forward to engaging with the researchers and companies that are participating in all these initiatives towards furthering both fundamental as well as translational research,” she says.

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