New vice-president focused on making a difference
Written By: Ileiren Byles
2007-06-29The power of research lies in the ability to improve people's quality of life, according to the University of Alberta's new vice-president of research.
Dr. Lorne Babiuk will begin his duties July 1. He will also become the new Chair of the Board of Directors for TEC Edmonton, the technology commercialization centre run by the U of A and the City of Edmonton. Babiuk also holds the Canada Research Chair in Vaccinology and Biotechnology.
While commercialization of research will be "absolutely pivotal" in his role at the U of A, Babiuk said that not all benefit from research comes from making a profit.
"It's about knowledge transfer. In my field of research, I use the example of hand-washing in hospitals and other places, which is one of the most effective ways of intercepting infectious diseases," he said. "Nobody makes any money from that, with the exception of some soap companies. It's not necessarily commercialization, it's just application of evidence, but it adds tremendously to the quality of life and adds tremendously to GDP as well, if people are working rather than sick."
Despite the popular scientific opinion at the time, it was Babiuk's belief that he could make a difference that lead him into the field of infectious diseases.
"When I entered my graduate studies program in 1967, the surgeon general in the United States announced that infectious diseases were a thing of the past because we had antibiotics," said Babiuk. "It was always a curiosity about finding things that would benefit society that drove me, and despite that announcement, infectious diseases seemed to be something that was really important."
Although Babiuk's new title won't allow for him to concentrate on his own area of research, he firmly believes he'll be able to make a difference at the U of A.
"My job is no longer to enhance my own research. My job is to enhance others' research and help them," he said. "My first job is going to be to meet with deans and associate deans of research and see what some of their ambitions are and how I can help them to ensure that their ambitions and ideas and strategic plans are coming to fruition."
The U of A's reputation will be built on interdisciplinary collaborations, said Babiuk.
"I have a great interest in enhancing interdisciplinarity - I think that's where the major advances are going to come from," he said. "You have to have a solid, strong foundation in each of the disciplines, but then have these disciplines identify opportunities to combine their strengths into totally new ways of solving society's problems. I sense there is a fair amount of interest in that type of approach at the U of A."
"The University of Alberta is known as a world-class university and it has fantastic leadership with a great vision to make Alberta even more preeminent in the international community."