Research in the News

    U of A research is always garnering media attention. Here’s the lowdown on what’s been causing a buzz.

    By Staff on May 19, 2017

    The Factors of Focus

    We go through life weaving around people and objects like a boxer in the ring. There is so much activity and noise around us. How do we manage to focus on anything? Luckily our brains have figured it out. New research shows that our brains select useful information and ignore the rest. Our brains oscillate at different frequencies, and each frequency has a different role. The study, published by Kyle Mathewson, assistant professor of psychology in the Faculty of Science, and graduate student Sayeed Kizuk in the fall 2016 edition of the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, looked at 12-hertz alpha oscillations, a mechanism used to ignore a certain stimulus so the brain can focus on something specific and disregard unnecessary information. If, for example, there is a repetitive stimulus, such as a person’s voice in a lecture theatre, these brainwaves lock onto the timing of the voice and allow the listener to block out other minor distractions. Mathewson is now working on stimulating the brain at alpha frequencies to understand how to improve performance, attention and safety in real-world situations. –Edmonton Sun

    Oil Pipelines Better Than Rail for Emissions: Study

    Engineering professor Amit Kumar, ’04 PhD, used computer modelling to show that pipeline transportation emitted between 61 and 77 per cent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than hauling by rail. The research team ran scenarios using bitumen and synthetic crude and varied the distance travelled and the number of barrels transported to measure the greenhouse gas output. It didn’t take many barrels — more than 50,000 barrels per day of bitumen — before pipelines were revealed to emit fewer emissions per unit. The study, which was published in the Journal of Environmental Science & Technology, measured emissions generated by building the railway or pipeline, as well as those output during operation. –Metro

    A Global leader in AI Research

    The University of Alberta is a leader in the artificial intelligence industry and will now get a piece of a government-funding pie. The federal government recently announced $125 million for the pan-Canadian AI Strategy to enhance research and recruit talent. It’s unknown how much money is earmarked for the U of A, but it will be shared among institutions in Montreal and Toronto-Waterloo.

    “The money that comes here to the University of Alberta is going to be used to … bring in some of the world leaders to interact with the best that are already here,” says U of A President David Turpin.

    “Canada is punching above its weight in the field of AI and the field of machine learning,” says Richard Sutton, a professor of computing science and researcher at the U of A’s Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute. He wants Edmonton’s AI industry to become like Silicon Valley. –Global News