Amazing ideas, 3 minutes, 1 evening

By | September 30, 2015

Young researchers at the ready as UAlberta braces for Falling Walls Lab

By Scott Lingley on September 30, 2015

The Falling Walls Lab brings together some of the world’s most talented young researchers to pitch their innovative ideas and discoveries. (Video: Falling Walls Berlin)

(Edmonton) Sixteen graduate students from five faculties at the University of Alberta will pit their groundbreaking ideas against one another at this year’s Falling Walls Lab. The U of A is one of 20 sites around the world where researchers compete for a chance to present their innovative work at an international event in Berlin, Germany.

The competition, described as a cross between Dragon’s Den and TED Talks, gives participants three minutes to pitch research that could lead to a breakthrough in their discipline. It takes place Sept. 30 at 5:30 p.m. in room 1-440 of the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science on the U of A north campus. Admission is free and all are welcome.

This year’s U of A Falling Walls finalists are:

Daya Madhur – Arts
Carla Prado – Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences
Pooran Appadu – Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences
Hesam Shahin – Engineering
Amirreza Sohrabi – Engineering
Gem Shoute – Engineering
Jaleh Shahin – Medicine & Dentistry
Alison Mueller – Medicine & Dentistry
Bryson Dietz – Medicine & Dentistry
Lian Willetts – Medicine & Dentistry
Albert Vu – Medicine & Dentistry
Joshua Lee – Medicine & Dentistry
Yasmeen Krameddine – Medicine & Dentistry
Ines Zuna – Medicine & Dentistry
Khaled Barakat – Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Hashem Etayash – Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

The U of A was selected as a host in 2014 by the German-based Falling Walls Lab. Nermeen Youssef, a graduate student in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, placed second in the 2014 U of A qualifier before taking second place among 100 finalists at the international Falling Walls finale in Germany. Youssef pitched her idea of using blue light to stimulate engineered fat cells to secrete insulin—an idea that could lead to needle-free management of Type-1 diabetes. Engineering PhD students Diana Martinez Tobon and Zack Storms also represented the U of A in Berlin to an 18-member jury headed by Carl-Henrik Heldin, board chair of the Nobel Foundation.


Youssef said hosting Falling Walls at the U of A is tremendous boost for the institution and participants alike.

“It’s crucial for us. There’s a lot of high-quality work coming out of the university, which is something I experienced first-hand last year,” she said. “I was shocked at the quality of work coming out of the different departments. Work like that deserves to have exposure in an international arena.

“It’s also helped that people have learned about what we do and everyone wants to pitch in with ideas and help however they can.”

Youssef joins this year’s jury at the U of A, which also includes Canada Excellence Research Chair in Virology Michael Houghton; Canada Excellence Research Chair in Oils Sands Molecular Engineering Thomas Thundat; Betty Moulton, professor of voice, speech and text in the Department of Drama; entrepreneur Ray Muzyka; Edmonton city councillor Michael Walters; Justin Riemer, Alberta’s deputy minister of economic development; and Ruth Kelly, president of Venture Publishing.