Falling Walls Lab UAlberta: Inspiring Ideas and Breakthrough Projects


The Falling Walls competition is a unique international platform for leaders from the worlds of science, business, politics, arts, and society to share their ground-breaking research. The Falling Walls Foundation, a charity, is supported by the German Ministry for Education and Research, the Robert Bosch Stiftung, the Helmholtz Association, the Berlin Senate and numerous other academic institutions, foundations, companies, non-governmental organisations, and prominent individuals. It was initiated on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall.

Inspired by this world-changing event on Nov 9, 1989, the question of every Falling Walls gathering is: Which are the next walls to fall? Falling Walls fosters discussion on research and innovation, and promotes the latest scientific findings among a broad audience from all parts of society.

All over the world, students have the chance to present their research in the Falling Walls Lab taking place in their respective cities. The three winners of each preliminary round qualify directly for the Falling Walls Lab Finale in Berlin on Nov 8, 2017.

The University of Alberta held its first qualifying Lab in 2014 and sent the top three winners to the Berlin finale, where one of the UAlberta participants, Nermeen Yousseff, won second overall. In 2015, UAlberta’s Lian Willetts repeated that feat.

On Sept 20, 2017, the fourth UAlberta Falling Walls Lab brought together 15 graduate students from a wide variety of disciplines to share their innovative ideas, social initiatives, and research projects in only 3 minutes each. The topics ranged from early diagnosis of mental illnesses, multi-moveable prostheses, to developing treatments specific to different breast cancer types.

A distinguished jury made up of representatives from academia, industry and government selected the three most intriguing presentations. This year’s winners are as follows:

1st place: – Abdullah Farooq – Breaking the Wall of Antibiotic Resistance with Phage Therapy:
Abdullah believes we can fight and eliminate drug resistant bacteria with genetically modified phages. Phages are viruses that have natural anti-bacterial mechanisms.

2nd place – Kenzie Gordon – Breaking the Wall of Sexual Violence:
Kenzie believes video games could help address, and maybe even prevent, sexual violence.  She sees games as a social learning tool that can engage us in ways other media forms cannot.

3rd place – Valerie Miller – Breaking the Wall of Healing the Earth
One of the biggest land reclamation challenges is finding ‘suitable soil.’ Valerie builds new soil and is developing processes to build soils using other waste materials – essentially using waste to clean up and fix waste (i.e., wasteland).


They will pitch their work once more on the global stage of the Falling Walls Lab Finale in Berlin on Nov 8. We wish the three of them much luck and all the best for the finale!