By Matty Hume, June 12 2018 —
University of Calgary professor Walter Herzog is the recipient of the 2018 Killam Prize for engineering.
The Killam Prize, funded by the Killam Society and distributed by the Canada Council of the Arts, recognizes researchers and scholars for their contributions to industry and universities. Each year, a winner is selected for each of five categories — humanities, health sciences, engineering, natural sciences and social sciences.
Herzog is the winner in the engineering category for his work in biomechanics and muscle contraction. He is a professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and department of mechanical and manufacturing engineering, and an adjunct professor in the department of surgery and Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. He is also the director of the Human Performance Lab and a tier-one Canada Research Chair (CRC) for cellular and molecular biomechanics.
“I’m mostly a research professor but I do some teaching and some administrative work,” Herzog said. “My work that had the most profound impact is on the molecular and cellular level. We have been leading some techniques, approaches and some research in a couple of those molecular and cellular areas.”
Now a leader in his discipline, Herzog realized he wanted to embark on an academic career late in his studies.
“When I went in for my Masters and PhD in the United States, I actually wanted to do that [degree] in biomechanics with the purpose of being a track and field coach that was very well-educated,” He said. “In the middle of my studies, I all of a sudden realized that I cared more about scientific problems and decided to become a scientist.”
Some Herzog’s most well-known work includes pioneering research into a recently discovered protein involved in the muscle contraction process.
“You might remember from Biology 30 in high school that there’s these two contracting proteins, actin and myosin, involved. We found fairly good evidence that there’s probably other filamentous proteins that play a role in muscle contraction. We identified and are the leaders in looking at this long protein called titin that plays a role in contractility,” Herzog said. “We’re also leaders in developing technological approaches to really study muscle contraction, particularly as it related to this new protein that seemed to be responsible for part of the contractile force in the muscle that is not really shown in textbooks yet.”
In the meantime, Herzog is continuing his research and instructing courses at both the undergraduate and graduate level.
Killam Prize recipients are announced annually in May.