SFU PEOPLE IN THE NEWS - April 16, 2010

April 16, 2010

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A look at how Simon Fraser University and its people made news: April 9-16, 2010

From ducks to dust, SFU research scientists were much in the news during the week.
Ducks? An SFU-led study showed harlequin ducks (among others) are still affected by oil spilled into their waters by the tanker Exxon Valdez in 1989.
Dust? An SFU expert explained on CBC Radio why dust from an erupting volcano in Iceland is causing airline chaos and has stranded tens of thousands of world travellers.
And then there were stories about highways in the brain, a revolutionary genetic theory of mental disorders, and what could happen if a big earthquake hit Vancouver.


  • The Canadian Press reported that oil from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill is still being ingested by Alaskan wildlife more than 20 years after the disaster—as found by a research team led by Daniel Esler, adjunct prof and university research associate in SFU Biological Sciences.
    "We believe it is important to recognize that the duration of presence of residual oil and its associated effects are not limited to a few years after spills, but for some vulnerable species may occur over decades."
    The SFU-led team looked at harlequin ducks because they eat invertebrates that live in inter-tidal areas and can't metabolize residual oil very well. "Our research has shown that oil remaining in the area, particularly in inter-tidal areas, was encountered and ingested by some near-shore animals," said Esler. The research was published in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.
    The CP story was picked up by The Associated Press news agency, and we saw the news in 43 media outlets and on a number of blogs. In Canada, for example, it was on CBC News and on A-Channel TV in Victoria, in a string of newspapers including the Globe and Mail, and on numerous radio stations in English and French. We also saw it on, theUK-based science website of, Newsroom America, and

  • Biologist and neuroscientist Michael Silverman was on CFAX Radio in Victoria, talking about research into neural pathways in the brain.
    The interview followed a news release from SFU that began: “The highways that Simon Fraser University biologist Michael Silverman studies aren’t found on any Google map. They’re the microscopic transport pathways that allow ‘goods and services’ to travel inside brain cells, called neurons. But it isn’t always a smooth ride. Silverman and his cellular neuroscience research team are investigating how disruptions along these cellular highways may play a critical role in the development of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.”
    The news website of also picked up the SFU release.

  • Nature Medicine journal carried a three-page feature on SFU biologist Bernard Crespi’s revolutionary genetic theory of mental disorders. Crespi and Christopher Babcock, a sociologist at the London School of Economics, propose that an evolutionary tug of war between genes from the father’s sperm and the mother’s egg can, in effect, tip brain development in one of two ways along a spectrum. At one end lies autism and other disorders; at the other depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
    Nature Medicine wrote: “Crespi will continue testing the theory. Last year, he landed a three-year, $120,000 grant from Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council to pursue his studies of the genetics of mental illness.  . . . He should be able to test whether the pushes and pulls toward autism or psychosis behave as the theory would predict.”


  • In a long interview on the Early Edition show on CBC Radio, volcano expert Glyn Williams-Jones of SFU Earth Sciences explained why a volcanic eruption in Iceland brought air traffic to a halt in Europe. He told show host Rick Cluff that the huge plumes of volcanic ash are spreading tiny, abrasive pieces of material that could damage and shut down airplane engines.
    In The Vancouver Sun he added: “When most people think ash, they think cigarette ash or barbecue ash. What we're dealing with here are tiny shards of volcanic glass that can get sucked into an engine. The operating temperature of many of these engines is hot enough to remelt that ash, and if it melts on to the engines, the engines shut down. It's a very, very dangerous situation."
    As well, ash can be sucked into an aircraft's ventilation system or sandblast its windshield, he said.
    The UK’s Daily Mail (circulation 2 million copies a day) also pursued Williams-Jones.

  • Earlier, earthquake expert John Clague of Earth Sciences was on CBC-TV’s national CBC News Network in a follow-up story on the killer Chinese earthquake. What would happen if a quake hit Vancouver?
    “The worst-case scenario would be an earthquake like the one that struck Haiti. Say a Magnitude 7 earthquake with an epicentre quite close to Vancouver; that's our worst-case scenario. In an event like that we would have strong shaking for 30 to 45 seconds. If you're walking down the streets of downtown Vancouver, the first thing you'd notice is that the pavement would be rolling like waves of sea. That's the initiating of strong shaking.
    “Then you might look up five or ten seconds later and the high towers of the downtown core would be kind of vibrating, or they would be moving back and forth; and of course any one within those buildings would be absolutely terrified. This would be a horrible experience. . . .
    “The difference between Haiti and Vancouver is we have very high standards that we designed public buildings for. So it's unlikely any of these new towers would collapse. We do have older buildings within the city in Gastown and scattered through other parts of the city that were built before we really understood earthquakes well enough, and there's a possibility in that worst-case earthquake they would collapse.
    “But even more concerning to me is you have these concrete towers, in a concrete jungle in Vancouver, and there would be a lot of stuff coming off these buildings. There would be glass breaking, flying down, hitting the streets and exploding like bombs. The air would be full of shards of glass. Time of day becomes important: Is this going to happen when people are on the streets during rush hour?”

  • Associate prof Brent Ward of SFU Earth Sciences also talked with media about earthquakes in general, and the Chinese quake that has killed hundreds in the remote and mountainous Qinghai region in particular. He was on multicultural Omni TV and later on CTV.

  • CTV Vancouver also did a story on six MBA students who designed an iPhone application called QuakeAware, whichconsolidates the key information people need to be prepared for an earthquake. It includes everything from a survival-kit checklist to how to purify water in an emergency and basic first aid pointers. You're not necessarily guaranteed to be at home where you're most prepared with your kit, but  . . . at least if you have your phone on you, you can know possibly where to go, what services are available to you, and how—if somebody's injured, God forbid—how to help them.”


  • The Canadian Press covered a conference in Calgary on Canada’s pension problems, during which Alberta and Ontario pushed for a go-slow approach, with potential changes beginning in 10 or more years. The story cited a warning by pension expert Jonathan Kesselman, economist and SFU public policy prof: "Coming back in 10 years is delaying  . . . by 10 years any movement toward 40-odd years of concluding this big reform."
    And the Calgary Herald told readers: “Jon Kesselman from Simon Fraser University said that while many of the proposals for reforming the retirement income system have some benefits, they don't match up with boosting CPP.”

  • A John Ivison column in National Post said Prime Minister Stephen Harper “acted with almost indecent haste” to send Canada's spent nuclear fuel to the U.S., and added: “As Alexander Moens, a political scientist at Simon Fraser University, put it, what's not to like: ‘Who doesn't want to give away their nuclear waste?’"
    Ivison also wrote: “Just two weeks after Hillary Clinton took hits at the Canadian positions on the Arctic, Afghanistan and maternal health in the Third World, it suggests the rupture in Canada-U.S. relations is not as severe as first thought.”  He quoted Moens again: “It begs the question: Are the White House and State Department coordinated [on Canada]? Was Clinton's tone sharper than the White House wanted it to be?”

  • Canadian Business looked at the Big Three wireless carriers (Telus Mobility, Rogers Wireless, and Bell Mobility) as they face ever-increasing competition. Richard Smith of SFU Communication said they will have to become far more efficient and cope with razor-thin margins. “If you can make money as a dumb pipe, then you’re really running a good business." (“Dumb pipe” is a term for a carrier that is relegated to merely transmitting data, and no longer provides add-on services that once kept its profits up.)

  • Rob Gordon, director of SFU Criminology, was quoted in a Globe and Mail newsfeature on the RCMP’s latest Crime Reduction Initiative—billed as “a pro-active trend in targeting crime . . . that relies on thinking ahead of criminals.” Gordon linked its appearance to contract–renewal talks with the force in BC as the current contract runs out in 2012. “There is no doubt about it that 2012 looms large in the minds of the RCMP management."

  • The Globe and Mail also looked at the issue of perfumes in the workplace, following a U.S. court case in which a federal court upheld an employee's right to a scent-free workplace. The Globe found we know little about the science of people’s environmental sensitivities, and quoted Michel Joffres, physician-prof in SFU Health Sciences who has done research in the area: “No matter what the explanation is, these people are falling through the cracks of the current medical system."

  • A column in the Washington (DC) Examiner cited some findings of the Human Security Report project at SFU (including “The overwhelming majority of terrorist campaigns fail to achieve their strategic objectives.”) but didn’t mention SFU itself.

  • In a guest column in the Report on Business in the Globe and Mail, adjunct prof Tony Wilson of SFU Business warned business people: “Actions under human rights codes across Canada are a force to be reckoned with. . . . If your business has employees, you have to be just as concerned about a human rights complaint being filed against you as a wrongful dismissal action.”

  •, an online rival of Guinness World Records, recognized the world record claimed last week by 289 SFU students for the most people doing “The Robot” dance. That surpassed the 276 by the University of Kent in 2007.
    The academy website used a photo taken by Stuart Colcleugh of SFU’s office of Public Affairs and Media Relations. So did the Vancouver edition of Epoch Times.
    (On Flickr, the photo has been viewed more than 1,000 times at:

  • Media from coast to coast noted that Monday (April 12) was the 30th anniversary of the beginning in Newfoundland of the famous run by Terry Fox.  More than $500 million now has been raised in his name. Many media outlets this week mentioned that he was a student at SFU.
    The Toronto Star, for example, noted: “Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., where Terry studied kinesiology, has given its Gold Medal Award to 23 students, who like Terry, have set goals some might say are beyond their grasp.” The Star went on to feature the 2007 winner, SFU Athletics alumna Jessica Des Mazes.


  • A bevy of stories ran across the country about Kash Heed’s resignation as BC solicitor-general. Among those quoted by Canwest News Service was criminologist Rob Gordon:
    “Heed, a former West Vancouver police chief and longtime Vancouver police officer, is generally considered one of the better solicitors general in recent years, said Rob Gordon, director of criminology at Simon Fraser University. He spearheaded a ban on cellphone use while driving, restrictions on body armour and changes that boosted the power of B.C.'s police complaint commissioner. Heed also pushed for the RCMP to fall under B.C.'s police complaint process as part of provincial police contract negotiations. And he publicly mused about boosting penalties against intoxicated drivers.”

  • Public policy prof Doug McArthur was on CKWX News 1130 in Vancouver, noting Heed is the third BC solicitor general to resign in two years. He said Premier Gordon Campbell will have to be very careful when choosing Heed's permanent replacement.
    "It really does in people's minds, I think raise questions. Mr. Campbell is going to have to be sure the next solicitor general he appoints has nothing in his or her background that raises any questions."
    Even if Heed is cleared, McArthur said he doesn't expect him to be reappointed as solicitor general, although there is a possibility we could see him again in cabinet.

  • A number of the stories noted that Heed did a BGS and then an MA in criminology at SFU while working fulltime for the Vancouver Police Department. He is also an adjunct prof in SFU Criminology.


  • Gordon Price, director of the SFU City Program and a former Vancouver councillor, wrote a guest column in The Vancouver Sun proposing three conditions for the planned downtown mega-casino development:
    “First . . . this development has to relate to its neighbourhood. No blank walls. Exceptional public art. Pedestrian connections all around BC Place.  Second, it has to be green, and . . . we're talking the highest level of sustainability ever achieved for a casino in the world. Period.
    “Finally, and most importantly, the casino should fund an extension of the streetcar, at least to Pacific Boulevard. It should have been a public embarrassment when the Bombardier streetcars used for the Olympic Line to Granville Island were returned to Brussels.”

  • The New Westminster NewsLeader noted the 25th anniversary of the first SkyTrain run on the then-short Expo line. And it quoted Price, who is also a former TransLink board member:
    "The SkyTrain fundamentally changed the DNA of the entire area. You had a generation of architects and planners who basically built everything around the automobile after the Second World War. The suburbs were all about the car because trolleys were basically seen as a second-class method of transportation and buses were very intermittent. People drove everywhere for everything and they built to meet that expectation.
    “But because we never built freeways here, we've maintained a transit-centric nature and what the Expo Line did was extend that out into the region. . . . We probably wouldn't have been able to hold the Olympics without it. We moved 1.6 million passengers a day during the peak, which is almost like the entire regional population using it."

  • Political scientist Patrick Smith wrote a guest column in the Burnaby NewsLeader asking: “What if we had a single city which went from the University Endowment Lands and the Sunshine Coast to Hope, and from Pemberton to White Rock?”
    And his answer: “My colleague Kennedy Stewart thinks a megacity is the answer here. . . . Megacity Vancouver might be the answer to some of our big city challenges—on law enforcement, planning, homelessness. . . . Is it time to consider Global Mega-Municipality Vancouver? We may need it more that we think.”

  • Business in Vancouver carried a full-page story on how Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal business celebrated a leadership exchange program aimed at reconciling decades of mistrust between industry and First Nations. “In partnership with Simon Fraser University's (SFU) Segal Graduate School of Business, the Industry Council for Aboriginal Business (ICAB) placed six corporate executives and aboriginal leaders in each other's seats for several days last fall to help them understand the issues that affect their respective worlds.”

  • Business in Vancouver also reported that SFU spinoff company Switch Materials Inc., after closing a $7.5-million round of financing in January, has been awarded $2.1 million in government funding through the Innovative Clean Energy (ICE) fund. “Switch, which was founded in 2006, anticipates it might now have a long enough runway to commercialize its smart windows, which contain a film of organic material that lightens or darkens windows at the flick of a switch. . . . The company was spun out from research done at Simon Fraser University (SFU) by Neil Branda, a professor of chemistry at SFU and executive director of 4D LABS, a $40-million research centre for advanced materials and nano-scale devices.”

  • Business prof Andrey Pavlov was on CBC-TV and in The Vancouver Sun in stories on rising mortgage rates: “Pavlov said higher rates are the biggest risk to B.C.'s market, but the saving grace will be ‘interest rates are going to go up only if the economy is doing very well. In that case, people will have jobs, incomes will be rising, so people will be able to afford higher interest rates.’"

  • The Christy Clark Show on CKNW featured the Pink Shirt Day campaign against bullying on Tuesday (April 14). Lined up for interviews were Wanda Cassidy, associate prof in SFU Education and director of the SFU Centre for Education, Law and Society; and Gerald Walton, a visiting professor in SFU Education, whose thesis dealt with homophobic bullying in the public school system. CBC-TV also set up an interview with Cassidy on cyber-bullying, but cancelled at the last minute.
    Meanwhile, a North Shore News column, under the headline “A system built on bullying”, told how SFU student Emily Newman was nailed by a TransLink cop for using the wrong pass. (She had forgotten her SFU U-Pass, so used an old but still valid high-school student pass.)  Describing the officer as “intimidating” and a “tormentor”, the column blasted him for giving Newman a $173 ticket—while transit police chief Ward Clapham was urging his staff to “help point kids in the right direction by simply bonding with them and building a relationship of trust."

  • The Nanaimo Daily News examined the economic strength of gold, and spoke with SFU economist David Jacks. “(Jacks) said that as gold prices have risen, gold buyers have been able to tap into the market of people who can ransack their attics to sell what they have. . . . While inflation is under control here, he said that in China inflation of paper currencies is creating a very strong gold market. ’People there are trying to get their hands on anything physical,’ he said.”

  • The Burnaby NewsLeader told readers: “The average worker spends 40 per cent of their workday sending and receiving more than 200 e-mails, according to The Tyranny of E-Mail, a new book by SFU communications professor Andrew Feenberg.
    “While e-mail may be getting out of hand, Feenberg feels it's still a valuable communication tool, but it's up to us how we use it. Feenberg is SFU's Canada Research Chair in the philosophy of technology. He's been studying technology for more than 40 years.”

  • The Surrey-North Delta Leader carried a photo of Erik Kjeang, assistant prof of mechatronics in SFU Engineering Science, preparing for a messy face during Pie Day at SFU Surrey. Engineering students pied their instructors to raise money for Engineers Without Borders, a non-profit society that helps build infrastructure for rural Africans. The students collected more than $500.

  • CBC Radio’s Community Calendar feature gave an advance plug to the gala ceremony April 21 at which SFU will honour journalist and politician Carole Taylor and her husband, former Vancouver mayor and businessman, Art Phillips, with its 2010 President's Distinguished Community Leadership Award. The CBC item stemmed from an SFU news release.


  • Business ethicist Mark Wexler became the focus of a Douglas Todd column in The Vancouver Sun, as Wexler advised universities to connect better with the off-campus community and to become more relevant to it.
    “(A university) must reward its best and brightest for publishing, receiving grant money and contributing to the information commons,” said Wexler. “On the other hand, it must recognize and reward a means of customizing knowledge so its local application is appreciated and integrated into the economy and heartbeat of the town."
    Wexler spoke at a ceremony at which he received a lifetime achievement award—for helping the public recognize the "importance" of scholarship—from the BC branch of the Confederation of University Faculty Associations.

  • Prof emeritus Paul Shaker, former dean of education, did a hefty interview on the Saturday Morning News show on GlobalTV, talking about public-school funding.
    “This has been going on for several years, and now all of the easy cuts are made, and now the cuts are quite alarming. Vancouver is not alone with cuts to their budget, and we're going to see this throughout the province . . . and even in districts that are growing in size. So it's going to mean  . . . a gravitation toward a bare-bones, narrowed curriculum.”
    As well, he added: “It should threaten our ability to attract international students which has been such a boon to British Columbia education, more than 10,000 international students all paying tuition. Long term, it has to concern us about our ability to project the notion that we're a knowledge economy here.”

  • The Vancouver edition of Metro ran a story on how nine SFU graduate students have won Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplements, a Canadian Graduate Scholarship (CGS) award.


  • The Clan football program announced officially that Brent Barnes and Jordan Malone will be joining the football staff as full-time offensive and defensive coordinators, beginning immediately under head coach Dave Johnson. They bring the fulltime football staff to six, with Andrew Dubiellak as an offensive assistant, Beau Davis as a defensive assistant and Kevin Phillips as recruiting coordinator. SFU moves into the NCAA in the fall—meaning a switch to four-down American football after playing three-down Canadian football from 2002 until 2009.  The Burnaby NewsLeader, for one, picked up the release.

  • SFU’s softball team came from behind twice to beat the UBC Thunderbirds 4-3 and 9-7 in a doubleheader in Delta. Clan pitcher Cara Lukawesky came out of the bullpen to earn both victories, the first two of her varsity career.
    The softball squad then went on to drop a doubleheader to St. Martin’s University (Lacey WA) 7-6 and 6-4. The Clan thus slipped to 15-8 on the season.
    Before the first St. Martin’s game, the Clan honoured six seniors who are in their last SFU season: Haley Cicchetti, Nicola Collicutt, Stefani Durrant, Jessie Harris, Carly Moir and Jennifer Van Egdom.

  • The Clan women’s track and field team finished second over-all in the Ralph Vernacchia Meet, hosted by Western Washington University in Bellingham. The SFU men’s team ended up third. The Clan is back in action this coming weekend at the 2010 Mt. SAC relays at Mount San Antonio College, Walnut CA (40 km east of Los Angeles).

  • McLean’s media-relations student assistants, Olivia Brennan and Ramesh Ranjan, posted a new “Clan Confidential” video. It offers some laughs as members of the Clan distance medley relay team “prepare” for the Mt. SAC relays.  It’s on the Clan Facebook page.

Also in sports:

  • The BC Hockey league newsletter reported that Burnaby Express forward Colby Kulhanek will attend SFU in the fall, and play for the SFU hockey club in the BC Intercollegiate Hockey League. SFU head coach Mark Coletta said: "He is a talented winger who should provide an immediate offensive boost to a strong returning group. He’s also a solid physical presence who has succeeded at a very high level of junior hockey.”

  • The Surrey-North Delta Leader reported that Daniel Igali, Olympic wrestling champion and SFU grad student, was inducted into the Canadian Amateur Wrestling Hall of Fame. “The Surrey resident won gold at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, and has since been inducted into the Canadian Sports, B.C., Burnaby and NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) Halls of Fame.”

  • Media reports on the death this week of Gene Kiniski, 81, popular pro wrestler from 1952-1994, included this from his son Nick: “For a guy who never finished college, he sure believed in education, you know, and we're going to start an endowment fund for the Simon Fraser wrestling program under his name.”


  • GlobalTV in Edmonton featured the SFU Pipe Band, which played last weekend at the Edmonton Highland Arts Festival. “The pipe band travels around the world performing and is actually the current world champion, a title it's held six times now. The group is in Edmonton for a weekend of instruction and performance.” The Edmonton Journal carried a photo of the band.

  • The Cowichan News Leader featured SFU film student Kelvin Redvers, whose short film Firebear Called Them Faith Healers will be shown April 17 at the Cowichan International Aboriginal Festival of Film and Art. "I was kind of the awkward kid growing up, but there was a world going on inside my head and as soon as I picked up a video camera, it was possible for that world to come out into the real world—it was unbelievably relieving, and unbelievably rewarding. It became an outlet to get the stories, the feelings and emotions, the humour and the anger in my head out into the world.”

  • The Province and the entertainment website (part of the network) featured rap artist Shad (aka SFU grad student Shadrach Kabango). He’s playing in Whistler April 24-25, and launches a Canadian tour May 27. His second album, TSOL (which stands for whatever you want) comes out May 25.


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Peter Lindman

You name an online rival of Guinness World Records. It is anything else but this. The people behind this web site do nothing else than copying news about records from newspapers and news agency (obviously violating the copyringt). Their business is to sell overprized certificates to the record breakers.

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