SFU PEOPLE IN THE NEWS - February 4, 2010

February 4, 2010

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A look at how Simon Fraser University and its people made news: Jan. 29-Feb. 4, 2010

Tracing the descent of turkeys and investigating their domestication in North America.
Hiking through penguin breeding grounds, weighing the eggs, documenting the declining numbers.
Those were just two of the stories in news media that involved SFU researchers—and they weren’t all for the birds:
Media carried a podium-load of pre-Olympic Games stories quoting experts from SFU.
And there was national coverage of complaints from SFU and others about the poor writing skills of students these days: Like, definately :(


  • The Agence France Presse news agency told worldwide clients that “Vancouver is about to be wrapped in a billion-dollar security blanket for the Winter Olympics.” But SFU prof and terrorism expert André Gerolymatos sounded a note of caution:
    He said official Olympic venues will be secure but "all other areas are going to be completely exposed." And the historian added: "They're assuming if a terrorist attacks, the primary target will be the Games (but) any terrorist act within Vancouver will do. . . . A traffic jam is a good venue for a terrorist."
    On CBC-TV, Gerolymatos said the nearly 1,000 surveillance cameras won't do much to deter an attack. "They will be useful in terms of catching potential troublemakers, vandals, people selling dope on the street, but in terms of terrorists, in a way they are playing into their hands. The terrorist will simply look into the camera and blow himself up."
    On Radio Canada-TV, he questioned the big naval and Coast Guard deployment in the Strait of Georgia. What maritime threat, he asked, is looming over the peaceful conduct of the Vancouver Olympics?
    On CTV, Gerolymatos said the separation of Olympic venues is a problem. “In many respects it's a security nightmare, because there is the distance between Whistler and Vancouver. Vancouver is also a port, it's got a lot of tunnels and bridges, lots of places for a terrorist to strike.”
  • The Associated Press news agency sent around the world a story that began: “Five blocks away from the venue for Vancouver's Olympic opening ceremonies, four grizzled addicts huddle in the rain, injecting themselves with heroin behind a trash bin.  . . . Welcome to Downtown Eastside.”
    It continued: “This neighborhood is the most concentrated drug and poverty ghetto in North America, with high use of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, according to criminologist Benedikt Fischer of Simon Fraser University. It's also the only place in North America where drug addicts can shoot heroin into their veins at an officially sanctioned injection site.”
    That one we saw as far afield as the Austin (TX) American-Statesman.
    (Advises Fischer: “Unfortunately the writer sensationalized my statement re: the DTES a bit by leaving out the two words "one of ...")
  • The Vancouver Sun said research involving SFU psychologist Mario Liotti shows Canadian Olympic athletes who can picture themselves winning might have a better chance of finding themselves on the podium at the Winter Games.
    The story stemmed from an SFU news release saying the research shows that mood, along with brain activity and hormonal changes associated with success or failure, can have critical roles in determining future competitive outcomes.
    “People can have different responses to a challenge,'' Liotti told the Sun. “They can be more socially dominant and challenging or they can have a stress response. People who respond to a challenge with high testosterone and low cortisol can be up for a challenge and achieve a state of emotional and physical readiness.''
    Canwest News Service sent the story across the country and we saw it in the Ottawa Citizen even before it appeared in The Vancouver Sun.
  • CTV looked at whether the hefty carbon footprint of the games can be compensated for by buying "offsets".  SFU resource economist Mark Jaccard cautioned:
    "We need to be very careful about this kind of correspondence, that an offset exactly reduces the emissions that you would otherwise cause by heating a building, driving a truck and so on. . . . The general research is finding that something like 50 per cent of this is not really reducing emissions."
  • CTV also wondered how details of the opening ceremonies will be kept under wraps, despite non-disclosure agreements signed by people going to dress rehearsals. CTV quoted Communication prof Richard Smith: “Certainly people will talk and when people talk, things no longer stay contained. . . . Every little blogger on the planet is thinking: ‘Well I could get a reprimand, but think of the hits.'”
  • The Burnaby NewsLeader featured Steve Ray, manager of web strategy in SFU Public Affairs and Media Relations, one of more than 20 SFU people taking vacation time to work as a volunteer at the games.
    “From his perch high above the ice at Canada Hockey Place and Thunderbird Arena, he’ll be peering through opera glasses to spot each player from his assigned team as they jump onto the ice or return to the bench, while his partner logs the jersey numbers he calls out into a computer to track their ice time.”
  • Burnaby Now told readers that the Olympic torch will be in Burnaby on the morning of Thursday, Feb. 11, the day before the Games open.  Included in the schedule: “At 10:20 a.m., the Olympic torch will be on the campus of Simon Fraser University, doing a nine-minute loop from Gaglardi Way to University Drive.”
    The winner of SFU’s torchbearer contest, student Borvonan (Obi) Vattanawong (Interactive Arts + Technology) will carry the Olympic flame on the Burnaby campus that day.
    Speaking of torchbearers: André Gerolymatos is also one; his turn comes up Feb. 12, the opening day of the games. And The Vancouver Sun and other media reported that grad student Daniel Igali, 2000 Olympic gold medallist in wrestling, will touch the torch to the community cauldron in Surrey on Feb. 8.
  • The Nanaimo Daily News looked at the impact of Olympic and post-Olympic tourism. SFU prof Peter Williams, director of SFU's Centre for Tourism Policy and Research, said of visitors: "They'll get an impression of the place that will be on a world stage. And then it's up to the individual organizations to say, 'Well, I'm part of that impression. We're along the coastal mountains too.' They'll have to fit themselves into this bigger story."
  • The Surrey-North Delta Leader featured the crowd-controlled “WeBlimp” that will be shown off at the Olympic showcase in Surrey. “The free-flying, helium-filled aircraft, called WeBlimp, was created by students Andrew Thong, Anna Wu, Brian Quan and Nathan Waddington . . .  in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology at SFU's Surrey campus.”
  • Province columnist Jon Ferry wrote about the counter-Olympic torch run: “The Poverty Olympics Organizing Committee (is) holding a celebration of its own in Whistler today to highlight poverty in B.C., using skiing and snowboarding mascots like Itchy the Bedbug and Creepy the Cockroach. And it sounds like a blast.
    “Committee spokeswoman Trish Garner, who's doing a PhD in women studies at SFU, told me the money being spent on the official Olympic relay is a waste of money that would be better spent on helping the poor.  ‘There are so many people living in poverty in this province, so many people having to work two jobs just to get by. I think it's inexcusable that the government doesn't do anything about it.’"
    The Globe and Mail, meanwhile, covered a protest against homelessness by the Vancouver Action Coalition, “a group made up of students from Simon Fraser University and the University of B.C.”
  • The Vancouver Sun featured Justin Kripps, former Clan track athlete, who is the No. 2 man in Pierre Lueders' four-man bobsled in the Olympics. The team completed the World Cup season in 12th, with a best finish of sixth.


  • So how did wild turkeys become domesticated in North America? Camilla Speller, doctoral student in SFU Archaeology, told Discovery News the answer is by native Americans—twice: first for their feathers, which were "used in rituals and ceremonies, as well as to make feather robes or blankets"; and later for food.
    Her Canada-U.S. team’s research is the subject of a paper in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  (PDF at
    The Los Angeles Times explained: “The new findings, reported this week by Canadian and American researchers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, come from a DNA analysis of ancient turkey bones and coprolites, the polite name for fossilized excrement.” also did a story: “Modern dinner-table turkeys are descended from birds domesticated 3,000 years ago by the Aztecs. But they weren’t the only turkey tamers: Indigenous inhabitants of what became the southwestern United States had their own prize breeds, now lost to posterity.”
    That story quoted Speller’s supervisor and co-author, molecular archaeologist Dongya Yang: “We have no genetic evidence that these breeds survived into the present day (but) it is quite likely that the indigenous Mesoamerican turkey breeds still survive in rural Mexico.”
    The L.A. Times quoted V-P Academic Jon Driver (talking turkey while wearing his archaeologist’s hat):
    “Driver cautioned that these two strains were probably not similar to modern turkeys, which have been bred to bear so much meat that they can no longer fly. ‘They would be more like wild turkeys in terms of body shape. They wouldn't be very large or very fat . . . but there was a reasonable amount of meat on them.’” (Full story:
    SFU sent out a news release on it, and the story got wide coverage in all forms of news media, social media, and the blogosphere.
  • Another bird story: The Kansas City Star visited the Antarctic for a feature on scientific research—and ran into ornithologist Kristen Gorman of SFU Biological Sciences.
    “She talks to the birds: big-footed, Technicolor cormorants; hovering, scavenging skuas; squawking, knee-high, feces-mottled penguins. While she labors to keep her scientist's detached powers of observation, Gorman can't avoid an affinity for the grandeur of giant petrels or the chubby adorability of a downy penguin chick.
    “After five years on the Antarctic peninsula, she said, ‘I still think the penguins are cute.’  . . . Day after Antarctic day, she hikes through penguin breeding grounds, weighing the eggs, examining the young, documenting the declining numbers. . . .
    “Gorman has tracked the phenomenon for the last five years while working out of the U.S.-run Palmer Station. The pace and stamina of her and her research companion, Jennifer Blum, awe even the hardy folks drawn down here. Nearly every day of the sun-saturated Antarctic summer, the two lace hiking boots, yank on layers of fleece and Gore-Tex and climb into a tiny Zodiac outboard. They motor from one small island to the next well into the evenings.”
    (Full story:
  • From birds to worms: carried an article on the research of SFU scientist Neil Branda and team, who have been using light to switch on and off light-reactive molecules in tiny lab worms, paralyzing and un-paralyzing them. “We’re not going to pretend that the function of paralysis is going to have a future application,” Branda says, but this is “proof of principle showing that you can turn on and off biological functions using photoswitches.” Also in the story: postdoctoral researcher Usama Al-Atar.
  • Faisal Beg, associate professor in SFU Engineering Science was a guest on Citytv Toronto, explaining the physics of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and demonstrating video of a heart in motion, a brain in action, and his own leg.
    He also threw in a smart promotion for SFU: “At SFU we have a great biomedical engineering program which is very, very selective. We take the best students. If somebody wants to come and study biomedical engineering, come to SFU. We have a great program where you can learn more about these technologies.”


  • Lindsay Meredith, SFU’s oft-quoted marketing prof and media marathon man (1502 interviews over the last 11-12 years) was on CBC-TV’s national news in a story on Toyota rolling out senior officials to do damage control after implementing recalls and repairs on million of vehicles.
    Said Meredith: “What you're saying to the public is, look, the boys at the very top get the message, they're on it, they're going to take care of this issue.”
  • Another media marathon man, Rob Gordon, director of SFU Criminology, was in a Canwest News Service story in which police cautioned against the use of Facebook to solicit tips in crimes and missing-persons cases.  We saw it first in the Montreal Gazette.
    Gordon said police phone lines are sifted by people who can quickly determine whether there is substance to a tip, by cross-referencing it with information they have already collected. "They can very quickly sort the wheat from the chaff. You can't do that on Facebook. (Police) will get overwhelmed with information."
    He added that posting words of support for a victim or family is fine, but posting any information about the case will do more harm than good. "Do not post it on the Internet because it may confuse rather than assist—and it may inform the person responsible."
  • A third media regular, Doug McArthur, prof and distinguished fellow in SFU’s graduate public policy program, did an interview with GlobalTV National on the economy.
  • After a domestic murder of two children in Alberta, clinical-forensic psychologist Stephen Hart was on GlobalTV Calgary, talking about the development by Calgary police of expertise in domestic violence: “Police are focusing on trying to prevent problems before they arise rather than waiting until there's a crime and investigating or responding to that.”
  • The Spokane (WA) Spokesman-Review looked at the dangers from sanding old paints that contain lead. “Dr. Bruce Lanphear, professor of children's environmental health at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, B.C. (says) studies have shown that a young child living in a house or apartment with lead dust concentrations of 40 micrograms per square foot would have a 10- to 20-percent chance of developing blood-lead levels in excess of 10 micrograms per deciliter.”
  • found a new angle in the mid-January report from the Human Security Report Project at SFU, which says the human cost of modern warfare has decreased significantly. The angle: “Exclusive breastfeeding can decrease the risk of two of the deadliest war-related health threats children face, a recent study shows.”


  • Columnist Peter McKnight, in The Vancouver Sun, mused on a report last week from SFU criminologist Neil Boyd (for the BC branch of the Canadian Bar Association) on the level of public confidence in the justice system.
    “Boyd  . . . considers public education one of the primary means of improving public confidence (but) it's unfortunate that his report contains no recommendations concerning the role of the media in influencing public opinion. . . . If the primary reason for a lack of public confidence in the system is a lack of knowledge or inaccurate beliefs, then more accurate reporting will undoubtedly help to improve confidence.”
  • In a story on civilian oversight of policing, CTV News quoted Rob Gordon as saying it may be time for an independent anti-corruption task force. “To deal with entrenched corruption, which can come very quickly, especially in jurisdictions where a lot of money is at stake, to deal with that you need dedicated units that are looking out for this."
  • The Surrey-North Delta Leader quoted energy guru Mark Jaccard in a story saying BC motorists could pay 50 cents more in carbon tax on every litre of gas by the end of this decade if the Pembina Institute gets its way.  The Calgary-based organization also urged BC to expand low-income tax credits or emission reduction subsidies, and to invest a portion of carbon tax revenue in infrastructure such as public transit to help reduce emissions.
    "These recommendations are crucial if B.C. is to continue to advance its economically efficient and highly effective climate policies," said Jaccard.
  • The Vancouver Sun looked at the prospects for improved business in the neighbourhood of the Woodward’s redevelopment. The Bourbon pub's general manager, Avi Smith, said student nights there have taken off, and can only get better with the opening of SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts. “As soon as they started doing the renovations on the building we started licking our lips and rubbing our hands together. We were so excited.”


  • The opening of The Blue Dragon/Le Dragon Bleu on Tuesday continued to draw media attention. There was good turnout for a media conference with director, writer and actor Robert Lepage, held at the Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre at SFU Woodward’sThe first two shows were in French, which won good coverage in French-language media.
    CBC-TV English ran a feature on the local news, and the Globe and Mail carried an interview with Lepage, plus an event listing. (The show will run through Feb.27, as part of the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad and is co-presented by SFU Contemporary Arts and Théâtre la Seizième.)
  • Meanwhile, The Vancouver Sun promoted another SFU Woodward’s event: “The new Audain Gallery at SFU Woodward's opens its doors Saturday with an inaugural exhibition that reaches out to its new Downtown Eastside neighbours. First Nation: Second Nature features the work of renowned native artists such as Rebecca Belmore, Brian Jungen and more.”
    The Sun later carried a feature noting: “The gallery itself owes its existence to Michael Audain, philanthropist and chair of Polygon Homes, whose Audain Foundation made a generous donation to SFU's School for the Contemporary Arts. The Audain Gallery is an integral feature of the school, and as such it will showcase student's art and works by local artists, in addition to its bigger, international exhibitions, some of which will be orchestrated by various guest curators.” Gallery curator Sabine Bitter was quoted.
    And the Sun concluded: “As the gallery's inaugural exhibition, an exploration of borders, territory, and themes of colonialism and misrepresentation of aboriginal peoples sets the perfect tone for a contemporary art gallery designed to reach beyond Canadian borders to a global art community.
  • And from SFU, The Peak visited the Audain Gallery at SFU Woodward’s. “The Audain Gallery is a beacon of hope in what otherwise might be termed a yuppie playground. . .  . Audain is a glorious white space with countless track-lights which radiate with halogen, massive moving dividing walls, and freshly poured concrete floors that would make any hipster designer squeal.” Bitter was in this story, too.
  • Burnaby Now reported that the promoters of the Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival—which last summer celebrated its 10th anniversary—tell Burnaby council it could be significantly expanded. And they say it should be moved from Deer Lake Park up to SFU’s Burnaby campus.


  • Big coverage in The Province as the Clan women’s basketball team set back the UBC Thunderbirds 81-68 to win the Barbara Rae Cup (with the Clan’s 52nd victory in a row) and the men’s basketball team lost 77-68 to UBC after beating UBC 82-79 in a preceding game.
    The Province wrote after the women’s game: “‘It was just exciting,’ Clan senior guard Robyn Buna said of the atmosphere after her team improved to 14-0 on the season. ‘When we came into the gym and saw the crowd (of 2,400) we thought back to the national championships last year, and we knew we could feed off the energy.’"
    CBC-TV interviewed player Anna Carolsfeld on how the game was a fund-raiser to fight cancer: “Our team was really personally been affected by cancer, and so we thought that we would show our support and get everyone else involved. . . .”
    Carolsfeld later reported to SFU News donations of well over the target of $5,000—and she's still counting. You can still donate at
  • After the men’s game, The Province wrote: “The Clan? They are moving forward with the knowledge that there isn't a team in the conference they can't beat.  ‘We have been trying to set the stage for the playoffs all year,’ said guard Jordan Nostedt, whose team has three regular -season games remaining. ‘Today we had too many mental letdowns, but every game is about trying to get better.’"
  • Both teams play Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops Friday night Feb. 5 and Saturday Feb. 6.
    Also this weekend: The Clan volleyball team plays at Thompson Rivers Saturday and Sunday. The Clan men's and women's wrestling teams host Pacific University on Saturday (Central Gym, Burnaby campus, men at 1pm, women at 3pm.)
  • SFU Athletics let sports reporters know that SFU's Distance Medley Relay team was named SFU's collective "Athlete of the Week", after breaking a five-year-old record.  (Details:
  • SFU Athletics also posted a video recap of SFU's track and field team competing at the 2010 UW Indoor Invitational:
  • Coquitlam Now reported on “ a secret on Burnaby Mountain that many are eager to share”—the SFU Tennis Club.
    “In its five-year history, the school's tennis club has risen to be a major player on the USTA National Campus circuit, as a member of the Pacific Northwest conference. With its collection of tennis-smart athletes, SFU has gone volley-to-volley against some big programs, and won. It's also a force on the Canadian national stage, too. . . .
    “‘We're up against some pretty tough competition," team captain and coach Arman Kaveh said. ‘Varsity programs offer scholarships and have paid staff. We don't have any of that, but we are working towards that. We can't say we're varsity but we're going there, just not yet.’"
  • Burnaby Now told readers that the SFU Hockey Club padded its lead atop the B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League, taking three of four points from Okanagan College the previous weekend. In Game 2, “Justin Mulholland stopped 34 shots to post the club's 15th win of the season. Jaime Laprise sparked a five-goal Clan second period with his team-high 19th goal of the season.”


  • Rummana Khan Hemani, SFU director of academic advising and student success, and Paul Budra, SFU English prof, were in a Canadian Press story sparked by Waterloo University’s report that almost a third of high-school students are failing their English entrance exam.
    The national CP story included the following:
    “’There has been this general sense in the last two or three years that we are finding more students are struggling in terms of language proficiency,’ says Rummana Khan Hemani, the university's director of academic advising.
    “Emoticons, happy faces, sad faces, cuz, are just some of the writing horrors being handed in, say professors and administrators at Simon Fraser.
    “‘Little happy faces  . . . or a sad face  . . . little abbreviations,’ show up even in letters of academic appeal, says Khan Hemani. ‘Instead of “because”, it's “cuz”. That's one I see fairly frequently,’ she says, and these are new in the past five years.
    “Khan Hemani sends appeal submissions with emoticons in them back to students to be re-written ‘because a committee will immediately get their backs up when they see that kind of written style.’
    “Professors are seeing their share of bad grammar in essays as well.
    “‘The words “a lot” have become one word, for everyone, as far as I can tell. 'Definitely' is always spelled with an “a”—“definately”. I don't know why,’ says Paul Budra, an English professor and associate dean of arts and science at Simon Fraser.
    "’Punctuation errors are huge, and apostrophe errors. Students seem to have absolutely no idea what an apostrophe is for. None. Absolutely none.’"
    “He is floored by some of what he sees. ‘I get their essays and I go “You obviously don't know what a sentence fragment is. You think commas are sort of like parmesan cheese that you sprinkle on your words”,’ said Budra.
    “Then he's reduced to teaching basic grammar to them himself. He says this has been going on now for the 20 years he's taught college and university in B.C. and Ontario—only the mistakes have changed. He too blames poor—or no—grammar instruction in lower schools.
    "’When I went to high school in the ’70s I was never taught grammar in English. I learned grammar from Latin classes. . . . We haven't taught grammar for 30-40 years (and it) hasn't worked.’"
    (Full story:
    We saw the story in media of all forms from coast to coast, and much discussion in the blogosphere.


  • The Metro newspapers carried a feature on MBA schools, and included this: “(MBA programs) prepare graduates to go into a wide variety of management positions,” said Ed Bukszar, associate dean at the Segal Graduate School of Business at SFU.
    And, he said: “I’ve got an opera star in my class with a music background, sitting next to physicists, mathematicians and even a professional snowboarder. It’s a very diverse group, not only in terms of cultural diversity but also in terms of their academic and personal interests.”
    The story also noted: “Current B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell graduated from one of Simon Fraser University’s MBA programs.”
  • The Calgary Herald reported China has removed the University of Calgary from its list of accredited institutions—a move school officials are concerned is connected to the Dalai Lama's visit last fall. The story noted: “He has been awarded more than 25 honorary degrees from institutions around the world, including . . . Simon Fraser University”.
  • The University of Alberta student newspaper, The Gateway, profiled U of A’s new arts dean, Lesley Cormack. “Cormack has been Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. since 2007, but she thinks coming back to the U of A, where she was a history professor for 17 years, is like coming home. “‘I’m very excited about coming back to the University of Alberta, It’s a fabulous university, and the research and teaching that’s done there is just exceptional.‘”
  • The Nanaimo News Bulletin told readers: “Controversy surrounding the Foundation Skills Assessment tests continues to cause waves of discontent throughout B.C.’s educational system.” Paul Shaker, prof of emeritus (SFU Education) said the Fraser Institute’s school rankings, which use FSA results, are not science and would be laughable if not for the attention they get and disruption they cause.


  • On CBC-TV tonight (Thursday Feb. 4, 9pm Pacific) a documentary titled Hyper Parents & Coddled Kids, which explores the cultural pressures on parents to be hyper-parents and the impact it has on their children.Among the non-coddled people featured: Chris Rogerson, associate director of residence life in SFU Residence and Housing. The show airs again Friday Feb. 5 at 10 pm on the CBC News Network.


  • SFU let media know that a high-profile corporate and a certified executive coach are new faces on SFU’s Board of Governors. SFU alumna Anne Giardini QC, president of Weyerhaeuser Company Limited, has been appointed for a one-year term. Nancy MacKay, a former business faculty member at SFU, is another new board member serving a one-year appointment. Lynda Brown-Ganzert, an SFU alumna and a guru in the digital media world, has been re-appointed to the board for a second two-year term. Michael Francis, chartered accountant and president of Seed Management Inc. has been re-elected  chair, and Bob Elton, executive chair of Powertech Labs and advisor to the board of  BC Hydro, is deputy chair.

ALSO in the NEWS

  • The website looked at techniques to deal with “the lone, barricaded, suicidal gunman.” It said in part: “Dr. Karl Harris, former Deputy Medical Examiner of Los Angeles County, along with (criminologist) Richard Brian Parent of Simon Fraser University and Dr. H. Range Huston of Harvard University School of Medicine, suggest that 10 to 15 percent of police shootings are ‘suicide by cop.’”
  • Beijing-based featured Taiwan-born Andy Chen—“host of two of the most popular TV shows broadcast on the Chinese mainland.” The story noted: “He got his first MTV job by chance after receiving a degree in finance from Simon Fraser University. ‘My older sister told me MTV was recruiting VJs when I returned to Taiwan for vacation. At that time I didn't even know what a VJ did. But I tried out anyway.’”
  • The Rick Hansen Institute announced to media the appointment of Bill Barrable as CEO. Among other things, Barrable was chief executive of BC Transplant 1994-2009, and was entrepreneur-in-residence at the SFU Venture Connection program based at the Surrey campus.
  • The Golden (BC) Star kicked off a business column: Office Politics 101. The writer: Simon Gibson, SFU grad, business instructor at University of the Fraser Valley, and member of Abbotsford city council.


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