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SFU PEOPLE IN THE NEWS - March 20, 2009

March 20, 2009

A look at how Simon Fraser University and its people made news: March 13-20, 2009

News pages and programs during the week starred a bevy of SFU scientists, a notable change after a month of headlines from SFU criminologists talking about gang warfare.

The science stories ranged from research on disappearing fish and coral reefs in the Caribbean to an expedition to drive a Humvee across the disappearing Arctic ice.

And SFU scientists were prominent in questioning the scientific credentials of Canada’s minister of state for science.

SCIENCE

  • Agence France Presse sent around the world a story on an international study led by Michelle Paddack of SFU’s Tropical Marine Ecology Lab, showing the number of fish living in Caribbean reefs has dropped significantly since 1995, after decades of stability.

    The study, in Current Biology, found asignificant loss of coral, blamed on a rise in pollution from coastal development, warming ocean temperatures, coral diseases, and overfishing that reduced the fish species that keep reefs free of algae.

    The story ran on the websites of Scientific American, Science Daily, New Scientist, Eureka Science News, Biology News Net, ScienceCentric, InTheNews.co.uk, France24.com, the Gulf Times in Quatar, the Times of the Internet, Genetic Engineering News, PhysOrg.com, Huliq.com, and on several blogs. In BC, The Province carried a brief item.
  • The Vancouver Sun reported that an international scientific expedition plans to drive through Canada's Northwest Passage in a road vehicle—with navigational help from SFU.

    The Mars Institute expedition plans to drive a converted Humvee military vehicle across close to 2,000 km of Arctic sea ice. En route, it will measure the thickness of the ice as a way of monitoring the effects of global warming.

    Mars Institute vice-president Stephen Braham, an adjunct prof at SFU’s Centre for Experimental and Constructive Mathematics, will provide the team with the latest information on ice conditions, from satellites and the Canadian Ice Service.

    The Victoria Times Colonist also ran the story. SFU’s office of Public Affairs and Media Relations sent out a news release that, within minutes, appeared on the website of InSciences.org in Switzerland.
  • ScienceDaily.com reported that research involving SFU has shown that just one virus particle is theoretically enough to cause infection and subsequent disease. ScienceDaily cited a paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, co-authored by Jenny Cory of SFU Biological Sciences. The research was done with insect larvae at Wageningen University, the Netherlands, and SFU.

    The story also ran on ScienceCentric.com, MedicalNewsToday.com, News-Medical.net, and hit some blogs, too.
  • Johns Hopkins Medicine reported researchers—including ones from SFU—have found a previously unrecognized role for tiny hair-like cell structures known as cilia: They help form our sense of touch. The report is to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The SFU researchers are Michel Leroux, PhD student Nick Inglis of the SFU Leroux Laboratory, and Brian Bradley of SFU Molecular Biology and Biochemistry.
  • And SFU spread the word to media on how geneticist Willie Davidson is one of two scientists receiving the 2009 Genome BC Award for Scientific Excellence. Davidson and Ben Koop of UVic are being recognized for leadership of an international consortium that is studying the genetics of salmon and related species. The group hopes to breed fish that tolerate climate change.

SCIENCE MINISTER

  • SFU scientists played a role as Gary Goodyear, federal minister of state for science, became a well-examined specimen after first refusing to say whether he believes in evolution, then saying he does—but giving a strangely unscientific explanation of it all.

    First, CBC News asked scientists to comment on Goodyear’s belated statement that he does believe in the theory of evolution. Among them was SFU biologist Elizabeth Elle, who wondered if Goodyear really understands it. 

    Of his unscientific remarks on the subject, she said: "I think it demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of how evolution by natural selection works.” She added: “To the extent that his portfolio includes anything biological, he should understand it.” Maclean’s Online picked up the story, too.

    Then Arne Mooers, SFU evolutionary biologist, followed up with a co-authored guest column in the Globe and Mail, saying the same thing:

    “Evolution . . . is integral to much that Mr. Goodyear must take an interest in. Does he get it? If he really doesn't, he won't be alone—a sizable minority of Canadians and a few MPs still don't understand what evolution is and how it works. But, unlike most of us, Mr. Goodyear is responsible for a large science budget and is making important decisions about science and its role in our future.”

    As well, SFU geneticist Willie Davidson spoke to the Georgia Straight on the Goodyear issue.

NATIONAL MEDIA

  • The Edmonton Journal spoke to SFU’s Shauna Sylvester about the new report from her SFU-based Canada’s World project. It sets out a global vision for Canada, following a unique three-year citizen consultation on foreign policy. (See it at:  http://www.canadasworld.ca/)

    Among other things, Sylvester said: "We used to be a leader in developing communications technology, but we've lost that lead. Canadians want to be a world leader in innovation again and we could do it in green technology."

    Canwest News Service moved the story across the country.
  • Meanwhile, the Ottawa Citizen carried a guest column that called the Canada’s world report “provocative”, Sylvester “spirited” and continued:

    “Not everything works here, though the dialogue makes some useful and innovative suggestions. But the idea was to turn to ordinary Canadians—not the experts—and ask them to create a new narrative for our foreign policy. They did. . . . Thankfully, Canadians are running ahead of their government in imagining Canada in the world. They aren't prepared to wait any longer for the country that dares not raise its voice.”
  • Listeners asked the Quirks and Quarks show on CBC Radio why so many people in their Q&Q interviews begin their answer with "So . . ." Host Bob McDonald asked Maite Taboada, associate prof in SFU Linguistics. “So ” she said, is a "discourse marker" that can be thrown in to a conversation to indicate a change of subject. Or in the case of Q&Q interviews, "I think what they're doing is they're starting an answer and they're telling you it's going to be a little long-winded." 

    Taboada said she had tried hard not to begin her answer to McDonald with "So". But in fact she did begin it this way: "So . . . it looks like they are starting a new topic . . . " (MP3 audio at http://www.cbc.ca/quirks/media/2008-2009/mp3/qq-2009-03-07_06.mp3)
  • The Globe and Mail did a story, stemming from an SFU news release, on how SFU psychology researchers are hoping to learn more about how women’s memories may be affected during pregnancy and the role that hormones may play.  Closer to home, the Tri-City News also did a story.
  • The Globe and Mail also featured Gregory Henriquez, the architect behind the Woodward’s redevelopment project in Vancouver that will include SFU Contemporary Arts. Said Henriquez: “There's going to be thousands of people there every day. There's SFU, which is going to have five performance venues and five practice venues and a thousand kids on-site every day. . . . As a single project, its diversity is unparalleled. It's a huge social experiment and it's going to be very exciting.”
  • The Barrie (ON) Examiner covered a presentation there by SFU’s forensic entomologist, Gail Anderson. “The best part (of the job) is knowing that something I'm doing is going to help family members hopefully for closure and grieving . . . or we may help to exonerate somebody, so that's phenomenal."  The story also ran in the Orillia Packet & Times.
  • A Canwest News Service feature on workplace stressquoted SFU psychologist Joti Samra, who co-chairs the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Collaborative, a non-profit organization based out of SFU's Vancouver campus.

    Said Samra: “Employees that work in a high-stress environment may experience migraines, malaise, take a lot of sick days, and eventually develop serious mental and physical health conditions.” Co-chair Merv Gilbert added: “Even before the economic downturn, job stress was costing Canadians $16 billion annually.”

BC MEDIA

  • The Surrey-North Delta Leader raised the question of whether TransLink—and its associated gas and property taxes and potential vehicle levy—will expand to Langley and points east in the Fraser Valley.

    TransLink said expansion isn’t on the table right now, but Anthony Perl, director of SFU Urban Studies, said: "We need transportation solutions that go all the way to Abbotsford at least if we're going to deal with environmental sustainability. Sooner or later the necessity to deal with the Lower Mainland as a whole will raise those kinds of issues."
  • Perl was also in a story in the North Shore News that warned residents to brace for traffic snarls during the 2010 Winter Olympics. Perl agreed.

    "Don't expect (the Lions Gate Bridge) to be part of your daily life if you live on the North Shore (and) the Second Narrows Bridge is going to be bumper to bumper during much of that time."
  • BC transportation minister Kevin Falcon’s response to TransLink's call for new funding sources, including a new vehicle levy, was: “Frankly, I'm not at all convinced they require additional (revenue) sources . . . but I will reserve judgment."

    SFU’s City Program director, Gordon Price, told the Surrey-North Delta Leader, though, that BC must quickly declare whether it will seriously entertain TransLink's proposals. "If the provincial government is going to take anything off the table, say it now and save us the angst."  The story also ran in the Tri-City News and the Maple Ridge News.
  • The Vancouver Sun reported on the millions of dollars spent by the parties in the last Vancouver city election, and quoted political science prof Patrick Smith. He referred to BC municipal elections as "the Wild West," with at least four times as much money spent per voter than in provincial and federal elections.
  • In an article on the same subject in the Burnaby NewsLeader, Smithsaid even provincial election officials shake their heads at all the costs candidates incur in a civic election. He said municipal politicians should start pressing provincial ones to change the legislation.
  • The Sun went on to look at the $8 million spent by mayoral and council candidates in the largest Metro Vancouver cities. "I think $8 million is a lot of money to spend on essentially part-time positions," said political science prof Kennedy Stewart. "Most council members are making very little money, and yet there is all this money being spent on elections. It's not to get a good job but it is to be influential, mainly over development in the community."

EDUCATION

  • Maclean’s magazine looked at the debate over universities abandoning letter grades and giving only pass-fail marks. (Proponents say students are more creative and more productive when grades are removed. Stanford, Yale and Berkeley law schools have all recently moved to pass-fail systems.) But among those in the story who disagreed was SFU’s John Jones, associate dean of applied science.

    "Our graduates are going to be going out and doing things that human lives depend on. It's very important that our grading reflects their abilities." Marks are not necessarily the best way to judge the skills and talents of each student, he added, "but we can't build a system on wishful grading."

    Education prof David Kaufman co-authored an article in University Affairs headlined: “Bridging Canada’s two solitudes through research.” Making the “SAGE for Learning” network bilingual meant access to new research and collaborators for researchers anglophone and francophone. (SAGE for Learning, in which SAGE stands for Simulation and Advanced Gaming Environments, encompassed 19 academic researchers, 17 associate researchers, more than 80 students as research assistants, and 34 partner organizations.)
  • The Ottawa Citizen reported that undergraduate students have long been losing interest in Canadian politics, and “enrolment in Canadian politics courses is still dropping at many universities.” The paper noted SFU’s Centre for Canadian Studies (CCS) has no budget for teaching or operating beyond the end of the spring semester.

    CCS director Ian Angus told the Citizen he's not sure students are turning away from Canada. "There is a lot of study of Canada in the regular disciplines as well as in interdisciplinary Canadian Studies programs. It is hard to say whether there is less study of Canada in total."

    Canwest News Service sent the story to clients across Canada.

    The Globe and Mail, in a column mentioning Canadian studies, reported: “A forlorn note on the homepage of the Centre for Canadian Studies at Simon Fraser University announces that the centre has lost its entire budget for the coming academic year. Not a single loonie for an institution that has been around since 1972.”
  • GlobalTVBC carried a feature on summer-job prospects for students. Among those interviewed (in Student Central on the Burnaby campus) was Tony Botelho, associate director of career services. He noted tech openings seem to be down this year, but governments are actively hiring for police, security and corrections jobs.
  • The Globe and Mail reported the recession has tempered the salary expectations of MBA holders who are seeking jobs. The Globe quoted Kirk Hill, executive director of the Career Management Centre in SFU Business, as saying many may need to look at their degrees as a way to provide a company some needed skills that it would welcome in a difficult economy. "The MBA is not a guarantee to a high salary. But it helps open doors."
  • The Vancouver Sun carried an editorial citingArvind Gupta, mathematician and scientific director of the SFU-based MITACS Centre of Excellence (Mathematics of Information Technology and Complex Systems) as one of those math teachers who have “taken it upon themselves to improve the teaching, and the learning, of this uniquely versatile subject.”

    Gupta last week began writing a six-week series for the Sun on the importance and beauty of mathematics. This week, the Windsor Star and the St. John’s Telegram picked up the first of the stories.
  • The Vancouver Sun’s“educateBC” section carried a full page of content on the Masters of Digital Media program at the Great Northern Way campus, a venture of SFU, UBC, BCIT and the Emily Carr U.

    Also this week: The Great Northern Way Campus announced to media the appointments of a new president (Matthew Carter, former v-p of UBC Properties Trust) and a board of directors that includes Pat Hibbitts, SFU's v-p of finance and administration.
  • The Abbotsford-Mission Times featured the Abbotsford school district’s "Spring Break School" in which 32 student teachers from SFU are working with around 180 students from kindergarten to Grade 5. It’s aimed at helping kids who may be falling behind because of missed school.

POLICE BEAT

  • Criminologist Ehor Boyanowsky did a lengthy interview on the Early Edition show on CBC Radio, talking about gang violence on the streets, and the impact that can have on ordinary people going about their lives.

    Among other things, he said, when violence becomes so common it becomes “normalized”—as in: “That’s the way it is.” Then people become “hypervigilant”. They may view any young male driving an expensive SUV as a possible gang member, and stay clear as a result. And that can lead to racial or other stereotyping and profiling, by members of the public and police.
  • The Vancouver Sun reported that judges dealing with gun-crime cases in Surrey will get a “community impact statement” outlining what gunplay has done to the community. SFU criminologist David MacAlister said the impact statement wouldn’t hurt. But, he continued, it could be more helpful to the courts if it outlined the actual costs of guns and gangs to the city, such as the police hours lost, tied up or reallocated from other departments as a result of gang activity.
  • The Globe and Mail examined the string of police agencies, units and task forces that have been set up to tackle gang crime in BC. Rob Gordon, director of SFU Criminology, said it’s a flawed model.

     “I would think that it would be obvious to a Martian anthropologist that this is not the best way of going about dealing with organized crime groups. . . . You (should) create a single organization with the responsibility for dealing with organized crime. That organization is dedicated solely to organized crime-related activities wherever they may occur and whatever they involve."
  • Gordon was also in a national Canadian Press story on the illegal drug trade in BC. “The Lower Mainland area, Metro Vancouver, has become a safe place in which to grow and produce a variety of drugs. It's a combination of our geography, a somewhat more laid-back approach to drugs and drug use, and the proximity to the border, easy export routes primarily to the United States.”

    We saw the story in half a dozen papers, including the Globe and Mail.
  • Maclean’s continued its look at crime statistics in Canada, and reported that the North is “Canada's most violent region.” Wrote the magazine: “The north's violent crime wave, much of it sexual in nature, defies easy explanation. Still, there are clues. For starters, there's simple demographics. ‘Nearly two-thirds of all crime is committed by young men between the ages of 15 and 29,’ says Neil Boyd, a criminologist at Simon Fraser University; 56 per cent of Nunavut residents are under 25 compared with 16 per cent in Canada as a whole.”

ATHLETICS

  • The Langley Times featured Kelsey Horsting, a local member of the national champion Clan women’s basketball team.

    She overcame injuries that limited her to playing only two minutes in her first two seasons with the Clan. “She showed a lot of heart and hard work coming back,” said assistant coach Dani Langford.

    And come back Horsting did: She helped the Clan capture the CIS title with a 68-62 win over the Regina Cougars, scoring 10 points—nearly double her season average of 5.2. "I am still on the high from it right now.”

COMING UP

  • Communication prof Richard Smith is waiting to hear when the Australian Broadcasting Corporation will run a segment for which he was interviewed. It’s for a national radio and podcast show that will look at the provision of internet service for remote and rural areas, which Australia has pledged to improve with billions of dollars in investment. Smith compared the Canadian picture with Australia.
  • The National Geographic Channel is researching for a documentary on the “floating feet” found in BC waters. Researchers have begun making plans for filming with, among others, SFU forensic entomologist Gail Anderson.

 

ALSO in the NEWS

  • The North Shore News featured the award to Evaleen Jaager Roy of West Vancouver of an SFU 2009 Outstanding Alumni Award. Jaager Roy (BBA 1984) is a former vice-president, human resources, global publishing and community, Electronic Arts. “Roy received her award for professional achievement at a gala in Vancouver Feb. 19.”
  • The Richmond News and Richmond Review reported Richmond native Bruce Woodley is one of 16 candidates seeking two spots in NASA's 2009 astronaut program. The paper noted that Woodley, a consultant engineer, has a degree in engineering physics from SFU (1993). He lives in Palo Alto CA. The Globe and Mail also quoted him in a story about NASA’s recruitment.
  • The Globe and Mail looked at the possibility that Kash Heed, who recently resigned as West Vancouver’s police chief, will be running for the Liberals in the May 12 provincial election. The Globe noted he has a master's degree from SFU Criminology and is an adjunct prof there.
  • The Surrey-North Delta Leader reported Jeannie Kanakos was acclaimed as the Liberal candidate in Delta-North in the provincial election. The paper noted the former Delta councillor holds a master's degree from SFU. Burnaby Now reported G. Bruce Friesen will run for the BC Green party in Burnaby-Deer Lake. The retired business consultant has an MBA from SFU (1985).
  • The Kelowna Capital News reported the death of Juergen Hansen, 80, of Summerland BC, international plant pathologist and consultant, garden columnist and former adjunct prof at SFU.

 

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