SFU PEOPLE IN THE NEWS - April 9, 2009

April 9, 2009

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A look at how Simon Fraser University and its people made news: April 3-9, 2009
Last year, Bernard Crespi co-authored a theory on autism and schizophrenia that generated headlines such “SFU biologist’s theory called one of greatest since Freud’s”.
Now, reports, Crespi has come up with another idea for how the two disorders might be linked. More on this below.
Also below, how the apparently random murder of a woman in Vancouver put SFU crime experts back into front-page news: Rob Gordon, Neil Boyd and Stephen Hart.


  • Last year, evolutionary biologist Bernard Crespi set geneticists humming with a co-authored proposition that autism and schizophrenia result from an evolutionary tug of war between the genes inherited from each parent.
    Media coverage around the world included the front-page headline “SFU biologist’s theory called one of greatest since Freud’s”.
    Now, reports, Crespi has another idea for how the two disorders might be linked. “In his talk (at a colloquium on Evolution in Health and Medicine in Washington DC this week) he suggested that structural changes in a specific set of brain-related genes lead to either autism or schizophrenia.” 
    His examination of 18 studies led him to say: "I was astonished by just how strong (the effect) was. I didn't expect the results to come out so cleanly because it's not something you expect genetic data to do for you."
    One implication is that children with early symptoms of schizophrenia might be being misdiagnosed as autistic, and vice versa.
  • Public policy prof Doug McArthur is a member of the Globe and Mails Globe Roundtable. This week, among other things, he wondered how the federal government could let the forest industry in BC collapse but propose to bail out the auto industry. “I think this industry is a loser.  And I think, you know, really I don't think the government's going to be able to save it.” The full podcast:
  • Shauna Sylvester of the SFU-based Canada’s World project appeared on the current affairs program The Agenda on TVOntario, that province’s public educational channel.  The subject: “Engaged but ignored: how Canada can grab the world's attention.” The 34-minute video is online at:
  • Dianne Cyr, associate professor of Management Information Systems at the Surrey campus, wrote a guest column in the Financial Post section of National Post looking at how men and women respond differently to e-commerce websites and online shopping, and how websites do (or don’t) affect consumer loyalty.
    “In particular, online vendors that cater to women may have better outcomes if they are able to convey a sense of warmth and sociability on their Web sites.” Men also like such sociable websites—but don’t develop the same degree of  loyalty.
  • Another writer’s guest column in National Post examined some of the “unexpected consequences” companies have encountered after implementing layoffs to save money. Among them:
    Christopher Zatzick and Roderick Iverson of Simon Fraser University report that layoffs in ‘high-involvement workplaces’ can be a lot more damaging to the company than in the average company, because they are viewed as a violation of the psychological contract between the company and its employees, resulting in a decrease of trust and more stress, which in turn negatively affect productivity.”
  • The Globe and Mail carried an item on how biology prof Felix Breden and doctoral student Kristen Fay Gorman have discovered the first animal model for studying idiopathic scoliosis. They have found that the guppy, a colourful tropical fish, is the perfect model for studying a genetic spine-bending disease that plagues mostly young girls.
  •’s science site (“News for Nerds”) featured kinesiologist Andy Hoffer’s Neurostep—a device that dramatically improves the walking gait of people with disabilities such as hemiplegia and footdrop. It will soon be on the market in Europe.


  • Energy prof Mark Jaccard was on the Bill Good show on CKNW.  This after speaking—and getting a standing ovation—at a PowerUP Canada forum in Vancouver on building a green economy in BC. His message on CKNW: “We have to price greenhouse gas emissions. . . Both a carbon tax or cap-and-trade would do that. Let’s go to the cap-and-trade and make it work.”
    The Vancouver Sun quoted Jaccard as saying at the forum there's nothing unique about BC’s  adoption of private-sector development of new electricity resources.
    "The development of small-scale renewables around the planet has been done almost entirely by private companies taking risk—independent power producers. This has happened in left-wing jurisdictions and right-wing jurisdictions. It's happened where people really believe in public ownership of their energy system, like Quebec, or Manitoba with an NDP government, and it has happened in much more right-wing areas as well."
  • The Kamloops Daily News reported members of the Shuswap Nation were standing watch over a spot where human remains estimated to be 2,500 years old were found—directly in the path of a highway-widening project. SFU archaeologist George Nicholas was quoted as saying such finds can “provide us with the opportunity to learn.” But, he continued: “There are situations where it's hands-off and we have to respect that."
  • Amy Lee, SFU international co-op coordinator, was interviewed by CHMB AM1320 during a special segment on how to turn around the global recession. Two co-op students, Sharon Lam and Amy Chu, were also interviewed.  SFU Co-op is running a special media campaign on CHMB, in both Cantonese and Mandarin.
  • The Tri-City News reported that Charmaine Dean, prof of statistics and actuarial science, has been nominated for a YWCA Women of Distinction Award, in the technology, science and Industry category. Winners will be announced June 3.
  • The Province told readers that cars are more likely to hit a pedestrian in the Downtown Eastside than anywhere else in Vancouver. “A recent study led by Simon Fraser University assistant geography professor Nadine Schuurman and Dr. Morad Hameed, a trauma surgeon at the University of B.C. . . . found the Downtown Eastside had the two highest-ranked pedestrian-injury hot-spots in the entire city.”
  • The Globe and Mail did a BC-election story on how traffic, congestion, tolls and transit are top-of-mind in Fraser Valley ridings. Among those quoted was SFU physics student John Buker, who in 2007 founded Rail for the Valley, a group that lobbies for light rail on existing railway tracks. He’d like to see it on the new Port Mann Bridge as it opens.  "People in the valley would love to have this alternative because traffic can be a nightmare.”
  • The Surrey-North Delta Leader carried an action photo, with this beneath it: “SFU Surrey Mechatronics Systems engineering department head Dr. Farid Golnaraghi (right) gets a pie in the face from Dr. Siamak Arzanpour during a recent university fundraising event for Engineers Without Borders' SFU chapter. The event raised $360.”


  • The Burnaby NewsLeader reported Burnaby council has approved a grant of $10,000 to SFU’s Learning and Instructional Development Centre (LIDC) for creation of an education resource about the history of the Fraser River.
    Among other things, LIDC will create a media-rich website for use by BC schools that can be used in conjunction with LIDC’s much-praised 2008 documentary The Fraser River Journey: 200 Years of Discovery.
  • The Associated Press of Pakistan reported that Aga Khan University (AKU)—in collaboration with SFU—will offer 12‑day intensive courses on Muslim cultures in London starting July 20. “It is ideal for those seeking a short but comprehensive introduction to multi faceted nature of Muslim cultures.” (The program is from SFU’s Centre for the Comparative Study of Muslim Societies and Cultures. It offered the summer program with AKU at SFU last year. Four SFU faculty members, including Centre director Derryl MacLean, will be participating this summer, and the aim is to have it back at SFU next year.)
  • The Globe and Mail followed other media in reporting that fewer choices for undergraduates, and larger classes in September, are shaping up as an impact of the financial squeeze on higher education. It quoted Ian Angus, director of the Centre for Canadian Studies at SFU.
    Wrote the Globe: “Simon Fraser University has seen his program's modest teaching budget eliminated, which will make it impossible for it to offer courses next fall and will force it to close. ‘It's a big mistake,’ he said of this trend. ‘Programs are in danger because traditional and large departments have so much influence.’"


  • The Vancouver Courier quoted architect Gregory Henriquez as saying the performance theatre in the new home of the School for the Contemporary Arts at Woodward’s will be one of the most significant arts facilities to be built in Canada in recent years.
    And in the same story, Martin Gotfrit, director of SFU Contemporary Arts, said: "We're going to be in a neighbourhood for the first time, and we're excited to have neighbours and being able to interact with the community in a more direct way."
  • South Asian Post reported SFU Surrey co-hosted April 9 an annual Vaisakhi Gala Event showcasing South Asian art, entertainment and food. (Vaisakhi is an ancient festival in Punjab, marking the beginning of a new solar year and new harvest season.)
  • The Epoch Times interviewed Lesley Cormack, dean of arts and social sciences, following a performance of Shen Yun Performing Arts at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. “It reminded us again that China is not just one culture, but many cultures. And I think that’s a very important message for us to have as well.”
    Also interviewed after the Chinese dance and music show: Richard Lipsey, prof emeritus of economics, and Ron Baker, the first academic planner at SFU and later first president of the University of PEI.
  • Canada’s Quill and Quire magazine reported: “A six-week research project mounted by students from Simon Fraser University’s Master of Publishing Program has been spun into a real online service aimed at publishing industry professionals.”
    That’s BookProm, at The founders are  Master of Publishing students Crissy Campbell, Susan Maithya, Lara Smith, Jo Snyder, Shirarose Wilensky and Heather MacLean.
  • BC Bookworld reported that the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing, based at the Vancouver campus, has published Managing the Publishing Process, by Ralph Hancox, adjunct prof and professional fellow emeritus.
  • The Chicago Books Examiner interviewed Jes Battis, author of the occult-science fiction novel Night Child and its sequel, A Flash of Hex, which is to be released May 26. Battis has a PhD in English from SFU.
  • The Vancouver Art Gallery told media that Vancouver artist Kathy Slade is one of two 2009 recipients of the VIVA Award for visual arts. The $12,000 awards celebrate achievement by BC artists in mid-career. The news release noted Slade graduated from SFU in 1990.


  • As 75 police officers hunted for the killer of Wendy Ladner-Beaudry in Vancouver’s Pacific Spirit Park, The Vancouver Sun quoted Rob Gordon, director of SFU Criminology, as saying random murders are "very difficult" to solve, because the only source of clues is what the killer left behind.
    “The scene itself and the body are the primary sources of information. The offender and the victim came together and left a trail of evidence behind them."
    "Fortunately,” said Gordon, random killings by strangers are “relatively rare cases. Most murders are committed by people who know the victim."
    Criminologist Neil Boyd, who interviewed dozens of killers for a 1988 book, The Last Dance: Murder in Canada, said: "Of all the people I interviewed, that category [murder by a stranger] was the most disturbing. Those cases left you unnerved because the motivation is incomprehensible." He added: "There's some very disturbed people out there.
    Forensic psychologist Stephen Hart also was quoted by the Sun as speculating that the murder could have stemmed from an "irrational attack by a person with mental health problems." Hart also said  that if there was evidence the attack was sexually motivated, police would be “checking all the registries of known sex offenders."
    The Victoria Times Colonist picked up this story. And Hart was also featured in a story on GlobalTV.
  • The latest shooting in gangland (47 gun-attacks since late January, with 21 dead) meant Gordon was featured in numerous news stories in Canada.
    Gordon and criminologist Ehor Boyanowsky were in a story in Britain’s The Independent (circulation 250,000), which spoke to them at the point when there had been 44 shootings and 18 deaths.  The lurid headline: “From heaven to hell: 18 die as drugs war rages on the streets of Vancouver.”
    The fact that The Independent carried a story made headlines in BC and Canadian media. The Globe and Mail, for one, quoted Gordon as saying it doesn’t reflect well on Canada’s Olympic city: “It's a black eye; as big a black eye as Tasering people at the airport. . . . I wouldn't be at all surprised if others don't pick up [the story] or mark it for further follow-up.”
    Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson called the story “a bit of a cheap shot”, but SFU marketing prof Lindsay Meredith told CTV News: "Reality doesn't matter a damn, perception is everything. This kind of coverage can blow away a lot of very hard work in advertising, in developing those overseas connections, in presenting Vancouver as a brand that is a very desirable end market."
  • In The Independent’s story, Gordon addressed the question of legalization and regulation of marijuana. “The international politics are unbelievable. The DEA (US Drug Enforcement Administration) starts to foam at the mouth at the idea of there being a huge, legal marijuana farm just north of the border. Under George Bush, the consensus was that if Canada ever moved to exercise its economic sovereignty, they would shut the border down by searching every vehicle."
    Boyanowsky said arrests don’t end the killing spree. "All you do is create vacancies as you put people in jail. Suddenly there's an opportunity."
  • That was a theme echoed by Gordon in a national newsfeature by The Canadian Press. He said arrests and murder charges against BC gang members could result in more violence as other gangs fight to grab the criminal market share of those arrested. We saw this story in and on 40 media outlets across the country.
    Gordon was also on CBC Radio News, CTV and CKNW on the same theme: “I anticipate that there will be some more shootings. I don't think that this is over by any means. And these will all be related to the struggles going on within that industry to try to get more market share.”
    (And right he was; the count increased the next day to 46 shootings, 20 of them fatal.)
    Gordon was also in the Surrey-North Delta Leader saying arrests in a Surrey gang-slaughter are a high-profile coup for police—but "if people think that this is in some way going to affect organized crime operations in this province then they're sadly mistaken; it is by no means over." The North Shore Outlook, New Westminster NewsLeader and Tri-City News picked up the story.
  • Speaking about a different case, criminologist Neil Boyd was in a Province story reporting that a gang member charged with murdering a Vancouver youth worker more than five years ago was arrested with the help of a DNA sample taken after a Toronto-area drug bust. Boyd said of the national DNA databank: “It's extremely useful and has led to some important convictions.”
  • And with a different professional take on gang issues, public policy prof Kennedy Stewart told The Province the Liberals and NDP will try to outdo each other on the gang issue—without offering up anything radical. "There hasn't been any thought about systemic change. It's a bit of head-in-the-sand for both parties. We are going to wake up after the election with the same problem, and no really new solution."


  • SFU Athletics filled in media on the results of the 2009 SFU Open track and field event, hosted at SFU Burnaby.
    On the men’s side, Clan distance specialist Ryan Brockerville won the 1500m in a time of 3:58.69, a half-second ahead of UBC’s Jordan Smith. SFU sophomore Andrew Boss won the 200m in a photo-finish over UBC’s Andrew Nathan. In the triple jump, SFU’s Sviatoslav Moldavanov claimed top prize with a jump of 13.39m. On the women’s side, SFU’s lone first-place finish came from senior Heather Mancell in the 1500m.
  • Newfoundland’s Southern Gazette newspaper ran a front-page photo of Brockerville, and word that he had been awarded a $5,000 Newfoundland and Labrador athletic scholarship. The paper is based in Brockerville’s hometown of Marystown in the  Burin Peninsula.
  • McLean and head coach Brit Townsend announced to media that the track and field program has recruited Kaitlin Nelson from Belmont Secondary School, Victoria, for the fall. Nelson, a star 400m runner, is expected to compete in cross-country and middle-distance events.
  • The Seattle University RedHawks swept the SFU Clan in a softball doubleheader, 7-4 and 7-5, but The Vancouver Sun put the losses in context, under the headline: “Clan humbled by NCAA's elite”. The Sun continued:
    “SFU is seeking membership at the second level of NCAA play—Division 2—while Seattle University is a Division 1 school. The message is clear: These aren’t your Iowa Wesleyans or Chaminade University any longer. Seattle U is the third NCAA Division 1 school the softball Clan have tackled this season and the team is 0-5 against those top institutions.”
    The defeats dropped SFU to 16-9 on the season. SFU Athletics posted a video at:
  • The Vancouver Sun picked up a news release from Athletics, reporting that the Clan men’s soccer program, in partnership with the Burnaby School District, will launch a soccer Sport Academy in the fall.
  • The Vancouver Sun also reported that Clan wrestler Arjan Bhullar was named SFU’s male athlete of the year after becoming the first Clan athlete to win both a CIS and NAIA national title in the same season. And Robyn Buna, a guard on SFU's national champion women's basketball team, was named female athlete of the year.


  • SFU sent background details to media after the federal government announced that Neil Branda and Byron Gates, Canada research chairs and material scientists, are receiving $884,106 from Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) to enhance SFU’s capability for materials design and development at 4D LABS.  It will mean special equipment, the first of its kind in Canada, for 4D LABS’ nanofabrication laboratory.
  • SFU Facilities Management sent background info to media after the BC government and Industry Canada announced funding of $49.4 million for renovation of the chemistry building on the Burnaby campus. It was built in 1965, and now will be brought up to modern—and green—standards.
  • SFU also sent out a release announcing that four SFU research projects will share nearly $1 million in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s Leaders Opportunity Fund. Recipients are geographer Jeremy Venditti;  Michel Leroux, associate professor in molecular biology and biochemistry; Rodney Vaughan in engineering science, and the Audio Video Imaging (AVI) Pre-school Research Centre, a partnership of the Faculty of Education, the SFU Community Trust (UniverCity) and the SFU Childcare Society.
  • SFU Advancement spread word to the media that Gordon and Leslie Diamond are the 2009 recipients of Simon Fraser University’s President’s Distinguished Community Leadership Award, which recognizes people who have made a difference in the community. They will be honoured at a dinner April 29.


  • On CBC Radio on Saturday April 11 at noon (Radio 1 or at an interview on the Quirks and Quarks show with tropical marine ecologist Isabelle Côté. It’s about SFU findings that coral reef degradation in the Caribbean is as much to blame for declining fish populations as overfishing. Côté worked on the study with fish conservation ecologist John Reynolds and marine biology postdoctoral fellows Michelle Paddack and Phil Molloy.


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