SFU PEOPLE IN THE NEWS - July 17, 2009

July 17, 2009

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A look at how Simon Fraser University and its people made news: July 10-17, 2009

A column in The Vancouver Sun on exam-cheats led to local and national media coverage. It told how SFU has seen everything from cheat sheets stashed in toilet tanks to crib notes on a student’s underpants—and what the university has done about it.
And an SFU news release won coverage during the week for three SFU computing scientists who have developed colour-screen technology that could make batteries last longer in mobile devices.
More on these below.


  • Switzerland-based picked up a news release from SFU: “Three Simon Fraser University computing scientists have developed colour-screen technology that promises to slash the power usage of battery-driven mobile devices by up to 40 per cent. Johnson Chuang, Torsten Möller and Daniel Weiskopf are the first worldwide to develop a set of energy-saving screen colours for devices (such as cell phones) that use organic light-emitting diode screens.”
    OmniTV reporter/anchor Carol Wang interviewed lead inventor Chuang, and interviewed Carol Thorbes of SFU’s office of Public Affairs and Media Relations (PAMR) about the academic benefits about such inventions.
    Said Thorbes: “The work by Johnson and his supervisors Torsten Möller and Daniel Weiskopf is a classic example of how SFU researchers are using theory in fields like computing science, engineering, molecular biochemistry and math to create new practical devices and processes that advance electronics and medicine in society." The story ran several times on Omni’s Mandarin and Cantonese news programs.
    Epoch Times carried a story and colour photo of Chuang as the top story on its city page, and posted it on the web. The Vancouver Sun, CFAX Radio in Victoria and Radio AM1150 in Kelowna also interviewed Chuang.
  • CBS News carried an Associated Press analysis: “War: Is it getting more hellish, or less?” It quoted Andrew Mack, director of the Human Security Report Project at SFU.  He said he believes battle deaths and indirect civilian deaths are both on the decline.
    “Mack says both battle deaths and indirect civilian casualties are shrinking because ‘their major drivers, the number and deadliness of wars, have both shrunk. Plus—and this is critical—humanitarian assistance per displaced person has increased fivefold since the end of the Cold War, and become more cost-effective.’"
    We also saw the story on a number of websites and blogs, in the Guardian (UK), China Post (Taiwan), Taiwan Online, Taiwan News, and the Kuwait Times. It was also in and on a string of U.S. newspapers and broadcast outlets from Seattle to Shreveport, and including Newsday.
  • As well, ran an article by Mack, with this intro: “Behind the modest progress in arms-reduction agreed by Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev is a larger trend towards a world without nuclear weapons, says Andrew Mack.” The piece had run earlier on
  • The main U.S. edition of Epoch Times told readers: “Thanks to President Barack Obama’s push to pass comprehensive healthcare legislation this year, Canada’s health system has been taking a severe licking south of the border.” The story quoted Steven Lewis, health policy analyst and an adjunct prof in SFU Health Sciences:
    “Canadians are very devoted to the principles of medicare. When we wait longer than we think we should, people are a bit unhappy, but overall, people who use the system have a very positive response—typically 80 to 90 percent approval ratings for the system for people who’ve used a lot of health care in the previous years. So I think it’s patently untrue to say that we’re unhappy with our system.”
  • reported on a Hungarian researcher’s suggestion that a genetic mutation linked to psychosis and schizophrenia also influences creativity. (Think Salvador Dali.)  But added:
    Bernard Crespi, a behavioural geneticist at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, is holding his applause for now. ‘This is a very interesting study with remarkably strong results, though it must be replicated in an independent population before the results can be accepted with confidence,’ he says.”


  • The Financial Post section of National Post carried a feature on viral marketing and the success of viral campaigns that take off and reach millions. So, how does one make such a campaign work?
    “‘If we knew how to do it, it wouldn't be viral marketing," says Leyland Pitt, professor of commerce at Simon Fraser University. ‘It tends to rely on someone with really creative insight. And sometimes it just works without us knowing how. It can be incredibly effective. But can I tell you how to do it? There are some principles that seem to be apparent, but the answer is, no, not really.’"
    In a sidebar story, Pitt said that if a business can use the internet to reach out to a few hundred people, and get half a dozen serious customers, that's good use of the web. "If you're a small business especially, you need to understand how the social networks work. If you can understand that you can make them work for you."
  • The Financial Post also looked at “a horrible year for Canadian workers”, marked by cutbacks, frozen wages, rolled back benefits, and layoffs. It quoted Mark Leier, director of SFU’s Centre for Labour Studies, as saying unions and workers now may push for pension improvements, or increased employment insurance.
    “But he claims that ‘waves of militancy’ from workers are very possible. ‘We may see things like wildcat strikes, or even strikes where there's no union involved where people just say, ‘Forget it, we're going out unless you give us a better deal,’ he says.’”


  • Communication prof Richard Smith appeared on the BC Almanac show on CBC Radio, talking about the ruling by Canada's privacy commissioner that Facebook has “serious” privacy gaps under Canadian law—and has 30 days in which to come up with solutions.
    Says Smith: ““Social networkers are only beginning to realize that it’s not as easy to get your private face off Facebook as it is to get it on there. The Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s recommendation could help remedy this, but it remains to be seen whether keeping 12 million Canadian users, only 5 per cent of its customers, happy is enough to motivate Facebook to make changes.”
  • The Georgia Straight looked at a study of pedestrian injuries in Vancouver that identified 32 hot spots in the city. It marked the Downtown Eastside as the most dangerous part of the city for pedestrians, accounting for nine of the hot spots and 10 percent of the injuries.
    “’We noticed that pedestrian injury is certainly not random,’ principal author and SFU assistant geography professor Nadine Schuurman told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. ‘We’re interested in what the environmental correlates were. There’s very little work done on the influence of the built urban environment on rates of injury’.”  (Story and map.)
  • The Vancouver Sun’s Fazil Mihlar, editor of the editorial page, wrote about Prime Minister Harper’s remark that “I don't believe that any taxes are good taxes.” Mihlar cited Canadian tax experts Jonathan Kesselman of SFU and Jack Mintz of the University of Calgary “who maintain that Canada's mix of taxes is inefficient and doesn't help Canada.”
  • A CBC story on the new bike lanes on Vancouver’s Burrard Bridge quoted Gordon Price, director of the SFU City Program and a former Vancouver city councillor:
    "This has been much better thought out. There has been a lot of messaging. People are more prepared. I think just as important though, the culture has changed. Even just with the Olympics coming up, the changes that have occurred to traffic patterns already, this kind of fits into the bigger picture.”
  • Price was also mentioned in a column in The Vancouver Sun by Michael Geller, former president and CEO of SFU Community Trust and an adjunct prof at SFU’s Centre for Sustainable Community Development. Geller compared housing initiatives in Vancouver and Seattle.
  •, a BC news and commentary website, looked at Canada’s food labelling laws, and found them little help. Among other things, it noted: “Up to $9 billion per year are spent dealing with respiratory diseases, cardiovascular illness, congenital affliction and cancer associated with mostly preventable adverse environmental exposures. That's the finding of a 2007 study entitled The Environmental Burden of Disease in Canada, produced by Simon Fraser University.”


  • The news that SFU is joining the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) ran on well over 150 sports pages and sports shows and a bevy of blogs from Alaska to Alabama, from TSN to the Toronto Star, and from Nanaimo to Newfoundland.
    David Murphy, senior director of SFU Athletics, was flooded with calls. The As it Happens show on CBC Radio introduced the story with “Brain drain, meet brawn drain” and did a phone interview with Murphy. Maclean’s OnCampus ran SFU’s news release.
    The Vancouver Sun wrote: “Somewhere Dr. Gordon Shrum must be smiling. The first Chancellor of Simon Fraser University  . . . got a little carried away when, at the school's founding in 1965, he famously predicted that one day the SFU football team would challenge for the Rose Bowl. Given the realities of big-time U.S. college football, that's never going to happen. But Dr. Shrum would doubtlessly have been delighted Friday when the announcement came out of Indianapolis that SFU has been accepted as the first non-U.S. school in the 99-year history of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).”
  • Daniel Igali, Olympic gold wrestling medallist and SFU grad student, threw out the first pitch at a Vancouver Canadians baseball game in Vancouver July 12. Igali is working on his degree in criminology at SFU.


  • The Surrey-North Delta Leader reported that the BC government is preparing to create a new regional police force to fight the spread of organized crime, and quoted Rob Gordon, director of SFU Criminology, as saying it’s long overdue, and "This should not be the end of it."
    The Leader said Victoria will merge the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit-British Columbia (CFSEU-BC), the Integrated Gang Task Force (IGTF) and the Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Unit. But the plan does not include the regional Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT), in part because the Vancouver Police Department is not in it.
  • looked at BC’s drug trade and gang wars, and noted how Canadian authorities are happy if smugglers are captured in the U.S., where they face a less bureaucratic justice system and longer stretches in jail. "’In these regional operations, the tendency has been for the offenders to be arrested, charged and processed in the United States, not Canada,’ said Robert Gordon, director of the School of Criminology at the Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. ‘That's an indictment of how we are handling this.’"
  • The Victoria Times Colonist reported violent crimes there have increased in the last two years. The story quoted Benedikt Fischer, criminologist and public health researcher in SFU Health Sciences. He said socio-economic factors—such as the level of support services for people with addictions—play a big role in the level of crime in the city.
  • Criminologist Neil Boyd was on CBC Radio talking about bomb-threat letters sent to the Dawson Creek Daily News that purport to be from someone connected to a series of bombings targeting EnCana’s natural gas operations in that region. Boyd said the threats of further bombings must be taken seriously.


  • Vancouver Sun columnist Pete McMartin looked at SFU’s new FD grade (Failed for Academic Dishonesty) and wrote about how SFU has, over the years, seen everything from cheat sheets stashed in toilet tanks to crib notes written on a student’s underpants.
    McMartin interviewed Rob Gordon, director of SFU Criminology and chair of SFU’s Senate Committee on Academic Integrity in Student Learning and Evaluation.
    “In a technological update of the cheat note hidden in the palm of the hand, Gordon said, they've caught students hiding iPhones up their sleeves, and then, with their cheat notes written on the iPhone's Notebook setting, sliding them down into their hands as needed. In response, the school banned all cellphones and Internet-capable devices in exam halls.”
    And there’s more in the column, at
    It all led to Gordon being called for a string of radio interviews. On the national As it Happens show on CBC Radio, host Helen Mann told Gordon: “I give you a passing grade for the interview.”
    Gordon was also on CFAX Radio in Victoria, and CKWX News1130 and 1040AM in Vancouver. The Victoria Times Colonist, Nanaimo Daily News and also ran the Sun column, by way of Canwest News Service.
  • Burnaby Now reported: “The new elementary school on Burnaby Mountain is one step closer to reality now that the school board and Simon Fraser University have signed a lease agreement, and site work is already underway. The land belongs to SFU, but the school district will lease it for 99 years. The school, which hasn't been named yet, is scheduled to open in 2010 and will accommodate 40 kindergarten and 275 elementary students by 2012.”
  • Anthony Gurr, a videogame developer who is studying educational technology at SFU, wrote in University Affairs that education profs encourage students to use computers and the Internet, but not all profs “walk the talk” when it comes to incorporating information technologies into their teaching.
    “Faculty need to incorporate the web into their instruction. They need to learn how to collaborate using a wiki. They need to know how to design informative visual presentations that are meaningful to students. They need to use VoIP software to promote accessible communication. They need to demonstrate how to use online research databases and apply good research practices.”
  • CFAX Radio in Victoria interviewed education prof Mark Fettes. This on the week’s international conference at SFU Vancouver of the Imaginative Research Education (IERG). Fettes is an IERG member.


  • SFU told media how researcher Andrew Park is using videogame technology to study how people react to crime and fear in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and other troubled neighbourhoods.
    Park is a research associate at SFU’s Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies. He creates his virtual environments by taking digital photos, manipulating them in Photoshop and then mapping them onto 3-D models created in an inexpensive game-development program. Research participants navigate through the virtual environment using a Nintendo Wii controller and balance board.

ALSO in the NEWS

  • The Vancouver Courier reported: “For Simon Fraser University graduate Wahiba Chair, entering an Arab reality TV show was the ticket she needed to jumpstart her own business. Chair, 26, recently returned to Vancouver $10,000 US richer after a three-month stint on Stars of Science, a show based in Doha, Qatar, that places entrepreneurs in a competition to invent and develop products.”
    On the Early Edition show on CBC Radio, Chair, an MBA grad, described Stars of Science as a blend of Big Brother and The Apprentice. On it, she developed “CarrotLines”, a mobile application that helps shoppers choose products that meet their needs and wants.
    In the Courier, Chair thanked her SFU profs and mentors. Quoted were Kirk Hill, executive director of the career management centre at SFU Business and Ian Hand, entrepreneurship lecturer.
  • The federal government announced to media the establishment of an Indian Residential School Survivor Committee, as part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Members include Kukdookaa Terri Brown. She’s a former president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, a survivor of the Indian Residential School system, and got a BA from SFU in 1989.


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