SFU PEOPLE IN THE NEWS - December 4, 2009

December 4, 2009

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A look at how Simon Fraser University and its people made news: Nov. 27-Dec. 4, 2009

What had Simon Fraser University in the news this week?
A letter from space . . . one of Canada’s most powerful women . . . a “radical departure from conventional medical thinking” . . . an “important” paper on Afghanistan . . . the question of whether pornography causes harm . . . paralyzed worms . . . charges against a Mountie . . . disappearing fish . . . Chinese tourists . . . students making Christmas brighter for needy kids . . .  and why Christmas songs make some people feel not so merry.
More on all these below.


  • Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk mentioned SFU in a letter on his last day aboard the International Space Station before returning to Earth this week. Media across Canada reproduced this:
    “The most gratifying part of my Station experience has been the onboard research. One of the recent experiments I have operated is from Simon Fraser University. It is a colloidal engineering investigation called BCAT-5. Colloids are suspensions of tiny particles in a fluid, such as paint, ink, and even milk. The goal of BCAT-5 is to better understand the effect of phase separation on crystal growth. What we learn could improve the shelf-life of certain products and refine the manufacturing of plastics.”
    One of the researchers on the ground is SFU Physics chair Barbara Frisken. She led the preparation of three samples of colloidal mixture. The Canadian Space Agency explained: “Using BCAT-5, the scientists hope to perform the first measurements of processes that occur when gas, liquid and crystal phases all form simultaneously from a single homogeneous sample.”
    It added that Thirsk set up a camera to monitor the experiment and transmit images to Earth. “The images will be analyzed by the SFU science team to determine the process of phase separation and crystal growth.”
    Canwest News Service sent a story to clients across Canada. We saw it in The Vancouver Sun, for one.

  • The Globe and Mail was the first to carry a list from the Women's Executive Network of “Canada's Most Powerful Women: Top 100”. BC winners include microbiologist Fiona Brinkman of SFU Molecular Biology and Biochemistry.
    She was chosen in the Trailblazers & Trendsetters category, as was (in 2006) Diane Finegood. (Kinesiology prof Finegood is the founding scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes.)
    Brinkman was then interviewed on the Early Edition show on CBC Radio, and The Vancouver Sun also carried a story. So did the Burnaby Now: “Local woman named on power list; SFU prof studies bacteria, viruses.”
    SFU sent out its own news release on the honour to Brinkman.

  • and the science website were quick to pick up an SFU news release on how new research by evolutionary biologist Bernard Crespi reinforces his theory that autism and schizophrenia are diametric or opposite conditions based on genes. His latest study, Comparative Genomics of Autism and Schizophrenia, was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
    We saw the story on a bevy of blogs, including Then other media followed, including CBC News. The Vancouver Sun, for example, wrote:
    “The finding is a radical departure from conventional medical thinking about the two disorders as separate and distinct illnesses, according to evolutionary biologist Bernard Crespi, but it opens the door to new avenues of research into the cause and potential cure for each.”
    Canwest News Service moved the Sun story across Canada.
    (Crespi a year ago stunned the global scientific community with his theory suggesting that genes passed on from either parent can steer brain development in certain directions. Crespi says the latest work supports the hypothesis that risks of autism and schizophrenia “have evolved in conjunction with the evolution and elaboration of the human social brain.”)

  • A column in National Post cited as “important” a paper by SFU political scientist Anil Hira, released by the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute. Columnist George Jonas wrote in part:
    “The Simon Fraser University scholar's impressive paper—The Strategic Quagmire: Why Nation Building In Afghanistan Is Failing—concludes that ‘using Afghanistan as an example we see that the only logical road to success in nation-building, should we choose to continue it, is long-term occupation.’"
    Hira did interviews with CBC Radio in Vancouver, the Christy Clark show on CKNW, and CFAX Radio in Victoria—just as U.S. President Barack Obama prepared to announce his latest approach to war and politics in Afghanistan.
    Hira said on CKNW: “The flaw in the whole strategy to begin with is that we’re sending soldiers over. We’re using a strategy based on conventional warfare. . . . Do we just think the terrorists will disappear? It’s certainly unlikely.”
    He added that there have been “big benefits” from Canada’s presence in Afghanistan. “But in the long run, if you don’t have a long-term exit strategy . . . all those gains are going to disappear like a sandstorm.”

  • Canadian Geographic magazine ran a feature on the state of salmon runs in the Fraser River. Among those quoted was SFU’s John Reynolds, Tom Buell BC Leadership Chair in Salmon Conservation.  “There’s reasonable knowledge about how many fish spawn from year to tear, but what goes on between the time they leave the rivers and return is really a black box.”

  • A story in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix quoted SFU energy economist Mark Jaccard as saying Saskatchewan needs to put a deterrent cost on emitting greenhouse gases. "Most of the studies show that by the year 2020, people living in Saskatchewan might pay a couple of hundred dollars more per year for energy, but your economy will grow about the same—maybe a little less—but it (the system) wouldn't have a huge impact." And future generations would have a relatively healthy planet. The Regina Leader-Post picked up the story.

  • Canwest News Service distributed a feature on how the year-end holiday season can be stressful. “Ironically, Christmas songs on the radio and TV programs depicting happy families can generate feelings of sadness, says Joti Samra, a psychologist and adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University's faculty of health sciences. ‘We think our lives should be like this,’ she says. ‘In reality, there's no such thing as a perfect family.’" We saw the story as far afield as the Windsor Star.

  • A column in the Edmonton Sun reported on a University of Montreal study that found “porn doesn't turn men into twisted individuals with revolting sexual fetishes.”  The column included this: “Many anti-porn feminists believe that porn degrades all women because it prompts men to objectify women, says Simon Fraser University criminologist Sara Smyth. But no causal link has ever been found between porn and harm, she says. The consensus is that, at most, it's possible porn reinforces some already existing misogyny, she adds.”
    We saw that story in Fort McMurray Today, as well.

  • The Financial Post Business Magazine (in National Post) featured the development of wireless technology in BC, and the ensuing development of a strong wireless cluster centred in Vancouver.  The story noted: “It benefits from academic partnerships with institutions including Simon Fraser University . . . .”


  • Public policy prof Kennedy Stewart wrote a mini-column/blog for The Vancouver Sun, suggesting Prime Minister Harper is using the allegations of torture of prisoners in Afghanistan to throw his closest rival to the wolves, to fortify his own leadership position.
    “Harper's back seat position will enable most of the scandal to stick to (Defence Minister Peter) MacKay and his ministry, not Harper or the government as a whole. By morphing Torturestan from a party problem to a personal problem for MacKay, Harper preserves the Conservative brand and undermines MacKay's future leadership challenge. Watch for a lot more MacKay and a whole lot less of Harper on this one.”

  • The Vancouver Sun quoted Peter Williams, director of SFU’s Centre for Tourism Policy and Research, in its story on China’s recognition of Canada as an “approved destination”.  He said it’ll take time, but BC can expect to receive about 15 per cent more visitors from China; it now gets some 100,000 a year. “It's great news at a time when we needed a boost.”

  • The Prince Rupert Daily News looked at a marine research project to assess the health of Canada's oceans. “Panel expert Randall Peterman, a Professor and Canada Research Chair in Fisheries Risk Assessment and Management, School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University, told the Daily News that the project would not try to answer specific local marine concerns, but look at the oceans in generic terms.”

  • The Burnaby NewsLeader featured prof emerita Thelma Finlayson. She spent eight weeks in hospital with a serious infection, but is looking forward to resuming (at age 95) her routine of advising students at SFU two days a week. “If I can get my legs back, I'll go back and help students again. It's given me a purpose to live." The Bowen Island Undercurrent picked up the story.

  • Surrey Now told readers how SFU students are helping to make Christmas brighter for needy kids. “Przemek Cerazy, Harmeet Cheema, Tanya Hagedorn and Roger Befurt have organized a Kids Toonie Drive to benefit the Surrey Christmas Bureau as part of a project management course. . . . The students set up shop in SFU's lobby at Central City and to date have raised $726.”

  • Political scientist Patrick Smith wrote a guest column in the Burnaby NewsLeader, sniping at BC’s marketing slogan of “The Best Place on Earth”. Wrote Smith: “I was okay with Beautiful British Columbia; and I kind of liked Super, Natural B.C. But the Best Place on Earth just gets up my snout.  . . . Will our YVR greeting signs say, ‘Welcome to Vancouver, B.C, the Best Place on Earth; too bad you don’t live here too.’”

  • Michael Geller, architect, planner, developer and adjunct prof in the SFU Centre for Sustainable Community Development, wrote a guest column in The Vancouver Sun, reviewing various forms of government-assisted housing. He also predicted: “We can also expect more co-housing, which offers different forms of housing with a higher provision of shared amenities, and alternative tenure options, such as life-lease and shared-equity.” Geller was first president and CEO of the SFU Community Trust.


  • The Province quoted criminologist David MacAlister in a story questioning why RCMP Cpl. Benjamin (Monty) Robinson had been charged only with obstruction of justice for his alleged actions after his car collided with a motor cycle, killing Orion Hutchinson, 21.
    The paper quoted MacAlister as wondering why Robinson was not charged with failure to stop at the scene of an accident causing death.
    “The offence carries a maximum penalty of life in prison—the same as impaired driving causing death. It sounded like this charge seems to most closely fit the facts of the case. He did stop and give his driver's license but the section also requires you to provide assistance and based on what I've heard, there isn't any indication he did that."
    In his Vancouver Sun column, Pete McMartin noted MacAlister had been reluctant to answer on radio to answer the question of whether the public might have learned, from Robinson, a way to beat an impaired driving charge.
    “And why, I asked him, did he not want that question asked on air? ‘Because I didn't want the public to get the idea that here was a good way to beat a drinking and driving charge.’ I admired MacAlister for that sense of civic duty.  . . .”

  • Rob Gordon, director of SFU Criminology, was on the Early Edition on CBC Radio and on CTV talking about police accountability. This after SFU told media how the School of Criminology was co-hosting a timely discussion on police accountability, at the Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue in Vancouver. MacAlister was one of the key speakers.

  • Columnist Jon Ferry in The Province, in the wake of the gun-murder of four Washington State police officers, wrote: “Simply passing more laws that target gun use, either here or in the U.S., isn't going to work. . . . As Simon Fraser University business professor emeritus Gary Mauser told me, ‘more laws are only as good as the procedures used to enforce them.’"


SFU Athletics fed media with endless info and statistics as:

  • The Clan men’s soccer team blanked defending champion Bethel (TN) Wildcats 2-0 in the NAIA national championship in Fresno CA. Freshman forward Farhad Abdulgani scored the winner for SFU. The Clan’s second goal came when a Bethel defender, trying to clear the ball, headed it into his own net. Clan goalie Hide Ozawa got the shutout.

  • The team then went on to beat the Embry-Riddle (FL) Eagles 1-0 to advance to the NAIA semifinals. SFU defender Max Baessato scored the winner. And Ozawa got another playoff shutout.

  • (Wrote The Province: “The No. 5-seed Simon Fraser Clan look like the team to beat at the NAIA national men's soccer championships in Fresno. . . . SFU has seven straight shutouts and has outscored its foes 11-0 over that span.”)

  • In their semi-final game, the Clan was to play the Lindsey Wilson (KY) Blue Raiders or the Martin Methodist (TN) RedHawks Friday afternoon (04 Dec.)

  • The No. 1 ranked Clan women’s basketball team defeated the University of the Fraser Valley 95-69, for the Clan's 43rd straight victory since October 2008. Laurelle Weigl scored 25 points, plus 7 rebounds.

  • In earlier games, the Clan women defeated the University of Calgary Dinos 110–73, with Robyn Buna contributing 18 points, and the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns 84-64, with Buna netting 15 points.

  • The Clan men’s basketball crew fell 96-43 to the University of Western Washington in a non-league game in Bellingham. Chris Parades led the Clan with nine points and nine rebounds.

  • Prior to that, the Clan men edged the U of Calgary Dinos 86–82. Clan senior Kevin Shaw scored 20 points.

  • In an earlier home game against Lethbridge, the Clan men lost 87-73 in overtime. Sean Burke notched 14 points for SFU.


  • SFU was prominent in a Globe and Mail online feature on universities that have satellite campuses. It quoted Tom Nesbit, dean of SFU Continuing Studies:
    “By locating a campus in the heart of Vancouver's business and cultural centre, the university has been able to bring a wide variety of educational opportunities to people where they live and work.
    “The downtown campus also acts as a front porch for the University: its programs introduce many adult, online, and non-traditional learners to a university environment, act as a public showcase for the university's teaching and research activities, present SFU's professional and educational expertise to an international community, and create a positive public image of SFU. . . .
    "Some 70,000 people annually attend courses, lectures, seminars, conferences, performances and exhibitions at SFU's downtown Vancouver campus. Most are working adults who find the Burnaby Mountain campus difficult or inconvenient to visit.”

  • The University of BC told media that two new Network Centres of Excellence will be hosted by UBC. One, the GRAND (Graphics, Animation and New meDia) network will be headquartered at the Centre for Digital Media at Great Northern Way Campus, a joint academic collaboration of SFU, UBC, Emily Carr University of Art + Design and BCIT.

  • Coquitlam Now featured theGo Girls! Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds” program, offered as a pilot project in four Tri-Cities schools. One of the mentors is Sandra Hosseini, an SFU kinesiology student. "It's just so fulfilling. To be honest, this is what I look forward to. I totally recommend it to anyone who wants to do volunteering work."

  • The BC Innovation Council told news media about the launch of the BCIC Business Case Library. “The library will be used by post-secondary students, instructors, entrepreneurs and industry professionals to gain knowledge from local companies.” It was developed with expertise from seven BC universities, including SFU.

  • Pamela Coneybeare, a student in SFU’s Undergraduate Semester in Dialogue program, wrote a guest piece for The Vancouver Sun that complained “the course work students accomplish in the Semester in Dialogue is considered peripheral to my Art and Culture Studies degree, and won't substitute for the academic courses required of the program.” Still, she concluded: “Earlier this year, SFU adopted an inspiring new academic vision for 2010-13, exciting to students like myself who have been less than inspired by many aspects of our university experience.”

  • The Vancouver Sun reported the Vancouver board of education has hired Delta schools superintendent Steve Cardwell as its new chief executive officer. “Cardwell, an educator since 1980,  . . . is currently pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership at Simon Fraser University focusing on student engagement in urban secondary schools.”


  • The Georgia Straight ran a “Geek Speak” feature on Gurparm Brar, producer of the iPhone/iTouch videogame “Mr. Singh and Mr. Lee vs. the Martians”. The Straight noted: “Brar isn’t a game developer by trade. In fact, he’s an auditor. Born in Vancouver, the 27-year-old Richmond resident graduated from Simon Fraser University in 2007 with a bachelor of business administration degree.”
  • The Richmond News featured Sandy Scofield, award-winning Métis singer, songwriter, artist and composer. The paper noted she graduated this fall with a BA from SFU. “While at SFU, Scofield says she got interested in choral music and is working on a project to create a Cree choral group. ‘This would be unprecedented to have a native choir.’"


  • The Technology webpage of ABC News got it right: SFU scientist Neil Branda and team are not working on a Star Trek-like phaser gun that can paralyze people. (That’s what one South Asian paper reported last week after a paper co-authored by Branda told of using light to, in effect, turn on and off a chemical in tiny lab worms. This paralyzed and unparalyzed them).  ABC News began with an accurate headline: “Canadian Researchers Use Light to Turn Potential Drugs On, and Then Off.”
    It quoted Branda: “That's the main concept we were trying to prove, the ability to . . . control exactly when and where the drug can be activated in a living organism."
    And then ABC went on to say: “If this technology lives up to its promise, it may someday be possible to flood the body with designer molecules that with a flash of light could activate a drug in a precise area to treat something like cancer, destroy the cancer cells at that site, and then be switched off and thus avoid damaging healthy cells, now one of the major drawbacks of various cancer treatments.”
    The story is at:



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