SFU PEOPLE IN THE NEWS - December 5, 2008

December 5, 2008

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A look at how SFU and its people made news: Nov. 28-Dec. 5, 2008             

As the Federal Follies continued in Ottawa, SFU prof Doug McArthur was all over the airwaves and in print. Also in the media were profs Andrew Heard, Paddy Smith, Mark Pickup, and Kennedy Stewart.
Meanwhile, World AIDS Day gave SFU experts a chance to talk about SFU’s role in HIV/AIDS research. In the news were PhD student Sherri Brown; John O’Neil, dean of health sciences; Jamie Scott, molecular immunologist; and prof Robert Hogg.
And biologist Carl Lowenberger created some media buzz by using mosquitoes to raise money to save lives.
More on these stories below.


  • Public policy prof Doug McArthur was quickly on CBC Radio, live, after Governor General Michaelle Jean granted Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s request to prorogue Parliament.
    He ripped into Harper for his “provocative and in-your-face” performance: “He couldn’t bring himself to say he made a mistake. . . . We’re going to have the same kind of poisonous relationships continuing.”
    As well, McArthur said, the move sets a challenging precedent. “A prime minister could escape accountability to Parliament by suspending it.  . . . I’m sure she (the governor general) was very uncomfortable. She was on the spot.”
    In the end, though, McArthur said: “He (Harper) does have a new chance. I don’t think he can repair the trust, but . . . if he gains some humility . . . he has a new chance, a new opportunity.”
  • McArthur was then in the Financial Post section of National Post: “The Conservatives have put themselves into a corner. The Opposition is going to set a very high bar for this budget. So the government is going to have to eat a lot of crow on what it will put in this budget."
  • CBC Radio reporter Curt Petrovich came up to the Highland Pub on the Burnaby campus to interview students. Sarah Olsen said: “I'm a lot more interested in Canadian politics right now because of this and it just highlights the need for responsible, honest people to get engaged in our political system and try and work with them and fix things like this.”
  • And political scientist Paddy Smith was in The Vancouver Sun, suggesting the coalition could unravel because of dissent among Liberal MPs. “It seems to me that they are more likely to get caught up in their own internal politics. It's the softest piece of this puzzle."

In the lead-up to Thursday’s prorogation:

  • McArthur was on GlobalTV, addressing the question of whether a multi-party coalition could work. It could, he said, if all are agreed it would govern for one to two years, can speak “the same language” on the economy, and as long as the Bloc Québecois understands clearly what it can expect.
    “Two years would be a good time. That'll take us through what people foresee as the period of economic crisis. After that, it'll be time for an election in any event.”
  • McArthur was also in The Vancouver Sun and National Post, saying the principle of regional balance means there would probably be three or four ministers from BC in a coalition cabinet. He said contenders from BC for cabinet positions include Liberal Ujjal Dosanjh and New Democrats Dawn Black and Libby Davies.
  • And McArthur was on CTV, saying of Harper: "He obviously thought he could actually go as far as political stunts as he did with this election financing, thinking he could get away with bullying, he completely misjudged the situation. If the government doesn't fall, would you be surprised? I will be surprised now."
  • Political scientist Andrew Heard was on CBC Radio in Vancouver, St John's, Edmonton, Charlottetown, Yellowknife, Whitehorse, Cape Breton, Quebec City, Calgary, Sudbury and Regina, and on CHQR Radio in Calgary. Plus Fairchild Radio, Omni-TV, CKNW and News1130, and in the Maple Ridge News.
  • Political scientist Mark Pickup was on CBC, saying the economic package promised by the proposed coalition could be crucial to BC’s ailing forestry industry. "One of the major things that's being talked about right now is help for the forestry industry as suggested by the coalition government, which hadn't been suggested would happen under Stephen Harper."
  • McArthur said the same thing on CTV, and in an interview with the Surrey-North Delta Leader. He said a coalition would have to take a middle-of-the-road approach, and predicted it would roll out a faster economic stimulus package, including aid for the auto industry, BC’s forest industry and accelerated infrastructure spending. “I would see these things getting much higher priority than they would under a Harper government."
    The North Shore Outlook, Richmond Review, Maple Ridge News and New Westminster NewsLeader picked up this story.
  • Paddy Smith was on CBC Radio: "By the end of January, we will have the coalition in government. Mr. Harper will be gone. Now, the question is where he's gone. Is he gone to the opposition benches, to rise again, or is he gone because he produced defeat from almost the jaws of victory?”
  • Earlier, in a story in The Province, political scientist Kennedy Stewart said the Tories made a “gigantic” blunder. “The Conservatives really underestimated their opponents. By saying they were going to cut party funding, they backed their opponents into a corner. It got them all talking. They (the Conservatives) didn't discuss the proposals during the election. They left themselves open to the charge they have a hidden agenda."


  • The Canadian Press reported that many symphonies and ballet companies are filling Canadian concert halls despite the faltering economy. But Communication prof Catherine Murray, co-director of SFU’s Centre for Policy Studies on Culture and Communities, said governments need to ensure arts groups are able to survive.
    "Every sector of the economy is going to be affected, and the arts are not immune. We definitely have to take a look at what it would take to sustain them."
    We saw the story in and on a couple of dozen media outlets, including CBC and the Metro newspapers.
  • Andrew Coyne’s Maclean’s magazine blog noted Canada’s crop producers are having a banner year. “Unfortunately, it looks like the boom may be short-lived, says Nicolas Schmitt, associate chair of the department of economics at Simon Fraser University. He says that since the summer, crop prices have fallen by almost as much as oil prices, as the global economic meltdown has cut demand for both fuel and food.”


  • John Harriss of SFU’s International Studies was on CKNW, speaking about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. It was, he agreed, India’s 9/11, “a major hit for the terrorists” with well organized attacks on buildings that had “enormous symbolic significance” in Mumbai’s financial district—akin to the World Trade Centre towers in New York. He said he was hearing from India reports that the killers were from Lashkar-i-Taiba, a terrorist group based in Pakistan that is linked to violence in the disputed Kashmir region.
  • Meanwhile, historian Andre Gerolymatos wrote a guest column in The Vancouver Sun, saying the attack on Mumbai is “the beginning of a tectonic change in the war on terror with the geopolitical centre of gravity shifting from the Middle East to Afghanistan and Pakistan.” He concluded: “A possible war between Pakistan and India will further the aims of the terrorists by contributing to the collapse of Pakistan into a failed state that would surrender power to extreme Islamic leaders . . . ”
  • Marketing prof Lindsay Meredith was quoted at length in a Vancouver Sun story on shopping—a story triggered by the fate of a U.S. Wal-Mart employee who was trampled to death by bargain-crazed "Black Friday" Christmas shoppers. Meredith held out hope for smarter buying and a change in values—towards a psychology of “If you can't pay for it, you can't afford it.”
  • The Epoch Times covered the Lego Climate Connections Challenge, in which teams of nine- to 14-year-olds built Lego robots and programmed them. The event was held Nov. 29 at SFU Surrey. Surrey Now carried a picture, too.
  • Warren Gill, v-p of University Relations, put on his geographer’s robes to talk with The Canadian Press about the idea of turning cruise ships into floating hotels for the 2010 Winter Olympics. He noted it was done for Expo ’86 here and in Seattle for the World’s Fair in 1962. But, he said, with only 15 months until the games, it could be difficult to book any ships. We saw the story in the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star, among others.
  • The Whistler Question reported Whistler is getting Radio-Canada’s French-language Première châine service. The story said it all began with a letter to the editor from Communication prof Bob Anderson in 1999.


  • The Vancouver Sun featured PHD student Sherri Brown and her research in Africa on how anti-retroviral drugs are being distributed to the millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa infected with HIV/AIDS.
    She saw dying children in Lesotho. “To see this and to know that the reason this child is failing and is going to pass away is [that] someone didn't have $4 for a taxi ride (to get to treatment). . . . It's still an overwhelming issue that needs to be addressed by supporting countries.”
  • Then Citytv headed up Burnaby Mountain to do some early-morning hits, on its Breakfast TV show, at World AIDS Day events on campus on Dec. 1. Featured, broadcasting live, were John O’Neil, dean of SFU Health Sciences, and Jamie Scott, molecular immunologist and physician, who hopes to create a vaccine to protect people from AIDS.
  • Several blogs around the world circulated last week’s announcement that health sciences professor Robert Hogg will head Canada’s first nation-wide HIV/AIDS antiretroviral research network. The Canadian Observational Cohort (CANOC) will study the effectiveness of antiretroviral therapy for HIV/AIDS treatment.
  • Hogg was also pursued for interviews by the BC Almanac show on CBC Radio, and by the Aboriginal People's TV Network.
  • Burnaby Now did a story on the Dec. 1 campus event, quoting organizers Oghenowede Eyawo and Adam King, grad students in Health Sciences.


  • Genome Research published a report on research—by an international team that included molecular biologist Fiona Brinkman, and one of her graduate students, Morgan Langille—which has shown that tiny bacterial viruses can confer superbug capabilities on bacteria.
    As Brinkman said in an SFU news release: “If we can figure out how to help bacteria fight off or shut down phage that infect them and turn them into bad bugs we could potentially save many lives.”
    The Vancouver Sun was quick off the mark with a story. Canwest News Service spread it across the country, and it promptly ran in the Regina Leader-Post and Edmonton Journal. The Sing Tao daily newspaper asked for a photo of Brinkman.
    We also saw the Genome Research report on a number of medical blogs and websites.
  • The McGill University Health Centre announced to media a $2.4-million research project to develop gene therapies for a number of human degenerative retinal diseases. Among team members is Marinko Sarunic of SFU Engineering Science. He’ll handle the retinal-imaging component.
  • Scientists now know more about the great white sharks’ annual hunt of Cape fur seals off South Africa’s Cape of storms. SFU biologistR. Karl Larochewas the lead author of thereport from an international team that explored what variables drive the tactical decisions of both shark and seal. (The team’s work was published in the October issue of Animal Behaviour. A story also ran in Pakistan’s The Nation.)
  • Canwest News Service picked up on a story that SFU publicized in October, when the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society carried research findings by SFU biologist Stephen Takács. He found that the western conifer seed bug uses infrared radiation to find its food—western conifer cones.
    Wrote Canwest: “The revelation may pave the way to bug-sized ‘mouse traps’ that could save the (forest) industry a fortune and help reduce its dependency on pesticides.”
    We saw the rediscovered story in The Vancouver Sun, Nanaimo Daily News, Calgary Herald and Windsor Star.
  • Burnaby Now featured Tanja Schwander, post-doctoral fellow in SFU biological sciences, and her research that found the eggs of harvester ants are predetermined to become workers or queens from the moment they are laid. She was the key researcher on a Swiss-based team. The research was first published in Current Biology in February, then in Science Daily, and in an SFU news release.
  • Asian Pacific Post did a feature on Richard Bruskiewich, who is developing a hardy “super rice” and has won an Outstanding Alumni Award from the SFU Alumni Association. He’s a bioinformatics specialist at the International Rice Research in the Philippines. The story quoted his mentor, SFU’s David Baillie, Canada Research Chair in genomics.
    The Post also named the other winners: Evaleen Jaager Roy, vice-president, human resources, global publishing & community, Electronic Arts (EA) in Burnaby; Gabor Maté, staff physician, Portland Hotel Society, Vancouver; and Jennifer Allen Simons, founder and president of The Simons Foundation, a private charitable group.


  • SFU’s Adaptation to Climate Change Team unveiled at a news conference a report saying BC is the last refuge for a growing number of species in North America, but if the "biodiversity ark" is to be maintained in the face of global warming, governments will have to change the way they manage the environment.
    The Vancouver Sun quoted the report: “A potent current example is the massive pine beetle infestation in the B.C. Interior resulting from a combination of warmer winters and a less resilient forest ecosystem caused by silviculture practices, including fire suppression, that reduced natural buffers to the spread of infestation.”
    The Globe and Mail did a story, and so did
  • The Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald reported thata new study shows how Canada could meet a substantial greenhouse gas reduction target without wrecking its economy. A consulting company established by SFU energy prof Mark Jaccard did the study for the Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation.
  • BCBusiness magazine looked at moves toward wind-generation of electricity in BC. Several firms have plans, but SFU's John Calvert held up a caution flag: "Wind energy is something that has really caught people’s imagination, the idea that you put up windmills and get energy for free. But it’s not that simple. Wind is much more costly than most realize and can only be utilized if government and B.C. ratepayers are willing to accept a very significant cost premium.” (Calvert is a public policy specialist and author of a book that argues against efforts to privatize parts of BC’s electricity system.)
  • The Vancouver Sun featured goBeyond, a multi-university project created by students to help make post-secondary communities more sustainable. Among other things, the Sun wrote: “The program is so popular that post-secondary institutes such as Simon Fraser University had to apply to become one of six campuses to launch the program's second phase early next year, SFU sustainability coordinator Candace Bonfield said.”
  • goBeyond was also featured in the first edition of a newsletter (which also goes to media) from the Research Universities' Council of BC. (RUCBC aims to provide a coordinated approach to the development of public policy affecting BC’s four research-intensive universities. SFU is a member.) The newsletter also featured molecular biologist Dua'a Riyal, who seeks to use horticultural methods and genomic technologies to breed trees that can flourish in an environment of global warming.
  • In the latest issue of Granville magazine, SFU’s bee expert, Mark Winston, is quoted in an article about bees entitled "To bee or not to bee: Mites, viruses and a chemical soup threaten a vital link in our ecosystem".
  • The Vancouver-based website, which pillories those who are “clouding the science on climate change”, took on the “notorious” Heartland Institute and its list of 129 supposed “experts” on climate change. Many of the 129 scientists said they had been misquoted. Among them, SFU earth scientist John Clague: “I'm outraged that they've included me as an ‘author’ of (a) report. I do not share the views expressed in the summary.
  • Walrus magazine carried a feature on sustainable farming. Among those quoted was Herb Barbolet, an associate with of SFU’s Centre for Sustainable Community Development: “The infrastructure on which our present food system is based is unsustainable at every level, from the seed to the table.”


  • Biologist Carl Lowenberger was interviewed by a string of media, including Citytv and the Sean Leslie show on CKNW, regarding his efforts to raise funds to buy insecticide-treated bed nets for kids in Africa. Lowenberger and SFU had spread word to media on SFU’s response to UNICEF’s Spread the Net campus challenge.
    Said Lowenberger: “I’m setting up a cage full of hungry mosquitoes in the south Academic Quadrangle concourse on Dec. 5 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and for every net purchased we’ll release another mosquito in the cage to feed on my arm.”
    Citytv brought a camera crew up to his Burnaby campus lab and did three live hits on the Breakfast TV show. Citytv's Greg Harper put his arm in one of the mosquito-filled tanks for five minutes and allowed them to feed. The camera showed his forearm covered dramatically in bites, and welts.
    The Georgia Straight gave the story some ink, with a photo of Lowenberger’s helping arm covered in mosquitoes. So did Metro’s Vancouver edition. Burnaby Now ran a story, too..
  • SFU Athletics told media how the #1 ranked Clan women’s basketball program will team up with the BC Cancer Foundation to raise funds with a special promotion called “Balding for Dollars.” Three members of the team have elected to shave their heads following their home game on Jan. 17. They are Katie Miyazaki, Laurelle Weigl and Anna Carolsfeld. The entire team is seeking donations and is also selling T-shirts for the event. (Contact Brittany Fraser at
  • Surrey Now had a photo of the Hoops 4 Hope basketball charity shoot-a-thon, which included SFU players Brittany Fraser, Courtney Gerwing, Alex Wright, Carly Graham and Robyn Buna. The event raised money for development projects in South Africa.


  • Vancouver Sun columnist Don Cayo looked at a new report showing some BC school districts “have figured out what it takes to get aboriginal kids through school, and they're getting respectable results.” The study’s lead author: public policy prof John Richards.
    The column also cited an earlier study by Richards that found on-reserve schools have by far the worst success records for students. Both reports were done for the C. D. Howe Institute.
    The Globe and Mail also did a story on the new report.
  • The Queen Charlotte Islands Observer reported the Haida Gwaii Society of Higher Education and SFU, in a pilot project, will bring 20 graduate students from the School of Resource and Environmental Management to Haida Gwaii for three weeks next spring.
  • Doug Todd’s Vancouver Sun blog promoted a series of lectures planned next year by SFU and UBC to mark the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth. The series begins at SFU Vancouver on Jan. 29.


  • Alberta issued a warning that cocaine being sold there could be laced with a dangerous substance that can harm an individual’s immune system. The Saskatoon-based Western Standard interviewed Bruce Alexander, psychology prof emeritus and a director of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy. “It is obviously impossible to set quality standards for illegal drugs, or anything else that is sold on the black market.”
  • Criminologist Neil Boyd was on the As it Happens program on CBC Radio, in a newsfeature about how the big drug and biker gangs from metropolitan areas have been setting up shop in small cities and towns across Canada.
  • The Vancouver Sun investigated the rap music and video career of Hells Angel Hal Bruce Porteous. The story quoted criminologist Rob Gordon, who said the imagery is “over the top”, the videos are promoting "a combination of violence, sex and gang culture” and "It boils down to what impact it has on kids that look on this stuff." The story also ran in National Post and the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Times.
  • The Surrey-North Delta Leader looked at SkyTrain’s plans to take text-message alerts from passengers who see a crime being committed, but fear a confrontation if they get up and press the train’s alarm strip. Among those quoted were Terry Lavender, SFU Surrey communications manager: "Text messaging would be great.”


SFU Athletics kept media and fans fully up to speed as:

  • In women’s basketball, the Clan hammered the Thompson Rivers Wolfpack 90-53 and 103-57 in weekend games in SFU’s West Gym. The wins moved the Clan women to 10-1 for the season.
  • In men’s basketball, the Clan also picked up two victories against TRU, 83-60 and 97-83. That improved the Clan to 6-5 on the year.
  • Also at SFU Burnaby in a weekend double, the Clan women’s volleyball team defeated the University of Winnipeg Wesmen 3-1 and 3-0. That brought the Clan to 3-9 for the season. The Clan’s power hitter, Krystyna Adams, was named Canada West Female Athlete of the Week.
  • The Clan women’s soccer team was eliminated from the 2008 NAIA National Championships in Daytona Beach FL. Martin Methodist College RedHawks (of Pulaski TN) edged the Clan 1-0 in their second-round game.
  • The Clan women’s wrestling team finished fourth in the Harry Geris Open in Williamsburg KY. SFU was once again led Ashley McKilligan, who won all her matches.
  • Also in sports news: Assistant coach Jay Triano was named interim head coach of the Toronto Raptors when Sam Mitchell was fired after only eight wins in 17 games. Triano played basketball for four years at SFU. He became our all-time leading scorer, had his number retired, and was head coach from 1988-95. (He also played 11 years with the Canadian national team, was a member of three Olympic teams and three World University Games teams. And he was head coach of the Canadian national team, 1998-2004, and assistant coach of the U.S. Olympic select team, 2007-08.) He’s the first Canadian coach in the NBA.


  • The progress of the move of SFU Contemporary Arts to the Woodwards development—and news of events—now can be followed on Twitter at There are also two new ways to follow news from SFU: will keep you up-to-date with SFU’s news releases and SFU News stories, while will connect you with “Pam R.”—the eyes, ears and "voice" of the department.
  • The Georgia Straight reviewed Less is More: the Poetics of Erasure, at the SFU Gallery through Dec. 12. “ . . . curators Ariana Kelly and Bill Jeffries demonstrate the ways in which found books, paintings, poems, documents, audiotapes, and even physical spaces may be ‘gleaned’ for new meaning.”
  • The Province asked four women to review WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution (at the Vancouver Art Gallery until Jan. 11.) One was Joni McKervey, a recent graduate of the SFU Writers' Studio Program. “I left the gallery feeling that we, as women, need to stop fooling ourselves that we are putting the ‘femme’ back in feminism, and present to the world our integrity, not our appeal, first.”


As well as releases mentioned above:

  • SFU sent out a news release after SFU’s new environment faculty got its final green light, with the university’s senate approving its proposed academic programming.
    “Exciting new opportunities for our students,” said John Clague, earth sciences professor and chair of a special academic committee that designed the faculty's academic approach. “There will be important new interdisciplinary programs,” said Jonathan Driver, SFU’s academic vice-president. “It’s a huge opportunity for the university and our students.”
  • SFU also let media know how Christmas lights will shine in West Vancouver—and bring hope to homeless people. SFU communication instructor Michael Markwick re-organized the Dundarave Festival of Lights after its backer pulled out. The trees will be decorated Saturday Dec. 6 and lit up in the evening of Sunday Dec. 7.
  • And, speaking of Christmas, computing scientist Toby Donaldson of SFU Surrey sent to media his annual list of the coolest new games, toys and gadgets for holiday gift-givers.


  • The Nelson Daily News and Kelowna Courier picked up a column that ran in the Halifax Chronicle Herald last week in which political scientist Alex Moens and a colleague from the Fraser Institute concluded: “With President-elect Obama busily assembling his team, Canadians should be concerned about how his administration will impact Canada. While definitive answers are still months, and perhaps even years away, Canadians would be much better off if many of Obama’s election promises never see the light of day.” The Cape Breton Post also ran the item.
  • The Victoria Times Colonist and Montreal Gazette picked up a “Wealthy Boomer” column on the new tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs), that ran in National Post last week. It quoted Jon Kesselman, public policy prof, tax expert and an evangelist of the TSFA plan. (The TFSA's genesis lies in two 2001 studies authored by Jon Kesselman and a CD Howe Institute colleague.)
  • Burnaby Now and Surrey Now ran a letter from Bob Hackett, president of the SFU Faculty Association, saying the BC government “made a surprise cut of $42 million to the operating grants earlier promised to public universities and colleges” and that “Simon Fraser University has been hit especially hard.” He urged readers to “ask their MLAs to help restore the promised funding, annually increase per-student support to offset inflation and fully fund each new student space.”  The letter first ran in Coquitlam Now last week.
  • The Prince George Citizen picked up a mid-November feature from the Calgary Herald on a program to help immigrants reduce their home-country accents. The story mentioned Jennifer Madigan’s L2 Accent Reduction Centre in Vancouver, which is working with SFU to help graduates reduce their accents. Kirk Hill, executive director of SFU’s Career Management Centre, was quoted: “Graduates tend to enter the workplace with all of the qualifications . . . but those with strong foreign accents often hit a huge roadblock during their very first phone interview."

ALSO in the NEWS

  • Covering the visit of the Aga Khan, Burnaby Now interviewed SFU Communication student Shaheed Devji: "It's a real great experience when you get to be in his presence. It's a really spiritual experience.”
  • Burnaby Now reported the Simon Fraser Community Trust is partnering with Corix Utilities to examine opportunities for a sustainable energy system at UniverCity. It would provide heat and domestic hot water to new housing projects there.
  • TransLink announced to reportersits "largest-ever service lift." The improvements include increased service on the 145 route from the Production Way SkyTrain station to SFU Burnaby.
  • The University of Hawaii's School of Travel Industry Management announced to media the selection of Juanita Liu as dean. The university noted that Liu has a PhD in economic geography from SFU.
  • The Canadian Press carried a feature on the departure of Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan, and noted that he earned a Business Administration degree at SFU.
  • The Globe and Mail carried a feature on some of Canada’s past Rhodes Scholarship winners. Among them was Natasha De Sousa, an SFU track-and-field star with a GPA of 4.01 who initially threw the application out. "I thought it was only for kids from wealthy families who'd gone to Harvard." But SFU persisted, and she applied for and won the BC Rhodes in 2000. She now is a family medicine resident in Halifax.
  • The Richmond News featured teacher Wendy McDonald, who has sparked the “Green Team” at St. Joseph the Worker Elementary School. "In September, we started composting and each classroom has a compost." The paper noted: “Her educational background is in environmental education from Simon Fraser University.”



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