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SFU.CA Burnaby | Surrey | Vancouver
SFU Report to the Community 08-09

Research that matters

University research is the beginning of so many things. It’s a process that turns a kernel of an original idea into a solid body of knowledge. Once explored and developed, this new understanding changes our community in a number of ways. It can inform government policy or lead to new medical treatments and novel inventions. Some of these may grow into companies that offer high quality jobs and contribute to the Canadian economy.

See what SFU research is doing for you.

Greener futures

Research by SFU resource economist Mark Jaccard — winner of the 2008 Academic of the Year award — has helped to persuade governments to enact effective climate-change policies, and continues to show them how they can and must do more. While viewed as one of the architects of B.C.’s carbon tax, he argues via his unique computer modelling that a carbon tax, cap-and-trade, or a combination of the two, is necessary to help reduce carbon emissions.

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Bernard Crespi

Evolutionary biologist, Bernard Crespi

Biological tug-of-war

SFU evolutionary biologist Bernard Crespi and colleague Christopher Badcock made headlines around the world with their revolutionary genetic theory of mental disorders, providing psychiatry with perhaps its grandest working theory since Freud (according to the New York Times). This theory will provide new insights into the biology of mental illness that can ultimately lead to new treatments.

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Heart health

Health sciences professor Michel Joffres — winner of the Canadian Cardiovascular Society’s Robert E. Beamish Award for work having the greatest potential impact on cardiovascular medicine — found that reducing Canadians’ daily salt intake by about half would eliminate hypertension in one million Canadians and save $430 million in related health costs.

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From idea to innovation

Kinesiologist Andy Hoffer’s Neurostep — a device that dramatically improves the walking gait of people with disabilities such as hemiplegia and footdrop — will soon be on the market in Europe. His research was originally commercialized in 1997 through SFU spin-off company, Neurostream Technologies.

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George Nicholas

Archaeology professor, George Nicholas

Who owns the past?

Ownership of and access to ancient material and data pose increasing dilemmas for scholars, practitioners, indigenous peoples and policy makers. Archaeology professor George Nicholas leads a $2.5-million SSHRC project designed to examine and resolve the issues, involving an unprecendented collaboration of archaeologists, ethicists, indigenous groups, lawyers, anthropologists, museum specialists, andpolicy makers representing eight countries.

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Understanding scoliosis

Biology professor Felix Breden and PhD student Kristen Fay Gorman have discovered the first animal model for studying idiopathic scoliosis — the curveback guppy model. These colourful tropical fish exhibit scoliosis in the same way humans do, providing the perfect testing model to determine the root causes of this debilitating deformity and, ultimately, develop new treatments.

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Max Donelan's Bionic Energy Harvester

Max Donelan's invention, the Bionic Energy Harvester, is garnering world-wide attention

Powerful invention

The Bionic Energy Harvester, a device created by SFU biomedical physiologist Max Donelan and his research team, made Time magazine’s list of the best 50 inventions of 2008. The wearable, light-weight device harvests energy from the motion of walking. Donelan is commercializing his invention through SFU spin-off company, Bionic Power Inc. and thinks the technology could enter the general marketplace in three or four years.

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Philanthropist gives to childrens’ health research

Childrens’ health research at SFU got a boost this year thanks to the generosity of philanthropist Djavad Mowafaghian. He upped his previous commitment of $4 million with an additional $1.5 million this year. By increasing his support, he has demonstrated confidence in SFU research and a strong belief that it can make a tremendous difference in improving the lives of children worldwide.

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National AIDS research network

Health sciences researcher Robert Hogg is heading Canada’s first nation-wide HIV/AIDS antiretroviral research network. Funded by a $2.5 million grant over five years from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canadian Observational Cohort (CANOC) brings together 31 HIV/AIDS clinicians and researchers in B.C., Ontario and Quebec with two main goals: to enable Canadian governments and health agencies to better understand current gaps in knowledge, treatment outcomes and regional trends and to establish best-practice treatment guidelines for various populations, including the gay community, injection drug users and First Nations people.

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Tim Beischlag

Time Beischlag, Faculty of Health Sciences researcher

Cancer and carcinogens

Health sciences researcher, Tim Beischlag, has found that known carcinogens such as dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) can actually suppress breast cancer growth. He is applying this finding toward generating new treatments that will have fewer side effects than chemotherapy and radiation.

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Stopping bugs: saving forests

A new discovery by a SFU biologist Stephen Takács could help stop western conifer seed bugs from devouring millions of dollars worth of cones in B.C.’s conifer seed orchards. He is the first scientist globally to discover that the plant-eating animal uses Infra Red (IR) radiation to find its food. He hopes that this discovery will help him build the first “mouse-trap” for this bug, so that we no longer have to rely on environmentally unfriendly pesticides.

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Prescription drugs may benefit addicts

Could the increasing misuse of prescription opioids among street-drug users actually benefit public health? Maybe, says criminologist Benedikt Fischer, an addiction researcher with SFU’s Centre for Applied Research in Addictions and Mental Health. He along with B.C.’s provincial health officer Perry Kendall and others opened this debate in a published essay this year. They proposed that addicts of injected street drugs such as heroin who forge prescriptions to get legal opioids are significantly less likely to inject the drugs. This can reduce the risk of blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis C or HIV and may reduce crime because addicts are not robbing people for funds to buy heroin.

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Lynne Bell

Criminologist Lynne Bell sheds new light on a historic maritime disaster

Forensic discovery

SFU criminologist Lynne Bell may have solved one of the biggest mysteries in British naval history — why King Henry VIII’s favourite warship, the Mary Rose, sank during a battle with the French off Portsmouth, England in 1545. She believes it is because many of her crew couldn’t understand English commands. By examining bones and teeth from 18 of the ship’s 400 lost crew members, Bell found that about 60 per cent were foreigners from "somewhere south of Britain," probably Spain. Her forensic studies were supported by historical letters indicating that shortly before the sinking, 600 Spanish mariners were "prest" into the king’s service.

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SFU was singled out on Re$earch Infosource Inc.'s annual list for its impressive 126.4% growth in research income over the past six years, the largest growth among comprehensive universities in Canada. Among Canadian universities, SFU has among the highest publication impacts (probability of publications being cited) and highest success rates per faculty member in competitions for Federal research council funding.

Tropical fisheries most vulnerable

Millions of struggling people in tropical fishery-dependent nations will be hard hit by global warming, according to a new report. SFU researcher Nick Dulvy, a Canada Research Chair in marine biodiversity and conservation, and Eddie Allison at the Malaysia-based WorldFish Center led an international team of biologists and geographers in the first study to rank countries by the vulnerability of their fisheries to climate change. Frighteningly, the 33 countries which they identified as having the most vulnerable fisheries produce 20 per cent of the world’s fish exports.

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Terrorism in decline

Researchers at the SFU-based Human Security Report Project in the School for International Studies found, contrary to popular perceptions, that global terrorism is actually declining. After analyzing statistical trends from three U.S.-based research centres, they concluded, among other things, that fatalities from terrorism have dropped by 40 per cent while al-Qaeda has faced a dramatic collapse in support throughout the Muslim world.

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