Best of 2009: Science

Thinking big about thinking small
SFU’s $35-million 4D Labs research centre in advanced materials and nanoscience received a major financial boost from the federal government in 2009 to build Canada’s first mask-writing facility capable of creating nano- and micronscale structures 10,000 times smaller a human hair.

Sankar Mohan and Jayakanthan Kumarasamy, two former classmates from the same small town in southeast India who were serendipitously reunited at SFU, discovered a potential treatment for Type 2 diabetes. The treatment is derived from a climbing shrub, Salacia reticulata, which has been used since ancient times in Sri Lanka and India to treat diabetes.

New research centre focuses on drug R&D
SFU opened a new drug research institute in 2009 offering a full array of services to university faculty members, students and staff working to develop new clinical drugs. The institute is part of the regional B.C. Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD), which operates at six different locations in B.C. Profit from commercially successful drugs will go back into CDRD to make it self-sustaining.

Math prodigy develops algorithm to model curved surfaces
Mathematics PhD grad Colin Macdonald helped create an important new algorithm known as the closest-point method, which allows scientists to numerically solve partial differential equation problems on curved surfaces such as spheres or human hands. The algorithm has exciting implications for applied science in fields ranging from biology to engineering and physics.

Genomic warrior battles flu, pine beetles, cancer
Steven Jones, an SFU professor of molecular biology and biochemistry and head of bioinformatics at the BC Cancer Agency's Genome Sciences Centre, is part of an international team that identified a molecular compound that could lead to an antiviral drug to combat H1N1 (swine flu) and H5N1 (avian flu). Jones has also developed a quicker, more affordable way to sequence genomes that could help fight the mountain pine beetle and cancer.