What’s that you ask? Epigenetics is a new field that studies everything outside the human genome that influences how and when genes are turned on and off. Health Sciences’ Gratien Prefontaine (above), an expert in epigenetics, is looking forward to making great discoveries that could have far-reaching implications for everything from cancer to aging.

Coach David Johnson motivates players to reach high standards both on and off the field.

He's a Winner!

Clan football coach David Johnson is the 2008 Canada West Football Coach of the Year. He successfully ends SFU’s three-year winless drought, propelling the Clan back into the national scene and the playoffs for the first time in four years.

Heart Hope

Kinesiology’s Tom Claydon is looking at why seemingly healthy individuals sometimes die from cardiac arrest. His research into the heart’s electrical activity includes focusing on the role held by key potassium ion channels in keeping the heart beating.

Empowerment reduces AIDS

A new program in the Indian city of Mysore is empowering sex-trade workers, and that, in turn, is reducing cases of AIDS. SFU Global Health master’s student Katie Brushett is studying the progress of a community-based initiative called Ashodaya or “dawn of hope,” that mobilizes high-risk groups to take care of themselves and each other.

Immigrant Health

Kinesiologist Scott Lear and a team of researchers show that the cardiovascular health of immigrants to Canada worsens the longer they remain in the country. Stress, changing eating habits, and language barriers may contribute to the immigrant’s heart health decline.

UN Award

A screenshot of traditional canoes shows life 100 years ago.

UNESCO’s international committee awards the web site A Journey into Time Immemorial its top prize – the Grand Prix. The web site, developed by SFU and the Fraser Valley’s Xa:ytem Longhouse Interpretive Centre, wins a number of other awards as well: best overall interactive online experience at the 2008 Columbus International Film and Video Festival, silver in the electronic media category from the University and College Designers Association, winner in the learning and engagement category from the Centre for Digital Education and Centre for Digital Government, gold in the university/college web site category from Horizon Interactive Awards, and award of excellence in the post-secondary/interactive category from CNIE/RICE Media Festival. <>

Calling All English Teachers

The Master of Arts for Teachers of English (MATE) is a unique program tailor-made for English teachers in the B.C. school system. It caters to teachers’ needs and schedules and offers the same challenges and rewards as those in the regular MA program.

Time: “perhaps the most promising in a class of products that harvest energy.”

Best in Time

The Bionic Energy Harvester created by SFU biomedical physiologist Max Donelan is named one of Time magazine’s Best 50 inventions of 2008. The wearable, lightweight harvester resembles a slim orthopedic knee brace and produces energy through the ordinary motion of walking.

There’s a River in His Lab

Geographer Jeremy Venditti is using the simulated river channel to learn more about the relationship between riverbeds and river flows and the role of flow resistance in flooding. He says we need to develop a physical understanding of flow resistance, rather than relying entirely on computer modelling. Venditti has spent the past several years studying the Fraser River from Mission to Steveston.

Baking with love...

Susan Cox uses her culinary skills to honour her late partner, former student society ombudsperson Laurine Harrison. For the second year Cox bakes 51 cakes – Harrison was 51 when she died – and auctions them off to raise money for an endowment fund to help needy SFU students. She raises $5,000 to bring the endowment fund up to approximately $86,000. For further details about next year’s event, email Cox at For more details on the endowment fund see <>.

Policy Update

Benedikt Fischer of SFU Health Sciences researches illicit substance abuse and its consequences for public health and safety. Yet, he says, much public policy is based on outdated research: “We’re too often shooting at the wrong target.” The Faculty of Health Sciences professor’s goal is to sound the alarm about the major problems surrounding substance abuse and to reveal new trends before they reach the public radar.

Stress Leads to Strength – If You’re a Bird

Hormones released by stressed mother starlings actually improve the physical development of their offspring. A study by SFU biologists Oliver Love and Tony Williams and colleagues from Trent University shows developmental improvements across many indicators,including more mature flight muscles. The study was published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the Royal Society.

Computers and Health I

The challenges facing the computerization of the health-services industry provides fodder for communications professor Ellen Balka. Working with an international research team, Balka completes an award-winning four-year project called ACTION for Health. Project outcomes include two books, hundreds of published papers, and numerous meetings to discuss findings with health-services decision-makers.

Diabetes Research Award

Diane Finegood receives the 2008 Frederick G. Banting Award, which recognizes significant contributions to the prevention of diabetes. Finegood, who focuses on obesity and its connection to diabetes, teaches in the Faculty of Applied Sciences and is founding scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes.

Husband and wife duo Ron Ignace (PhD ’08) and Marianne Ignace (PhD).

20 Years in Kamloops

SFU Kamloops celebrates two decades and 386 graduates. The program offers degrees, certificates, and diplomas in First Nations studies, archaeology, anthropology, linguistics/First Nations languages, and education. It was founded to respond to a community cry for a mini-university outside the Lower Mainland to serve students interested in First Nations—related research.

Research Rankings

SFU is “in the spotlight” for its impressive research income growth over the past six years, according to Re$earch Infosource Inc. The university is ranked fourth among comprehensive universities and 20th – up from 21st – among Canada’s top 50 research universities. SFU placed first among comprehensive universities in the publication impact category – a measure of the probability of publications being cited.

Climate Change and Health

The world is changing and so are health issues. Tim Takaro (left), assistant professor in Health Sciences, is looking at risks to B.C. communities from climate-related hazards, including water quality, air pollution, and waterborne and vector-borne diseases.

We're Already Fossilized

If you’re over 25 you already have mineralized fossil cells in your body, most likely in your ears, according to forensic anthropologist Lynne Bell. She says it’s a “mind-blowing discovery” because a single cell can mineralize inside living tissue, thus preserving its DNA.

Top Ranking

Maclean’s magazine gives SFU a tie for first place with the University of Victoria in the comprehensive university category. It’s the university’s best standing since 2000. SFU is also still in the top 200 in the Times of London’s 2008 survey of the world’s best schools.

Student entrepreneurs: left to right Rebecca Ho, Diana Kidd, and Gavin Norquay.


Student entrepreneurs develop a web site to put university and college students wanting freelance work in touch with potential employers. Originally developed for a business course, u-connect focuses on short-term projects. The site is proving popular say its developers Gavin Norquay, Gale Villamil, Omar Satari, Rebecca Ho, and Diana Kidd. <>


Biologist Bernard Roitberg (above) receives a gold medal from the Entomological Society of Canada. In his 30-year career, Roitberg has made extensive advances in the study of the behaviour and evolutionary ecology of insects and their enemies.

Best in Time Too

Evan Miller, fourth-year interactive arts and technology program student, hits the big time. His on-the-cheap Flash game, Hunted Forever, with its $3,000 budget, is ranked No. 8 on the Time list – right after blockbusters Grand Theft Auto IV, Starwars: The Force Unleashed, and Gears of War 2. Play Hunted Forever for free at social gaming site <>.

Heat Attracts

A discovery by SFU biologist Stephen Takács could help stop western conifer seed bugs from devouring millions of dollars worth of cones. Takács found that the bugs use infrared radiation (IR) to locate food. Spots on the bug’s body pick up IR from hot conifer cones that are 15 to 40 degrees hotter than the needles and the sky. The discovery may eventually lead to devices to control the bug.

Green Goes Gold

Verdant, UniverCity’s 60-unit residential development, picks up a gold award and third-place ranking overall in the sustainable projects category at the 2008 LivCom Awards. The awards honour global innovation in sustainable community building. The project also wins the 2008 Best Practices in Affordable Housing Award from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Computers and Health II

A digital readout protocol for screening microscale medical tests could soon turn your home computer’s CD/DVD player into a medical diagnostic device. The invention by Hogan Yu (right), associate professor of chemistry; graduate student Lily Ou; and postdoctoral researcher Yunchao Li may eventually allow patients to get preliminary diagnostic tests at home or in doctors’ offices. Two publications, Analytical Chemistry of the American Chemical Society and Nature (NEWS and VIEWS), feature the findings. <>

Photos: From top to bottom Gratien Prefontaine by Greg Ehlers/LIDC, Ron and Marianne Ignace by Stuart Colcleugh/PAMR, David Johnson by Ron Holea/ SFU News, Microscope by LIDC Media Design, Tim Takaro by Greg Ehlers/LIDC, Student entrepreneurs by Dominic Wong, Bernard Roitberg by Diane Luckow/PAMR, Max Donelan by Greg Ehlers/LIDC, Plants courtesy SFU News, Heart box, Verdant courtesy SFU News, Starling Eggs courtesy SFU News/pamr, Hogan Yu by Barry Shell