Faculty of Science: Best of 2011

SFU researchers isolate malaria parasite genes
Late in 2011, SFU molecular biology researchers led by associate professor Jack Chen announced they had isolated 44 genes that are unique to the malaria parasites that infect humans, providing new targets for drugs to cure the disease or vaccines to prevent it.


Finegood to head Michael Smith Foundation
The Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) announced in December 2011 that following an international search it had chosen SFU’s Diane Finegood, an internationally recognized expert in obesity and diabetes, to head the organization. Finegood, a professor in the Faculty of Science’s biomedical physiology and kinesiology department, will assume her new role as MSFHR president and CEO effective March 1.



Giant fossil ants linked to global warming
SFU paleontologists Bruce Archibald and Rolf Mathewes were among four scientists in 2011 to discover the fossil of a gigantic winged ant whose globetrotting sheds light on how global warming events affected the distribution of life some 50 million years ago.


Math prof solves legendary equation
Associate math professor Adam Oberman became a star in the rarefied world of applied mathematics in 2011 for solving a complex partial differential equation, or PDE, called the Infinity Laplace equation. The equation had stumped other researchers for more than 40 years.


Chemist receives national accolades
Chemistry professor David Vocadlo’s Alzheimer’s disease research landed him among Canada’s Top 40 out of 40 in 2011 and also earned him an E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship, awarded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). The award recognizes outstanding contributions to science in Canada.



‘Cruise control’ for runners?
SFU biomedical physiologists and inventors Max Donelan and Mark Snaterse figured out how to apply the cruise-control principle used in cars to runners of all levels in 2011, enabling them to select and then achieve their desired running speed.


Math pioneer wins Women of Distinction award
Canadian math-education pioneer Malgorzata Dubiel, a senior lecturer of mathematics, received a 2011 YWCA Women of Distinction Award for her efforts to improve math education in Canada.


Colorectal cancer linked to bacteria
Two 2011 studies, including one involving SFU researchers, uncovered the first link between human colorectal cancer and a specific microorganism, the bacterium Fusobacterium. Now Rob Holt, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, and a BC Cancer Agency scientist, is working to discover whether it could be a direct cause of cancer and, if so, how.


Chemistry Wing Renewal Complete
A $49-million renovation of the 100,000-sq.-ft. chemistry wing in the Shrum Science Centre was finished as planned in 2011, in time for September classes. The renewal, which began in June 2009 with federal and provincial Knowledge Infrastructure Program funding, was designed to achieve LEED Gold environmental building certification. It included replacing the wing’s entire exterior envelope, adding seismic bracing and new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, upgrading mechanical and electrical systems, and redesigning lab areas.