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Updated: 13 min 56 sec ago

Biofilms – the eradication has begun

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 09:20

From left to right: Brendan D. Snarr and Donald C. Sheppard from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre and P. Lynne Howell, Natalie C. Bamford and Perrin Baker from The Hospital for Sick Children.

Canadian scientists take a step forward in the fight against microbial armour‎

Source: MUHC Public Relations

Have you ever heard of biofilms? They are slimy, glue-like membranes that are produced by microbes, like bacteria and fungi, in order to colonize surfaces. They can grow on animal and plant tissues, and even inside the human body on medical devices such as catheters, heart valves, or artificial hips. Biofilms protect microbes from the body’s immune system and increase their resistance to antibiotics. They represent one of the biggest threats to patients in hospital settings. But there is good news – a research team led by the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) has developed a novel enzyme technology that prevents the formation of biofilms and can also break them down.

This finding, recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), creates a promising avenue for the development of innovative strategies to treat a wide variety of diseases and hospital-acquired infections like pneumonia, bloodstream and urinary tract infection. Biofilm-associated infections are responsible for thousands of deaths across North America every year. They are hard to eradicate because they secrete a matrix made of sugar molecules which form a kind of armour that acts as a physical and chemical barrier, preventing antibiotics from reaching their target sites within microbes.

“We were able to use the microbe’s own tools against them to attack and destroy the sugar molecules that hold the biofilm together,” says the study’s co-principal investigator, Dr. Don Sheppard, Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the MUHC and scientist from the Infectious Diseases and Immunity in Global Health Program at the RI-MUHC. “Rather than trying to develop new individual ‘bullets’ that target single microbes we are attacking the biofilm that protects those microbes by literally tearing down the walls to expose the microbes living behind them. It’s a completely new and novel strategy to tackle this issue.”

This work is the result of a four-year successful collaboration between Dr. Sheppard’s team and scientists in the laboratory of Dr. P. Lynne Howell, senior scientist in the Molecular Medicine program at SickKids. They have been working to combat biofilms for several years, focusing on two of the most common organisms responsible for lung infections: a bacterium called Pseudomonas aeruginosa and a fungus called Aspergillus fumigatus. Infections with these organisms in patients with chronic lung diseases like cystic fibrosis represent an enormous challenge in medical therapy.

While studying machinery that these organisms use to make their biofilms, the scientists discovered enzymes that cut up the sugar molecules, which glue biofilms together. “Microbes use these enzymes to move sugar molecules around and cut them into pieces in order to build and remodel the biofilm matrix,” says Dr. Sheppard, who is also a professor in the departments of Medicine and Microbiology and Immunology at McGill. The researchers found a way to use these enzymes to degrade the sugar armour, exposing the microbe to antibiotics and host defenses.

“We made these enzymes into a biofilm destroying machine that we can use outside the microbe where the sugar molecules are found,” explains co-first study author Brendan Snarr, a PhD student in Dr. Sheppard’s laboratory. “These enzymes chew away all of the sugar molecules in their path and don’t stop until the matrix is destroyed.”

“Previous attempts to deal with biofilms have had only limited success, mostly in preventing biofilm formation. These enzymes are the first strategy that has ever been effective in eradicating mature biofilms, and that work in mouse models of infection,” adds Dr. Sheppard.

“When we took the enzymes from bacteria and applied them to the fungi, we found that they worked in the same way on the fungi biofilm; which was surprising,” says the study’s co-principal investigator, Dr. P. Lynne Howell, who is also a professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Toronto. “What’s key is that this approach could be a universal way of being able to leverage the microbes’ own systems for degrading biofilms. This has bigger implications across many microbes, diseases and infections.”

“Over 70 percent of hospital-acquired infections are actually associated with biofilms and we simply lack tools to treat them,” says Dr. Sheppard. According to both lead scientists, the potential of this novel therapy is enormous and they hope to commercialize it in the coming years.

Read the study online


Bringing Indigenous scholarship to the forefront at McGill

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 17:46

Amelia McGregor, elder of the Kahnawá:ke Mohawk Nation, opened today’s event with the Mohawk prayer OHÉN:TON KariwatéKMWA, the Words Said Before All Else. / Photo: Owen Egan

Provost’s Task Force Report on Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Education unveiled on National Aboriginal Day

By McGill Reporter Staff

Amelia McGregor, elder of the Kahnawá:ke Mohawk Nation, pronounced the Mohawk prayer OHÉN:TON KariwatéKMWA, the Words Said Before All Else, to open the launch of the Report of the Provost’s Task Force Report on Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Education earlier today. The purple and white flag of the Iroquois Confederacy, as well as the flags of McGill, Quebec and Canada framed the event. It was a fitting opening since Mohawk was once common parlance where McGill now stands.

Task Force co-chairs Hudson Meadwell, Paige Isaac and Angela Campbell. / Photo: Owen Egan

A smiling Paige Isaac wished the 200 people gathered on lower campus “Happy Indigenous People’s Day” to rousing applause. Isaac is one of three Task Force co-chairs and Coordinator of First Peoples’ House. The launch was held under the trees at the Hochelaga Rock, a symbol of the long-standing presence of First Nations people, which stands facing the statue of James McGill near the Roddick gates. Along with Isaac, the Task Force was co-chaired by Professor Hudson Meadwell, Chair of the Department of Political Science, and Professor Angela Campbell, Associate Provost, Equity and Academic Policies.

Addressing the crowd, Principal Suzanne Fortier said “Not so long ago we were here on this site to recognize the importance of moving the Hochelaga Rock to a prime location on campus. Today we are here to celebrate this new report. The Provost has dedicated serious resources to implementing the calls to action. I hope to see you again at this spot soon.”

Provost Christopher Manfredi told the crowd that more than one million dollars will go to put into place the recommendations of the Task Force. “We have committed to tripling the number of Indigenous students at McGill in the next five years, and to ensuring their success, working closely with Indigenous communities. A new Special Advisor, Indigenous Initiatives, will be set up under the auspices of the Office of the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic), and an Assistant VP will be tasked with ensuring Indigeneity is reflected and embedded in the University.”

The Task Force Report identifies more than 50 Calls to Action across a wide range of academic and non-academic aspects of McGill life. The Provost is committed to ensuring swift and substantive response to the recommendations of the Task Force, with new and renewed support for our Indigenous students, faculty and staff and for Indigenous scholarship, as well as meaningful exchange and engagement with Indigenous communities in Quebec and across Canada.

“We need to rewrite the future while thinking of our ancestors in this place,” said activist Ellen Gabriel. / Owen Egan

The Task Force is a direct result of the 2015 Report of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), headed by Justice Murray Sinclair, Canada’s first aboriginal justice and the commission’s chairman. The TRC was a commission like no other in Canada. The Commission spent six years travelling to all parts of Canada to hear from the Indigenous people who had been taken from their families as children, often forcibly, and placed for much of  their childhoods in residential schools, something which the report says amounted to ‘cultural genocide.’

“There has been tremendous damage done to our cultures and people. Restitution cannot come fast enough for us,” said Ellen Gabriel, a Mohawk activist and artist from Kanehsatà:ke Nation – Turtle Clan, and the former head of the First People’s House. “We want McGill to be a place that welcomes Indigenous students and where they see themselves reflected. We don’t need the status quo. We need to create change together. We need to rewrite the future while thinking of our ancestors in this place.”

Also present at the event were Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador; Joseph Tokwiro Norton, Grand Chief of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawá:ke; Michael Loft, former professional associate of the McGill School of Social Work; and the Hon. Geoffrey Kelley, MNA for Jacques-Cartier and Minister Responsible for Native Affairs, among many special guests.

The Hochelaga Rock is a five-ton granite monument installed in 1920 in honour of the meeting of Jacques Cartier with the Iroquoian people who inhabited the area. The stone was moved from the lower field to a more prominent place close to the statue of founder James McGill in the summer of 2016. Shortly after that, in the fall of 2016, the Provost’s Task Force was publicly launched at the new site of the Hochelaga Rock.

McGillians at today’s event included (from left to right, front row): Cindy Blackstock of the School of Social Work; Principal Suzanne Fortier; Antonia Maioni, Dean of Arts; and Provost Christopher Manfredi. / Photo: Owen Egan

Place aux femmes !

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 15:03

Les défis de l’égalité en intelligence artificielle

Innovation @ McGill et le Laboratoire d’apprentissage et de raisonnement de l’Université McGill accueillent depuis le 30 juin une vingtaine de jeunes femmes dans le cadre de la première édition du Laboratoire d’été en intelligence artificielle. Le but de l’exercice : une formation de trois semaines destinée exclusivement aux femmes sur l’apprentissage machine ainsi que la conception et la mise au point de produits numériques.

C’est Angelique Mannella, vice-principale adjointe à l’innovation et aux partenariats à l’Université McGill, qui a eu l’idée de ce projet. Elle souhaite que le secteur de l’intelligence artificielle ne soit plus un fief masculin et s’ouvre davantage aux femmes.

« Vu l’enthousiasme que suscite l’intelligence artificielle, je crains fort qu’on répète dans ce domaine les erreurs commises dans le secteur de la technologie, notamment son manque d’ouverture envers les femmes », explique Mme Mannella, qui a œuvré dans ce milieu pendant plus de 15 ans.

Afin que les informaticiennes de demain puissent préparer leur arrivée sur le marché du travail, ce premier laboratoire estival comprend un programme de mentorat. Grâce aux nombreux partenariats entre l’Université McGill et les entreprises montréalaises du secteur de l’intelligence artificielle, les participantes peuvent profiter de l’expérience et des conseils de professionnels de l’informatique.

Par ailleurs, plusieurs partenaires d’ailleurs au pays sont venus rencontrer les jeunes femmes afin de les appuyer dans leur développement professionnel, notamment Michelle Scarborough, directrice générale, Investissements stratégiques et femmes en technologie à la Banque de développement du Canada. Lors de son passage au Laboratoire il y a deux semaines, cette dernière a fait profiter les participantes de sa vaste expérience en démarrage d’entreprises et en entrepreneuriat.

« Ce genre d’exercice est vraiment important, dit-elle, parce qu’il réunit toutes ces jeunes femmes sous un même toit et leur donne l’occasion d’apprendre dans un contexte collaboratif. Elles découvrent l’écosystème de la haute technologie dans un contexte pratique plutôt que strictement théorique, comme c’est souvent le cas en classe. »

Angelique Mannella se réjouit du succès de cette première édition du Laboratoire d’été.

« Cette année, c’était un projet-pilote, nous voulions mettre le programme à l’essai, mais nous allons certainement répéter l’expérience l’an prochain », prédit-elle.


Christine Jensen, jazzwoman

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 15:02

Christine Jensen, saxophoniste et compositrice jazz, a su se tailler une place dans un milieu dominé par les hommes.

L’été est enfin arrivé et les rues de la métropole vibreront bientôt au rythme du Festival international de jazz de Montréal (FIJM), l’occasion rêvée pour découvrir des musiciens exceptionnels comme Christine Jensen, professeure de composition à l’Université McGill et lauréate du Prix Oscar-Peterson 2017.

Arrivée à Montréal en 1990 pour étudier en interprétation jazz à l’Université McGill, Christine Jensen a décidé de s’y installer de manière définitive après sa maîtrise, en 2006.

Plusieurs raisons ont motivé ce choix, explique-t-elle, mais la principale est le laboratoire de création unique qu’offre Montréal. Grâce à ses deux cultures, à ses influences européennes et américaines et au coût de la vie qui y est relativement peu élevé, la ville a tous les atouts pour favoriser la création.

« Je viens de l’île de Vancouver, où la scène jazz est pratiquement inexistante, explique-t-elle. Dans ma jeunesse, j’ai beaucoup entendu parler de Montréal grâce à Oscar Peterson et Oliver Jones. Je me disais : “Wow, cette ville bouge !” Encore aujourd’hui, on peut sortir n’importe quel soir de la semaine et voir des musiciens de grand talent. Montréal est véritablement un terreau propice à l’évolution de la musique indépendante, que ce soit en jazz ou dans un autre genre musical. »

Le FIJM, croit-elle, n’est qu’un des nombreux exemples de l’unicité de Montréal dans le paysage musical.

Saxophoniste et compositrice de renom, Christine Jensen est particulièrement touchée de se voir décerner le Prix Oscar-Peterson 2017 du FIJM, qui salue le talent des musiciens et leur apport au jazz canadien.

« C’est très particulier pour moi de remporter un prix qui porte le nom d’Oscar Peterson, et c’est d’autant plus touchant puisque j’ai grandi au son de sa musique qui jouait à la maison, se souvient-elle. C’est vraiment très agréable et gratifiant qu’on reconnaisse mon travail et que les gens semblent aimer ma musique. On ne s’en rend pas toujours compte, parce que souvent, on a le nez dans nos projets et on fait notre truc. »

Défoncer le plafond de verre

Des projets, Christine Jensen en a beaucoup. Elle chapeaute de nombreux groupes, dirige l’Orchestre national de jazz de Montréal (ONJM) et compose beaucoup, talent qui lui a valu de nombreuses récompenses et a fait voyager sa musique aux quatre coins du monde. Si l’on ajoute à cela ses deux prix Juno et ses 11 albums, un constat s’impose : cette jazzwoman a su faire sa place dans un monde encore trop dominé par les jazzmen.

« Les stéréotypes étaient tenaces et ils le sont encore, mais les choses ont énormément changé depuis cinq ans, se réjouit-elle. Plus de jeunes femmes ont été mentorées et elles se sentent maintenant plus à l’aise dans le milieu. Il y a aussi beaucoup plus d’appui de la part des hommes et des professeurs. Qu’ils soient des femmes ou des hommes, les professeurs ont un rôle important à jouer pour établir clairement que tout ce qui compte, c’est la musique ».

Si elle a persévéré dans ce milieu dominé par les hommes, c’est notamment grâce aux « femmes fortes » de son entourage qui ont su la soutenir, confie-t-elle.

« Même lorsque je faisais des erreurs, elles me disaient de tenir bon et de continuer à chercher ma voie en musique. Mais ça n’a pas été facile. Lorsqu’on commence comme musicien, on est parfois entouré de prodiges, surtout des hommes, et je crois que bien souvent, c’est intimidant, surtout pour les jeunes femmes, parce qu’il y a tout de suite un mur qui s’installe et on se dit qu’on n’est pas aussi bon que la personne en face de nous. »

Christine et Ingrid Jensen en compagnie de Ben Monder au FIJM
30 juin
Christine Jensen est une habituée du FIJM, où elle se produit régulièrement depuis 1999. Cette année, elle partagera la scène de l’Astral avec sa sœur, la trompettiste Ingrid Jensen, et le guitariste Ben Monder. Ce spectacle s’inscrit dans leur tournée canadienne de promotion d’Infinitude, fruit de leur plus récente collaboration.

FIJM 2017 : les coups de cœur de Christine Jensen

McGill au Festival de jazz

Beth McKenna Jazz Orchestra 
2 juillet

7 juillet

8 juillet

À ne pas rater

L’Orchestre national de jazz invite John Hollenbeck et Theo Bleckman
6 juillet

30 juin

Sienna Dahlen
6 juillet

Les droits et responsabilités des Montréalais en tagalog (!), langue nationale des Philippines

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 15:02

James Archibald (au centre), professeur à l’École d’éducation permanente de l’Université McGill, a présenté le 12 juin dernier la version tagalog de la Charte montréalaise des droits et responsabilités, au maire Denis Coderre (à droite) et Lionel Perez, conseiller de la Ville (à gauche). /photo fournie par la Ville de Montréal

Après avoir assuré la traduction de la Charte montréalaise des droits et responsabilités dans une demi-douzaine de langues, l’Université McGill a remis, le 12 juin dernier, une version du document en tagalog à la Ville de Montréal.

La Charte montréalaise des droits et responsabilités est aujourd’hui offerte en 11 langues.

James Archibald, professeur à l’École d’éducation permanente de l’Université McGill, a réalisé ou supervisé sept de ces traductions (anglais, espagnol, arabe, cantonais, mandarin, hébreu, italien), un travail dont il est particulièrement fier.

« L’existence de la Charte en différentes langues, c’est une façon pour la Ville de se rapprocher de ses communautés, explique le professeur. Je crois que c’est vraiment un plaidoyer pour la diversité urbaine et que c’est un très grand privilège pour l’Université d’avoir pu y contribuer. À McGill, ça fait partie de notre mission de nous engager dans la communauté et de ne pas rester dans notre tour d’ivoire, retranchés derrière le Portail Roddick. »

Henrison Hsieh, doctorant en linguistique à l’Université McGill

Pour la version la plus récente en tagalog, reconnu officiellement comme la langue nationale des Philippines et des Philippins, le Pr Archibald a retenu les services d’Henrison Hsieh, doctorant en linguistique à l’Université McGill.

Même s’il parle couramment le tagalog, ce polyglotte originaire de Manille dit avoir rencontré de nombreuses embûches au fil de la traduction.

« Comme la langue administrative des Philippines est l’anglais, c’est un défi de traduire un document comme la Charte en tagalog puisque c’est une langue qui a emprunté beaucoup de mots à l’anglais et à l’espagnol, explique-t-il. J’ai quand même réussi à relever ce défi, une expérience qui m’a permis de renouer avec le tagalog. »

Le tagalog est une langue fascinante, explique le Pr Archibald, puisqu’elle illustre parfaitement la manière dont « les langues évoluent lorsqu’elles subissent une influence étrangère ».

Un code de vie pour les Montréalais

Adoptée par la Ville en 2006, la Charte montréalaise des droits et responsabilités constitue un « code de vie » pour les Montréalais, les employés et les représentants de la Ville. Citée par l’UNESCO comme un exemple à suivre en matière de « Droit à la ville », la Charte permet notamment aux citoyennes et aux citoyens d’obtenir une consultation publique sur tout ce qui relève de la Ville ou des arrondissements.

« Il est important que tous les membres des communautés culturelles sachent qu’il y a des recours possibles s’ils estiment qu’ils ne peuvent pas participer à la vie montréalaise de manière active et profiter de l’espace urbain et de son organisation, croit le Pr Archibald. D’où l’importance de publier la Charte dans un certain nombre de langues parlées par les différentes communautés culturelles de Montréal. »

McGill riche d’une longue tradition d’accueil des réfugiés

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 15:00

Le 30 mai dernier, Suzanne Fortier, principale de l’Université McGill, et les étudiantes Petra Oszetzky et Eszter Szekely ont participé au dévoilement de la plaque commémorative de la Maison Petőfi.

Le 30 mai dernier, l’Université McGill soulignait le 60e anniversaire de la fondation de la Maison Petőfi, une résidence ayant accueilli 204 réfugiés hongrois en 1957.

Il y a 60 ans, environ 200 000 personnes ont fui la Hongrie à cause des violences qui ont secoué leur pays lors de la révolution de 1956. Grâce à l’appui du gouvernement fédéral, plus de 37 000 d’entre eux ont choisi de s’installer au Canada, dont près de 2000 à Montréal. Parmi eux, 204 étudiants se sont installés temporairement à l’Université McGill dans trois résidences de la rue McTavish baptisées collectivement « Maison Petőfi » en hommage au poète hongrois Sándor Petőfi. À l’époque, les responsables des lieux ont notamment veillé à ce que les étudiants apprennent l’anglais et se préparent aux examens d’admission à l’Université, épreuve que 72 d’entre eux ont réussie.

Gabriel Laszlo, autrefois étudiant en génie, conserve de bons souvenirs de cette époque.

« La Maison Petőfi nous a beaucoup aidés, se souvient-il. On nous a donné un toit, on nous a nourris et on a facilité la poursuite de nos études. L’Université McGill a été absolument essentielle à mon intégration au Canada. Il n’y a pas de mots pour exprimer ma reconnaissance. »

Les bâtiments qui abritaient autrefois la Maison Petőfi sont tombés sous le pic du démolisseur pendant les années 1990 en prévision de l’aménagement d’une librairie.

Le 20 juin dernier avait lieu la Journée mondiale des réfugiés de l’ONU, occasion de rappeler que l’Université McGill est riche d’une longue tradition d’accueil des personnes qui fuient la guerre, la persécution ou la terreur.

À la découverte des sciences avec les Midis Ville-Marie

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 14:45

Cet été, élargissez vos horizons tout en profitant du soleil grâce aux Midis Ville-Marie, dîners-causeries en plein air sans prétention organisés dans le cadre du 375e anniversaire de Montréal. Présentée par le Cœur des sciences de l’UQAM, cette activité permet aux scientifiques des universités de la ville de faire sortir le savoir du laboratoire et de vulgariser leurs travaux. Jusqu’au 4 octobre, vous pourrez donc rencontrer plusieurs professeurs de l’Université McGill au cœur de Ville-Marie afin d’en apprendre un peu plus sur l’objet de leur recherche.

« Énigmatique énergie sombre » (28 juin) : La doctorante en astrophysique Gabrielle Simard vous invite à découvrir l’énergie noire, l’un des plus grands mystères du cosmos. (Place Pasteur)

« La tempête sous le radar » (19 juillet) : Frédéric Fabry, professeur au Département des sciences atmosphériques et océaniques, expliquera comment le radar permet aux scientifiques d’étudier les tempêtes. (Place Jacques-Cartier)

« Dans les bras de Morphée » (9 août) : Qu’arrive-t-il à notre corps lorsque nous dormons? Dre Diane B. Boivin, directrice du Centre d’étude et de traitement des rythmes circadiens de l’Institut Douglas, abordera la physiologie du sommeil et expliquera que les moments passés dans les bras de Morphée n’ont rien de reposant. (Parc de l’espoir)

« Vers une sixième crise d’extinction? » (13 septembre) : La perte de biodiversité s’accélère, atteignant aujourd’hui une vitesse sans précédent. Andrew Gonzales, directeur du Centre de la science de la biodiversité du Québec, exposera les causes et les conséquences de l’extinction des espèces ainsi que les pistes de solution qui s’offrent à nous afin de changer le cours des choses.
(Lieu à déterminer)

« Halte au vacarme! » (4 octobre) : Romain Dumoulin, acousticien et chef de projet au Centre interdisciplinaire de recherche en musique, médias et technologie, vous convie à une conférence sur les répercussions des sons de la ville sur le bien-être de ceux qui y vivent et y travaillent, et propose des solutions faisant appel à des principes d’aménagement sonore urbain.

Pour connaître la programmation complète des Midis Ville-Marie, cliquez ici.

Des activités estivales pour les jeunes

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 14:35

Les activités du Camp de sport de McGill permettent aux jeunes de 6 à 15 ans de s’initier à une multitude d’activités physiques (Photo McGill Athletics and Recreation)

Vous cherchez des activités estivales pour vos enfants ? Vous avez été pris de court et avez raté la date limite d’inscription à plusieurs camps de vacances ? McGill a encore ce qu’il vous faut ! En collaboration avec le Musée McCord, l’Université propose plusieurs camps aux thématiques variées.

Explorations en tout genre
Destiné aux jeunes de 4 à 18 ans, ce camp de jour propose notamment de multiples activités axées sur les sciences. De nombreux cours d’initiation sont offerts par des éducateurs professionnels, notamment des professeurs de l’Université McGill. Comme les activités se déroulent en anglais, ce camp permet aux jeunes de parfaire leur maîtrise de la langue de Shakespeare.
Ce camp se déroule en anglais.

Camp de sport
Les activités du Camp de sport de McGill permettent aux jeunes de 6 à 15 ans de s’initier à une multitude d’activités physiques axées sur la promotion d’un mode de vie sain, le tout dans un cadre qui favorise l’esprit sportif.
Ce camp se déroule en anglais et en français.

Camp de jour du Musée McCord
Du 3 juillet au 25 août, le Musée McCord ouvre ses portes aux enfants de 5 à 10 ans afin de les initier à l’histoire. Grâce à des activités organisées dans les parcs avoisinants, les participants feront la découverte des trésors cachés de Montréal. Ce camp de jour entièrement bilingue propose deux programmes thématiques qui sauront plaire à tous.
Ce camp de jour se déroule en anglais et en français.


Un musée à ciel ouvert

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 14:28

Dancing Nana (Rouge d’Orient – Bloum), 1995, par Niki de Saint Phalle. De la collection de François Odermatt.

Du 13 juin au 26 octobre, l’Université McGill offrira des visites guidées de La Balade pour la Paix, un Musée à ciel ouvert, une collaboration entre le Musée des Beaux-arts de Montréal et McGill présentée dans le cadre du 375e anniversaire de la Ville de Montréal, du 50e anniversaire d’Expo 67 et du 150e anniversaire de la Confédération canadienne. Pour en savoir davantage, consultez le site de la Collection d’arts visuels de l’Université McGill.

Rachel Harding on demolishing barriers to medical breakthrough

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 12:20

Rachel Harding is a postdoctoral fellow at the Structural Genomics Consortium.

By Shawn Hayward

Medical research is time-consuming and expensive. There is a tendency to guard results and the credit that comes with it. But more and more researchers are looking at the idea of scientific protectionism with a fresh perspective, reappraising the worth of siloing discovery, and recognizing the harm it can cause.

Rachel Harding is a postdoctoral fellow at the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) and an Oxford University alumna. Her area of focus is Huntington’s disease, a condition that leads to brain cell death, disability and dementia.

Rather than keep her data private, Harding is releasing it online in real time. She does this through her website, Lab Scribbles. While this is raw data, not the kind found in published academic journal articles, Harding hopes it proves useful to fellow Huntington’s disease researchers and patients suffering from the disease. The ultimate goal is to aid the development of a breakthrough treatment for this terrible disease.

Harding recently gave a seminar about Lab Scribbles at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, where open science has been adopted at the institutional level. She spoke with the McGill Reporter about her work.

Why did you decide to make all your data public?

Open research has always interested me and I believe all academic output should be open access. I was very fortunate in my postdoctoral position at the SGC that I could explore some more innovative methods of scholarly communication with the organization’s full support. Aled Edwards (our CEO) asked if the notebook was something I would be interested in doing and I jumped at the chance.

Working on the biochemistry of Huntington’s disease (HD) is very challenging as the huntingtin protein is very big so traditional structural biology approaches are very tough. Structural biology projects can be quite binary in their outcome in traditional publication, you solve the structure or you don’t. However, a huge amount of work will go into a project to get you to that stage, a lot of which could be very useful for other researchers in the field, so making that available for posterity in a notebook makes sense, to me at least.

What sort of reaction have you gotten so far?

The reaction from most scientists about my open notebook has been very positive which surprised me given the fear of “scooping” most academics work under. Interestingly, my very anecdotal (and non-scientifically analyzed) experience does tend to suggest a generational divide as to whether academics support more radical open science strategies with more early career researchers enthusiastically supporting such policies. The general public, who I have spoken to at library events and in communications through my blog and Twitter, have been overwhelmingly supportive. I feel very privileged to hear from so many people with messages of support, especially HD patients and families.

Are you worried someone may take your work and copy it for their own personal gain without giving you credit? Why or why not?

This is a real possibility and there probably wouldn’t be too much I could do about it. However, all of my work is published under Creative Commons Attribution license (commonly called CC-by) which means that anyone re-using, modifying or building on the methods and data, all of which I highly support and encourage, should really cite the specific data deposits. I would be thrilled if someone used my work for or towards their own research findings so it would be great if they let me know that had happened.

Overall, I think the benefits of working in the open vastly outweigh any risk of being scooped. The labscribbles project has opened so many doors for me, both in terms of scholarly communication as well as development of my own scientific skill-set. We also have a large collaborative network of scientists working with us on different aspects of the project, in part I believe, because of the innovative nature of this project. I think all of these advantages mean that the project is progressing far more quickly than if I were a postdoc working in the traditional “closed” sense. Reaching our scientific goals and milestones is the top priority and the open notebook approach is really helping us with that.

The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital has adopted an open science policy. What do you think of expanding open science to the institutional level?

Taking open science policies to a higher level is an amazing step forward for the open movement. Whether that is individual labs, funding agencies, departments or institutions, I wholeheartedly support anyone who takes that step. I think it will be important to reflect on the impact of open policies on those taking these steps, so that in the future, we will have data to support why this is a great idea and more will feel encouraged to adopt similar policies.

McGill hosts lacrosse’s 150th anniversary commemoration

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 10:28

Indigenous lacrosse players use specially constructed lacrosse sticks and an old-fashioned ball made out of deer hide and feathers. / Photo courtesy of Peter Zabierek, Westmount Lynx Lacross

By Earl Zukerman

Lacrosse is celebrating 150 years and to mark the occasion, a three-day commemoration was held at McGill over the weekend, with the centrepiece attraction in the form of two field lacrosse re-enactment contests played Saturday on the lower campus field.

The first match pitted two native teams, some playing barefoot, some in moccasins, using specially constructed lacrosse sticks and an old-fashioned ball made out of deer hide and feathers. That was followed by a confrontation between the McGill varsity team and players from the Kahnawake Survival School, scripted to resemble a “national championship” game between the Kahnawake Lacrosse Club and the Montreal Lacrosse Team played on July 1, 1867, using the first set of codified rules. Both games were officiated by three referees, dressed in three-piece suits and top hats, which was the way the game was officiated back then.

Among the spectators was a trained eagle, along with its handler. The event, organized by the Canadian Lacrosse Association, the oldest governing body in Canadian sport, featured a number of special guests, including Marc Miller, a McGill law school graduate who serves as the parliamentary secretary to the minister of infrastructure and communities and the member of parliament for the Montreal regions of Ville-Marie, Le Sud-Ouest and Île-des-Sœurs.

The founding father of the game was Dr. George Beers, a Montreal dentist, who learned the game from the Kahnawake Mohawk, who were instrumental in the game’s origins. He codified the rules, which were adopted in 1867 when the Canadian Lacrosse Association was formed.

Also part of the celebration was a series of lectures on the history of the game and an exhibition at the McCord Museum of Canadian History, located on the corner of Sherbrooke and University Street.

“We were really thrilled, it was a success and exceeded our expectations. I’d rate it as a 9.5 out of 10,” said Jim Calder, who recently authored a book on ancient lacrosse and served as manager of the 150th celebration of lacrosse. “Our goal was to educate everyone about the traditional game and the development of the modern game. We were able to do that through the re-enacted games and the lectures that were presented. After it was over, we visited the gravesite of Dr. Beers at the Mont Royal Cemetery, where we raised a toast to him.”

Related story

Celebration with introspection

Scholars at Risk offers refuge – and a voice – to persecuted scholars

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 16:13

By McGill Reporter Staff

“Ally,” as he must be known, is one of thousands of academics facing persecution, torture and death around the world. While he once feared for his life in his home country in South Asia, today, he has found refuge at McGill as part of the Scholars at Risk program (SAR).

SAR advocates on behalf of academics who are threatened in their home countries. It arranges for positions of sanctuary at universities and colleges in its network. The organization arranges temporary research and teaching positions at institutions in its network as well as providing advisory and referral services. Every year, SAR provides sanctuary and assistance to more than 300 threatened scholars worldwide.

Ally studied economics and worked for thirty years in the field of participatory development for poverty alleviation and inclusive governance with various national and international development agencies.

He and his family became began receiving threats after joining in public protests against religious and political extremists, including the Taliban. When elected officials began being assassinated, Ally knew it was too dangerous to stay.

“When we showed solidarity with victims of violence we started receiving threatening phone calls from unknown numbers. Police and security agencies failed to provide any protection to our family,” says Ally. “When news of our police complaint was splashed all over the media along with photos of us we knew we had to leave.”

Unfortunately, Ally’s plight is not uncommon. SAR reports that from May 1, 2015, to September 1, 2016, 40 academics have been attacked or killed or have disappeared around the world; 39 have been imprisoned; 33 have been prosecuted; and 17 have been fired for speaking out. SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitor keeps an ongoing tally of the various incidents of violence and intimidation faced by academics globally, posting details of the most recent occurrences. But these numbers are low, because of difficulties in documenting cases in repressive and failed states.

Ally applied to SAR and was offered a fellowship in the Netherlands. Over the last three years he and his family has lived in four different countries, including Canada.

“McGill has also offered us opportunities to carry out further research and share our experience with like-minded people,” says Ally. “SAR has helped find placements at committed institutions. After our stint at McGill ends in December we do not know where we are going. We live one day at a time.”

McGill, along with UQAM, are the two Quebec members of the Scholars at Risk Network. There are 17 member universities in Canada. Founded at the University of Chicago in 1999, and based at New York University, SAR is a network of over 425 educational institutions and individuals in over 40 countries protecting and offering sanctuary to threatened scholars and students.

Professor Nandini Ramanujam, Executive Director and the Director of Programs of the Faculty of Law’s Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism (CHRLP), serves as the University representative of the SAR Network.  She is also a member of the Steering Committee of SAR Canada (section representatives from  Carleton University, the University of Ottawa and the University of Windsor are other members of the national Steering Committee).  The Canadian section was created in 2011, and currently there are 17 Canadian universities affiliated with SAR.  Ramanujam says that one of the main goals of the Steering Committee  is to increase that number and create more safe havens for at-risk scholars.

Since joining the Network in 2012,  McGill has hosted three Scholars at Risk.  The O’Brien Fellows in Residence Program has allowed CHRLP and the Faculty of Law to host scholars. The current scholar is also affiliated with the Institute for the Study of International Development (ISID).  The aspiration is that other faculties at McGill will be able to host Scholars from the network in the near future.

Ramanujam cites the exceptional  administrative and logistical  support of CHRLP’s Administrative Coordinator Sharon Webb, as being “invaluable” to the successful integration of scholars in the life of the university and community at large.

Under the leadership of Ramanujam McGill has now hosted three Scholars At Risk. The first one has found a placement in the U.S. and the second has found long term employment as an academic in  East Asia.

“The purpose of SAR is three fold: protection, advocacy, and learning. McGill has hosted three Scholars at Risk, and we are very proud of that. The Scholars are forced to live a nomadic existence and have precarious status, with their visas tied to the limited duration of the  academic postings. Our job is to connect the Scholars to academic community at McGill community, and to give them opportunities to teach and do research. We want to show support and solidarity for these courageous  intellectuals,” says Ramanujam, who received the McGill Award for Equity and Community Building for her work on SAR in 2016.

Ramanujam says SAR reminds us of our international obligations as individuals and states. “Injustices and oppression have to be fought no matter where in the world they happen,” says Ramanujam. “We now live in a more interconnected world than ever before and ensuring that that academic freedom is protected worldwide is our collective responsibility.”

Most of all these scholars remind us of the mission of a university, and the importance of academic freedom and the power of ideas. The pen really is mightier than the sword.


Research in the park

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 13:45

By James Martin

As part of the City of Montreal’s Vive 375 programming, UQÀM’s Cœur des sciences centre is presenting a free series of 24 “informal, playful and participatory” presentations called Les midis Ville-Marie. Hosted by theatre students, each noontime lectures features a researcher from a Montreal university or institution. These offbeat outdoor events take place in public spaces throughout the Ville-Marie borough, which includes downtown and the Old Port. The series runs until October 4, 2017.

McGill biology professor Louis Lefebvre presented the fourth instalment in the series on June 7 – he talked about the intelligence of pigeons while standing, appropriately, in bird-friendly Phillips Square – and there are five more noontime lectures by McGill researchers to come:

Énigmatique énergie sombre (June 28): Astrophysics PhD candidate Gabrielle Simard will shed some light on dark energy, one of the biggest puzzles in the cosmos. (Place Pasteur)

La tempête sous le radar (July 19): Frédéric Fabry, professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, will discuss how radar lets us see into the heart of storms. (Place Jacques-Cartier)

Dans les bras de Morphée (August 9): What happens to our bodies while we’re sleeping? Dr. Diane B. Boivin, Director of the Centre for Study and Treatment of Circadian Rhythms at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, unlocks the mysteries of 40 winks. (Parc de l’espoir)

Vers une sixième crise d’extinction? (September 13): Biodiversity loss is increasing at an unprecedented pace. Andrew Gonzales, Director of the Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science, discusses the causes and impact of these extinctions, and what we can do to change the planet’s current course. (Location to be announced)

Halte au vacarme! (October 4): Romain Dumoulin is an acoustician and project manager at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology (CIRMMT). He will discuss how the sounds of the city affect our well-being, and offer some ideas for the future of urban sound design. (Location to be announced)

See the Les midis Ville-Marie website for the full schedule – and don’t forget the calendar of McGill activities celebrating Montreal’s 375th and Canada’s 150th anniversaries.


Undergraduate medical education program off probation

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 12:19

McGill’s Life Sciences Complex. / Photo: Claudio Calligaris

The following is a message from David Eidelman, Vice-Principal (Health Affairs) and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine 

(Version française ci-dessous).

Dear Colleagues,

On Monday, June 12, the Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools (CACMS) confirmed to McGill that the MDCM program is no longer on probation, effective immediately.

This positive outcome reflects the extraordinary work of many individuals, on campus and in our teaching network. On behalf of McGill and our Faculty of Medicine, congratulations.

“We look forward to building on our progress and continually improving in all areas of the program to best prepare students to meet the evolving health care needs of our society,” says David Eidelman.

As confirmed by the CACMS in its letter, the program remains accredited for an indeterminate term. We are “in compliance” or “in compliance with monitoring” for the majority of standards. We are rated “satisfactory” or “satisfactory with monitoring” for the majority of elements as well. Key areas of focus going forward relate to diversity within both the student body and leadership (Element 3.3) and supervision of students (Element 9.3), together with the elements that require monitoring. The CACMS has requested two status reports, the first for review in January 2019 and the second for review in January 2020.

We have crossed this milestone, one of many in our commitment to educational excellence. We are stronger today as a result, but our work, of course, is ongoing. We look forward to building on our progress and continually improving in all areas of the program to best prepare students to meet the evolving health care needs of our society.

I would like to express my appreciation to the CACMS Secretariat for their valuable guidance and input, as well as to the survey team members who visited us in February and reported their findings to the CACMS.

Last but not least, thank you, sincerely, to our students, leadership, academics and staff who stood up for educational excellence, and to our many alumni and friends who stood by McGill throughout.

Grandescunt Aucta Labore 
By work, all things increase and grow

– McGill University motto

David Eidelman, MDCM
Vice-Principal (Health Affairs)
Dean of the Faculty of Medicine


Chers collègues, chères collègues,

Le lundi 12 juin, le Comité d’agrément des facultés de médecine du Canada (CAFMC) a confirmé que l’état de probation du programme MDCM de l’Université McGill est officiellement levé.

Cette décision positive est le résultat du travail extraordinaire de nombreuses personnes, sur le campus et dans notre réseau d’enseignement. Au nom de l’Université McGill et de la Faculté de médecine, félicitations.

Comme l’indique la lettre du CAFMC (en anglais), l’agrément du programme est maintenu pour une durée indéterminée. Nous avons été jugés « conformes » ou « conformes, mais nécessitant une surveillance » pour la majorité des normes d’agrément, et avons également reçu la cote « satisfaisant » ou « satisfaisant, mais nécessitant une surveillance » pour la plupart des éléments d’agrément. Nos efforts continus porteront en priorité sur la diversité au sein du corps étudiant et de la direction (élément 3.3) ainsi que la supervision des étudiants (élément 9.3), en plus des éléments cités comme étant à surveiller. Le CAFMC a exigé la soumission de deux rapports d’état, dont le premier sera examiné en janvier 2019 et le deuxième, en janvier 2020.

Nous avons franchi ce jalon, l’une des nombreuses étapes de notre quête permanente d’excellence en matière de formation. Ce processus nous a rendus plus forts, mais bien entendu, le travail se poursuit. Nous continuerons de tabler sur ces progrès et d’améliorer sans cesse tous les secteurs de notre programme pour bien préparer nos étudiants à répondre aux besoins changeants de la société en matière de santé.

J’aimerais exprimer ma reconnaissance au secrétariat du CAFMC pour ses conseils et ses commentaires précieux, ainsi qu’à l’équipe d’évaluation qui a visité la Faculté en février dernier et fait part de ses observations au CAFMC.

Enfin, je tiens à remercier sincèrement les étudiants, les dirigeants, le corps professoral et le personnel de la Faculté pour leur engagement à assurer l’excellence de la formation, de même que nos nombreux diplômés et amis pour leur soutien constant à l’égard de McGill.

Grandescunt Aucta Labore
(Tout s’accroît par le travail)

– Devise de l’Université McGill

David Eidelman, MDCM
Vice-principal (Santé et affaires médicales)
Doyen, Faculté de médecine


AI Summer Lab for women: Sisters are doing it for themselves

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 13:33

The 20 women who are participating in McGill’s first-ever AI for Social Good Summer Lab.

By McGill Reporter Staff

From June 5 – 30, 20 young and dynamic women will participate in McGill’s first-ever AI for Social Good Summer Lab at McGill. Organized by McGill’s Innovation Lab and the Reasoning and Learning Lab, along with other AI partners, the one-month Lab is designed to teach technical concepts in machine learning, in addition to digital product development and design.

The women-only Lab is a direct response to the lack of diversity in the field.

Angélique Mannella worked in the tech industry for more than 15 years, and founded a tech company. Mannella is Associate Vice-Principal (Innovation and Partnerships), Office of Innovation and Partnerships. “I have seen firsthand the major gender imbalance in tech,” she says. “Given the excitement around AI in Canada right now, I see this point in time as the opportunity for Canada to not only be a leader in AI, but to be a leader in inclusion and diversity in the AI industry. The idea to pilot a Summer Lab for Women came up after a discussion of women in tech with Doina Precup, co-director of the Reasoning and Learning Lab.”

The summer lab will provide participants with training in the latest machine learning technologies, as well as give them the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned to a social problem of their choice.

Computer science relies on data sets, and Artificial intelligence relies on especially massive data sets.

If the data sets required to teach computers to ‘think for themselves’ only reflect the interests and demographics of one group, say affluent white men, then the results are skewed.

When the data set doesn’t include information about diverse groups, including women, and programmers are predominantly men, then you have what has been called the “white dude problem” in computer science. If un-diverse data goes in, then that’s what comes out.

The Canadian group Ladies Learning Code, and U.S.-based initiatives Girls Who Code, along with others such as Chic Geek and Pixelles are some of the groups that have popped up to counter the male bias of work being done in computer science and especially in AI.

At McGill in Electrical and Computer Engineering, the number of female undergraduate students is somewhere between 15 – 18 per cent. According to the American Association of University Women, in 2013, 26 per cent of computer professionals were women. These are numbers that tomorrow’s AI professionals want to see on the rise.

“AI is a brand new field, with huge potential for applications in the future, so the time to get involved is now,” says McGill Physics and Computer Science student Juliette Lavoie who has signed up for the Lab. “It is also important for the field to diversify and include more women.”

Aanika Rahman echoes that feeling. Rahman is studying Statistics and Computer Science at McGill and will also participate in the upcoming Lab. “It is a perfect time for [women] to get involved with AI because networks of people are forming and women need mentors and colleagues to move into a male dominated field,” she says.


McGill’s role in the evolution of patient-centred care

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 12:29

Dr. Laurie Gottlieb, Flora Madeline Shaw Chair in Nursing

By Jason Clement

Patient-centred care has become something of a buzz term in medicine in the past decade. But what many in the field might not know is that a patient-centred care model was pioneered by McGill nurses back in the 1950s.

The McGill Model of Nursing promoted the idea that nurses, patients and families are equal partners in providing support, information and advocacy. Patients and families are treated with respect, and listened to as individuals with personalities, preferences and histories of their own. It is difficult to grasp now just how revolutionary these ideas were at the time.

“I thought everyone thought like this, but it was really radical,” says Dr. Laurie Gottlieb, Flora Madeline Shaw Chair in Nursing and Professor at the Ingram School of Nursing. Dr. Gottlieb worked with Dr. Moyra Allen, to describe and evaluate McGill’s nursing approach that Dr. Allen called Situation-Responsive nursing. This work became the foundation for the McGill Model of Nursing. It was the mid 1970s, and Dr. Allen, who joined the faculty in 1954, could see that with the introduction of universal healthcare in the 1960s and the rapidly evolving field of medicine, the time was ripe for an expanded role for nurses.

Dr. Gottlieb recalls this era when nursing in Canada was at a crossroads. Some in the field were advocating for a replacement role, whereby nurses would take over many tasks performed by doctors, others preferred the existing assistant-to-the-physician role. “At McGill, we said no, the expansion has to be different,” says Dr. Gottlieb. “We have to expand into being nurses for families. Our focus was not just on diagnosis and treatment. We were looking at how people responded to their diagnosis and how they were recovering from their illness and how we were promoting their health in the community.”

A generation of nurses trained under the McGill Model of Nursing went on to become leaders who trained the next generation of nurses. The model was adopted by hospitals across Canada, as well as internationally. Dr. Gottlieb then spearheaded the evolution of the McGill Model by developing Strengths-Based Nursing, a philosophy and value-driven approach to guide clinicians, leaders, and educators. Strengths-Based Nursing and Strengths-Based Care, referring to the strengths that nurses, patients and families are encouraged to recognize and foster in themselves and others to promote health and facilitate healing.

Prof. Catherine Gros – Assistant Professor at the Ingram School of Nursing at McGill, who studied under Dr. Allen – argues that in the face of the rapidly expanding specialization, the advent of new technologies and the sheer volume of medical knowledge, the relational aspects of nursing have somewhat lost ground to other duties in recent years. There was, and sometimes still is, precious little time to stop and hold someone’s hand, interact with families, or just listen.

But there has been a noticeable return to the original tenets of patient-centred care in recent years, notably with the publication of Dr. Gottlieb’s expansive overview, Strengths-Based Nursing Care, which came out in 2013. The book has been translated into several languages and uses the stories and voices of nurses in the trenches of the Canadian healthcare system – mostly here in Montreal – to help articulate a philosophy and a value-driven approach as it has evolved today and is a widely-used textbook.

“This fall we will be implementing a revised undergraduate curriculum using the Strengths-Based Nursing approach as the underlying philosophy,” says Maria Di Feo, Faculty Lecturer and Clinical Placement Coordinator at the Ingram School of Nursing. Ms. Di Feo says the next step is to inspire the clinical instructors and preceptors working with students in the clinical settings to use the Strengths-Based approach. “It would be ideal, if the School and the clinical settings shared a common philosophy of nursing.” In a joint venture with their clinical partners, the Ingram School of Nursing is now in the process of developing online modules for nurse preceptors on the Strengths-Based Nursing approach, and on how the values and principles underlying the approach can be used to guide the teaching of nursing students in the clinical settings.

Dr. Gottlieb says that McGill’s nurses are uniquely placed to help guide the medical community’s newly rediscovered interest in patient-centred care, because they’ve been at it for decades. On top of that, as Prof. Gros notes, research has demonstrated what proponents of the McGill Model of Nursing and the now Strengths-Based Nursing have long known: that this kind of relational care approach improves patient outcomes and satisfaction, as well as job satisfaction for nurses. “McGill has been a real leader in teaching patient-centred care,” Prof. Gros says.


Celebration with introspection

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 11:25

The 150th Anniversary of Lacrosse Celebration will run from June 16-18.

By James Martin

There’s no question that this year’s twin anniversaries – Montreal’s 375th and Canada’s 150th – offer a cornucopia of fun-filled parties and awe-inspiring grand spectacles – but many people are also using 2017 as an opportune moment for clear-eyed critiques of our collective history with a view to building conciliatory and inclusive ways forward for all of our communities. Earlier this year, for example, McGill’s Art History and Communication Studies Graduate Student Association presented “While No One Was Looking,” a combination art exhibition/print magazine/community outreach project that commemorated the written and unwritten histories of Montreal as “a city of Indigenous peoples, peoples of colour, and immigrants.”

Here are two additional upcoming McGill-related events that are also drawing on this double-milestone year to reflect on the past in order to build a better future:

150th Anniversary of Lacrosse Celebration (June 16-18, 2017)

More than a sport, lacrosse is central to the identity of many Indigenous cultures across North America. McGill is partnering with the Canadian Lacrosse Foundation for a free weekend festival honouring and celebrating the historical, cultural and spiritual importance of lacrosse.

Experts from across Canada and abroad will present a series of lectures and presentations, held in Redpath Hall, that address topics such as cultural appropriation, gender and the history of lacrosse. The McCord Museum will host exhibits of memorabilia, photographs, trophies and equipment, many on loan from the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in British Columbia.

The weekend’s marquee event will be two historical re-enactments, staged on the downtown McGill campus’ Lower Field from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, June 17. The first game will show lacrosse as it was likely played by Indigenous people around the time Jacques Cartier first sailed up the St. Lawrence River. The second will re-enact a match that took place between the Kahnawake Mohawk team and the Montreal Amateur Athletic Club in the late 1800s. The teams will be portrayed, respectively, by current and former student athletes from the Kahnawake Survival School and a group of McGill students and coaches. The players will wear historically accurate uniforms, and use handmade replicates of the sticks used at the time.

“We’re celebrating the 150th anniversary of the modern game of lacrosse, but the game was played for many centuries earlier,” says Tim Murdoch, head coach of McGill’s men’s varsity lacrosse team, many members of which will participate in the re-enactments. “I’m really happy that the organizers of the weekend are working very hard to also celebrate the traditional game and the important role it plays in Indigenous cultures.”

Submission of the Final Report of the Provost’s Task Force on Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Education (June 21, 2017)

Human rights activist Ellen Gabriel at the launch of the Provost’s Task Force on Indigenous Studies and Indigenous in September. / Photo: Neale McDevitt

In September 2016, Christopher Manfredi, McGill’s Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic), launched a task force to “increase Indigenous presence at McGill among students, staff and faculty, and to expand our relationship with the Indigenous communities locally and across Canada.” On June 21, 2017, National Aboriginal Day, McGill will mark the submission of the Task Force’s Final Report with an event at the Hochelaga Rock on Lower Campus.

The event, which begins at 2 p.m., will open and close with a thanksgiving address by an Elder. Scheduled speakers include Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, and Ellen Gabriel, human rights activist and former Coordinator of the First Peoples’ House. Community members from Kahnawake, Kanesatake and Akwesasne will attend.

The Final Report, which will be posted online a few hours before the event, is the result of “a consultation process that was widely cast within McGill, but that also engaged with many external stakeholders,” says Prof. Hudson Meadwell, Chair of McGill Political Science, who co-chairs the task force with Paige Isaac, Coordinator of First Peoples’ House, and Prof. Angela Campbell, Associate Provost.

Students, staff, faculty and members of the wider community were enlisted for five working groups, each addressing a theme: student recruitment and retention, academic programs and curriculum, physical representation and symbolic recognition, academic complement and research, and capacity-building and human resources. The Task Force held multiple meetings within McGill, including open forums on both campuses, and consulted with a wide range of educators across Canada and with Indigenous communities and organizations closer to home, including an open forum with elders and educators in Kahnawake. A roundtable on the downtown campus invited faculty from Canadian universities experienced in Indigenous education and Indigenous studies.

“One of the running themes through all our work is to build fruitful, respectful and reciprocal relations with Indigenous communities,” says Meadwell, “in particular those on the traditional territory on which our campuses are located.”

Immediately following the June 21 event, the Office of the Provost will begin building a new Office for Indigenous Strategy that will coordinate and lead Indigenous initiatives on the two campuses, and support the implementation of the Final Report’s Calls to Action.

Throughout the summer, the McGill Reporter will highlight the many other ways the McGill community is celebrating and marking Montreal’s 375th and Canada’s 150th anniversaries, including concert, talks, the launch of the promenade Fleuve-Montagne and a solar eclipse viewing party. A full calendar is online.


McGill Sports Hall of Fame induction class for 2017 announced

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 10:59

Top row (L to R): Jason Forsyth, Chris Rumball, Lisa Virgini. Bottom: Ryan Tomicic, Shari Fraser, Hubert Lacroix

By Earl Zukerman

Goaltender Jason Forsyth, a native Montrealer, who backstopped McGill University to a national soccer championship in 1997, is among a half-dozen honorees selected for induction this fall to the McGill Sports Hall of Fame.

Other new laureates, each of them all-Canadians, include football’s Dr. Chris Rumball from Ancaster, Ont., swimmers Lisa Virgini of Pierrefonds, Que., and Ryan Tomicic of Montreal, as well as soccer defender Shari Fraser of Kirkland, Que. Inducted in the builder category will be Hubert T. Lacroix of Montreal, currently president and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada, who guided the McGill Martlets basketball team to a stellar 190-137 record from 1978 to 1987, including a Quebec conference title in 1985-86.

The hallowed hall now has 139 honoured members, 24 of them Olympians, since the pantheon was initiated in 1996.

The induction luncheon will kick-off the University’s Homecoming Week celebrations on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017 and only about 250 tickets will be available for the ceremony, scheduled to be held at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal. Tickets are $70 and can be reserved online beginning in August or by contacting the McGill Alumni Association at 514-398-8288.

Jason Forsyth, who graduated with a mechanical engineering degree in 2001 and now resides in Geneva, Switzerland, was a four-time conference all-star from 1996 to 1999 and merited second-team all-Canadian honours in his senior year, when he served as co-captain. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound ‘keeper posted a 31-13-10 record, with a stingy 1.20 goals-against average and a school record 22 shutouts in 54 starts overall. Forsyth led McGill to Quebec conference titles in three of his four seasons and the 1997 national championship, their first CIAU crown in 15 years. In the national final, he stole the show, backstopping the underdog Redmen to a 1-0 upset in penalty-kicks over heavily-favoured UBC, who held a lopsided 20-0 margin in attempted shots. Forsyth was voted as the most outstanding goalkeeper at both the 1997 and 1998 Nationals.

Dr. Chris Rumball graduated with a bachelor of science in 1971, followed by a medical degree in 1975. He dressed for every game over his five seasons and was a four-time conference all-star, twice at defensive back and twice at running back. No slouch on special teams either, he scored six regular season touchdowns on kick returns. Rumball received all-Canadian honours as a DB in 1969, leading McGill to the Yates Cup league title and a berth in the Vanier Cup national championship game. A co-captain and two-time team MVP, he won the Forbes trophy in 1972-73 as McGill male athlete of the year.

Lisa Virgini, a 5-foot-4 backstroke and butterfly specialist who swam for Canada at the 1997 world short-course championships in Gothenburg, Sweden, graduated in 2000 with a commerce degree, awarded with great distinction. A five-time Quebec conference all-star, she twice merited all-Canadian honours. In five trips to the CIAU national championships, Virgini racked up six gold medals, four silvers and three bronzes. She was also a gold medalist at the 1997 Canadian national championships.

Ryan Tomicic, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound freestyle sprinter who swam for Canada at the 2007 FISU Summer Games in Bangkok, graduated with a mechanical engineering degree in 2004, followed by a couple of law degrees (BCL ’10 and LLB ’10). He became the first McGill swimmer to win 100 career medals, 40 of them golden. A four-time conference all-star and two-time all-Canadian, Tomicic collected seven medals at Nationals, winning two golds, one silver and four bronzes. The two-time Forbes Trophy winner as McGill’s top male athlete, won the 2003-04 Quebec conference nomination for the BLG Award, which goes to the Canadian university athlete of the year. Tomicic currently works for the BLG law firm.

Shari Fraser, who graduated in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in geography and environmental science, started every game in her freshman season and remained a starter throughout her five years at McGill. The 5-foot-7 defender was a four-time conference all-star and two-time all-Canadian who played for Canada at the 2005 FISU Summer Games in Izmir, Turkey. A two-time team MVP who served as captain in her senior year, she shared league MVP honours in 2005 and won the Gladys Bean Trophy that season as McGill female athlete of the year.

Hubert T. Lacroix graduated from McGill with a law degree in 1976 and an MBA in 1981. He served nine years as a part-time head coach of the women’s basketball program, donating his annual honorarium back to the team budget. Lacroix led the Martlets to a 190-137 record overall and the 1985-86 Quebec league championship, their first title in a dozen years. During his tenure, Lacroix produced 14 conference all-stars and four all-Canadians.

NOTE: The McGill Sports Hall of Fame selection committee, chaired by Richard Pound, was composed of a group representing students, administrative staff, university officials and alumni. It included Prof. David Covo, Mike Nelson, Dawson Tilley, Sally McDougall, Bob Winsor, Colin Adair, Gayle Noble, Robert Watt, Stephen Lloyd, Cynthia Price and Greg Weil, in addition to student-athletes Tami Banon and Patrick Farias. Non-voting members included Marc Gelinas, Executive Director of Athletics & Recreation, who served as secretary, plus Filomena Gonçalves (recording secretary), Tom Thompson (resource member) and Earl Zukerman (research coordinator).

Submissions for next year’s induction can be made by completing an online nomination form before March 1, 2018.


Kidney graft success – does age and sex matter?

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 15:53

Dr. Bethany Foster, researcher at the RI-MUHC and pediatric nephrologist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital

Source: MUHC Public Affairs

The success of kidney transplant is dependent on the age and sex of both the donor and the recipient, according to research recently published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

The study, which was a collaboration between a team from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and the University of Montreal Hospital Research Center (CRCHUM), revealed that young women had poorer transplant outcomes compared to young men, whereas women of post-menopausal age had similar or slightly better outcomes than men of the same age.

This finding opens the door to a new approach for organ transplantation, and could lead to personalized immunosuppression strategies based on age and sex.

“This is the first study to assess differences in graft outcomes between female and male recipients across the entire age spectrum,” says the study’s corresponding author Dr. Bethany Foster, researcher at the RI-MUHC and pediatric nephrologist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital of the MUHC. “Previous studies did not find significant differences in graft survival between the sexes, but they focused exclusively on adults, most of whom were older. We considered the possibility that sex differences in graft survival may depend on age.”

The researchers evaluated the records of nearly 160,000 kidney transplant recipients recorded in the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients database, which includes all transplant recipients in the United States. The outcomes of graft success were evaluated in relation to the age and sex of both the recipient and the donor.

“We found that among recipients of male donors, females of all ages had significantly worse graft survival than males,” explains first author Dr. Fanny Lepeytre, fellow in Nephrology at the CRCHUM for this project. “However, when the donor was female, only female recipients aged 15-24 years had worse outcomes than their male counterparts. In fact, female recipients aged 45 years or older actually had slightly better graft survival than males of the same age when the donor was female.”

The role of sex hormones in graft outcomes

These findings open new questions about the possible impact of sex hormones on immune reactivity in transplant recipients. “We know from studies outside the field of transplantation that the female sex hormone estrogen tends to activate the immune system, whereas male sex hormones such as testosterone tend to suppress it,” says Dr. Foster who is also an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at McGill University. “The fact that young women 15-24 years old, in whom estrogen levels are at their peak, have higher graft failure risks than males or females in any other age group suggests that estrogen may increase the risk of rejection. Women over the age of 45 have less of this hormone so it makes sense that they may have a lower risk of rejection and graft failure.”

Another possible explanation for the sex differences observed in this study is that sex hormones may influence the function of anti-rejection medications, making them less effective in females than males.

This observational study sheds light on how little we know about the influence of sex, gender, and age on the immune system, transplantation, and medical care in general.

“We need to better understand which biological and social factors explain the sex differences in graft outcomes that we observed,” says Dr. Foster. “Right now, we treat men, women, boys and girls with transplants in a very similar way. With better understanding we could potentially improve graft outcomes by developing age and sex specific immune-suppression strategies.”

Writing through transition

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 15:09

Juliet Johnson accepts the Canadian Political Science Association’s Prize in International Relations from jury member Antonio Franceschet on May 31.

By Lauren Jane Heller

When political science professor Juliet Johnson was in high school, she wanted to be a biochemist. In fact, she’s pretty sure the reason she was accepted into Stanford was because she won the Arizona State Science Fair. During her freshman year at Stanford, while focusing mainly on science, she took a class on the history of the Soviet Union. “I didn’t know anything about the Soviet Union or the Soviet experience, and I became fascinated,” says Johnson. “It quite literally changed my life, that particular course, so I changed my major and started studying Russian, and just got sucked in.”

A few decades later, Johnson’s fascination with Russia and the post-communist world hasn’t dissipated, and her interest in the transformation of the former Soviet bloc has translated into valuable, award-winning research. On May 31, Johnson was awarded the Canadian Political Science Association (CPSA) Prize in International Relations for her second book, Priests of Prosperity: How Central Bankers Transformed the Postcommunist World. Published in 2016, Priests of Prosperity, which was also shortlisted for the Donner Prize, was hailed by the jury as a “major contribution to the study of International Political Economy and Central and East European post-communist transition.”

The book is the story of how institutions that were designed for one thing – to be the accounting arms of a command economy – were turned into something entirely different: central banks that can run monetary policy, do banking supervision, and function in a capitalist economy. This was not, Johnson argues, simply an internal change, but the result of great efforts on the part of the transnational central banking community to design training and technical assistance programs to support the shift to a functioning capitalist economy.

Johnson started her research in February 2000, and at the time had no idea that she would spend more than a decade conducting interviews and working on this project.

“As I was writing and working, things happened, like Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia joining the EU, which had a major impact on these transformation processes,” Johnson explains. “I conducted the first round of interviews in Russia right after Putin came to power, so there was a great deal of evolution after that. Similar things happened in Kyrgyzstan, and then of course, you had the global financial crisis, which again affected not only the post-communist countries, but the central banks of the countries that were doing the training. In many ways, it undermined the legitimacy of the model that they had been transmitting to these post-communist countries for so many years, so I definitely had to take that into account in the book.”

In the middle of her research, in 2003, Johnson moved to Montreal to work at McGill. As a new Canadian, Johnson feels especially honoured to have received the CSPA Prize in International Relations. “This is a community that’s welcomed me from the beginning, and has been very professionally nurturing. To have my work recognized in this way, with an award like this – that is only given out every two years – is really quite meaningful.”

While Johnson may have spent 14 years working on this book, it is because she has many other research interests. The classes she teaches at McGill include an introduction to Russian politics, and a course called ‘Memory, Place and Power,’ which looks at monuments and memorials in both post-communist and North American contexts, and “how publics and government use and battle over public space to capture the symbolic capital that’s embedded in them.”

Johnson is also co-director of the Jean Monnet Centre Montreal, a joint-centre with McGill and the University of Montreal.

When asked if she thought that the project would never end, Johnson laughs. “I knew I would finish it! The idea is that you can go slowly, but just don’t stop! Bit by bit, it got researched, it got written, it got done.”

“Given that this was quite a big project, I’m glad I took the time to get it right,” Johnson continues. “If I had published it more quickly I would have missed out on some important events that I wouldn’t have been able to integrate. I also wouldn’t have had the time to think through some of the big theoretical arguments that I wanted to make. In the end, even though it took a long time, I’m very happy with the outcome and I think it’s a better book for it.”