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Updated: 31 min ago

McGill’s Chem-E car cruises to U.S. national championship

2 hours 11 min ago

In ti to win it: Members of the upstart McGill team just moments after winning the 17th annual AIChE Chem-E Car competition in Salt Lake City, Utah. / Photo courtesy of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

By Neale McDevitt

It was a script that would have made Rocky Balboa proud. In just its second year of competition, the McGill Chem-E Car team defied all odds to tie for first place at the recent national championships in Salt Lake City, Utah. The McGill squad beat out 35-team field – including competitors from South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Qatar – to finish tied for top spot with perennial powerhouse and three-time champion, Cornell.

“It was unreal. I’m still smiling,” said Ali Sahmoud, captain of the McGill Chem-E Car Nationals Team.

The Chem-E Car competition is an undergraduate design competition hosted by there (AIChE) in which teams of engineers from universities from across North America and around the world design and build small cars – ranging in size from shoeboxes to fire hydrants – powered and stopped exclusively by chemical reactions. The primary objective of the competition is performance – each car must carry a weight between 0 and 500 grams over a precise distance between 15 and 30 meters. The designs and fuel choices showcase the teams’ creativity and innovation.

“The Chem-E Car competition is a great avenue for students to apply chemical engineering principles in a creative way and in a group setting, they are critically important skills for these young professionals to have as they begin their journeys in the industry,” said Cheryl Teich, AIChE President.

An hour before the competition, the students are told the load of water their car must carry and the distance it must travel. The students then must calculate the appropriate chemical reaction that will propel the car as close as possible to the distance goal. This year, the cars had to carry 230 millilitres of water for 20.3 meters.

If football is a game of inches, then alternative fuel car competition is a game of centimeters – as was proven in Salt Lake City. “Our car [called Navona, after team sponsor, Pizza Navona] and Cornell’s car came within five centimetres of the finish line,” said Sahmoud. “It was the first time in the competition’s 17-year history that there was a tie for first place.”

What made the McGill team’s victory even more remarkable was how the team bounced back from a disappointing first round.

“In the first run we were 4.16 metres away from the finish line – not even in the top 10. We made some mistakes,” said Sahmoud. “We stop testing our car half an hour before our run so the chemical properties changed. Whatever we tested didn’t happen during the run and our car stopped earlier than anticipated.”

Undaunted, the McGill team did what engineers do best – they adapted and overcame. Cue Eye of the Tiger.

“We made some corrections – including with the speed. Then we had to recalculate everything,” said Sahmoud. “Most importantly, we learned from our mistakes in the first round and kept testing right up until one minute before our run.”

And that run was as epic – or as epic as can be involving a car that can fit in a breadbox and travels at strolling speed. In a video of the gold-medal run, another member of the McGill team can be heard saying “Come on, don’t fail us,” off camera as Navona creeps down the floor.

When the car stops just five centimetres from the finishing line, the sideline erupts and the McGill team runs over to high five supporters. “When the car stopped that close I couldn’t believe it myself,” said Sahmoud. “I was hoping for about 15 centimetres which would’ve made me very happy. This was about as close to a perfect run as we could get.”

The improbable road to victory in Salt Lake City went through Boston where, earlier this spring, the team finished second at the AIChE Northeastern Student Regional Competition to qualify for the national championship.

But rather than hit cruise control until the finals, the McGill team worked on Navona relentlessly over the summer and fall.

For starters, they adjusted on the power source, decreasing the size of the lead flow battery to make the car lighter. Additional work was done on the car’s electronic system and the wheels were changed to give it a better, and more consistent, grip on all types of surfaces.

The team also tweaked the chemicals in the stopping mechanism to improve reaction time and accuracy – one of the keys to the big win in Utah. Prior to the nationals, Navona had a lag time of several seconds between the chemical reaction of the braking mechanism and the actual stopping of the car – which could translate into stopping up to two metres away from the finish line. “By the time we got to Salt Lake City, we were less than one second,” said Sahmoud.

True to form, the McGill squad is not resting on its laurels. A second team has already been developing a completely new model Chem-E car for next year’s regionals. While the new car will be similar to Navona, it will employ a new stopping mechanism using a baking soda-produced reaction as opposed to the current iodine-based one.

“Winning this competition was huge, but now we have to defend our title,” said Sahmoud, who puts about 30 hours a week into Chem-E car. “Everyone will be gunning for us now.”

Learn more about the McGill Chem-E Car on the team webpage or on its Facebook page

Related story

Road trip! Chem-E Car off to finals in Salt Lake City






CAMSR to decide on divestment by March

Fri, 11/27/2015 - 15:57

By McGill Reporter Staff

A Board of Governors committee charged with considering a request by Divest McGill that the University divest from its investments in the fossil-fuel industry will deliver it’s response to Divest McGill by the end of March, the Board was told at its meeting Thursday.

“I’m happy to report that we will reach a final decision within the first three months of next year,” Board Chair Stuart H. “Kip” Cobbett, who is also interim chair of the Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR), told the Board.

At the same time, Cobbett said the committee had decided against Divest McGill’s request to put in place an immediate freeze on new investments in the fossil-fuel industry, because, as the CAMSR report says, “interim measures, which are implemented before full consideration of an issue, ordinarily are ordered in exceptional circumstances, which the Committee believes do not exist in the current situation. CAMSR also noted that imposing interim measures on our investment managers would raise significant implementation issues.”

Given the short time frame in which the final decision will be rendered, no immediate freeze is necessary, Cobbett said.

As he has done before, Cobbett praised the Divest McGill group for its diligence, respectfulness and thoroughness.

For its part, representatives of Divest McGill produced a mock cheque for $43 million and presented it to Cobbett, who accepted it with good humour. The amount represents what Divest McGill estimates have been McGill’s market losses in fossil-fuel industry holdings over the last three years, since the request to divest was first made.



Improving health, one step at a time

Thu, 11/26/2015 - 13:31

Canadians need to take advantage of ‘walkable neighbourhoods’ say MUHC researchers.

By MUHC Public Relations

It may be surprising, but Canadians who live in densely-populated areas where stores, banks, schools and other services are close by do not walk as much as they should. These are the findings of new research, published in the current issue of BMJ Open,by a team at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC). This cross-sectional analysis of a large sample of Canadians was unique in combining objective measures of physical activity with digital map based measures of walkable neighbourhoods.

“We have walkable neighbourhoods in many towns and cities in Canada, but they have to actually be used to help us reduce our risks of developing chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes and its associated complications,” says study senior author, Dr. Kaberi Dasgupta, MUHC internal medicine physician and an associate professor of medicine. “It is a little bit like having a treadmill in our basement. The treadmill is a great tool for keeping fit, as long as it is used.”

Samantha Hajna, the study’s first author, is a PhD candidate in the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health.

The research was based on data from the Canada Health Measures Survey in which nearly 3,000 adults from 15 sites across Canada answered a questionnaire about their daily utilitarian walking (i.e. walking with a purpose, such as to the bus stop or the grocery store) and wore accelerometers that measured their number of daily steps. The researchers used latitude and longitude information combined with digital maps to calculate how walkable participants’ neighbourhoods were.

“Daily step counts include both utilitarian and recreational walking and are a good indicator of total physical activity,” explains study first author, Samantha Hajna, who is a PhD candidate in the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health. “Contrary to our expectations, our study showed that although people living in more walkable neighbourhoods report more utilitarian walking, they are not more active overall compared to people living in less walkable neighbourhoods. Their total number of daily steps remains below the recommended 10,000 steps a day. This is different from studies in Belgium, Czech Republic or Japan, where living in more walkable neighbourhoods is associated with walking more overall.”

According to Dr. Dasgupta, the walkability of our environment should be that extra opportunity for integrating activity into our day. “If we live in a walkable neighbourhood we should take advantage of it, because it can contribute to our total physical activity.”

Read the study online.

McGill student-athletes merit 17 bursaries at FAEQ gala

Thu, 11/26/2015 - 12:41

McGill student-athletes received 17 bursaries at the 2015 Quebec Foundation gala. / Photo courtesy of the FAEQ

By Earl Zukerman

Basketball players Mariam Sylla and Francois Bourque combined to received four of 17 bursaries awarded to McGill student-athletes, Wednesday, at the 30th annual Fondation de l’athlète d’excellence du Québec awards gala.

A total 100 athletic scholarships – valued at a combined $277,500 – were issued at the event, held before 850 guests at the Sheraton Laval Hotel. Among the dozens of former McGill bursary recipients in attendance were McGill Sports Hall of Fame inductees Mathieu Darche and Pierre Gendron (both hockey players) and Tina Fasone (basketball). Over the three decades since the program was initiated, McGill has received 324 awards totalling $639,250.

Sylla, a pharmacology senior with a 3.73 grade-point average last year, collected bursaries in both the athletic and academic categories. The 6-foot-1 forward from Conakry, Guinea, was named as the top recipient in the athletic excellence category for a team sport. Named player of the year in the RSEQ league last season she averaged a “double-double”, with 12.4 points and 10.9 rebounds per game en route to earning CIS All-Canadian first-team honours.

Bourque, a third-year accounting major from Terrebonne, Que., also collected bursaries in both athletic and academic categories but was named as the most outstanding in the academic excellence category. Honoured as a CIS Top 8 Academic All-Canadian last week by Governor-General David Johnston, Bourque completed eight courses (24 credits) with a 3.88 grade-point average out of 4.0 in the Desautels faculty of management. On the court, the 6-foot-6, 197-pound forward was voted player of the year in the RSEQ basketball conference and merited All-Canadian second-team status.

McGill’s third recipient of an academic excellence bursary went to hockey goaltender Jacob Gervais-Chouinard, an economics junior from Sherbrooke, Que. Additional athletic excellence awards went to McGill football linebacker Karl Forgues of Repentigny, Que., and rower Lucas de Gelder of Vancouver, B.C., while a bursary for perseverance was presented to basketball point-guard Dianna Ros, a native Montrealer.

Among the recruitment bursaries awarded to McGill, four went to basketball rookies, namely Gladys Hakizimana of Montreal, Fredericke Laflamme of Trois-Rivieres, Que., Michael Richard from Boisbriand, Que., and Parker Joyce of Stouffville, Ont. Rounding out the freshmen group was cross-country runner Jeremy Briand of Ste. Julie, Que., soccer forward Tia Lore of Richmond, B.C., and swimmer Kade Wist, a 17-year-old from Calgary. Two other recruitment bursaries were second and third installments, respectively, initiated in previous years to basketball players Jennifer Silver of Montreal and Marika Guerin of Sorel, Que.

Some 55 recruitment bursaries totalling $189,750 were awarded to the top athletes from the Quebec CEGEP system who opted to compete at a Quebec university. The Montreal Carabins led all Quebec institutions in this category with 16 bursaries, followed by Laval (14), McGill (9), Concordia (7), Sherbrooke (5), UQTR (2), Bishop’s (1) and UQAM (1).

Of the 45 awards presented to returning student-athletes in the merit categories of academic and athletic excellence, as well as leadership, McGill again ranked third among all Quebec universities with eight recipients. Laval led all schools with 13, followed by the Montreal Carabins (10), McGill (8), Sherbrooke (6), Concordia (5), Bishop’s (1), UQAM (1) and UQAC (1).


Taking the Rhodes less travelled

Thu, 11/26/2015 - 11:56

Kazumi Fraser Hoshino-Macdonald will begin his Master’s degree in Development Studies at Oxford University next September.

By Doug Sweet

A few years ago, he was flunking out of high school in Vancouver’s gritty Downtown East Side, a place known more in lurid headlines for needles, prostitution and violent crime than for top-drawer scholars.

And he almost didn’t make it.

Today, Kazumi Fraser Hoshino-Macdonald is looking forward to entering Oxford University next September as McGill’s 139th Rhodes Scholar, preparing to pursue a Master’s degree in Development Studies, as he continues to train his agile mind on how city-states like Singapore have blasted their way to prominence despite a lack of natural resources – looking at the linkages between international relations and international development, with a view to advancing interdisciplinary thinking in development policy.

Hoshino-Macdonald, 23, is a Political Science student about to blast off himself – wrapping up his undergrad work at McGill this semester before heading to Hong Kong in January for an exchange program at Hong Kong University that will keep him in one of the city states he wants to study until May.

Like other Rhodes Scholars before him, he possesses the usual tool kit: articulate, whip smart, curious, active in extra-curricular life and unfailingly polite.

“I’m kind of still digesting it,” he said. “It hasn’t quite settled in yet.”

Hoshino-Macdonald’s intriguing name is a clue to an unusual upbringing that shaped his academic interests, as well as his non-academic pursuits that have, together, positioned him to be in the vanguard of a new breed of Rhodes Scholar, as the venerable program moves even farther away from only reflecting its old white, privileged, Anglo-Saxon underpinnings.

This year, Canada saw its first indigenous Rhodes Scholar named, when the University of Alberta’s Billy-Ray Belcourt received the coveted scholarship that pays for graduate study at Oxford. Another of the U of A’s unprecedented trio of Rhodes winners this year, Zia Saleh, who was raised by a single mother in Edmonton’s Ismaili Muslim community, attended McGill as a W. Garfield Weston Loran Scholar, but returned to Edmonton in order to enter medical school at U of A.

Hoshino-Macdonald was born to a Japanese mother and sixth-generation, Ontario-born Canadian with obvious Scottish heritage in his past. His parents separated at a young age and Hoshino-Macdonald grew up in both their houses, both their cultures. From his mother’s side, he learned to have a different relationship with his grandparents, learned some Japanese and was steeped in that culture, even visiting relatives in Japan. On his father’s side, he learned that while he was not related to Sir John A. Macdonald, there was a political Macdonald in his lineage (a Senator from Ontario, he said), as well as a more traditional Canadian culture.

“These were very different cultural norms that I grew up with,” he said.

He also learned about one of the darker chapters in Canadian history, how the internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War contributed to the economic deprivation still rampant today in the Downtown East Side.

“I saw Kitsilano,” Hoshino-Macdonald said of one of Vancouver’s middle- to upper-middle-class residential enclaves, “and I saw the Downtown East Side. And I thought, ‘how could these two conditions exist in the same city?

“So my own idea about being a Canadian was very centred in geo-politics from the start.”

The road to success wasn’t always obvious. In fact, it was pretty obscure.

“In high school I was a terrible student,” Hoshino-Macdonald said. “I was interested in stuff they weren’t teaching. And it was a tough high school. Being interested in what was going on in the classroom wasn’t considered cool.”

He suffered through numerous teachers’ strikes, peer pressure to not be an active student and ended up feeling uncertain of his future.

“I felt stupid and incompetent,” he said.

And then he found a different kind of learning. He volunteered at the Environmental Youth Alliance, an NGO in Vancouver’s Gastown district that describes itself as “a non-profit charity that cultivates transformative nature experiences for children and youth in urban environments to foster community connectedness, build ecological leadership skills, and enhance their well-being.” Fancy language for getting kids grounded and interested.

From there, Hoshino-Macdonald became involved in other youth activist organizations and with at-risk youth. He learned a lot, he said, more than he had learned to date in high school.

But along with that came the realization that “the only way, if I’m ever going to do something, is to get the academic tool kit.”

So he enrolled in Langara College, in South Vancouver, which he described a kind of a last-chance school for those who had or were in danger of dropping out of school.

“I worked my ass off for two years,” he said, and got back on track. Along the way, he visited friends in Montreal, who encouraged him to apply to McGill. Doubtful, he nonetheless applied and found himself on a waiting list to get in. Soon, after, he was offered admission.

“I just never thought I would end up in a place like this,” Hoshino-Macdonald said. “In my time at McGill, I’ve met so many smart people, so many incredible people” who also encouraged him to take another big step and apply for a Rhodes scholarship.

“ ‘You’ve got a weird story,’ they told me, ‘and you should go for it.’ I just kept being encouraged by my peer group to reach for the stars.”

He did. And now it’s on to Oxford with one of the world’s most prestigious scholarships in his pocket.

During his time at McGill, Hoshino-Macdonald has worked as a research assistant under professors in Islamic studies, at the Institute for the Study of International Development, and in Sociology under John Anthony Hall.

He has also kept in shape through cycling and running, participated in extra-curricular events, such as serving on the McGill International Review board and finding out along the way that it’s not a bad thing at all to aim high.

Related stories

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Meet Suzy Newing, McGill’s newest Rhodes Scholar

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Rhodes warrior: Kickboxer Thain makes the grade – perfectly

History undergrad earns Rhodes scholarship

Two McGill students on the Rhodes again

Nov. 27: Research alive

Thu, 11/26/2015 - 11:38

Join the Schulich School of Music’s Director of Opera Studies, Patrick Hansen, for a lecture exploring Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences as applied to opera performance. Hansen, with the help of one of his students Bruno Roy, baritone, will take apart an aria from George Bizet’s Carmen in order to demonstrate how each intelligence is present and important in the performance. This eye-opening foray into opera research will take place on Nov. 27, at 5 p.m. in Tanna Schulich Hall. For more information, click on the video below.

Dec. 8: Jonathan Kay to deliver F.R. Scott Lecture

Thu, 11/26/2015 - 10:59

Jonathan Kay, Editor-In-Chief of the Walrus Magazine will be delivering this year’s F.R. Scott Lecture, hosted by the Friends of the McGill Library. The lecture is entitled Journalism’s New (Unlikely) Golden Age and will take place Dec. 8 at Moot Court. Kay is also a columnist with the National Post, a panelist on CBC’s The National, and the author of several books. His essays have appeared in the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal and numerous other publications. The F.R. Scott Lecture is sponsored by the Honourable John Gomery and Honourable Pierrette Rayle. Get more information. RSVP via email or call (514) 398-5711.

Dec. 3: World Social Forum information session

Thu, 11/26/2015 - 10:20

On Dec. 3, from 5:30 – 7 p.m. in Arts W-215, McGill will host an information session about the World Social Forum (WSF) coming to Montreal on Aug. 9-14, 2016. The World Social Forum 2016 expects between 50,000 and 80,000 people from more than 120 countries and nearly 5,000 local and global civil society organizations to participate collectively in 1,500 workshops, conferences, and arts-based activities over the course of six days. The larger aim is to build bridges between Montreal’s francophone and anglophone communities, and the many other linguistic and cultural communities that call Montreal and Quebec home. Get more information. For questions about the Dec. 3 information session, email becky.lentz@mcgill.ca

Fortier calls for fostering young entrepreneurs

Wed, 11/25/2015 - 16:59

Principal Suzanne Fortier / Photo: Owen Egan.

Principal urges business leaders to help students fulfill their entrepreneurial ambitions

The last Innovation Report of the Conference Board of Canada brought encouraging news for Quebec and Canada. But we can do much better, McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier told the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations on Wednesday.

“Quebec and Montreal have immense creative potential,” she said during a luncheon event on “The Value of Entrepreneurship.” Suzanne Fortier shared the stage with Michèle Boisvert, Executive Vice-President, Business Outreach, of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.

Montreal has a rich pool of students brimming with talent, energy and ambition, Fortier noted. “Generation Y, as I am learning at McGill, is truly Generation Why Not?,” a generation of people ready to have an impact on their local and global communities.

In order to help unleash that potential, the city’s businesses and financial institutions need to help create a more supportive climate, Fortier said. Successful, experienced business people, for example, can pitch in by mentoring students and sponsoring internships.

At McGill, “our strategy is to offer all our students – not only those in management – opportunities to develop their entrepreneurial potential,” Principal Fortier said.

Among the recent initiatives at McGill to foster entrepreneurship:

“Helping to make Montreal a hub for innovation is one of my priorities as Principal of McGill,” Fortier said.


2015 Hult Prize @ McGill

Wed, 11/25/2015 - 13:28

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton with McGill’s 2013 winning team (from left to right): Jesse Pearlstein, Shobhita Soor, Zev Thompson, Gabriel Mott and Mohammed Ashour. / Photo: AP Images for the Hult Prize

On Saturday, Dec. 5, McGill is hosting Hult Prize @ McGill — the university-level competition for the prestigious Hult Prize. The Hult Prize is a social entrepreneurship challenge that invites student teams to solve some of the world’s toughest challenges and a chance to win $1,000,000 in seed funding. Winners from the university level event will go on to represent McGill at the regional competitions in March 2016. The winners of the regional event will then participate in a six-week long accelerator to refine their ideas before presenting at the finals at the annual Clinton Global Initiative in September 2016.

In 2013, a team of five students from McGill won the Hult Prize with their unique solution of using insect-derived flour to in a bid to address food security. This year’s challenge is centered on Crowded Urban Spaces, specifically to build sustainable, scalable and fast-growing enterprises that can double the income of 10 million people residing in crowded urban spaces, by better connecting people, goods, services and capital.

Those interested in participating can find more information about the McGill competition and the Hult Prize.


Lora Giangregorio wins Bloomberg Manulife Prize

Wed, 11/25/2015 - 11:08

Dr. Lora Giangregorio’s work work has led to the development of internationally endorsed exercise guidelines for osteoporosis, and tools for physicians, physiotherapists and patients.

McGill, in association with Lawrence and Frances Bloomberg and Manulife, has announced that Dr. Lora Giangregorio, Associate Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo, is the winner of the 2015 Bloomberg Manulife Prize for the Promotion of Active Health.

Dr. Giangregorio is the first woman, and only the second Canadian, to receive the prize in its five-year history. She is being recognized for her clinical research aimed at improving the management of osteoporosis through exercise as well as for her significant outreach efforts in promoting physical activity more broadly.

Her work, with Osteoporosis Canada and researchers in several countries, has led to the development of the “Too Fit To Fracture” exercise and physical activity recommendations for people with osteoporosis, which promote aerobic exercise, muscle strengthening and balance training to slow bone loss and reduce falls and resulting fractures. Most notably, the recommendations have been translated into tools and resources that help patients and health care providers put the research into action.

The $50,000 Bloomberg Manulife Prize was founded in 2011 by McGill alumnus and Toronto-based investment manager Lawrence S. Bloomberg, C.M., O.Ont., MBA‘65 and corporate sponsor Manulife. The annual award is given to a researcher whose work has enhanced our understanding of how physical activity, nutrition or psychosocial factors influence personal health and wellbeing. A jury of distinguished academics from universities and research institutions across North America judge applications for the Prize.

“I am honoured to receive the Bloomberg Manulife Prize for the Promotion of Active Health,” says Dr. Giangregorio. “With this award, our team can continue to conduct and promote uptake of research to prevent falls and fractures. I am really excited about the opportunity to share our research, and the work we have done to get the research in the hands of health care providers and those living with osteoporosis.”

As a member of the Scientific Advisory Council for Osteoporosis Canada, Dr. Giangregorio has consulted on or led the creation of numerous educational tools, including collaborating on the development of BoneFit, a two-day workshop for physiotherapists and kinesiologists. She also led the development of a tool for physicians to educate patients, and a booklet and a video series on physical activity for people living with osteoporosis. An important feature of the work was that it was centred on the needs of patients; Dr. Giangregorio and her team consulted people with osteoporosis to understand their concerns about physical activity, and made sure to address them in the recommendations and tools.

“I am delighted that this year, as we mark the fifth anniversary of the Prize, we continue to recognize researchers whose work is having a profound impact on explaining to Canadians the important links between physical activity, healthy living and disease prevention,” says Lawrence Bloomberg. “Dr. Giangregorio is to be applauded for her efforts to transform her research results into easy-to-understand educational tools that benefit us all.”

“The healthy behaviours we choose to adopt today will have a positive outcome on our long-term health and wellness,” says Marianne Harrison, President & CEO, Manulife Canada. “Manulife is proud to support this award that impacts the lives of North Americans through ground-breaking research focused on active health.”

Since its inauguration, the Bloomberg Manulife Prize has gained the endorsement of prominent health organizations including The Canadian Cancer Society, The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, ParticipACTION Canada, The Canadian Diabetes Association, YMCA Canada and, new this year, the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation.

Dr. Giangregorio will accept the prize at a special ceremony at the MaRS Centre in Toronto on Monday February 8, 2016, where she will also take part in a conversation about her research. This will be followed by a moderated discussion on Wednesday, February 10 at McGill University in Montreal to discuss how a multi-component exercise routine can prevent bone loss early in life and protect those living with osteoporosis from harmful falls and fractures.

Related stories

McGill announces 2014 winner of Bloomberg Manulife Prize

Dr. Walter C. Willett wins 2013 Bloomberg Manulife Prize

Dr. James Sallis wins 2012 Bloomberg Manulife Prize

 The big fat truth about obesity

Steven Blair named inaugural winner of Bloomberg Manulife Prize

New prize to promote healthier living

VP (Communications and External Relations) up for reappointment

Tue, 11/24/2015 - 10:08

The following is a message to the McGill community from Professor Suzanne Fortier, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill.

Dear colleagues,

The composition of the Committee, which I chair, is as follows:

Senate Representatives Board of Governors Representatives Professor Céline Le Bourdais Mr. Stuart Cobbett Professor Tim Geary Mr. Claude Généreux Mr. Peter Enright Mr. Eric Maldoff Professor Lindsay Duncan Mr. Sam Minzberg


Student Representatives Secretary-General TBA (PGSS) Stephen Strople Deven Sanon (SSMU) Marina Smailes (SSMU)

Responsibilities of the Vice-Principal (Communications and External Relations):

This executive position at McGill reports to the Principal of the University, and is a key member of the senior leadership team. The Vice-Principal will be expected to lead McGill’s Communications and External Relations efforts to new levels on the local, national and international stages over the next several years.

Specifically the Vice-Principal is expected to:

  • Cultivate long-term relations at all levels of government with both political and bureaucratic representatives in concert with other McGill colleagues, to advance to governments McGill’s overall vision and institutional priorities.
  • Contribute as a member of the senior administration of the University, leading its government strategy and advocacy programs and fostering enhanced strategic relationships with all levels of government, in all facets, to advance the interests of the University, as well as with community leaders and organizations (e.g. Chambre de commerce du Montréal métropolitain, Conseil du patronat du Québec, etc.).
  • Contribute to the strategic planning of the University’s ongoing growth and development, and create opportunities for partnerships with external stakeholders (e.g. in public policy development, community outreach, etc.), in order to meet the University’s goals.
  • Advance the positive, active relationship with counterparts across the system of higher education in Quebec and Canada, to provide input and analysis on strategic issues and directions for both McGill and the Quebec/Canadian university systems.
  • Work with senior team (Provost, VPs, Deans) to advance key projects consistent with our academic and research plans (e.g. Research, Mac Campus, full research cost recovery).
  • Working in collaboration with the Office of the Principal and Vice-Chancellor, contribute to McGill’s active relationship with the Government of Canada.
  • Consult on, prepare and present policy options, briefing materials, proposals, funding strategies, reports and correspondence, including working with the Bureau de coopération interuniversitaire (BCI) on both a proactive and reactive basis, with both internal and external communities.
  • Represent McGill as required at relevant membership organizations, such as BCI, Universities Canada, U15, AAU, etc.
  • Be responsible for building and supporting relations with stakeholders, both inside and outside the University, through communications strategies. This includes a focus on external and student media, University marketing and faculty and staff communication, as well as offering strategic communications and planning advice to senior administration.
  • Oversee McGill’s Media Relations Office, which acts as the liaison between the University and local, national and international media, and build and support relations with external media.
  • Oversee McGill’s Communications Services, which provides the University with communications and marketing support.

In order to assist in our deliberations, the members of the Advisory Committee and I would welcome any written comments by members of the McGill community with respect to the first-term performance and possible reappointment of Mr. Marcil as Vice-Principal (Communications and External Relations).

Please submit these by December 4, 2015. The Committee will treat all comments in the strictest of confidence. Comments should be addressed to Professor Suzanne Fortier, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, c/o the Secretary-General, University Secretariat, James Administration Building, 845 Sherbrooke Street West, Room 313, Montreal, QC H3A 0G4, or by e-mail to: advisories@mcgill.ca.

With best regards,

Professor Suzanne Fortier

Principal and Vice-Chancellor


Chers collègues,

L’actuel mandat de M. Olivier Marcil à titre de vice-principal aux communications et aux relations externes prendra fin le 1er juillet 2016. Conformément aux Statuts de l’Université, un comité consultatif auprès de la principale a été mis sur pied afin d’étudier la possibilité de reconduire ce mandat.

La composition de ce comité, que je préside, est la suivante :

Représentants du Sénat : Représentants du Conseil des gouverneurs : Professeure Céline Le Bourdais Monsieur Stuart Cobbett Professeur Tim Geary Monsieur Claude Généreux Monsieur Peter Enright Monsieur Eric Maldoff Professeure Lindsay Duncan Monsieur Sam Minzberg


Représentants étudiants : Secrétaire général : À préciser (AÉCS) Monsieur Stephen Strople Monsieur Deven Sanon (AÉUM) Madame Marina Smailes (AÉUM)

Responsabilités du vice-principal aux communications et aux relations externes :

Le titulaire de ce poste relève de la principale de l’Université et est l’un des membres clés de l’équipe de la haute direction. Au cours des prochaines années, le vice-principal devra diriger les initiatives du bureau des Communications et des relations externes de McGill de façon à lui permettre d’atteindre de nouveaux sommets sur les scènes locale, nationale et internationale.

Le vice-principal devra assumer les responsabilités suivantes :

  • De concert avec ses collègues de l’Université, nouer des liens durables avec des représentants politiques et administratifs à tous les échelons des gouvernements afin de promouvoir auprès de ces derniers la vision et les priorités globales de McGill.
  • En sa qualité de membre de l’équipe de la haute direction de l’Université, déployer la stratégie et les programmes de défense des intérêts de l’Université auprès des gouvernements et favoriser l’établissement de relations stratégiques fructueuses avec tous les échelons gouvernementaux ‒ ainsi qu’avec les organismes et les membres influents de la communauté (p. ex., la Chambre de commerce du Montréal métropolitain et le Conseil du patronat du Québec) ‒, dans tous les domaines, afin de promouvoir les intérêts de l’Université.
  • Contribuer à la planification stratégique de la croissance et du développement soutenus de l’Université, et créer des possibilités de partenariats avec divers intervenants externes (p. ex., élaboration de politiques publiques et rayonnement communautaire), afin de contribuer à la réalisation des objectifs de l’Université.
  • Promouvoir des relations fructueuses avec nos homologues qui œuvrent au sein du système d’enseignement supérieur au Québec et au Canada afin de communiquer ses observations et de présenter ses analyses sur les enjeux et les orientations stratégiques, tant pour l’Université McGill que pour les systèmes universitaires québécois et canadien.
  • Collaborer avec les membres de l’équipe de la haute direction (vice-principal exécutif, vice-principaux et doyens) à l’avancement des principaux projets s’inscrivant dans les plans académique et de recherche de l’Université (p. ex., recherche, campus Macdonald, et remboursement intégral des coûts de la recherche).
  • En collaboration avec le Bureau de la principale et vice-chancelière, contribuer au maintien de relations fructueuses entre l’Université McGill et le gouvernement du Canada.
  • Préparer et présenter des options politiques, des documents d’information, des propositions, des stratégies de financement, des rapports et des pièces de correspondance ‒ notamment dans le cadre de travaux de collaboration avec le Bureau de coopération interuniversitaire (BCI)‒ sur une base tant proactive que réactive, et ce, auprès d’interlocuteurs internes et externes.
  • Au besoin, représenter l’Université McGill auprès de divers organismes, dont le BCI, Universités Canada, le regroupement des 15 universités canadiennes les plus axées sur la recherche (U15), et l’Association des universités américaines.
  • Établir et maintenir des liens avec différents intervenants – tant à l’intérieur qu’à l’extérieur des murs de McGill – grâce à diverses stratégies de communication. Axer ses efforts sur les médias externes et étudiants, le marketing de l’Université et les communications avec les professeurs et les employés, et offrir aux membres de la haute direction des conseils en matière de communications et de planification stratégiques.
  • Superviser le Service des relations avec les médias de McGill, qui agit à titre d’agent de liaison entre l’Université et les médias locaux, nationaux et internationaux et veille à l’établissement et au maintien de relations fructueuses avec les médias externes.
  • Superviser le Service des communications de McGill, qui apporte son soutien à l’Université en matière de communications et de marketing.

Afin de nous aider dans nos délibérations, les membres du Comité consultatif et moi-même sollicitons vos commentaires écrits sur le travail accompli par M. Olivier Marcil au cours de son premier mandat à titre de vice-principal aux communications et aux relations externes et la possible reconduction de ce mandat.

Je vous invite à nous soumettre vos commentaires d’ici le 4 décembre 2015 en les adressant à la professeure Suzanne Fortier, principale et vice-chancelière, aux soins du secrétaire général, Secrétariat de l’Université, Pavillon de l’administration James, 845, rue Sherbrooke Ouest, bureau 313, Montréal (Québec) H3A OG4, ou par courriel à advisories@mcgill.ca. Tous les commentaires seront traités de manière strictement confidentielle par le Comité.


Professeure Suzanne Fortier

Principale et vice-chancelière


Youth violence impedes socio-economic development

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 18:29

By Cynthia Lee

Youth violence undermines social and economic development, especially in the poorest corners of the world, according to research from McGill. However, increased government spending on education may be the key to facilitate policy efforts to protect youth.

Using data from two international school-based surveys, the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children and Global School-based Health Survey, Frank Elgar, a professor at the Institute for Health and Social Policy (IHSP) at McGill University reports on rates of bullying and physical fighting in 79 countries in The Journal of Adolescent Health. The study focused on bullying victimization (repeated physical or verbal aggression, involving a power imbalance between victim and aggressor) during the previous two months and frequent physical fighting (4+ episodes) in the previous year) in over 330,000 youths 11- to 16-years-old.

Elgar and colleagues linked these records to information about the countries’ per capita income, income inequality, and government spending on education.

“Bullying and physical fighting are far more prevalent in poorer countries,” says Elgar, “However, we found that in wealthy but unequal countries, physical fighting may be reduced through greater government investment in education.”

Higher rates of bullying in Canada

“We were surprised by the rate of bullying in Canada – about seven percentage points higher than the international average. About 37 per cent of Canadian youth have been the target of bullying in the past two months. This is higher than the United States and most European countries.”


  • Largest study to date on youth violence on an international level
  • Study found large country differences in youth violence: a six-fold difference in school bullying and 12-fold difference in fighting between rich and poor countries
  • Globally, about 30 per cent of youth has been the target of school bullying during the previous month. In Africa, the figure is about 50 per cent.
  • 10.7 per cent of males and 2.7 per cent of females were involved in four or more episodes of physical fighting in the past year.
  • Canada has higher levels of school bullying than many countries of similar wealth: 37.6 per cent of males and 37.2 per cent of females have been the target of bullying.
  • Fighting in Canadian youth is near international norms: 10.3 per cent of males and 3.8 per cent of females were involved in four or more episodes of fighting in the past year.
  • In the US, fighting is twice as common in males (8.4 per cent) than in females (3.9 per cent). Bullying is near the international norm: 30.8 per cent of males and 29.7 per cent females in the US have been the target of bullying.
  • European countries have the lowest rates of youth violence – in terms of fighting (4.1 per cent males, 1.1 per cent females) and bullying 12.4 per cent males, 8.7 per cent females).
  • Physical fighting in affluent but economically unequal countries might be reduced through increased government spending on education.

Read the study online.

John Bergeron wins Research Canada Leadership Award

Fri, 11/20/2015 - 15:57

Photo caption: L-R: Cheryl Cann, Dr. Norman Campbell, Dr. John Bergeron, Dr. Theodore Warkentin, Dr. John Kelton.

By Meaghan Thurston

McGill researcher Dr. John Bergeron was awarded the Research Canada Leadership Award on Nov. 17, at a gala hosted by Rx&D’s Health Research Foundation in partnership with Prix Galien Canada and Research Canada. The Research Canada Leadership Award honours champions in health research advocacy and is given on an annual basis to recognize outstanding efforts in advocating for Canadian health research.

“McGill is proud to count such an exceptional individual as Dr. Bergeron among its faculty,” said Dr. Rosie Goldstein, Vice-Principal, Research and International Relations. “The Research Canada Leadership Award recognizes Dr. Bergeron’s outstanding commitment to fostering collaborations related to health research, his remarkable aptitude for communicating the significance of Canada’s biomedical discoveries, and his tireless advocacy for Canadian investment in research and development and research talent.”

In his speaking engagements and in articles published in Canada’s major news publications, Dr. Bergeron has championed Canadian investment in fundamental science and new drug development in Canadian-based research labs. Bergeron has also led fundraising initiatives for Montreal-based drug development companies in an effort to prevent the talent drain that occurs when Canadian research operations are displaced to countries with better research commercialization prospects than Canada, such as in the U.S, Europe and Asia. His is considered an important voice among biomedical research communities across the country for responding to the call led by Governor General David Johnston to promote Canada’s extraordinary research record and achievements, in order to increase international recognition for leading scholars and scientists in Canada.

As a researcher, Dr. Bergeron has distinguished himself through his highly cited studies of the proteins in human and animal organs, uncovering their functions in health and disease. By the assiduous processing of samples from human and model organisms, Dr. Bergeron’s lab has characterized proteins within organelles (small intracellular compartments responsible for cell homeostasis) isolated from organs linked to health and disease.

His work with Dr. Barry Posner uncovered how and where signal transduction from insulin and growth factors take place in target cells and with fellow McGill Professor Dr. David Thomas led to a concept described as the “Calnexin Cycle” that defined a new sugar-based code in protein folding. In recent years, Dr. Bergeron has pioneered the field of organelle proteomics.

As the Chair of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at McGill from 1996 to 2009, and as the Co-Director of the Laboratory of Systems Medicine and Cell Biology in the Department of Medicine, Dr. Bergeron has demonstrated his leadership in academic and administrative affairs.

Dr. Bergeron is a Rhodes Scholar, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) and was previously awarded the RSC’s McLaughlin Medal. Dr. Bergeron was also honored with the Human Proteome Organization Discovery Award in 2010 and is currently Emeritus Robert Reford Professor in the Department of Medicine of the MUHC Research Institute.


Geophysics could slow Antarctic ice retreat

Fri, 11/20/2015 - 14:55

Gravitational effects, variations in Earth structure could damp rise in global sea levels

By McGill Reporter Staff

The anticipated melting of the massive West Antarctic Ice Sheet could be slowed by two big factors that are largely overlooked in current computer models, according to a new study.

The findings, published online in Nature Communications, suggest that the impact on global sea levels from the retreating ice sheet could be less drastic – or at least more gradual – than recent computer simulations have indicated.

Over the past year, numerous studies have warned that parts of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet are on the verge of a runaway retreat. Recently, a high-profile research paper forecast that this could lead eventually to a rise in global sea levels of as much as three metres.

The authors of the new Nature Communications paper, however, focus on two geophysical elements that they say aren’t adequately reflected in computer simulations for this region: the surprisingly powerful gravitational pull of the immense ice sheet on surrounding water, and the unusually fluid nature of the mantle beneath the bedrock that the ice sits on.

“The fate of the polar ice sheets in a warming world is a major concern for policy makers – and attention is rightly focused on the importance of restraining CO2 emissions and preparing for rising sea levels,” says lead author Natalya Gomez, an assistant professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at McGill University in Montreal. “But our study shows that for Antarctica, in particular, computer models also need to take into account how gravitational effects and variations in Earth structure could affect the pace of future ice-sheet loss.”

The gravity effect

Most people think of gravity as the force that keeps our feet on the ground. But any large body – such as a massive expanse of ice – exerts a gravitational pull on other bodies, including water.

As the West Antarctic Ice Sheet melts, the researchers project, the reduction in its mass would reduce the gravitational pull to such an extent that it would lower sharply the sea level near the ice. This, in turn, would slow the projected pace of retreat of the ice sheet.

The elasticity effect

Gomez and co-authors David Pollard of Pennsylvania State University and David Holland of New York University also factor another important variable into their simulations. When an ice sheet retreats, the solid Earth beneath it, freed from the load of the ice, rebounds upward. This rebound occurs in two parts: an elastic component that happens right away, and a viscous component that happens over hundreds to thousands of years. (The Earth’s interior – or mantle – flows like a fluid but very slowly because it is very viscous).

The West Antarctic sits atop a region where the mantle flows more easily than in other parts of the Earth. So the land there will pop up faster than scientists – and their computer models – would expect based on the average viscosity of the Earth’s mantle.

“Our simulations show that when we assume a structure for the Earth’s interior that resembles the structure underneath the West Antarctic, the Earth’s surface rebounds higher and more quickly near the edge of the retreating ice sheet,” says co-author Holland of NYU. “This makes the water along that edge shallower, which slows the retreat of the ice sheet.”

CO2 emissions a crucial factor

The researchers’ simulations also confirm that the levels of future CO2 emissions will be a crucial factor in the pace of retreat for the region’s ice. “The lower the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, the more the geophysical factors will be able to help stem the ice’s retreat,” Gomez says. “The greater the emissions, the more the geophysical forces risk being overwhelmed by the strength of warming.”

Read the study online

In conversation with Dr. Phil Gold, pioneering cancer researcher

Fri, 11/20/2015 - 11:45

Dr. Phil Gold

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the pioneering research by the McGill Faculty of Medicine’s Drs. Phil Gold and Samuel Freedman, who, together, discovered and defined the Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CEA), the most frequently used blood test used as a biomarker in the diagnosis and management of patients with cancer.

To celebrate this important breakthrough, the Goodman Cancer Research Centre is hosting a Scientific Symposium on Nov. 24 from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. at the Centre Mont-Royal. The Reporter sat down with Dr. Gold ahead of this event to talk about the discovery, its impact and the quest to cure cancer.

Learn more about the symposium.

What exactly is CEA and how did you and Dr. Freedman come about making the discovery?

The “brass ring” in cancer research had always been the attempt to find a specific biomarker, a material or molecule that was present on the tumour cell and would completely distinguish it from its normal counterpart. By the early 1960’s numerous attempts had been made in this regard, and all had failed. Indeed, the common wisdom was that such a marker had not been found, and would not be found. The latter comment was something of a challenge which we were rather happy to undertake.

By employing immunologic technologies which had not yet been utilized in cancer research we were able to demonstrate the presence of such a biomarker. The approach used was unique in a number of ways.

First, by using colon cancer as the tumour to be studied, and because of the unique fashion in which colon cancer tends to grow, it allowed us to compare tumour tissue with normal tissue from the same individual.

Second, by utilizing two different approaches to the preparation of antibodies against the tumour tissue, we were able to completely eliminate “the background noise” of normal components in the tumour tissue leaving us only with antibody reactivity against the tumour biomarker. Because the molecule was subsequently found in human embryonic digestive organs as well, the name given to this material was Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CEA).

Why was the discovery of CEA so important? How has it impacted cancer care and cancer research?

The discovery of CEA was significant because it was the first time that a tumour biomarker had been clearly demonstrated to exist, even though very small amounts of CEA were also present in normal tissue. Hence, we were able to establish a radioimmunoassay, or blood test, that allowed us to examine the blood samples of individuals with a variety of different conditions to see if this would be helpful in the diagnosis, management, and treatment of cancer patients. After a good deal of work in the field, encompassing laboratories across the world, it was demonstrated that CEA is present in elevated and increasing concentrations in 70 per cent of all human cancers.

The blood test for CEA was the first blood test for cancer sanctioned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States, and then by virtually every country in the world. It is presently the most common blood test for cancer, 50 years down the road from the time that it was discovered. Various cancer organizations across the world have established that the blood test for CEA is critical in predicting the future outcome of the disease in patients with colon cancer, the approach to be taken to the treatment of such patients went to intervene with different therapies if CEA concentrations rise. Indeed, CEA is the patriarch of a family of some 31 different associated genes and these various materials will become equally important in future management of patients with cancer.

In terms of cancer research, per say, the finding of CEA opened the area of onco-developmental research wherein molecules found in fetal and embryonic life when tissues are maturing, reappear in the tissues and the blood of patients whose cells have now undergone “regression” to the cancer stage.

What does it take to attain such a high level of success as an individual?

I believe that in order to attain success in any area, a few factors are required. To use the now somewhat hackneyed phrase, it does require thinking “out of the box” or looking at a problem in a way that hasn’t been employed in the past. It then requires a great deal of persistence, “a lot of help from your friends,” and perhaps most importantly a good deal of luck.

Are you optimistic we will find a cure for cancer? If so, how far do you think we are from getting there?

I have no doubt that a variety of cures for cancer will be forthcoming. Indeed, many are already in place and such conditions as Hodgkin’s disease and Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia are now virtually curable. In addition, many other common cancers such as those of the bowel, breast, and even lung, are now being treated with every increasing success. In addition to the usual therapies of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, all have which have improved, we can now the parameter of immunotherapy which is proved to be a major step forward. Taken together, then, I think that we’re probably within a decade of having the major cancers under control.

My concern is that we will not be able to afford the new biologicals that are now coming online on a virtual weekly basis since that these can run well over $100,000 per patient per year. I don’t think we should lose sight of the fact that we should continue to maintain pressure for better lifestyles, which will include total cessation of cigarette smoking, better diets and the elimination of obesity in the population in so far as possible.

What advice would you give to a young researcher just starting out and wanting to focus on cancer research?

I would certainly encourage any young researcher to pursue a career in cancer research. Despite what has been learned to date, there is still probably far more to be acquired. This would certainly include such things as the genetic markers for cancer occurrence, such as has been done with the BRCA genes, which allows focus on certain areas of the body where cancer is more likely to occur. In addition better and more sensitive markers with greatest specificity allowing for screening is yet another area to be pursued. Certainly research in therapeutic areas of every kind is greatly needed.


Manfredi makes first budget presentation to Senate

Fri, 11/20/2015 - 07:52

By McGill Reporter Staff

The good news, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Christopher Manfredi told Senate Wednesday, is that the provincial government hasn’t dropped any surprises into its final message on university spending for the current fiscal year.

In the last two fiscal years, significant cuts were made partway through the year, which prompted numerous budget revisions, more cuts and projected deficits.

The government, Manfredi said, echoing his predecessor, Anthony C. Masi, forces universities to “fly blind” for a large part of the fiscal year, until it delivers what are called “règlements budgétaires,” which outline the specific amounts of money universities will receive in a given fiscal year.

In announcing that he has begun the process for determining the budget for fiscal year 2016-17 (which begins in May), Manfredi said he expects that government revenues will likely be within 1 or 2 per cent of expectations for this year and he is playing it safe and expecting a potential cut of 2 to 2.5 per cent in the government’s grant to McGill for the next fiscal year.

“In terms of big-picture planning, there’s not too much detail; we do hear that the government is looking at trying to achieve $1 billion in savings over all, including $200 million in education. That could mean a 1-per-cent reduction in the grant to McGill,” he said, “but to be on the safe side, I’m thinking in my own mind of the possibility of a 2- to 2.5-per-cent cut.”

The first part of the budget process, which has begun, involves meetings between the Provost and the various Deans, in which new initiatives are considered and agreements are determined with Faculties about budget envelopes. Manfredi will make a second report to Senate before presenting the final budget book in the spring.

Manfredi’s report to Senate followed Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) Michael Di Grappa’s presentation of the annual report of the financial state of the University as of fiscal year 2014-15.

The lengthy and detailed report shows University revenues totaled $1.21 billion from all sources, with the lion’s share (36 per cent) coming from the Government of Quebec. This is measured against $1.18 billion in expenditures, nearly half of which is represented by academic and administrative staff salaries.

The University’s Endowment Fund has increased in value from $1.28 billion in 2014 to $1.43 billion in 2015, and fundraising efforts continue to pull in nearly $90 million a year, the report indicates.

Di Grappa’s report addressed the continuing challenge of deferred maintenance, and revealed that the amount of money that needs to be spent is higher than previously thought.

“For the past few years, McGill’s total deferred maintenance (DM) inventory has been reported to be $835 million at the University’s two campuses,” the report said. “Since last year’s report, a more in-depth study mandated by the Bureau de coopération interuniversitaire (BCI) –formerly Conférence des recteurs et des principaux des universités du Québec (CREPUQ) – and conducted by external professionals (Planifika) has been completed. Based on the results of this study, the current, most reliable estimate of the University’s total DM inventory is approximately $1.3 billion.

“Among the major elements excluded from the Planifika study are building façades. As reported last year, due to a recent modification of the Loi sur le bâtiment, building inspections are required for at least 60 buildings at McGill before the end of 2017, of which the 38 oldest buildings must be inspected by the end of 2015. These technical inspections are being conducted separately from the Panifika study. Upon completion, the results will further refine and update on the current estimate of McGill’s total DM inventory. To date we have completed façade inspections of six buildings and intend on completing an additional three between now and December 31, 2015.”

One of the buildings that has been identified as needing significant work is the Macdonald-Stewart Building that houses the Shulich Science and Engineering Library.

Di Grappa told Senate the University has asked the province to help defray the $27-million cost of façade restoration required in the near future.



Nov. 19–20: Anna I. McPherson Lectures

Thu, 11/19/2015 - 15:53

On Thursday, Nov. 19 and Friday, Nov. 20, the McGill Physics Department welcomes Prof. Alain Aspect (2012 Albert Einstein Medal) for the 2015 Anna I. McPherson Lectures.

Please join us for the Public Lecture, “From Einstein to Wheeler: wave particle duality for a single photon” on Thursday, Nov. 19, at 7 p.m. in the Auditorium of the Adams Building (McGill’s Downtown Campus).

Since the early days of quantum mechanics, the interferences that are apparent between spatially separated trajectories of quantum particles has not ceased to fascinate both professional physicists and the broader public. In this lecture, Prof. Aspect will present results from a series of experiments – each of which has been realized with a single photon (i.e. a single quantum of light) – that serve to emphasize the weirdness of the concept of “wave particle duality”, an idea that is at the root of the quantum revolution of the 20th century. The single photon sources used in these experiments have recently left the laboratory, and are now an important resource in the technological domains of quantum information and quantum cryptography.

Prof. A. Aspect is a giant in the area of experimental tests of fundamental concepts in quantum mechanics using optics. In the early 1980’s he performed the elusive “Bell test experiments” that showed Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen’s reductio ad absurdum of quantum mechanics, namely that quantum mechanics implied a ‘ghostly action at a distance’ (the EPR paradox), was neither absurd nor ghostly! That is, the ‘ghostly action at a distance’ that so bothered Einstein appears to be an essential and unavoidable fact of nature that we simply must reconcile ourselves to. These and other experiments performed by Prof. Aspect have contributed enormously to our understanding regarding the true nature of the quantum world, including core ideas and concepts like ‘wave-particle duality’ and ‘quantum entanglement’ that are hot subjects in everything from books popularizing physics to the Big Bang Theory.


Le jeudi 19 novembre et vendredi 20 novembre, le département de physique de McGill accueille le Professeur Alain Aspect (Médaille Albert Einstein 2012) qui donnera les conférences Anna I. McPherson 2015/2016.

Nous vous invitons à vous joindre à nous pour la conférence publique intitulée “From Einstein to Wheeler: wave particle duality for a single photon” qui prendra place le jeudi 19 novembre à 19 heures dans l’Auditorium de l’édifice Adams (campus centre-ville). La conférence scientifique sera donnée le lendemain, vendredi 20 novembre, à 15h30 dans la salle 112 de l’édifice Ernest Rutherford.

Depuis les premiers jours de la mécanique quantique, les interférences apparentes entre les trajectoires séparées dans l’espace de particules quantique n’ont cessé de fasciner à la fois les physiciens professionnels et le grand public. Dans cette conférence, le professeur Aspect présentera les résultats d’une série d’expériences – dont chacune a été réalisée avec un seul photon à la fois (i.e. un seul quantum de lumière) – servant à souligner l’étrangeté de la notion de «dualité onde-particule » , une idée à l’origine de la révolution quantique du 20ème siècle. Les sources de photons uniques utilisées dans ces expériences ont récemment quitté le laboratoire, et sont maintenant importantes dans les domaines technologiques de l’information quantique et de la cryptographie quantique.

Le professeur Aspect est un géant dans le domaine des tests expérimentaux de concepts fondamentaux de la mécanique quantique utilisant des moyens optiques. Au début des années 1980 il réalisa une expérience fondamentale sur l’inégalité de Bell qui montra que la réductio ad absurdum de la mécanique quantique introduite par Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky et Nathan Rosen, nommément que la mécanique quantique implique une sorte « d’action fantôme à distance » (le fameux paradoxe EPR) n’était ni absurde ni fantomatique! Autrement dit, «l’action fantôme à distance» qui dérangeait tant Einstein est en fait une composante essentielle et incontournable de la nature auquel nous devons tout simplement nous habituer. Cette expérience ainsi que d’autres réalisées par le Prof. Aspect ont énormément contribué à notre compréhension de la véritable nature du monde quantique, y compris les idées fondamentales et les concepts tels que «la dualité onde-particule» et «l’intrication quantique» qui sont des sujets d’actualité dans plusieurs domaines couvrant les livres de vulgarisation de la physique à la théorie du Big Bang.


My Workplace: Survey results and 10 new projects

Thu, 11/19/2015 - 15:33

Will explore employee mentoring, more training and support for managers, a new pipeline for employee ideas and more.

On Friday, Oct. 23, McGill’s senior administration endorsed 10 new initiatives recommended by the My Workplace team, all aimed at making McGill a better and more efficient place to work.

Each initiative grew out of extensive employee feedback collected through a survey and five discussion groups over the summer, all geared toward achieving the Principal’s goal of making McGill a true Learning Organization. All administrative and support staff were invited to take part and more than 1,200 people shared their views, helping build the My Workplace plan below.

10 new initiatives sparked by your feedback

My Workplace now has a mandate to explore the initiatives summarized below. They are described in greater detail on p.13-17 of the Learning Organization report approved last week.

  1. A pipeline to bring employee ideas to fruition
    Throughout the survey and discussion groups, employees repeated time and again that it’s difficult to bring great ideas to fruition at McGill. When they come up with better ways of doing things, McGill must push its bureaucracy out of the way. The My Workplace team will look at ways to solicit and advance employees’ ideas.
  2. Give employees time and space to make McGill better
    During the My Workplace consultations, staff continually said that they want to find more innovative ways of doing things, but that they lack the time and support they need to do this. The My Workplace team will study how other institutions make space/time for innovation, and use that information to propose an action plan for McGill.
  3. Training and support for new academic administrators
    Faculty members who take on administrative roles must learn new supervisory skills on the fly with no formal management training available, and sometimes struggle to empower their staff, provide constructive feedback and manage their teams effectively. Together with Organizational Development and the Office of the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic), the My Workplace team will assess training offerings at McGill and elsewhere and propose an action plan for McGill.
  4. Additional training for administrative and support staff supervisors
    Administrative and support staff managers have more training available to them than academic managers do, but we can do more to help supervisors empower and lead their teams. In partnership with Organizational Development, the My Workplace team will study how other institutions encourage continuous learning and development for supervisors, and propose a plan that’s suited to McGill’s needs.
  5. Publicize avenues of escalation for staff
    At the discussion groups and in the survey, some administrative and support staff members expressed concern about isolation and inequity – stemming both from their workplace culture and their supervisors’ management styles. As a result, some individuals feel “stuck” and powerless, unaware of avenues through which they could voice their concerns. In partnership with Human Resources, the My Workplace team will prepare an inventory of current escalation avenues available to staff, and promote these via the HR website.
  6. Reward and reinforce good management
    An unwelcome side effect of McGill’s budget management approach is that it sometimes incentivizes short-sighted financial management. When units generate savings, they should be rewarded. The My Workplace team will look for ways to do this.
  7. Build ties between My Workplace and other big-impact projects
    My Workplace will connect with and support projects with significant implications for our administrative workforce – including the new HR information system (R2R). It makes strategic sense to support cross-fertilization between major change initiatives at McGill.
  8. Job shadowing and employee mentoring
    Employees have repeated time and again that McGill units don’t always work together. Job shadowing, staff-to-staff mentoring and greater networking opportunities across units could help build mutual trust and unblock communication lines, all the while supporting employees’ career development. In partnership with Organizational Development, the My Workplace team will explore ways to achieve this.
  9. Change the tone, change the narrative
    In the survey and discussion groups, some employees pointed out that senior administrators can sometimes seem distant, bureaucratic, and disconnected from local realities. That narrative is reinforced when we communicate through excessively formal, complex language. A more conversational tone, simpler phrasing and the elimination of jargon would make messages easier to digest and significantly more effective. Wherever possible, the My Workplace team will work to make McGill’s messaging clearer and more human.
  10. Lower-cost professional courses for employees
    Certain non-credit courses offered by the School of Continuing Studies do not qualify for the staff tuition waiver. Executive Institute courses can be quite expensive as well, despite their 50 per cent discount for McGill staff. It was proposed at our Macdonald Campus discussion group that when these courses are not completely filled by paying students, the remaining spots could be offered to employees at a large discount. The My Workplace team will explore the feasibility of this idea.

Survey results

Earlier this year, My Workplace surveyed McGill’s administrative and support staff to gauge what it’s like to work at McGill. Are employees empowered to make the right decisions? Do they have opportunities to grow in their careers? The idea was to take the pulse of McGill’s workforce and generate ideas and initiatives like those listed above, aimed at making McGill better.

Nearly half (45 per cent) of the 2,754 employees surveyed filled out the survey, a relatively high response rate reflecting substantial enthusiasm for this discussion. You can read the survey results in detail on p.4-12 of the Learning Organization report, but some key findings were:

  • Inviting different perspectives
    79 per cent of respondents said multiple viewpoints are welcome in your units either “always,” “sometimes” or “most of the time.”
  • Better ways of working
    It’s clear that resources are tight and we need more efficient ways of working. Nearly 40 per cent of respondents told us that deadlines and work volume stand in the way of top-quality work either “always” or “most of the time.”
  • We must encourage smart risks and bold ideas
    Fully 60 per cent of respondents said they’re only “somewhat” or “not at all” comfortable trying new ways of doing things, because of the risk of failure. That’s understandable, but it harms our ability to improve.
  • The negatives outweigh the positives
    Generally speaking, there were more negative responses than positive ones. These focused on risk acceptance, employee empowerment and recognition, innovation, and performance management.

• Strengths to build on

Generally, issues related to the clarity of mission and goals and the alignment of a unit’s objectives with those of the University were seen favourably.

About My Workplace

My Workplace is a series of initiatives aimed at making McGill work better. The goal is to get employees at all levels thinking about ways they can learn, improve processes and work better together, and to connect staff with the tools and expertise they need to make their great ideas a reality.

At its core My Workplace is about learning, and about taking an occasional step back to examine what we do, why we do it that way, and whether we should be doing something different. And it has been identified as one of Principal Fortier’s top five priorities, because with shrinking financial resources and growing competition, McGill must tap into the skills, ideas and ingenuity of its workforce to stay ahead of the curve.


Paris aftermath: Best friends ask world to choose love over fear

Thu, 11/19/2015 - 14:11

(From left to right): A screenshot of the video Matt Dajer, Ammar Kandil and Thomas Brag hold hands at the Berri-UQAM metro station on Monday morning.

By Neale McDevitt

It was the simplest of gestures yet it stopped busy people in their tracks in the Berri-UQAM metro station during Monday’s rush hour. Three friends stood on the platform holding hands. They each wore a simple white t-shirt identifying themselves as a New Yorker, a Parisian and a Muslim from Egypt. Their message was simple – even in the wake of the tragic events in Paris and Beruit, love is stronger than hate. Another friend took a video of people’s reactions: Some smiled, some hugged, some fought back tears and many took pictures to post on social media.

“For the first five minutes none of us dared look up,” said Thomas Brag, who graduated with a B.Comm last December. “We were looking straight down because we weren’t sure what to expect when the metro doors opened and this entire mass of people that just flocked toward us.

“Once we looked up, we saw that people were crying and smiling and taking our pictures. And, right after that, they started coming up to shake our hands and hug us.”

Brag, was holding hands with Matt Dajer (a recent McGill History graduate) and Ammar Kandil. A fourth friend, Derin Emre of Turkey filmed everything.

The four friends (three of them are roommates) have a youtube channel called Generation Y Not. Most of the videos on the channel involve the members doing things they have never done before. To date, this has involved everything from greeting strangers arriving at the airport and river surfing in Montreal, to being models at a fashion show and eating scorpions.

This past Friday, the group was editing their most recent challenge – telling jokes in public – when the news broke about the terror attacks in Paris.

“We were all silent for a full three hours. We didn’t know what to say – there was just no room for opinions, no room for ideas,” says Brag, who knows one person who is fighting for his life after being shot in the spine. “All we could do was hug each other and tell each other that we loved one another.”

Brag says he and his friends knew there was no way they could post a video about telling jokes at a time like this. They realized how special their friendship was and how it personified qualities that the world needed to embrace, now more than ever.

“We feel ours is a very simple message of love, companionship, coexistence and tolerance – and we believe that’s what the world needs at this time,” says Brag. “We feel like sharing our story is the purest way to deliver this message.”

So, on Monday morning, the friends set up shop on the platform of Montreal’s busiest metro stations during morning rush hour. Armed only with some homemade signs and t-shirts, Brag, Dajer and Kandil took each other by the hand and waited for that first metro to open its doors.

“With these kind of things you never know what to expect – and often you’ll get at least a few negative comments or reactions,” says Brag. “But everyone – every single person – was positive. People were taking pictures, giving us hugs and saying thank you over and over. It was clear that this was something we all needed.”

When asked, realistically, what this kind of gesture means in the face of such horrific violence, Brag is unequivocal. “This – and every act of love – is incredibly important, because these are the things that will keep us united,” he says. “These terrorists want to separate us. They want to start internal conflicts where we start blaming each other and getting angry at each other. That’s when they win.

“Everyone is scared and just opening your arms and listening to each other stories is the most impactful thing we could do right now,” says Brag. “These terrorists want to divide us. The best thing to do is to hold hands and not let that happen.”

Visit the Generation Y Not Facebook page.

Click on the thumbnail below to watch the video