In the Headlines news
McGill civil engineering professor Jim Nicell, chemical engineering professor David Cooper and colleagues are hoping to develop an environmentally friendly plasticizer, the ingredient that makes plastics soft and flexible, to be added to polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
McGill University is the cream of Canadian schools, the best public university in North America and ranks 12th among the world's top 200 universities, according to the prestigious THES/QS global survey. Released today, the Times Higher Education's ranking has McGill bounding up from last year's 21st place showing based on such factors as emphasis on science programs, the strong contingent of international students and faculty, student/faculty ratios, and publications by faculty and graduate researchers. Harvard placed first on the list, while Oxford, Cambridge and Yale tied for second spot. University of Toronto dropped from 27th last year to 45th overall. UBC (33), Queen's (88), Université de Montréal (93), University of Alberta (97), McMaster (108), Waterloo (112), University of Western Ontario (126), Simon Fraser (139) and University of Calgary (166) were the other Canadian universities that made the list.
An international team of scientists has published a new analysis showing that as plant species around the world go extinct, natural habitats become less productive and contain fewer total plants -- a situation that could ultimately compromise important benefits that humans get from nature. "Our analyses provide the most comprehensive evidence yet that natural habitats with a greater variety of plant species are more productive," said co-author Michel Loreau of McGill.
After climate change, global genetic diversity could become the next great concern of humanity, claims biologist Michel Loreau, Canada Research Chair in Theoretical Ecology at McGill. Prof. Loreau, through the international organization Diversitas, documents the harmful effects of the erosion of the biogenetic resources on earth and advocates political action.
Scientists know that chickens are related to dinosaurs. But what makes animals, including humans, so different from our ancestors -- or from one another? According to radical new research, not as much as you'd think. And tinkering with the building blocks of life may shed light not only on what makes us the way we are, but on the mysteries of evolution. Like a small but growing number of paleontologists, Professor Hans Larsson was attracted to evo-devo, or evolutionary developmental biology, because it opens up just this door to recreating the past.
In an op-ed in the Guelph Mercury, James Ford and Lea Berrang-Ford, both from the Department of Geography at McGill, write that we have the ability to avoid the most extreme effects of climate change but to do so will require commitment by all nations, including our own. They propose that an upcoming international conference in Bali offers Canada a chance to maintain its international reputation.
"The world will suffer more ecological explosions and surprises as alien species invade new habitats and compete with domestic organisms for survival," Anthony Ricciardi, a professor of environmental science at McGill, warns.
Canadian and American climate-change experts have been predicting since December 2006 that the bank of ice covering the Arctic Ocean will completely disappear by the summer of 2040. Now a team led by McGill researcher Bruno Tremblay has revised their projection and estimates that the phenomenon will occur 20 or 30 years earlier.
From around the world, survivors of genocide and witnesses to it, human rights activists, legal scholars and legislators are travelling to Montreal to attend the three-day Global Conference on the Prevention of Genocide, held by the McGill University Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism. In an editorial in the Gazette, Janet Bagnall discusses corporate complicity in genocide.
As McGill prepares to roll out a major fundraising campaign, Heather Munroe-Blum says Quebec is in "urgent need" of a new culture that places a higher premium both on post-secondary education and on the philanthropy required to pay for it. Munroe-Blum said Quebec lags well behind Ontario in the percentage of students who attend university and complete degrees.
Doctors who are overworked, have been trained in other countries or who have been practising longer are more likely to prescribe antibiotics inappropriately, according to research out of McGill that highlights a major problem facing public-health officials. The study, published today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, assessed the prescribing habits of hundreds of Quebec doctors over an eight-year period, identifying those who prescribe antibiotics in ways that can lead to drug resistance. Genevieve Cadieux, the study's co-author and a researcher at McGill's Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, said, "The most daunting concern is that we're not going to have effective drugs to treat illnesses." Robyn Tamblyn, who co-authored the report, said more research is needed to determine why doctors in these broad categories seem to be more likely to prescribe inappropriately.