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Updated: 6 hours 39 min ago

Construction of the house of the future kicks off at Loyola

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 14:36

Members of TeamMTL, a collaboration between McGill and Concordia, will spend part of the summer building a net-zero energy Deep Performance Dwelling.

McGill and Concordia students and faculty teaming up to build Canadian entry to Solar Decathlon China competition in 2018

It’s officially underway.

As of June 12, the test assembly of the net-zero energy Deep Performance Dwelling began on Concordia University’s Loyola Campus. Designed and realized by TeamMTL, the house is Canada’s sole entry to the 2018 Solar Decathlon China, an international competition that challenges student teams to design and build full-size, solar-powered houses.

TeamMTL is a collaborative effort between students and faculty from McGill and Concordia universities. Reaching the test assembly stage is a major milestone in the long journey to the competition which will be held in July 2018 in Dezhou, Shandong Province, China. The team is composed of 40 students working on all aspects of the project, including architecture design, engineering, finance and communications.

“We are extremely grateful to the dozens of dedicated people who have come together to make the test assembly of the Deep Performance Dwelling possible,” says Michael Jemtrud, Faculty Lead and McGill School of Architecture Professor.

A profound hands-on experience

The house is being assembled at the Terrebonne Parking lot beside the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall at the Loyola Campus of Concordia University. The prototype will remain onsite throughout the summer, giving visitors a hands-on vision of the future of housing.

“We’re very pleased to host this stage of the research project at Concordia,” said Justin Powlowski, Concordia’s Interim Vice-President of Research and Graduate Studies. “The Deep Performance Dwelling is an exciting collaboration between our two universities. It’s a great opportunity for Concordia and McGill students to apply their technical skills at this crucial step. I look forward to seeing them in action this summer!”

At the worksite, an ensemble of students who participated in a summer construction course offered through McGill and who received health and safety training from the Commission de la santé et de la securité du travail (CSST) are anxious to get their hands dirty.

“It’s very exciting to see the team’s efforts finally materialize, I can’t wait for construction to begin. I’ve been talking about this amazing project for the past year and I’m eager to share the final product.” said Alex Gareau, a civil engineering undergrad at Concordia and one of the project managers. “The way I see it, my mandate as project manager is to help the project progress smoothly, from handling site logistics, to coordinating and harmonizing the efforts of the team’s various crews.”

Likewise, Mark Melnichuk, a second-year McGill undergraduate architecture student has been working on the team since its inception. “The Solar Decathlon has been the most ambitious and challenging academic project I have been involved in. To see the project grow from a concept on paper into a fully realized building has been an extremely gratifying process. Not only am I proud of the quality of the project the team has put together but also the potential sustainable implications of the project in the future.”

‘Educating the best and brightest young thinkers and doers’

After the base and exterior structure of the home are complete, the team will focus on refining the interior including full furnishing and integration of the interactive media. Tours will be offered to the public beginning in mid-July to demonstrate TeamMTL’s vision of sustainable urban living and high-performance construction techniques.

Inspired by Montreal row houses, the dwelling is designed to be adaptable and flexible for the contemporary urban family. The ambitious design addresses the pressing global need for affordable, low-impact, urban housing. It integrates interactive media into the home to inform residents of consumption patterns and their environmental impacts.

“It is a complex, extraordinary project for the students and faculty involved,” says Jemtrud. “We’re continuing to bring together numerous public and private sector partners who have a shared concern for building a sustainable world, while simultaneously educating the best and brightest young thinkers and doers from our community.”

Information on upcoming tours, events and the team’s progress can be found online and you can follow on social media @teammontreal for real time updates and behind-the-scenes footage.

Improving concussion diagnosis and treatment

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 14:12

Post-concussion symptoms can include physical ailments, emotional disturbances and sleep disruption.

By Victor Swoboda

When Sidney Crosby suffered a concussion during a playoff game versus the Washington Capitals in May – the fourth concussion of his career – the news made nationwide headlines. A few years earlier, a concussion had kept the Pittsburgh Penguins superstar off the ice for ten months. The hockey world held its breath.

After missing the next game, Crosby returned to action. Showing no ill effects of the injury, the Penguins captain led his team to its second-straight Stanley Cup and was named playoff MVP.

But not all concussion stories have a happy ending.

Concussions can have serious consequences, even in cases where the victim shows few symptoms immediately. Victims often shrug off a mild blow to the head, unaware that brain damage has occurred.

Hollywood actress Natasha Richardson declined medics’ urging to get immediate medical tests, possibly because of altered judgment on her part, after she suffered a mild head injury while skiing at Mont-Tremblant in 2009. Two hours later, she showed signs of trauma. She succumbed to her concussion injury two days later because of bleeding in her brain.

Young people and children suffer concussions and traumatic brain injuries at an alarming rate. About 160,000 Canadians suffer brain injuries each year, and one-in-three are sustained by children and youth. Often this occurs when children are participating in sports or recreational activities.

In 2014, a 17-year-old high-school rugby player in Ontario, Rowan Stringer, was tackled during a game and hit her head. She suffered headaches and other symptoms but ignored them because she wanted to play in a big game four days later. In that game, she suffered another blow to the head. She died from what is known as Second Impact Syndrome – which is caused by a second blow after a pre-existing injury that had not completely resolved.

Falls are another widespread cause of concussions, particularly among children and the elderly.

Improving concussion diagnosis and treatment

Unfortunately, both diagnosis and treatment of concussions are still at elementary stages.

Dr. Alain Ptito, a neuropsychologist at The Neuro and Director of the Department of Psychology of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), is seeking to improve the ways that brain trauma is diagnosed and treated.

Dr. Alain Ptito, Director of the Department of Psychology of the MUHC

“Diagnosis by a physician is based on a patient’s testimony and remains too subjective,” says Dr. Ptito. “And there is really nothing out there to treat the damage caused by a concussion.”

In the past few years, Dr. Ptito has used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compile a bank of brain scans of about 120 normal adults and 70 children. He also has fMRI scans of more than 100 brain trauma patients, some of whom were professional athletes.

“We can look at an individual’s brain activation pattern and compare it to an age-matched group to determine whether the activation patterns of the suspected concussion patient are in line with those of normal subjects.”

Dr. Ptito has approached professional sports teams like those in the NHL for permission to scan athletes’ brains before their competitive season starts, and then to use those scans to see whether any changes in the brain occurred if the athlete suffers a concussion.

Dr. Ptito is also particularly eager to test a large number of women subjects.

“There’s very little in the literature on women and concussion,” says Dr. Ptito. “It’s likely that women and men react differently to concussions. Women take longer to recover, for example. It might be that women’s necks are weaker or that they are more fragile as a result of hormonal activity during the pre-menstrual cycle. Such speculation still requires scientific evidence. It would be valuable to conduct a series of tests of women, but unfortunately there’s little funding for research into traumatic brain injuries in general and in women in particular.”

PoNS device

In the past few years, The Neuro has been one of five sites in the U.S. and Canada testing a promising experimental method called the Portable Neuromodulation Stimulator or PoNS (TM), manufactured by Helius, for treating concussion injuries. Pons is the name of a highly important structure in the upper part of the brain stem. The pons helps to control breathing, hearing, taste and balance. It also serves to facilitate communication among the different parts of the brain.

The PoNS device sends electrical stimuli to the brain through the patient’s tongue. While holding the device in the mouth, the patient performs physiotherapy exercises.

“The tongue is quite sensitive and by stimulating it, information is sent to the brain stem, particularly to the pons,” says Dr. Ptito. “There the information is distributed across the brain. By stimulating the tongue, we think we can stimulate brain plasticity in the hope of solving problems related to brain injury like loss of balance.”

The device is also being tested on Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis patients who have balance problems.

The dream: A clinic for concussion patients

In January 2017, a host of world-class Canadian athletes including former CFL star Anthony Calvillo, NHL Hall of Fame inductee Ken Dryden, and NHL star Mike Richter, along with Martin Bedard, Otis Grant, Nicolas Boulay, Tanner Marsh and Bruno Heppell participated in an event at The Neuro called Heads Up to draw public attention to the concussion issue and to raise funds for concussion research.

Ultimately Dr. Ptito would like to open a unique concussion clinic at The Neuro with a dedicated fMRI scanner and with staff trained in both the use of the PoNS device and in physiotherapy designed specifically for concussion victims.

The hope is that more funds will become available to advance research and treatment of this debilitating condition that is only recently getting the attention it deserves.

$3M for research to help farmers cut greenhouse gas emissions

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 14:59

L-R Prof. Chandra Madramootoo, Dean Anja Geitmann, Jean-Claude Poissant, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Louis Arseneault, Vice-Principal, Communications and External Relations, Francis Scarpaleggia, Member of Parliament for Lac-Saint-Louis, Prof. Grant Clarke. / Photo: Owen Egan

Source: McGill Newsroom

Two McGill research projects aimed at helping farmers mitigate greenhouse gas emissions will receive nearly $3 million in funding from the Government of Canada, federal officials announced.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Jean-Claude Poissant, and Francis Scarpaleggia, Member of Parliament for Lac-Saint-Louis, made the announcement today at Macdonald Campus.

The McGill-led projects will investigate novel ways in which emissions can be reduced through improved water and biosolids management. The funding is being provided under the Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program, which supports projects that will create technologies, practices and processes that can be adopted by farmers to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

“We are grateful to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada for its valuable support for the projects led by professors Grant Clark and Chandra Madramootoo,” said Anja Geitmann, Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “This important research will help Canadian farmers adopt management practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while improving agricultural efficiency.”

A project led by Prof. Grant Clark, Department of Bioresource Engineering, will receive more than $1.3 million to research best management practices for the use of municipal biosolids, a by-product of wastewater treatment plants, as a crop fertilizer. Biosolids contain significant quantities of organic and inorganic nitrogen, as well as other plant nutrients.

A project led by Prof. Chandra Madramootoo, Department of Bioresource Engineering, will receive more than $1.6 million to study the effects of different water management systems in Eastern Canada. The project aims to provide information on water-management practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while increasing agricultural productivity.

Both projects involve collaboration with other institutions. These include Dalhousie University, University of Alberta, University of Calgary, University of Guelph and University of Saskatchewan; Agriculture and Agrifood-Canada research stations in Harrow, Guelph and Saskatchewan, and various industry partners.

Dr. Arkady Khoutorsky awarded the 2017 Award in Pain

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 11:12

Dr. Arkady Khoutorsky was one of seven recipients of the 2017 Award in Pain as announced on June 5.

By Amanda Testani

Dr. Arkady Khoutorsky, Assistant Professor in the Department of Anesthesia and Principal Investigator at the Alan Edwards Center for Research on Pain, was one of was one of seven 2017 Rita Allen Foundation Scholars announced on June 5. He was among two of the scholars selected for the Rita Allen Foundation Award in Pain in partnership with the American Pain Society for his proposal, “Extracellular matrix-mediated spinal cord plasticity in neuropathic pain.” Granted to research proposals that demonstrate the greatest merit, and display extraordinary promise to make advances in the field of pain, the prize awards recipients $50,000 annually, for a period of up to three years.

This marks the ninth year of the collaborative award with the American Pain Society, which supports early-career researchers who aim to understand and alleviate pain. Dr. Khoutorsky is the second McGill recipient of the award.

His research program aims to understand molecular and cellular mechanisms of chronic pain, which develops because of damaged, dysfunctional or injured nerves fibres. The damaged nerve fibres send incorrect sensory signals to the spinal cord, which contributes to the development of neuropathic pain. The treatments currently available to ease neuropathic pain have limited effectiveness, with only 30-40 per cent of patients reporting satisfactory pain relief following treatment. Given the need for improved therapeutic methods, the molecular and cellular mechanisms of neuropathic pain are the subjects of exhaustive research today.

Dr. Khoutorsky’s recent findings support a hypothesis that nerve injury-induced remodelling of the extracellular matrix (ECM) – a collection of extracellular molecules secreted by cells that provides structural and biochemical support to the surrounding cells – in the spinal cord might contribute to the increased transmission of the pain signal.

The characterization of the ECM remodelling following nerve injury and the investigation of the mechanisms by which the ECM reorganization promotes hypersensitivity might provide important information on neuropathic pain. Dr. Khoutorsky’s research program has the potential to provide important insights into the pathophysiology of neuropathic pain and push the development of innovative therapeutic treatments to improve the quality of life for those living with neuropathic pain.

Since 1976, the Rita Allen Foundation has invested in more than 150 biomedical scientists at the early stages of their careers, enabling them to pursue research directions with above-average risk and promise. Scholars have gone on to make fundamental contributions to their fields of study, and have won recognition including the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, the National Medal of Science, the Wolf Prize in Medicine, the Lasker~Koshland Award for Special Achievement in Medical Science, and the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.

The American Pain Society is a multidisciplinary community that brings together a diverse group of scientists, clinicians, and other professionals to increase the knowledge of pain and transform public policy and clinical practice to reduce pain-related suffering.

See the full listing of award recipients online.


McGill strikes gold at CCAE awards

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 10:42

University Advancement’s Derek Cassoff, Managing Director, Communications and Donor Relations, and Andra Armasu, Alumni Communities Associate, pose with McGill’s recent CCAE awards.

By Andrew Mahon

McGill has set a new gold standard for excellence in advancement, winning three gold medals at this year’s Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education (CCAE) national conference in Hamilton, Ont. The Council’s annual Prix d’Excellence awards are the benchmark for achievements in educational advancement in Canada, and McGill captured a total of four medals in categories covering traditional print content, digital communications and alumni engagement programming.

In addition, the CCAE’s Outstanding Achievement Award for 2017 was presented to Marc Weinstein, Vice-Principal of University Advancement. In the citation for the award, the CCAE praised Weinstein as “one of the most open and collegial leaders in Canadian advancement” and commended him for his major contributions to Canada’s advancement profession.

In accepting the award, Weinstein paid tribute to colleagues, mentors and friends at McGill and in the Montreal community for their support over the years, including Principal and Vice- Chancellor Suzanne Fortier, Principal Emerita Dr. Heather Munroe-Blum, and the Hon. Michael Meighen, Chancellor of McGill.

Here is the complete list of McGill’s 2017 CCAE Prix d’Excellence awards:

Gold Medals:

  • Best Feature Writing in French, to the McGill News for a profile of McGill graduates who are involved in Montreal’s multi-media sector.
  • Best Student and/or Young Alumni Event, for ‘Welcome Class of 2016’, a University-wide engagement campaign initiating graduating students into the McGill Alumni Association.
  • Best Use of Social Media for McGill24, McGill’s annual day of giving digital campaign.

Bronze Medal:

  • Best Alumni Initiative for McGillConnect, the exclusive career/mentor network created for the McGill community.

2017 CCAE Outstanding Achievement Award:

  • Marc Weinstein, Vice-Principal, University Advancement

Félix Bertrand: From the classroom to the farm

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 15:01

Just hours before he walked across the stage to accept his Farm Management Technology Diploma on June 2, Félix Bertrand was working one of the family farms.

By Neale McDevitt

Every graduating student has their own way of getting ready the day of their Convocation. Some get haircuts, others go for a latté with friends and family or buy a new pair of shoes for the event. You can be pretty sure that very few do what Félix Bertrand did the morning of his Convocation ceremony on June 2. “I was at home helping my father with the pigs,” he says.

Of course, this isn’t that out of the ordinary. Bertrand is an award-winning graduate in the Farm Management and Technology (FMT) Diploma program who, following in his brother and sister’s footsteps, is hoping to use what he has learned in the classroom and apply it to the family agribusiness.

The Bertrand family runs a very successful agribusiness. This includes several types of swine production (with more than 200,000 pigs), some laying hen production, cash cropping and running their three feed mills in which they produce their own animal feed. “We have something to do every day,” says Bertrand.

Bertrand isn’t afraid of hard work, in any domain. One of the primary comprehensive assessment tools for the FMT Diploma is a five-year-business plan project, referred to as the Farm Project. Bertrand’s first-place finish in this year’s business plan project gave him family bragging rights. Both older brother Rémi, who graduated from the FMT program in 2013, and older sister Sandrine, who graduated from FMT in 2013, finished second with their respective business plans.

“The three of us believe in doing our best in whatever we do and we try to follow that every day,” says Bertrand of he and his siblings. “We try to do things the right way.”

While he had been concentrating on his studies in recent months, now that school is out, Félix is a different kind of busy. Days begin early, making sure the machinery is ready to roll and everything is in place for before hitting the fields before 7 a.m. This time of year means getting fields ready for cash crops. “I spend a lot of time spreading manure,” says Bertrand.

“The spring is stressful because it is a rush to plant. And the fall is stressful because we are rushing to harvest,” says Bertrand. Does that make the months in between more relaxed? Bertrand laughs. “Maybe less stress, but just as busy,” he says. “We have to take care of the animals and keep up with the maintenance of our machines.”

Bertrand says that, while not all of the FMT material was applicable to raising swine – which he will take care of fulltime now that he has graduated – many of the lessons he learned were invaluable. Among the two most important takeaways – improving his English and approaching farming as an entrepreneur and a businessman.

“You can’t cut corners and expect to be successful,” he says “You have to pay attention to the details.”

That attention to detail is important in farming, an industry, as Bertrand points out, “that is moving more toward a lower profit margin. Thinner margins of profit put pressure on better performance,” says Bertrand. “Paying attention to the details is a key to profitability.”


New McGill system facilitates compliance to Canada’s Copyright Act

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 11:28

Members of the McGill community are all familiar with McGill’s wired and wireless network service, which provides access to the Internet. Many of you are probably reading this on the McGill network right now. What you may not realize is that in providing this service McGill has a responsibility, as do all Internet Service Providers, to ensure our network is used in accordance with Canadian law.  As such, we must comply with the Notice and Notice Regime of Canada’s Copyright Act, which obliges all Internet Service Providers to forward copyright infringement claims to users who have downloaded copyright-protected content (i.e., movies, music and other files) from their networks (Copyright Act, R.S.C. 1985, c.  42).

To make this compliance easier, McGill will soon deploy an automated Copyright Infringement Notification system to manage these legal obligations.

In summary, under the Notice and Notice regime of Canada’s Copyright Act (Copyright Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-42), McGill University is required to:

  1. Forward any infringement notices received from copyright holders, to the individual associated with the IP address indicated in the infringement notice.
  2. Notify the copyright holder once the notice is forwarded; or inform them that the notice could not be forwarded, in the case that no individual could be associated with the IP address specified in the infringement notice.
  3. Retain all records associated with these notices for 6 months. However, if the claimant commences proceedings relating to the claimed infringement and notifies the person before the end of those 6 months, McGill must keep the notices for one year after the day on which the person receives the notice of claimed infringement.

The new system, to launch by end of June, 2017, will enable us to enact the requirements of the Notice and Notice regime in a more timely and systematic way.

The system will receive digitally signed copyright infringement claims submitted by email. If the digital signature and format of the claim meet the specified requirements, the system will then look up the IP address identified in the claim. If a match is found, the system will forward the claim to the McGill network account holder who used the IP address at the time of the alleged infringement.  The system will also send a notice back to the copyright holder informing them that either the claim was forwarded (if an individual was identified), or it could not be forwarded (if no individual could be identified).

McGill will not validate the claim itself, as there is nothing in the notice that proves the claim is justified. So, receiving a notice of copyright infringement does not mean the recipient has been found guilty of conducting illegal copyright infringement activity.McGill will never send any identifying information about the alleged copyright infringer back to the claimant. The recipient of a claim should not panic, or take steps to contact the claimant, even if the notice contains threats of further legal action.

If you happen to receive a copyright infringement notice from the system, please visit the FAQs page to understand why it has been sent, and what actions, if any, you should take.

In closing, we remind you that illegally downloading or sharing files on the McGill network is not only a violation of the Canada’s Copyright Act  but also violates  McGill’s Policy on the Responsible Use of McGill Information Technology Resources. Therefore, any such illegal activity should be ceased immediately.

McGill se dote d’un système pour faciliter le respect de la Loi sur le droit d’auteur

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 11:25

Les membres de la communauté mcgilloise connaissent tous le service de réseau filaire et sans fil de McGill, qui permet d’accéder à Internet. La plupart d’entre vous lisent probablement le présent message sur le réseau de McGill. Ce que vous ne savez peut-être pas, c’est qu’à titre de fournisseur de services Internet, l’Université doit s’assurer que l’utilisation de son réseau est conforme à la loi canadienne. C’est ainsi qu’elle doit respecter le régime d’avis et avis de la Loi sur le droit d’auteur, qui oblige tous les fournisseurs de services Internet à transmettre un avis de violation du droit d’auteur à un utilisateur ayant téléchargé, à partir de leur réseau, du contenu protégé par le droit d’auteur (films, musique, etc.) (Loi sur le droit d’auteur, L.R.C. 1985, ch. C‑42).

Pour faciliter le respect de cette disposition et s’acquitter ainsi de ses obligations au titre de la loi, l’Université déploiera prochainement un système automatisé de notification de violation du droit d’auteur.

En vertu du régime d’avis et avis de la Loi sur le droit d’auteur (Loi sur le droit d’auteur, L.R.C. 1985, ch. C‑42), l’Université McGill doit :

  1. transmettre tout avis de violation reçu de la part d’un titulaire du droit d’auteur à la personne associée à l’adresse IP indiquée dans l’avis de violation;
  2. informer le titulaire du droit d’auteur de la transmission de l’avis, ou encore de sa non-transmission s’il est impossible d’associer à une personne l’adresse IP indiquée dans l’avis de violation; et
  3. conserver tous les dossiers associés à ces avis pendant six (6) mois. Cependant, si le requérant entame des poursuites judiciaires relatives à la violation alléguée et avise la personne avant la fin de ces six (6) mois, l’Université doit conserver les avis pendant un (1) an à compter du lendemain de la réception de l’avis de violation présumée.

Le nouveau système, qui sera mis en place d’ici la fin de juin 2017, permettra à l’Université de se conformer aux exigences du régime d’avis et avis de manière plus rapide et systématique.

Le système recevra par courriel des avis de violation présumée du droit d’auteur portant une signature numérique. Si cette dernière et le format de l’avis sont conformes aux spécifications, le système recherchera l’adresse IP indiquée dans l’avis. Si une correspondance est trouvée, le système transmettra l’avis au titulaire du compte de l’Université McGill qui utilisait l’adresse IP en question au moment de la présumée violation. Le système enverra également un avis au titulaire du droit d’auteur pour l’informer de la transmission de l’avis (si le titulaire du compte a été repéré) ou de sa non-transmission (si le titulaire du compte n’a pas été repéré).

L’Université McGill ne validera pas elle-même l’avis, puisque rien dans ce dernier ne prouve que l’allégation est fondée. De ce fait, la réception d’un avis de violation du droit d’auteur ne signifie pas que le destinataire est coupable d’avoir violé le droit d’auteur. L’Université ne transmettra jamais au requérant des renseignements identificatoires sur le présumé contrevenant. Le destinataire d’un avis ne doit pas paniquer ni faire des démarches pour communiquer avec le requérant, même si l’avis comporte des menaces de poursuites judiciaires.

Si vous recevez un avis de violation du droit d’auteur de la part du système, veuillez consulter la foire aux questions afin de comprendre pourquoi il vous a été envoyé et quelles sont les éventuelles mesures à prendre.

En terminant, nous vous rappelons que le téléchargement et le partage illégal de fichiers sur le réseau de l’Université McGill est une violation non seulement de la Loi sur le droit d’auteur, mais également de la politique sur l’utilisation responsable des ressources en technologie de l’information de l’Université. Par conséquent, il convient de mettre fin sans délai à ce type d’activité illégale.


Leading-edge neuroscience network renews agreement

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 11:00

L-R (upper row) Dr. David Eidelman, Dean of Medicine; Dr. Urs Obrist, Senior Science and Technology Counsellor, Embassy of Switzerland; Prof. Jean-Marc Fritschy, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Zürich, Co-Director, Neuroscience Center Zurich; Anne McKinney, Associate Vice-Principal, Research and Innovation and Chair, Brain@McGill; Elisabeth Bösch-Malinen, Swiss Consul General, Montreal; Nick Baker, British Consul General, Montreal. L-R (bottom row) Prof. Michael Hengartner, President, University of Zurich; Prof. Fritjof Helmchen, Director, Neuroscience Center Zurich; Anna Christina Nobre, Head of Oxford Neuroscience; Rosie Goldstein, Vice-Principal, Research and Innovation; Suzanne Fortier, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. / Photo: Owen Egan

McGill, Oxford and ZNZ renew tripartite partnership agreement at ceremony at McGill on May 29

By Meaghan Thurston

The renewal of the tripartite partnership agreement between the Brain@McGill, the University of Oxford, and the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich (ZNZ) took place on May 29, amidst much excitement for what has been to date a fruitful and ambitious venture.

First signed in 2013, the three-way agreement has since supported over 60 collaborations, including research projects and research workshops in diverse areas; from work related to bilingualism, to that confronting Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Projects have also focused on sleep and the influence of disrupted circadian rhythms, among other topics. The Velux Foundation, based in Switzerland, has awarded significant funding for three research projects investigating healthy aging under the tripartite agreement.

“The Tripartite partnership has engaged our respective research communities at all levels, as well as having led to new opportunities with the Velux Foundation,” said Principal Suzanne Fortier, to open the event. “Projects that are intersectoral and international in scope – like those undertaken jointly by ZNZ, Oxford, and Brain@McGill – can only have a positive impact on our ability to overcome some of our most pressing challenges in neuroscience.”

In addition, the partnership has facilitated mobility of students and staff between the four institutions and has promoted research initiatives bridging basic and clinical neuroscience, drawing on complementary expertise.

Following the signing, Adam Steinberg speaks with Suzanne Fortier at a lunch honouring his father, former Chancellor Arnold Steinberg. / Photo: Owen Egan

The tripartite agreement was renewed for five years and will provide funding opportunities for collaborative projects; facilitate mobility of students and staff between the three institutions; and promote research initiatives bridging basic and clinical neuroscience, based on complementary expertise. This will provide an unprecedented opportunity to enhance human health, particularly in neurological and psychiatric disorders.

“The tripartite partnership with Brain@McGill and Oxford Neuroscience is a cornerstone in the strategy of the Neuroscience Center Zurich to cooperate with world-leading institutions, providing our researchers and students with unique networking opportunities and state-of-the-art research collaborations,” said Prof. Jean-Marc Fritschy, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Zürich, Co-Director, Neuroscience Center Zurich. “We look forward to jointly furthering knowledge in Neuroscience, for the benefit of patients and society, and to contribute toward the international standing of our Universities.”

“The remarkable success of this partnership stems from our shared commitment to delivering the best fundamental science and experimental research for the benefit of society,” said Anna Christina (Kia) Nobre, Head of Oxford Neuroscience. “We are excited by the opportunities that the new agreement affords to build on our achievements, including promoting open science and the development of future leaders in neuroscience, as well as to address some of the most challenging health issues facing Europe and the world today.”

Guests of the event, which included both international researchers and dignitaries, industry representatives as well as donors to the initiative, participated in a celebratory luncheon at which McGill’s former Chancellor Arnold Steinberg was remembered for kick-starting this bold international collaboration.

“His vision and generosity have played a pivotal role in helping us establish McGill’s excellence in health science and neuroscience, and he was, in many ways, a catalyst for this tripartite partnership,” said McGill’s Vice-Principal, University Advancement, Marc Weinstein. “It was he that made the first major donation to the Brain@McGill initiative, propelling it forward.”

Adam Steinberg, the son of the former chancellor, attended the luncheon in his father’s honour. Following the luncheon, guests participated in an afternoon devoted to research presentations by the partner-researchers.

Signatories of the renewed agreement included McGill’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Suzanne Fortier, Dr. Rosie Goldstein, Vice-Principal, Research and Innovation, Prof. Anna Christina Nobre, Head of Oxford Neuroscience, Prof. Michael Hengartner, President of the University of Zurich, and Prof. Fritjof Helmchen, Director Neuroscience Center Zurich (in absentia, Prof. Detlef Günther, Vice President Research and Corporate Relations, ETH Zurich and Chris Kennard, Head of Medical Sciences Division, University of Oxford.)





Hall of Fame athletic therapist set to retire after 35 years

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 10:20

Over the course of her long career, Lynn Bookalam has helped athletes at all levels, from varsity athletes to Olympians and world champions, overcome injury to perform their best. / Photo: Owen Egan

By Earl Zukerman

To say that this month has been a bit of an emotional roller-coaster for Lynn Bookalam would be an understatement. On June 3, at a conference held in Niagara Falls, Ont., the longtime manager of the McGill Sport Medicine Clinic was inducted to Canadian Athletic Therapists Association Hall of Fame. Two weeks from now, on June 21, she will be taking early retirement from her post after 35 years on the job at McGill.

Bookalam, who served as Canada’s chief therapist at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, also worked with medical teams at the 1987 World University Games in Zagreb, Yugoslavia; the 1990 world figure-skating championships in Halifax; the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, B.C.; and the 1997 Canada Winter Games in Sydney, N.S.

Instrumental in launching a McGill sports therapy service for varsity athletes way back in 1982, Bookalam initiated that project shortly after graduating from Indiana University where she earned a master of science degree in physical education, with a specialization in athletic training. That was preceded with a degree in physical education from Dalhousie University in 1980.

“Most people would probably say that being at the Olympics was the pinnacle of their career but I enjoyed moving up the ranks, from one event to the next,” says the native of Montreal who began as a casual employee working “full-time” hours as head athletic therapist for the University’s varsity sports program.

“One of my proudest accomplishments, in all honesty, is having such longevity in one job. We offer one of the finest medical services in the country. To have done that in the McGill family, working alongside our coaches, athletes, staff and alumni, was the highlight of my career.”

When Bookalam began her posting at McGill in 1982, she operated the then-fledgling Sports Medicine Clinic out of a 200-square foot, closet-like area between two boiler rooms at the second-floor entrance to the old Sir Arthur Currie gymnasium. Back then, she oversaw a staff of about a dozen student therapists, who spent all of their time helping rehab injured varsity athletes. There was an ice machine, two examining tables and one solitary stationary bicycle.

The Clinic expanded in 1995, moving to a new and improved venue, which now occupies 4,000 square-feet on the third floor of the McGill Sports Complex. The philosophy of the Clinic for all patients is a strong teamwork approach for the entire McGill community. The Clinic is now staffed with a dozen employees, 15-20 student therapists and a rotation of seven physicians.

Aside from working with the football team in the mid-1980s, she served an extensive stint as staff therapist for the McGill Redmen hockey team, from 1983 to 2009.

“It’s hard to pick one highlight but among my most memorable moments from a sporting perspective was McGill winning the national football championship (1987) and when Benoit Martin scored in overtime as we finally defeated UQTR in the men’s hockey playoffs (2007). That was a huge moment for the program,” she says.

Bookalam, who initially completed her CATA certification in 1985, went on to serve as president of the organization from 1989 to 1990. A long-standing member of the CATA ethics committee, she had a passion for educating student-therapists and taught a course, from 1983 to 2007, in the prevention and care of athletic injuries inn the department of kinesiology. Her focus was also on the management of a concussion “return to play” protocol.

“My job has had a tremendous impact on my life,” Bookalam once said in an interview. “It has allowed me to put it in better perspective, and I’ve learned that unless you’re healthy yourself, you can’t help other injured athletes. It’s taught me that there is life after elite sports – good health later in life might be worth more than the moment of victory at the time.”


Mission accomplished! First MasterCard Scholars graduate

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 09:52

Members of the first cohort of McGill’s MasterCard Scholars at the June 6 luncheon. From left to right: Fauziat Serunjogi, Quinter Faith, Kathyrn Mwathe, Njeri Muguthi, Ignace Nikwivuze and Betty Opiyo. / Photo: Christinne Muschi

By McGill Reporter Staff

Every student who crosses the stage to receive their degree during Convocation is both ending one journey and beginning another. But for the graduating members of McGill’s first cohort of MasterCard Scholars, that journey has already covered many, many miles.

Initiated at McGill in 2013, the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program provides academically talented young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa with access to a world-class university education. The Program provides comprehensive financial support for the students, as well as leadership development opportunities that reinforce ethics and a commitment to the betterment of students’ home communities, mentorship, career guidance, and internships in their home regions during the course of their studies.

A central goal of the Program is to create a globally educated and highly qualified group of future leaders, who, upon graduation, can return to Africa to help foster the region’s development.

On June 6, at a celebratory luncheon in honour of the Scholars, Reeta Roy, head of the MasterCard Scholars Foundation, and newly minted Honorary Doctor of Laws, McGill 2017, reiterated this point., “We are here to celebrate your moment of accomplishment, both academic and personal. The key value of the program is your leadership, and the importance of giving back,” said Roy. “You are young leaders on a special assignment – to transform your home countries and the world.”

McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier also congratulated the Scholars and reminded them that, while they will be moving on, McGill will always be with them.  “It is a real privilege to work with all of you and I want to thank all of you for taking a bet on McGill. We truly hope it was a good choice for you to come to McGill and now, with Reeta Roy, you are all members of the McGill family,” said Fortier. “Now you must make a bet on yourselves, with your aspirations, ambitions and dreams. Your McGill family will be with you.”

McGill welcomed 11 scholars as part of the first cohort in 2013. In all, the Program will support 91 promising students, including 67 at the undergraduate level – up to half of whom will be coming from French-speaking countries – and 24 students at the Master’s level.

In the eyes of Fabrice Labeau, faculty mentor to the MasterCard Scholars, the word ‘promising’ is an understatement. When asked how he feels about the scholars he laughs and says “Apart from feeling like a loser when I compare my achievement at their age to theirs?”

Prospective students must first apply to and be accepted into McGill (or the university of their choice). Once over that hurdle, they apply to the MasterCard Foundation to become MasterCard Scholars. Only a small and highly accomplished group is accepted.

Nicholas Toronga is one such student.

Toronga is one of McGill’s newest MasterCard Scholars, arriving from his hometown of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, in the fall of 2016, to pursue a Bachelor of Commerce, Finance, with a concentration in Business Analytics. While he had been accepted by UC Berkeley, Michigan State and one Ivy League school, Toronga took a bet on McGill.

“I really like McGill; the diversity and the multiplicity of ideas in most of my classes is really valuable. I grew up in Zimbabwe; so, it’s interesting, and sometimes hard, to be part of an environment as diverse as McGill,” he says. “Most of the things are foreign to me, very foreign! Academics are not easy as I thought, but I am forging my way ahead.”

Toronga is being modest about his achievements. Diving right into campus life, he recently won second place and $7,000 in the Innovation Driven Enterprise Track in the Dobson Cup, McGill’s flagship annual startup competition. His team won for its work on FamKeepa, a startup that gives people working outside their home countries a web-based platform that enables them to buy goods directly from retailers in their home countries.

But the Scholars are having as positive an impact on McGill as the University is having on them.

“They add an incredible sense of the value of diversity, in terms of its impact on our community,” says Labeau, an Electrical and Computer Engineering professor, and Associate Dean (Faculty Affairs). “The scholars have continually showed me that the rich kaleidoscope of cultures and backgrounds they bring to McGill is an asset that is not to be underestimated. Of all the things I have done at McGill, this is one of the most rewarding activities.”


John Lindsay: Food for thought

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 08:35

John Lindsay accepts his Emerald Key Award on April 3.

By McGill Reporter Staff

John Lindsay, who graduated on June 2, leaves McGill with a degree in Environmental Science (Renewable Resource Management), an Emerald Key award, and a passion for… food. But not necessarily a love for pizza and poutine – the staples of many students. Lindsay’s hunger, so to speak, is to make the world a better place through more sustainable food practices and policies.

“I use food as a lens in my studies. Everyone has to eat, after all,” says Lindsay. “Food production has one of the largest greenhouse gas footprints, contributing to climate change. Negative environmental impacts from food production include deforestation and the pollution of soil, water and air, as well as land compaction and biodiversity loss. With increasing meat consumption, millions and millions of animals suffer on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.

“There are economic impacts on rural farmers in Canada, the United States and abroad, who are losing their livelihoods to large agribusinesses, while consumers are becoming increasingly reliant on food banks and cheap food to survive,” continues Lindsay. “Maintaining the status quo of this system would be disastrous.”

Academically, Lindsay used lessons learned from the multi-disciplinary Environmental Science program to create two research courses. One was an applied student research project with eight other students, called The Real Food Challenge, which seeks to use third-party certifications to shift away from industrial junk food toward sustainable ‘Real Food’ in campus cafeterias. The other was his honours project, titled Socially-Sustainable Food Procurement for McGill University, where he researched ways of making food procurement at McGill more sustainable.

Lindsay says his primary inspiration for work in sustainability was reading the work of environmentalist and author Bill McKibben. But it was when he took classes at the McGill School of Environment, specifically a class called Montreal Urban Sustainability Experience (MUSE), that the light went on.

In MUSE, students are enrolled in two courses: one about understanding Montreal’s natural history, and another exploring some of the sustainability initiatives in Montreal. He explored urban agriculture initiatives such as Lufa Farms, and visited the Saint-Michel Environmental Complex, which sorts all recycling waste for the Island of Montreal. From there, his interests expanded to Santropol Roulant, the McGill Farmers’ Market, and then to McGill cafeterias.

Through his work as Food & Dining Sustainability Coordinator, Lindsay expanded the scale and impact of food and waste education initiatives in McGill’s cafeterias. He also improved food procurement auditing and reporting to better assess and actualize changes in institutional food procurement. Over the past year, he focused on improving the scope and impact of fair trade on campus. Those efforts played a role when McGill received the Fair Trade Campus of the Year Award for excellence in educational and operational commitment to fair trade.

On April 3, Lindsay was rewarded for his hard work by winning the coveted Emerald Key Award, given annually to a student who has made an outstanding and enduring contribution to the sustainability movement at McGill.

Marisa Albanese, Interim Executive Director of Student Housing and Hospitality Services, and Professor Julia Freeman, who presented Lindsay with the Emerald Key Award, described him as a student who exhibits genuine passion for the wellbeing of people and the planet, both in the classroom and in his extracurricular pursuits.

As much as he has accomplished during his time at McGill, Lindsay’s natural drive finds him looking outward, beyond the Roddick Gates. “Please get involved outside of the classroom,” he says when asked for words of advice for new students at the School of Environment. “Montreal is a vibrant city with many learning opportunities. You can only learn so much from school. The deepest learning comes from getting your hands dirty.”



McGill grads named to Canadian rugby squad

Wed, 06/07/2017 - 17:08

Julianne Zussman, left, and Brianna Miller will be part of the Canadian rugby team on tour in New Zealand as a tuneup for the upcoming World Cup to be hosted by Ireland in August.

By Earl Zukerman Matt Tidcombe (Rugby Canada)

Two McGill graduates – Julianne Zussman of Montreal and Brianna Miller of Pointe Claire, Que. – are among a 28-member squad named by Canada’s senior head coach Francois Ratier for an exhibition tour in New Zealand as part of the International Women’s Rugby Series.

Canada, ranked No. 3 in the world, will face top-ranked New Zealand on June 9 before facing No.2 England on June 13. They will conclude their tour on June 17 against No. 6 Australia.

Zussman, a 29-year-old who was born in Ottawa, graduated in 2008 with an arts degree, majoring in international development studies. As a member of the McGill Martlets, she merited RSEQ rookie-of-the-year honours in 2004 and achieved RSEQ all-conference status in 2005. Also a product of the Castaway Wanderers rugby football club in Montreal, the 5-foot-6 fullback has been part of the national program since 2007 and is employed as a communications coordinator with the Canadian Sport Institute in Victoria, B.C.

Miller, 24, was a four-time RSEQ conference all-star and two-time all-Canadian during a five-year university career with the McGill Martlets (2011-2014) and Ottawa Gee-Gees (2015). The physical education graduate served as team captain and won three straight RSEQ scoring titles with McGill, becoming the team’s all-time leading scorer with 370 points in 26 career regular season contests, an average of 14.2 points per outing. A former RSEQ rookie of the year and two-time league MVP, the 5-foot-6 back was named CIS player of the year in 2013. She also helped Canada win bronze at the 2013 FISU Summer Games rugby sevens tournament in Kazan, Russia.

“It’s important to play the top teams before we go to the Women’s Rugby World Cup,” said Ratier in a release from Rugby Canada. “Also, New Zealand is the best place to continue our team bonding. Rugby is a religion there and it’s important for the players who have never been there to be exposed to their culture.”

The clash with New Zealand will be of particular interest as Canada will face the Black Ferns in the pool stages of the Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland in August. Canada will also battle Hong Kong and Wales in the pool stages.

“The focus is to be a better team after this tour in all aspects,” Ratier added. “New Zealand are number one in the world and in our World Cup pool while England are the reigning World Champions and Australia will show they deserve a better ranking than where they are now.”

Canada is coming off of a dominant victory in the 2017 Can-Am Series as they dismantled the USA 39-5 and 37-10 in their two-game series in San Diego.

Captained by Kelly Russell, the squad features 25 returnees from the Can-Am Series. Alex Tessier, who missed the Can-Am Series with injury, is recalled while Chelsey Minter and Kristy Sargent were also named to the team.



Take a walk on the artistic side

Tue, 06/06/2017 - 16:37

Dancing Nana (Rouge d’Orient – Bloum), 1995, by Niki de Saint Phalle. From the François Odermatt Collection.

La Balade Pour la Paix: Art that inspires and celebrates peace and tolerance

By McGill Reporter Staff

Yesterday’s launch of La Balade Pour la Paix may have been a wet one, but it certainly didn’t dampen people’s enthusiasm for the one-kilometre long, open-air public art exhibit. Set along Sherbrooke Street, the unique outdoor exhibit features hundreds of flags from around the world, 29 monumental sculptures and 42 photographs by Indigenous, Canadian and international artists. McGill is the proud backdrop for a dozen of the sculptures – eight on campus and four facing the campus.

The Balade pour la Paix, will run until October 29.

Nathalie Bondil, Director General and Chief Curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) says the Balade will enchant the City and its visitors. “It is an engagé exhibition that is linked to the idea of building bridges and not walls, to paraphrase Sir Isaac Newton,” she says. “The work focuses on the values of First Nations, education and feminism, and the hope is that it will expose passersby to new ideas. It is the first time we have linked McGill and the McCord Museum to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and Concordia along a major artery of the city.”

A key component of the official program of Montreal’s 375th’s anniversary, the Balade is inspired in large part by Expo 67, a memorable event for both Quebec and Canada that attracted 50 million visitors from around the world. The overall experience of the Balade is intended to convey a message of peace, tolerance and acceptance and reflect the universal values of humanism and openness that inspired Expo 67.

Joe Fafard’s Mahihkan, (2015, cast 2016. Fafard Sculpture Inc.), foreground, peers through the trees at Jonathan Borofsky’s Human Structures Vancouver (2010. On loan from the Vancouver Biennale.)

Each work along the Balade has been specially chosen because it speaks to such topical issues as peace among nations and the environment. The works are on loan from museums, institutions, private collectors, art galleries and artists, all of whom are enthusiastic about taking part in this grand celebration.

Gwendolyn Owens, Director of the Visual Arts Collection, McGill University Library and Archives, says the Balade will bring people who are interested in art to McGill. “The Balade pour la Paix exhibition provides a great opportunity to further animate the campus with lively sculptures that complement our own collection,” she says. “We are also delighted to be working in partnership with our colleagues at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts.”

Beginning on June 13, McGill will offer free guided tours of the Balade from McTavish Street and University, covering sculptures, installations and photographs. The tours will be held every Tuesday and Thursday.

The Balade’s ambassador is Montrealer Louise Arbour, lawyer, and former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, and the Court of Appeal for Ontario. Arbour is UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and a former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

“I immediately accepted Nathalie Bondil’s invitation to serve as the ambassador for La Balade de la Paix,” says Arbour. “The exhibition conveys the basic values of peace and humanism that are so dear to my heart. Expo 67 helped open Montreal and Quebec up to the world, and today, 50 years later, people from all around the globe call the city home, sharing their cultures and hopes for peace. This exhibition is a wonderful gift to Montrealers of every origin and a remarkable testament to the city’s 375th anniversary.”

La Balade de la Paix was designed and organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, with the support of McGill and Concordia Universities, and the McCord Museum. The exhibit is curated by Nathalie Bondil, Director General and Chief Curator of the MMFA; Sylvie Lacerte, art historian and public art consultant; and Diane Charbonneau, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Decorative Arts and Photography at the MMFA. The installation design is by Claude Cormier, landscape architect, in collaboration with Michel Dallaire, designer.


Weekend in San Fran for students opens doors, and eyes

Tue, 06/06/2017 - 13:48

McGill EngInE-Cansbridge Fellowship conference participants gathered with McGill Engineering alumni living in San Francisco: (from L to R) Chi Zhang (MEng ‘98), Nayem Alam (BEng ‘20), Ali Shobieri (BEng ‘20), Anne Marie Zaccarin(BEng ‘20), Ponhneath Nguon (BEng ‘20), Côme Laguë (BEng ‘89), Zachery Oman (BEng ’15, Cansbridge Fellow 2015), Gabriel Alacchi (BEng ‘20), Afreen Aliya (BEng ‘19), Katya Marc (MEng ‘92) and Professor Benoit Boulet (MEng ’92).

McGill Engineering students attend Cansbridge Fellowship Conference and learn the start-up ropes from the pros

By Junji Nishihata

Last month, the McGill EngInE took a group of six first- and second- year Faculty of Engineering students to the frontier of innovation and technology during its inaugural trip to San Francisco to attend the Cansbridge Fellowship Conference. The annual event brings together past and current Cansbridge Fellows along with invited guests from tech and investment communities around the topics of entrepreneurship and leadership.

The conference is run by the Cansbridge Fellowship, a community of individuals who share a common mind for entrepreneurship, risk taking and leadership, as well as the experience of having interned in Asia. The fellowship has been in operation since 2011, and selects 15 undergraduate students per year from Canadian universities to take part. Past fellows also participate in the program by offering advice and support to new candidates. The McGill EngInE partnered with the Cansbridge Fellowship at the beginning of this year.  The fellowship plans to expand by bringing more university partners on board.

Led by Professor Benoit Boulet, Associate Dean of Research and Innovation, and Katya Marc, manager of the EngInE, the trip immersed the students into the entrepreneurial mindset. “It’s important to provide these opportunities early on so students become aware and can take charge of their careers,” explained Marc about the significance of the tour.

The students took part in a series of workshops and company visits, such as a women-in-tech panel discussion at DocuSign offices, and a mini TED talk session at LinkedIn company headquarters. Topics covered included monitoring mental health at work and how to build successful start-up teams. The group also had the opportunity to meet with McGill alumni, who shared their experience in the fast-paced and ultra-competitive world of the San Francisco Bay Area tech industry.

The inaugural 2017 McGill EngInE-Cansbridge fellow is John Wu, a U3 Computer Engineering student. In addition to the conference, he was also invited to take part in a “Geronimo” startup boot camp prior to the event with business and tech training sessions that took place at Dropbox, Airbnb, Collective Health and Capgemini. The boot camp concluded with a new start-up idea pitch session together with other Cansbridge fellows to investor Boris Wertz (Version One Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz) and innovation consultant Joe Boggio (Capgemini).

“The conference and boot camp was an amazing experience, and it really opened my eyes to all the different things that go into a successful start-up,” said Wu. “As engineers, we have the technical ability to create amazing things, but I now realize the importance of coming up with a working business model and getting customer validation before even thinking about the design of the product.” With the support of the fellowship, Wu has chosen to do his summer internship at a start-up in Japan.

Fellow conference attendee Ponhneath Nguon (BEng ’20), was also enthusiastic about her participation. “I was inspired by the talented and successful people we met, and definitely humbled by the experience,” she said. “This was the opportunity of a lifetime, and it really motivated me to dream big.”



CF drugs are costly but hope can be found in the pipeline

Tue, 06/06/2017 - 12:59

Dr. John Hanrahan, Cystic Fibrosis Canada Researcher and Professor in the Department of Physiology.

Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is a multi-organ genetic disease that particularly affects the lungs, which see a gradual decline in their function due to cycles of infection and chronic inflammation. The disease has a 1%-2% mortality rate, with approximately half of Canadians dying from CF before they reach the age of 35.

By Jason Clement

Clapping on a child’s chest to release the disease’s telltale thick mucus is a long standing treatment for Cystic Fibrosis (CF). It does help, but discoveries in biomedical research are now leading to the development of new therapeutics which can target the molecular defect.

The first such drug developed by Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. called Kalydeco is remarkably effective, but only for 3 per cent of people with CF.   “It provides a 10-per-cent improvement in lung function, which is life changing” says Dr. John Hanrahan, Cystic Fibrosis Canada Researcher and Professor in the Department of Physiology, who lays out some of its pros and cons.

Quebec has yet to add Kalydeco to its list of medications covered by the Public Prescription Drug Insurance Plan, presumably due to its cost, which is approximately $300,000 a year per patient. Nevertheless Quebec has been generous in granting exceptional reimbursement to the small number of patients who benefit from the drug, and most provinces and Yukon also provide coverage automatically.

While there are patients who respond well to this medication, it does not work when given alone to those carrying the most common CF gene mutation.

The problem lies in the fact that the most common gene mutation, delta F508, causes multiple defects in the gene product, and Kalydeco targets only one of them. “With delta F508 we need to increase opening of the defective ion channel, and also correct its folding and delivery to the cell surface,” says Dr. Hanrahan.

A drug for this more common mutation called Orkambi has been developed but unfortunately its effects are less dramatic than those of Kalydeco. Bouts of infection are less frequent, but only about 25 per cent of the patients have significant improvement in their lung function, making the decision to fund Orkambi with public-health dollars more difficult.

“There’s currently no objective way to identify those who will, or will not, benefit from Orkambi, and therefore no rational basis for withholding the medication,” says Dr. Hanrahan, who is also affiliated with the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre.

Hanrahan’s lab is in the Cystic Fibrosis Translational Research Centre (CFTRc), a McGill research centre in the Faculty of Medicine. The acronym CFTRc is a word play on the name of the molecule at the heart of their academic work, the Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane conductance Regulator. The centre includes David Thomas, Larry Lands, Gergely Lukacs and about 20 other researchers who try to understand the molecule and develop new therapies. “On the academic side we want to understand how CFTR and CF drugs work, and on the commercial side we want to develop new candidate drugs which can help people with CF.”

Promising lead molecules were developed in the centre last year by a startup company called Traffick Therapeutics, co-founded by David Thomas and Dr. Hanrahan, and they are presently being developed further by Vertex for possible combination with their own drugs.

Dr. Hanrahan follows the basic science and many clinical trials taking place around the world and, despite the current obstacles for Orkambi, he is optimistic for those dealing with CF. “What’s exciting is that there are many academic groups and companies working on this, and there are many drugs in the pipeline. The goal is to have all people with CF benefit regardless of their mutation, and as more drugs become available it may be possible to choose the most effective one for individual patients,” says Dr. Hanrahan. “This, along with competition, may also bring drug costs down to where they can be covered by public drug plans.”



Emerging researchers feted during Convocation

Tue, 06/06/2017 - 12:41

Christie Rowe, Srividya Iyer and Allan Downey are three of McGill’s exceptional emerging researchers.

By Meaghan Thurston

While the media and academic community often acknowledge the achievements of senior researchers, it is also vital to celebrate the achievements of up-and-coming researchers. It was with the intention to encourage McGill’s most outstanding early-career researchers, as well as to provide them with a prestigious internal distinction, that Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier and the Vice-Principal (Research and Innovation) Rosie Goldstein founded the Principal’s Prize for Outstanding Emerging Researchers in 2013. This year, three members of McGill’s faculty – Professors Allan Downey, Srividya Iyer and Christie Rowe – receive the prize during their respective Convocations in the Faculties of Arts and Science.

“In 2017, McGill is honouring yet another impressive cohort of researchers with the Principal’s Prize for Outstanding Emerging Researchers,” said Principal Suzanne Fortier. “It is with great pride that we award this year’s prize to three professors who are trailblazers in their fields as well as role models for their students. The selection committee has made excellent choices in Professors Downey, Iyer and Rowe, and I look forward to celebrating the even greater successes that lie ahead in their careers,” she continued.

Administered by Research and Innovation, the Prize for Outstanding Emerging Researchers honours individuals across all disciplines. McGill awards up to three Prizes for Outstanding Emerging Researchers each year in the form of a monetary prize. Professor Srividya Iyer received the prize at the Health Sciences Convocation on May 30. Professor Rowe received the prize at the Science Convocation on June 5, and Professor Downey received the prize at the Faculty of Arts Convocation on June 6.

Looking to ancient fault lines for clues to the future

Christie Rowe, Assistant Professor and the Robert Wares Scholar in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences since 2011, has travelled the world studying fossilized earthquakes, those that occur deep in the earth’s crust. As a member of the international team investigating the fault that caused the massive earthquake and tsunami off the Pacific coast of Tōhoku in March of 2011, she employed her aptitude for field study, as well as her insight and acumen for connecting field observations to seismic and geophysical data.

Christie Rowe accepts her award from Principal Suzanne Fortier. / Photo: Joni Dufour

“I’m very fortunate to work in the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department at McGill, where I have been encouraged to be creative and innovative in both research and teaching,” said Rowe. “The support of the McGill community has enabled me to recruit bright and hard-working young scientists to my research group, which makes work productive and enjoyable.”

Her work on seismic slip in the rock record has contributed significantly to an advanced understanding about the formation and significance of several previously undescribed rock types that form during earthquakes. In her study of these rocks, she has contributed new information about the deformation of faults, as well as the formation of ore deposits in fault zones.

Telling the story of Indigenous nationhood through sport

Though he received his PhD only three years ago, already, at this early stage of his career, Professor Allan Downy has distinguished himself as an important new voice on the historical experience of Indigenous nationhood within Canadian and international politics. Downey is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History and Classical Studies and the Chair of the Indigenous Studies Program.

Allan Downey receives his Emerging Researcher award earlier today. / Photo: Owen Egan

Downey uses sport as a lens in his studies of the historical experience of Indigenous nationhood, sovereignty and identity. His forthcoming book, The Creator’s Game: Indigenous Identity Formation in Canada’s Colonial Age, published by the University of British Columbia Press, the leading academic publisher in Indigenous Studies in Canada, explores the role of the game of lacrosse in the shifting politics of Indigenous efforts to assert self-determination. Professor Downey is not only an expert about the history of the game in Aboriginal communities, but an accomplished lacrosse player, and cites it as an important “gateway” to his academic career.

In addition to his research activities, Professor Downey has played a vital role in launching McGill’s Indigenous Studies Program. Notable among his achievements as the Chair of this program is his contribution to the University’s strategic plan for responding to the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action. He is also devoted to engaging students and local Indigenous communities with First Nations history through workshops and classes, film screenings and other events, as well as through consultation with cultural and educational institutions.

Making a positive impact on youth well-being in Canada and beyond

Even at this early stage in her career, Dr. Srividya Iyer’s work has made a significant impact on the lives of young people with mental health problems, particularly focusing on serious conditions like psychosis. Arriving at McGill in 2011, Iyer is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, as well as a researcher at the Douglas Hospital Research Centre and a psychologist at the Prevention and Early Intervention Program for Psychosis at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute.

Srividya Iyer and Principal Suzanne Fortier during the award presentation. / Photo: Owen Egan

Among Professor Iyer’s most recent significant achievements is her leadership role in ACCESS Open Minds. This ambitious initiative, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, aims to transform youth mental healthcare at urban, rural and remote centres across Canada by ensuring that those seeking help for mental health issues receive assistance within 72 hours.

“I am honoured to win the Principal’s Prize for Outstanding Emerging Researchers,” said Iyer. “It is heartening for a young scientist to have her work thus acknowledged. This prize encourages and compels me to continue striving to improve the lives of young Canadians with mental health problems. It also recognizes the role of colleagues, patients and families, who make my work possible and pleasurable every day.”


Jatinder Mann on the search for a new national identity

Mon, 06/05/2017 - 23:11

“I believe Canada and Australia can offer great lessons to many other countries on how to deal with immigration, particularly through their policies of multiculturalism,” says Jatinder Mann.

The McGill Institute for the Study of Canada will host Jatinder Mann for a presentation of his new book, The Search for a New National Identity: The Rise of Multiculturalism in Canada and Australia, 1890s-1970s. The talk will take place on June 8, from noon to 1:30 p.m., at the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (3463 Peel Street).

Jatinder Mann is a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at King’s College London and a former Banting Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Alberta. He is working on a project on ‘The end of the British World and the redefinition of citizenship in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, 1950s-1970s’.

In addition to his most recent book, Mann has published numerous articles in front-ranking, interdisciplinary journals. He has held visiting fellowships and professorships at the Australian National University, Carleton University, and the Victoria University of Wellington, and he was awarded his doctorate in history at the University of Sydney in 2011. Mann was also a recipient of the prestigious Endeavour International Postgraduate Research Scholarship by the Australian government and an International Postgraduate Award by the University of Sydney for his doctoral research.

The event is free and open to the public. RSVPs are encouraged – please RSVP here or through Eventbrite.

In advance of the event, Mann spoke with the McGill Reporter.

What do you see as the similarities and differences between multiculturalism in Canada and Australia?

Even though they both used the same terminology official multicultural policies in Canada and Australia in the 1970s were actually quite different from the outset. In the former the catch phrase of the policy was ‘Multiculturalism within a Bilingual Framework’. So, you can get the real sense from this that it was a policy, which in theory related to all Canadians. And it had come about after an intense period of national soul-searching, illustrated by the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, which carried out its activities over several years in the 1960s. This is highlighted in Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s well-known parliamentary speech on 8 October 1971:

A policy of multiculturalism within a bilingual framework commends itself to the government as the most suitable means of assuring the cultural freedom of Canadians. Such a policy should help to break down discriminatory attitudes and cultural jealousies. National unity, if it is to mean anything in the deeply personal sense, must be founded on confidence in one’s own individual identity; out of this can grow respect for that of others and a willingness to share ideas, attitudes and assumptions. A vigorous policy of multiculturalism will help create this initial confidence. It can form the base of a society, which is based on fair play for all. (‘Announcement of Implementation of Policy of Multiculturalism within a Bilingual Framework’ by Prime Minister Trudeau, Debates, House of Commons, vol. VIII, 1971, 8 October 1971, 8545)

Here the emphasis was no longer on the nation, but instead on ‘cultural freedom’ and ‘one’s own individual identity’; and the choice of the word ‘vigorous’ to describe the proposed multicultural policy illustrated the extent of the government’s commitment.

In contrast the key headline for the official policy of multiculturalism that was introduced in Australia was ‘A Cohesive, United, Multicultural Nation.’ Again you can see here that the emphasis was on cohesion, unity etc. And unlike the Canadian policy was not initially aimed at all Australians, but only migrants. This is demonstrated by the Galbally Report in 1978 which was the major policy document on which the Australian Government based its multicultural policy:

We believe Australia is at a critical stage in the development of a cohesive, united, multicultural nation. This has come about because of a number of significant changes in recent years – changes in the pattern of migration and in the structure of the population, changes in attitudes to migration and to our responsibilities for international refugees, changes in the needs of the large and growing numbers of ethnic groups in our community, and changes in the roles of governments and the community generally in responding to these needs. (Australia. Report of the Review of Post-Arrival Programs and Services to Migrants, Migrant Services and Programs (Chairman Frank Galbally) (Canberra, ACT: AGPS, May 1978), 3)

What are the major themes of your book?

My book explores the profound social, cultural, and political changes, which affected the way in which Canadians and Australians defined themselves as a ‘people’ from the late nineteenth century to the 1970s. Taking as its central theme the way each country responded to the introduction of new migrants, the book asks a key historical question: why and how did multiculturalism replace Britishness as the defining idea of community for English-speaking Canada and Australia, and what does this say about their respective experiences of nationalism in the twentieth century.

Multiculturalism has succeeded to some degree in Canada and Australia, what were the necessary conditions for this to have happened and were they common to both countries?

The path towards the adoption of multiculturalism as the orthodox way of defining national community in English-speaking Canada and Australia in the latter half of the twentieth century was both uncertain and unsteady. It followed a period in which both nations had looked first and foremost to Britain to define their national self-image. In both nations however following the breakdown of their more formal and institutional ties to the ‘mother-country’ in the post-Second World War period there was a crisis of national meaning, and policy makers and politicians moved quickly to fill the void with a new idea of the nation, one which was the very antithesis to the white, monolithic idea of Britishness.

English-speaking Canada and Australia both identified themselves as British nations for a large part of their history. Furthermore, this identity came under considerable strain in both countries, a strain that was primarily due to the shock of external events. Secondly, Canada and Australia also adopted discriminatory immigration policies, which aimed to create white, British countries. Moreover, they both also gradually dismantled these practices. Thirdly, Canada and Australia experienced large waves of non-British migration to their shores and had to formulate official migrant policies to deal with them.

With the rise of the alternative right and populism across the globe, what does the future hold for multiculturalism – is it under threat?

Political developments over the past year across the world, notably the referendum in favour of Brexit in the United Kingdom and the recent victory of Donald Trump in the United States Presidential Election have brought to the fore battles over identity politics. However, what I think these show is that there is a section of society who feel that they have been left behind and forgotten. The benefits of globalisation have not been felt by all sections of society. Right wing populist parties to the detriment of mainstream political parties have capitalised on this and stoked peoples fears against immigration for example, although Islamophobia is sadly particularly prevalent in many countries.

This is certainly the case with One Nation in Australia. I, for one, actually believe Canada and Australia can offer great lessons to many other countries on how to deal with immigration, particularly through their policies of multiculturalism. But multiculturalism is certainly more an integral part of Canadian national identity than Australian, as illustrated by a recent survey where Canadians ranked multiculturalism as number 1 in terms of the things that epitomised their national identity. If a similar survey were held in Australia I do not believe multiculturalism would rank so highly, perhaps in the top five. This is perhaps related to the different origins of the policy in the two countries, which has led to multiculturalism being synonymous with Canadian national identity. However, a policy of multiculturalism has survived in both countries for several decades, and although it has experienced both highs and lows, I do not see it disappearing anytime soon.

The Search for a New National Identity, discussion with Jatinder Mann. June 8, from noon to 13:30 p.m.; McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (3463 Peel Street). The event is free and open to the public. RSVPs are encouraged. Please RSVP here or through Eventbrite.

Plastics and composites: It’s not easy being green

Mon, 06/05/2017 - 22:27

By McGill Reporter Staff

More than 100 people are expected to attend a colloquium on sustainable plastics and composites on Wednesday June 7, at the Trottier Building at McGill. Scientists and researchers from McGill, Concordia, Polytechnique, ÉTS, ULaval, USherbrooke, UQTR and a number of engineers from industry will get together to discuss how to make plastics and their composites less damaging to the environment.

One of the senior non-student speakers at the colloquium  is Dr. Karen Stoeffler of the National Research Council of Canada who says “There is currently an increasing trend towards finding environmentally friendly material alternatives to replace petroleum-based plastics in industry. This is particularly true for the automotive industry, which is considering lightweight and bio-based polymer products to reduce their environmental footprint.”

Plastic is versatile, lightweight, flexible, moisture resistant, strong and usually inexpensive. Composites are plastics that have been augmented with other materials for lightness and strength. These substances are absolutely everywhere. The uses of plastic, and composites of plastic, are growing at an incredible rate. As this trend continues, it is becoming increasingly important to make plastic, and its composites, carbon neutral.

Composites are being used in commercial aviation to lighten aircraft and save fuel. F1 cars are also almost entirely made of carbon fibre composites to improve speed and performance. Hockey sticks & skates, golf clubs, speed skates, sailboats and racing catamarans, are made of composites as are rebar-reinforced concrete, wind turbine blades, satellite reflector dishes. The list is long.

Adam Smith is the student committee president for the Research Center for High Performance Polymer and Composite Systems (CREPEC) and a PhD student at McGill’s Structures & Composite Materials Laboratory in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Smith is doing his PhD on the challenges of recycling aerospace composites like the materials used in high performance civil aviation.

(CREPEC is a strategic cluster of seven Québec Universities supported by the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies (FRQNT) with a mandate focused on stimulating scientific innovation and developing highly qualified professionals through collaboration with both academic and industrial partners.)

Smith says “The sustainability of polymer and composite systems is tied to the choices we make during their manufacturing, as well as how we approach them at the end of their useful lives. Specific efforts include the use of more renewable, or naturally sourced, precursor materials, developing tools and methods to increase the efficiency of manufacturing processes and logistics, and finding innovative ways to recycling or reuse end-of-life waste.”


Chiarlitti merits Guy Lafleur Award

Mon, 06/05/2017 - 21:43

McGill’s Nathan Chiarlitti receives Guy Lafleur Award from Habs legend

By Earl Zukerman

The Montreal Canadiens announced Monday that Nathan Chiarlitti, a defenceman with the McGill men’s hockey team, has won the Guy Lafleur Award of Excellence for the Quebec university category as the player who best combines hockey success with academic achievement and citizenship. The 25-year-old native from Maple, Ont., becomes the 18th McGill player in 33 years to win the award – which is accompanied by a bursary valued at $6,000 over three years – since it was inaugurated in 1985. Among the former Redmen who previously won the honour is Ottawa Senators head coach Guy Boucher and ex-Montreal Canadiens left-winger Mathieu Darche.

The Habs also announced that Antoine Samuel, a goaltender with the QMJHL’s Baie Comeau Drakkar, and defenceman Philippe Forcier of College Lafleche inthe Quebec Jr. AAA Hockey League, won the Guy Lafleur Award of Merit, which is accompanied by a $1,000 bursary.

Chiarlitti, who transferred to McGill from St. Francis Xavier University, previously played in the Ontario Hockey League with both Sarnia and Owen Sound and had an NHL tryout with Arizona in 2013. Recently appointed team captain of the McGill Redmen for 2017-18, Chiarlitti earned OUA East second team all-star status this season and previously was a two-time all-star with StFX. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound rearguard scored seven goals and 18 points in 30 games overall with the Redmen. In regular-season play, he tallied 13 points, including five goals in just 18 contests. He missed 10 league games while leading Canada to a bronze medal at the FISU Winter Games in Kazakhstan.

“Nathan is an elite player, who is also a high-end student and a terrific person,” says Kelly Nobes, about to enter his eighth year as head coach at McGill. “He played an integral part in our success this season and led us back to the national championship tournament in Fredericton. He uses his speed and high-compete level to contribute in all aspects of the game and we are fortunate to have him on our team. Off the ice, he is relentless when it comes to volunteering for many various projects, whether they are related to McGill or the community at large.”

In the classroom, Chiarlitti achieved a grade-point average of 3.91 (out of 4.0) in his first year of a master’s degree in science, specializing in kinesiology and physical education. He earned Academic All-Canadian honours and qualified for the Principal’s Student-athlete Honour Roll.

His community service was recognized nationally in 2016 when he received the Dr. Randy Gregg Award, a prestigious honour presented by U SPORTS to the player who best combines outstanding hockey ability with academic achievement and community involvement.

Chiarlitti has served as a volunteer for a multitude of causes, including the Canadian government program “ParticipACTION” (which encourages physical activity) and “Best Buddies” (which helps the intellectually disabled gain valuable life experiences). Some other organizations he has aided include the “Coady International Institute”, which equips citizen leaders to address contemporary global challenges and opportunities. He has also volunteered with both “Fit 4 Life” and “Fit 4 Tots” (which promotes healthy lifestyles for youth), the “Antigonish Minor Hockey Association” and the Maritime Program of Hockey Excellence”. He has also volunteered with “Caisis” (an online cancer data management system that integrates research with patient care), the “Canadian Assessment of Physical Literacy” and the “Thyroid Oncology Research Program” at the Queen Elizabeth Health Sciences Centre in Halifax.