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AIDS pioneer Mark Wainberg dies in Florida

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 22:00

Dr. Mark A. Wainberg (1945-2017) was a pioneering HIV/AIDS researcher and advocate.

McGill, the Jewish General Hospital and the global AIDS community lost one of their leading advocates and researchers on Tuesday, when Dr. Mark A. Wainberg drowned while on vacation in Florida. Wainberg’s research and collaborations on AIDS and HIV, including the initial identification of the 3TC antiretroviral drug, have saved millions of lives around the world.

Wainberg was the head of AIDS research at the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research at the Jewish General Hospital, Director of the McGill University AIDS Centre, and Professor of Medicine and of Microbiology and Immunology.

In 2015, he was appointed to the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in recognition of having “revolutionized our understanding of HIV/AIDS at medical, epidemiological and political levels.”

He was internationally recognized as a leading scientist in the field of HIV/AIDS, and a tireless advocate for the need to improve access to anti-HIV drugs in developing countries. He was well-known for his initial identification of 3TC as an anti-viral drug, in collaboration with BioChem Pharma Inc, in 1989. He made multiple contributions to the field of HIV drug resistance including the identification of many of the mutations in the HIV genome that are responsible for drug resistance.

Dr. David Eidelman, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Vice-Principal (Health Affairs), called Wainberg “an international champion in the fight against HIV/AIDS.”

“Mark Wainberg has had an inestimable impact on the lives of millions of people through his transformative research and through his extraordinary advocacy,” said Eidelman. “McGill and the Faculty of Medicine community deeply mourns his sudden passing. We offer our heartfelt condolences to his family and close ones. The world has lost a medical giant, an exceptional mentor and a great man.”

“Dr. Wainberg was a pioneer, both in the laboratory and on the front lines,” said Suzanne Fortier, McGill’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “He was not afraid to speak his mind. Millions of lives have been saved because of his deep caring, his progressive social conscience and his scientific brilliance. The McGill community sends its deepest condolences to Dr. Wainberg’s family, and to his many friends and colleagues at the Lady Davis Institute and around the world.”

Wainberg served as President of the International AIDS Society from 1998 to 2000, organizing the XIIIth International Congress on AIDS in Durban, South Africa. It was the first time the congress was held in a developing country, drawing unprecedented international attention to the issue of drug access.

Dr. Mark Wainberg was a passionate AIDS activist as well as a leading researcher. He is seen here taking part in a demonstration by sex trade workers seeking better protection against HIV infection, during the 2006 International AIDS Conference. / Photo: Lise Beaudry

“The drugs are wonderful and getting better all the time. They have transformed what used to be a death sentence into a manageable chronic condition,” Wainberg said in a 2008 McGill News profile. “Unfortunately, this fantastic progress has not been possible for most people living with the disease in developing countries. I’m very adamant about wanting to make that happen.”

“I am an AIDS activist, absolutely,” he said in a 2000 interview. “AIDS is going to be the world’s leading cause of death, so it behooves us all to be AIDS activists.”

In his lab at the Lady Davis Institute, Wainberg conducted cutting-edge research on the mechanisms behind why some HIV subtypes develop drug resistance and some do not. His most recent research focused on the possibility that HIV may not be able to become resistant to certain new compounds, called Integrase inhibitors, that block viral replication.

Wainberg was born in Montreal in 1945. He received a BSc from McGill in 1966, and a PhD from Columbia University in 1972. He did post-doctoral research at the Hadassah Medical School at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Wainberg was a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, an Officer of the Order of Canada, an Officer of the Ordre National du Québec, an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, and a Chevalier in the Légion d’Honneur of France. He served on numerous international committees that advised bodies such as the World Health Organization.

Funeral services for Dr. Wainberg will be held on Friday, April 14, at 1 p.m., at Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem Congregation, 6519 Baily Rd., Côte Saint-Luc. Get more information.

Kaspi awarded FRQNT’s 2017 Prix d’excellence

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 17:42

From left to right: McGill’s Vicky Kaspi; Maryse Lassonde, scientific director of the FRQNT; and Gilbert Laporte of HEC Montréal at the 2017 Prix d’excellence ceremony.

By McGill Reporter Staff

McGill astrophysicist Vicky Kaspi and Prof. Gilbert Laporte of HEC Montréal are the winners of the 2017 Prix d’excellence of the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies. The awards were presented during the FRQNT Journée de la recherche held April 10 at École de technologie supérieure.

Kaspi’s “innovative work over the past years with her team at McGill University has helped to unravel the mysteries of pulsars, magnetars and, more recently, fast radio bursts, a phenomenon whose physical origins are still unknown,” the FRQNT noted.

The honour adds to Kaspi’s extensive list of recognitions and awards for her research. Last year, she became the first woman and one of the youngest researchers ever to win the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering, NSERC’s highest honour. In 2015 she received the Canada Council’s Killam Prize for the Natural Sciences and was elected into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She holds a Canada Research Chair and the Lorne Trottier Chair in Astrophysics and Cosmology at McGill, where she is also the Director of the McGill Space Institute.

Gilbert Laporte holds the Canada Research Chair in Distribution Management. The FRQNT noted that his research has led to solutions to complex transportation problems in such areas as vehicle routing optimization, humanitarian logistics, the deployment of ambulance fleets, designing work schedules and defining electoral boundaries.

The Prix d’excellence FRQNT, in the amount of $10,000, recognizes the outstanding contributions of university or college researchers in the areas of natural sciences, mathematics and engineering, their international reputation and the benefits of their research for Québec.

Dobson Cup 2017 winners announced

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 17:13

The winning teams of the McGill Dobson Cup 2017 at the Awards Ceremony on March 30.

By Rosalie Nardelli

After months of dedicated preparation, countless business pitches delivered, and entrepreneurial energy abounding, the McGill Dobson Cup 2017 has come to a close, awarding a total of $106,000 in seed funding to the top startups that competed this year.

With representation among applicants from every school and faculty at McGill, the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship received 136 business plans across the four tracks: Social Enterprise, Health Sciences, Small & Medium Enterprise, and Innovation Driven Enterprise. From there, 121 teams advanced to pitch during the Semi-Finals in February, of which 40 made it to the Finals last month.

Claiming the top spot in the Health Sciences Track was Saccade Analytics, led by its president and scientific director Dr. Henrietta (Mimi) Galiana, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and pioneer in model-based analysis for eye and head coordination. Saccade Analytics provides neural disease diagnostic solutions in the form of automated software that analyses eye and head movements. The health metrics generated from these studies help doctors to diagnose diseases and to evaluate the progression of recovery more efficiently.

Of her experience in the McGill Dobson Cup, Saccade Analytics Chief Operating Officer Isabel Galiana says, “[It] was truly fantastic.  The support of the McGill Dobson Centre team and the judges’ input have forced us to make tremendous strides forward.”

Within the Small & Medium Enterprise Track, Myco-Rise from the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences took the podium for their efforts to transform organic sources of post-consumer and agricultural waste into nutritional and delicious gourmet mushrooms. Myco-Rise also took home the Food and Agribusiness Convergent Innovation Prize. Awarded by the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the McGill Centre for the Convergence of Health and Economics (MCCHE), this prize recognises a venture in the areas of agriculture, food and agribusiness, which also intertwines technological, social and institutional innovation for economic and social health benefits.

Winning the Social Enterprise Track was Protera Farms, also from the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, which develops insect farming for human consumption and animal feed in West Africa. Aiming to meet the challenge of feeding over two billion people by 2050, Protera Farms provides sustainable insect protein for poultry and fish diet as a substitute to the resource-intensive crops and fish powder that are currently used.

For the Innovation Driven Enterprise Track, the top honour was given to Audible Reality of the Schulich School of Music, which develops revolutionary and disruptive technology to enable the creation of 3D audio for immersive media and spatialized communications.

Regarding innovation at the University, Bryan Martin, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Audible Reality notes, “McGill is a vast, fertile landscape of potential,” and goes on to share that “the McGill Dobson Centre serves as a conduit for these ideas to thrive… participating [in the McGill Dobson Cup] was a great privilege.”

New this year was the L’Oréal-Dobson Startup Award, a $12,000 prize that recognizes innovative, green approaches to future hair and skin applications.

The inaugural L’Oréal-Dobson winner was the Faculty of Engineering’s BG Therapeutics, a biomedical company that uses sol-gel technology to make bioactive borate glass. “We have been working on the technology behind our product for over 4 years,” says William Lepry of BG Therapeutics, “but just in the last few months, the McGill Dobson Cup experience has completely changed the way we view our product.”

With growing support from a network of established judges and mentors, McGill Dobson alumni, and its partners at National Bank, the McGill Dobson Cup has developed into the premiere startup competition of McGill and the Montreal community.

Of this year’s event, Renjie Butalid, Marketing and Operations Advisor for the McGill Dobson Centre, says, “We’re proud of all the startup teams that competed this year. We saw a wide range of innovative ideas, reflecting the diversity and strengths of McGill University. To both the winners and participants, the McGill Dobson Cup is only the beginning. Now the hard, but rewarding work of building your own company begins.”

The McGill Dobson Cup is open to students, alumni, faculty and staff of McGill University. Learn more about the competition and consult the full list of this year’s winners.


Staying healthy during exams

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 11:10

For four consecutive semesters, staff from Healthy McGill have handed out free exam care kits, as well as fresh fruit and sage advice. This year, they’ll be joined by partners in Campus Life and Engagement, the McGill Alumni Association, the Office for Students with Disabilities and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life.

By McGill Reporter Staff

When it comes to the end-of-semester crunch, McGill alumni have a few messages for current students. Take care of yourself. We feel your pain. You’ve got this.

In fact, they have 500 messages of support and well-wishes.

On Wednesday, April 12, and Thursday, April 20, students can pick up a free exam care kit containing pens and pencils, chocolate, condoms, ear plugs, bookmarks, tea, key chains, highlighters – and a handwritten note of support from a recent McGill grad. Also on hand: fresh fruit and a sympathetic ear. Staff from Healthy McGill will be handing out kits in the main lobby of the McLennan Library, starting at noon.

The free exam care kits will be available in the lobby of the McLennan Library on April 12 and April 20, starting at noon.

Healthy McGill partnered with Campus Life and Engagement and the McGill Alumni Association to launch the project in December 2015. An initiative of Student Services, Healthy McGill connects students with support and resources, with a recognition “that ‘healthy’ means something different to everyone and [we] encourage you to make decisions that are right for you.”

The exam care kits are a hit with students, and the project has grown from 150 kits in its first exam period to this semester’s 500. This year, the Office for Students with Disabilities and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life have joined the initiative.

Approximately 100 recent grads contributed notes to this year’s kits. “We reached out to graduates of the last decade, because we felt they could best relate to what the students would be experiencing at this time,” says Kay Dass, Alumni Relations Officer. “Exam times can be very stressful for students. Alumni have walked that path before, so we said, ‘Why not send the students a few words of encouragement to let them know there’s someone rooting for them to succeed.’”

There are health-focused study tips on the flipside of each handwritten note:

  • Set goals as you study
  • Familiarize yourself with your exam schedule, including the building and room your exam is in.
  • Take breaks to eat and move
  • Take time to sleep (try to aim for 7-9 hours)
  • Dress in layers and try to be as comfortable as possible
  • Bring earplugs, extra pens/pencils, and a water bottle

Healthy McGill understands that the exam period is a stressful time, and wants students to know that success doesn’t have to mean living in a blur of all-nighters and jumbo-sized cups of coffee. “We’re sending positive vibes,” says Alumni Relations’ Dass, “and the message that it’s important to stay healthy during this period.”


McGill duo shortlisted for annual Donner Prize

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 10:58

Political Science professor Juliet Johnson and Professor Emeritus Dan Levitin have been shortlisted for the $50,000 Donner Prize for excellence and innovation in public-policy writing by Canadians.

By McGill Reporter Staff

Two McGill professors have had their books shortlisted for the annual Donner Prize, which rewards excellence and innovation in public-policy writing by Canadians.

Established by the Donner Canadian Foundation, the $50,000 prize is the largest and most prestigious prize of its kind, the Foundation says. The other shortlisted authors will receive $7,500 each, to a maximum of five titles. The winner will be announced at a gala in Toronto on May 15.

There are five titles on the short list this year, including A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age, by McGill Professor Emeritus Dan Levitin; and Priests of Prosperity: How Central Bankers Transformed the Postcommunist World by Political Science professor Juliet Johnson.

Other contenders include Yves Couturier, Canada Research Chair in Professional Practice for the Integration of Gerontology Services at the Université de Sherbrooke; Lucie Bonin, a specialist in public health and preventive medicine; and Louise Belzile, a social worker whose work focuses on the use of standardized multi-dimensional clinical tools in the context of integrating services for seniors with loss of functional autonomy, collaborated on L’intégration des services en santé: Une approche populationnelle.

Alex Marland, associate professor of political science and an Associate Dean of Arts at Memorial University in Newfoundland, wrote Brand Command: Canadian Politics and Democracy in the Age of Message Control, while noted Canadian journalist Sandra Martin wrote A Good Death: Making the Most of Our Final Choices.

Johnson’s Priests of Prosperity is an analytical study of the evolution of central banking in postcommunist countries, exploring the unsung revolutionary campaign to move from command-economy cash cows into Western-style monetary guardians. She argues that a powerful transnational central banking community concentrated in Western Europe and North America integrated postcommunist bankers to shape their ideas about the role of central banks and to help them develop modern tools of banking.

Levitin, author of the hugely popular This is Your Brain on Music, notes in his latest work that we are bombarded with information each day, and it’s becoming harder to separate the wheat from the digital chaff. How do we distinguish misinformation, pseudo-facts, distortions and outright lies from reliable information? Infoliteracy means understanding that there are hierarchies of source quality and bias that distort our information feeds via every media channel, including social media, he says. The book is a guide to better understand our information overload in the digital age of profuse personal and social expression.

The Donner Canadian Foundation established the prize to recognize and reward the best public policy thinking, writing and research by a Canadian, and the role it plays in determining the well-being of Canadians and the success of Canada as a whole. Previous honourees have shed light on a wide range of issues bearing on the economy, politics and society in general, the Foundation said in a statement. The prize is meant to encourage an open exchange of ideas and to provide a springboard for authors who may not necessarily be well-known, but who can make an original and meaningful contribution to policy discourse.

One of Canada’s largest foundations, the Donner Canadian Foundation was established in 1950 by businessman and philanthropist William H. Donner to support projects that advance the common good in Canada by encouraging private initiative, independence and individual responsibility. Since 1967, the Foundation has contributed more than $100 million to more than 1,000 projects across the country.


Ogundokun and Daoust named McGill athletes of the year

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 12:34

(L to R): Tricia Deguire, Melodie Daoust, Patrick Delisle-Houde, Dele Ogundokun, Kendrick Jolin, Jenn Silver and Sanchit Gupta. / Photo: Josh Blatt


By Earl Zukerman

Basketball player Dele Ogundokun of Hamilton, Ont., and hockey’s Mélodie Daoust of Valleyfield, Que., were named male and female athletes of the year, respectively, at the 40th annual McGill varsity sports awards gala, held Sunday at La Plaza in the EVO Montreal student residence on Sherbrooke Street.

Ogundokun, a management senior, and Daoust, a fifth-year physical education major, received the Stuart Forbes and Gladys Bean trophies, respectively, as the student-athletes who brought most credit to the University by reason of their athletic achievements.

Hockey team captain Patrick Delisle-Houde, a fifth-year forward from Quebec City, and basketball co-captain Jennifer Silver of Beaconsfield, Que., took home the Richard Pound and Muriel Roscoe trophies, respectively, awarded to the graduating male and female athletes for proficiency and leadership in athletics over their university careers.

Silver, a 5-foot-11 forward, was a double award recipient who also received the Dr. Mac Teskey Trophy, presented to an individual who has overcome significant adversity to serve as an inspiration to others. The fourth-year medical student missed nine games with a broken hand suffered in early January and returned to help lead McGill to seven consecutive victories, including the RSEQ conference title and the school’s first-ever national hoops championship.

Sanchit Gupta, a soccer defender from Ottawa and a science major with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average, was awarded the Uldis Auders Memorial Trophy as the top sophomore, in any sport, who best combines academic excellence with athletic prowess.

Basketball point-guard Kendrick Jolin of Pointe Claire, Que., and hockey goaltender Tricia Deguire of Sherbrooke, Que., were named as the McGill rookies of the year.

The women’s basketball squad received the Martlet Foundation Trophy as the varsity team of the year for the third straight season. They finished with a 25-9 record overall, capturing the RSEQ league banner and their first-ever national championship.

The baseball Redmen took home the Harry Griffiths Trophy, awarded to the top team in a sport outside the jurisdiction of U SPORTS. They posted a 31-11 record overall, including a 15-1 mark in regular season play, to capture their third consecutive Canadian Collegiate Baseball Association national championship,

Special recognition awards went to Derek Drummond and Carrie Mouck. Drummond, a professor emeritus in the faculty of architecture, has served as a volunteer varsity photographer since retiring as director of athletics in 2007. Mouck, a volunteer assistant coach with the synchro swim team, organized the national championship meet, won by McGill in February.

Tribute was also paid to McGill’s three all-Canadians, 57 conference all-stars, five conference titles and four national championships won during the 2016-17 intercollegiate season. League banners were captured by both basketball teams (RSEQ), the hockey Martlets (RSEQ), the cross-country Martlets (RSEQ) and the baseball Redmen (CCBA North), in addition to national titles in women’s basketball (U SPORTS), baseball (CCBA), women’s lumberjacking (CILA) and synchronized swimming (CUSSL).

Finally, commemorative plaques were presented to the MVPs of 30 varsity teams.

2016-17 Most Valuable Player Awards For McGill Varsity Teams

BADMINTON: Connor Tannas (Calgary, Alta) and Brianna Wang (Wellesley, MA, USA)
BASEBALL: Rocky Hroch (Temecula, CA, USA) & Christopher Stanford (Quebec City, Que)
BASKETBALL: Dele Ogundokun (Hamilton, Ont) and Alex Kiss-Rusk (2nd straight season; Beaconsfield, Que)
CROSS-COUNTRY RUNNING: Francois Jarry (2nd straight season; Lachine, Que) and Melanie Myrand (2nd straight season; Lachine, Que)
FIELD HOCKEY: Julia Rogers (Guelph, Ont)
FOOTBALL: Louis Brouillette (Sherbrooke, Que)
GOLF: Stuart Earle (Woodmans Point, NB) and June Gleed (Aurora, Ont)
HOCKEY: Mathieu Pompei (Laval, Que) and Melodie Daoust (2nd straight season; Valleyfield, Que)
LACROSSE: Spencer Bromley (Surrey, BC)
ROWING: Lucas de Gelder (Vancouver, BC) and Sophie Toor (Barrie, Ont)
RUGBY: Andrew Manson (Edinburgh, NS) and Emily Challice (Lakefield, Ont)
SKIING (alpine): Cole Rosenberg (3rd consec. year; Toronto, Ont) and Genevieve Soden (Vail, CO, USA)
SOCCER: Julien Marlatt (San Francisco, CA, USA) and Cassandra Fafalios (Richmond Hill, Ont)
SWIMMING: Samuel Wang (Sherbrooke, Que) and Jessica Warrack (Rocky View, Alta)
SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING: Tamar Banon (Montreal, Que)
TRACK & FIELD: Francois Jarry (Lachine, Que) and Vanisa Ezukuse (Mississauga, Ont)
VOLLEYBALL: Claire Vercheval (Ste. Julie, Que)
LUMBERJACKS: Dominic Mercier-Provencher (St. Sylvere, Que) and Joséanne Bélanger-Naud (Brigham, Que)


Dele Ogundokun et Mélodie Daoust nommés athlètes de l’année à McGill

Le joueur de basket-ball Dele Ogundokun de Hamilton, en Ontario, et la hockeyeuse Mélodie Daoust de Valleyfield, au Québec, ont été nommés athlètes masculin et féminin de l’année lors du  40e gala sportif annuel de l’université McGill, dimanche.

Ogundokun, un étudiant de quatrième année en administration, et Daoust, une étudiante de cinquième année en éducation physique, ont reçu respectivement les trophées Stuart Forbes et Gladys Bean remis aux athlètes ayant apporté le plus de crédit à l’université de par leurs performances sportives

une étudiante de cinquième année en éducation physique, ont reçu respectivement les trophées Stuart Forbes et Gladys Bean remis aux athlètes ayant apporté le plus de crédit à l’université de par leurs performances sportives.

Le capitaine de l’équipe masculine de hockey Patrick Delisle-Houde, un attaquant originaire de Québec, et la basketteuse Jennifer Silver de Beaconsfield, au Québec, ont pour leur part remporté les trophées Richard Pound et Muriel Roscoe, qui soulignent le leadership d’étudiants-athlètes au cours de l’ensemble de leur carrière universitaire.

Silver a aussi mérité le trophée Dr. Mac Teskey, remis à un individu qui a su faire face à l’adversité et est ainsi devenu une source d’inspiration pour ses pairs. L’étudiante en médecine, qui en était à sa quatrième saison avec les Martlets, a raté neuf matchs en raison d’une fracture à une main subie au début de janvier, mais a effectué un retour en fin de saison pour aider McGill à remporter sept victoires consécutives en route vers le titre du RSEQ et le premier championnat national de basket-ball dans l’histoire de l’institution.

Sanchit Gupta d’Ottawa, un défenseur avec l’équipe masculine de soccer, a quant à luireçu le trophée Uldis Auders en tant qu’athlète de deuxième année qui combine le mieux les performances sportives et académiques. Inscrit en sciences, il a conservé une moyenne académique parfaite de 4,00.

De leur côté, l’arrière de l’équipe masculine de basket-ball Kendrick Jolin de Pointe-Claire, Qué., et la gardienne de but Tricia Deguire, une hockeyeuse de Sherbrooke, Qué., ont été nommés recrues de l’année.

La formation féminine de basket-ball a quant à elle reçu le trophée de la Fondation des Martlets pour la troisième saison consécutive en tant qu’équipe de l’année de McGill parmi celles faisant partie du réseau de U SPORTS.  En 2016-2017, les Martlets ont conservé un dossier cumulatif de 25-9, ont conservé la bannière du RSEQ et ont remporté un tout premier championnat national.

Pour sa part, la formation de baseball des Redmen a hérité du trophée Harry Griffiths octroyé à la meilleure équipe de l’année dans un sport non sanctionné par U SPORTS.  Les Redmen ont conservé une fiche cumulative de 31-11 pendant la saison et ont gagné le championnat de l’Association de baseball collégial canadienne.

Des prix spéciaux de reconnaissance ont été attribués à Derek Drummond et Carrie Mouck. Drummond, professeur émérite à la faculté d’architecture, a été photographe bénévole depuis 2007, quand il a pris son retraite comme directeur de la service des sports. Mouck, entraîneur adjoint volontaire de l’équipe de nage synchronisée, a organisé la rencontre du championnat national, remporté par McGill en février .

La soirée a également été l’occasion de souligner la sélection de trois athlètes de McGill parmi les étoiles de U SPORTS et de 57 athlètes au sein de l’équipe étoiles de leur ligue, ainsi que les cinq championnats de conférence et quatre titres nationaux remportés pendant la saison 2016-2017. Les bannières de conférence ont été gagnées par les deux équipes de basket-ball (RSEQ) ainsi que les formations de baseball (CCBA Nord), de hockey féminin (RSEQ) et de cross-country féminin (RSEQ), alors que les championnats canadiens ont été remportés en basket-ball féminin (U SPORTS), baseball (CCBA), en bûcheronnage féminin (CILA) et en nage synchronisée (CUSSL).

Finalement, des plaques ont été remises aux athlètes les plus utiles des 30 équipes de niveau élite de McGill (voir la liste ci-dessous).

Athlètes les plus utiles à leur équipe à McGill en 2016-2017

ATHLÉTISME: Jarry François (Lachine, Qué.) et Vanisa Ezukuse (Mississauga, Ont.)
AVIRON: Lucas de Gelder (Vancouver, C.-B.) et Sophie Toor (Barrie, Ont.)
BADMINTON: Connor Tannas (Calgary, Alb.) et Brianna Wang (Wellesley, MA)
BASEBALL: Rocky Hroch (Temecula, CA) et Christopher Stanford (Québec, Qué.)
BASKETBALL: Dele Ogundokun (Hamilton, Ont.) et Alex Kiss-Rusk (2ème année consécutive; Beaconsfield, Qué.)
BÛCHERONNAGE: Dominic Mercier-Provencher (Saint-Sylvère, Qué.) et Joséanne Bélanger-Naud (Brigham, Qué.)
CROSSE: Spencer Bromley (Surrey, C.-B.)
CROSS-COUNTRY: François Jarry (2ème année consécutive; Lachine, Qué.) et Mélanie Myrand (2ème année consécutive; Lachine, Qué.)
FOOTBALL: Louis Brouillette (Sherbrooke, Qué.)
GOLF: Stuart Earle (Woodmans Point, N.-B.) et June Gleed (Aurora, Ont.)
HOCKEY: Mathieu Pompei (Laval, Qué.) et Mélodie Daoust (2ème année consécutive; Valleyfield, Qué.)
HOCKEY SUR GAZON: Julia Rogers (Guelph, Ont.)
NATATION: Samuel Wang (Sherbrooke, Qué.) et Jessica Warrack (Rocky View, Alb.)
NAGE SYNCHRONISÉE: Tamar Banon (Montréal, Qué.)
RUGBY: Andrew Manson (Edinburgh, N.-É.) et Emily Challice (Lakefield, Ont.)
SKI ALPIN: Cole Rosenberg (3ème année consécutive; Toronto, Ont.) et Genevieve Soden (Vail, CO)
SOCCER: Julien Marlatt (San Francisco, CA) et Cassandra Fafalios (Richmond Hill, Ont.)
VOLLEYBALL: Claire Vercheval (Sainte-Julie, Qué.)

Catalyst Awards celebrate sustainability leaders

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 10:48

From l to r: Yves Beauchamp, VP Administration and Finance; John Lindsay (Emerald Key winner); François Pouliot (Catalyst Award for Connectivity/Governance and Administration); Principal Suzanne Fortier; Ryan Ortiz and Stéphanie Leclerc (Catalyst Award for Operations); and Amelia Peres and Da-Jeong Kim (Catalyst Award for Research and Education). / Photo: PhotoFund

By McGill Reporter Staff

On April 3, the McGill Office of Sustainability (MOOS) hosted its seventh annual Catalyst Awards Gala. Over 100 people gathered at the McCord Museum to celebrate individuals and teams who have made lasting contributions to the sustainability of the University.

Principal Suzanne Fortier described the awards as honouring McGill’s own “bright spots”: shining examples of hope and possibility in a world so often characterized by darkness and uncertainty.

To put the principles embodied by the award recipients into practice, the Gala itself was the first McGill event to use the Sustainable Events Guide and be “certified Gold” by the newly created Sustainable Events Ambassadors team.

Professor Yves Beauchamp, Vice-Principal Administration and Finance, expressed that the accomplishments celebrated at the Catalyst Awards are sources of great pride and inspiration. “The people honoured here tonight have found ways to work together – across departments, roles, and traditional responsibilities – to create truly remarkable changes in the way our University is run,” he said.

The coveted Emerald Key Award for student contribution to sustainability was presented to John Lindsay, a U3 student studying Environmental Science in the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Marisa Albanese, Interim Executive Director of Student Housing and Hospitality Services, and Professor Julia Freeman, who presented Lindsay with the 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.

Academically, Lindsay used lessons learned from his multi-disciplinary environment program to create two research courses to study sustainable institutional food procurement. Through his work as Food and Dining Sustainability Coordinator, Lindsay has expanded the scale and impact of food and waste education initiatives. He also improved food procurement auditing and reporting to better assess and actualize changes in institutional food procurement. In addition, he has taken great interest in improving the scope and impact of fair trade products on campus. These efforts were recently recognized when McGill received the Fair Trade Campus of the Year Award.

Suzanne Smith, Director of the Office of Ethics and Compliance presented the Catalyst Award for Connectivity, Governance and Administration to the Supplier Code of Conduct, an initiative that establishes and communicates the social, ethical and environmental principles that McGill suppliers must meet in order to conduct business with the University.

Accepting the award was François Pouliot, Director of McGill University’s Procurement Services since 2013. Under his dynamic leadership, the University adopted its first Procurement Policy, its first Strategic Plan for Sustainable Procurement, and now, its first Supplier Code of Conduct, which applies to all McGill suppliers. The Supplier Code of Conduct highlights the importance of respecting internationally recognized human rights, labour standards, basic animal freedoms, as well as business transparency mechanisms and the commitment to more sustainable supply chains.

The Catalyst Award for Research and Education was presented by Executive Chef Oliver de Volpi to the Student Housing and Hospitality Waste Educator Program.

This initiative stations student educators in all residence cafeterias to teach new McGill students how to reduce their impact through proper recycling and composting. Reaching almost every first-year residence student in the first two weeks of the school year, demonstrating McGill’s commitment to sustainability from day one. This year, the program has contributed to a 42 per cent increase in compost collection, more than 80,000 liters of agricultural-grade soil created and 190 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions reduced. This would not have been possible without the dedicated and continual efforts of the Waste Educators.

The Associate Vice-Principal (Facilities Management and Ancillary Services) Robert Couvrette presented the Catalyst Award for Operations to the IT Asset Management Regulation.

This project represents the University’s first initiative to optimize the “gate to gate” life cycle of its IT assets by effectively operationalizing McGill’s 4-R Hierarchy (Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle). Under the IT Asset Management Regulation, minimum standard requirements have been adopted so that new IT equipment contain fewer toxic components, contain greater recycled content, and consume less energy. McGill’s computers are now tracked, main IT flows (computers, displays and cell phones) are subject to reuse within the University, or are refurbished for reuse outside the University, when possible.

The IT Asset Management Regulation came about from the close collaboration between Procurement Services, IT Services and Facilities Management and Ancillary Services. It now serves as the blueprint for the development of other asset management initiatives at McGill.


On the genetics trail

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 09:20

Dr. Donald Vinh (left), a researcher at the RI-MUHC and Steven Francis. “Finally knowing makes me super happy and excited. Can’t wait to see what will come next,” says Steven Francis.

By solving one patient’s case, doctors develop a molecular therapy that could help many

By MUHC Communications

Researchers have identified the genetic mutation responsible for one patient’s serious health problems, finally solving a medical mystery that has endured for over 30 years. Thanks to this discovery, the researcher developed a therapy that could also help a lot of people who have problems related to the immune system, whether they are genetic or due to a transplant or an illness.

“In the laboratory, we demonstrated that a molecule called Morpholino Antisense Oligonucleotide could correct this kind of genetic anomaly and allow the patient’s immune system to function properly,” explains Dr. Donald Vinh, a researcher at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and the principal author of the study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

“As a child, I often had to miss school and it was difficult to make friends. I was often mad. It is hard not knowing why you are sick,” says Steven Francis

Steven Francis, the MUHC patient at the centre of this discovery, has dealt with significant health issues his whole life. Followed at the MUHC since childhood, he has faced sinus infections, fungal infections, inflammations of the colon, shingles, respiratory problems, renal issues, and impeded growth, throughout all of which doctors were unable to discover an underlying cause; they suspected that it was genetic, but were unable to prove it. His family went so far as to consult specialists in the United States without success.

The tide finally turned in his favour when Dr. Vinh examined his case in 2012. “When this patient was referred to me, I went over his entire file in detail, covering some 30 years and literally filling two large cardboard boxes. I also looked at his family history. Since the 1980s, many new immune deficiencies have been identified, and I was able to apply the knowledge from these advances to solve the case,” he explains.

Dr. Vinh discovered that Francis had a mutation on a gene that is critical for the proper function of the immune system, called ZAP70. It serves to synthesize a protein of the same name that helps activate our T cells. Without the ZAP70 protein, the body can’t defend itself effectively against most infections.

“A mutation on this gene is known to be fatal, and the only treatment available up until now has been a bone marrow transplant that must take place before the age of five. With this new discovery, we have found out that genetic mutations of this kind are also found in adults, which could lead to tremendous advances in research. Solving this mystery has opened a new door into the way that the scientific community will look at immune system deficiencies,” says Dr. Vinh. The discovery is all the more remarkable considering this gene cannot be studied in mice.

Francis is now 35 years old. In his case, Dr. Vinh and his team now understand exactly where to find the mutation and how it behaves. His specific mutation subtly affects the slicing of the gene and doesn’t affect the amino acid sequence that synthesizes the ZAP70 protein. Inspired by a little known treatment used in cases of hypercholesterolemia, Dr. Vinh successfully developed a molecule that exclusively blocks the mutation while allowing the protein to be synthesized.

In the process of helping Francis, the researchers have shown in their laboratory that it is possible to create a molecular therapy that might improve the human immune system.

For Dr. Vinh, the battle is still only half won: while all the pieces of the puzzle might be found, they haven’t yet been fully put together. “There are definitely more steps to take before we can test this treatment. For one thing, we have to convince the industry to support us. When Steven can finally get the benefit of the treatment, I’ll be able to count this as a victory.”

Dr. Vinh: on the genetics trail

Dr. Vinh studies genetic defects of the immune system. He seeks to understand why the genetic make-up of certain individuals leaves them more vulnerable to rare, severe or recurrent infections.

In his clinic and in his laboratory, he receives patients with complicated health problems that seem to be linked to their immune system. He treats what are called rare and orphan diseases affecting less than 1 person in 2000.

Dr. Vinh knows that there are people like Francis all across Canada – they are getting sick but nobody knows why. His team is specialized in finding answers for complicated cases and more importantly, finding new solutions. It doesn’t matter if you are in Montreal, Halifax or northern Québec – he wants people to know they are here for them. Patients are referred to him from all of Eastern Canada.

Dr. Vinh is sometimes compared to Dr. Gregory House of the popular television series. Like House, Dr. Vinh has a reputation across the country for his interest in the most atypical medical conditions within his field of practice. “I may have a few things in common with him, but I’d like to think people find me a nicer person than he is!” he jokes.

Disabled employees and their allies event

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 06:11

The objective of this event is to bring together McGill employees with disabilities and their allies to initiate a discussion around issues affecting employees with disabilities at McGill. While encouraging participants to connect with each other in a relaxed atmosphere, the event aims to discuss the needs of employees with disabilities in order to create a more inclusive and a socially supportive workplace at McGill.

Light refreshments will be provided. Please RSVP if you plan on attending, as space is limited.  Should you require any disability-related accommodations, kindly advise organizers a week before the event using the RSVP form or by emailing

April 20, from 12 to 1:30 p.m. Faculty of Law, New Chancellor Day Hall (3644 Peel Street), Room 202.

More information

Push on for UNESCO heritage status for Mount Royal

Mon, 04/10/2017 - 11:22

By McGill Reporter Staff

Les amis de la montagne, a group dedicated to protecting and enhancing Mount Royal, has launched a campaign to have the mountain recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

To support the bid, Les Amis, founded more than 30 years ago, is hoping to get more than 30,000 signatures on an online letter of support by April 26, at 11:59 p.m. The letter can be found at

This “is a unique opportunity to act collectively for the future of the mountain and the preservation of its natural and cultural heritage for generations to come,” the organization said in a statement.

“Mount Royal is an iconic symbol of the city. The mountain is also fundamental to the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of Montrealers. Citizens are the best protectors of this extraordinary space where nature and culture coexist in the heart of the city. That is why we are inviting them to make a significant contribution to preserving Mount Royal by signing the letter in support of  the mountain’s bid for UNESCO status,” Sylvie Guilbault, Executive Director of Les amis de la montagne, said.

“Mount Royal is one of Montreal’s greatest attractions,” Réal Ménard, Montreal’s Executive Committee member in charge of Sustainable Development, the Environment, Large Parks and Green Spaces. “It is a source of pride and a source of collective well-being. This citizens’ campaign is a unique opportunity to rally around a unifying initiative that seeks to protect this unique heritage site at the heart of the city.”

Les Amis is urging support for the UNESCO World Heritage status for a number of reasons:

The mountain is a symbolic place for several communities, including the First Nations, Montreal’s founding communities and the more recent cultural communities

  • It is an emblematic feature of Montreal and Québec’s identity
  • It is a heritage site recognized by the Québec Government
  • It offers exceptional landscapes and breathtaking views
  • It is an invaluable natural treasure defined by its rich biodiversity
  • The mountain offers neighbourhoods characterized by great livability and walkability for residents, students and business
  • It is a large urban park designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olsmted
  • Its vast green spaces welcome locals and visitors by the millions
  • It includes pastoral cemeteries where our ancestors rest
  • It is a territory where spiritual, educational and health institutions coexist

Among Canada’s 18 UNESCO World Heritage sites are Quebec City’s historic lower town, the L’Anse aux Meadows historic site where Vikings landed in Newfoundland, the Rideau Canal in Ottawa and Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump in southern Alberta.

Sign the letter of support

Guggenheim for ant evolutionist

Fri, 04/07/2017 - 12:41

Professor Ehab Abouheif is a recipient of a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship. The U.S.-based John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation announced its newest fellows on April 7, 2017. Abouheif is one of only three Canadians among the 173 recipients.

Professor Ehab Abouheif is a 2017 Guggenheim Fellow

Abouheif is a James McGill Professor in the Department of Biology, a Canada Research Chair in Evolutionary Developmental Biology and a co-founder of the McGill Centre for Islam and Science.  In 2012, his lab discovered that genetic “supersoldier” potential can lay dormant in ants for millions of years – but can be unlocked by applying high doses of hormone at a critical stage in the larvae’s development. The discovery is changing traditional thinking about dormant genetic potential in other animals (such as bird’s teeth and snake’s fingers) and how, once triggered, they can act as raw materials for adaptive evolution. The implications for harnessing dormant genetic potentials include medical advances, biodiversity conservation, and animal or plant breeding.

Abouheif’s research has also earned a Sloan Fellowship and the NSERC E.W.R. Steacie Award, Canada’s highest honour for a young Canadian scientist. Last year he was elected to the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Artists, Scholars, and Scientists.

The Guggenheim Fellowship will help Abouheif support students and postdoctoral researchers.

Since 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has granted more than $350 million in fellowships to more than 18,000 individuals. The  fellowships recognize individuals who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.” Many Guggenheim laureates have gone on to win Nobel Prizes, Fields Medals, Turing Awards, Pulitzer Prizes and other internationally recognized honors.


Vimy Ridge: From sacrifice, “the birth of a nation”

Thu, 04/06/2017 - 20:36

McGill Library launches exhibition to commemorate 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge

By Neale McDevitt

Although Canada achieved Confederation on July 1, 1867, many people believe that Canada didn’t truly become a nation until April 9, 1917, at the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

In the coming days, in France and across Canada, a host of events – big and small – will mark the 100th anniversary on the battle. On April 7, McGill Library will open a commemorative exhibition on the main floor of the McLennan-Redpath Library.

“The exhibit will be divided into two parts. Part I, is devoted to the battle and the Memorial on Vimy Ridge,” says Richard Virr, Senior Curator, Rare Books and Special Collections, and one of the exhibition’s curators along with Jennifer Garland, Liaison Librarian, Rare Books and Special Collections. “The other part of the exhibition deals with remembering. In other words, how, in the 1920s and 30s, various memorials, cenotaphs and windows were designed, built or proposed as acts of remembrance.”

Part I of the Vimy Ridge exhibition will run from April 7, through November. Part II will open on May 19, and continue to September 22.

Disciplined, well-drilled and determined

On a blustery April 9, 1917, in northern France, thousands of Canadian soldiers from across the nation poured from the trenches and fought uphill to capture the heavily fortified – and previously impregnable –  German positions along a seven-kilometre ridge. Previous attempts to take the stronghold had ended disastrously, with French troops having suffered an estimated 100,000 casualties in earlier attacks.

Facing driving winds, snow and fully entrenched German forces, the Canadians pressed ever forward, in many cases charging machine gun nests with fixed bayonets. And while the pitched battle exacted a horrendous toll on the Canadian troops, with more than 10,000 dead or wounded (Canada’s costliest battle in the First World War), Vimy Ridge was taken. “In those few minutes I witnessed the birth of a nation,” said Brigadier-General A.E. Ross.

On top of their resolute courage, the Canadians proved to be well-drilled and disciplined, following to the letter a precise battle plan largely drawn up by General Arthur Currie, who would later serve as McGill’s Principal from 1920 to 1933.

After war, remembrance

In addition to the exhibitions in the McLennan-Redpath Library, visitors can also use the large touch table which highlights various parts of McGill’s digital collection that are either related to Vimy Ridge or Canada’s 20th century war efforts. Among other things, users can watch a brief video of His Majesty King Edward the VIII at the dedication of the Vimy Ridge War Memorial in 1936, or scroll through the names and photos of McGillians who perished in the Great War in the digitized McGill Honor Roll 1914-1918.

A page from the Headline History of the War – a collection of newspaper headlines from the First World War. / Courtesy of McGill Library

One of the unique components of Part I of the exhibition will be the Headline History of the War – a large book of war-related headlines collected by Robert Fetherstonhaugh during the First World War. “We have the book open to the page that says ‘Canadians Take Vimy,’” says Virr. “And right beside it we have a page from the Illustrated London News also highlighting the Canadians’ success at Vimy.”

The other exhibition case will focus on the Memorial at Vimy Ridge, including illustrations of the dedication ceremony and designers’ plans. There are also photos of some of the models that the sculpture did for the Memorial.

Part II of the exhibition will highlight the way in which Canada celebrates its veterans. “Of course the battle is a significant part of our history, but we didn’t want to focus only on war,” says Virr. “We thought we could use Vimy as a way of approaching remembering. I think we do it differently in Canada than they do in the United Kingdom (where the date gets moved to a Sunday, or even Veterans Day in the United States.

“I think in Canada does a very special kind of remembering – and we certainly have produced enough memorials and cenotaphs,” says Virr.

The Vimy commemoration is part of a series of exhibitions based on the First World War. In 2015, the Library installed The Lighthalls: A McGill Family at War, an exhibition that followed a McGill family (four graduates) and their participation in the First World War through photos, diaries and letters.

Virr thinks a third exhibition making the 100-year anniversary of the end of the War will probably be staged in 2018.

Get more information

A special Vimy Ridge lecture will be given by historian Dr. Tim Cook, C.M. The talk entitled “Birth of a Notion: The Vimy Idea, 1917-2017” will be held on Tuesday, April 25, at 5:30 p.m. in Moyse Hall (Arts Building). Get more information and RSVP online.









Feds pledge $50K for student-designed net-zero energy housing

Thu, 04/06/2017 - 16:06

L to r: Concordia’s Provost, Graham Carr; McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier; Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change; Rosie Goldstein, McGill’s VP (Research and Innovation); and McGill architecture professor Michael Jemtrud. / Photo: Owen Egan

By McGill Reporter Staff

On Thursday, April 6, the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, announced a $50,000 grant to help TeamMTL participate in the Solar Decathlon China 2018. The team, which consists of students from McGill and Concordia Universities, will build a prototype of a high-performance row house that it designed for the urban Canadian market. The grant comes from Natural Resources Canada’s Program for Energy Research and Development (PERD).

“I am proud to witness this terrific example of Canadian ingenuity and innovation,” said McKenna. “Today’s announcement reflects our government’s commitment to clean technology.  We believe that growing our economy goes hand in hand with protecting our environment, and we demonstrate that belief through the engagements taken in our most recent budget.”

McKenna made the announcement at an event held at McGill’s Faculty Club on the downtown campus. She was joined by Principal Suzanne Fortier, McGill architecture professor Michael Jemtrud and Concordia provost Graham Carr.

The students designed their Deep-Performance Dwelling as a response to both climate change and the increasing demand for affordable urban family housing. In thanking the Government of Canada for its support of student-led innovation, Principal Fortier praised TeamMTL as “a great example of students applying their learning to making a real difference in the world.”

An artist’s rendition of the exterior of TeamMtl’s high-performance row house designed for the urban Canadian market. / Image courtesy of TeamMTL

The Deep-Performance Dwelling is a net-zero energy and low- to zero-carbon residential housing model, designed for Montreal temperatures. Net-zero energy buildings create as much renewable energy as they consume; in the case of the Deep-Performance Dwelling, an innovative “building integrated photovoltaic thermal system” provides all the home’s energy. Water consumption and air quality are carefully managed and the structure’s high-performance envelope reduces energy demand by 80 per cent – one of the benefits of Canadian wood construction. The house also showcases the green building products and innovative technologies of dozens of Quebec companies and start-ups. By using modular and prefabrication methods, the team hopes to keep total construction costs below $250,000 CAD for a 1,400 square-foot home.

The building’s design merges the traditional Montreal row house with the Chinese Siheyuan courtyard to create a flexible family living space that can accommodate different group scenarios, such as extended families or tenants.

“The name of the house is the Deep Performance Dwelling because it presents a holistic solution to a whole series of issues,” says Ben Wareing, a graduate student in McGill’s School of Architecture and TeamMTL’s architecture lead. “Our interpretation of sustainability goes deep into the function and form of the house [including] its economic and sociocultural features. We are building something that will work well for dense urban living.”

“I volunteered for this project because it’s a deviation from the theoretical degree work I have been doing,” says Natalie Manukian, TeamMTL’s communications lead and a McGill student studying Economics and Environmental Sciences. “It works toward a solution and focuses on sustainability. It is a group project which gives it dynamism and life and translated the work into real solutions to real problems that we are all facing.”

There are approximately 50 students on TeamMTL. The project is an interdisciplinary collaboration that brings together McGill’s School of Architecture, the Desautels Faculty of Management and the Faculty of Engineering with several departments at Concordia, including Design and Computational Arts, Theatre and Dance, Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the John Molson School of Business.

The Solar Decathlon is an award-winning international network of programs that challenges collegiate teams from around the world to design, build, and operate a net-zero energy, high-performance, sustainable homes. The 2018 competition will be held in Dezhou, Shandong Province, China. The competition will be stiff, with 21 teams representing 11 countries and 49 universities. TeamMTL will be the only Canadian team. In addition to the competition, a public exhibition of Deep Performance Dwelling and the other houses is expected to attract three million visitors over three months.

“The Solar Decathlon competition is an extraordinary experiential learning opportunity for students and faculty alike,” said McGill architecture professor Michael Jemtrud, who is the faculty lead for TeamMTL and one of four professors participating in the project. “Natural Resources Canada is the first major partner of TeamMTL and it is an honour and privilege to be part of their intelligent commitment to addressing climate change and supporting innovation in the clean technology sector.”

“Project-based activity like the Solar Decathlon is a powerful way to collectively and necessarily work across disciplines,” he added. “Because it is largely a student-based endeavour, the students drive the activities and that quickly sets a productive collaborative tone. Cross-institutional collaboration is extremely fulfilling and a profound inter-disciplinary learning experience for the students.”

Get more information about TeamMTL

Click on the thumbnail to learn more about TeamMtl’s Deep-Performance Dwelling

BUILD grant breathes life into lung disease research

Thu, 04/06/2017 - 13:12

Carolyn Baglole hopes to unravel the mystery of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a fatal lung disease that affects some 15,000 Canadians.

By Neale McDevitt

We know that idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a fatal disease that causes scars to form in your lungs. Over time, the scarring makes your lungs increasing stiffer, making it more and more difficult to breathe. Eventually, usually within three to five years of diagnosis, IPF patients die of suffocation.

We also know that IPF is a rare disease that affects less than 15,000 Canadians. We also know that most people who get IPF are over 50, more men have IPF than women and many people with IPF used to smoke.

But that’s it. Other than that, we don’t know much.

“We don’t really know why some people get IPF and others do not because we don’t know what causes it,” says Carolyn Baglole, who is cross-appointed in the Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics and the Department of Pathology. “There are no biomarkers that tell us if someone has IPF or will eventually develop it.”

But Baglole hopes to shed some light on the mysteries of IPF, thanks, in large part, to the recent announcement that she has been awarded a portion of a $1.2-million grant from Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd to study the disease.

The grant is part of the Boehringer Ingelheim Innovation in Understanding ILD (BUILD) program. BUILD supports Canadian investigators doing research interstitial lung disease (ILD) with the hope of improving the understanding, treatment and patient outcomes in ILD, a group of nearly 200 rare lung diseases – including IPF. The cause of ILD is often unknown, and accurate diagnosis can be extremely challenging and treatment decisions are complex.

Like all good detective work, Baglole’s research started with a strong clue – the human antigen R protein, or HuR protein.

“We want to try to understand at a fundamental level, at a cellular and molecular level, why IPF develops in some people and we are very interested in this particular protein that occurs in our cells,” says Baglole. “This is a protein that is implicated in cancer but that has never been studied in pulmonary fibrosis. But based on some of the current literature it seems like it may play a very important role in the development of this disease.

“It could be that there is too much of this protein in the lung, for example, but it could also be that it is not behaving in a normal way,” continues Baglole. “If we can take tissue from somebody that has pulmonary fibrosis and identify that there is more of this protein in certain regions of the cell, maybe this is indicative of the disease and of somebody who will have a faster decline of lung function.”

Baglole’s lab will study the role of the HuR protein in models of pulmonary fibrosis with hopes of determining the role it plays in the development of pulmonary fibrosis. “If we prove that this protein drives the disease we can develop an inhibitor, a drug for example, that can prevent this protein from behaving abnormally,” says Baglole. “Of course, in a perfect world we can stop the progression of pulmonary fibrosis and help people who have this disease live a better and longer lives.”

One of the challenges of working with diseases like IPF is that, because it is relatively rare, much of the focus – and funding – goes toward cancer, or other more common illnesses. “Even if IPF is relatively rare, it is still very important for us to understand how to help these individuals do have it because the survival for someone with IPF is very poor as is their quality of life,” says Baglole. “That’s why the BUILD grant is so important. It helps bring to the forefront a disease that is as deadly as lung cancer and it allows us to move quickly on a project that we think has enormous translational potential for IPF.”


Spaghetti Nights Family Workshops: Giving parents a helping hand

Thu, 04/06/2017 - 07:49

By McGill Reporter Staff

As rewarding as it can sometimes be, parenting isn’t easy. Sometimes parents feel like they are operating in a bubble, far removed from other adults and trying their best to deal with challenges – and put out fires – as they crop up. If only kids came with an owner’s manual, frustrated parents have ruefully mused. And wouldn’t it be nice if, just once, someone else did the cooking and took care of the children?

Enter Spaghetti Night Family Workshops, a collaboration between McGill’s Social Equity and Diversity Office and LEARN Québec that helps families in four Montreal-area elementary schools learn together to become more engaged, prepared and supportive of their children’s academic success and development.

Offered once a month from October to May, Spaghetti Nights provide families with a free meal, followed by two-hour workshops on topics suggested by parents and guardians and facilitated by McGill faculty, staff, graduate students and local family educators. Past topics have included everything from how to create a home environment for learning and school success to making healthy meals quickly and on a budget. Free childcare is provided by volunteers under the supervision of a Family Care Animator.

According to Deborah Dixon, Principal of Riverview Elementary – one of the participating schools, “Parents and guardians today need creative resources and support to deal with the child of the 21st century. One of these ways is through the monthly Spaghetti Nights Family Workshop. It is so encouraging to see moms, dads and guardians come out to the find the strategies needed to effectively raise their children.”

Since 2012, the program has offered over 60 interactive workshops, and free dinners and child care to over 300 parents and guardians. To celebrate Spaghetti Nights’ fifth anniversary, there was a birthday party where it all started at Riverview Elementary (917 Riverview Avenue, Verdun) on Thursday, April 6.

True to form, however, there was a learning component to the soirée as well. The April 6 workshop, Raising Resilient Kids, Part 2, was led by facilitator Megan Webster, an instructor in the Faculty of Education. “It’s important as a researcher to ensure my research translates to a public good and provides practical tools to teachers, parents and children,” says Webster.

In feedback offered about Webster’s previous workshop, one parent commented, “Sometimes you get caught up in your daily routine and don’t have time to take a step back and see if you are indeed acting with your children the way you want to. Thanks to Megan’s workshop, I will be more aware of my coping strategies and the ones that my children can use.”

Spaghetti Nights are part of the suite of McGill’s Access to Education programs which includes the Homework Zone Afterschool Mentoring Program and My Day @ McGill. Get more information about Spaghetti Night Family Workshops.

Nearly $3.8M for Mac’s Farm Management and Technology program

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 16:18

From l to r: Salwa Karboune, Associate Dean (Research); Geoff Kelley, MNA for Jacques-Cartier and Minister responsible for Native Affairs; Anja Geitmann, Dean, Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; Laurent Lessard, Minister of Agriculture. Fisheries and Food; and Rosie Goldstein, Vice-Principal of Research and Innovation, at Thursday’s announcement.

By McGill Reporter Staff

On March 31, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Laurent Lessard; and Geoffrey Kelley, MNA for Jacques-Cartier and Minister responsible for Native Affairs, announced on behalf of the Government of Quebec $3,772,000 in funding over three years for the Farm Management and Technology Program (FMT), a three-year academic and practical college program offered at the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

The funding will enable access to strategic training for Quebec’s English-speaking farm-business operators, thereby enhancing the competitiveness and productivity of Quebec’s agricultural industry.

“On behalf of the University, I am very grateful for the Government of Quebec’s commitment today of nearly $3.8 million for the Farm Management and Technology program, offered on McGill’s Macdonald Campus,” said Rosie Goldstein, Vice-Principal of Research and Innovation. “The skilled trainees enrolled in this program are sure to strengthen the agricultural sector in Quebec and in Canada in the years to come.”

Lessard reiterated that the funding was an investment in the future of Quebec agriculture. “For more than 40 years, the Ministry [of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food] and Macdonald campus have been working together to ensure that the new generation of Quebec’s English-speaking farmers  has access to this cutting-edge program,” he said. “This funding will ensure that the impressive results of the past years, in terms of enrolment and quality of the training, will continue. Helping train and support a skilled workforce is a priority for our government.”

“Our government has placed its full confidence in this prestigious institution, the only one to offer the FMT program to the anglophone community,” said Kelley. “As a Member of Parliament for Jacques-Cartier and a retired teacher, I am proud that we will help support a qualified English-speaking workforce.”

It was also announced that then Government of Quebec was investing $5 million toward the creation of the Consortium de recherche précompétitive en transformation alimentaire, a consortium based at Macdonald campus. The Consortium will enhance the competitive capacity of businesses in the food transformation industry by increasing their ability to conduct research and development, and to launch new technological innovations. As well, the Consortium will promote partnerships between companies and researchers, and facilitate the recruitment of qualified workers. This investment will support research and development projects in the pre-competitive stages. Get more details


$5 Million for agri-food innovation

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 16:17

Consortium will stimulate innovation in the agricultural and food economy in Quebec

By Meaghan Thurston

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Laurent Lessard; and Geoffrey Kelley, MNA for Jacques-Cartier and Minister responsible for Native Affairs, announced on behalf of the Government of Quebec $5 million for the Consortium de recherche précompétitive en transformation alimentaire at the Macdonald campus on Thursday, March 31. The funds will be awarded in five annual instalments of $1 million.

The Consortium is being created with the goal of reinforcing the competitive capacity of businesses in the food transformation industry by increasing their ability to conduct research and development, and to launch new technological innovations. The Consortium will also promote partnerships between companies and researchers, and facilitate the recruitment of qualified workers. This investment will support research and development projects in the pre-competitive stages.

“We thank the Government of Quebec for this major investment in research and innovation in the agrifood sector,” said Rosie Goldstein, VP, Research and Innovation. “In addition to reinforcing research and development activities, this Consortium will promote scientific entrepreneurship, talent development, and industrial partnerships and commercialization. McGill is eager to promote these collaborations in order to encourage innovation in research and to make meaningful advancements that will benefit the world.”

Laurent Lessard, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, said that this is an investment in the future. “The  results of the work carried out by this consortium will have a significant impact on the consolidation and future development of the food industry throughout Quebec. Companies based in Quebec will gain increased support for their innovation projects, and will be in a better position to react to the diverse needs of modern consumers.”

“The creation of the Consortium will allow McGill University’s Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences to use its globally-renowned expertise to assist companies that perform food transformation activities right here in Quebec,” said Geoffrey Kelley, MNA for Jacques-Cartier and Minister responsible for Native Affairs. “Macdonald campus is a major institution in my riding of Jacques-Cartier, and I am pleased to participate in this announcement. What we are talking about today will have a major impact on the ability of local food transformation companies to position themselves in the marketplace and to become the industry leaders of tomorrow.”

McGill outsmarts Harvard in Covo Cup rugby clash

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 15:12

Happy, though somewhat chilly, members of the McGill rugby team pose with the Covo Cup, following its 45-12 trouncing of Harvard this past Saturday. / Photo courtesy of McGill Athletics and Recreation

By Earl Zukerman

Daniel Benaroche of Montreal scored 12 points as the visiting McGill men’s rugby team rallied from an early seven-point deficit to outwit, outlast and outplay Harvard 45-12 in the Covo Cup challenge game, played in wintery conditions more befitting a game of Survivor, at Mignone Field, in Cambridge, Mass., on Saturday.

It was the first confrontation between these teams in four years but the fifth straight Cup victory for McGill, which improved to 20-15 lifetime in the almost annual competition which was initiated in 1974 to mark the centennial of the first meeting between the two storied clubs in 1874. The trophy is named in memory of the late Peter Covo, a former multi-sport athlete at McGill, who went on to become a professor and rugby coach at the University.

“It was freezing weather with blowing snow throughout,” said McGill head coach Eric Van Sickle after the game. “My hands are slowly thawing out but it was much worse for the players than the people on the sidelines (who had more clothing and huddled together for warmth).”

Benaroche, a civil engineering junior, tallied a pair of tries and converted one of his majors. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound front row player snapped a 12-12 saw-off in the 51st minute to put the Redmen ahead 19-12. He also tallied a try and converted it in the final minute of play.

The match started out in blizzard-like conditions with a bitter battle for field position on a cold, windy and snowy afternoon. McGill opened the scoring in just the sixth minute mark when Jamie Wilson, an investment management senior from London, England, touched down in the endzone for a 5-0 lead but Harvard roared back to take a 12-5 lead into halftime.

The remainder of the second half was dominated by McGill with six unanswered tries, scored by Nick Bent of Ottawa, Benaroche, Munir Yalin, a native of Istanbul, Alex Pantis of Beaconsfield, Que., Zack Hazan of Montreal and Benaroche.

Funding for most of the trip was provided by a number of McGill Redmen rugby alumni, including three of whom were in attendance at the game, namely Wayne Calizza, Frank Edward Fleming and Brian Simms.

It was a happy conclusion to a successful McGill season that finished at 8-2 overall, including a 6-1 first-place finish in the RSEQ conference last fall.

Pedestrians and cyclists to share space on downtown campus

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 15:34
Beginning next week, cyclists will be allowed to ride their bikes through downtown campus.

Beginning next week, cyclists will be allowed to ride their bikes through downtown campus.

The following is a message from Robert Couvrette, Associate Vice-Principal (Facilities Management and Ancillary Services) 

Un message de Robert Couvrette, vice-principal adjoint (gestion des installations et services auxiliaires)

Starting next week, McGill’s downtown lower campus will become a Shared Space where cycling will be permitted. This means mounted cyclists will circulate on the same pathways as pedestrians. Pedestrians will remain the primary users of this shared space and will have the right of way at all times.

This pilot project replaces the measure requiring cyclists to dismount their bicycles, implemented in 2010 as part of McGill’s efforts to create a pedestrian-friendly campus but which has proved difficult to enforce and therefore ineffective in ensuring pedestrian safety. The new procedure does not affect McTavish St., which is a public space under the City of Montreal’s jurisdiction, where cycling remains prohibited.

The University’s decision to adopt a shared-space approach follows a three-year consultation and research process led by McGill’s Cycling Working Group (CWG), which I struck in the fall of 2013. The CWG included relevant experts and representatives of a broad range of perspectives from across the McGill community (see membership).

The CWG studied several scenarios – from maintaining the “walk your bike” measure to creating dedicated cyling paths – before concluding in its report that a Shared Space regulation would be the best approach for McGill. This approach, which aligns with similar approaches at other university campuses in urban settings, was validated by Vélo Québec, an independent external body.

Community support and safety as priorities

Before proceeding, we wanted to ensure the McGill community agreed with the idea of allowing cycling on campus. A survey of the community in the spring of 2015 concluded that approximately 60 per cent of the respondents “agreed” or “somewhat agreed” that cycling should be allowed on campus.

And of course, we wanted to make sure safety would not be compromised. We asked McGill professors Kevin Manaugh (Dept. of Geography) and Luis Miranda-Moreno (Civil Engineering) to look into the real and perceived risk of collisions between mounted cyclists and pedestrians. Their research concluded that cyclists travel at relatively reasonable speeds (11.4 km/h on average) and that those speeds decrease as pedestrian density increases. (Read the working group’s follow-up report).

As part of the new Shared-Space procedure, we will install signage, along with several speedbumps on campus to ensure that remains the case and include speed-mitigation elements in any future redesign projects on campus.

I want to thank members of the Cycling Working Group, as well as Profs. Manaugh and Miranda-Moreno, for the time they devoted to helping our community arrive at what I hope will allow for a harmonious cohabitation between pedestrians and cyclists on our downtown campus without compromising any of our community members’ safety. Thank you also to all the other members of the McGill community who have communicated with us and provided input since the start of this process.

As mentioned above, this is a pilot project. We encourage the community to remain vigilant in ensuring respectful and safe movement across campus of all community members. We will continue to monitor circulation on campus closely and make further recommendations or adjustments as required. I invite you to continue writing to us should you have any questions or concerns.


Piétons et cyclistes cohabiteront sur le campus du centre-ville

À compter de la semaine prochaine, le secteur inférieur du campus du centre-ville de l’Université McGill deviendra un espace partagé par les piétons et les cyclistes. Les déplacements en vélo seront donc permis, et piétons et cyclistes emprunteront les mêmes voies de circulation. Les piétons demeureront les principaux utilisateurs de cet espace partagé et auront priorité en tout temps.

Dans le cadre de ce projet pilote, les cyclistes n’auront plus à descendre de leur vélo pour circuler sur le campus, comme l’exigeait une mesure adoptée en 2010 pour faire du campus du centre-ville un environnement plus accueillant pour les piétons, mais qui s’est révélée difficile à faire respecter et, par conséquent, inefficace pour assurer la sécurité des piétons. Il convient toutefois de noter que les déplacements en vélo sur la rue McTavish demeureront interdits, puisqu’il s’agit d’un espace public placé sous l’autorité de la Ville de Montréal.

L’Université a pris cette décision à la suite d’un processus de consultation et de recherche de trois ans mené par le Groupe de travail sur l’usage de la bicyclette sur le campus, que j’ai mis sur pied à l’automne 2013. Ce groupe de travail était composé d’experts et de représentants de la communauté mcgilloise venus de divers horizons (cliquez ici pour connaître la composition du Groupe de travail).

Le Groupe de travail a étudié plusieurs scénarios – allant du statu quo à la création de pistes cyclables – avant de conclure dans son rapport que l’adoption d’un espace partagé réglementé constituerait la meilleure solution pour l’Université McGill. Le bien-fondé de cette approche, semblable à celle adoptée par d’autres universités situées en milieu urbain, a été confirmé par Vélo Québec, organisme indépendant.

Nos priorités : appui de la communauté et sécurité

Avant d’adopter cette nouvelle approche, nous avons tenu à nous assurer que les membres de la communauté mcgilloise étaient prêts à voir circuler des cyclistes sur le campus. Un sondage réalisé au printemps de 2015 a révélé qu’environ 60 pour cent des répondants étaient « d’accord » ou « plutôt d’accord » avec cette idée.

Nous voulions également nous assurer que la sécurité des piétons et des cyclistes ne serait pas menacée. C’est pourquoi nous avons demandé aux professeurs Kevin Manaugh (Département de géographie) et Luis Miranda-Moreno (Département de génie civil) d’étudier le risque réel et apparent de collision entre cyclistes et piétons. Ils ont conclu que les cyclistes se déplacent à une vitesse relativement raisonnable (11,4 km/h en moyenne) et que cette vitesse diminue au fur et à mesure que la densité des piétons augmente. (La suite au rapport initial est disponible ici.)

Afin d’assurer la sécurité de tous ceux qui circuleront sur le campus, nous installerons de nouveaux panneaux de signalisation et plusieurs dos d’âne. Nous verrons également à intégrer des mesures de réduction de la vitesse à tout projet de réaménagement sur le campus.

Je tiens à remercier les membres du Groupe de travail sur l’usage de la bicyclette sur le campus ainsi que les professeurs Manaugh et Miranda-Moreno pour leur travail de consultation et de recherche. J’ose espérer que ce nouvel espace partagé permettra la cohabitation harmonieuse et sécuritaire des piétons et des cyclistes sur le campus du centre-ville. Je remercie également tous les autres membres de la communauté mcgilloise qui ont communiqué avec nous depuis le début du processus de consultation afin de nous faire part de leurs commentaires.

Comme nous l’avons mentionné précédemment, il s’agit d’un projet pilote. Nous vous demandons de demeurer vigilants afin que tous les McGillois puissent se déplacer en toute sécurité, dans le respect les uns des autres, sur les terrains de l’Université. Nous continuerons à surveiller de près les déplacements sur le campus et, au besoin, formulerons d’autres recommandations ou apporterons des modifications au projet. Si vous avez des questions ou des préoccupations, n’hésitez pas à nous écrire.

Jim Lund Dental Clinic to continue serving City’s vulnerable citizens

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 14:32

The Jim Lund Clinic is a direct offshoot of the Faculty of Dentistry’s Outreach Program. / Photo: Owen Egan

By McGill Reporter Staff

For people on a tight budget dental care is often one of the first things to go by the board as the fees for dental hygiene and maintenance can seem too high. This is why so many people are smiling at the news that the Jim Lund Dental Clinic – Montreal’s first permanent, free dental care clinic – will continue serving the community following the renewal of the innovative partnership between the Faculty of Dentistry and the Welcome Hall Mission (WHM).

Under the renewed agreement, the Faculty of Dentistry will continue to offer free dental services at the WHM for at least another five years. The Clinic, housed at the WHM, in Montreal’s St. Henri neighbourhood, opened in 2011. It is jointly funded through philanthropic donations by the Mission and the Faculty of Dentistry. The Clinic provides low-income families, homeless men and women, and new immigrants enrolled at the WHM shelter, with access to services that would otherwise be out of reach. The Clinic is open five days a week and serves some 3,400 people per year. In the last five years the clinic has provided almost $2-million worth of free dental services.

The clinic is named in memory of Dr. Jim Lund, McGill’s long-time Dean of Dentistry, who died suddenly in December 2009. Lund was a passionate advocate of quality dental care for all members of society, and it was during his tenure that the Faculty’s Outreach Program was established.

“I did not know James Lund personally, but he was the Dean while I was still a student in the Faculty of Dentistry. I think he would have been very proud of how far McGill’s Outreach program has come,” says Dr. Paul Sweet, DMD and head of the Jim Lund Dental Clinic. “He was the pioneering force behind the establishment of the Outreach Program and was committed to public oral health and removing the barriers that prevent or restrict those most vulnerable from accessing dental care. “

Studies show that poor oral health can have severe repercussions on overall health. In some cases, people who couldn’t afford to see a dentist have taken matters into their own hands by swishing with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to deal with a tooth infection, or by rubbing crushed aspirin pills on gums to numb pain.

“The people we see are from underprivileged, disadvantaged and vulnerable segments of the population. They are on a very limited budget and have other priorities that come before dental care (food, clothing, shelter for themselves and their families),” says Dr. Sweet. “They often suffer with pain and infection because they are financially unable to seek appropriate care. This can be compounded by a lack of awareness or education, and poor, improper or inadequate dental treatment in their home country. This can have an effect on their ability to eat and speak, as well as on their appearance and consequently on their confidence and self-esteem (they can be self-conscious or even ashamed to speak and smile).”

Sweet says that the majority of the Clinic’s patients have recently arrived in Canada. “They are either new immigrants or refugees, with most of them coming from Northern Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe or South America,” says Dr. Sweet. “Many native Montrealers who are unemployed or low income are already receiving welfare and have basic dental care covered through RAMQ. We also see many retirement-age patients who are no longer eligible for welfare (and the basic dental coverage it provides), and are surviving on only their pension. “

But for Sam Watts, Director of the WHM, the clinic offers its patients even more than just access to professional dental care.

“We are in the business of poverty prevention, of trying to prevent people from falling deeper into poverty,” says Watts. “We want to provide access and dignity. Getting your teeth fixed means that you will feel better, but also that you will be more confident in general. If you have a job interview and can smile with confidence, your chances of getting that job are that much better. For the roughly 200,000 people who form the working poor on Montreal Island that is an important thing.”

The Clinic is an offshoot of the Faculty of Dentistry’s Mobile Dental Clinic which, for almost two decades, has travelled to communities across the Montreal region providing basic dental care to over 300 patients annually. In 2011, the Faculty joined forces with the WHM, to add a Clinic to the program.

Treatments offered include:

  • complete dental examinations
  • regular and deep cleaning (under local anesthetic)
  • simple fillings, simple extractions
  • referrals to the Montreal General Hospital in emergency cases

Under the supervision of Faculty members, third- and fourth-year Dentistry students, along with dental hygiene students from John Abbott College, care for the bulk of the Clinic’s patients. The organizers hope that the time spent in the Clinic will benefit these prospective dentists. Students are exposed to disadvantaged and vulnerable populations with the goal of treating disease and pain, but also to promote oral health education. If patients are better educated, their new awareness, knowledge and tools will help them do their part in the prevention of disease and dental decay. Through this commitment to the community, the Faculty of Dentistry hopes to develop oral health professionals who have a sense of altruism, responsibility to the public and society, and a social conscience.

Get more information about the Jim Lund Dental Clinic