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Updated: 3 hours 42 min ago

MERS shines spotlight on graduate engineering research

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 08:54

The annual the McGill Engineering Research Showcase brought together, faculty, staff, students and industry representatives. / Photo: Michael Cardillo

More than 40 graduate students from the Faculty of Engineering presented their research results via poster presentations at the fifth annual McGill Engineering Research Showcase (MERS) held by the Faculty of Engineering on Monday, Sep. 25.

MERS is a showcase and celebration of graduate student research in the Faculty of Engineering that also provides a forum for industry to connect with McGill’s graduate students and faculty. Attendees from industry and McGill faculty, students and alumni were also able to learn more about the innovative research taking place in the areas of Advanced Materials & Nanotechnology, Aerospace Engineering, Bioengineering, Information & Communications Technology, and Sustainability in Engineering and Design.

Several students won the best poster prize in each strategic research area:

  • Advanced Materials & Nanotechnology – Sean Bolduc and Adam Smith for “Composite Recycling Innovations,” Department of Mechanical Engineering. Supervisors: Professors Larry Lessard and Pascal Hubert
  • Aerospace Engineering (sponsored by the McGill Institute for Aerospace Engineering) – a tie, both from the Department of Mechanical Engineering – Linus Lehnert for “Advanced Design and Manufacturing Technologies for Complex Composite Parts,” co- authors: Derek Harvey and Louis Grou. Supervisor: Professor Pascal Hubert; and Charles Cossette for “Payload Recovery from High Altitude using Autonomously Guided Parafoil.” Supervisor: Professor James Forbes
  • Bioengineering  – Zinan He for “Extents, Locations and Geometrical Configurations of Calcification in Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm,” Department of Mechanical Engineering. Supervisor: Professor Rosaire Mongrain
  • Information & Communications Technology– Rafezi Hamed for “Tricone Drill Bit Condition Monitoring,” Department of Mining and Materials Engineering. Supervisor: Professor Ferri Hassani
  • Sustainability in Engineering & Design (sponsored by the Trottier Institute for Sustainability in Engineering and Design – Laura Hernandez for “Are There Nanoplastics in Your Personal Care Products?” Department of Chemical Engineering. Supervisor: Professor Nathalie Tufenkji

McGill alumna named Canada’s Chief Scientist

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 17:21

On Sept. 26, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named Mona Nemer would be Canada’s new Chief Science Advisor. / Photo: Adam Scotti

By McGill Reporter Staff

Mona Nemer (PhD82), a long-time Vice-President of Research at the University of Ottawa, who earned her PhD in Chemistry at McGill, was named Wednesday, Sept. 26, by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (BA92), as Canada’s new Chief Science Advisor.

McGill’s Vice-Principal of Research and Innovation, Martha Crago, and award-winning astrophysicist Vicky Kaspi were in Ottawa for the announcement.

“We’re very happy to see this important position reinstated, coming at a time when the discussions around the importance of federal support for fundamental science was never clearer,” Crago said. “It makes us especially proud that Dr. Nemer is a McGill alumna and we wish Dr. Nemer very well and look forward to working with her.”

News of the appointment was also hailed by the broader Canadian university community. “The appointment of Dr. Nemer comes at a pivotal time for Canada, as other nations increasingly look to Canada for leadership in research and innovation,” said Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada. “University leaders, and researchers from all disciplines, look forward to working with Dr. Nemer to advance the research ecosystem in Canada and establish sound public policy.”

Reporting to the Prime Minister and federal Science Minister, Kirsty Duncan, Dr. Nemer will advise the government on scientific and research issues. Her mandate will include ensuring Canadians are informed about government science and that researchers are free to speak about their work, which represents a loosening of the tight control placed on scientists under the former government of Stephen Harper. Nemer is also charged with ensuring government-wide decision-making includes scientific analyses.

“The recent report from the Fundamental Science Review Panel calls for urgent federal reinvestment in the research ecosystem,” according to a release from Universities Canada. “Universities look forward to further steps in the next budget to strengthen research for Canada’s future and for the benefit of all Canadians.”

Nemer’s own research has focused on cardiology and congenital heart issues.

A former professor at the Université de Montréal, she is a Member of the Order of Canada, a fellow of the Academy of Sciences of the Royal Society of Canada, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Science, a Knight of the Ordre national du Québec and a Knight of the French Republic’s ordre national du Mérite.

Following Tuesday’s announcement, Prime Minister Trudeau and Mona Nemer walked to a student science fair hosted by the PMO. / Photo: Adam Scotti


McGill Olympian Labonté retires from women’s hockey

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 16:40

In addition to four Olympic gold medals, Charline Labonté guided the McGill Martlets to three Canadian university titles. / Photo: Andrew Dobrowolskyj

By Earl Zukerman

Four-time Olympic gold medallist Charline Labonté is retiring from the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.

The 34-year-old McGill University graduate from Boisbriand, Que., made the announcement Monday at Les Demoiselles, a restaurant and coffee shop where she has worked part-time under chef Vanessa Trahan at the Ecole des Metiers de la Restauration et du Tourisme de Montreal, a top school for aspiring chefs.

“Last season there were a couple of times where I felt I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do this anymore,” Labonté told The Canadian Press. “Practices at 9 p.m. or long road trips on the bus and being away from my family. Everything that didn’t bother me before started to bother me a bit so that was kind of like a cue to say maybe it’s time to go.”

In addition to her Olympic success, the veteran goaltender also won two gold and five silver medals with Canada at women’s world championships and guided the McGill Martlets to three Canadian university titles, as well as silver and bronze-medal finishes.

Labonté was a five-time All-Canadian with the Martlets, where she played from 2006 to 2012. She finished her collegiate career with a stellar 160-17-3 overall record and 81 shutouts in 180 career starts, along with a 0.98 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage. Labonté – who graduated in 2012 with a chelor’s degree in physical and health education, followed by a master’s degree in sports psychology – owns virtually every McGill goaltending record except most saves in a game, season and career, which are still held by Kim St. Pierre, who played in an era where facing 50 shots a game was a common occurrence for McGill.

After graduating in 2013, Labonté joined the Montreal Stars (now Les Canadiennes) in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and two years later was the CWHL goaltender of the year.

Labonté first made her name when she became only the second female to play in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League after goalie Manon Rheaume. After playing on high-level boys teams in Boisbriand, Que., she was drafted by the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. She didn’t think she’d make the team, but ended up dressing for 26 games in 1999-2000.

“Last week Les Canadiennes had their camp and I wasn’t there. It’s tough but that’s the decision I had to make and I’m happy with it,” Labonté told the media.

Researcher takes HIV self-testing global

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 14:49

“HIVSmart!™ will facilitate self-testing, plug the service delivery gap, and provide rapid HIV treatment initiation, ultimately leading to what we hope will be an AIDS-free generation,” says Dr. Nitika Pant Pai.

Self-testing app to be implemented in high HIV burden cities worldwide

By Julie Robert, MUHC Public Affairs

It is estimated that 30-40 per cent of people living with HIV do not know their HIV status, which can have a serious effect on the spread of the disease. One of the approaches developed to change this statistic, especially among populations at higher risk for infection and who lack access to care, is the development of HIV self-testing, which provides people with a HIV diagnostic test that they can use in private. Now, this screening strategy is getting a global push thanks to a major new partnership with The International Association of Providers of AIDS Care (IAPAC).

The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and Sympact-X have partnered with IAPAC  for the implementation of HIVSmart!™ – a software- and cloud-based application that facilitates HIV self-testing, linkages  and retention in care – in high HIV burden Fast-Track Cities worldwide.

HIVSmart!™ is a multilingual, portable application that has been developed by a team of scientists and physicians based at the RI-MUHC and at McGill. It has been tested in well-designed studies in Canada and South Africa in diverse patient groups, including high-risk men who have sex with other men; at-risk community clinic attendees; low-risk healthcare professionals; and student populations. The application, which works with any approved HIV self-test, is personalized, assesses user’s HIV exposure risk, provides test interpretation, and links users to care. In addition, the app based program assists with retention in care through enhanced patient-provider communication. The platform is confidential and HIPPA compliant and is currently available in six languages.

“The global scale up of HIVSmart!™ with IAPAC is a dream come true,” says Dr. Nitika Pant Pai, who is an Associate Professor at McGill, a Medical Scientist at the RI-MUHC and Founder/President of the RI-MUHC start-up Sympact-X.  “It will help to bridge the gap between HIV services and populations who are most vulnerable to infection and less likely to be able to access diagnosis and treatment. HIVSmart!™ will also facilitate self-testing, plug service delivery gap, and provide rapid HIV treatment initiation, ultimately leading to what we hope will be an AIDS-free generation.”

The Fast-Track Cities is a global partnership between the City of Paris, International Association of Providers of AIDS Care (IAPAC), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), in collaboration with local, national, regional, and international partners and stakeholders.

Since its launch on World AIDS Day 2014, cities in every region of the world have joined the Fast-Track Cities network, pledging to attain 90-90-90 targets by 2020. The targets translate into 90 per cent of people living with HIV (PLHIV) knowing their status, 90 per cent of PLHIV who know their status linked to care and who are initiated on antiretroviral therapy (ART), and 90 per cent of PLHIV on ART achieving viral suppression. HIV self-testing and the use of apps to promote HIV self-testing, linkage to care, and retention in care are strongly recommended in the 2015 IAPAC Guidelines for Optimizing the HIV Care Continuum for Adults and Adolescents, as well as the 2017 IAPAC/ASLM Recommendations for the Rapid Expansion of HIV Self Testing in Fast-Track Cities.

“IAPAC is proud to partner with the RI-MUHC and SYMPACT-X to introduce and scale-up the implementation of the HIVSmart™ app as an innovative means of assisting Fast-Track Cities to attain the 90-90-90 targets – starting with the first 90 without which we cannot succeed in reaching the estimated 40 per cent of PLHIV worldwide who do not know their status,” says Dr. José M. Zuniga, President/CEO of the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care (IAPAC).

“HIV self-testing is an empowering and innovative way of reaching key populations with undiagnosed HIV. There is often stigma and discrimination associated with going to an HIV clinic to be tested, but technology could play an important role to end the global HIV epidemic, and I am proud of our scientists, like Dr. Nitika Pant Pai, for being part of resolving this challenge,” says Dr. Bruce Mazer, Interim Executive Director and Chief Scientific Officer of the RI-MUHC.

$12-million gift to transform architecture teaching and research

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 13:05

A beaming Peter Guo-hua Fu, M.Arch’91, addresses the crowd at today’s announcement of his $12M gift to the School of Architecture. / Photo: Paul Fournier

By McGill Reporter Staff

Illustrious Chinese architect Peter Guo-hua Fu, M.Arch’91, has shaped an estimated five million square meters of Shanghai’s urban landscape, including the Da’An Garden, the Dongjing International Office Complex and other high-rises studding the city’s spectacular skyline.

Now Fu is setting his sights on a new project: taking McGill’s long history of world-class architecture education to the next level.

This afternoon, at the Faculty Club, Fu announced a $12-million gift to the McGill School of Architecture, which will be renamed, in perpetuity, the Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture. The Consul General of China in Montreal, Mr. Peng Jingtao, joined McGill leaders and special guests at the event.

The gift, payable over six years, will be allocated to four main areas:

  • Creating a range of scholarships, fellowships, travel awards, internships and summer research opportunities, including a new exchange agreement with Tongji University in Shanghai. The new Peter Guo-hua Fu Fellowships, for example, will be awarded to academically exceptional graduate students entering or enrolled in the School. Preference will be given to citizens of China.
  • Establishing chairs and professorships that will build upon the existing world-class faculty by attracting visiting scholars and professors from around the world.
  • Promoting travel, collaborative research and pilot projects, with an aim toward strengthening the School’s global partnerships with public and private institutions.
  • Increasing outreach through public lectures, workshops and partnerships with schools, community groups and arts organizations.

“I am delighted to be able to contribute to the excellence of architecture education at McGill,” said Fu.

Peter Guo-hua Fu, Principal Suzanne Fortier and Marc Miller, MP for Ville-Marie— Le Sud-Ouest — Île-des-Sœurs, at today’s announcement. / Photo: Paul Fournier

“Thank you to Peter Fu for this extraordinary gift,” said McGill’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Suzanne Fortier. “His vision and generosity will support the full range of architecture education at McGill, creating new learning and researching opportunities that will position the school and its students for a vibrant future.”

Fu’s gift reflects the gratitude he feels for his own education at McGill, and early career in Canada, a time he characterizes as “a truly transformative part of my life.” After earning his Master’s degree at Tongji University, he came to the McGill School of Architecture in 1990, aided by a Clifford C. F. Wong Fellowship, awarded to outstanding graduate students from China.

After completing his McGill diploma in 1991, he worked for nine years in Toronto, first at Zeidler Partnership Architects, then B+H Architects.

Fu returned to China and subsequently went on to establish his own firm, K.F. Stone Design International Inc. Canada. In addition to major residential and commercial projects, K.F. Stone is responsible for innovative ideas such as a multi-stage outdoor theatre built from discarded shipping containers.

“In this, the 150th anniversary year of Canada, I am proud to express my deep appreciation and gratitude through this gift, which will provide more students in Canada and China with the opportunity to acquire an exceptional education in architecture and engage in new learning opportunities,” he said.

“This gift comes at an opportune time in the history of our School and we are extremely fortunate to benefit from the support of Peter Fu,” said Martin Bressani, Director of McGill’s School of Architecture. “Thanks to his vision and commitment, McGill’s School of Architecture will continue to offer its students excellent teaching programs, as well as exciting internships and practical learning opportunities. His generosity will help us attract students to Montreal from across Canada, China and around the world, and offer them an unparalleled education.”

Although based in China, Fu retains strong ties with McGill, welcoming architecture students to intern at his company and serving as an adjunct professor at the School. Last October, he visited campus to participate in the 2016-17 edition of the School of Architecture’s annual Lecture Series, in which distinguished architects from around the world discuss their projects and careers.

“Canada welcomed him as a student, and he in turn is committed to strengthening the links between the Canadian and Chinese academic communities,” said Principal Fortier, “and to transforming the McGill learning experience.”

Peter Guo-hua Fu and some of the architecture students who will benefit from his generosity. / Photo: Paul Fournier

Oct. 4: Centraide campaign kicks off

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 12:22

Please save Wednesday, Oct. 4, for this year’s Centraide March of the Umbrellas.  Centraide details can be found online. and the event’s schedule is as follows:

  • 11:30 a.m.: Participants gather on McGill College between Sainte-Catherine and Sherbrooke.
  • 12 noon: March starts toward the Quartier des spectacles.
  • 12:45 p.m.: Gathering at the Place des Festivals where personalities from Cogeco Media will host the closing event. Food trucks will also be on site to provide all kinds of tasty fare.

The McGill Centraide Crew will meet on the stairs in front of the Arts Building at 11:30 and walk down to McGill College at 11:45. If you don’t have an umbrella, we will have some available as loaners. Just don’t forget to bring them back!

Please share this information with your friends and colleagues since the bigger the crowd, the more fun we have.

Is Artificial Intelligence coming for your job?

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 12:08

The introduction of new technologies has disrupted and transformed job markets for centuries, most notably during the industrial revolution. Today artificial intelligence, machine learning, and autonomous technology are changing most workplaces and shifting the ground beneath jobs that were once considered stable, with repercussions across all economic sectors. To provide insight into the world of deep learning, the Desautels Faculty of Management is delighted to welcome Yann LeCun, Director of AI at Facebook and Silver Professor and Founding Director of the Center for Data Science at NYU, for an Integrated Management Symposium. Professor LeCun will reflect with Prof. Matissa Hollister from the Organizational Behaviour Area at Desautels on the future of work and careers in the face of advancing technological capabilities.

Wednesday, Oct. 11; Centre Mont-Royal, Symposia Theatre (2200 Rue Mansfield). The event is free and open to the public, however seating is limited and registration is required.

World’s largest Fair Trade Bake Sale

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 11:56

Sweet deal: Satisfy your sweet tooth while supporting fair trade farmers. McGill is joining forces with other Canadian campuses on Sept. 28, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to help demand a fair deal for disadvantaged farming communities by holding a Fair Trade Bake Sale. Proceeds will support flood relief projects at the Norandino coffee co-operative in Northern Peru, as well as Fairtrade education and outreach campaigns on Canadian university campuses. Visit the events page for more information.

But where can I park my bike?

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 11:51

Recent and current construction projects have led to a reconfiguration of the bicycle rack locations on the downtown campus. To find the most convenient location for you, please visit the updated map.

You should not lock your bike around a tree or outdoor furniture as it can damage them, or around construction fences, as these often need to be moved. Also make sure to never block access ramps for the mobility impaired or emergency exits. Security Services may remove bicycles parked in those locations. For increased protection against theft, it is recommended that you use U-shaped locks.


Fighting for First Nations children

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 11:19

A graduate of McGill, Cindy Blackstock is Executive Director and co-founder of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada. / Photo: Doug Sweet

By McGill Reporter Staff

Cindy Blackstock is a member of the Gitksan First Nation who has made her life’s work fighting for fair treatment of the 163,000 First Nations children. A professor at the School of Social Work, Blackstock is Executive Director and co-founder of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.

Blackstock believes culturally based equity means having the supports and services First Nations children need to live freely as they are, with all their rights recognized. All children in care experience the trauma of separation from their families, she says, but for First Nations children the context exacerbates the anguish. “In the case of First Nations, Metis and Inuit children this separation happens in the context of the multi-generational trauma arising from residential schools, the 60’s scoop, and the contemporary federal underfunding of child welfare services,” says Blackstock. “All of these factors mean First Nations children are more likely to go into care.  The result is a perpetuation of colonial trauma which includes loss of culture and language.

“Equity and child welfare and Jordan’s Principle are among the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions’ top Calls to Action,” she says.

[Editor’s note: Jordan’s Principle is named for Jordan River Anderson, a five-year-old Cree child who spent several years, and eventually died, in hospital while the Manitoba and federal governments were fighting over who should pay for his at-home care. The Canadian Human Rights tribunal ruling orders implementation of Jordan’s Principle, meaning that authorities must care for the child first and fight over who should pay later.]

“Through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, survivors of residential schools have asked that we learn from the past in ways that ensures this generation of First Nations, Metis and Inuit children do not have to recover from their childhoods,” says Blackstock.

On Sept. 27, the Institute for Health and Social Policy will host a lecture by Cindy Blackstock titled Culturally based equity for children: A cornerstone for reconciliation. The event takes place from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in the Charles Meredith House (1130 Pine Avenue West). The event is free and open to the public. RSVP via email.


Alumna and breast-cancer survivor Monica Ruffo takes aim at the supplements market

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 10:31

“My BCom [at the Desautels Faculty of Management] gave me all the foundational elements that I required for my career,” says Monica Ruffo.

By Jesse Corbeil

Monica Ruffo (BCom’86) doesn’t like the state of health supplements. While she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer, she began to dive deeper into her longstanding interest in health and wellness. “While looking into supplements, I realized I couldn’t actually understand what was written on the labels,” Ruffo says. Further research revealed a lack of legal framework surrounding the use of the word “natural” in Canada and the U.S., and, in fact, most supplements labelled so are hardly natural at all. Even worse, the companies aren’t obligated to say where their ingredients are sourced.

Ruffo knew something had to be done – so she went back to school, earning a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from Cornell University. Recently, she launched,  an online organic apothecary that produces small-batch supplements from organic whole foods without fillers, synthetics or soy. The products went on sale to customers in the U.S. and Canada simultaneously, and though she says that those two markets will be good to go in the short-term, Ruffo has her sights set on the UK and EU as well, because those markets are “interested in everything certified organic.”

Because of the novel nature of her supplements, Ruffo, who is careful to note that she isn’t a naturopath, had a hard time finding a producer at first. Of the 37 facilities she contacted, she says that 35 of them “said that making supplements without synthetics or fillers could not be done – or you’ll never make any money.” Finally, she found a Toronto-based production facility and started the hard work of sourcing certified organic ingredients.

But the sustainability aspect is not just limited to the supplements themselves. Ruffo points out that the packaging and bottles are also sourced with sustainability in mind. That means recycled paper labels, water-based ink and even more hurdles.

When asked about how her earlier career prepared her to found Well Told Health, Ruffo credits her marketing background with giving her the know-how for not only making sure that her product was solid, but for also creating “a strong, differentiated brand in a very  cluttered industry. In a way,” she adds, “everything I had done up until then prepared me to create Well Told Health.”

She also credits a lifelong passion for health and wellness, and her breast-cancer diagnosis, with giving her the impetus to explore the marketspace, not to mention her previous experience working for the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cancer Society. On a more formative level, Ruffo points to her Desautels experience as a major step up, saying that “My BCom gave me all the foundational elements that I required for my career.” She also lauds the networking opportunity it afforded her: “While you’re at McGill, you just think they’re friends and don’t realize until later how important those networks can be, especially when starting a business.”


Cundill History Prize longlist spans the globe

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 08:39

Historians from around the world in the running for richest non-fiction prize for a single work in English

By Cynthia Lee, Media Relations Office

The Cundill History Prize has released a longlist of books – on topics ranging from Vietnam to the Islamic world and from Russia to North America – that are in contention for the international prize that rewards the best history writing in English.

The richest non-fiction prize in the world for a single work in English, the Cundill Prize is worth US$75,000 to the winner. The two runners up each receive a Recognition of Excellence Award worth US$10,000.

The eminent jury of five, under the chair of Margaret MacMillan, has chosen ten historians from five countries to be in the running for the prize in its 10th anniversary year.

“Our longlist reflects the exciting and varied state of history today. The books on it cover subjects from Vietnam to Native American history and range in time from prehistory to the present,” said MacMillan. “Their outstanding men and women authors come from around the world. It certainly wasn’t easy for our jury to whittle down over 300 entries into 10 but I am happy that we have come up with such a strong and interesting selection.”

The Cundill History Prize longlist includes:

Margaret MacMillan is joined by the British-American historian and author Amanda Foreman, the award-winning Oxford Professor Roy Foster, the decorated Canadian journalist and author Jeffrey Simpson, and the Oxford Professor of Modern China Rana Mitter to judge the prize.

Seven publishers from three territories are represented on the longlist, including two imprints of Penguin Random House UK and one of Penguin Random House US. Publisher of the 2016 Cundill Prize winner (The Work of the Dead by Thomas W. Lacquer), Princeton University Press, return with Walter Scheidel’s The Great Leveler. With six titles, the U.S. is most strongly represented on the list. Four titles originate from the UK, one from Canada.

The three finalists will be announced by Margaret MacMillan at a press conference at Canada House in London on October 25/26. All three authors will attend the Cundill History Prize Gala in Montreal on Nov. 16, where the winner will be announced.

SKILLS21: Transferrable skills with real-world applications

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 16:24

By Neale McDevitt

Traditionally, universities are institutions that disseminate knowledge, very specific knowledge learned primarily in classrooms, labs, and libraries. Some critics say that there is a gap between academics and experiential knowledge, that a university graduate, as accomplished as they may be, may have difficulty transferring their academics into ‘real-world’ applications.

With this in mind, Teaching and Learning Services (TLS), along with a host of McGill partners, launched SKILLSETS in 2009. A suite of professional development workshops designed to complement the academic experience of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, the program arms participants with a wide range of practical skills.

Earlier this month, in response to the demands of students and employers, the University launched a similar program for undergraduate students.

SKILLS21 provides students with some 40 skills development workshops, in five streams, offered by many partnering units at the University.

“The SKILLSETS program [for graduate students] has enjoyed great success. But it was important that undergraduates also had the chance to develop skills that will complement their academics,” says David Syncox, Skills Development Manager, Teaching and Learning Services. “The origin of the SKILLS21 project is found in the Principal’s Priorities, specifically the McGill Commitment, which emphasizes a commitment to experiential learning. How do we help students acquire skills, have experiential learning opportunities, and get the jobs they want?”

The SKILLS21 program features five streams – Citizenship, Collaboration, Discovery, Leadership, and Wellbeing. To complete a stream, participants must finish five related workshops. As they work through a stream, participants will acquire specific skills related to that area.

“For example, the Citizenship stream will focus on topics like community contributions, information literacy, and sustainability,” says Syncox. “By the time a student is finished, they will have a sense of what it is to be a citizen, both globally and locally.”

With more than 1,000 workshops offered to undergraduates across McGill by student associations, Faculty departments and various service units, the choice can be somewhat bewildering. SKILLS21 has distilled that huge pool down to 40 interrelated workshops that build upon each other.

That daunting distillation task went to the SKILLS21 Program Development Committee. “The Committee was comprised of student, staff, and faculty representatives,” says Falisha Karpati, Project Administrator (SKILLS21). “They collaboratively chose the workshops and the streams. The workshops themselves were chosen if they provided learning outcomes that matched those of a particular stream and the goals of the program.”

Though not the first university to offer a skills development program to undergraduate students, McGill is one of the vanguards. “We looked at some 35 benchmarked institutions and while the University of Pittsburgh was the leader by far, there are very few other universities in North America that offer this,” says Syncox.

Not even a month after its launch, SKILLS21 is already proving popular. “As of last week, we had over 300 registered participants, and registration is open until Sept. 30,” says Karpati. “We don’t turn anyone away. You just have to fill out a short form online and you are in.”

“One of the things that appealed to me about this program was that all of the services and workshops are streamlined – you find them in one place,” says Corrina Vali, a senior in Economics and Political Science. “I like the structure of the program because when you pick a stream you get a cohesive skill set in that particular discipline or that particular area.”

Vali says another appealing aspect of SKILLS21 is that each completed workshop is recorded on their Co-Curricular Record (CCR), a document that recognizes a student’s involvement in learning opportunities outside the classroom.

“Having this appear on my CCR really appeals to me because when you engage in activities with student clubs, a lot of them go unrecorded or unvalued in terms of your contributions and the time you put in,” she says. “But these workshops will go straight to the McGill CCR which I can then show prospective graduate schools or future employers.”

“This concern about life-after-school is increasing among undergraduate students,” says Martine Gauthier, Executive Director, Services for Students. “One of the trends we are seeing in post-secondary education is that students have become, and are increasingly becoming, very career-minded. They come into a university and have a precise destination in mind. And what they want is something that will help them be more marketable once they get their degree,” she says.

“SKILLS21 is a very purposeful way – and I think the word purposeful is the right word for this – of connecting the skills that they learn in class with skills that are needed in the job market.”

But not everything offered by SKILLS21 is directly related to work. In the Wellbeing stream, for example, participants will be able to explore everything from establishing a healthy lifestyle and implementing strategies to build and maintain self-esteem, to setting short- and long-term personal goals, and distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy relationships.

“For students, universities are no longer viewed as just being content experts,” says Gauthier. “This university experience is also about self-actualization. We’re providing opportunities for our students to self-actualize.”

“This will definitely enhance my university experience,” says Vali. “I know I want to go to grad school but I want to experience working first. And a lot of graduate schools are now asking for that experience, so I want to be as prepared as possible. Even if the skills I learn just help me become more equipped for life after school – in terms of financial literacy, for example – that would be really helpful. So it’s not just for employers, it’s also for the student getting ready to step out of school and into the world.”

SKILLS21 is open to all McGill undergraduate students. Registration ends on Sept. 30. Get more information about the program and register online.

McGill Sustainability Systems Initiative ready for launch

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 16:13

By McGill Reporter Staff

Sustainability has become the watchword of the times we live in. Loosely defined it means meeting todays’ needs while conserving resources for future generations.

The new McGill Sustainability Systems Initiative (MSSI) will bring researchers from the sciences and humanities together to move society towards that model of existence. It will provide support and seed funding for transdisciplinary teams.

MSSI’s work will be centred on three thematic areas in which McGill excels: Adapting Urban Environments for the Future; Creating Sustainable Materials for the Future; and Sustaining Landscapes for the Future.

MSSI will engage with stakeholders, including industry, government, non-governmental organizations and civil society.

The inauguration of MSSI will take place on Sept. 26, 2 – 5 p.m., in the SSMU (McGill Student Union) Ballroom (3600 McTavish), and will be live-streamed to the Mac campus (location tbd).

  •  2 – 3 p.m.: Presentations on the three Research Themes: Adapting Urban Environments for the Future; Creating Sustainable Materials for the Future; and Sustaining Landscapes for the Future
  •  3:00 – 3:40 p.m.: Presentation from our first MSSI Invited Speaker, Dr Amy Luers, who has just arrived in Montreal to take up the post of Executive Director of Future Earth.

Future Earth is a major international research platform with hubs in Montreal, Paris, Stockholm, Boulder, and Tokyo. Future Earth was announced in June 2012 at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).


Desautels Faculty of Management signs onto UN’s PRME initiative

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 15:06

By McGill Reporter Staff

The Desautels Faculty of Management has become a member of the United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) initiative.  The faculty joins leading business and management schools from across the globe in working towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

The Principles for Responsible Management Education is the largest organized relationship between the United Nations and business schools, and is housed in the UN Global Compact Office.  The mission of PRME is to transform management education, research and thought leadership globally by providing the Principles for Responsible Management Education framework, developing learning communities and promoting awareness about the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

Desautels is committed to empowering students and university stakeholders to make leading contributions within the school, as well as in the wider community and business world, by considering the effects of business on people, society, culture and the environment. Over 40 Desautels faculty members conduct research in areas related to sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social innovation and social entrepreneurship. By signing on, Desautels takes on a further commitment to the advancement of sustainability, responsibility and ethics in its teaching, research and thought leadership.

“As a leading responsible-management research institution, we are a great fit for the PRME and are pleased to have joined this global community. Our outreach activities open up a world of opportunities for management students to become the responsible leaders we need for a sustainable future,” says Isabelle Bajeux, Dean of the Desautels Faculty of Management. “We are proud of our integrated-teaching culture, as well as our work in the business, environmental and social areas.”

In becoming a PRME signatory, Desautels aims to further:

  • Develop enhanced programming and tools to help students cultivate a personal sense of purpose and the ability to think critically about complex management challenges and design solutions;
  • Provide additional support and resources to faculty who are interested in integrating concepts of responsible management and sustainability within their course offerings;
  • Continue scaling the Managing for Sustainability programs at the undergraduate level while supporting students who wish to explore sustainability careers;
  • Enhance mechanisms for engaging students at all levels in research and knowledge development with partner organizations and business;
  • Improve communication and public awareness of Desautels’ contributions to responsible management;
  • Further engage the Faculty’s vast network of alumni to increase awareness of sustainability initiatives at Desautels, and encourage them to be involved.

Find out more about PRME.

Public wants more funding for university research

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 11:44

The following article has been reprinted from Universities Canada

The overwhelming majority of Canadians believe in the importance of university research for Canada’s future as an innovation leader.

As Parliamentarians return to Ottawa, recent findings from an Abacus Data survey show that their constituents believe university research is vital for Canada to become a global leader in innovation, sustain local economies, and tackle the most pressing challenges of our time – issues like climate change, income inequality, infectious disease and human migration.

Survey respondents also believe that university research should be funded at globally competitive levels and that failing to invest in higher education would be short-sighted. The polling showed that Canadians are confident in the talents of tomorrow’s leading researchers, and recognize the need to support their work and ensure they can collaborate with international peers.

These findings come at a crucial time. Canada’s Fundamental Science Review Panel released its report in April 2017, recommending major reinvestments in a stronger research and innovation ecosystem for Canada. Canada’s research community has been vocal in their support for these recommendations.

“Canadian researchers have the bold ideas that lead to big breakthroughs. And Canada’s curious minds need support in order to produce the results that will ensure a bright future for our country,” says Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada. “These results show that Canadians are optimistic about Canada’s global leadership potential, and want to see support for the breakthroughs and innovation generated by university research.”

Survey findings include:

  • 92 per cent of Canadians support increasing university research funding to comparable levels with our global competitors.
  • 94 per cent support investing in international university research collaboration to tackle global challenges.
  • 94 per cent support attracting the world’s best researchers to Canadian universities to expose our students to world leading research.
  • 92 per cent believe Canada must support young, talented and diverse researchers in order to retain top Canadian talent.

The survey of 1500 Canadians age 18 and over was conducted between July 27 and August 1, 2017 for Universities Canada by Abacus Data. Read the full report.

Universities Canada is a membership organization providing university presidents with a unified voice to advance higher education, research and innovation for the benefit of all Canadians.

Annual Pow Wow pulls people out of their seats and onto the dance floor

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 14:02

Dozens of students from Miss Edgar’s and Miss Cramp’s School joined in the Circle Dance during the Pow Wow on Sept. 15. / Photo: Neale McDevitt

By McGill Reporter Staff

At one point early in McGill’s 16th annual Pow Wow on Sept. 15, the MC invited a group of young students from Miss Edgar’s and Miss Cramp’s School to join in a dance with Indigenous performers. The girls looked at each other and giggled nervously, not moving. Suddenly, one intrepid girl, jumped up and took her place in the circle. Instantly, dozens of students, clad in the green plaid tunic of their school, flooded the floor with smiles on their faces in what proved to be one of the highlights of the event. It also set the tone for a day marked by stirring performances and enthusiastic audience participation.

Photos: Neale McDevitt

Reminder: McGill’s Indigenous Awareness Week is taking place from Sept. 18 to 22. The five-day event is designed to increase awareness about Indigenous peoples in Canada. The week honours the many Indigenous cultures across the country including First Nations, Métis and Inuit. The week also offers an opportunity to collaborate with community partners and draws active participation from McGill students, faculty and staff. Get more information.

























Claudia Mitchell named Trudeau Fellow

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 09:10

Claudia Mitchell, James McGill Professor in the Department of Integrated Studies in the Faculty of Education, has earned a prestigious Trudeau Fellowship. / Photo: Owen Egan

By Meaghan Thurston

Professor Claudia Mitchell was in an Ethiopian airport on her way to Russia when she received an email from the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation asking her to give them a call. With no phone in sight, Mitchell waited anxiously until landing some hours later to learn that she had garnered a prestigious Trudeau Fellowship. “They said, ‘you clearly walk the talk because you are traveling from one girl-led project to another,’” said Mitchell.

The Foundation announced the 2017 fellowships today in Montreal. Each year, The Foundation names up to five social sciences research Fellows who are actively working on one of four themes: Human Rights and Dignity, Responsible Citizenship, Canada in the World, and People and their Natural Environment. In addition to $225,000 in research funding and allowances awarded, a Trudeau Fellowship connects researchers with a vast network of scholars, Fellows and mentors, and provides them with opportunities to contribute to public dialogue at events organized by The Foundation. This year, five Canadian researchers were named Fellows.

Driven by her passion for social justice as well as by her seemingly boundless energy, Professor Mitchell has long been a connecting force for young women and girls across borders and between cultures. The founder of the Faculty of Education’s Participatory Cultures Lab, her research includes employing visual methods — such as cellphilms (videos made with cellphones), photography and archiving — to engage young people, on a variety of subjects, including HIV/AIDS prevention and education on sexual violence. The Participatory Cultures Lab has included major research sites in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Russia, and all across Canada.

“McGill is extremely proud of Professor Claudia Mitchell and grateful to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation for its ongoing support of research excellence,” said Professor Martha Crago, Vice-Principal, Research and Innovation. “Professor Mitchell has already made a significant impact on the lives of young women and educators around the world. It is a testament to the vision of the Foundation that she has been acknowledged with this high honour.”

Professor Mitchell’s Trudeau Foundation-supported project will continue to listen to youth voices, using visual tools to help them to communicate strategies to prevent sexual violence and promote well-being. The long-term goal, says Mitchell, is to encourage community-wide and policy change. Activities associated with the Fellowship will include an international conference on girl-led initiatives, a series of media-making workshops in nine countries and a travelling digital exhibition of girl-produced digital productions.

Asked to recount a story of the impact her work has had to date, she talks about one of the first groups of young, rural women that she worked with in South Africa as part of a partnership grant, Networks for Change and Well-being. Now four years later, these graduates of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University have in many cases returned to their communities to organize girls clubs. Together, they published a book called 14 Times a Woman, Indigenous Stories from the Heart, an autobiographical text now used in schools to educate about sexual violence.

The Fellowship is one among many important postings and prestigious honours to Professor Mitchell’s name: she has worked with the Canadian International Development Agency (now Global Affairs Canada), UNICEF, UNESCO, and the Gorbachev Foundation. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada’s Academy of Social Sciences. In 2016, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council recognized the impact of her quarter-century of SSHRC-funded research and other achievements with the SSHRC Gold Medal, the agency’s highest honour.

In many respects however, her research methods and outputs are only just gaining traction in the policy-making arena. Professor Mitchell believes that the Trudeau Fellowship will open new doors, disseminating further the youth-generated messages against violence. “There are so many Trudeau scholars interested in sexual violence and issues of safety and security. When our own network is mapped onto those of these great minds and scholars, I cannot even dream what will be possible.”

She is reflective that the while funding is critical to advancing her work, the recognition afforded to her by the Trudeau Fellowship is perhaps of even greater value. “Research in Education is not often perceived as groundbreaking,” she said. “Yet there is a growing trend to see participatory research as worthy of funding. I believe this will lead to change and impact.”

Read the Trudeau Foundation announcement


Michel L. Tremblay awarded RSC’s McLaughlin Medal

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 08:02

Michel Tremblay

Dr. Mélanie Guigueno wins RSC Alice Wilson Award

By Amanda Testani

Earlier today, the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) announced that Professor Michel L. Tremblay (Department of Biochemistry and Goodman Cancer Research Centre) has been awarded the McLaughlin Medal for important research of sustained excellence in medical science. Recognized for his leading-edge work on the role and function of tyrosine phosphatases in the development of cancer, Professor Tremblay is among the twelve Canadian researchers honoured with an RSC medal or award this year.

Also among the RSC 2017 award winners is Dr. Mélanie Guigueno, a researcher for McGill’s Department of Natural Resource Sciences. Dr. Guigueno has been awarded the 2017 Alice Wilson Award (NSERC nomination) for her outstanding academic qualifications in evolutionary biology, neuroscience and ecology.

The RSC first established the prestigious McLaughlin Medal in 1978 with an endowment from the R. Samuel McLaughlin Foundation. Awarded annually and bestowed upon candidates with distinguished achievements in any branch of medical sciences in Canada, Professor Tremblay is the third McGill researcher to win the medal since 2013, joining previous medal winners Professor Philippe Gros and Professor Nahum Sonenberg.

Dr. Mélanie Guigueno

The RSC bestows the Alice Wilson Award annually upon three women of exceptional academic accomplishments in the Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences or Science who are entering a career in scholarship or research at the postdoctoral level. Recipients are selected from the year’s female winners of postdoctoral fellowships from three granting councils – CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC.

“Professor Michel L. Tremblay’s research contributions have changed the way the world understands a broad spectrum of diseases and conditions affecting Canadians and people worldwide,” said Professor Martha Crago, Vice-Principal (Research and Innovation). “I want to express my sincere congratulations to Professor Tremblay on this achievement and thank the Royal Society of Canada for awarding him the prestigious McLaughlin Medal. McGill is equally proud of Dr. Melanie Guigueno, a rising research star and winner of the Alice Wilson Award. We can expect important discoveries to continue to emerge from Dr. Guigueno’s studies in years to come.”

Professor Tremblay investigates the role of protein tyrosine phosphatases (PTPases) in the development of cancer. PTPases are a group of enzymes that regulate various signaling pathways in cells, a process that plays an essential role in many biological and pathological processes. PTPases have been implicated in a variety of cellular processes such as cell growth and differentiation. As well as diverse cancers, his research has also successfully shown that PTPases play key roles in other health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, spinal cord injury and infectious diseases. His research will lead to the development of new treatments for a broad range of human diseases.

Professor Tremblay was the first director of the Rosalind and Morris Goodman Cancer Research Centre where his laboratory is located. He was recruited to McGill in March 1992 and trained and mentored over 65 researchers, students, postdoctoral fellows and supporting staff in the biology and function of the protein tyrosine phosphatases.

Read the Royal Society of Canada announcement

Luminaries fete Des Morton

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 11:36

Desmond Morton, Hiram Mills Emeritus Professor and Founding Director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada during the Sept. 14 event celebrating his 80th birthday. / Photo: Owen Egan – Joni Dufour.

By McGill Reporter Staff

It was standing room only at a speech given by Desmond Morton, Professor emeritus, and the first head of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (MISC) at a celebration of his 80th birthday at the Faculty Club.

The subject of Morton’s presentation was “French Canada’s Impact in WW1” and made the case that French Canadian soldiers and officers made a much bigger impact on the British victory in WW1 than is widely known.

The list of luminaries who took part in the celebration was long. Principal Suzanne Fortier; past Principal Bernard Shapiro; Provost Christopher Manfredi; Dean of Arts Antonia Maioni; founder of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada Charles Bronfman; Professor emeritus Charles Taylor; Michael Goldbloom, Principal of Bishop’s University, and his mother, community activist Sheila Goldbloom; Jeff Chambers,  son of former Principal Gretta Chambers; Terry Mosher (aka Aislin); Professors Irving Abella and Jack Granatstein of York University; Ed Broadbent, former head of the NDP; along with the interim head of MISC Elsbeth Heaman; and former heads of MISC Will Straw and Andrew Potter; documentary film makers Brian McKenna and Rick Blackburn; and many other members of the McGill-, Quebec-, and Canada-wide community attended.

Ed Broadbent, former leader of the NDP; Gael Eakin (centre) and Lorna St. Louis, were on hand for the Sept. 14 event. /Photo: Owen Egan – Joni Dufour.


Elsbeth Heaman, interim head of MISC, spoke at the event. “We’ve been lucky to have [Des Morton] as a historian of Canada, and luckier still to have him at McGill, where he set an aspirational standard for Canadian Studies and public outreach,” she recently told the Reporter. /Photo: Owen Egan – Joni Dufour.


Des Morton (right) and political cartoonist Terry Mosher (aka Aislin) share stories. /Photo: Owen Egan – Joni Dufour.


Charles Bronfman, businessman and philanthropist, at Thursday’s celebration. /Photo: Owen Egan – Joni Dufour.


Des Morton (left) and York University professor Irving Abella. / Photo: Owen Egan – Joni Dufour.