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Chicken à la King?

A 68-million-year-old T-Rex thigh bone find ties the King of Dinosaurs to modern-day species, with its soft tissue most closely matching that of chickens. "I'd call it a milestone," says paleontologist Hans Larsson of McGill. "Dinosaurs will enter the field of molecular biology and really slingshot paleontology into the modern world."

Published: 13 Apr 2007

Genetic mutation boosts memory

Canadian researchers have discovered a gene mutation that actually improves long-term memory and could eventually lead to a memory-enhancing pill. Working with mice, lead researcher Mauro Costa-Mattioli, a postgraduate fellow at McGill, and colleagues found that rodents that had a defective version of a gene that produces a memory-blocking protein could learn and remember tasks faster than normal mice.

Published: 5 Apr 2007

Researchers identify gene for spina bifida

Researchers at McGill have identified a gene that causes the developmental disorder spina bifida, the second most prevalent birth defect after cardiac abnormalities. The discovery is expected to aid in the diagnosis of the condition, which in its most severe form can lead to crippling disabilities. "We've known for years that there's a genetic component, and now we've discovered one of the culprits," said Philippe Gros, the biochemistry professor who led the team in co-operation with researchers at the Instituto Giannina Gaslini in Genoa, Italy.

Published: 5 Apr 2007

Adapting to climate change

"Canada is finally recognizing that despite even the most aggressive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, some climate change will continue to occur and we need to plan to adapt." James Ford, post-doctoral fellow in the geography department at McGill, is co-author in this letter to the Toronto Star on how Canada must prepare now for extreme temperatures in summer, increased storm activity, flooding and ice storms.

Published: 4 Apr 2007

Superconductors inspire quantum test for dark energy

Below a certain frequency threshold, the quantum fluctuations of empty space may contribute to dark energy -- much the way some materials become superconductors below a critical temperature. In 2004, Michael Mackey, of McGill's Centre for Nonlinear Dynamics in Physiology and Medicine (Associate member in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics and the Department of Physics), and Christian Beck of Queen Mary, University of London, claimed that the quantum fluctuations of empty space could be the source of dark energy and suggested a test for this idea. They didn't know then why it might work, but now the pair has come up with the theory behind the experiment.

Published: 3 Apr 2007

Creationism debate continues to evolve

The battle over creationism in the classroom is not unique to small-town America, prominent Canadian biologists warn. It's creeping into this country's public school science classes and it's up to parents to do something about it. Brian Alters, director of the Evolution Education Research Centre at McGill, is interviewed in the Toronto Star.

Published: 2 Apr 2007

The sciences: Greening the world

For graduate students, it's getting ever easier to be green, thanks to an interdisciplinary newcomer called sustainability science by some, and sustainable development by others. The challenge of figuring out how to keep the world in balance is now a boom area. Navin Ramankutty is an assistant professor at McGill, where he is helping launch a new undergraduate Earth System Science initiative. Is there a graduate program down the line? "We're talking, but one thing at a time." His students are interested, and so are others, around the country and the world.

Published: 30 Mar 2007

Engineers Without Borders

Engineers Without Borders promotes human development through access to technology. With a 24-hour bike-a-thon underway, McGill is to send three junior fellowship students to Ghana this summer to help with such projects as improved hygiene and better farming methods. The bike-a-thon is one of its main fundraising efforts at McGill.

Published: 30 Mar 2007

Dead pets, and really big lawsuits

The deaths of at least 14 cats and dogs from what appears to be tainted pet food have spurred more than a half-dozen class-action lawsuits. And along with money for vet bills, and the cost of the 60 million tins of recalled food, many are seeking added damages for owners' pain and suffering. Courts across North America already factor in the value of companionship in many different types of human relationships. Now the time might be ripe for similar calculations about animal friendship, says Wendy Adams, a McGill law professor. "There's a strong argument," she says. "You're not going to be laughed out of court."

Published: 29 Mar 2007

North by north housing

A design team led by affordable housing expert and McGill architecture professor Avi Friedman examines innovative ways of delivering housing to Canada's Innu people.

Published: 29 Mar 2007

Two for Killams

Two McGill researchers -- a legal expert and a civil engineering professor -- are among the five recipients of this year's $100,000 Killam prizes for outstanding career achievement in research. Roderick Macdonald is the F.R. Scott Professor of Constitutional and Public Law and A.P.S. (Patrick) Selvadurai is William Scott Professor and James McGill Professor in McGill's Department of Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics.

Published: 28 Mar 2007

His focus is on teaching

"It's about trying to help students to seek, discover, to confront the world with wide-eyed wonder." In awarding the Killam prize, Rod Macdonald was hailed by the Killam jury as one of the country's "most influential public intellectuals." Macdonald's main focus is on teaching, and during his six years as McGill's dean of law he made it a rule never to hire anyone who said they'd rather practise law than teach.

Published: 28 Mar 2007

Activist battles on in anti-puppy mill war

"Quebec has arguably the strongest animal welfare legislation in Canada, but its record of enforcement is one of the worst." Professor Wendy Adams, who teaches a course on animal law at the Faculty of Law at McGill, comments in the Gazette on allowing an alleged puppy mill to continue operating.

Published: 26 Mar 2007

Black-white U.S. life expectancy gap narrows

Researchers at McGill have found that the gap in life expectancy between white and black people in America has narrowed substantially, largely because of a decrease in deaths of young African American males from homicide and AIDS. The study, conducted by Sam Harper, a postdoctoral fellow in McGill's department of epidemiology, biostatistics and occupational health, and John Lynch, Canada research chair in population health, is published in the March 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Published: 18 Mar 2007

Wainberg adds fresh data to recent JMB study

Mark Wainberg, Bluma Brenner and colleagues at U de M presented new findings at an AIDS symposium in Montreal on Friday to add to a recently published eight-year study on transmission rates, published in April's Journal of Molecular Biology. Their study, out last month, showed that half of all HIV transmissions happen when newly infected people don't know they are carrying the virus. The new data, from 2,500 HIV patients in several Montreal clinics, dealt with transmission of drug-resistant HIV strains.

Published: 18 Mar 2007