Three McGill grads – Julie Payette, BEng'86, Robert Thirsk, MDCM'82, and Dave Williams, BSc'76, MSc'83, MDCM'83, DSc'07 – have explored the final frontier. Actually, it's four, if you count William Shatner, BCom’52.
More on Robert Thirsk
For decades, McGill researcher Moshe Szyf had been working on a theory: that environmental factors can change the way our genes behave. In 2003, he and fellow researcher Michael Meaney staged a landmark experiment and gathered some of the first definitive proof that Szyf was right — that influences like diet, or the way others treat us, can have huge effects on the behaviour of our genes. Those decades of work had culminated in a quantum leap for the fledgling field of epigenetics, freeing us from the shackles of genetic predetermination.
2007: Making our campus edible
Anyone who was familiar with the concrete plaza outside of McGill's Burnside Hall before 2007 can attest to its former bleakness. It was the epitome of underutilized urban space—hot, ugly, and neglected. Enter the Edible Campus, a joint project of the McGill School of Architecture’s Minimum Cost Housing Group and two Montreal community organizations – Santropol Roulant and Alternatives – that focus on social justice and food security. These groups worked alongside myriad volunteers, to transform this forgotten corner into a productive and inviting urban garden that now supplies fresh produce to some of Montreal’s neediest residents.
2008: A Stanley Cup and Olympic gold
Mike Babcock, BEd'86, swears that when he coached the NHL's Detroit Red Wings to a Stanley Cup and won Olympic gold at the helm of Canada's men's hockey team, his lucky McGill tie played a big role in his success. To counteract Babcock's unfair neckwear advantage, Guy Boucher, BA’95, BSc(AgrEng)’96, head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, plans to sport his own McGill tie next time his team faces Detroit.
More on Mike Babcock...
More McGillians on ice...
Teen prodigy Jack Szostak, BSc'72, entered McGill at the tender age of 15, and went on to become one of six McGill alumni to earn a Nobel Prize. Szostak's work revealed that organisms rely on a particular enzyme to protect their genes during cell division – an enzyme later linked to cancer and various aging-related illnesses.
2009: Big dollars for big (green) ideas
In the fall of 2009, McGill students voted in a landslide to work with the University in the creation of the Sustainability Projects Fund. The Fund provides $840,000 each year to student initiatives aimed at lightening McGill's environmental footprint. Since then, the project has funded numerous urban gardening initiatives, a bicycle collective, green processing systems for food waste and much more.
More on the SPF...
List of current projects...
There aren't many hockey teams that can pull off 105 wins in a row. But in fall 2011, McGill's Martlets rode this improbable streak into a new season, after racking up an unbelievable 171-4-1 record against Canadian university opponents over the last five years.
Follow the Martlets
2011: Rocking the Grammies
Montreal's Arcade Fire and its lead singer Win Butler, BA'04, earned the 2011 Grammy for Album of the Year for "The Suburbs." Other Grammy nominees that year included Music professor Matt Haimovitz, Darcy Argue (BMus'97) and Mike Fahie (BMus'98).
More on Matt Haimovitz
2011: The McGill Five take Ottawa by storm
A month before Canada's May 2011 election, McGill students Charmaine Borg, Matthew Dubé, Laurin Liu, Mylène Freeman and Jamie Nicholls were fresh-faced political unknowns, recruited by New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jack Layton, BA'71, to run against incumbent MPs. On election night though, the McGill Five won their seats in Parliament, astounding pundits and helping make Layton the NDP's first-ever Leader of the Opposition.
2011: Saving a life an ocean away
Fresh off a study on immunodeficiency and protein mutations in mice, researcher Phillippe Gros received a phone call from more than 5,000km away that got his attention. On the line was a doctor in Newcastle, U.K., whose three-month-old immunodeficient patient had symptoms that mimicked those in Dr. Gros’s mice. The girl’s symptoms were so similar to those Gros had found in mice that he set his team to work to understand what was making her sick. As it turned out, a single mutated protein was at the root of her illness, and a stem cell transplant was all it took to cure a little girl who seemed destined not to reach her first birthday. Oh, and Gros also discovered the gene that causes spina bifida.
More on the life-saving discovery...
More on finding the spina bifida gene...
2012: Diagnosing Alzheimer’s may be a needle prick away
Previously, the only way to successfully diagnose Alzheimer’s disease was a post-mortem examination of a patient’s brain tissue. Now, thanks to a new study by Vassilios Papadopoulos and his team at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC), it may be possible to diagnose the disease at its earliest stages using a simple blood test.
2012: Setting sights on the elusive Higgs boson
Early on July 4, officials at the European Organization for Nuclear Research announced that they may have discovered signs of a new particle thought to be the long-sought Higgs boson—also known as the God particle—whose discovery would support the theory of how elementary particles acquire mass.
Professors Brigitte Vachon, François Corriveau, Andreas Warburton and Steven Robertson were part of the McGill research group that contributed directly to the development and operation of the ATLAS detector trigger system, which selected the small fraction of collision data to be further analyzed.
2013: A neighbourhood built on innovation
The neighbourhoods south-west of downtown Montreal are artistically rich, historically significant, and a stone’s throw from business and education hubs.
The Quartier de l’innovation (QI) is a joint partnership between McGill and École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS) that aims to transform the area into an innovative ecosystem, where organizations, researchers, citizens, companies and students will work together to enhance Montreal’s potential for creativity and innovation.
2013: An improved cystic fibrosis treatment
Vertex VX-809 is a common, but not very efficient, treatment for cystic fibrosis. By combining VX-809 with chemical compounds that target two other structural defects in the cystic fibrosis protein, Gergely Lukacs was able to raise the drug efficiency from 15 percent to 60-80 percent in cell culture models. The discovery offers exciting new avenues for improving treatment for the most common fatal genetic disease affecting Canadian children and young adults.
2014: Ambitious novel lands a Giller
The Scotiabank Giller Prize, founded in 1994 by alumnus Jack Rabinovitch, BA’52, DLitt’05, is one of the most prestigious literary awards for Canadian fiction. With the likes of Margaret Atwood and Mordecai Richler as past winners, it is no small feat to be recognized as a contender. In 2014, alumni from McGill’s English Department comprised half of the finalists, with Sean Michaels, BA’04, winning the $100,000 prize for his debut novel, Us Conductors.
2014: Walking fish help fill evolutionary gaps
Polypterus is an African fish that can breathe air and 'walk' on land. A team of McGill researchers raised these fish in a terrestrial environment for nearly a year, revealing connections between the ‘dry land’ fish and their four-legged vertebral ancestors.