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Updated: 43 min 38 sec ago

In defence of psychiatry

Tue, 04/19/2016 - 15:25
by Daniel McCabe, BA’89 David Goldbloom is the co-author of How Can I Help? a book that offers an inside look into the world of psychiatry.

David Goldbloom is the co-author of How Can I Help? a book that offers an inside look into the world of psychiatry.

While most fans of The New Yorker regard the magazine’s famously clever cartoons as a treat, they often irk David Goldbloom. To be precise, there’s a specific type of New Yorker cartoon that troubles him, but it’s one that turns up regularly. “You’ll have a middle-aged psychiatrist sitting in his chair — usually a balding man, often with wire-rimmed glasses. And you’ll have a patient, usually a woman, lying on a chaise longue. And one of them will say something that’s absolutely ridiculous.”

Goldbloom, MDCM’81, DipPsych’85, is one of the most prominent psychiatrists in the country. The former chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, he is a professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto and senior advisor at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. The man has a sense of humour. He prides himself on being a funny guy. Before accusing him of being thin-skinned on the subject of his profession, hear him out.

“It points to a portrayal [of the mentally ill] as buffoons, as hopeless neurotics. Why is it alright to single out the mentally ill and the professionals who treat them in a manner that simply wouldn’t be acceptable for any other type of disease? Why does that happen?”

It happens because we’re scared, says Goldbloom. It’s a way to defuse our fears. “It’s a defense against the threat that mental illness represents to our identity and personal integrity,” he says.  As he writes in his best-selling new book How Can I Help?, “If you break your leg, you’re still you. If your brain is broken, are you still you?”

Though Goldbloom understands where the jokes come from, they still bother him. He sees patients contending with devastating disorders on a daily basis. He sees the toll it takes on them and their families. They don’t deserve to be laughed at. It’s one of the reasons he wrote How Can I Help? with co-author Pier Bryden. He wanted to give readers a better sense of what he does for a living and of the people he encounters and tries to help. He wanted to quash some myths.

“One of those myths is that the mentally ill never get better,” says Goldbloom. “People with mental illnesses do get better. I see people’s lives improve each and every week. We have treatments that work.”

How Can I Help? follows Goldbloom during a typical (in most respects) week in his life. The fact that a  typical work week for Goldbloom is so multi-varied (he likes it that way) makes it an interesting read. We watch as he treats patients with a broad range of conditions and as he observes a senior resident do the same. We visit a telemedicine facility that he uses regularly to assess patients living in remote regions with little access to medical specialists. We’re a fly on the wall as Goldbloom works a shift in an acute care unit, making tough decisions about when to hospitalize patients against their will or use restraints to prevent them from harming themselves or others. Along the way, Goldbloom takes the time to explore the history of his profession and how our understanding of certain disorders evolved.

In one memorable chapter, we see Goldbloom use electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) to treat patients. Goldbloom addresses the stigma surrounding ECT head-on. He knows it’s seen as “an antiquated treatment” and that unsettling images of Frankenstein and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest spring quickly to mind. In How Can I Help? he describes how an ECT treatment is administered. It’s performed quickly and efficiently. Patients are done in a matter of minutes. Though convulsions do occur, no one writhes in agony (minor memory loss is often a side effect).

For some patients wrestling with severe depression, it’s the one thing that helps when nothing else does. “The only reason it’s still around is because no other treatment has come along that surpasses it,” says Goldbloom, who administers ECT treatments once a week.

According to How Can I Help?, psychiatry is “the most misunderstood – and mistrusted – specialty in medicine.” Some of that scorn is understandable and even deserved, acknowledges Goldbloom. The history of psychiatry includes more than a few troubling episodes — the overcrowded asylums of the late 19th century, the “savage rush toward psychosurgeries in the U.S. and Britain from the thirties to the fifties.” But he is quick to note that most other medical specialties have problematic periods in their pasts.

That doesn’t stop doctors in other specialties from cocking a wary eyebrow when the subject of psychiatry comes up.

“When I was a medical student at McGill, the reaction I got [from peers] when I announced my intention to go into psychiatry ranged from pity to ridicule,” recalls Goldbloom. “One colleague at the Royal Victoria Hospital told me that she could never imagine going into psychiatry, that it just seemed too depressing. And she was in oncology.”

Goldbloom, not surprisingly, has a very different take on his profession. How Can I Help? describes psychiatry as “medicine’s most intellectually challenging, eclectic, and diverse specialty.” Blood tests and imaging technologies aren’t as helpful in determining psychiatric conditions as they are for other illnesses or woes. Taking the time to gain a thorough understanding of patients and their lives is essential for sussing out the symptom patterns that point to particular disorders.

He sees psychiatry as something of a role model for other medical specialties.

“Patients are already complaining that doctors are looking at the screens and typing when patients talk, [instead of] looking at them. When someone says, ‘I have a really good doctor.’ what do they mean? Are they in a position to gauge someone’s technical skills, diagnostic accuracy, judicious test ordering and interpretation? No. Often they mean, ‘My doctor really takes the time to listen to me and really seems to pay attention.’”

The book has now spent nine weeks on The Globe and Mail‘s bestsellers list for non-fiction titles. It has also been optioned as a possible TV drama. As an alumnus of Montreal’s defunct Dorothy Davis and Violet Walters School of Drama (William Shatner went there too), Goldbloom playfully suggests that he could play the lead.

“They would save a fortune on prosthetic noses!”

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The myths around the mentally ill and the legal verdict of criminally not responsible

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Bird-brained, but awfully smart

Tue, 04/19/2016 - 12:18
by Megan Jones  Bernie Mireault

Illustration: Bernie Mireault

Living in the city makes you smarter – if you’re a bird that is. According to research by Jean-Nicolas Audet, a doctoral student in the Department of Biology, urban birds are bolder, healthier and more intelligent than their rural counterparts.

Audet and his colleagues, University of Sydney postdoctoral fellow Simon Ducatez and McGill biology professor Louis Lefebvre, did their research in Barbados, where they tested 53 bullfinches that had been captured on the Caribbean island. Some of the feathered creatures came from developed areas, while others were taken from regions that were nearly untouched by humans.

The researchers led the bullfinches through a series of cognitive tests. Urban birds were faster to approach a bowl of food when it was presented to them by a human who then hid (which is how boldness was measured). They also demonstrated stronger problem-solving skills—the city slickers were speedier when it came to learning how to open a drawer to access seeds, for example.

The researchers were surprised to find that on top of their smarts, urban birds had one other advantage: their immune systems were more robust.

Since birds have limited resources to fuel their bodies, the team initially believed that urban bullfinches’ cognitive abilities would use up a lot of energy, at the expense of the creatures’ immunity. But it turns out winged city-dwellers have the best of both worlds.

“In cities, being able to solve a problem can be advantageous, as it can potentially give access to new food sources,” Audet explains. “Having a better immune system can also be an asset in urbanized areas, where parasites may be more abundant.”

 

Looking for love on a laptop

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 15:48
Illustration by Ethan Rilly

Illustration by Ethan Rilly

by Mark Reynolds

According to Jui Ramaprasad, an assistant professor in the Desautels Faculty of Management, digital dating can be remarkably – and dishearteningly – similar to off-line interfacing.

“We still see these off-line social norms. Our results are derived from the idea men make the first move and that women leave this weak signal. It was more than surprising, it was disappointing – you would have hoped we have evolved beyond that.”

The “weak signal” in this case was a notification that one party had visited another’s profile: its equivalent in the offline world might be a meaningful look or flirtatious hair-toss. In a recent study, Ramaprasad’s team worked with a major online dating site to offer anonymity to 50,000 selected users, so that they could visit profiles without leaving a digital trail. It’s a feature without an obvious equivalent in the real world.

“I can’t go to a party and check out everybody in a way where I can learn enough about them so that I can make a decision about whether I want to talk to them. People know when you’re looking at them,” says Ramaprasad.

Opting into the feature changed users’ behaviors in noticeable ways: both men and women visited more profiles over all, and more profiles of socially riskier matches – interracial partners for instance. Both men and women were also far more likely to visit same-sex profiles under the cover of anonymity.

However, users’ success in finding a match was dramatically reduced when using the anonymity feature, by as much as 14 per cent for women. With no way to leave a hint that they might welcome contact from a potential partner, women had to make the first move themselves – which, even online, they are less likely to do.

“This is considered to be a premium feature, and I don’t think people realize that it is decreasing their chances,” says Ramaprasad. “It turns out that leaving this weak signal is an additional mechanism to find people, or to increase the likelihood of finding a match.”

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The TV series Mohawk Girls offers a unique take on life and love on the Rez

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Research network focuses on kids with brain-based disabilities

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 13:50
0401 city children

Annette Majnemer, BSc(OT)’80, MSc’85, PhD’90, director of McGill’s School of Physical & Occupational Therapy, was recently appointed principal investigator for CHILD-BRIGHT, a new national research network focused on children with brain-based developmental disabilities, and their families. The project will involve more than 50 researchers from across Canada, as well as many social service organizations.

Majnemer is a researcher at the Montreal Children’s Hospital’s Division of Child Neurology, where she studies the developmental, functional and quality of life outcomes of children with disabilities.

It’s a pressing issue; it is estimated that 10 to 15 per cent of Canadian children suffer from these types of disabilities, which include conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, and attention deficit disorder (ADD).

CHILD-BRIGHT will be headquartered at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, and was created with $25 million in funding, half provided by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and half from other sources, including the foundations of several Canadian children’s hospitals.

McGill News contributor Sylvain Comeau recently spoke to Professor Majnemer about the scope and goals of the new network, the stakeholders involved, and her hopes for this new initiative.

How does CHILD-BRIGHT fit into your own research work?

In addition to my research on the factors associated with children’s outcomes, I’ve been involved in knowledge translation efforts, which will be one of the keys to CHILD-BRIGHT’s work. We want to gain an understanding of which aspects of research are known to researchers, but haven’t yet been taken up and used by health care providers, such as rehabilitation specialists. Knowledge can take up to 15 years before filtering down from the lab to the practitioner.

We will also be concerned with translating that knowledge to stake holders, like clinicians and families. We will take the research and package it in a way that is understandable, without jargon, and using real-life examples. We want to empower them to be more effective care-givers.

Will there be a central source of information for families, clinicians and others?

Yes, we will set up a website that will be a hub of information, and direct [people] to other sites that contain credible information. We will also establish an online community for parents, through Facebook or another electronic platform. Using online formats, we want to provide a forum for peer mentorship, peer coaching, sharing of knowledge and mutual support.

But not everything will be online; we will also have face-to-face opportunities, including scientific cafés in different regions of Canada, our annual meetings, and events like lectures and scientific conferences.

What are the major issues and challenges surrounding brain-based developmental disabilities in children?

There are numerous challenges, such as access to services and enabling children to participate in society. There are barriers to both of these, particularly as people get older — these are chronic conditions, a life-long challenge. There is a big push of intervention early in life, but as children transition from one stage of development to another, new challenges come up, and they are not necessarily getting the support they need.

In order to prioritize the research for CHILD-BRIGHT, we had face-to-face meetings with different stake holders: researchers, clinicians, policy makers, and families. We  also did an online survey of parents and their priorities, and within a week we had responses from over 900 parents. They uniformly validated that the directions we are taking are highly important to them.

Can you explain those directions?

We will pursue three major research themes, with several projects under each. The first is promoting brain plasticity and organization, for example using brain stimulation techniques, which can create permanent changes in patients with cerebral palsy.

Permanent?

Yes, because in the first years of life and into adulthood, the brain is still developing and rewiring. So during that time, there is an opportunity to enhance that development. MRIs have shown reorganization of the brain, which is associated with better functioning, in patients who have had brain stimulation coupled with intensive rehabilitation.

What about the other research themes?

We have five research projects looking at behavioural, social and emotional well-being, and mental health of the child and family. Many children with developmental disabilities have a [related] behavioural problem. It could be aggressive behaviour, anxiety, depression, or irritability. This could be a symptom of the condition itself, or a secondary result, because of factors like frustration or social isolation. Behavioural problems are very common, and are not always well managed in the health care system.

One project, called Strongest Families, offers web-based training for families, on how to cope with behavioural issues common to developmental disabilities. It also offers a coaching model, in which families have access to someone who is specifically trained to give them guidance and answer their questions. This is someone who knows the landscape of a particular community, knows the services available, and what will meet the needs of families at different points in a child’s life.

Coaching is integral to the the third research theme?

Yes, this theme is focused on redesigning the health care system. As children move from one stage of development to another, parents often feel lost. They often ask: where do I go next? What services does my child need now, and how do I access them? There is a lack of coordination of care, from one stage to the next. So we will be looking at the coach model, at three stages of development. We want to develop ways that the health care system can provide guidance to parents about what to do next, which would also be more cost effective then the current system. As it is, parents often go to the wrong place, end up on waiting lists, or use too many services that they don’t need, and not enough of the ones that they do.

The coach is a new position in the health care system?

This is a model that has worked well in complex care, which is required for patients who are very fragile due to multiple medical problems. We will tailor this coaching model for patients with developmental disabilities.

After the initial five years, do you see this network continuing?

We established a sustainability committee, which is already looking at year six. We are looking at fund-raising efforts, and ways of determining where our impact is greatest, with an eye to maintaining that momentum in the long term. We don’t intend to drop the ball after five years.

What are the advantages to a research network, as opposed to researchers working separately, but in the same field?

Networks are cross-disciplinary, so there is a diversity of expertise. Every medical specialty and health profession surrounding these disabilities is well represented. We will also benefit from a broad spectrum of methodology, from very fundamental research, to population-based and health services research.

You’ve consulted parents at every stage. Are they experts, too?

Yes, they know their children best. We want to make sure that the treatments we develop are feasible and acceptable to them, and that the outcomes we measure are  relevant. As researchers, we have the scientific approach, but we don’t have the life experience. That’s where the families are the real experts.

RELATED READING:

Thanks to McGill’s Making Waves, children with disabilities have access to affordable swimming lessons across Canada

BigBrain offers neuroscientists the first high-resolution 3D digital model of a human brain

 

Taking the “creepy” out of online shopping

Tue, 04/12/2016 - 14:59
by Maeve Haldane VarageSale's "chief mom" Tami Zuckerman

VarageSale’s “chief mom” Tami Zuckerman

Tami Zuckerman, BEd’02, likes to stay busy. So when her doctor advised her to go on a preventative maternity leave in 2012, the primary school teacher approached nesting mode with a vengeance. In the process of decluttering, she ended up launching a new multi-million dollar business.

As Zuckerman went about paring down her belongings, she found that selling items on Craigslist was “creepy.” You never really knew who you were dealing with and Craigslist has been linked to more than 100 murders. Other options for buying and selling things online struck her as clunky and poorly organized. She started thinking about what might work better. As her ideas solidified, she turned to her in-house tech support – her husband, Carl Mercier is an experienced programmer. Together, they devised a new virtual garage sale system and they called it VarageSale.

Users need a Facebook profile to register (to prove that they’re who they say they are). VarageSale members download an app to easily check postings of what to buy or sell. The system is organized by neighbourhoods and the first community group to go live was in Vaudreuil-Dorion where Zuckerman lived (as their business expanded, the couple moved to Toronto). Today, there are hundreds of VarageSale communities. Most are in Canada and the U.S., but VarageSale has a foothold in other countries like Australia and the United Kingdom. There are more than 350 VarageSale communities in California alone.

On any given day, about 50 per cent of VarageSale’s members use the app — an enviable level of “stickiness” in the online world. That kind of devotion attracts attention. VarageSale has received $34 million in venture capital funding from Sequoia Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners (you may have heard of other companies they’ve backed, like Google, YouTube and Snapchat).

Zuckerman believes that VarageSale has been so successful because it solves a problem. “I built it as a mom, as a woman, to feel safe to buy and sell stuff.” Members are vetted by an administrator, which helps to create an accountable community.

“The secret in the sauce is that I use VarageSale all the time,” says Zuckerman. “I use it too much!” She was recently delighted to snag a Tommy Hilfiger jacket for her son, tag still on, for $20, thanks to the handy notification app that alerts her to new listings in her son’s size.

“It’s interesting to watch how users hack your app,” she says. In New Orleans, 500 VarageSalers meet at a parking lot every Sunday to buy, sell and swap. Communities adapt the app to their needs. In Vaudreuil-Dorion, you can spot Rubbermaid bins left on porches as goods and cash are exchanged through an honour system.

Zuckerman, who describes herself as VarageSale’s “chief mom,” says her McGill education degree and her 12 years of teaching experience have played an important role in how she has built her business. “It surprised me, the parallels that existed between running a classroom and running a company. Both require very clear goals and direction.”

VarageSale isn’t just about buying and selling, says Zuckerman. It’s also about nurturing community bonds. The messaging component of VarageSale makes it easy to connect with others, and friendships can form and neighbourliness can blossom. She regularly receives notices about how VarageSalers have joined forces to do things like raise money for their local schools. “The best part [of creating VarageSale] was building a community,” she says.  “Now I get to build communities all over the world.”

 

 

Managing millions – while still in school

Tue, 03/22/2016 - 16:18
 Owen Egan)

Desautels Faculty of Management professors Adolfo De Motta (left) and Jan Ericsson chat with one of the students involved in managing a fund at Desautels Capital Management (Photo: Owen Egan)

by Kate Sheridan BA&Sc’14

About 35 people will walk into a $3.5-million investment management operation and begin to work as analysts this summer. But they won’t be recent grads – well, not alums of finance programs. In fact, they’ll just be beginning their degrees in finance at the Desautels Faculty of Management.

These students will be the first cohort of the Faculty’s newest master’s program, the masters of management in finance (MMF). Once they arrive, they’ll start classes and be handed the keys to a fund at Desautels Capital Management (DCM), the only university-owned and student-run licensed investment firm in Canada with external, independent investors.

Within a few weeks of the program’s announcement in December, about 350 people expressed interest in the program, says MMF director Adolfo De Motta, and nearly 200 people attended the program’s first information session in Montreal. “We’ve seen over the years that there was demand from undergraduate students in other areas of the University, to take courses in management and in finance particularly. Students were demanding a master’s program,” De Motta says.

The one-year program is designed for people who want to transition into a career in finance as an asset manager, investment banker or consultant, even if they’ve never worked in finance before. The program serves as a stepping stone to these careers for people who received an undergraduate degree in any another field, but it might hold particular appeal for students with previous experience in quantitative analyses — graduates from programs like economics, computer science or engineering. 

Experience at DCM has been a vital part of many students’ experiences at Desautels since 2009, helping them to break into the workforce after they graduate. Students in the Faculty’s undergraduate honours in investment management program, as well as some MBA students, work as the firm’s traders and analysts for about 20 hours a week, on average.

Student-analysts track the markets, prepare reports to investors and develop pitches for their fund, says Michael Fishman, a current undergraduate at Desautels and a DCM analyst. Analysts aren’t paid for their work, Fishman says, but the experience is “invaluable” and enriches his education. “It puts everything we learn into so much context. I’ll learn something that’s extremely theoretical in a finance class, and I’ll see it materializing in an investment pitch I’m making.”

That’s the point, says Alex King, a development officer in the Faculty who helped get the program off the ground with then-dean Peter Todd and former professor Peter Christofferson. While nearly every school has a program or club where students manage money, McGill’s is one of the few where students manage real investors’ money and must report back to them, says King.

Due to regulations, the funds are only available to investors deemed sophisticated or those who are accredited by securities regulators. If investors ask King why they should put their money in the hands of students, “I tell them look at our track record,” King says. Since the program began, investors earned a 10.8% gross annualized return on their investment, according to DCM’s 2014 annual report. “[Former DCM students] are all doing really well. They’re a hot commodity, and the program has a really good reputation with employers,” adds King.

DCM alumni work at companies around the world, including places like the Canadian Pension Plan, Fidelity and the Baupost Group. Some students, like Debra Kelsall, BCom’15, even head to Wall Street. Now an analyst at Goldman Sachs, Kelsall says the program and the budding DCM alumni network helped in her job search.

“DCM definitely started to prepare me for a job,” Kelsall says. “It’s real people’s money that you’re managing.”

MMF students will be working on their own, separate fund. Applications for the program have been coming in “fairly steadily” ahead of the May 1 deadline for Canadian citizens and permanent residents, De Motta says. (The deadline for international students was March 15.)

For the program’s first year, De Motta, academic director Jan Ericsson and others reviewing the files are focused on selecting the best applicants to get the program off to a good start. “On paper, we have some exceptionally good looking [applicants],” says Ericsson. Soon, they will decide which of the prospective students look to be the the best investments for the new program.

 

A champion for First Nations children

Tue, 03/22/2016 - 16:15
by Jonathan Montpetit, BA’03 BlackstockC

Cindy Blackstock

Cindy Blackstock, MMgmt’03, stood amid the snow-dusted plots of Ottawa’s Beechwood Cemetery one day in late January, carrying a teddy bear.

She trudged her way to the grave of a civil servant who died long before she was born, but with whom she feels a deep bond.

There, before a tombstone belonging to Peter Henderson Bryce, Blackstock broke an oath of secrecy.

She read aloud an embargoed decision by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which shook the country when it was released two days later: a ruling that found the federal government racially discriminates against aboriginal children.

But in those quiet moments in the cemetery, Bryce was the only other person who could have grasped the magnitude of Blackstock’s achievement.

He too had collected damning evidence about Ottawa’s treatment of aboriginal children. And like Blackstock, Bryce also faced a series of nasty reprisals from the government.

As the Department of Indian Affairs’ chief medical officer, Bryce wrote a report in 1907 that revealed almost one-quarter of children in the 35 residential schools he studied died of tuberculosis. He implored his superiors to take action, but was ignored and eventually forced out of his position. He died in 1932.

Blackstock considers Bryce a hero. In him, she found a source of inspiration for her own fight to defend aboriginal children.

***

In the fall of 2002, Blackstock completed a master’s of management degree for national voluntary sector leaders at McGill. Funded by the McConnell Foundation, the program’s other graduates include YMCA Canada president Scott Haldane, BA’74, MMgmt’02, and Marlo Raynolds, MMgmt’03, now the chief of staff for Canada’s minister of environment and climate change.

Blackstock appreciated the program’s creative approach to learning. She arrived on the first day of class, prepared to take notes on the fundamentals of accounting. Instead the students were asked to dance the Argentinian tango with each other, as a way of making them appreciate the complementary roles of leadership and following. She remembers thinking, “this course is right up my alley.”

She credits the program with bolstering her self-assurance.

“I think the thing that was the biggest contribution to me was  just having the confidence in myself to realize that I can’t allow my own insecurities, if you will, the sense of not being the right person to do it – to interfere with giving [something] a shot anyway.”

After finishing up at McGill, she arrived in Ottawa to take over the leadership of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, a national non-profit dedicated to research and advocacy.

She came to the position having spent nearly a decade as a front-line social worker in downtown Vancouver, confronted on a daily basis with the lack of resources available for aboriginal children. Before taking on the new job, she was given a piece of advice by an elder, which she has never forgotten.

“He said I never want you to fall in love with your business card, never fall in love with the Caring Society. Only fall in love with the children, because one day you might have to sacrifice both those things for them. And that day came.”

***

Blackstock speaks in a matter-of-fact tone, but it breaks easily for jokes and colourful anecdotes. When she speaks publicly – as she often does – she pivots back and forth between witty asides and devastating social analysis.

This ability to speak in different tones may be a product of Blackstock’s eclectic background. She is proud of having four different degrees from four different universities. Unlike many activists, Blackstock publishes regularly in academic journals. And unlike many academics (she is also an associate professor at the University of Alberta), she engages in advocacy on a full-time basis.

The thread that connects these varied activities – social worker, activist, academic – is an unwavering concern for the fortunes of First Nations children, “the kids” as Blackstock likes to refer to them. She traces this, in part, to her own childhood growing up in Northern British Columbia, experiencing racism as a member of the Gitksan First Nation. “Not much was expected of me other than to grow up and be a drunk.”

After completing her BA, Blackstock began working in a Vancouver group home. A social worker’s lot is often a constant struggle to find resources to help people in crisis. But when, one day, Blackstock walked onto a nearby reserve she suddenly realized that the basic services she took for granted off-reserve were nowhere to be found.

The more Blackstock worked with First Nations communities, the more the effects of this imbalance became apparent. “My heart was breaking because what I saw was the children starting to internalize it,” Blackstock says. “They started to feel like they weren’t worth the money.”

***

After moving to Ottawa, Blackstock spent several years working with a number of researchers – including Nico Trocmé, the director of McGill’s School of Social Work – compiling evidence about the inequality in child-care services available to aboriginal children.

“The strength she brings [to research projects] is a constant reminder what the big picture is,” says Trocmé. He expects her work to influence generations of social workers. “I make reference to it all the time.”

The evidence compiled by Blackstock and her research partners painted an alarming picture. By one estimate, aboriginal children are up to 12 times more likely to be placed in foster care. There are currently more First Nation children in care than there ever were in residential schools.

One of the central reasons, according to the research undertaken by Blackstock, Trocmé and their collaborators, is that there are simply fewer social services available to aboriginal families.

Since the seventies, social workers have known that funding prevention services – such as counselling and treatment programs – can significantly reduce the need to remove children from their homes. For most Canadians, these services are funded by their provincial government.

But for First Nations, they are funded by the federal government, which has failed to match provincial investments. The funding gap has been pegged at more than $100 million. With less money for prevention services, more aboriginal children end up being taken from their homes and placed in foster care.

Blackstock, along with leaders from the Assembly of First Nations, took this evidence to then Minister of Indian Affairs Jim Prentice in 2006. This wasn’t the first time aboriginal groups had lobbied Ottawa to address the problem. But Blackstock felt that with their latest research, their demands would now be impossible to ignore.

“We don’t want to file a legal case,” Blackstock told Prentice. “We want to give you one last kick at the can to do the right thing.” But when the Conservative government demurred, despite posting a $13 billion surplus that year, the Caring Society and the AFN decided to force the issue by filing a human rights complaint.

The advice the elder had given Blackstock was about to be tested.

***

Less than a month after filing the complaint, the Caring Society had its federal funding cut entirely. At the same time, the federal government spent several million dollars attempting to derail the complaint process, filing a string of motions to have it thrown out.

And then things got personal.

Two federal departments began spying on Blackstock, collecting personal information from her Facebook page and circulating it among dozens of government officials. The Privacy Commissioner ordered the government to stop and awarded Blackstock $20,000 in damages.

When the hearings finally got underway in 2013, Blackstock brought a teddy bear with her everyday to represent the children she was fighting for. She often angled it at the government lawyers.

It is difficult to underestimate the significance of the tribunal’s decision, which acknowledged the funding balance, and called on the federal government to “cease the discriminatory practice and take measures to redress and prevent it.” Trocmé calls it “enormous,” with implications that could affect education and health funding as well.

The Trudeau government has indicated it won’t appeal, but Blackstock is still waiting for concrete action. While the new government in Ottawa has sent out strong signals that it wants to engage with First Nations communities in a much more constructive way, Blackstock was largely unimpressed with its first budget. While the budget pledged almost $635 million for child welfare on reserves, Blackstock says most of that money won’t be spent until 2019.

A younger version of herself, she says, would have been angry that public concern subsided quickly after an initial surge in the days following the tribunal’s ruling.

“I now realize that it’s a process because Canadians can’t hear it the first time, or even the second time,” Blackstock says. “These stories have to pile up on their consciousness until one day they can’t turn away.” It’s a process that began with people like Bryce, willing to sound the alarm about the government’s treatment of aboriginals. That alarm has been sounding for a long time. If it rings long enough, Blackstock believes Canadians will have no choice but to wake up to the problem.

“My real hope is not with the adults, it’s with the kids,” she says. The leaders of tomorrow will be much more sensitive about the damage done by systematic racism, she predicts. “Kids don’t make excuses for injustice, they don’t turn away. They look at it and do something to make it right.”

 

 

How AlphaGo (and two McGillians) made AI history

Tue, 03/22/2016 - 15:31
1 victory. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, File)

Professional Go player Lee Sedol takes stock after losing the final match of the Google DeepMind Challenge Match against Google’s artificial intelligence program, AlphaGo, in Seoul, South Korea. Two McGill graduates were part of the AlphaGo team (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

by Erik Leijon

For seven days this past March, millions of people around the world had their eyes locked on Seoul, South Korea and a computer program capable of doing something no other artificial intelligence had been able to do previously.

AlphaGo, the first computer program to beat a professional player at the popular Asian strategic board game Go, competed against Lee Sedol, considered the best player in the world at the more than 2,500-year-old game. AlphaGo not only held its own against Sedol, but it ultimately emerged victorious, winning four games to one. It was a battle of wits between man and machine that enthralled the world in a similar fashion to the famed Deep Blue chess matches against Gerry Kasparov in the nineties.

AlphaGo was created by a team of around 20 at Google DeepMind in London, England. Two of the team members are McGill graduates: Marc Lanctot, BSc’03, MSc’05, and Arthur Guez, BSc’09, MSc’10. Neither could be considered Go experts, but they said the game was chosen instead of chess for a reason.

“If you take an introductory course in AI [artificial intelligence], Go is always used as the example of something computers can’t do because the branching factors are so huge. You must rely on more abstract thinking and conceptual things that computers are allegedly bad at,” says Guez.

Although Go isn’t well-known in Canada, its tremendous popularity in Asia also made it an obvious choice for Google DeepMind. Google said 60 million people in China alone watched the first game with Sedol, which was broadcast online.

It was expected that it would take a decade to create a Go AI with the machine learning capabilities to defeat a player of Sedol’s ranking, known as a 9 dan. Instead, it only took two years. AlphaGo combines Monte-Carlo tree search – an algorithm often utilized for the types of decision-making associated with game play – with deep neural networks in order to self-improve. “We don’t tell it what kind of decisions it should make. It learns through experience what it should do,” says Guez, adding that AlphaGo can predict an opponent’s move 57 per cent of the time.

Go is a game that looks deceptively simple – players are trying to surround their opponents or capture their stones – although there are more possible moves in the game than there are atoms in the universe. AlphaGo has been lauded for making moves human players generally hadn’t considered before, and pro players around the world took notice.

Fan Hui, the first professional Go player to lose head-to-head against AlphaGo, described one of the moves the program made in the second game against Sedol as “beautiful.”

“When you’re playing at such a high level, those unexpected moves become possible. We could watch AlphaGo play an amateur and not see many of these because the moment didn’t arise, but it would take someone as capable as Lee Sedol to get into a situation where such a move would be possible,” says Lanctot.

Despite AlphaGo’s resounding victory in Seoul, neither Guez nor Lanctot went into the series against Sedol confidant about the outcome.

“I didn’t know what to expect, and I was just happy to be here for this historical moment in AI,” says Lanctot. “I was happy to see we could get to this level of artificial intelligence. A good demonstration of what machine learning is capable of.”

Guez was in Seoul for the games, and says AlphaGo’s victory dominated headlines there.

“I thought after the first win, ‘we can lose the rest, but at least we won this one game and it was historic.’ People were expecting us to lose 5-0,” he says.

Before moving on to the next project, Guez, Lanctot and the Google DeepMind team will carefully analyze the results of the games in Seoul.

“One of the big things that makes AlphaGo different is how general it was,” explains Lanctot. “Any problem you can formalize as a sequential decision-making problem – the same techniques can be used here. Deep learning is used a lot already in Google products, so any advancements we can make in efficiency can help.”

Rewriting the book on hockey analytics

Tue, 03/22/2016 - 11:30
iStock_000019283420_Medium

More than 3,000 events take place in any given NHL game. Sportlogiq, a company co-founded by two McGill graduates, keeps careful track of each of them. So far, 10 NHL teams have signed up for their services.

by Tracey Lindeman

Craig Buntin, MBA’13, doesn’t sleep much. As the CEO of a Mark Cuban-backed hockey analytics venture that works with 10 NHL teams and two major sports broadcasters, he can’t afford to.

“If you’re watching hockey in Canada right now, you’re seeing our stuff,” says Buntin, a former Olympic figure skater.

By stuff, he means data — and a lot of it.

Between 3,000 and 3,500 events happen in any given professional hockey game, from passing, to body checking, to blocked shots. These events are carefully tracked by Sportlogiq’s computer vision-driven analytics software, which interprets live game footage and turns it into a series of data points.

While the NHL regularly collects data on shot attempts during games, Sportlogiq does far, far more, says Christopher Boucher, the manager of its hockey analytics department.

“Our system… tracks every pass, deke, dump-in, dump-out, shot, blocked shot, blocked pass, stick-check, body-check, deflection, and includes a time stamp, player ID and XY coordinate for each of these events,” says Boucher.

“This allows us to quantify each player’s impact on possession. In other words, while traditional hockey analytics focus on the result — shots — our system breaks down the process that leads to all shots.”

Though the company can’t disclose which NHL teams it works with, Buntin can say Sportlogiq has contracts with broadcasters RDS and Sportsnet to provide pre-game reports, player performance profiles and things to look for in an upcoming game.

“How many times have you watched sports and heard commentary on something and said, ‘That’s not true’?” Buntin says. “A lot of the thought in hockey is that it’s such a dynamic sport that you can’t pull direct stats out like in baseball.”

Yet Sportlogiq’s software and in-house hockey experts’ quality control processes have a combined 99 per cent accuracy rate, he says. And the data is not only correct — it’s also extremely fast.

Through near-real-time camera calibration, the team is able to turn data around in 37 seconds — down from the 12 hours it took this time last year.  “This is one of the major technical advancements that we had,” says Mehrsan Javan, PhD’15,  Sportlogiq’s chief technology officer and the company’s co-founder, along with Buntin.

The computer vision backbone of Sportlogiq was developed from Javan’s doctoral research at McGill, and he continues to collaborate with professors Martin Levine and Gregory Dudek at McGill’s Centre for Intelligent Machines.

Sportlogiq works by processing video from any single camera and using computer vision, statistical analysis and machine learning to extract and calculate game and player statistics.

In turn, the information derived from these datasets allow teams, broadcasters and scouts to evaluate and compare players on a multitude of competencies, as well as compare teams and strategies, and project scoring chances and game outcomes.

One sports-savvy investor who likes Sportlogiq’s potential is Mark Cuban, the owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and a regular on the TV series Shark Tank. Cuban, who recently visited the Sportlogiq offices, invested after Buntin cold-emailed him to introduce himself and the company.

Buntin says the data generated by Sportlogiq can be hugely influential when it comes time to reorganize a team, pointing to last month’s NHL trade deadline.

“It was clear that our data was behind a lot of [the trades],” Buntin says. “There were direct recommendations we had made, and cases we had made for specific players in specific instances.”

He also says he wouldn’t be surprised to see analytics influence how teams play in the long run: “You’re going to see teams changing the way they play the game based on quantitative, objective decisions.”

 

A computer’s perspective on how literature works

Mon, 03/21/2016 - 15:37
 Owen Egan)

Andrew Piper is the director of .txtLAB, a project that uses data analysis software to explore some of the inner workings of literature (Photo: Owen Egan)

by Andrew Mahon

Consider the phrase, “It was a dark and stormy night.”  For many, it’s a cliché, a hokey line used in the Peanuts comic strip, a funny example of bad writing.  The phrase and its author (popular 19th century novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton) have been consigned by readers and critics into the dustbin of literature.  How did that happen?

McGill’s digital humanities lab, .txtLAB, may be able to provide answers to questions like this.

“This is exactly what computation is good at detecting – when a phrase or image is over-used,” says .txtLAB director Andrew Piper.  “Lytton was a hugely popular writer in his day and his tics as a writer became part of popular culture. Over time, those phrases become clichés. Computers can help us see these tendencies with greater clarity and reliability. They can’t tell us what they ‘mean’, but they give us a sense of what a culture is talking about.”

.txtLAB was launched five years ago as a result of a $1.8 million partnership grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Its chief mission is to explore what makes novels unique compared with other kinds of writing, but other questions relating to genre, style, plot, character, and narrative will also be examined over the course of the project’s seven-year mandate.

The lab itself occupies two rooms on the fourth floor of 688 Sherbrooke Street West and is home to some 12-14 students, a mix of graduates and undergraduates in humanities, social sciences and computer science.  Students use data analysis software to mine texts looking for new insights into literature, a novel approach which comprises some intriguing challenges.

“The key question is: how do you treat a piece of literature as data?” says Piper, an associate professor of German and European literature and a William Dawson Scholar. “It’s an important new area of discovery for researchers in the humanities.”

Computer analysis is an excellent tool for researchers who want to think outside the ‘Norton Anthology box’ and expand their examination of literature to include vast numbers of authors from diverse backgrounds and across many genres and eras. .txtLAB projects cover a wide range of topics from studying patterns of punctuation in 20th century poetry to examining varying levels of sentimental vocabulary in fiction to figuring out what makes a best-selling novel.

“I think one of the big revelations for me in this process is the realization that there are numerous important quantitative dimensions to literature of all kinds,” says Piper. “Books are composed of thousands of repeating marks, signs, words, and sounds, all of which we can measure and model. Our goal is to understand what underlies all of the things we love about reading literature — the words and patterns beneath things like theme, plot, pacing, surprise.”

The goal is accomplished through machine learning; teaching computers to recognize patterns that match some category of interest. Once a computer has been trained on a sample of texts, it can make predictions based on those categories.

For example, in order to identify bestsellers, previous bestsellers are fed into the computer to allow it to discover the distinctive patterns.  Then the computer can predict bestsellers it hasn’t seen before. The accuracy of the predictions provides insights into a given category. The computer has an 82 per cent success rate in predicting bestsellers.

Last October .txtLAB attracted widespread media attention when Piper invited his students to use data mining techniques to predict the winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Piper’s own computer prediction correctly selected Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis, but he decided to second-guess the computer’s choice (it will be a dark and stormy night before he does that again).

And, earlier this year, the books editor of Le Devoir launched a writing challenge inviting well-known Quebec authors to use .txtLAB’s data-driven guidelines on how to write a bestseller. The result was 1,200 word submissions from five novelists including Monique Proulx and Daniel Grenier.

The winner was Daniel Grenier, adhering most closely to .txtLAB’s advice (short sentences, simple actions using active verbs, descriptions of facial expressions and characters who like technology and have a mystery or violent crime to solve).  He also managed to avoid non-bestselling attributes (complex emotions, uncertainty, nature description, tea, rats, giants and bears).

Beyond the contests and the headlines, there’s a fundamental and valuable research objective driving .txtLAB’s many ventures even though, for some in the humanities, there still exists a visceral bias against quantification and computation.

“There’s a feeling that literature or culture is this ineffable thing that can’t be quantified or measured — and yet it has all sorts of quantitative dimensions,” says Piper. “I think some fear the loss of interpretation or subjective engagement but that’s not how this research works. There is still plenty of room for personal engagement and trying to understand meaning. We just do it at a much broader level of scale than before.”

 

Big thinking for small spaces

Thu, 03/17/2016 - 13:41
 Pablo Enriquez)

The micro-apartments in New York’s Carmel Place measure 260 to 360 square feet  (Photo: Pablo Enriquez)

by Mark Lepage, BA’86

Cities are known for their buildings and their skyline signatures – and that’s especially true for Manhattan. Eric Bunge, BSc(Arch)’89, BArch’91, has added his own signature with a new project that might have an immense impact on how people live in New York.

Bunge, the co-founder of  New York-based nArchitects, co-designed Carmel Place, a project that built “micro-unit” apartments in Manhattan to serve the rising population of single people, many of who cannot afford the housing that currently exists if they want to live alone.

New York is famously expensive. Manhattan’s average rent was recently reported at $3,873. Housing in the city was largely built for families; however, they now make up only 18 per cent of the Manhattan population, while single households are up to 60 per cent. “People are being priced out, because you either have to share, which they may not want to do, or they are living in illegally subdivided apartments,” says Bunge. It isn’t atypical to find five college students crammed into a two- or three-bedroom apartment that quickly becomes a dorm-slum. Some subdivides are as small as 90 square feet.

A  research initiative and competition called AdAPT NYC was launched a few years ago to help search for solutions. Michael Bloomberg, then New York’s mayor, gave the initiative his high-powered support. A call went out for proposals for micro-apartment buildings that could accommodate a “small household population.”

Monadnock, one of the developers interested in taking part in the competition, reached out to nArchitects. After seeing some of the work done by Bunge and his collaborators, “apparently they thought we could wrap our heads aground micro-units and modular construction,” says Bunge. The proposal put forward by Monadnock and nArchitects emerged victorious.

The resulting building, Carmel Place on East 27th Street, will open on April 1. It has a stacked-terrace look and is the only building in New York exclusively composed of micro-units. The AdAPT NYC competition relaxed building codes, including a requirement that apartments be a minimum 400 sq ft. The Carmel Place units designed by nArchitects measure 260 to 360 sq. ft.

While the project has attracted plenty of interest, some have been voicing reservations about creating such small dwellings. New York writer Fran Leibowitz was critical of the AdAPT NYC competition when it was first announced. “People shouldn’t live in a shoebox,” she declared.

The nArchitects team used high ceilings, natural light and overhead storage to give the micro-apartments a sense of being bigger than they actually are. The American Institute of Architects’ New York chapter was clearly impressed by the efforts of Bunge and his collaborators. Carmel Place was just awarded the AIA’s Design Honor Award, its highest distinction.

Bunge believes that Carmel Place and buildings like it could play a pivotal role for the future of major cities. “We gravitate towards projects that will affect a broader publics – in plural. Even though [this was] for a private developer, it’s also for the city. It affects the city through its role as a prototype, in changing the zoning codes, in changing the civic imagination about how we live.

“I think cities need to continue growing to remain vital,” says Bunge. “It’s the best chance we have I think for a sustainable future – to live in dense, walkable cities with good infrastructure and livability.”

Bunge founded nArchitects in 1999 with his wife, Mimi Hoang (the two met at Harvard when Bunge went there for graduate school). It is now ranked among the top 50 architecture firms in the U.S. by the AIA’s Architect magazine. Another major project for the firm right now is the redesign of the  3,300-foot long Navy Pier, a major landmark in Chicago.

“There’s nothing more exciting than being a fly on the wall and seeing people use – or misuse – the work that we create in the office,” Bunge says. “We don’t want to dictate how people use the work.”

Bunge loves New York because “it’s diverse, welcoming, engaging, never boring, walkable, and close to Montreal.” The proximity to Montreal is important because Bunge’s parents still live there. Both are familiar names to McGillians. His father Mario is a prominent philosopher and McGill’s longtime Frothingham Professor of Logics and Metaphysics. His mother Marta is an emeritus professor of mathematics and statistics at McGill.

Bunge describes New York as “a beautiful city full of ugly buildings.” He is firm about avoiding projects that would add to the ugliness. Bunge and his nArchitects partners don’t take on commissions for high-end residences or retail. “There are a lot of calls we haven’t taken – a lot of shady developers.”

A parting thought: Let’s say the phone rings and a certain billionaire New York real estate mogul and presidential candidate is on the other end saying, “Eric? It’s Donald. Listen, I want you to build me a YUGE elegant, understated purple skyscraper on 5th Avenue, covered in neon and gold leaf, with…”

“Never” comes the reply from a smiling Bunge.

 

Speaking volumes without a word

Tue, 02/16/2016 - 19:13
The Hulk usually doesn't have much to say, but he conveys his rage effectively nonetheless.

The Hulk usually doesn’t have much to say, but he conveys his anger effectively nonetheless.

by Mark Reynolds

When Jamie Lee Curtis screamed loud enough to shatter glass in 1978’s Hallowe’en, the director did not find it necessary to ask her to add “I am very frightened, and would like someone to assist me in escaping from this masked gentleman with the butcher’s knife.” Less urgent vocalizations are equally comprehensible: a belly laugh, a snarl of anger, a grunt of agreement.

Professor Mark Pell, director of the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders has found that not only are humans very good at accurately identifying the emotional meaning on non-verbal sounds, but we actually process non-verbal meaning faster than we do verbal meaning:

Pell explains that while the importance of facial expression has been well studied in his field, non-verbal vocal signals have not. This, despite so much of modern vocal communication happening without any facial cues at all: think of the telephone, or even calling from one room of a house to another.

Pell and his lab have been analyzing the question for years. They played standardized recordings of verbal and “nonsense” phrases, each delivered with particular emotional affect, to study participants whose brain activity was being monitored by an EEG. They found that people’s brains registered emotional tone faster than word meaning. The speed of the process is important – within one tenth of a second – explained Pell:

“By 2/10 of a second after beginning to listen to the sounds, we have already directed more attention to the vocal sounds, presumably because they are perceived as potentially more important or urgent to respond to,” he explains.

The nature of the emotion conveyed also had an impact on how it was processed. Laughter, possibly because it is acoustically so different from other human sounds – registers faster. Anger’s signal lingers longer in the brain than happiness. These distinctions, and that there are two processes at work – and that non-verbal cues register quicker – suggests much about the development of language, and about our development as a species.

“It fits with the idea that recognizing emotions in speech and vocal sounds take slightly different paths as they are processed in the brain, where the vocal sounds involve older (subcortical) structures that reflect “ancestral” brain systems involved in vocal production, hypothetically before humans developed language.”

 

Parliament from a woman’s perspective

Tue, 02/16/2016 - 18:58
Participants in McGill's Women in House program with Senators Linda Frum, BA'84 (third from left), and Joan Fraser, BA'65 (second from right)

Participants in McGill’s Women in House program with Senators Linda Frum, BA’84 (third from left), and Joan Fraser, BA’65 (second from right)

by Juliet Waters

Michelle Lahey was in her first year of law studies at McGill when she heard about Women In House from a friend. For the last 15 years, the McGill program has been organizing an annual two-day trip to give dozens of female students a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the workings of Parliament Hill.

As a participant, Lahey sat in on Question Period and got the chance to shadow an Member of Parliament not much older than herself. Ève Péclet, the MP for La Pointe-de-l’Île at the time, was swept into office in 2011 on the NDP Orange Wave. A recent Université de Montréal law graduate, Péclet had few of the traditional qualifications for Parliament beyond her experience on the U de M debate team.

“Everyone had just returned from caucus,” Lahey remembers. “There was a palpable energy. It was fascinating.” Péclet was a member on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which allowed Lahey to sit in on a meeting. “It was an incredible experience.”

Lahey is now a WIH coordinator alongside fellow law student Allyson Taylor, BA’14, and political science and psychology student Celeste Matthews. As a fourth year political science student, Taylor recalls shadowing Manitoba Conservative senator JoAnne Buth on one Women in House trip. One of Buth’s commitments was cancelled allowing Taylor an opportunity to chat one-on-one with the senator in Bluth’s office. Taylor returned to Ottawa the next summer as a Parliamentary guide. “In political science and law we learn how things are supposed to work optimally, but working on Parliament Hill, you get a more practical perspective. You get a sense of the teamwork necessary to achieve things in Parliament and how much you need to have the supportive environment in order to do what you’re elected to do.”

To say WIH had an impact on Mylène Freeman’s life is such an understatement, she laughs out loud. “Omygosh. Yes!” A participant in 2008, Freeman, BA’11, became a coordinator in 2009, then returned to The Hill in 2011 as an NDP MP. She mentored a Women in House participant during each of the four years of her mandate, until both she and Péclet were defeated in last October’s federal election.

“I feel like I was relating more than mentoring,” Freeman says. “Especially at the beginning of my mandate, it was more about figuring out what it meant to be a young woman in politics, because there really weren’t any examples.” Freeman says that when she speaks with young women, there seems to be an unfortunate acceptance that being a politician is not something they can do in their twenties. Getting over that insecurity is actually the biggest struggle, she says, and “being confident that what I could contribute is as important as what young men can contribute and what older MPs can contribute.”

Increasing diversity on all levels — age, socio-economic background, ethnicity and sexual orientation — as well as gender, was the theme of the inaugural Women In House conference held at McGill last November, in part to celebrate the group’s 15th anniversary, and also because the last election pushed the trip, which usually takes place in the fall, to March.  “We were delighted with the outcome,” says Lahey who welcomed the opportunity to create a more inclusive environment for conversations than in Parliament, where diversity is still a challenge.

Both Taylor and Lahey were excited to see McGill alumna Catherine McKinnon appointed minister of environment and climate change, and just as happy to see Prime Minister Justin Trudeau honour his gender parity pledge. “Cabinet is an excellent start,” says Lahey, “because it’s where many of the decisions in government are made.” Both Taylor and Lahey were quick to point out, though, that women are still not adequately represented in The House. Only 26 percent of the MPs elected in the last election were women. While the composition of Trudeau’s cabinet made a big statement, only 31 percent of the Liberal Party’s candidates in the 2015 election were women.

“I would hope and I would invite Prime Minister Trudeau to really look at how he can increase the representation in Parliament and how he can create 50-50 there,” Lahey says. ” I do believe that is possible with all this talk about electoral reform and what he’s going to do with the Senate. It is within his grasp in a four year mandate, but much more work has to be done.”

The WIH experience inspires many participants to give serious thought to a future in politics or public service. Former WIH coordinator Mariel Arumburu followed up her WIH experience in 2011 with an internship in Washington, D.C., focused on inter-American policy. In 2013, she served as a minister’s assistant for the Albertan government as is now an international business officer in the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, in their emerging markets branch.

Currently travelling in India, where the wi- fi is too spotty for a planned Skype interview, Marumbu conveys via email how much the program had raised her awareness of the particular barriers and challenges that women face in politics, and how much it had done to expose her to important resources, groups and mentors.

“WIH is a job shadow, call to action, and knowledge raising program, all wrapped in one fully subsidized program. Understanding the complex issues women face in the political sphere is an important step in working towards addressing those hurdles.”

The Women in House program is one of many student initiatives at McGill to receive funding through the University’s Seeds of Change crowdfunding platform.

 

Lights, camera, McGill!

Tue, 02/16/2016 - 14:47
Emory Cohen and Saoirse Ronan in a scene from Brooklyn. The Oscar-nominated film was largely shot in Montreal, with McGill's downtown campus among the set locations.

Emory Cohen and Saoirse Ronan in a scene from Brooklyn. The Oscar-nominated film was largely shot in Montreal, with McGill’s downtown campus among the set locations.

by Shrinkhala Dawadi

In a pivotal scene in the current Oscar contender Brooklyn, Eilis, a young Irish woman played by Saoirse Ronan, has just finished an evening course in bookkeeping. As she exits the school, she keeps a sharp eye out for her beau, uncertain if he’ll be there to pick her up. Their last encounter was painfully awkward. What happens next marks a significant turning point for the couple.

It’s a well-crafted scene, but McGillians might feel a little distracted as they watch it. The building where Eilis took her class looks an awful lot like McGill’s Macdonald Engineering Building. Because it is. Ronan, whose performance in the film earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, told the Montreal Gazette that she thought the University’s downtown campus was “gorgeous.”

In recent years, McGill has appeared in several major motion pictures. The Strathcona Anatomy and Dentistry Building turns up in acclaimed Quebec auteur Xavier Dolan’s Mommy. Super-powered mutant Magneto (portrayed by Michael Fassbender) strolls through the Arts Building in X-Men: Days of Future Past. A spy, played by Steve Carell, drives a little red sports car on the downtown campus in Get Smart (after smashing it through the front doors of the Arts Building).

McGill is a popular location to shoot for filmmakers, not only due to the variety of its architecture, but also because of the reputation that McGill’s Housing and Conference Services has built up over the years in its dealings with film crews. The office represents the University when movie makers are interested in shooting scenes on campus.

“[McGill is] just a beautiful setting, a classic ivy-league university in Canada,” says Nick Barker, a freelance location manager who previously worked for the City of Montreal’s Film and TV commission. “So McGill is very important [to filmmakers], and they’ve been very cooperative, they’ve been absolutely terrific. It’s a bit of an invasion when a film crew arrives, and they tend to take over a bit. McGill has always been very patient with them and understood what happens.”

Rosetta Vannelli, the associate director of Housing and Conference Services, says that the University aims to strike a careful balance between being helpful to filmmakers and making sure that film shoots wouldn’t be disruptive to the University’s core activities. She also keeps an eye out for any potentially nasty surprises in terms of a movie’s content.

“When we meet with location managers, it is imperative that they provide a synopsis for the project or scene and, at times, even the actual dialogue, so we can ensure that the nature of the project is not [something] that the University would not want to associate its name to,” Vannelli says.

Vannelli adds that any production crew working on campus is subject to strict regulations in terms of what they can and cannot do.

“Crews coming on campus are subject to all safety and security measures as set out by the University,” she says. “And, they must ensure only minimal disruption to normal university activity, so that faculty, staff and students are minimally inconvenienced.”

Vannelli explains that the daily flat fees for a film shoot range from $2,000 to $4,000. Some buildings cost more — the Redpath Museum can cost up to $5,000, with one of the most expensive locations on campus being the Faculty Club. In addition to this fee, film productions are also responsible for covering other expenses, such as security, parking and any other services they may require from the University and its staff.

“The faculty where a project is being filmed benefits directly from the shoot,” Vannelli explains. “I always try to provide at least 25 per cent [of the fees paid by the filmmakers] directly to the faculty.  As well, a percentage of the overall access fee is returned to the University as part of the Student Housing and Hospitality Services commitment.”

McGill has been transformed into a variety of fantastic settings on screen over the years. Days of Future Past turned an Arts Building  hallway into an underground bunker located inside the Pentagon. The exterior of the Arts Building served as a post-apocalyptic wasteland for John Travolta’s Battleground Earth. And the downtown campus’s lower field became a zombie-infested war zone for Warm Bodies.

 

#McGill24 aims to be a day to remember

Tue, 02/16/2016 - 11:56
McGill prof curtis steelpants loves to love you baby

Thomas Szkopek, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, is one of 15 McGillians who will be featured on the #McGill24 site. All 15 have benefited from philanthropic gifts to the University. (Photo: Monique Weston)

by Megan Martin

In the TV series 24, the ever-resourceful (and perpetually sleep-deprived) Jack Bauer experienced a truly terrible day once every year, a day during which he would be confronted with a deadly series of threats against the country he was sworn to protect.

On March 16, during #McGill24, the plan is for McGill graduates and supporters around the world to take action in far less harrowing circumstances.

For the first time ever, McGill is going to be hosting a one-day global fundraising challenge. The concept of a giving day has been popularized by Ivy League institutions in the U.S., but Canadian universities have been slower to adopt the idea, making McGill among the first in the country to undertake this type of 24-hour campaign.

“I think it’s going to be a testament to people’s experience at McGill,” says Vice-Principal (University Advancement) Marc Weinstein, BA’85, BCL’91, LLB’91. “McGillians – whether they’re current students, alumni, employees, volunteers, or friends of the University – have a lot to be proud of. McGill is a game changer for so many people around the world. The pride is there, and this day is going to be a reflection of who we are as individuals and as a cohesive network.”

The one-day campaign is being executed mostly online, but #McGill24 events will also be taking place on the downtown and Macdonald campuses and through branch events in cities such as Calgary, Dubai, New York and Toronto. Through a custom-built #McGill24 website, donors will be able to choose to support everything from research projects with international ambitions to student-run crowdfunding projects. Alumni will also have the option to direct their support to specific initiatives anchored in McGill’s faculties.

The site will showcase 15 McGillians who have benefited from philanthropic support in very different ways, among them, psychology student Victoria Mallett.

“McGill has enabled me to cover so many bases all at once,” says Mallet, a product manager at ANANDA, a startup that won in the Innovation Driven Enterprise category of McGill’s Dobson Cup in 2014. ANANDA focuses on using nanotechnology – what it describes as its “lab-on-a-chip technology” – to help speed up the development process for new diagnostics and therapeutics. As ANANDA has progressed, Mallett says the Dobson Centre – McGill’s supportive start-up ecosystem – has been there every step of the way with business plan assistance, IT advice, funding, mentorship and more.

#McGill24 organizers hope that stories like Mallett’s will inspire alumni and supporters –particularly recent graduates.

“We want our alumni, and especially our young alumni, to be involved in the McGill community and find value in that connection,” Weinstein says. “I think everyone is ready for a 24-hour challenge like this.”

The whole notion of launching a one-day campaign was developed with young alumni in mind.

“This is the first time we’re really going online for a fundraising campaign,” said Melissa Forster, #McGill24 project manager. “We’re trying to meet recent grads on their level and communicate with them in a new way.”

“Putting it all into 24 hours provides a major focus and anchors our efforts into a condensed period of time,” Weinstein says. “People today want things instantaneously, so planning this event in a one-day cycle was the way to go.”

McGillians can expect to see a flurry of #McGill24 news, inspirational stories, videos and photos across multiple platforms in the lead up to March 16. Alumni and friends are encouraged to join the online conversation by sharing their own McGill experiences and engaging with the alumni community through social media.

“My hope is that on this one day, everyone will take a moment to acknowledge what McGill meant or means to them,” Weinstein says. “Hearing people’s stories about how they feel connected to McGill is just as valuable as the money we’re going to bring in; I’m incredibly excited about this platform and I know we’re going to show the world how connected the McGill community truly is.”

 

 

Want to be a part of #McGill24? Here’s what to do

Sign up to receive exclusive news about #McGill24.

Consult the #McGill24 social media toolkit: Join the online campaign by posting, sharing, and tagging your #McGill24 photos and videos on social media.

Register for the #McGill24 Thunderclap.

Explore the #McGill24 graphics that you can use on social media.

Check out the volunteer FAQ to find out how to get involved.

 

This hockey agent gets his elbows up

Tue, 02/09/2016 - 15:50
by Kevin Dougherty, BA’71  Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHL player agent Allan Walsh at the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo: Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

Hockey agent Allan Walsh, BA’87, and his client, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin, have been ruffling feathers in the NHL recently by breaking the hockey world’s code of silence.

Drouin, feeling that his career is stalled, went public with his desire to be traded. The unwritten rule in the NHL is that players and their agents meet in private with team management, never communicate their concerns to the media, and hope for the best.

Sometimes that’s not enough, says Walsh.

“Ultimately, your client needs to know that in his most desperate hour he can rely on his agent to stand up and fight for him. I would say that 99 per cent of the other agents out there are not willing to go to war for their clients.”

The 20-year-old Drouin was a dominant performer in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and was the third player selected in the NHL’s 2013 draft. No one doubts his talent or his potential. His play in the NHL thus far has drawn mixed reviews. Some observers believe he just isn’t ready for the big leagues. Walsh argues that his client hasn’t been given a proper opportunity to show what he can do.

After making his trade demand public, Drouin was sent to the minors to get some playing time. But after a few games, and with the sense that a trade was imminent, Drouin stopped playing. He and Walsh reasoned that it would be foolish to risk an injury that could derail a trade. Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman saw things differently and suspended Drouin without pay.

Walsh says the NHL is “still very conservative.

“And there are a lot of old boys networks and good-old-boys in the media,” he adds, responding to some of the critical press coverage that has been directed towards him and his client.

“You really don’t have the right to stand up and say, ‘I’m in a really bad circumstance here and I would like to be somewhere else,’” says Walsh.

Walsh is the co-managing director of Los Angles-based Octagon, an agency that represents some of the biggest names in the NHL, including Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, St. Louis Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko and Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

Sports fans might regard the multi-million dollar salaries of his clients with a certain degree of jealousy, but Walsh says the profession can be a risky one and notes that NHL careers are getting shorter. “The average NHL career now lasts only four-and-a-half years.”

Medical research has been pointing to a connection between head injuries and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease. Several former players recently filed a class-action suit against the NHL.

“The league has completely turned its back on them,” Walsh says, adding some former players are, “guys so damaged they can’t hold a job.”

Habs fans might recall Walsh from a few years ago, when his client Jaroslav Halak was playing for Montreal. Carey Price had not yet established himself as, arguably, the best goalie in the world, and one of the hottest debates at sports bars across the city focused on who Montreal’s top goalie should be, Halak or Price. Walsh poured gas on the flames with a provocative series of tweets that argued the case for Halak (Montreal ultimately opted to keep Price and traded Halak to St. Louis).

“A lot of people in the agent business are afraid to make waves,” Walsh says.

“I am in a partnership with my client to give him the most fulfilling career he can possibly have. And if in the process we hurt people’s feelings, that’s too goddamn bad.”

Walsh played hockey himself at the University of Illinois. When he realized he wasn’t quite good enough for a pro career, he switched to McGill, choosing  “a more academically rigorous” university.

Thanks to his American mother, he had a U.S. passport.

He has been living in Los Angeles since finishing at McGill. He and his brother drove west in a summer heat wave, in an un-air-conditioned Camaro, to Southwestern University Law School, where he was awarded an academic scholarship.

Walsh, who says he grew up on “Schwartz’s, Moishes and Côte St Luc Bar-B-Q,” remembers when he decided to trade Montreal comfort food for California sun.

“It was a freezing cold snow blizzard day in Montreal in February,” he recalls. His car got stuck in a snowbank, after sliding down McTavish on the McGill campus.

The next day, after his father helped dig out the car, Walsh received the Southwestern University law school calendar in the mail. He took note of an image of a student  reading a law book on the beach. “I wanted to go there.”

In his second year of law school, a friend suggested Walsh apply for an internship with the district attorney’s office.

He was accepted. In California, a student can plead cases in court after two years of law, as long as a member of the bar is present. Walsh was soon prosecuting 15 to 20 cases a day for assaults and burglaries.

After passing the bar, he joined the DA’s hard core crime division, prosecuting 40 murder trials from 1991 to 1995.

On a visit to Montreal, Walsh ran into renowned man-about-town Nick Auf der Maur at Grumpy’s Bar. Auf der Maur asked Walsh if he’d considered pursuing any other type of law. Walsh expressed an interest in representing hockey players. Auf der Maur told Walsh to contact an old friend, David Schatia, BCL’62, a former sports agent whose clients included Canadian baseball great Ferguson Jenkins.

Schatia agreed to a 20-minute appointment that stretched into a four-hour meeting that ultimately resulted in a new partnership, the Can-Am Sports Management Group.

Schatia was interested in getting back into the agent business. He had plenty of contacts and was interested in expanding into Europe. But he wasn’t keen to do all the travelling that would be required. Enter Walsh.

“We hit it off very well,” Schatia says.

Can-Am set up offices and hockey schools in Europe, as well as North America, and as Can-Am became better known, they attracted more clients.

“Good happy clients beget good happy clients,” Schatia says.

He calls Walsh “a talented lawyer who fights for players. The players like that. A closed door never stopped him.”

In 2004, Can-Am merged into Octagon. Walsh says the larger practice allows Octagon to offer financial planning and other services to players.

When Walsh looks to the future, he sees a bigger NHL on the horizon. He thinks it is “inevitable” that Quebec City will re-join the league, along with new teams in Las Vegas and Seattle. After that, Walsh sees expansion to Europe as the next step.

The O2 in London, built as a concert venue, is also an “NHL-ready arena” with a capacity of 18,000, he notes.

“Hockey still has a lot of room to grow,” Walsh says, imagining an NHL European Division stretching from Berlin to the British capital.

The straight-shooting Walsh is cagey on one subject.

According to Forbes magazine, Walsh and his Octagon partner, former NHL goalie Mike Liut, each made more than $10 million in 2015.

“I don’t know where they get those numbers come from,” Walsh says. “Those numbers are not accurate.”

Asked whether the Forbes estimate was too high or too low, Walsh just chuckles. “The business is doing well,” is all he’ll say.

 

A business conference like no other

Mon, 02/08/2016 - 15:27
by Sylvain Comeau Apex_Lumiquai_Newlook_Ang_v65

Fabled NHL coach Scotty Bowman will be one of the presenters at the APEX 2016 business conference. The Desautels Faculty of Management served as the educational partner for this event.

McGill’s Desautels Faculty of Management knows a lot about business education. The Montreal-based evenko, one of the world’s top concert promoters, knows a lot about organizing one-of-a-kind events. Working together, the two organizations have come up with an unusual and ambitious one-day business conference that will feature a roster of star speakers, including Wayne Gretzky, cosmetics pioneer Lise Watier and Scotty Bowman, who coached NHL teams to nine Stanley Cups.

APEX 2016 is the brainchild of evenko’s Brent Steer, BCom’09.

“Evenko has a huge repertoire of speakers, so we already had access to some of the best talent. The next step was to line up the right partners,” says Steer.

Last September, Steer approached one of his former McGill professors, Richard Donovan, BCom’88, about involving Desautels in the planning for the event as an educational partner.

“We felt that it was a good fit for our educational mandate,” says Donovan, a professor of practice in information systems. “We decided to use Henry Mintzberg’s reflective mindset as the basis for the conference’s design.”

Mintzberg, the Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at Desautels, is widely acknowledged as one of North America’s top experts on the subject of managing. One of the things he advocates is that managers should take the time to periodically reflect on their experiences, even as they contend with the frenetic pace of change in their workplaces.

An array of speakers from different backgrounds will address four key topics at APEX: negotiation, communication, teamwork and leadership. Some of the speakers taking part include Jon Favreau, who served as the director of speechwriting for U.S. president Barack Obama, and Patricia McCord, who worked as the chief talent officer for Netflix for 12 years.

“The idea is to give the Quebec business community, and students, a chance to learn from these people,” says Steer. “We want to retain the learning aspect, while making the conference more exciting than power point presentations with clip art from 1992.

“There are a lot of good business conferences, but we’re just trying to build a better mousetrap. Our format will integrate the speaker format, but go a little further.”

Steer emphasizes that APEX 2016 will be more of a social learning experience.

“Attendees will be organized into small groups of two or three. Speakers will present questions, and the groups will be given time to reflect on their answer. Then they will hear the speakers’ answers. So participants will learn both from the speakers as well as from each other.”

That element of interactivity will keep participants engaged during intensive training sessions. Questions which will challenge the audience and speakers are provided by CoachingOurselves, a peer coaching program developed by Mintzberg.

Steer offers this example: “Attendees will be asked: ‘Give an example of how you planned your last negotiation.’ While the groups of participants develop their answers, on stage we will have Alain L’Empereur, who is a Harvard law professor, as well as a mediator at the United Nations. We will also have Marc Bergevin, general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, and Pat Brisson, one of the most prolific hockey agents. So participants will have the opportunity to compare what they did to some of the best in the world.”

Says Donovan, “In most conferences, you go listen to a speaker for an hour, then you go away and hope that something sticks. At APEX, people will be asked to actively reflect on what they’ve learned, and write it in a journal, so that there are key takeaways back to the office. We want to make sure that there is transfer of learning; in other words, good ideas that they can use at work the next day.”

APEX, which will be held at the Bell Centre, can accommodate up to 5,000 participants. It is a training session on a grand scale.

Says Donovan: “Training sessions for 30 or 40 people are common, but for 5,000, that is unique.”

The organizers have looked beyond the boardroom to choose speakers who can teach “soft” business skills like leadership from a non-business perspective. Scotty Bowman, the winningest coach in NHL history, will discuss teamwork. Gretzky, the captain of the powerhouse Edmonton Oilers in the eighties, as well as the executive director of the 2002 Olympic champion Canadian men’s hockey team, will share his views on leadership.

“The best practices in other areas can easily be applied to business,” says Donovan. “We have people from the world of sports, from the arts. For example, we have an actress, Guylaine Tremblay [from the TV series Unité 9], who does improv. The way she uses her voice and body language can be applied to the business world, in what we call paraverbal communication.” Paraverbal communication refers to the way we say something, not the content of what we say.

If the event is a success, it could become an annual conference in Montreal, and one held in other Canadian cities as well.

Says Steer, “We want this to be the annual opportunity for the business community to sit back, reflect and reexamine, and ask themselves whether they could be more effective, whether they could do things differently.”

The event will grant training credits/hours for members of APEX 2016’s six training partners: l’Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec (OIQ), the CPA Order of Quebec, l’Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines agréés (CRHA), the Chambre de la sécurité financière (CSF), l’Ordre des administrateurs agréés du Québec (ADMA) and the Barreau du Québec.

600 tickets have been reserved for McGill students and alumni. Alumni can save $125 on the price of tickets in the 100 level (reds) by using the password ALUM2016C1 when ordering here.

 

The man who stuck around

Mon, 02/01/2016 - 16:10
Photo by Owen Egan

Photo by Owen Egan

A lot of people have been congratulating me lately, patting me on the back, shaking my hand. It’s weirding me out. I don’t think I’ve done anything all that exceptional. All I’ve done is stay put—and, apparently, if you do that for 25 years, it’s sort of a big deal. You get your photo taken with the principal.

My first job at McGill was as the associate editor of the McGill Reporter, the University’s faculty and staff newspaper. I worked on a Macintosh Classic back then. It had a fraction of the functionality of today’s smartphones. For a guy who spent his undergraduate years pounding out term papers on a temperamental Smith Corona typewriter, it felt like entering the Space Age.

On my first week in the job, I needed to interview David Johnston, then the principal. He returned my call promptly and asked to speak to Dennis McCabe. I felt sheepish about correcting the man who is now Canada’s governor general. So, in a voice that was uncharacteristically deep, I responded, “This is Mr. McCabe.” Johnston was unfazed. I imagine he was used to dealing with his share of eccentric characters.

In my early years with the Reporter, I occasionally wrote about the McGill community members who were marking their 25th anniversaries at the University. And I remember that callow 20-something version of me thinking, “They must be kind of old.”

If I had access to a time machine, I’d go back to 1990 and smack that kid. Then, I’d glance sadly at the unkempt mop of hair still on his head and I’d advise him to treasure every moment the two of them had left together.

When I think back to the major stories that we covered in the Reporter 25 years ago, many were related to the School of Architecture in some way. Adjunct professor Julia Gersovitz, BSc(Arch)’74, BArch’75, a restoration specialist, was handed the job of bringing the downtown campus’s Lady Meredith Building back to life after a devastating fire (spoiler alert— she and her partners succeeded brilliantly). Architecture professors Avi Friedman, MArch’83, and Witold Rybczynski, BArch’66, MArch’72, DSc’02, introduced the world to their Grow Home, a compact house intended for first-time buyers who couldn’t afford to spend too much. They built a prototype on campus, attracted international media coverage, and helped spark new efforts in affordable housing.

As the photo essay in this issue makes clear, the graduates of the School of Architecture have made—and continue to make—enormous contributions to this city. Twenty-five years after I joined McGill, there are still plenty of stories to tell about the school— and it’s just one part of a very big place that’s always full of stories.

It’s the sort of place where the future international president of Médecins Sans Frontières gets the medical and management training to make her mark on the world stage. It’s the sort of place where a determined young man learns to balance his medical studies with a fledgling NFL career. It’s the sort of place where undergraduates, under the careful tutelage of a special professor, win international prizes for creating new types of food.

It’s easy to spend a quarter of a decade at a place like that. The years just fly by.

I still miss the hair, though.

Daniel McCabe, BA’89

 

Alumnotes: Fall-Winter 2015

Mon, 02/01/2016 - 15:53
Agricultural & Environmental Sciences

Wayne Dickieson, BSc(Agr)’64, was selected as the 2015 recipient of the Dairy Cattle Improvement Industry Distinction Award, in recognition of his exceptional contributions to the Canadian dairy industry over many years. A former president of the Canadian Association of Animal Breeders, Wayne was inducted into the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2014.

Architecture

Jerry Glos, BArch’55, was recently named a fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, which recognizes outstanding achievement in architecture. In 1966, Jerry and his engineer brother Carl founded Glos Associates Ltd and worked on a number of well-known Windsor landmarks including the Windsor Star Printing Facility, the Jamieson Vitamin Manufacturing Facility and the new Windsor Transit Terminal.

 

21901-main_612-10_21901_sc_v2comJulia Gersovitz, BSc(Arch)’74, BArch’75, is the recipient of the 2015 Gabrielle Léger Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Conservation in Canada. Awarded by the National Trust for Canada, it is the country’s top honour for individual achievement in heritage conservation. She has worked on some of Canada’s most iconic buildings, including the West Block of Parliament, Toronto Union Station and McGill’s Arts Building. An adjunct professor of architecture at McGill, she is a founding partner of FGMDA and leads that firm’s large-scale heritage projects.

Frances Bronet, BSc(Arch)’77, BArch’78, BEng’79, is now the provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at the Illinois Institute of Technology. She had previously held the position of distinguished professor,
acting provost and dean of the School of Architecture and Allied Arts at the University of Oregon. She is the past president of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture.

Michel Nadeau, BSc(Arch)’81, BArch’82, is the new associate vice-president of facilities management at Concordia University. He had previously been working for the City of Montreal as the director of stratégies et transactions immobilières (real estate transactions and strategies), where he was responsible for the management of 1,400 buildings.

Claire Laurence, BSc(Arch)’12, graduated with a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Pennsylvania in May. Following three consecutive years with the highest ranking in all her courses, Claire received the American Institute of Architecture Henry Adams Prize and Medal for the graduating student with the highest GPA.

Jessica Yee, BSc(Arch)’15, recently returned from a project trip to Malawi where she volunteered with Engineering Ministries International Canada and provided master planning and design for Namikango Mission, an organization that trains church workers and supplies medical and educational services. Jessica worked as an architectural intern and helped plan and assist with the conceptual design of the dorms, classrooms and administrative buildings.

Arts

John Friedlander, BA’41, MA’46, was made a knight of the French Legion of Honour (Chevalier de l’Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur), in recognition of his contributions to France during the Second World War. The ceremony, which involved the French ambassador to Canada, took place in Ottawa in April. John piloted a rocket-firing Hawker Typhoon during more than 125 missions in Northern Europe during the war and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service. He lives in Mississauga, Ontario and can be reached at dorajohn@bell.net.

 

TaylorCharlesCharles Taylor, BA’52, a McGill professor emeritus of philosophy, is a co-recipient of the 2015 John W. Kluge Prize. He is the best known for his contributions to political philosophy, the philosophy of social science, the history of philosophy and intellectual history. His work has been published in 20 languages and has dealt with issues ranging from artificial intelligence to analyses of contemporary multicultural societies to the study of religion and what it means to live in a secular age. Awarded by the U.S. Library of Congress, the $1.5 million Kluge Prize recognizes individuals whose outstanding scholarship in the humanities and social sciences has shaped both public affairs and civil society.

 

 

Michael Meighen, BA’60, LLD’12, received the 2015 T.B. ‘Happy’ Fraser Award, the Atlantic Salmon Federation’s highest honour for contributions to wild Atlantic salmon conservation. Michael has served as the chairman of ASF (Canada) since 2004 and helped create the Meighen-Molson Professorship in Atlantic Salmon Research, which led to the establishment of the Canadian Rivers Institute at the University of New Brunswick. In 2014, Michael became the chancellor of McGill.

John McLernon, BA’62, was one of the recipients of the 2014 British Columbia Community Achievement Awards for his work as the founding chair of the Streetohome Foundation, a community organization that addresses the needs of the homeless in Vancouver. John has also served on numerous city boards including the Vancouver Opera and the Vancouver Foundation. He is the honorary chair and co-founder of the Colliers Macaulay Nicolls Group of Companies. As its CEO for 25 years, he developed Colliers from a local Vancouver company to a global commercial real estate service provider operating in 60 countries.

Linda Gaboriau, BA’65, MA’72, was named to the Order of Canada as a new member for her contributions as a translator who has helped promote French-Canadian theatre to a broader English audience. A two-time winner of the Governor General’s Award for Literary Translation, she has translated more than 100 French plays into English.

Lawrence Rossy, BA’65, was named to the Order of Canada as a new member for his contributions to the retail sector in Canada and for his support of health care and social service organizations. He is the CEO and founder of Dollarama. His philanthropic support played a pivotal role in the creation of McGill’s Rossy Cancer Network.

Elizabeth Abbott, MA’66, PhD’71, recently published Dogs and Underdogs: Finding Happiness at Both Ends of the Leash (Penguin Canada), an exploration of the human-dog bond. Her previous books include A History of Mistresses and A History of Marriage.

Byron Ayanoglu, BA’67, published his fifth book Fresh Blood, which tells the story of a widowed Greek woman who grew up during the Nazi occupation and Greek civil war. After the death of her abusive husband, she finds peace until the 2012 Greek financial crisis. Byron’s other works include a best-selling Thai cookbook, a novel, a memoir and a satirical romance.

Ron Burnett, BA’68, MA’71, PhD’81, was appointed to the Order of British Columbia in May in recognition of his distinguished academic service in media, arts and education. Ron has been the president of Emily Carr University of Art + Design since 1996 and was the director of McGill’s Graduate Program in Communications from 1987 to 1996.

 

MarkStarowicz_CBC_TV__1250-Head_USEMark Starowicz, BA’68, DLitt’01, recently retired from the CBC after a pioneering career in journalism that spanned several decades. He was the driving force behind the CBC’s award-winning multi-part documentary Canada: A Peoples History and the creator and/or producer of many of the CBC’s most influential programs, including As It Happens, The Journal and Sunday Morning. The former executive producer of CBC’s documentary department will now focus on making his own documentaries.

Elizabeth Wajnberg, BA’68, is the author of Sheymes: A Family Album after the Holocaust (McGill-Queen’s University Press). The daughter of Holocaust survivors, she chronicles her family’shistory from the prewar years through the war to their arrival in Montreal. As her parents age and the author becomes their active and anxious caregiver, the book changes its focus to address the way society turns away from its elderly.

Cat Bennett, BA’70, released her third book, The Drawing Club of Improbable Dreams, this past fall. The book describes how to start and run a drawing club. Cat was an illustrator for more than 25 years and her work has appeared in The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Atlantic and Time.

Mordechai Nisan, MA’70, PhD’75, released a new book, Politics and War in Lebanon: Unraveling the Enigma, which examines Lebanese society, a culture that he believes is often misrepresented in Western political commentary. The book focuses on how Lebanon is very different from other Arab countries. Mordechai taught Middle East studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Monique Jérôme-Forget, BA’71, PhD’77, was named to the Order of Canada as a new member for her contributions to Quebec public life. She held senior cabinet positions in the Quebec government between 2003 and 2009, including Treasury Board president, finance minister and minister of government services.

Eduardo del Buey, BA’72, has written two books on strategic communications, Guerilla Communications and Spokespersonry, both available through Amazon. Eduardo spent 37 years in the Canadian diplomatic service and served as spokesperson for the Secretaries General of the Organization of American States and the Commonwealth, and as deputy spokesperson for the U.N. Secretary General.

Jean-Louis Roy, PhD’72, was named to the Order of Quebec as an officer. He is the president of Partenariat International, a think tank devoted to international development. He was the editor of Le Devoir from 1980 to 1986, Quebec’s delegate-general to Paris from 1986 to 1989 and the president of Rights & Democracy from 2002 to 2007.

Dave Flavell, BA’73, is the author of Community & the Human Spirit: Oral Histories from Montreal’s Point St. Charles, Griffintown and Goose Village, which tells the social history of Canada’s “cradle of industrialization” just south of Montreal’s booming metropolis. The contributors to the book were born between 1924 and 1957, and they contrast the past of the working class neighbourhood with the urban redevelopment currently taking place.

Jan Wong, BA’74, is a tenured associate professor of journalism at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick. She divides her time between the Maritimes, where she also writes a column for The Chronicle Herald, and Toronto, where she writes a column for Toronto Life. A former foreign correspondent in Beijing, she won a National Newspaper Award for foreign reporting and a (U.S.) George Polk award for business reporting. Her most recent bestseller is Out of the Blue: A Memoir of Workplace Depression, Recovery, Redemption and, Yes, Happiness.

Roger N. Buckley, PhD’75, is the co-editor of Yellow Power Yellow Soul: The Radical Art of Fred Ho (University of Illinois Press). The book explores Ho’s musical and theatrical work, as well as his political theory and activism. Roger is also the author of Sepoy O’Connor (Writer’s Workshop, Kolkata/Calcutta, India). The novel, his third, examines the true story of a British soldier who deserts to the rebel Indian side during the so-called Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. Roger’s current work focuses on the history of Montreal’s Japanese community. He is a professor of history and the founding director of the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut.

Paul Bychok, BA’77, retired as a senior litigator with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada in Nunavut in April, 2015. Two months later, he was appointed to the Superior Court Bench as a judge of the Nunavut Court of Justice and a judge of the Courts of Appeal of the three northern territories. He will continue to reside in the ‘Road to Nowhere’ subdivision at the edge of Iqaluit where all of Baffin Island is his back yard.

Jack Hayes, BA’79, has left his position as vice-president human resources with Chubb Edwards (United Technologies Corporation). He has established HR Fit (HRFit.ca), a consulting practice specializing in providing HR services to small and mid-sized organizations with a focus on employee and labour relations. Jack lives in Toronto with his wife Anne-Marie, BA’78, and his two children.

Carolyn Marie Souaid, BA’81, Dip Ed’83, recently published This World We Invented, a book of poetry that “investigates our darker moments.” She is the author of six poetry books and has been shortlisted for a number of literary prizes including the A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry and the Pat Lowther Memorial Award. She also co-founded Poetry Quebec, the first online review of English poetry from Quebec poets.

Diane Chênevert, BA’82, was named to the Order of Quebec as a knight earlier this year. She is also the Montreal YWCA’s 2015 Woman of Distinction in Social Commitment. Diane is the founder and general manager of Centre Philou, a non-profit, charitable organization that supports the families of children with disabilities. Diane established a summer camp for children with serious disabilities, as well as cognitive and physical development programs tailored to children with multiple disabilities.

Robert Housez, BA’82, DipEd’83, received the Ontario Hostelry Institute Hotelier of the Year award. He is the general manager of the Delta Meadowvale Hotel and Conference Centre. He has been on several Tourism Toronto committees and currently sits on its board of directors. He is also a board member with the Toronto West Tourism Advisory Board.

Zlata Blazina Tomic, MA’82, is a medical historian now retired from McGill’s Osler Library of the History of Medicine. She recently published, with Vesna Blazina, her second book, Expelling the Plague: The Health Office and the Implementation of Quarantine in Dubrovnik, 1377-1533 (McGill-Queen’s University Press). Based on archival sources, the book explores the early European public health regulations concerning plague control with a particular emphasis on the disastrous 1526 plague epidemic.

G. Andrew Karolyi, BA’83, recently published Cracking the Emerging Markets Enigma, a book that provides practical guidelines for assessing the opportunities and risks of investing in emerging markets. He is a professor of finance at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University. He is the executive editor of the Review of Financial Studies and was named one of “the world’s most influential scientific minds” in 2014 by Thomson Reuters.

Sarah K. Harding, BA’86 is the recipient of the Illinois Institute of Technology’s 2015 John W. Rowe University Excellence in Teaching Award. Sarah has been a member of faculty since 1995 and is the institute’s Chicago-Kent College of Law Professor. Her research focuses on property-related issues with an emphasis on the social and cultural significance of property. From 2008 to 2014 she was IIT’s associate dean for faculty research and development and has also served as co-director of the IIT Chicago-Kent’s Institute for Law and the Humanities.

Ian Simmons, BA’86, a Washington-based partner of O’Melveny & Myers LLP, was appointed co-chair of the firm’s Antitrust & Competition Group. With more than 23 years of experience in antitrust litigation, Ian’s practice focuses on cartel class actions and matters involving intellectual property. He currently represents Sysco Corporation in the Federal Trade Commission’s challenge to the Sysco-US Foods merger. Ian is also an associate editor for Antitrust Magazine. He was recently a finalist for Global Competition Review’s 2015 Litigator of the Year Award.

Robert L. Rosenthal, BA’88, an attorney at Howard & Howard Attorneys PLLC, was selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America 2016. Robert is listed under employment law-management; labor law-management; and litigation-labor and employment. He was also named to the 2015 Mountain States Super Lawyers list in the employment & labor category.

Megan Williams, BA’88, won a Gold Trophy at the 2015 New York Radio Festivals for Best Documentary on Social Issues and a United Nations award for her radio documentary Claiming Space, which analyzes “the conception and design of public space,” and how it “affects the lives of women who move through it.” She travelled from India to Vienna to speak with sociologists, city planners and cultural historians.

Cleo Paskal, BA’90, an associate fellow at Chatham House in Great Britain and the author of Global Warring: How Environmental, Economic, and Political Crises Will Redraw the World, was named one of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation’s five Trudeau fellows for 2015. She will use her fellowship, worth $225,000 over three years, to examine recent geopolitical, geoeconomic, and geophysical changes in the Indo-Pacific region and how they might affect Canada. McGill law professor René Provost was also named a Trudeau fellow.

Brenda LeFrançois, BA’91, has been promoted to the rank of full professor at Memorial University. Brenda is the chair of the PhD program in the School of Social Work and edits the journal Intersectionalities. She is co-editor of Mad Matters: A Critical Reader in Canadian Mad Studies, Psychiatry Disrupted: Theorizing Resistance and Crafting the (R)evolution, Psychiatrised Children and their Rights: Global Perspectives.

Jeffrey de Fourestier, MA’92, received the Public Service Award of Excellence for 2015 in the category of Excellence in Citizen-Focused Service Delivery. Jeffrey was recognized for his work in managing the Memorial Ribbon Program through which the Canadian Armed Forces recognizes the loss and sacrifice of the families of fallen soldiers. He was presented with the award by the Governor General on September 16 at Rideau Hall.

Jessica McBride, BA’92, MA’07, PhD’15, is the recipient of the Dr. Durand Jacobs Dissertation Award presented by the National Council on Problem Gambling. Her dissertation surveyed young people’s gambling and gaming activities and examined how certain forms of gaming activity are related to gambling.

 

Groundwood Logos SpineJonArno Lawson, BA’93 received the 2015 Governor General’s Literary Award for children’s illustrated books (English). He and co-recipient Sydney Smith won the prize for Sidewalk Flowers. Other winners included Rhonda Mullins, CertTranslation’05 (for French to English translation for her work on Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals), and Robyn Sarah, BA’70, MA’74 (for English poetry for My Shoes are Killing Me). Finalists for the prizes included Ying Chen, MA’91 (French non-fiction), Emil Sher, BA’81 (English children’s literature), and Rachel Martinez, BA’82, GradDipTranslation’07 (French to English translation).

 

 

Alex Silver, BA’93, has joined Charles River Associates, a consulting firm, as a principal in the life sciences practice based in Boston. Prior to joining CRA, Alex was a member of the business development team at Crosswave in Shanghai, where he managed early stage life science ventures.

Gib Van Ert, BA’95, was appointed to the position of executive legal officer of the Supreme Court of Canada. He will serve for a two-year term as principal advisor to the chief justice, assisting her with the administration of the court, the Canadian Judicial Council and the National Judicial Institute. He is also responsible for media relations at the court.

Laure Waridel, BA’96, is the new executive director of the Centre interdisciplinaire de recherche en opérationnalisation du développement durable (CIRODD), an interdisciplinary research centre at Polytechnique Montréal that focuses its efforts on producing knowledge and tools that can foster a transition toward a green economy. Laure is the co-founder of Équiterre, an organization that helps people, organizations and
governments make ecological and equitable choices.

Eliott Behar, BA’97, was a finalist for the 2015 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction for Tell It to the World: International Justice and the Secret Campaign to Hide Mass Murder in Kosovo. The book explores issues of mass violence and genocide and focuses on the disappearance of more than a thousand Kosovar Albanians in the nineties. Eliott is a former war crimes prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

Rachel Pulfer, BA’97, has returned as the executive director of Journalists for Human Rights after a maternity leave. She has worked with JHR for five years, first as its international programs director, managing projects in Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Malawi and Sierra Leone. As the U.S. bureau chief for Canadian Business, she won a Webster/McConnell Canadian Journalism Fellowship for her coverage
of the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

Shane Hambly, BA’02, is now the vice president of eDealer and carmigo.com. A Canadian tech start-up, carmigo.com is a new car shopping site that connects car buyers with salespeople at competing dealerships in real-time.

David Steinberg, BA’03, is the author of Demanding Devaluation: Exchange Rate Politics in the Developing World. In the book, he analyses the effect that exchange rate policy has on economic development, financial crises and international political conflict, and he provides a number of case studies to support his arguments. David is an assistant professor of international political economy at John Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.

Elizabeth Cappiello, BA’04, a lawyer at Ober|Kaler, was named a rising star in the category of business litigation in the 2015 ranking of Washington D.C. Super Lawyers.

Francis Halin, BA’04, MA’08, received the $2,500 Bourse AJIQ-Le Devoir awarded by l’Association des journalistes indépendants du Québec and Le Devoir. The prize includes an internship at Le Devoir. After completing a journalism certificate at Université de Montréal, Francis began working as a freelance journalist at Radio-Canada.

Nicolas Ferreyros, BA’05, is the new director of communications for the Community Oncology Alliance, a non-profit organization that advocates for patients and their providers in the community cancer care setting. Nick brings 10 years of experience as a senior public relations counsellor to COA, most recently at a D.C.-based communications firm specializing in healthcare, science and social issues.

Lawrence Monoson, BA’09, is the co-founder and CEO of RxData, a comprehensive and up-to-date online database of drug costs and reimbursement coverage globally. He was recently featured in L’Hebdo’s Forum des 100.

Luis Van Isschot, PhD’10, recently published his new book The Social Origins of Human Rights: Protesting Political Violence in Colombia’s Oil Capital, 1919-2010.The book analyzes the human rights movement in Barrancabermeja, Colombia. Luis is an assistant professor of the history of modern Latin America at the University of Toronto.

Eric Andrew-Gee, BA’14, is a recipient of the Goff Penny Award, given annually to the best journalists in the country under the age of 25, for his work at the Toronto Star. He now works as a national reporter for the Globe and Mail. Before working at the Star, he was an editor at Maisonneuve and an intern at The New Republic. His writing has been published in Canadian Art, The Walrus, and Toronto Life.

Continuing Studies

Audrey Filion, CertPRMgmt’07, recently became the senior director, public relations and marketing communication at the Quebec-based public relations firm Citoyen Optimum. She previously worked on her own as a
consultant and before that as the marketing director at the Ritz-Carlton and the public relations manager at Holt Renfrew.

Dentistry

Myrna Halpenny, DDS’74, received the Honoured Member Award from the College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia, the organization’s highest distinction. She started at CDSBC as a specialty representative on the board, then served as vice-president before becoming the only woman to serve as CDSBC president. She is a founding member of the B.C. Women’s Dental Society and recently chaired a mentorship program for female dentists in British Columbia.

Education

Freda Lewkowicz, DipEd’74, CertSpEd’79, Cert RInst’80, recently published School Selfies: Teachers, Parents, Students and Bandwagons, where she sheds light on important issues in public education, and provides a selfie of schools today. Freda is a retired high school English teacher and has written for various publications including The Gazette, The Globe and Mail and Parade.com.

Ken Rivard, MEd’74, recently published his 10th book, Motherwild (Thistledown Press), which tells the story of a mother-son relationship set in Montreal. Ken’s books have been finalists for the Writer’s Guild of Alberta Book Awards and the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize. He has been a juror for both the Alberta and Saskatchewan book awards and has been the writer-in-residence for the Calgary Public Library and the Writers Guild of Alberta. In 2005, Ken was nominated for the inaugural Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Awards.

Rick Shaver, BEd’79, was recently named president and CEO of the Toronto ad agency The Hive, where he began working as vice-president 20 years ago,  after having spent many years as a company executive with Labatt’s. An avid runner and consummate world traveller, Rick has successfully completed 16 marathons across North America and Europe and is the founder of the Canadian chapter of the Travellers’ Century Club, an international non-profit social organization representing travellers who have visited 100 or more countries and territories around the world.

Trish Dougherty, BEd’83, is the owner of the Kawartha Store in Fenelon Falls, an online clothing store focused on Canadian-made items and featuring a wide range of designers. Trish supports buying Canadian for quality, economic, ethical and environmental reasons.

Susan Bartlett, MEd’88, is the Montreal YWCA’s Woman of Distinction in Education. An associate professor of medicine at McGill, her research has shown that individuals can take action against the negative consequences of chronic diseases such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and obesity, whether by acting on psychological factors or on health and lifestyle habits.

Derek Webster, DipEd’94, recently published Mockingbird, a book of poetry, with Véhicule Press. His poetry and prose have appeared in The Fiddlehead, The Malahat Review, The Walrus and Boston Review. He was the founding editor of Maisonneuve magazine.

 

840_Kid_Koala-AJ-KorkidakisEric San, BEd’96, is better known as Kid Koala, a turntablist and cartoonist whose 2003 graphic novel  Nufonia Must Fall is the subject of a new multimedia stage production. Nufonia Must Fall focuses on a headphones-sporting robot on the verge of obsolescence and his attempts to woo an office worker with his love songs. Kid Koala is collaborating with Oscar-nominated production designer K.K. Barrett (Her, Lost in Translation) on the show and provides the score. The production, likened to “a cartoon performed live” by The New York Times, will be performed in Los Angeles, Boston, Nashville, Minneapolis and other cities in 2016.

Alex M. McComber, MEd’96, received an honorary doctorate from Queen’s University in recognition of his research on Type 2 diabetes and his work on prevention programs and community empowerment programs with Aboriginal peoples. Alex is the co-investigator of a national diabetes research effort in First Nations communities, FORGE AHEAD, and the training facilitator for the Kahnawake Schools KSDPP Training Program in Diabetes Prevention.

Veronika Horlik, BEd’98, MA’06, is the winner of the RBC Emerging Artist People’s Choice Award for ceramic artists. The Gardiner Museum in Toronto showcased the works of all the finalists, after which the public voted for its favourite. Veronika is based in Montreal and teaches art education courses at McGill along with ceramics courses at Studio de ceramique Alexandra.

Engineering

Will Cupchik, BEng’61, published a new self-help/psychology book, The Rope Trick: Close your Eyes and Open your Mind to Better Know your Relationships, which focuses on a mental imagery exercise that he developed for assessing interpersonal relationships. Will is a counselling psychologist with more than 35 years of experience.

David Haccoun, PhD’74, was recently named a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering. He is a professor emeritus of electrical engineering at Polytechnique Montréal. David is also a fellow of both the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Engineering Institute of Canada.

Camille Dow Baker, BEng’78, is the recipient of the Canadian Medical Association’s 2015 Medal of Honour. She is the co-founder of the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology, a non-governmental organization based in Calgary that provides technological and consulting services in water, sanitation and hygiene to those who work with local populations in the developing world. The centre has helped provide better water and sanitation to nearly 10 million people in 68 countries.

Brian Mackay, BEng’79, graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas with a master’s of science degree in software engineering this past May. He was awarded a certificate of academic excellence. Brian had returned to school after working for 35 years in the industry.

Torill Kove, MUP’89, received Norway’s Anders Jahre Prize for the Arts in September. The award recognizes individuals or institutions that have made outstanding contributions to Norway’s cultural life. Torill is a Norwegian-born, Montreal-based animator and director. She won an Academy Award for her film The Danish Poet in 2006 and she has received Oscar nominations for two other films.

Dominique Lord, BEng’92, was promoted to the rank of professor in September by Texas A&M University. At the time of his promotion, he had the highest number of peer-reviewed publications in the history of the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering. In May 2015, he was inducted into the “Cercle des ambassadeurs” of the Collège Charles-Lemoyne in Longueuil, Quebec, for his professional accomplishments.

Guillaume Boisset, BEng’93, MEng’94, PhD’98, published his first novel From a Pipeline to the Coast, a science fiction adventure story that applies a unique technological twist to the concerns over building a pipeline for tar sands oil. The e-book is available through the Amazon Kindle Store.

Georges El Bacha, BEng’01, moved to Boston after graduation to pursue a career in analog IC design. Instead, he enrolled at the New England Conservatory School of Continuing Education in 2005 to study piano jazz and composition, an interest he had since an early age. In 2009 he started NoMad Dreams, an eclectic indie band with jazz and world music influences. The group now performs regularly in the Boston area. Last March, after a successful Kickstarter campaign, they released their first album. To find out more, visit nomaddreams.com.

Law

Richard Pound, BCom’62, BCL’67, LLD’09, has published his latest book Made in Court: Supreme Court Decisions that Shaped Canada. The book examines more than 50 Supreme Court decisions and how they affected the country. Richard practices law with the Montreal office of Stikeman Elliott LLP. He is chancellor emeritus of McGill and a longtime member of the International Olympic Committee.

 

666541-bklt-KD-400Ken Dryden, LLB’73, a Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender who won six Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens, was one of six NHL goaltending legends selected for the 2015 NHL Great Canadian Goalies stamp series by Canada Post. Since retiring as a player, he has been the president of the Toronto Maple Leafs, a Member of Parliament, a university teacher and an author. His book, The Game, about his playing days with the Canadiens, was named as one of the best sports books of all time by Sports Illustrated.

 

Ian M. Solloway, BA’70, BCL’73, was awarded the 2015 Merite du Barreau de Montreal in recognition of his exceptional contributions to the Montreal Bar and its activities. He was re-elected to a seventh consecutive term as chair of the English-speaking Section of the Bar of Montreal in March 2015.

Julia Weller, BA’70, LLB’78, has been recognized by the National Law Journal as an Energy and Environmental Trailblazer. Julia is a partner in Pierce Atwood’s energy practice group and currently focuses on promoting investment in clean energy and energy efficiency projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Commonwealth of Independent States and the countries of Southeast Europe.

 

SENATELarry Smith, BCL’76, was inducted into the Quebec Sports Hall of Fame as a builder for his contributions to football in the province. Smith’s long association with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes began in 1972, when he became a running back for the team, eventually becoming a key part of two Grey Cup winners. Following his playing days, he served for five years as commissioner of the CFL. As a two-time president of the Alouettes, he is widely credited with making the team and the sport more popular in Montreal and Quebec. He is now a member of the Canadian Senate.

Lisa de Wilde, BA’77, LLB’80, was named to the Order of Canada as a new member for her contributions to public broadcasting. She is the CEO of TV Ontario, chairs the Toronto International Film Festival’s board of directors and is on the board of directors for Telus.

Eva Petras, BCL’80, LLB’80, was appointed associate chief justice of the Superior Court of Quebec. She had been a puisne judge of the Superior Court of Quebec in the judicial district of Montreal. Prior to becoming a judge, she practiced law with MacKenzie Gervais and Lapointe Rosenstein before starting her own firm in Montreal in 1990. She has also been a lecturer in family law at McGill and a member of both the Disciplinary Committee and the Professional Inspection Committee of the Bar of Quebec. She is a past president of the Canadian Slovak Professional and Business Association.

Bernard Amyot, BCL’82, LLB’83, a commercial litigator at LCM Attorneys Inc. in Montreal and a past president of the Canadian Bar Association, was inducted as a fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers during the IATL’s annual meeting in Seattle.

François Crépeau, BCL’82, LLD’82, recently became the new director of McGill’s Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism. He is McGill’s Hans & Tamar Oppenheimer Chair in Public International Law and is also the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants.

Stephen Toope, LLB’83, BCL’83, was named to the Order of Canada as an officer for his leadership in post-secondary education and for his scholarship in the fields of international law and human rights. He is the director of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs. A former dean of law at McGill, he was also the president of the University of British Columbia from 2006 to 2014.

Donna Soble Kaufman, BCL’84, was named to the Order of Canada as a member for her contributions to the field of corporate governance and for her pioneering work promoting women in Canada’s business community. She serves or has served as a director or governor for several major corporations and organizations including Bell Canada, the Historica-Dominion Institute, the Hudson’s Bay Company and TransAlta Corp.

Hartland J.A. Paterson, BCL’86, LLB’86, is now the executive vice-president and general counsel at SNC-Lavalin, where he oversees the legal and ethics & compliance functions. He had previously been working with CAE Inc., where he was a member of the executive committee and held the position of general counsel, chief compliance officer and secretary.

William B. Rosenberg, BA’84, BCL’88, LLB’88, a senior partner in the Montreal office of Stikeman Elliott LLP, has begun a one-year term as chair of the American Bar Association Business Law Section. He is the first non-U.S. lawyer to be named as an officer of the ABA Business Law Section, one of the largest specialty groups within the ABA. He is a past editor-in-chief of The Business Lawyer, the premier peer-reviewed business law journal in the United States.

 

haynes_bryanBryan Haynes, BA’90, LLB’93, was honoured for his contributions to McGill as a longtime volunteer at the McGill Alumni Calgary Gala in November. A partner at Bennett Jones in Calgary, Bryan is the co-head of the law firm’s corporate commercial practice group. He is a member of McGill’s board of governors and the board of directors of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Canada. He has served as the president of both the McGill Alumni Association of Southern Alberta and the McGill Alumni Association of Vancouver. He co-chairs McGill’s International Alma Mater Fund Council and is a former trustee for the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.

 

Hugo Cyr, BCL’97, LLB’97, was appointed to a five-year term as the new dean of the Faculty of Political Science and Law at the Université du Québec à Montréal. A constitutional law expert who often does consulting work for governments, Hugo has been a professor in UQAM’s Department of Juridical Science since 2002.

Claude Loiselle, LLB’98, is working as a hockey operations consultant  for the Arizona Coyotes. He was the vice president and assistant general manager for the Toronto Maple Leafs from 2010 to 2014. He worked as the associate director of hockey operations for the NHL before he joined the Leafs.

Howard Liebman, BCom’95, BCL’99, LLB’99, recently completed 11 years as the chief of staff to former minister of justice and Mount Royal MP Irwin Cotler. Howard is now a special advisor on international relations to Montreal mayor Denis Coderre.

Jan-Fryderyk Pleszczynski, BCL’00, LLB’00, is the recipient of the 2015 Arnold Edinborough Award, a prize that recognizes business professionals under the age of 40 for exemplary leadership and volunteerism in the arts. The prize is awarded by Business for the Arts, Canada’s only national charitable association of business members who support the arts. Jan-Fryderyk is the president of Digital Dimension, which specializes in high-end visual effects and 3D animation for the film, television, advertising and interactive entertainment industries. He is also the chair of the Conseil des arts de Montréal.

Aidan Johnson, BCL/LLB’10, was elected city councillor for Ward 1 in Hamilton, Ontario in 2014. He serves as vice-chair of the City of Hamilton Finance Committee and is supervising Hamilton’s upgrade to the regional sewage and water system. He also designed Hamilton’s Indigenous Justice Strategy, passed by council in April, which consists of a set of policies aimed at creating greater consultation and co-operation between the city government and the First Nations peoples.

Library & Information Sciences

Mary Melfi, MLS’77, has published more than a dozen books of poetry, prose and drama. Her new novel Via Roma (Guernica Editions) focuses on a Montreal woman who is drawn to two men of Italian descent. When she chooses one over the other, she sets in motion a chain of events that results in a murder mystery.

Phyllis Rudin, MLS’80, recently published Evie, the Baby and the Wife, a fictionalized account of the Abortion Caravan, a cross-Canada road trip in the seventies that tried to open up access to abortions for women. The story covers the history of the fight for women’s reproductive rights in Canada. Phyllis is an award-winning short story writer and her work has appeared in numerous literary magazines.

Brian C. Thompson, MLIS’94, has written the first English-language biography of the composer of “O Canada.” Anthems and Minstrel Shows: The Life and Times of Calixa Lavallée, 1842-1891, was published in June by McGill-Queen’s University Press. Brian is a senior lecturer in the Department of Music at the Chinese University of Hong King.

Management

Derek Grout, MBA’71, is a historian who has written extensively on shipwrecks and scuba diving in Canada and the United States. His latest book, Thunder in the Skies: A Canadian Gunner in the Great War (Dundurn Press), focuses on Bert Sargent, a McGill engineer who served throughout the war in the Canadian Field Artillery. Using unpublished, first-person sources, Thunder in the Skies details the daily life of an artilleryman in the First World War.

Peter Todd, BCom’83, became the new dean of HEC Paris in September. From 2005 to 2014, Peter was the dean of McGill’s Desautels Faculty of Management. His fields of expertise include innovation management and information technologies.

France Belanger, BCom’85, received Virginia Tech’s 2015 Alumni Award for Excellence in Research. France is the R.B. Pamplin Professor of Accounting and Information Systems and Tom and Daisy Byrd Senior Faculty Fellow at Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business. Her research examines digital interactions between individuals, businesses and the government, and security and privacy issues. She also co-developed a smartphone app for digital privacy education and has worked on award-winning technology to safeguard children’s online privacy.

Louise Ann Maziak, BSc’81, MSc’84, MBA’87, was recently appointed to the board of directors for the Fondation de l’Institut de Recherches Cliniques de Montréal. Louise is the vice-president of national accounts at TD Commercial Banking.

Greg Silas, BCom’91, DPA’92, MBA’91 and Peter Grech, BA’90, are the cofounders of BoardSeat, a relationship building service for business professionals. Peter is responsible for BoardSeat’s business strategy, sales and member relations, while Greg deals with business strategy, product design and development. The duo don’t believe that trusted relationships can develop solely online, which is why BoardSeat is designed with a strong offline component. For more information, visit www.boardseat.com.

K. Brewer Doran, PhD’00, is the new dean of the Offutt School of Business at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. She arrived from Salem State University in Massachusetts, where she was the dean of the Bertolon School of Business.

André Gremillet, MBA’00, is the new executive director of the Cleveland Orchestra. André had been the managing director of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra since November 2012. He was the president and CEO of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra from 2007 to 2012. Prior to joining the NJSO, he served for four years as president of the internationally-renowned pipe organ building company Casavant Frères.

Jennifer Liao, BCom’02, directed the feature film End of Days, Inc., a science fiction comedy produced with the support of Telefilm Canada. The film, which was screened at the Calgary International Film Festival, was picked up for distribution in North America by Indiecan Entertainment and will be released in early 2016. To view the trailer and stay up to date, visit GodfreyGlobal.com.

Catherine Ward, BCom’09, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a former all-star with the McGill Martlets, has retired from the Canadian women’s national hockey team. She was an assistant captain for the team at the Sochi Olympics, where she led Canada in minutes played, averaging over 24 minutes per game. Catherine is an assistant product manager for sticks with the equipment company CCM.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJennifer Heil, BCom’13, was inducted into the Quebec Sports Hall of Fame in recognition of her accomplishments in the sport of freestyle mogul skiing. A four-time world champion, Jennifer earned gold and silver medals at the Winter Olympics. She is a co-founder of B2ten, a group that offers funding and training support to top Canadian athletes preparing for the Olympics, and is an ambassador for the Because I am a Girl initiative, which promotes girls’ rights around the world.

Medicine

Charles Scriver, BA’51, MDCM’55, DSc’07, was named the 2015 recipient of the Victor A. McKusick Leadership Award by the American Society of Human Genetics. The prize recognizes individuals whose achievements have fostered and enriched the development of human genetics as well as its assimilation into the broader context of science, medicine, and health. His work has had a major impact on public health in Quebec. He helped develop pediatric genetic screening programs that played an instrumental role in the reduction of cases of thalassemia and Tay-Sachs disease in the province. His work on Vitamin D deficiency has benefited generations of Quebec children. He has worked at McGill for more than 50 years, having founded the deBelle Laboratory for Biochemical Genetics in 1961.

Vivian Morris Rakoff, DipPsych’63, was named to the Order of Canada as a member for his contributions to psychiatry as an educator and clinician, and for his role in founding the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. He is the former CEO and psychiatrist-in-chief of the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry. He recently retired from the CAMH.

Mark Abelson, BSc’66, MDCM’70, was awarded an honorary doctorate of science from Bates College. Mark is the chief scientific officer of Ora, a leading ophthalmic research and product development firm, and a clinical professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. Bates College officials described him as “one of the world’s leading eye doctors,” noting the important role that his research has played in the development of many eye treatments.

Nathan Laufer, MDCM’77, was recently elected president of the Arizona Medical Association. Nathan is the founder and medical director of the Heart & Vascular Center of Arizona. He is the past program director and founder of the Interventional Cardiology Fellowship Program at Banner Good Samaritan Hospital, the founder of the Cardiovascular Society of Arizona,
and the past chief of the Department of Cardiovascular Disease at the Banner Estrella Medical Center in Phoenix. His wife, Judy, who is also from Montreal, was a kindergarten teacher and is currently a children’s book author. They have one son, Andrew, currently living in Los Angeles.

Anne-Marie Audet, BSc’79, MDCM’84, MSc’89, joined the United Hospital Fund as vice president to lead its new Quality Institute. Previously, she served as vice president for delivery system reform and breakthrough opportunities programs at the Commonwealth Fund. She is currently an editor of the American Journal of Medical Quality, The Journal of Health Care Quality, and The Journal of Implementation Sciences.  She is also an assistant professor of medicine and public health at Cornell University and is a founding board member of the Massachusetts Medical Society and Alliance Charitable Foundation Board.

 

MarthaPiperMartha Piper, PhD’79, DSc’98, became the interim president of the University of British Columbia in September following the resignation of former UBC president Arvind Gupta. She had previously served as UBC’s president from 1997 to 2006. Earlier in her career, she was the director of McGill’s School of Physical and Occupational Therapy. She is a member of the boards of the Bank of Montreal, CARE Canada, the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education, and the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation. She is the former board chair for the National Institute of Nanotechnology.

 

 

Marla Shapiro, MDCM’79, was named to the Order of Canada as a member for her contributions as a family physician and as a trusted source of health information who communicates both the medical and human impacts of health care concerns. She is a medical consultant for CTV National News and a medical contributor to Canada AM. She is also the founding editor of ParentsCanada magazine and an associate professor of family & community medicine at the University of Toronto.

Joanne Liu, MDCM’91, IMHL’14, was named to the Order of Quebec as an officer. She is the international president of Médecins Sans Frontières.

Richard Montoro, MDCM’91, MSc’01, served as one of the grand marshals for Montréal Pride 2015. He is the Faculty of Medicine’s assistant dean for resident professional affairs, an assistant professor of psychiatry at McGill and the co-founder of the McGill University Sexual Identity Centre at the Montreal General Hospital.

Santa Ono, PhD’91, was inducted into Johns Hopkins University’s Society of Scholars. A highly accomplished researcher in eye disease, he is president of the University of Cincinnati, where he is also a professor of pediatrics in the College of Medicine and a professor of biology in the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences. He chairs Ohio governor John Kasich’s task force focusing on the biopharmaceutical industry.

Cara Tannenbaum, MDCM’94, MSc’03, was named a 2015 Woman of Distinction by the Montreal YWCA in Health. A professor at the Université de Montréal, she is credited with making important contributions in the treatment and understanding of  incontinence and memory loss. Earlier this year, she was appointed scientific director of the Institute of Gender and Health of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Paul Charlebois, MedicalResident’97, is one of the 2015 recipients of the Canadian Medical Association’s John McCrae Memorial Medal. A lieutenant colonel, Paul has served on humanitarian and disaster relief missions, participated in military missions in Italy and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and has been deployed to Afghanistan four times, where he used his skills as an internal medicine and critical care physician to provide 24/7 care to wounded NATO soldiers, enemy combatants and civilians.

Emily Reynen, MDCM’15, is the first medical trainee to receive the Canadian Medical Association’s CMA Sir Charles Tupper Award for Political Action. She sat on the government affairs and advocacy committee of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students and was the founding president of a similar student advocacy group at McGill, where she began the process of establishing the first provincial Lobby Day for Quebec’s four medical faculties. She also organized an education panel for medical students to gain a deeper understanding of Bill 52, Quebec’s end-of-life care legislation.

Music

Shireen Maluf, BMus’92, MA’95, MMus’96, was the recipient of the Award of Excellence in Screenwriting at the 2015 Canada International Film Festival. Her screenplay “relates an imaginary story bringing together human characters and nature spirits in an initiatory quest,” and was selected from a pool of entries from more than 30 countries. Shireen is a tenured professor at the Department of Music Education at Lebanese University.

Brian Current, BMus’96, is the winner of the inaugural Azrieli Commissioning Composition, a $50,000 prize for a new work of orchestral Jewish music of 15 to 25 minutes duration by a Canadian composer. Brian’s award-winning composition was performed by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and Maestro Kent Nagano at the Azrieli Music Project Gala Concert at Montreal’s Maison symphonique in October. Brian won a Juno Award earlier this year for his opera Airline Icarus.

Shawn Mativetsky, BMus’98, MMus’00, is a tabla performer who teaches tabla and percussion at McGill’s Schulich School of Music. His latest CD, recorded with santoor player Jonathan Voyer, is Raga Charukeshi. Shawn is a member of the award-winning Indo-fusion group Ragleela and has contributed to albums by Yann Perreau, Elephant Stone, Suzie Leblanc, Ramachandra Borcar and Daniel Lavoie. For more information, visit shawnmativetsky.com.

Derek Olive, BMus’01, a Montreal-based singer-songwriter and ER nurse, took part in a 11-city, 3,000 km music cycling tour that began in Vancouver on August 5 and ended in Montreal on September 4. The bike tour was done in support of the David Suzuki Foundation’s Blue Dot movement. Along the way, Derek performed in Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto and six other cities before arriving in Montreal.

 

2013 Sasquatch! Music Festival - Day 4Sarah Pagé, LMus’06, is a harpist and a member of the Barr Brothers. The band’s most recent album, Sleeping Operator, was longlisted for the 2015 Polaris Music Prize and nominated for a 2015 Juno Award for Adult Alternative Album of the Year. The band performed a free outdoor concert before an audience of approximately 100,000 at the Montreal International Jazz Festival this summer.

 

Jonathan Goldman, BMus’08, MA’10, is a saxophonist turned restaurateur and the owner of the newly opened Red Bird Café on Saint Laurent Boulevard in Montreal. The menu includes chef-crafted, homemade soups, salads, sandwiches and baked goods. Many of the items are inspired by recipes from the cookbooks written by his mother, Marcy Goldman, BA’81.

 

richard-hamelin_charles_2.jpg.1600x0_q85Charles-Richard Hamelin, BMus’11, became the first Canadian ever to receive a prize at the International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition, one of the world’s top competitions for classical pianists. He received the competition’s Zimerman Prize for best performance of a sonata and was awarded second prize overall. His first solo CD, which features late works by Chopin, was released on the Analekta label this fall. As a soloist, he has performed with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Poznan Philharmonic Orchestra and other major ensembles.

 

Science

Aubie Angel, MSc’63, was named to the Order of Canada as a member for his contributions to endocrinology and to the establishment of health organizations in Canada. Aubie is the founding president of Friends of Canadian Institutes of Health Research, a national organization that promotes the goals and ideals of CIHR. The group also established the Friesen International Prize in Health Research. He is a former director of the Clinical Sciences Division at the University of Toronto.

 

4101_kudoswainberg1Mark Wainberg, BSc’66, director of the McGill AIDS Centre, will be inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 2016. He played a crucial role in identifying the effectiveness of lamivudine (3TC), which is now one of the most widely used drugs in the treatment of HIV. As the past president of the International AIDS Society, he helped draw worldwide attention to the lack of access to anti-HIV drugs in developing countries.

 

 

Douglas N. C. Lin, BSc’71, received the 2015 Catherine Wolfe Bruce Gold Medal from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific for outstanding lifetime contributions to astronomy. Douglas is a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz and is known for his achievements in the orbital motion of the Magellanic Clouds, the formation and evolution of exoplanets, the physics of cataclysmic variables and accretion disks, and the dynamics, structure, and evolution of Saturn’s Rings. He is also the founding director of the Kavli Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Peking University.

Richard Surwit, PhD’72, has been named an emeritus professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University after nearly 38 years as an active faculty member. He has recently taken on the position of CEO of SenGenix, a development stage medical diagnostics company that is working on novel point of care diagnostic tests based on recombinant binding proteins.

Diane Langlois, BSc’80, was featured in the recent art exhibition, “Beyond Borders: An Exhibition of Fine Art from Canada,” at Agora Gallery in New York City. A former university professor, Diane now devotes herself to painting the remote regions of the world, including the Arctic and Antarctic, the peaks of the Canadian Rockies, and the remote regions of the Namibia and Sonoran deserts.

Serge Lepage, MSc’84, won the 2015 Prix Hubert-Reeves in the youth category for his book Découvrir les océans – Initiation à l’océanographie, science de la mer (Éditions MultiMondes). The prize is awarded by l’Association des communicateurs scientifiques du Québec with the goal of stimulating the production of popular science books in French and promoting a quality scientific culture in Canada.

Robert F. McCormack, BSc’86, was named the new chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in September. He had been the interim chair of the department since January. He served as the vice-chair of emergency medicine from 2009 to 2014.

Hans Larsson, BSc’94, has been appointed director of McGill’s Redpath Museum for a five-year term. He is McGill’s Canada Research Chair in Vertebrate Palaeontology and continues to work on his research and teaching programs in herpetology and conservation biology at the museum.

Tim Wu, BSc’95, has been appointed as senior enforcement counsel and special adviser to New York state attorney Eric Schneiderman. Tim is taking a leave of absence from Columbia University, where he is the Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law.  In his new position, he will focus on issues involving technology, including protecting consumers and ensuring fair competition among companies that do business online.

Brigitte Vachon, BSc’97, is the Montreal YWCA’s 2015 Woman of Distinction in Science and Technology. She is McGill’s Canada Research Chair in Particle Physics and a member of the ATLAS international team credited with the recent discovery of the Higgs boson. Brigitte founded the Canadian Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics and is a member of the Canadian Association of Physicists’ Committee to Encourage Women in Physics.

Kiril Mugerman, BSc’09, is the new president and CEO of GéoMégA, a mineral exploration and evaluation company focused on metal deposits in Quebec. Kiril previously worked as a mining specialist with Industrial Alliance Securities.

 

Why research matters

Thu, 01/28/2016 - 14:21
Suzanne Fortier_M138313_credit Christinne Muschi

Principal Suzanne Fortier (Photo: Christinne Muschi)

In a 2014 address to the McGill community, Principal Suzanne Fortier, BSc’72, PhD’76, outlined her priorities for the University’s future. One was described as “Unleashing McGill’s Full Research Potential.” The principal recently spoke to the McGill News about the importance of university research and how McGill’s alumni and supporters have helped the cause.

What is the relationship between curiosity-driven research and purpose-driven research?

It is crucial to support both types of research. There is often a natural transition from curiosity-driven research to purpose-driven research. For example, the early research on lasers was driven by curiosity. Today, the laser is a pervasive technology that has so many applications — from reading barcodes to non-invasive surgery to hair removal. I am sure that the researchers who worked on this in the early sixties never imagined that last application.

An example closer to home would be Professor Robin Rogers, our Canada Excellence Research Chair in Green Chemistry and Green Chemicals. His fundamental research has led to important applications — finding cheaper and more environmentally-friendly methods to manufacture rayon and other products, for instance.

We have seen an incredible growth in knowledge in recent decades, yet there is still so much that we don’t know whether about our universe or our brains. We have a solid understanding of less than five per cent of the human brain. The knowledge we are acquiring on that front, much of it driven by curiosity, will be vital for keeping brains healthy in the years to come.

Is the interplay between curiosity-driven research and purpose-driven research something that we see in the social sciences and humanities as well?

I recently had the great privilege of attending the ceremony at the U.S. Library of Congress when our emeritus professor of philosophy Charles Taylor received the Kluge Prize, probably the most important award in the world for contributions to the humanities.

Professor Taylor was celebrated for his contributions to our understanding of what it is to be human in an age of secularization, modernization and increasing diversity. The issues he has explored are very relevant to the challenges we face as the world struggles to find peace and harmony.

What role do students play at a research-intensive university like McGill?

It is important that universities create learning environments that inspire students to be brave and bold in questioning current assumptions and in asking challenging questions. Participating in research during their undergraduate years is a great way for them to do so. As for our graduate students, they are vital contributors to the research done at McGill.

Our alumni have made important contributions in these areas. When we talk about research internships for our undergraduates, and fellowships and other forms of support for our graduate
students, the support we have received from our alumni and friends has been outstanding.

What are some of the other ways in which McGill’s alumni and donors assist our research efforts?

It is often difficult to support research in high-risk fields, because funding agencies tend to be risk-averse. I am talking about the kind of research where the initial reaction might be, “This sounds crazy!” With that kind of research, the risks are high, but the rewards could be huge. Epigenetics is one example. McGill is one of the world’s leaders in this area, but the notion that our environment could fundamentally alter the way in which our genes are expressed was initially controversial. Today, thanks to the support of an Irving Ludmer, we can build on our strength in epigenetics and use it to look at the roots of mental illness in new ways at the Ludmer Centre for Neuroinformatics and Mental Health.

We recently attracted one of the world’s leading experts in chronic pain to McGill, Professor Luda Diatchenko.  She is our Canada Excellence Research Chair in Human Pain Genetics. Would that have been possible without the Alan Edwards Centre for Research on Pain? The Edwards family understood how devastating chronic pain disorders can be. Again, this was once a field that didn’t receive the attention it deserved. Too often, the reaction to chronic pain was, “It’s all in your head.”

Thanks to the support of our alumni and friends, we have the great privilege of being able to attract brilliant students and professors and continue to build McGill as one of the great universities worldwide.

 

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