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Alumni Magazine
Updated: 2 hours 11 min ago

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


A different take on inequality

Tue, 01/19/2016 - 15:14
The Occupy Wall Street movement is one manifestation of the concern that many feel over income inequality. In his new book, associate professor of economics William Watson argues that such concerns are largely unwarranted.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is one manifestation of the concern that many feel over income inequality. In his new book, associate professor of economics William Watson argues that such concerns are largely unwarranted.

by Daniel McCabe, BA’89

U.S. president Barack Obama has called income inequality “the defining challenge of our time.” Pope Francis worries that rising levels of inequality are creating an “economy of exclusion.”

William Watson, BA’74, thinks the president and the pontiff might both be worrying a little too much. Mind you, he’s quick to acknowledge that they aren’t the only ones fretting about income inequality these days. In his new book, The Inequality Trap, the McGill associate professor of economics describes the issue as “the obsession of the age.”

He doesn’t deny that income inequality is real. “The data is moving in that direction, particularly in the U.S.,” Watson says. “People in the one percent really are making more money.” But in his book, Watson argues that the reasons behind this phenomenon are both more complex and less sinister than most of us recognize.

He also believes that the kerfuffle over inequality is a dangerous distraction. What we should really be focusing on is how to help the people at the bottom end of the spectrum – the impoverished.

Watson wants his readers to think about something else too. He says capitalism has been spectacularly successful in improving the lives of millions of people in recent centuries. “As someone who works in a university and listens to too much CBC, I think that’s something that’s grossly underappreciated.”

Pointing to stats compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Watson notes astonishing improvements in GDP, life expectancy and spending power throughout the world (more astonishing in some parts of the globe than in others, mind you) since the 1820s when globalized capitalism firmly took root.

“I think there is insufficient appreciation for where we are in history,” says Watson. “We live in ways that would have been hard to imagine as little as 50 years ago. In a recent review of his book, The New York Times credits Watson with a “lively and able” defence of capitalism. “This system, for all its flaws, has done something for the good that no other system has done,” says Watson.

But is the system fair? Obama noted that an increasing number of Americans are “rightly suspicious that the system… is rigged against them.” In Watson’s view, inequality is not necessarily evidence of unfairness.

Certain people, particularly those who have distinguished themselves through their own ingenuity and resourcefulness, prosper more than the rest of us. Watson describes Steve Jobs as a “poster boy for capitalism.” Jobs was worth $8 billion when he died. Though some of his business practices might have been questionable, he played a key role in sparking the digital revolution, helped support thousands of jobs through his skillful leadership, and provided cutting-edge products to millions of very satisfied consumers.

“Who earns and owns what is the outcome of billions of transactions by millions of people,” Watson writes.

There are unique factors at play in recent years that have been contributing to greater levels of inequality, Watson notes. Decades ago, when far fewer women were in the workforce, lawyers, doctors and professors often married lesser-paid secretaries – the women they were most likely to encounter on the job. Today, the people that those men marry are often lawyers, doctors and professors themselves. That in itself has led to a 26 per cent increase in household income inequality in the U.S.

More people are working part-time. What is unclear, according to Watson, is how voluntary that is. If it means that people are having trouble finding full-time work, that’s a problem.

The rise of digital technologies is another factor. “Significant fortunes have been made by people with good ideas who came along at exactly the right time,” says Watson. Less-skilled workers have been displaced in many industries. The impact of these changes will likely soften somewhat over time – Watson says there is some evidence that this is already happening. The Industrial Revolution had a similarly disruptive effect, Watson notes, with factory workers among the chief beneficiaries during that era.

Watson acknowledges that there is growing resentment against the “one per cent” in society. “Growth is slowing down and when the pie isn’t growing by much, people start spending more time thinking about how to slice it.”

What if Steve Jobs had been taxed more heavily? What if he had died with only a $4 billion fortune? Would he have been any less motivated to do the things he did?

“That’s hard to say. He had a fairly modest lifestyle for the most part. He wasn’t particularly materialistic in many ways. On the other hand, he was clearly pissed off when his board offered him less than what he thought he was worth.

“Even if he didn’t need it, my view is, it was his money,” says Watson. “To my mind, 50 per cent is a psychological barrier you shouldn’t cross [when it comes to taxes]. Half for me, half for you. If only one-third of [my income] is for me, I’m sure going to be annoyed about that.”

And the rich do have options at their disposal, notes Watson. High-priced accountants and tax lawyers adept at finding loopholes in tax codes, for instance. Or relocating to countries with lower tax rates (Watson points to one study indicating how wealthy European football stars prefer to play for clubs in countries with lower tax rates).

One change that Watson calls for is for a much more simplified tax system, one that supplies accountants and tax lawyers with far fewer options for sheltering their wealthy clients’ incomes. “Lower the rates and broaden the base. Stop giving tax breaks to this industry and tax breaks for that.”

If the overall pie is to be sliced differently, Watson says it’s the poor who should get a larger piece. While he is “leery” of overly ambitious government programs — “I prefer small and nimble over big and ponderous” — he warrants that government can make a difference with targeted actions. In a recent interview on CBC Radio’s Sunday Edition, he pointed to the dramatic decline in poverty rates among Canadian seniors as one success story.

“I have difficulty with the notion of universality,” says Watson. “Let’s target the people who really need [help]. Too often, instead of focusing on the groups who are really at risk, we give [the same programs] to everybody. To my mind, that’s a perverse redistribution.”


Thirty years of Dr. T draws to a close

Tue, 01/19/2016 - 15:11
by Andrew Mahon  Owen Egan)

Pierre-Paul Tellier recently stepped down as the director of McGill’s Student Health Service after 30 years (Photo: Owen Egan)

Among the mementoes of a 30-year tenure as the director of McGill’s Student Health Service, Dr. Pierre-Paul Tellier counts a signed photo of George Clooney, the Shagalicious Shop, and three decades of devotion to McGill students as clients, patients and colleagues.

“It’s been extremely rewarding working as a physician in student health,” says Tellier, who stepped down as director last month. The mandate of the Student Health Service (SHS) is to provide McGill students with health care on campus, offering services which are specifically geared towards the needs of students. SHS handles more than 25,400 clinic visits a year with a staff of 37, including both the downtown and MacDonald campuses.

As the director of SHS, Tellier promoted health awareness on a variety of important issues, including HIV/AIDS. An associate professor of family medicine, Tellier also collaborated with the health providers at SHS on ground-breaking research — for example, on human papillomavirus (HPV), through one of the largest cohorts of couples (recruited at the SHS and other Montreal universities) followed over three years to better understand HPV transmission and improve prevention strategies.

Tellier and his team tackled a number of health challenges and launched many initiatives. One of the most famous was the Shagalicious Shop, launched in 2005 as an innovative way of addressing the rising rates of sexually-transmitted infections among students. Although criticized by some as outlandish (a headline in The Globe and Mail proclaimed, “McGill launches Trojan war on STDs, AIDS”), the shop was undeniably effective in raising awareness about sexual health.

The shop (originally located on campus, but now an online sex and health boutique called The Shag Shop) sold a variety of thermometers, condoms, lubes, toys and books. “It was a great idea, a place to get material, education and advice,” explains Tellier.

Another initiative was the popular “Ask Doctor T” online advice column (AskDrT.ca) launched in 2011 to field student questions or concerns about everything from Brazilian waxes to flu shots and read by students, not just at McGill, but around the world.

Over Tellier’s 30-year tenure at SHS, students may have changed but many of their health concerns and issues remain the same, particularly in terms of STDs, contraception, alcohol and drugs.  Stress and anxiety are also a fact of life for many students at a time when they are encountering a variety of new personal and academic pressures.

“Talking about mental health is still a stigma for many, but more people have seen a therapist and are more open to a variety of options,” he says. “It’s a challenge which requires greater attention and co-ordination on our part and we’re working in conjunction with other units in Student Services such as Mental Health, myAccess (formerly the Office for Students with Disabilities), and counselling to accomplish this.  For example, during the last few years we worked in conjunction with counselling to develop a conjoint program addressing issues of GLBTQ students and students with substance use problems.”

While Tellier has stepped down from the directorship of SHS, he is not leaving McGill. He will continue his teaching and research activities. And he will continue to see to the medical needs of young patients. While Tellier may have spent three decades at SHS, he has been volunteering his medical services for even longer than that at the Head and Hands clinic in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave [SHS], but, at the same time, it allows me to spend more time working with youth at risk.” The patients he encounters at Head and Hands are often wary of hospitals and mainstream medical clinics and Tellier’s sensitivity and non-judgmental approach is widely appreciated. Centraide presented him with its Citizen Engagement Award last year for his contributions to Head and Hands over the years.

As for that signed photo of George Clooney, it all stems from the actor’s role as Dr. Ross on the nineties TV show, ER.  Tellier often used video clips from the show as teaching aids when working with colleagues and students.  While he was attending a medical conference some years ago, there was a charity auction and one of the items happened to be a signed photo of the famous actor.

“I bid on it and won,” says Tellier.


A church leader for the 21st century

Sat, 01/16/2016 - 16:54
by Vivian Lewin Bishop Mary Irwin-Gibson picture-1

Mary Irwin-Gibson recently became the new bishop for  the Anglican Diocese of Montreal and the first woman to serve in that role in the 165 year history of the diocese (Photo: Janet Best)

“Exciting ride home tonight?” Bishop Mary’s question to one of her younger priests pops up on my Facebook feed. After a meeting in Montreal, he had set out for his parish in Lachute in the midst of a snowfall. As a former regional archdeacon in the Laurentians, Mary Irwin-Gibson, BTh’79, knows those roads well. She also loves connecting what she knows with people she cares about.

On September 29, when she was installed as Bishop of Montreal, that circle of care expanded to include the whole Anglican Diocese of Montreal—one of two dioceses in southern Quebec, and one of 29 in Canada. Her job as bishop—head of the diocese—calls her to guide and inspire a population of Anglicans which, upon her election, the media were quick to characterize as aging and shrinking. She takes a wider view.

Fluently bilingual, Irwin-Gibson came to Montreal from Sarnia when she was three and attended her first years of primary school in French in Pointe-aux-Trembles. “I enjoyed playing guitar in my church prayer group and I loved leading others in praise,” she says, “but I thought I would become a social worker. God had a different plan for me.” She studied theology at McGill and was ordained to the priesthood in 1982. She served as curate for two years in Hudson, then as parish priest and as regional archdeacon on the South Shore and in the Laurentians before earning her Executive MBA from the Université du Québec à Montréal in 2005. All of this developed her perspective on the church as an organization.

“Churches ebb and flow. There’s a life span in an organization. Every organization needs to recreate itself. You get to the point where things are going well, and then immediately they shift. That’s a decision point in the life of the church. If you use a business model, you make preparations for those shifts. Continuity doesn’t mean you never change.

“Every parish I’ve known has needed to make decisions. Parishes are organizations. To go from good to great, you need to capture the idea of your mission and vision: What animates you? What is your passion? There are always economic drivers, yes, but unless you know where you’re heading, you won’t get there.

“In my MBA studies, I learned to put the vision first. If you know where you want to go, then you can build a strategy and put resources in line.”

Do churches usually do that? “Most churches want to have somebody there to look after their needs. First-level care stuff. A lot of churches are stuck in that ‘meet the needs’ thing. They don’t ask, ‘What is God calling us to do?’

“If you want to hear God’s call, first, you need to be alert. And next, make sure you’re not the only one with the idea.”

Irwin-Gibson was dean of St. George’s Cathedral in Kingston when she heard God’s call to stand for election as the 12th bishop of Montreal. Anglican bishops are elected, not appointed. Nominations were invited from the voting representatives of every parish and from active clergy in the diocese; all these delegates then met in person on June 6, 2015, for the electoral synod. Irwin-Gibson was one of six candidates; four of them, women. She had been nominated by individuals from a wide spectrum of Anglican life. Her husband’s employer had already offered him a transfer to Montreal. Her daughter Catherine Irwin-Gibson, BA’05, and her mother-in-law were following the balloting in person in the visitor’s gallery. After three ballots, two candidates remained. They went to pray together during the fourth ballot. An hour later, the new bishop-elect was phoning her husband Mark Gibson MEd’83, and daughter Sarah Irwin-Gibson BEd’09, to tell them the news.

The new bishop engages easily with newcomers and old acquaintances alike. Her warmth is evident—and so is her grasp of what it means to stand at the helm of the Diocese of Montreal. Change is in the air. The annual diocesan synod—where clergy and lay parishioners meet to plan for the coming year—is scheduled for June, months earlier than usual. And the diocese is confirming a new emphasis on outreach by inviting a young bilingual priest with experience at Holy Trinity Brompton (home of the Alpha movement, originally a British evangelical method with demonstrated, if sometimes controversial, success) to “plant” a new church congregation into the historic Montreal-centre parish building of St. James the Apostle. “This pilot project is part of our exploration into what 21st century church will look like in Montreal,” Irwin-Gibson says.

“Montreal is a spiritual paradox. So many say they take a secular view. Yet there is an enormous spiritual hunger, a hunger for meaning and for connection with what gives meaning. This invites us to keep asking ourselves: Who are we? Where do we want to go? What does that mean to us? What we we have to offer? In what way are called to be the body of Christ in this place? And how will we know when we get there?”


The woman behind the world’s best whisky

Fri, 01/15/2016 - 13:43
 Laura Pedersen/National Post)

Crown Royal master blender Joanna Zanin Scandella is the blender responsible for Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye, which was named world whisky of the year in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2016 (Photo: Laura Pedersen/National Post)

by Joel Yanofsky, BA’77, MA’81

Joanna Zanin Scandella, BSc(Agr)’82, is used to taking things slow. As blending quality manager for the iconic Crown Royal brand of Canadian whiskies, she’s always planning ahead – way ahead.

“The unit of measurement for coming out with a new whisky is not a month or year. It’s more like a decade. The fact is I don’t pay much attention to time. It’s measured more slowly for someone in my business,” says Zanin Scandella during an interview in her unassuming lab in Lasalle – it looks a little like a high school chemistry classroom – where she’s worked for the past 25 years.

Last November, however, things accelerated. After years of maturing – just how long is confidential – but only a month on the market, Crown Royal’s latest product, Northern Harvest Rye, was named “World Whisky of the Year” in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2016. Murray, a renowned British whisky expert, who tastes some 4,600 whiskies a year for his book, gave Northern Harvest Rye a record-tying score of 97.5 out of 100.  He concluded his praise for Northern Harvest Rye this way: “To say [it] is a masterpiece is barely doing it justice.”

It marked the first time a Canadian whisky was proclaimed best in the world by the Whisky Bible, now in its 13th annual edition. The news caught everyone at the multinational wine, beer and spirits company Diageo, which purchased Seagram’s Crown Royal brand 15 years ago, by surprise.

So did the Canadian public’s reaction to Murray’s announcement. The demand was overwhelming for the highly praised, reasonably priced (it retails for around $30), 90-proof, all-Canadian whisky. Whatever plans Diageo had for Northern Harvest Rye’s launch in this country were fast-tracked. Seven weeks of inventory sold out in three days.

“It was phenomenal. We had no idea this was coming. It happened just before Christmas and if we’d known about Murray and the book we would have had stock. We actually brought back cases we’d shipped to the U.S. That’s never happened before,” says Zanin Scandella, who acknowledged that, at the moment, she only had one half-empty bottle of her own.

Before she knew it, Zanin Scandella was also a sought-after commodity. Labelled “a whisky rock star” in newspaper articles, she was rushed off to Toronto to do media appearances with Murray.

But while the flamboyant Murray, decked out in his tweed suit, handmade hat and shoes, waxed poetic to journalists about how Northern Harvest Rye reaches “new heights of beauty and complexity,” the more modestly attired and low-key Zanin Scandella kept the explanation for the new whisky’s surge in popularity simple.

“What makes CR Northern Harvest Rye stand out is that 90% of the blend is made from rye whiskies only. This accounts for the richness of the flavour with its spicy notes,” she explains.

With regard to Northern Harvest Rye, Zanin Scandella’s official title is master blender, a job she “loosely described” as being the person who takes ownership of the blend. A master blender, according to Zanin Scandella, is also a mix of administrative responsibilities, analytical training and sensory skills, refined over a long career. Her duties include everything from guiding the development of apprentice blenders to being the representative for the latest Crown Royal innovation.

Last year, for instance, she worked on the launch of Crown Royal Monarch, a new blend commemorating the 75th anniversary of King George VI’s 1939 first royal visit to Canada and North America. Seagram’s, then owned by the Bronfman family, presented the King with a new whisky. Its name was Crown Royal.

Publicity and history notwithstanding, Zanin Scandella’s main focus is invariably on the liquid and the formula that goes into creating it. “It’s a matter of making 1+1=3,” she says. “So the sum can be greater than its parts.”

She acknowledges that her career, which sometimes requires her to sample a wide variety of alcoholic beverages at eight in the morning, has been an improbable one. It’s the dream job she could never have dreamed up. Not even when she was earning a degree in agricultural chemistry at McGill’s MacDonald Campus.

“How it worked in my field is you could focus on plants or soils or food. I always assumed I was going to work in food. I guess beverages are close enough.”

Zanin Scandella is convinced her education was the key to her finding her path into a world she didn’t know existed. MacDonald Campus, where she also met her husband, provided a challenging but ideal training ground.

“I remember there was a biochemistry lab at school and each team was given a mystery substance and we had to identify it,” she says. “That wasn’t easy, but it was achievable through perseverance, analytical thought and a hunch. It’s almost the same for coming up with that perfect whisky blend!”


Recommended reading and listening

Tue, 12/22/2015 - 10:36
Mysteries of the Mall

by Witold Rybczynski, BArch’66, MArch’72, DSc’02

Mysteries.of.the.MallAn award-winning writer and an emeritus professor of urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania, Witold Rybczynski’s latest book, Mysteries of the Mall, is a collection of essays and reviews previously published in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The Walrus and elsewhere.

Though some of the pieces are more than two decades old, none feel dated. With crisp, straightforward prose, Rybczynski explores a wide range of topics – everything from why college towns are good places to live (more affordable than big cities, while offering many of a big city’s intellectual attractions), to why high-rise housing projects for the poor so often prove to be disastrous (despite the noble, but blinkered, thinking behind them).

Many big names turn up in the book (Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Frank Gehry), but Rybczynski also shines the spotlight on some of architecture’s unsung heroes (the man who invented the movie multiplex, for instance).

At times, Rybczynski focuses on some of his own preoccupations – cautioning against the trend towards loud and splashy buildings that eschew all nuance in a misguided bid to be instantly iconic, for example, while championing the calming effects of great public spaces like New York’s Central Park, the “one place where the city that never sleeps lets down its guard.”

Daniel McCabe, BA’89

Call Me Giambattista

by John Ciaccia, BA’53, BCL’56

Ciaccia_FCJohn Ciaccia’s autobiography may not have the heft of some recent big-name political memoirs, but it certainly offers a unique window into the wild, wild world of politics in Quebec from the seventies to the nineties.

The son of Italian immigrants, Giambattista Nicola Ciaccia overcame the challenges of a new country and modest beginnings to attend university, obtain a law degree and become a successful corporate lawyer in Montreal.

The political education of John Ciaccia began in 1971 when he became assistant deputy minister of Indian affairs and northern development in Ottawa. Then came the siren call of provincial politics, (by phone actually) from Quebec premier Robert Bourassa, who invited Ciaccia to run for the provincial Liberals.

From 1973 to 1998, Ciaccia served as a member of Quebec’s National Assembly and his memoir chronicles contentious language legislation (Bill 22 and Bill 101), minority rights, constitutional crises (too many to count), the Oka crisis, and two referenda.

But the sleeper in this autobiography is Ciaccia’s detailed description of the James Bay hydroelectric development and the delicate balance he tried to achieve between Aboriginal rights and development of the North.  His insider’s view of this considerable challenge stands out as Ciaccia’s magnum opus in a long career.

Andrew Mahon

The China Model

by Daniel Bell, BA’85

China.ModelMaybe, just maybe, democracy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. And maybe, just maybe, China is well-served by a system of government that Westerners tend to dismiss as authoritarian.

That’s the provocative thesis put forward in The China Model by Daniel Bell, a political philosopher at Tsinghua University in Beijing, where he has lived for the last decade.

Bell isn’t blind to the flaws of China’s government. Women are underrepresented, corruption is rife, nepotism is a problem and critics of the government are often dealt with harshly (Bell offers some thoughts on how to address these issues).

He supplies ample evidence that democracies (he focuses on the U.S.) have more than a few problems of their own – poorly-informed voters, toxic rivalries between competing political parties and leaders reluctant to do anything that could hinder their reelection chances, for instance.

Bell applauds China for the thorough way it selects and trains leaders and for its ability to focus on accomplishing difficult goals – rescuing hundreds of millions from poverty through economic development, for example. And in the recent environmental deal struck between China and the U.S., Bell predicts that China is the partner most likely to keep its promises. China’s leaders don’t have to worry about Republicans tearing up the accord.


Are you alone?

by Majical Cloudz

Are You AloneWhere do Montreal’s best musicians come from? Sure, many are products of the Schulich School of Music, but music label talent scouts (if such people still exist) might want to check in on McGill’s religious studies offerings.

Arcade Fire front man Win Butler, BA’04, majored in religious studies. So did singer-songwriter Devon Welsh, BA’11, one-half of Majical Cloudz, a Montreal-based indie duo that opened for Lorde on her North American tour last year.

Their most recent album, Are You Alone?, has been collecting plenty of accolades from The Guardian, Pitchfork, Spin and other publications. The soft shimmer of the electronic soundscapes crafted by bandmate Matthew Otto serve as a perfect counterpoint to the stripped-down forthrightness of Welsh’s voice and lyrics.

In some songs, Welsh is surprised at stumbling into love, frightened and exhilarated at the new possibilities it offers. In others, he muses about identity and the possibilities of change – the faces we wear for the outside world and their uncertain connection to who we really are. Welsh has a rare ability to imbue lyrics like “I want to kiss you inside a car that’s crashing/And we will both die laughing” with a unique blend of unguarded sweetness, melancholy and dark humour.



Le fabuleux destin de Laurent Duvernay-Tardif

Wed, 12/16/2015 - 12:16

Grâce à une force physique et à une capacité d’apprentissage remarquables, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif s’est vite fait remarquer par les recruteurs de la Lique nationale de Football (NFL), alors qu’il évoluait au sein des Redmen. Désormais bloqueur pour les Chiefs de Kansas City, l’étudiant de McGill n’en a pas pour autant négligé ses études de médecine, qu’il est sur le point de terminer.

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif a fait ses débuts au sein de la NFL en septembre à titre de garde pour les Chiefs de Kansas City.

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif a fait ses débuts au sein de la NFL en septembre à titre de garde pour les Chiefs de Kansas City (Photo : Chiefs de Kansas City)

Par Jean-Benoît Nadeau (B. A. 1992)

Après ses longues journées en tant qu’étudiant en médecine, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif a souvent passé la nuit dans le vestiaire des Redmen, couché sur une pile de serviettes, afin d’être suffisamment reposé pour l’entraînement de football du lendemain, à 5 h 30. « C’était plus simple que de retourner à la maison », raconte le colosse à la barbe noire.

Entre sa passion pour la médecine et sa passion pour le football, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif n’a pas fait de concessions. Et les deux le lui rendent bien. S’il lui reste encore quatre mois de stages pour compléter ses études en médecine à McGill, son rêve de foot-balleur, il le vit déjà pleinement. Recruté comme professionnel dans la NFL, le nouveau garde des Chiefs de Kansas City a disputé son premier match devant 80 000 personnes le 13 septembre 2015.

La Dre Preetha Krishnamoorthy, endocrinologue pédiatrique à l’Hôpital pour enfants de Montréal, a supervisé le stage de Laurent Duvernay-Tardif en pédiatrie au printemps 2014. Bien que le footballeur en impose – il mesure 1 m 95, pèse 140 kilos et ses mains sont de la taille de la tête d’un enfant –, l’endocrinologue admet qu’elle avait un peu de mal à concevoir que cet étudiant plutôt doux et consciencieux, très à l’écoute des patients, était aussi un bulldozer agressif convoité par une demi-douzaine d’équipes de la NFL. « Laurent est un excellent étudiant, raconte-t-elle. À l’époque, il devait jongler avec beaucoup d’engagements, mais ça ne paraissait pas. »

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif n’est que le 10e joueur universitaire canadien recruté par la NFL, et le deuxième québécois en 15 ans. Il suit les traces de Jean-Philippe Darche (B. Sc. 1997), qui a joué pour les Seahawks de Seattle, puis les Chiefs, entre 2000 et 2009. Mais alors que « J.-P. » Darche a dû interrompre ses études en médecine à McGill en deuxième année (il termine actuellement sa résidence en médecine familiale à l’Université du Kansas), Laurent Duvernay-Tardif a eu la chance d’être recruté en troisième année, à la fin de sa scolarité et au début de la période des stages, lesquels sont beaucoup plus faciles à étaler dans le temps.

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif est reconnaissant envers la Faculté de médecine de McGill, qui a su adapter son horaire. « J’ai le même parcours et la même expérience clinique que les autres étudiants, sauf qu’il m’aura fallu trois ans pour faire ma dernière année de médecine. Ma formation doit être du même niveau que celle de mes collègues. Alors quand je reviens, je n’ai pas de passe-droit, je suis un étudiant comme un autre, et je fais mes rotations avec cinq autres collègues. »

Preetha Krishnamoorthy n’a jamais eu l’impression d’être confrontée à une vedette avec la grosse tête. « Il est très respectueux, il ne réclame jamais de privilège particulier. Quand il y avait conflit d’horaire, on s’assoyait ensemble pour voir comment le régler. »

Un gars d’équipe Laurent-33

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif aura bientôt complété ses études en médecine à McGill (Photo : Christina Moro)

L’athlète reconnaît qu’effectuer la transition entre le terrain de football et la salle d’hôpital peut parfois être difficile. « La saison 2014 s’est terminée le 29 décembre et j’étais en sarrau le 4 janvier. C’est dur de redémarrer. J’étais à jour dans mes lectures, mais c’est la façon d’interagir qui diffère. Au football, les choses se disent très directement, face à face, sans détour. En médecine, on ne peut pas parler à ses collègues ni au patient sans avoir réfléchi. S’ajuster demande un véritable effort. »

Mais cette difficulté n’est rien au regard de la satisfaction qu’il ressent, précise-t-il. « L’esprit d’équipe, la confiance du patient et des superviseurs, la certitude de servir à quelque chose, je ne connais rien de plus gratifiant. »

L’importance des interactions humaines revient constamment dans les propos de Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. C’est cet aspect de la médecine qui l’a poussé à choisir cette voie alors qu’avant le cégep, il penchait davantage vers la profession d’ingénieur. Le sportif trouve un point commun bien concret entre la médecine et le football : l’esprit d’équipe. « En médecine, on est l’un des rouages d’une équipe composée du personnel infirmier, des thérapeutes et du patient. C’est pareil sur le terrain. Je fais partie d’une ligne, qui fait partie d’une équipe. En médecine comme au football, tout est dans la complicité, la communication et le langage non verbal. »

Une autre équipe qui lui est chère, c’est sa famille. Car Laurent Duvernay-Tardif vient d’une famille où les liens sont tissés serrés. Pendant ses études, malgré son horaire de fou, l’étudiant trouvait le moyen de travailler régulièrement à la boulangerie familiale de Mont-Saint-Hilaire. « Quand il ne vendait pas de pain, il faisait des confitures avec sa blonde et il apportait des sacs d’invendus dans le vestiaire des Redmen », raconte son père, François Tardif (B. Sc(Agr). 1984).

La famille Duvernay-Tardif a fait deux grands voyages d’un an en voilier, d’abord en 2000, puis en 2006. « Ça m’a fait mûrir. Ça m’a ouvert à divers modes de vie et coutumes. Et ça me sert au football et en médecine, pour comprendre les coéquipiers et les patients. »

La « meilleure erreur » de sa vie

La famille Duvernay-Tardif est également une famille de sportifs. Laurent tient d’ailleurs sa carrure de son père, François Tardif, marathonien et fondeur. Ses deux sœurs cadettes sont en route pour les Olympiques en aviron et en ski de fond. Laurent, l’aîné, n’a découvert le football qu’à 13 ans, après avoir pratiqué le hockey, le ski de fond et la voile. « J’ai aimé l’équilibre entre l’aspect stratégique du jeu et son côté physique, dit-il. Plus je progressais, plus sa dimension stratégique me passionnait. »

Après avoir joué pour les Pirates du Richelieu et les Phénix du Collège André-Grasset, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif rêvait d’une place parmi… le Rouge et Or de l’Université Laval! Or, parce qu’il a mal noté la date, il manque l’examen d’admission conjoint pour Sherbrooke, Laval et Montréal, et doit se rabattre sur son deuxième choix, McGill.

Il en parle comme de la « meilleure erreur de toute sa vie ».

« À McGill, j’ai appris l’anglais et j’ai profité d’une visibilité accrue auprès des recruteurs américains. Et en médecine, j’étudie dans une institution qui se classe parmi les meilleures au monde. Quand je suis arrivé à Kansas City, les médecins de l’équipe me demandaient où je faisais ma médecine. Ils disaient : “Ah! McGill!” Tout le monde connaît McGill. Ça va me suivre toute ma vie. »

Lorsqu’il arrive à McGill en 2010, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif ne se joint pas immédiatement aux Redmen. « L’anglais me stressait. Je voulais me concentrer sur mes études, mais après quatre semaines, le football me manquait trop, alors j’ai appelé l’entraîneur. »

« On l’a tout de suite remarqué. Ses résultats aux épreuves physiques faisaient jaser. Laurent jouit d’une grande force physique naturelle. Il écrasait déjà tout le monde », indique Mathieu Quiviger (B. Sc. 1994, B. Arch. 1995), qui a été son entraîneur. Puisqu’il comprend les stratégies et les tactiques du premier coup, le club lui permet de ne faire qu’un entraînement d’équipe par semaine.

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, qui commence à croire qu’il a le potentiel nécessaire pour devenir joueur professionnel, s’entraîne d’arrache-pied. « Le plus dur a été de ne pas me donner d’excuses. Même si j’avais travaillé dix heures à l’hôpital, mal mangé ou mal dormi, je ne pouvais pas prendre les entraînements à la légère. » En 2014, Alain Mainguy, entraîneur de ligne offensive des Redmen, lui donnera deux semaines d’entraînement particulier pour améliorer sa performance. « Laurent est d’une rapidité foudroyante. Un joueur de ligne offensive doit avoir un pied très rapide pour les déplacements latéraux. On parle ici d’un homme de 140 kg qui doit repousser et déplacer un homme de 140 kg lancé sur lui. »

La NFL à portée de main Academic All-Canadian Commendation

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (que l’on voit ici en compagnie du gouverneur général David Johnston) est l’un des huit athlètes étudiants au pays à avoir reçu la Mention d’honneur du gouverneur général pour l’excellence sportive et académique en 2013 (Photo : Carbe Orellana)

En 2013, l’étudiant en médecine engage un agent, Sasha Ghavami, qui n’est encore… qu’étudiant en droit. Ils se sont connus au Collège André-Grasset, et l’étudiant en droit rêve d’être agent sportif. Il fait circuler des vidéos de son poulain parmi les recruteurs de la NFL et négocie un allègement d’horaire auprès de la Faculté de médecine. À l’hiver 2014, Sasha Ghavami prend l’initiative, très inhabituelle, d’organiser un entraînement public au Soccerplexe Catalogna, à Lachine : neuf dépisteurs d’équipes de la NFL viendront observer la performance de l’athlète.

En mai 2014, le nom de Laurent Duvernay-Tardif sort 200e au repêchage de la NFL. Le lendemain, il est à Kansas City pour le début du camp d’entraînement. Mais sa place dans l’équipe est loin d’être assurée : 15 candidats se disputent les huit postes de garde. L’étudiant canadien a une très grosse pente à remonter, car il ne maîtrise pas les subtilités du football américain, dont les règles sont légèrement différentes de celles du football canadien. Sur la ligne, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif fera face à des joueurs pesant 20 kilos de plus que les joueurs canadiens.

Au camp d’entraînement, l’enjeu est énorme : tout le monde joue sa saison ou sa carrière. Mais lui, qui redoutait de se retrouver face à des vétérans hautains et imbus d’eux-mêmes et des recrues qui cherchent constamment à nuire aux autres, aura une heureuse surprise. « C’est la camaraderie qui m’a le plus étonné. Tout le monde est respectueux, tout le monde se donne des conseils, personne ne se plaint quand l’autre passe devant. Sur le terrain, chacun donne le meilleur de lui-même et personne ne cède sa place. Mais à l’extérieur, tout le monde pousse dans la même direction pour qu’on soit la meilleure équipe. Je n’en suis pas revenu. »

À l’été 2014, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif franchit une étape cruciale : il aura sa place sur la liste des 53 joueurs pour la saison 2014-2015 et portera le numéro 76. Mais il jouera sur le banc : la direction veut qu’il améliore sa compréhension du football américain et perfectionne sa technique avant de mettre les pieds sur le terrain.

La recette fonctionne : Laurent Duvernay-Tardif amorce la saison 2015-2016 comme garde partant. Et voilà que « Larry » prodigue ses conseils aux recrues, qu’il initie à la ville et aux règles du vestiaire. « Tout le monde sait quels sacrifices les recrues ont faits pour arriver ici, et dans quelle incertitude ils vivent. Tout le monde s’entraide. C’est contagieux. C’est ainsi qu’il faut fonctionner pour avoir une équipe gagnante. »

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif trouve la vie beaucoup plus simple depuis qu’il est joueur professionnel. Huit à dix mois par année, il est totalement axé sur le football. Puis, quand les joueurs partent se reposer, lui part terminer sa médecine. Son horaire était plus compliqué quand il faisait les deux à la fois. En 2014, il a même raté le début du repêchage parce qu’il devait s’occuper de jumeaux nés prématurément pendant l’un de ses quarts de travail en obstétrique.

Il reste que la carrière d’un footballeur professionnel est courte – en moyenne trois ou quatre ans, en raison de la concurrence féroce et des risques de blessure. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif songe déjà à sa deuxième carrière et croit avoir trouvé quelle spécialisation médicale l’intéresse. « J’ai encore le temps d’y penser, mais je penche pour l’orthopédie, la médecine sportive ou la médecine d’urgence. »

À l’hiver 2016, à la fin de la saison de football, il reprendra donc le stéthoscope, à Montréal, pour faire les quelques mois de stage qu’il lui reste à compléter. Il redeviendra alors un étudiant parmi d’autres même si, avec le « salaire minimum » d’un joueur de football professionnel, il gagne déjà deux fois plus qu’un médecin québécois !

Collaborateur au magazine L’actualité et chroniqueur au Devoir, Jean-Benoît Nadeau est le coauteur des Accents Circomplexes et La grande aventure de la langue française.


The (not always) gentle giant by Jean-Benoît Nadeau, BA’92 translated by Julie Barlow, BA’91 Kansas City Chiefs v Arizona Cardinals

McGill medical student Laurent Duvernay-Tardif made his NFL debut for the Kansas City Chiefs in September (Photo: Christian Petersen)

Back when he was playing football for McGill and after a long day of medical studies, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif often spent the night in his team’s locker room, sleeping on a pile of towels to get rested up for a McGill Redmen practice early the next morning. “It was just simpler than going home,” he explains.

Balancing his two passions — medicine and football — has been challenging at times, but Duvernay-Tardif is determined to live out both his dreams. He is close to completing his McGill medical degree. As for football, well, that dream is already coming true. When the NFL season began in September, Duvernay-Tardif, an offensive guard, was part of the opening game lineup for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Duvernay-Tardif is grateful to the Faculty of Medicine for accommodating his complicated schedule. “I’ve done the same work and gotten the same clinical experience as everyone else in my class. The only difference is that it will have taken me three years to finish my last year of medical school.”

Dr. Preetha Krishnamoorthy, MDCM’96, an associate professor of pediatrics, supervised Duvernay-Tardif during his pediatric internship at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. At 6’4” and 310 pounds, with hands the size of a small child’s head, Duvernay-Tardif is an imposing figure. Still, Krishnamoorthy says she had trouble imagining that this gentle, conscientious medical student, who was so attentive to his patients, was also the walking bulldozer coveted by several NFL teams. “Laurent is an excellent student,” she says. “He was juggling a lot of demands when he was working with me, but it never showed.”

Duvernay-Tardif calls McGill “the best mistake of my life.” His original plan was to play football at Laval University, but he got the date wrong for the entrance exam. McGill was his second pick. “I learned English at McGill and got much better exposure there to American [football] recruiters,” he says. “On top of that, I’m now in one of the best medical schools in the world. When I arrived in Kansas City and told the team
doctors where I was studying medicine, they said, “Oh, McGill!” I’ll benefit from that name recognition all my life.”

Duvernay-Tardif made a quick impression on his Redmen coaches when he began playing for the team. “Laurent stood out, right off the bat. He has remarkable natural strength. He could crush anyone,” says Mathieu Quiviger, BSc’94, BArch’95, a former member of the Redmen coaching staff. In the 2014 NFL Draft, Kansas City selected the McGill medical student in the sixth round.

Duvernay-Tardif knew the stakes would be high when he attended his first Chiefs training camp shortly after the draft. Fifteen players were competing for eight available guard jobs and he expected a cutthroat environment. He ended up being pleasantly surprised. “I couldn’t believe the camaraderie there. Everyone was respectful, everyone was generous with advice.” The competition was fierce, “but at the same time, everyone is working toward a common goal: to make the team the best it can be.”

He made the Chiefs’ roster in his first year, but sat on the sidelines. As a rookie, he had a lot of learning to do. “Football looks rough from the outside,” says Duvernay-Tardif, “but it’s actually a strategic sport. You have to be constantly studying it.”

This season, he is a starting guard for the team.  “Larry”, as he is known, is now the one giving advice to newcomers, showing them around the city and explaining the rules of the locker room. “Everyone knows the kind of sacrifices [players] make to get here, and the kind of uncertainty they have to live with. So everyone helps everyone else out. It’s contagious. That’s how you make a locker room a winning environment.”

“Cowboy science” and the origins of the universe

Wed, 12/16/2015 - 12:15
by James Martin, MLIS’05 M

Matt Dobbs is McGill’s Canada Research Chair in Astro-particle Physics (Photo: Spyros Bourboulis)

In the beginning, maybe, was the beginning.

A little less than 14 billion years ago, the theory goes, a very high density something started to rapidly expand. Things were bright, and hot, for a short time. Things got dark, and cold, for much longer. Atoms formed. Galaxies. Planets. Us.

In the beginning, maybe, was the singularity.

The singularity is what astrophysicists call that high density something that contained all the energy, mass and space-time that ever was and ever would be. For the Big Bang to have happened, for the singularity to have existed, the universe needed to suddenly expand faster than the speed of light.

That inflation is why Matt Dobbs, BSc’97, wants to find B-mode polarization. Mathematical modeling predicts that weak light signals, remnants of the explosion that transformed the singularity into The Everything, are still drifting through the cosmos on the Big Bang’s gravitational shockwaves.

“If we see B-mode polarization, it will be the most direct evidence — a smoking gun — that an inflationary event occurred in the early universe,” says Dobbs, who is an associate professor in McGill’s Department of Physics and a recipient of the Sloan Research Fellowship, a recognition of early-career achievement that many people consider a harbinger of future greatness. (Thirty-eight Sloan fellows have gone on to win Nobel Prizes.) Detection of primordial B-mode polarization would not prove the Big Bang Theory; there are other explanations that could account for inflation, such the oscillating universe theory, which holds that the universe is constantly growing and contracting, never beginning and never ending. “But seeing B-modes would be the wildest support of inflation—and the more we can believe in inflation, the more we can believe in the Big Bang.”

Since coming to McGill in 2006 as the Canada Research Chair in Astro-particle Physics, Dobbs has established himself as one of the world’s leading astrophysicists. He has developed new millimeter wavelength telescope technologies that allow for even more precise measurements of the cosmos. He is one of a handful of experts on transition edge sensors, a type of light detector that operates at close to absolute zero. Last year alone, he received both the Dunlap Award for Innovation in Astronomical Research Tools and the Canadian Association of Physicists’ Herzberg Medal. His research group, working as part of a close-knit international team, used the Sunyaev Zel’dovich effect, a type of radiation distortion, to catalog a massive sample of galaxy clusters and use them as test probes to measure the growth of structure in the universe. They have pointed their telescopes at the heavens from such far-flung points as a mountain peak on Chile’s Atacama plateau, the windswept barrens of the South Pole, and dangling from a stratospheric balloon 120,000 feet above the Earth.

And, yet, that ancient light, the one that could prove our very origins, has eluded them.

Then, in March 2014, a telescope detected B-mode polarization.

Dobbs was disappointed. It wasn’t one of his.

* * *

“Someone told me that each equation I included in the book would halve the sales. I therefore resolved not to have any equations at all.” —Stephen Hawking, in the introduction to his A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (1988)

* * *

 The Hawking Index is a semi-scientific ranking of books that people have started to read but never finished. It is named after the British theoretical physicist who wrote A Brief History of Time, a book whose first three pages have been read by more than 10 million people. Matt Dobbs was in high school when he read those three pages, plus the other 200 that followed.

Dobbs did not attend a special school for science whizzes. He didn’t even like Star Trek.

Perhaps the best way to understand why Matt Dobbs read A Brief History of Time in high school is to understand that he was the kind of kid who thought everyone read A Brief History of Time in high school.

“I didn’t understand everything, but that was the beauty of that book,” he recalls. “Stephen Hawking took complex things—what matter is made of, how matter interacts—and he made them sound easy. He hid the complexity of the equations. It’s only later, when you study the language of the math that you realize that, in all this complexity around you, there are actually simple interactions going on. As a high school student, I read about that and thought, ‘Oh, we’re so close! We can solve this remaining part that isn’t quite there.’”

* * *

“Well, it’s a lot quieter than I thought it would be.”—Chevrolet Chevette owner testimonial (television ad, 1976)

* * *

As a teenager, Dobbs liked hiking in Jasper National Park. He liked building furniture with his dad. When he was two months shy of his sixteenth birthday, he bought a 1980 four-speed Chevette for $200. “The Chevette was the worst American car every built,” says Dobbs. “But the cheaper a car is, the more practice you get turning bolts.”

Dobbs turned a lot of bolts. He replaced the clutch. He fixed the starter. One day, he saw some friends waiting for the bus so he pulled over to offer them a ride. A strut snapped, rusted from one too many Edmonton winters. The engine hit the asphalt.

* * *

Despite his precocious interest in cosmology, Dobbs took the scenic route to the stars. After graduating from McGill with a BSc, he did doctoral studies in experimental particle physics at the University of Victoria. His supervisor, Michel Lefebvre, remembers Dobbs as “a superstar” who didn’t know it. Smart, obviously. Organized. Independent. Brimming with ideas and initiative. “He’s the only PhD student I’ve ever supervised who produced papers on his own,” Lefebvre recalls. One of those papers solved a difficult phenomenology problem in particle physics. Another established a software system to simulate high-energy particle physics events; that software is still in use today. Dobbs is also the only PhD student that Lefebvre refused to co-sign a research paper with because the paper was too good: “It was fantastic work, but it was all his work.”


While working on his dissertation (subject: “Probing the three gauge-boson couplings in 14 TeV proton-proton collisions”), Dobbs did a residency at CERN, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, where Lefebvre had long been a key player. Dobbs joined 1,500 colleagues in the search for the so-called “God particle,” the only subatomic particle predicted by the standard model of physics, yet never observed. That particle, the Higgs boson, is what gives matter mass. CERN researchers finally found it in 2012. Dobbs was listed as a co-author on that historic paper. Though he was no longer actively involved with the CERN team when the discovery was made, he had made important contributions to the project at an earlier stage.  He had enjoyed the work—but a $9-billion particle accelerator is simply not the kind of experiment where a guy gets to turn some bolts, no matter how smart he is.

In 2002, Dobbs received the inaugural Owen Chamberlain Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy lab managed by the University of California. He was told he would be free to follow his scientific muse, a not-uncommon promise that usually doesn’t mean much in practice.

“But the director, Jim Siegrist, sat me down and said ‘It’s really important that you work on what you think is most exciting. For the first two months that you’re here, I want you to spend time with every single research group and choose what you think is the most exciting.”

Dobbs met with other particle physicists, naturally, and learned about their work to understand the interactions of fundamental matter. He hung out with the supernova cosmology group, who were designing a new satellite to decode dark energy. And the group who were applying physics techniques to a statistical analysis of the fossil record. And the ones working on neutrinoless double beta decay. And the group using optical recognition algorithms to digitize rare vinyl recordings too fragile to endure a single spin.

“It’s amazing,” he says, “what people are allowed to do in a government physics lab.”

The group that really piqued his curiosity, though, was the one studying the Cosmic Microwave Backgrounds (CMB). Dobbs started to dabble: four days on his particle physics research, then one day with the astrophysicists. Within a few months, the ratio had reversed. He was hooked.

“People rarely change fields like that,” explains Lefebvre. “To put aside high-energy physics work that he’d been doing with tremendous success, and to go into particle astrophysics? That’s amazing to me, and a tribute to his talent.”

* * *

 Keith Vanderlinde, National Science Foundation)

The South Pole Telescope and the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Research Station (Photo: Keith Vanderlinde, National Science Foundation)

CMB physicists build their own telescopes and, in the big-ticket world of serious science, they build them cheap.

“I refer to our science as ‘cowboy science,’” says Dobbs. “It’s more hands-on. There’s less bureaucracy. There’s more adventure.”

The South Pole Telescope (SPT), which is housed at the U.S. government’s Amundsen-Scott South Pole Research Station, had an initial cost of $22 million. The South Pole Telescope (SPT), which is housed at the U.S. government’s Amundsen-Scott South Pole Research Station, had an initial cost of $22 million. Dobbs and his team designed, built and tested the readout system for the SPT’s polarimeter camera, an upgrade on the telescope’s original readout system which Dobbs also helped design and build.

Dobbs’ team has also deployed electronics for a telescope attached to a NASA stratospheric balloon, which scans the heavens while bobbing along the top of the stratosphere, where the Earth’s atmosphere ends and outer space begins; those cost around $10 million. Compared to the $1.5 billion multi-national Thirty Metre Telescope planned for Hawaii, or even something as commonplace as a hospital’s million-dollar MRI scanner, this is shoestring science—and that means freedom.

“In our field, the funding agencies fund many of us for a little money each,” explains Dobbs. “They say, ‘Race! Go!’ Our goal is to be really fast and to turn things around in a quick time-scale. We take a lot more risks. We don’t have a program manager who has to report on whether something is going to work before we spend billions of dollars to build it.

“The reason it works is you have people whose careers depend on it working. You have these young graduate students and post-docs who are so excited about it that they’re working 16 hours a day. When a circuit board doesn’t work, you have undergraduate students who will sit down and solder a wire from here to there to make it work. It’s a small group of people who control things and make it happen.”

* * *

“High pressure helium began spraying out of our refrigerator system into the cabin, causing our camera to warm up in a hurry. Disaster! People moved quickly, pausing for brief football-style huddles to discuss the best course of action… We had to scramble around the South Pole in the middle of the night scrounging for helium….There’s never a lack of adventure in experimental cosmology!”—Matt Dobbs, blog entry written during the deployment of the South Pole Telescope (2007)

* * *

Despite its inhospitable nature, the South Pole is a great place to look through microwave telescopes because of its high altitude, low atmospheric water vapour content (moisture pollutes the signal) and stable weather (brutal, yes, but stable).  There, the fierce competition to understand the entire universe takes place in close quarters. Research teams are assigned space at the Amundsen-Scott station. There are only a few hundred metres separating rival telescopes, and much less separating rival bunks in the station.

It’s a friendly competition, but a competition nonetheless.

Dobbs and his colleagues guessed that the B-mode polarization signal would be small, so they built the South Pole Telescope to be very detail-focused. A rival multi-university research team built their BICEP2 telescope to look for a large signal.

On a minus-50 degree March day in 2014, BICEP2 announced a detection of B-mode polarization. Dobbs knows the BICEP researchers. He’s broken bread with them at the southernmost point on the globe. He likes them. They’re good scientists. But, still.

“We were all, ‘Oh man. They gambled right, we gambled wrong,’” recalls Dobbs. “This is one of the reasons why this science is fun: It’s not a case of everyone coming together, like CERN, to build the one ultimate telescope. We take gambles, and it appeared their gamble was good.”

* * *

“The Pole. Yes, but under very different circumstances from those expected.”—explorer Robert Scott, upon reaching the South Pole 34 days after Roald Amundsen (1912).

* * *

The BICEP2 measurements were correct—they just weren’t measurements of the right thing. It wasn’t B-modes that the telescope picked up. It was space dust.

The race is still on.

Next November, Dobbs and his team plan to return to the South Pole, where SPT will get an upgrade. Bolts will be turned, and new detectors will go online—detectors that, for the first time ever, will simultaneously scan the heavens for three different wavelengths of light with each pixel instead of just one wavelength per detector. (Colour filtration is crucial; certain wavelengths, such as water and oxygen, must be screened out because they’re too bright.) Thanks to these improvements, SPT will map the sky 10 times faster.

Dobbs and his team are also involved in the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity-Mapping Experiment (CHIME) radio telescope, a collaboration involving McGill, the University of British Columbia, the University of Toronto and the National Research Council’s Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory. Currently being built in the Okanagan Valley, CHIME’s 100-metre-by-100-metre dish will map the largest volume of the universe ever observed, and with unprecedented resolution. Instead of using optical light, which is how we’ve mapped around one per cent of the universe to date, the project will use the distribution of neutral hydrogen to create a 3D map of 25 per cent of the known universe—and, hopefully, offer new insights into inflation and what exactly happened during those first microseconds of the early universe.

It’s been 20 years since Dobbs read A Brief History of Time. He hasn’t revisited the book, but the youthful optimism that it inspired hasn’t wavered.

“We’re almost there,” he declares. “We almost understand how nature works.”


The gift of you

Tue, 12/15/2015 - 18:44
by Mark Reynolds  Ethan Rilly

Illustration: Ethan Rilly

The art of giving gifts, done right, can deepen a personal relationship. Done wrong, it can lead to a night sleeping on the couch. For most people, common sense dictates that the “right” gift is one that fits in with the recipient’s interests and tastes. How else to show that you’re paying attention to the person and that you care about their desires?

That approach might be precisely backwards, according to research published earlier this year in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology by assistant professor of psychology Lauren Human and her collaborator, Simon Fraser University’s Lara Aknin. Most people, according to surveys the two conducted last year, believe that one should buy gifts that reflect the interests of the recipient. But when Human and Aknin recruited subjects to give gifts – some with a mission to reflect themselves, others to reflect the recipient – the results were unexpected.

“Recipients felt closer to the giver if they received a gift that reflected the giver instead of one that reflected themselves,” explains Human.

“It was somewhat surprising, given that people like to receive information that confirms their self-views, and they like to be known by those close to them, so getting a gift that reflects you should reinforce that and be a nice thing to receive.”

Human says that it is possible that giving your Mozart-loving sweetheart a collection of your favorite Metallica songs can be seen as an act of openness.

“These acts of self-disclosure when you express yourself to someone, can also be really beneficial for relationships. It’s sharing something about you that solidifies the connection with the other person.”


Cooking up the future

Tue, 12/15/2015 - 15:55

Maple syrup that’s good for you? A frozen dessert that you can store at room temperature? A falafel-type mix made with insects? Salwa Karboune and her students are dreaming up tomorrow’s foods today.

by Mark Abley

McGillNewsKarbouneMaple syrup has long been the sticky, sweet cornerstone to many a delightful breakfast, but it’s never been mistaken for health food. If McGill food scientist Salwa Karboune has her way, that might well change.  Imagine pouring syrup onto your plate and, instead of worrying about excess calories, taking comfort in the fact that the syrup was about to do your body a whole lot of good.

The syrup would come packed with prebiotics – carbohydrates, nourished by enzymes, that encourage the growth of healthy probiotic bacteria. Such a “nutraceutical” food would boost the immune systems of those who consumed it. It could also offer protection against colon cancer and other diseases.

Prebiotic maple syrup is not on the market yet – the processes involved in testing, receiving government approval and commercial development take years, not months. But neither is it an example of science fiction: Karboune and her research collaborators have patented the syrup-boosting process, which uses an enzyme developed in her lab.

A professor in the Department of Food Science and Agricultural Chemistry at Macdonald Campus, Karboune encourages the students in both her research lab and in the courses she teaches to look to the future and imagine the types of food we’ll be eating once we get there.

Earlier this year, an article about Karboune’s maple syrup research was published online by the CBC. The reactions it provoked are worth noting. “Why are they messing with perfection?” one person asked. “I’m pretty sure,” wrote another, “maple syrup from a farmer is going to be healthier than maple syrup from a laboratory.” A third sarcastically added, “Yes, all we need is more chemically induced foods in our systems.”

Karboune sighs at such responses. “Enzymes are natural,” she explains. Her voice is soft, its tone very firm. “They ensure sustainability. But you have to explain the process to people – education is important. Many consumers are not aware of what is healthy or unhealthy.”

She may soon have a lot of explaining to do. Karboune and her students have been involved with the development, not just of prebiotic maple syrup, but of various other kinds of food – everything from a low-fat frozen dessert that can be stored at room temperature, to a powdery flour called Falamus that could help save the lives of thousands of Middle Eastern refugees. “This flour has four main ingredients,” she explains, “sesame, chickpeas, lentils, and a particular type of insect. When mixed with hot water, it simulates hummus. When fried with spices, it simulates falafel.” It’s not just the ingredients that are critical for developing such a food, she emphasizes, it’s also the ease with which the human body can absorb its nutrients.

While scientific expertise is essential for developing new foods, Karboune knows it sometimes needs to go hand in hand with cultural sensitivity. The new flour holds out great promise, not only because it tastes better than most of the survival rations donated by international NGOs, but also because it’s a good fit for the culture of the region. Islamic scholars generally forbid the consumption of most insects, but exceptions are often made for locusts and grasshoppers.

McGillNewsKarbouneFalamus was developed by a team of McGill undergraduates working under Karboune’s guidance. Each year, in the food product development course that she teaches, Karboune urges her students to come up with imaginative new foods with out-of-the-ordinary characteristics. Falamus was the product of one such effort and it won a major prize this summer at the International Food Technologists annual competition in Chicago. Canadian teams haven’t generally fared well at this competition, but Karboune and her students are changing that. Three new types of food created by the students in Karboune’s food product development course have won major awards at the competition in the last two years (see sidebar).

The graduate students in her research lab are making their mark too. Amanda Waglay, PhD’14, earned her doctorate by developing a method for isolating potato proteins. The approach could lead to the development of nutritious, gluten-reduced cookies. “When selecting a graduate supervisor,” Wagley says, “I was drawn to Dr. Karboune because she was young and ambitious, she pushed her students hard, and she was very demanding.”

While Karboune expects a lot from her students, Waglay says her former supervisor also pays careful attention to how they’re doing – and not just with their experiments.

“I remember clearly that towards the end of my third year, I was losing momentum. I just wanted to give up.” Karboune sat Waglay down and told her that she was making much more progress than she realized. “I believe that because Dr. Karboune is so hands-on, she is able to develop a personal relationship with many of her students, guiding them academically and also providing the emotional support it takes to complete PhD studies.”

“Many people think that food research only involves GMOs and the creation of artificial flavours and ingredients,” says Sooyoun Seo, BSc’09, PhD’14, another former graduate student of Karboune’s who is now employed as a food industry scientist in Montreal. “But actually, most research in the field these days is for the creation of sustainable industries, the isolation of healthy and natural food ingredients, and the investigation of different food extracts on health.” Seo says her former PhD adviser is a leader in these efforts. “Much of Dr. Karboune’s research involves the use of environmentally friendly processes to create food ingredients.”

Karboune is a mother of two and she understands why parents are cautious about what their children eat.  “As a mother, I want my kids to eat well. They know already that at home, we don’t eat food with artificial colorants. Food is important in life, and science is there to make sure it’s nutritious, that it tastes good, that it’s un plaisir à manger.

In the decades to come, Karboune believes, we will take pleasure in eating food products with a variety of health benefits. They may even be “nutrigenomic” – that is, she explains, “food products that have been personalized, based on the genetic profile of the consumers.”

Consumer trends today, she says, are driving the changes in the food industry. People may know very little about science, but they’re still concerned about what a product does and does not contain. The direct link between nutrition and well-being is much better understood than in the past. Accordingly, many of us want to eat “natural” foods without trans fats or artificial flavours. And while we want good-tasting food, we also want it to have great colour and texture. “It is very challenging,” Karboune admits, “to produce products with all these characteristics, but it is possible. Innovation makes it possible.”

Karboune and her students know full well that, no matter how nutritious a food is and no matter how scientifically ingenious its production process, if it doesn’t tickle the taste buds, it won’t have much of an impact.

One of the prizes won by Karboune’s students at the Institute of Food Technologists conference this summer was for a gluten-free, protein-rich, avocado-based snack that bears some resemblance to tiramisu. TiraVerde, as the product is called, had to display serious commercial potential. It had to be judged to be innovative and unique. But most of all, it had to pass the test of “sensory evaluation.” That is, it had to taste delicious.

And it did.

Mark Abley is a Montreal-based writer and editor and his work has appeared in The Guardian and The Walrus. A National Newspaper Award winner for his journalism, his most recent book is Conversations with a Dead Man: The Legacy of Duncan Campbell Scott.


Futuristic Foods

The students in Salwa Karboune’s food development course don’t just earn high marks in class for the foods they come up with, they win international competitions. Here are three innovative food products that all impressed the judges.


CQOxr1eUEAEU73_ (1)Imagine a dessert that’s as creamy and decadent as tiramisu. Now imagine that it’s also low in fat and cholesterol, while being a good source of protein and fibre.

“We decided to replace the ingredients that are laden in saturated fat and cholesterol,” says Erin Davis, BSc(FSc)’15, a member of the student team that devised TiraVerde. Instead of using mascarpone, eggs, and sugar, TiraVerde’s creators layer avocado and ricotta with a gluten-free, sponge cake. “Avocado provides a rich, silky mouthfeel, as well as healthy unsaturated fats. The ricotta provides the density that mascarpone would otherwise provide, with fewer calories and fat.”

TiraVerde took first place at the Institute of Food Technologists Student Association and MARS Product Development Competition in July, and second place at the Chinese Institute of Food Technology and Institute of Food Technologists (USA) Food Summit in October.

Davis and her collaborators continue to fine-tune their product and the process behind it (the cost of the production equipment is an issue).  “[We are] also looking into producing other avocado-based desserts, with the aim of providing healthy alternatives to traditional desserts.”


Falamus pictureFalamus Instant Mix, a powdered food product made out of chickpea, lentil, sesame, and locust flours, packs an impressive nutritious punch.  It contains more than 30 grams of protein and provides more than 67 per cent of the daily value of iron per serving.

Loloah Chamoun, BSc(FSc)’15, one of the students who created Falamus, says she and her collaborators hope that the product can be distributed to refugee camps in the Middle East. “We had to make sure that the preparation of Falamus was simple, since most of the refugee camps lack appliances and energy resources. So we developed an instant mix that only required the addition of water.”

This summer, Falamus won the Developing Solutions for Developing Countries competition organized by the Institute of Food Technologists. The group is now liaising with distributors and manufacturers.

“The challenges lie in finding a manufacturing company that has the capacity to produce [tons] of our product,” says Chamoun.

McGill shelf-stable frozen dessert

frisson-2Karine Paradis, BSc(FSc/NutrSc)’14, and her partners created a one-of-a-kind sorbet than can be stored at room temperature. In its unopened state, the dessert is essentially a thick liquid. Once it’s opened, its specially designed packaging releases nitrous oxide, an inert gas that helps churn the mixture, lending it a smooth, creamy texture. After an hour or so in the freezer, it’s ready to be eaten.

“It’s high [in] fibre, it’s also vegan,” says Paradis, who adds that the sorbet is very portable – you never have to worry about it melting in the car on the way home from the grocery store.

The sorbet, which comes in several flavors, including hibiscus and lemon, won third place at the 2014 Institute of Food Technologists Student Association Food Product Development competition and second place at the 2014 Chinese Institute of Food Technology and Institute of Food Technologists competition.

Paradis says her group is interested in talking to potential partners capable of mass-producing the dessert’s specialized packaging. And once a commercialization deal is struck, the team promises to come up with a sexier name for their dessert.

Shrinkhala Dawadi

City Builders

Fri, 12/11/2015 - 15:48
by Daniel McCabe, BA’89 photography (unless otherwise indicated) by Claudio Calligaris

Since it was founded in 1896, the McGill School of Architecture has trained generations of architects who, collectively, have had an enormous influence on the way Montreal looks.

These graduates have played major roles in everything from building some of the city’s landmark churches (the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul on Sherbrooke Street, for instance, designed by Harold Lea Fetherstonhaugh, BArch 1909), to repurposing decommissioned churches in imaginative ways (Espace St. Jude, an award-winning transformation of a former church built in 1907 into a sleek spa and fitness facility, overseen by Tom Balaban, BArch’95, BSc(Arch)’95).

Here’s a sampling of some of the most iconic spots in the city and a tip of the hat to the creative McGillians who played key roles in bringing them to life.

Affleck, Desbarats, Dimakopoulos, Lebensold, Sise
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Salle Wilfrid Pelletier

Whether working together as a team or separately on individual projects, the founding principals involved in Affleck, Desbarats, Dimakopoulos, Lebensold, Sise had an impact on the city that simply can’t be overstated. The five partners in the firm, known informally as ARCOP (Architects in Co-Partnership), were all linked to the McGill School of Architecture as graduates, teachers or both – Raymond Affleck, BArch’47, DSc’84, Guy Desbarats, BArch’48, Dmitri Dimakopoulos, BArch’55, former associate professor Fred Lebensold and Hazen Sise, who studied at McGill for two years before transferring to MIT. Many of the firm’s members had already attracted attention for major projects (Desbarats and Sise had collaborated on Mount Royal’s Beaver Lake Pavilion, for instance), but the team received its big break when it served as the associate architects working with New York superstar I. M. Pei on what would become Montreal’s signature skyscraper – Place Ville Marie.

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Mount Royal’s Beaver Lake Pavilion

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Place Bonaventure

The firm went on to oversee the creation of some of the city’s most familiar buildings, including Place Bonaventure (the unusual combination of a hotel, shopping centre and exhibition halls was ahead of its time) and Salle Wilfrid Pelletier (which became the site for performances by everyone from Maria Callas to Bruce Springsteen). In the late sixties, some of the principals went their separate ways, with Affleck and Lebensold remaining with the firm, now officially called ARCOP. The former partners continued to produce major works, including the creation of the Université du Québec à Montréal campus (Dimakopoulos) and Maison Alcan (Affleck, collaborating with restoration specialist Julia Gersovitz, BSc(Arch)’74, BArch’75). Earlier this year, the architectural legacy of Affleck, Desbarats, Dimakopoulos, Lebensold and Sise was recognized when the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada singled out the five for their joint efforts on the Fathers of Confederation Building in Charlottetown. The building was selected for the RAIC’s Prix du XXe siècle, which honours outstanding and lasting contributions to Canadian architecture.


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He is now one of the world’s most in-demand architects, with major buildings in Jerusalem, Los Angeles, Washington and many other cities to his credit, but his very first project might still be his most famous creation. During the Expo 67 world fair in Montreal, a young Moshe Safdie, BArch’61, LLD’82, unveiled Habitat, an eye-catching and unorthodox attempt to, in Safdie’s words, “reinvent the apartment building.” According to The Guardian, the complex, which consists of 148 residences constructed from 354 identical prefabricated modules, has “drawn comparisons to everything from Lego to a Cubist painting.” One of the city’s most celebrated landmarks, Habitat 67 was declared a heritage site by the Quebec government in 2009 and earned the RAIC’s Prix du XXe siècle in 2007. Safdie, who also designed the Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, has received the Gold Medal from both the RAIC and the American Institute of Architects – the top career prize for both organizations.

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Palais des congrès

Since it opened in 1983, Montreal’s Palais des congrès has hosted more than 6,000 events, ranging from a UN conference on climate change to the World Science Fiction Convention. Thanks to an expansion that was done in the early 2000s, the Montreal convention centre is now also regarded as one of the most striking facilities of its kind, worthy of being included in the book 1001 Buildings You Must See Before You Die (Habitat 67 is listed there too). While the centre boasts several striking elements – Claude Cormier’s surreal Lipstick Forest installation, for instance – there is no question that its most iconic feature is its multicoloured glass façade, designed by Hal Ingberg, BSc(Arch)’83, BArch’85. The vibrant glass panels pack a visual punch, both inside and out. Depending on the positioning of the sun, coloured light streams into the centre at different angles.

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The Bell Centre (Photo: Perry Mastrovito)

The Montreal Forum, the longtime home to the city’s beloved Canadiens, was an awfully tough act to follow. It’s difficult to think of any building more widely cherished by Montrealers. The fact that the Habs’ new home, the Bell Centre, so quickly found its way into the hearts of the city’s rabid hockey fans, is a testament to the skills of Robert Magne, BArch’76, and his firm Lapointe Magne et associés, which collaborated on the project with Lemay et associés. Magne and his partners have won the Governor General’s Medal for Architecture on multiple occasions and have been involved in the creation or renovation of some of the city’s most notable buildings. The Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec, once considered an eyesore (it received a “lemon” from the Société d’architecture de Montréal), is now widely admired, thanks to the bold, award-winning renovations done by Magne’s firm and Aedifica. Magne and his partners also designed the National Circus School, a unique training ground for the young trapeze artists, clowns and contortionists who aspire to win starring roles with the Cirque du Soleil one day. The school, one of only four of its kind in the world, uses an abundance of glass (some specially designed to cut down on glare and heat loss) to attract plenty of natural light and to give passers-by an opportunity to glimpse the budding circus performers as they hone their skills in one of the school’s expansive gymnasiums.

Melvin Charney
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the Canadian Centre for Architecture’s sculpture garden

Driving along the highway into downtown Montreal, commuters from the west-end know they’re nearing their destination once they spy a metallic chair looming in the sky. The chair is one of the many elements comprising the Canadian Centre for Architecture’s sculpture garden, the creation of architect and artist Melvin Charney, BArch’58, DLitt’09. The history of architecture is referenced by the garden’s allegorical columns, which feature everything from Greek temples to grain silos to church spires. A small apple orchard recalls how the site was once used for farming by Sulpician priests.  In their Guidebook to Contemporary Architecture in Montreal, Nancy Dutton and Helen Malkin describe the garden as “a place of reflection and respite in an area of the city that desperately lacked breathing space.” Charney, who won the Quebec government’s Prix Paul-Émile-Borduas in 1996, also crafted Skyscraper, Waterfall, Brooks – a Construction, a prominent installation at Place Émilie-Gamelin, near the Berri-UQAM metro station.

Atelier in situ
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The PHI Centre (photo courtesy of the PHI Centre)

Delightfully odd things tend to happen at the PHI Centre, a multimedia facility in Old Montreal that plays host to concerts, film screenings, art exhibitions and lectures. Earlier this fall, Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler, BA’04, was performing a DJ set at the centre to raise funds for the Haitian charity Kanpe, when Madonna showed up unannounced and started to dance. Two years ago, eclectic filmmaker Guy Maddin used the versatile centre as a movie studio, inviting a live audience to watch him at work as he directed such prominent Quebec actors as Roy Dupuis and Caroline Dhavernas. Originally built in 1861 as a warehouse for merchant John Ogilvy, the stone-clad structure had long been abandoned before its new owner, Phoebe Greenberg, decided to turn it into a multidisciplinary artistic complex.  The PHI Centre is the product of an ambitious overhaul by Atelier in situ (co-founded by Stéphane Pratte, BSc(Arch)’89, BArch’91, and Annie Lebel, BSc(Arch)’89, BArch’91), in partnership with the firm Shapiro Wolfe. The centre earned a Prix d’excellence from the Ordre des architectes du Québec (OAQ) in 2013. Atelier in situ played the lead role on a similar project, transforming a neglected industrial warehouse complex in Griffintown into the Darling Foundry, now a prominent Montreal visual arts centre.

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The Edison Residence

It’s been quite the year for KANVA, a small Montreal firm whose team of architects almost all trained at McGill. KANVA, led by Tudor Radulescu, BSc(Arch)’98, MArch’91, and Rami Bebawi, BSc(Arch)’99, MArch’01, received the RAIC’s Emerging Architectural Practice Award earlier this year. In collaboration with the international firm AZPML, KANVA also won a major competition that will lead to perhaps its biggest project yet – a major redesign of the Biodôme intended to give visitors to the nature centre a much more interactive experience. The Biodôme plan earned an Award of Excellence from Canadian Architect magazine. KANVA also won two Prix d’excellence from the OAQ. The first was for its work as part of the team that created Entre Les Rangs, the winning entry for the 2013 Luminothérapie competition at the Quartier des Spectacles, which evoked a softly glowing wheat field. The other OAC prize was for the firm’s Edison Residence, located near McGill. The student residence boasts full-height cabinets and polished concrete floors, but what really sets it apart is its imaginative exterior. The photo-engraved concrete façade displays stills from a 1901 film made about Montreal firefighters by Thomas Edison. The images are connected to the site’s history – the original building burned down around the time that the legendary Edison visited the city to make his film.

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The Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace will open in November, 2016 (Image: Atelier TAG)

The newest addition to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace will officially open in November next year to help kick off the celebrations for Montreal’s 350th anniversary. The pavilion will exhibit an extensive collection of artwork, some of it dating back to the Renaissance, that the museum received from the Hornsteins. The pavilion will also house the museum’s collection of international art, the Ben Weider Napoleonic collection and educational and community programs. The lead architect for the project is Manon Asselin, BSc(Arch)’90, BArch’92, MArch’01, in collaboration with her frequent partners, Jodoin Lamarre Pratte. Together with Katsuhiro Yamazaki, BSc(Arch)’94, BArch’96 (who is also involved in the Hornstein project), Asselin co-founded Atelier TAG, which has won the Governor General’s Medal in Architecture for such projects as the Raymond-Lévesque Library in Longueuil and the Châteauguay Municipal Library.


Physician with a mission

Thu, 12/10/2015 - 20:34

Joanne Liu has treated patients in the most dangerous parts of the globe as a Médecins Sans Frontières doctor. Now, as MSF’s international president, she is holding the world’s leaders to account for the way they handle medical crises.

by Jonathan Montpetit, BA’03 1K7A9542 Dr.Liu JMichel approbation

Dr. Joanne Liu is the international president of Médecins Sans Frontières (Photo: Jocelyn Michel)

The body of a six-year-old Syrian refugee is on the cover of every newspaper arrayed in the lobby of the Montreal restaurant where Dr. Joanne Liu, international president of Médecins Sans Frontières, has just arrived.

It is impossible not to look at the full-page photographs of Aylan Kurdi, dead, lying face-first in the sand. And look the world will. Over the coming weeks, the image will prompt anguished cries for action. Crowds will take to the streets, urging governments to do more for the millions fleeing the civil war. But before any of this happens, Liu leans over the table and predicts the refugee crisis will become “the topic of the year.”

This is not the first time that Liu, MDCM’91, IMHL’14, has foreseen a crisis in the making, only to confront an unwillingness to do something about it. She sounded the alarm early in 2014 about a potential Ebola epidemic in West Africa. The World Health Organization accused her of being alarmist. But when infection rates and the death toll jumped rapidly, the WHO changed its position and declared a global public health emergency. The WHO’s reputation is still recovering.

Liu is dressed simply, wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and sandals on a warm day in early fall. She orders only mineral water, eats only the complimentary potato chips. Her modest appearance, though, belies an intensity of character, a singularity of vision.

Liu has known since she was a teenager that she wanted to work for MSF. Now that she finds herself in charge of the organization, she embraces the responsibility that comes with the position. This often means anticipating the next major health emergency and mobilizing resources in time.

Under Liu’s leadership, MSF took the unprecedented step this spring of launching three converted ships to provide medical care to refugees and migrants making the treacherous voyage across the Mediterranean. The organization had never in its 43-year history offered help on the open seas. But in meetings over the winter at its headquarters in Geneva, Liu and her staff recognized that with the civil war worsening in Syria, more and more people would be desperate to leave. Thousands have died in rickety fishing boats and over-crowded rafts unable to navigate the waves of the Mediterranean. Something needed to be done.

MSF estimates its three boats have rescued more than 16,000 people since May. “We could have decided to be a powerless observer of an awful story unfolding in front of us,” says Liu. “But inertia is not a solution.”

A gut feeling

Liu had barely been in her new job at MSF for a few months when alarming reports began circulating of a mysterious illness in southern Guinea. The symptoms were reminiscent of cholera, except for the persistent hiccups among some patients – a troubling warning sign for the deadly Ebola virus. But given that there had never been an outbreak of Ebola in West Africa before, few considered it a possibility when diagnosing these early cases.

In March 2014, MSF flew a batch of blood samples to a laboratory in France to be tested for the filoviruses that cause hemorrhagic fever. On March 21, an email from the lab was circulated to the WHO, MSF and other international health specialists. The presence of Ebola was confirmed.

Liu mobilized MSF staff and volunteers immediately. There had been 23 previous outbreaks of Ebola in Africa since it was first discovered in 1976, and a robust series of protocols for containing its spread have been developed since then. But Liu was worried that in the months before Ebola had been identified, the virus had already spread well beyond the initial cluster of villages in southern Guinea. Containment would be difficult.

There was a feeling in the pit of her stomach that she recognized from her time as an emergency room physician at Montreal’s Sainte-Justine Hospital. She had developed an intuitive sense over the years about when a patient required something beyond the normal course of treatment. “You cannot put a name to it; it’s just that gut feeling that this is going to be different,” she recalls. “I had the same feeling for Ebola.”

There were only 29 confirmed Ebola deaths from when the outbreak was first declared; no more than 50 people had been infected. By April of 2014, the number of reported cases appeared to be dropping. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began making plans to wrap up its Ebola operation in Guinea. When Liu and other MSF members insisted on calling the Ebola outbreak a major emergency, the WHO took to Twitter and told the group bluntly “Don’t exaggerate.”

Determined to make a difference

Liu grew up in Charlesbourg, a suburb of Quebec City, where her parents ran a restaurant. After high school she rambled, doing community work with the Katimavik youth program, then hitchhiking across the country. She slept in homeless shelters when she ran out of money. Somewhere along the road, the dream of working for MSF crystallized in her mind. Every subsequent decision she made was with an eye towards that goal.

In an interview with Montréal en Santé magazine last year, Liu explained why she became so focused on MSF. As a teen, she read a memoir by one of its doctors about treating patients in war-torn Afghanistan. I thought this was the kind of meaning I’d like to have in my life.”

Dr. Joanne Liu puts on protective gear while visiting the Médecins Sans Frontières  Ebola treatment centre in Kailahun, Sierra Leone.

Dr. Joanne Liu putting on protective gear while visiting the Médecins Sans Frontières Ebola treatment centre in Kailahun, Sierra Leone in 2014. (Photo: P.K. Lee / MSF)

While pursuing her medical training at McGill, Liu chose to specialize in pediatrics, a skill that she figured was needed anywhere in the world. She then undertook training in emergency room medicine in New York City. “It was the best place to be exposed to gunshot wounds and stab wounds,” which she reasoned would be good experience given the conditions under which MSF frequently operates. When he joined the staff at Sainte-Justine, Liu’s vacations took the form of overseas postings for MSF. Before becoming its president, Liu had undertaken 20 assignments in 16 different countries for the group. She served as the president of MSF-Canada from 2004 to 2009.

But Liu grew restless again. She wanted to contribute to the organization in new ways, but wasn’t sure how. She toyed with the idea of returning to school. While surfing the Internet, she discovered McGill’s International Masters for Health Leadership (IMHL) program. “I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into,” she admits. “I just wanted to be stimulated.”

The IMHL program is the product of an innovative collaboration between the Desautels Faculty of Management and the Faculty of Medicine. It is aimed at mid-career health care professionals, with the specific goal of bridging the experiences of clinicians and managers. Students are encouraged to develop personal management styles while also learning effective ways of collaborating and pooling information.

The program carries with it the iconoclastic approach to management of one of its founders, John Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies Henry Mintzberg, BEng’61. In his writings, Mintzberg frequently questions the tendency of corporate culture to champion heroic leaders over effective line managers. “Who wants a manager who doesn’t lead, and who wants a leader who doesn’t manage?” he asks, rhetorically. For Mintzberg, health care delivery is unique from business; it operates best on the basis of cooperation, not competition.

It not surprising then that Mintzberg encourages students in the program to learn as much from each other as they do from their teachers. Among Liu’s fellow students in the program was Conrad Sauvé, IMHL’14, CEO of the Canadian Red Cross. The two forged a close friendship as they shared experiences on how best to deal with large-scale health emergencies. “What was great about the program was that it brought together people who were already involved in these issues and gave them the opportunity to step back and gain perspective,” says Sauvé.

As part of the program, students are paired with a mentor. Liu’s was Rafael Bengoa, a former minister of health for the Basque government in Spain. During one of their conversations, Liu began outlining what she would do as president of MSF. When she finished, Bengoa told her, “Go for it.” The organization’s international president is elected by its general assembly. Liu had sought the position once before. When she lost, she convinced herself she didn’t want the job anymore. Bengoa’s encouragement made her realize she was wrong. “That was the push I needed,” she says.

Sauvé and other IMHL students helped organize Liu’s campaign. In the summer of 2013, before she had even completed the McGill program, she was elected as MSF’s 13th international president.

Confronting a crisis  Mark Garten/UN)

Liu with UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon in April, 2015 (Photo: Mark Garten/UN)

Whatever afterglow resulted from her election, it almost certainly had dimmed by the following year. Liu spent the summer of 2014 racing around the world trying to convince skeptical audiences to take the Ebola outbreak in West Africa seriously. The drop in the number of cases in April had lulled the international community into a false sense of security. But while many were congratulating themselves on a job well done, the disease was quietly spreading. Soon enough, cases were being reported in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria. More than 1,500 people were dead of Ebola by the end of August; experts warned that as many as 20,000 could soon be infected. The WHO was no longer accusing MSF of exaggerating.

On a Friday night in September, after weeks of backroom lobbying, Liu received word that the United Nations had agreed to let her address the General Assembly the coming Monday. She stayed up most of the weekend with her staff drafting a speech. She knew she needed to choose her words carefully; the world’s attention would finally be hers, if only for a few minutes.

Liu delivered barnburner. She described infected bodies rotting in the streets, scenes of widespread panic, and overwhelmed health workers. World leaders were accused of standing idly by as the crisis deepened. “Six months into the worst Ebola epidemic in history, the world is losing the battle to contain it,” she told the UN’s General Assembly. The line registered, and governments in the West soon began to pony up the resources needed to contain the epidemic.

The power of Liu’s speech was informed by first-hand experience. Before arriving at the UN, she had spent several weeks visiting the MSF treatment centres in West Africa. Like other front-line workers, she donned the yellow protective gear and sweated in the 45-degree heat as they conducted ward rounds. Liu, recall, trained as an emergency room physician and has treated patients in most of the world’s major war zones. But even she was taken aback by the scale of Ebola’s devastation.

Liu estimates that of the 70,000 children admitted annually to Sainte-Justine’s emergency room, perhaps six will die. In a ward round lasting around 45 minutes in West Africa, she would witness at least that many deaths. Even in a war-zone clinic, doctors are able to save a majority of their patients. Ebola flips those odds. It has a mortality rate of between 50 and 60 percent. “We are not trained for that as doctors,” Liu says. “Death is meant to be an exception. Death is an extraordinary event. It’s not supposed to happen every hour.”

Her willingness to leave the comforts of Geneva and experience for herself the daily challenges of fighting the disease meant Liu had a unique perspective among the global leaders trying to manage the crisis. She was able to hear directly from local staff as they struggled to dam the flood of contagion. Such experiences gave her a keener sense of the situation’s urgency. Mintzberg, for one, attributes MSF’s effectiveness in the Ebola crisis to Liu’s engaged brand of leadership. “Managing is rolling up your sleeves and getting dirt under your finger nails,” he says. “Joanne is the perfect example of someone who is not disconnected from what’s going on.”

Casualties of war

On October 7, Liu received a phone call from U.S. president Barack Obama. He was phoning to apologize. During a battle with Taliban fighters, a MSF field hospital in Afghanistan had been mistakenly targeted by a U.S. military airstrike. Twelve MSF staff died in the bombing. Ten patients also perished.

Obama promised her that the U.S. would conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into what went wrong. Liu made it plain that she wasn’t satisfied. She and MSF called for an independent inquiry into the incident. “If we let this go, as if it was a non-event, we are basically giving a blank cheque to any countries who are at war,” Liu declared at a news briefing. “If we don’t safeguard that medical space for us to do our activities, then it is impossible to work in other contexts like Syria, South Sudan, like Yemen.”

No longer an unknown

As Liu recalls the peak moments of the Ebola epidemic in the Montreal restaurant, she realizes it’s been almost a year to the day since her speech at the UN. “I was an unknown person before then,” she remarks.

That isn’t the case now. Liu’s leadership during the crisis has earned her a long list of accolades. Maclean’s named her one of Canada’s most important people. Fortune magazine selected her as one of the world’s greatest leaders. The Financial Times chose Liu as one of its Women of 2014. “She almost single-handedly brought about awareness of the need for a better response to the epidemic,” says Conrad Sauvé.

The outbreak in West Africa has largely subsided. UN officials believe it is realistic to expect zero new transmissions of the disease by the end of the year. Its toll was savage, though; an estimated 11,300 people were killed by Ebola. MSF alone lost 14 staff members. In a quiet voice that trails off, Liu says, “The trauma of it was quite strong.”

Liu has been reflecting upon what went wrong. Commonly, public health failures such as epidemics are attributed to a lack of means available for an effective response. This wasn’t the case in West Africa, according to Liu. “It wasn’t a failure of means. It was a failure of political will.”

Earlier this year, Time included Liu on its annual list of the world’s 100 most influential people. In an essay about Liu that appeared in the magazine, Tom Frieden, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, assessed her impact during the Ebola crisis. “Liu repeatedly got it right, and MSF was at the right places at the right times,” he wrote. “Most important, she charged—and continues to charge—the world to better respond to crises.”

Jonathan Montpetit is pursuing doctoral studies in political science at McGill. A former journalist with the Canadian Press, he served as the news agency’s Afghanistan correspondent and as its political affairs correspondent for Quebec.


Ready to tackle the cosmos

Wed, 11/18/2015 - 11:00
 Owen Egan)

Victoria Kaspi, McGill’s Lorne Trottier Chair in Astrophysics & Cosmology, is the director of the new McGill Space Institute (Photo: Owen Egan)

by Andrew Mahon

Every afternoon at three, researchers at the McGill Space Institute (MSI) gather for tea in the lounge at their new centre in the heart of the University’s downtown campus. It’s a simple social ritual designed to nurture a collaborative culture but, in this case, the discussion might not be about Oolong versus Earl Grey, or even Kirk versus Picard (Kirk, obviously), but rather the diverse factors affecting a planet’s potential to develop and sustain life.

“In many ways, the first step toward collaboration is a conversation with someone in a different field,” says Andrew Cumming, an associate professor in the Department of Physics and MSI’s associate director. “You tend to think of new ideas when you’re talking to someone in another area of research.”

Those types of interactions are the building blocks of the MSI’s vision and the reason for bringing together – in one centre – McGill scientists specializing in astrophysics and cosmology with researchers from other disciplines whose work involves planetary science and astrobiology

“The most powerful way to advance progress in scientific fields is through collaboration and we want to make that happen,” says Victoria Kaspi, BSc’89, McGill’s Lorne Trottier Chair in Astrophysics & Cosmology, its Canada Research Chair in Observational Astrophysics and MSI’s director.

Take Exoplanets, for example.

Exoplanets (or Extra Solar planets) are planets located beyond our solar system.  To date, astronomers have discovered almost 2,000 exoplanets, but now may be the time to shift research focus from detection to characterization, which is where astrophysicists might partner with earth and atmospheric scientists.

“How did these exoplanets form? Are they different? Are there signs of life?” says Cumming. “It really cries out for an interdisciplinary approach.”

That collaborative philosophy is not only key within the MSI, but extends beyond the campus to teamwork with other universities and research centres – like Université de Montréal’s new Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iRex).  The MSI will also support the development of technology and instrumentation for studying the cosmos, such as the new Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) telescope, co-owned by McGill, University of British Columbia and University of Toronto, and the South Pole Telescope.

A great deal of enthusiasm for the project – as well as $1 million in financial support for scholarships for postdoctoral students and graduate students affiliated with the centre – comes from McGill alumnus Lorne Trottier, BEng’70, MEng’73, DSc’06, through the Trottier Family Foundation.  The scholarships are essential to attracting the best and brightest researchers to the MSI.

“Lorne Trottier has a real love of astronomy and cosmology,” says Kaspi, a world-renowned astrophysicist and winner of the 2015 Killam Prize. “He regularly comes to our public events, asks insightful questions, and is an active participant in what we do.”

Another important aspect of the MSI is public outreach. Public lectures, podcasts and school visits are regularly organized by AstroMcGill, a group based at the MSI comprising astrophysics and cosmology faculty members, grad students and post-doctoral students.

“The public lectures are really taking off,” says Cumming. “We’re getting more than 300 people attending each month.”

Although the MSI is officially just weeks old, it has already gained momentum and media attention – both within Montreal and across the country.

“It’s taken off very nicely,” says Kaspi. “When you define something, it naturally becomes a focal point for different people and creates an awareness of the diverse and complementary research going on across campus. That’s exactly what’s happened with the MSI. It’s also a concrete sign of a priority research focus for McGill and a wonderful recruitment tool.”

The ultimate challenge for Kaspi, Cumming and their colleagues will be to ensure the continued sustainability of the MSI, build partnerships with other academic institutions as well as the city’s aerospace industry, and make Montreal an internationally recognized hub for space science. Along the way, the MSI will inevitably tackle popular space topics like killer asteroids, black holes, and whether or not those hot red stars in the sky called M stars (ubiquitous in our stellar neighbourhood) are compatible with habitable planets.

“Who says you can’t have life around an M star?” says Kaspi.

One more cosmic question for the McGill Space Institute to probe.


A fighter for First Nations

Wed, 11/18/2015 - 10:28
James O'Reilly, a lawyer who has worked closely with the northern Quebec Cree over the years poses with a flag from the Ouje-Bougoumou Cree Nation in his offices in downtown Montreal, October 28, 2015.  (Christinne Muschi for McGill News Alumni Magazine ) Hat gift from Lubicon Cree Nation, Northern Alberta Snowshoes gift from Crees of Waskaganish

James O’Reilly, a lawyer who has worked closely with First Nations communities over the years, poses with a flag from the Ouje-Bougoumou Cree Nation in his offices in downtown Montreal. His hat was a gift from northern Alberta’s Lubicon First Nation, while the snowshoes were a gift from the Crees of Waskaganish. (Photo: Christinne Muschi) 

by Kevin Dougherty, BA’71

James O’Reilly, BCL’63, turns 75 on December 5 and still puts in “between 60 and 75 hours” a week with O’Reilly & Associes, a law firm that specializes in aboriginal law.

“I would like to work a bit less, take more vacation,” he says.

But O’Reilly and his team of lawyers have no shortage of projects to work on, representing the Quebec Crees and Innu in their legal battles, as well as the Lubicons, Stoneys and other First Nations in Western Canada.

When O’Reilly was awarded the Medal of the Bar of Montreal in September, Magali Fournier, the bâtonnière of Montreal, described him as “a real fighter,” adding that “his contribution to the development of aboriginal law… makes him a pioneer.”

Previous medal recipients include O’Reilly’s personal hero and inspiration Frank Scott, BCL’27, LLD’67, the late McGill law professor who was one of the country’s most prominent human rights advocates.

O’Reilly credits Scott as “the unseen hand in all of this,” offering advice to his former student when O’Reilly first took on the case that would earn him national attention – Quebec’s plans to flood Cree lands in the James Bay region.

Scott sent him a note congratulating his “magnificent victory,” when the injunction was granted ordering a halt to the James Bay project.

“I’ve had more defeats than victories,” O’Reilly says.

But court decisions that have gone against him are never the end of the story, says Patricia Ochman, BCL/LLB’06, a lawyer who works in O’Reilly’s firm.

“Even the cases he has lost have had an impact on aboriginal law.”

The Cree Nation Government honoured O’Reilly in the James Bay community of Waskanganish this fall, at an event to mark the 40th anniversary of the signing of the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement.

It was Billy Diamond, then the 22-year-old Waskangnish chief, who retained O’Reilly in 1972 to stop then-premier Robert Bourassa’s $6-billion James Bay “project of the century,” to dam rivers running through Cree lands, into James Bay.

O’Reilly was a lawyer then with the Montreal firm Martineau Walker. He had done legal work for the Kahnawake Mohawks and the Indians of Quebec Association. He ended up leaving Martineau Walker because the firm also represented parties opposing O’Reilly’s case for an interlocutory injunction to stop the James Bay project.

When lawyers for Quebec, Hydro-Québec and the James Bay Development Corp. argued the Crees were squatters with no rights, and that they lived and ate the same food as other Quebecers, O’Reilly brought in Cree hunters and trappers, who gave the court (with the help of translators) a firsthand account of their longstanding relationship with the land.

He also called on expert witnesses, who had studied the Crees and warned of the social and environmental impact of the James Bay project.

The Crees had lived in the James Bay region since time immemorial, O’Reilly argued. They had never surrendered their rights, still lived their traditional way of life and ate the game they caught for food.

Harvey Feit, MA’69, PhD’79, a McGill-trained anthropologist who had spent much time with the James Bay Cree, says O’Reilly’s approach to the case was “tenacious” and “ferocious.

“This was such a longshot,” Feit says. “There was no recognition of indigenous law at the time. He made a very long chance become reality.”

After 71 days of hearings and 167 witnesses, Justice Albert Malouf, BA’38, BCL’41, of the Quebec Superior Court overruled the province’s position that the Crees had no rights.

Malouf called on Quebec “to cease, desist and abstain from interfering in any way in the rights of the plaintiffs.”

Quebec and Hydro-Québec were quick to challenge the Malouf decision, arguing successfully in the Quebec Court of Appeal that the economic interests of five million Quebecers outweighed those of 5,000 Crees.

But O’Reilly persevered, going back to the appeal court and to the Supreme Court, winning appeal rights that kept the Crees’ claims alive and gave them some leverage.

Realizing that they likely couldn’t stop the James Bay project, the Crees opted for a negotiated agreement recognizing their title to the land, granting them full hunting, fishing and trapping rights, and giving them a say in the location of the dams, as well as on future projects.

The agreement would give the Crees and Inuit, also at the bargaining table, control and funding for their own schools and health care, as well as “income security” for Cree hunters and trappers.

Bill Namagoose, the senior non-elected official in the Cree administration, said income security was Billy Diamond’s idea and to this day hunting, fishing and trapping accounts for “between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of our economy.”

O’Reilly describes Diamond as “one of the most brilliant people I have ever met,” taking on “the power, the might, the money of Canada and Quebec” to defend his Cree people, and winning again and again.

John Ciaccia, BA’53, BCL’56, who as the Quebec government’s negotiator sat opposite O’Reilly and Diamond at the bargaining table, agrees with O’Reilly that the 1975 agreement is “the first modern treaty.” Ciaccia says Bourassa gave him a “free hand” in the negotiations and he is proud of the results. “It was a collective effort to the benefit of everybody.”

But the agreement didn’t put an end to all disputes regarding the territory. O’Reilly and his associates have continued to represent the Crees, usually resolving disagreements through new agreements.

In a settlement last July, the Crees agreed to drop a $380-million lawsuit in return for co-management of forestry and protection of the woodland caribou in their territory.

O’Reilly says his battles aren’t done.

He has been working with the Lubicon Cree First Nation in northern Alberta for decades. A dispute over oil and gas drilling has left hundreds of Lubicon Crees without running water. Amnesty International calls their plight, “a case study in ongoing human rights violations.”

O’Reilly might long for more vacation time, but he hasn’t lost his willingness to fight. “I still believe in St. Jude,” he says. “You know who he is? The patron saint of lost causes.”


Every afternoon at three, researchers

Tue, 11/17/2015 - 15:21

Every afternoon at three, researchers at the McGill Space Institute (MSI) gather for tea in the lounge at their new centre in the heart of the University’s downtown campus. It’s a simple social ritual designed to nurture a collaborative culture but, in this case, the discussion might not be about Oolong versus Earl Grey, or even Kirk versus Picard (Kirk, obviously), but rather the diverse factors affecting a planet’s potential to develop and sustain life.

“In many ways, the first step toward collaboration is a conversation with someone in a different field,” says Andrew Cumming, an associate professor in the Department of Physics and MSI’s associate director. “You tend to think of new ideas when you’re talking to someone in another area of research.”

Those types of interactions are the building blocks of the MSI’s vision and the reason for bringing together – in one centre – McGill scientists specializing in astrophysics and cosmology with researchers from other disciplines whose work involves planetary science and astrobiology

“The most powerful way to advance progress in scientific fields is through collaboration and we want to make that happen,” says Victoria Kaspi, BSc’89, McGill’s Lorne Trottier Chair in Astrophysics & Cosmology, its Canada Research Chair in Observational Astrophysics and MSI’s director.

Take Exoplanets, for example.

Exoplanets (or Extra Solar planets) are planets located beyond our solar system.  To date, astronomers have discovered almost 2,000 exoplanets, but now may be the time to shift research focus from detection to characterization, which is where astrophysicists might partner with earth and atmospheric scientists.

“How did these exoplanets form? Are they different? Are there signs of life?” says Cumming. “It really cries out for an interdisciplinary approach.”

That collaborative philosophy is not only key within the MSI, but extends beyond the campus to teamwork with other universities and research centres – like Université de Montréal’s new Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iRex).  The MSI will also support the development of technology and instrumentation for studying the cosmos, such as the new Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) telescope, co-owned by McGill, University of British Columbia and University of Toronto, and the South Pole Telescope.

A great deal of enthusiasm for the project – as well as $1 million in financial support for scholarships for postdoctoral students and graduate students affiliated with the centre – comes from McGill alumnus Lorne Trottier, BEng’70, MEng’73, DSc’06, through the Trottier Family Foundation.  The scholarships are essential to attracting the best and brightest researchers to the MSI.

“Lorne Trottier has a real love of astronomy and cosmology,” says Kaspi, a world-renowned astrophysicist and winner of the 2015 Killam Prize. “He regularly comes to our public events, asks insightful questions, and is an active participant in what we do.”

Another important aspect of the MSI is public outreach. Public lectures, podcasts and school visits are regularly organized by AstroMcGill, a group based at the MSI comprising astrophysics and cosmology faculty members, grad students and post-doctoral students.

“The public lectures are really taking off,” says Cumming. “We’re getting more than 300 people attending each month.”

Although the MSI is officially just weeks old, it has already gained momentum and media attention – both within Montreal and across the country.

“It’s taken off very nicely,” says Kaspi. “When you define something, it naturally becomes a focal point for different people and creates an awareness of the diverse and complementary research going on across campus. That’s exactly what’s happened with the MSI. It’s also a concrete sign of a priority research focus for McGill and a wonderful recruitment tool.”

The ultimate challenge for Kaspi, Cumming and their colleagues will be to ensure the continued sustainability of the MSI, build partnerships with other academic institutions as well as the city’s aerospace industry, and make Montreal an internationally recognized hub for space science. Along the way, the MSI will inevitably tackle popular space topics like killer asteroids, black holes, and whether or not those hot red stars in the sky called M stars (ubiquitous in our stellar neighbourhood) are compatible with habitable planets.

“Who says you can’t have life around an M star?” says Kaspi.



The story behind the billion-dollar cancer marker

Sun, 11/15/2015 - 13:27
by Sylvain Comeau

In 1965, two McGill researchers made a remarkable breakthrough, one that continues to touch the lives of patients today. Phil Gold, BSc’57, MDCM’61, MSc’61, PhD’65, and Samuel Freedman,  BSc’49, MDCM’53, DipIntMed’58, DSc’92, discovered the carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), a protein which is still the most commonly used human tumour marker, found in 70 per cent of all cancer patients.

“People had looked for a cancer marker in a variety of ways, including pathologically and chemically, since the early part of the 20th century,” says Gold.

Phil Gold, the co-discoverer of the CEA tumour marker, was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 2010

Phil Gold, the co-discoverer of the CEA tumour marker, was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 2010

“So by the early to middle sixties, the common wisdom — common, but not necessarily wise — was that no cancer marker would ever be found. This I took as a personal challenge.”

In 1963, Gold was a graduate student finishing his first year of residency (he had completed a medical degree two years earlier). He approached Freedman, a well-known researcher in immunology, with an unconventional idea: applying immunological technology to the hunt for a cancer marker. The  research partners decided to focus on rabbits “because they are very good producers of antibodies,” explains Gold.

The first step was to collect samples of both normal human colon tissue and cancerous tissue, from the same donor.

“The major problem with tumor immunology, up to that time, was that the samples were taken from different individuals. So if you found a difference that appeared to be cancer-specific, you could never tell if it indicated cancer, or if it was simply specific to the individuals from whom the material was taken,” says Gold.

Gold and Freedman then injected newborn rabbits with samples of the normal human colon tissue. The newborns’ bodies came to “accept” the human tissue as their own. Later, as adults, they were injected with human cancer cells, from the same donors as the normal tissue.

“The rabbit’s bodies were not able to respond to any of the normal components of those samples, because they had been exposed to them at birth. But they did, in fact, react to the one molecule in the cancer that was different from normal tissue.”

The rabbits had produced antibodies to the cancer molecule. That was the “eureka” moment, the first time that Gold and Freedman — or anyone else — had detected a cancer marker.

The two researchers later developed a blood test to detect an elevated level of CEA, the first cancer screening blood test approved by the United States’ Food and Drug Administration. Gold continued to conduct follow-up research on CEA for another 20 years, “then I brought in the next generations.” He notes that there have been roughly 1,000 different labs involved in this work.

Today, the sale of test materials for CEA generates over a billion dollars a year, and CEA research is conducted around the world, including a major ongoing study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). There is “an enormous push” to develop treatments for cancer, including vaccines, using CEA.

On November 24, Gold will be one of the keynote speakers at a scientific symposium celebrating the 50th anniversary of the discovery. It will be held at Centre Mont-Royal and is organized by McGill’s Goodman Cancer Research Centre.

Freedman won’t be able to attend the symposium due to frail health. Gold pays tribute to his collaborator and mentor, for his open-mindedness and willingness to take a chance on a new approach.

“Sam Freedman is a remarkable man, who bought into a weird idea from a strange kid — and it worked. He helped me in many ways, but the most important thing was that he listened to my ideas, and said, ‘Why not?’ Not many people would have said that.”

Gold and Freedman both went on to long and impressive careers at McGill since the CEA discovery. Gold would become the physician-in-chief for the Montreal General Hospital and the first director of the McGill Cancer Research Centre. Freedman has been McGill’s dean of medicine, its vice-principal (academic) and the director of the Jewish General Hospital’s Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research. Both men are Prix du Québec recipients and winners of what is now known as the Canada Gairdner International Award.

Acting as the facilitator for the November 24 symposium will be Nicole Beauchemin, a professor of biochemistry, medicine and oncology at the Goodman Centre. Beauchemin started to work on CEA in 1986. Her lab mapped the CEA gene and that achievement opened up entirely new avenues of inquiry.

“When we cloned the gene, we discovered several others that encoded proteins which look very much like it.” In the mid-nineties, her lab announced that there were 31 members in the CEA family; there is currently a worldwide effort to decode all of their gene sequences.

Beauchemin, whose lab focuses on a member of that family known as CEACAM1, says that the medical community has yet to tap the full clinical potential of the family.

“CEA itself still has the most clinical applications, but others in the CEA family are likely to become significant markers for other tumour types. It’s just taking more time.”

Today, Gold is a professor of physiology and oncology, as well as executive director of the Clinical Research Centre of the MUHC Research Insitute. He is McGill’s Douglas G. Cameron Professor of Medicine. He was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 2010.

He says he is surprised that CEA is still the gold standard for cancer markers.

“To be honest, I never thought that CEA would still be the most utilized test for any cancer. I would have hoped that there would be better procedures by now — different technologies, different approaches. Hopefully, those will come! But there’s still a great deal of work to be done on the CEA family.”

One of his goals as a professor has been to imbue his students with the same kind of open-minded inquisitiveness which led to his famous discovery.

“There are so many problems that remain to be solved, and they will only be solved by curious minds — people who want to look for something new and different. If I can inspire that kind of curiosity in just a few of my students, then I’ve succeeded.”

For more information about the symposium, visit here




Touring the world with Madonna

Sat, 11/14/2015 - 16:55
by Erik Leijon

Ric’key Pageot, BMus’03, used to play Madonna covers at weddings. Now, he’s touring the world as a member of her band.

Pageot has been playing keyboards for the pop icon since 2008, but back when the Montreal native was a student in jazz performance at McGill, he had no intentions of crossing over into the mainstream.

 J.H. Saunders /Landov)

Ric’Key Pageot performing with Madonna in a 2012 concert in Philadelphia (Photo: J.H. Saunders /Landov)

“I was actually a bit of a jazz snob to the point where I wasn’t into anything that wasn’t jazz or classical,” Pageot admits during an interview sandwiched in between a Madonna show in Los Angeles, where he now lives, and the start of the European leg of her Rebel Heart Tour. “After a while I started doing more R&B and soul at venues around town. It was interesting to go from jazz to pop and see the differences in harmonic language. That was also my transition from just acoustic piano to keyboards. I bought my first keyboard at McGill and really worked hard to incorporate it into my arsenal.”

After graduating, Pageot caught his big break when he was named the youngest musical director in Cirque du Soleil’s history for their Delirium arena world tour. It was an intensive two years, and upon its completion, he and wife Dessy Di Lauro – a talented musician in her own right who appeared on the Dubmatique hit “La force de comprendre” – relocated to LA.

Three months later, he was contacted about joining Madonna’s band for her Sticky & Sweet tour. It was an unlikely skill, picked up during his time with Delirium, which earned him the coveted gig.

“I learned how to play accordion with Cirque du Soleil and Madonna’s musical director knew that,” Pageot says. “I didn’t even bother to mention it on my MySpace page because I didn’t want to lose my street cred. Next thing you know I’m playing accordion on “La Isla Bonita” and getting offers for other accordion jobs.”

Although Pageot picked up accordion playing after he graduated, he credits his time at McGill for giving him the discipline required to learn to play new instruments on short notice.

“You’re surrounded by music 24/7 in the program, and not just your own,” he says. “Even if you’re not playing the instrument, you’re learning from watching someone else learn. I never really played drums before, but because I was surrounded by drummers all the time, I was able to teach my brother (Fritz Anthony Pageot, BMus’15) how to play. He just graduated from the same program.”

When Pageot isn’t on tour with Madonna, he and Di Lauro concentrate on her solo project. He refers to the unique musical style on Di Lauro’s latest EP, Say Hep Hep, as neo-ragtime.

“It’s a mix of thirties ragtime – think Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington – mixed with an urban R&B, soul and hip hop sound,” he explains. “It’s what we’ve been pushing the last five years. It’s our own sound.”

The Rebel Heart tour has been the most successful Madonna tour he has embarked on, Pageot says. The band is playing her hits such as “Like A Virgin” and “Like A Prayer” with the original arrangements, to the delight of her passionate fans.

“Even to this day when we play “Holiday,” for a second I can’t believe I’m playing this classic that I used to play at weddings, but actually with Madonna,” he says.

The tour kicked off here in his hometown, but Pageot was too tired to celebrate after the first Montreal show. Not so his boss. “I went straight to bed. But yeah, she can [party]. She has the energy.”

At a recent tour stop in Minnesota, the Côte-des-Neiges and Pierrefonds native took part in what might go down as the coolest and most unlikely McGill alumni reunion ever: at Prince’s famed Paisley Park.

“We got an invite from Prince to go there after our Minneapolis show,” Pageot says. “So I walked in and maybe 15 minutes later I felt a tap on my back. I turned around and it was Donna Grantis [BMus'02], who plays in Prince’s 3rdeyegirl band. We were good friends at McGill and she’s been playing with Prince for about a year.”

As for whether partying at legendary Paisley Park is all it’s cracked up to be, Pageot says, “It was quick. We had a 24-hour drive to Edmonton we had to do, so we ended up staying less than two hours. Prince played for us, but we had to leave halfway through. It wasn’t a big party – it was an intimate performance for Madonna, the crew and us.”


Building a new generation of STEM leaders

Thu, 11/12/2015 - 12:21


McGill Schulich Leaders Scholars Julie Wong and Alexander Deans (Photo: Owen Egan)
by Andrew Mahon

When the Schulich Leader Scholarships were launched four years ago, they were hailed as the second largest scholarship endowment ($100 million) in Canadian history and dubbed “Canada’s Rhodes Scholarships.”

Today, with a growing cohort of 170 Schulich Leader Scholars across the country (including eight McGill students), the program has firmly established itself in its own right as a driving force for science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) students – and the most graphic illustration of its profound impact are the Schulich scholars themselves.

“It was very cool to be part of the inaugural class,” says Julie Wong, who won her scholarship to study chemical engineering at McGill in 2012. “The scholarship has afforded me a lot of opportunities and certainly motivated me in terms of my own approach to leadership.”

Now a fourth-year student, Wong volunteers her time to a wide range of extra-curricular activities including the Royal Victoria Hospital. Last summer she completed an internship working in the oil and gas industry – where her office was often an oil rig.

“For me, leadership has always been about trying new things and pushing boundaries,” she says.

Each year, every high school and CEGEP in Canada is invited to nominate one graduating student for a Schulich Leader Scholarship. Nominees then apply directly to any of the 20 participating Canadian universities. 50 scholarships are awarded each year (25 engineering degree scholarships each worth $80,000 and 25 science, technology or math degree scholarships, each worth $60,000).

The scholarships are the brainchild of Seymour Schulich, BSc’61, MBA’65, DLitt’04, one of Canada’s foremost philanthropists, who has donated in excess of $350 million to various causes, focusing on health care and education.

“Our goal is to help graduating high school student leaders realize their dreams through the pursuit of a university STEM degree,” says Schulich. “It is immensely important to invest in the next generation of technology innovators.”

Among McGill’s most recent Schulich Leader Scholars is Alexander Deans, who won his scholarship in 2015.

Deans’ extra-curricular achievements include the creation of the ‘iAid’, a revolutionary navigation device for the blind which earned a gold medal at the Canada Wide Science Fair and second place worldwide at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, as well as the 2014 “Future Leaders” honour from Maclean’s magazine.

“This scholarship is an opportunity to challenge myself,” he says. “My experience is in innovation and I hope to inspire others to become innovators.”

In 2016, the first wave of Schulich scholars will be graduating and the lasting impact of the program will begin to manifest itself in Canada’s next generation of business and technology leaders, many of them embracing the same philosophy which inspired Schulich when he launched the program four years ago.

“The scholarship has had an immense impact on my life,” says Wong. “It allowed me to go to university at McGill. I’d like to provide that opportunity to other people in the future.”