December 11th, 2008
Dr. Andrew Kirk (Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, McGill University)
Nanophotonics refers to the interaction of light with structures that have dimensions of a few hundred nanometers or smaller. At that length scale, which is below the typical wavelength of light, a variety of interesting effects arise. Some of these relate to optical interference, whilst others are associated with quantum optics. In this lecture, I will describe some of our current research into the applications of nanophotonics to optical telecommunications and also biosensing. We are developing a variety of optical switches and wavelength routing devices that make use of two-dimensional and one-dimensional optical nanostructures (also known as photonic crystals) for use in next generation telecommunications networks. I will show how nanophotonics enables us to make extremely compact optical integrated circuits that are suitable for integration with microelectronics. I will then describe the way in which periodic structures can also be formed in conducting materials. This allows very precise control of the optical surface waves (or plasmons) that propagate over these structures. We are using this effect to develop highly sensitive biosensors, which have many applications in areas such as drug discovery, diagnostics and environmental sensing. This lecture will assume a general background in science, but a detailed knowledge of optics and photonics will not be required. Download podcast.
November 13th, 2008
Dr. Morag Park (Director, Molecular Oncology Group, McGill Cancer Centre)
The breast tumor microenvironment - friends or foes?
The development of breast cancer is a complex process that involves the accumulation of multiple independent mutations and epigenetic changes in both the tumor as well as the tumor microenvironment. In the past few years the use of genomic approaches has revolutionised how we think about cancer. Genomic signatures have facilitated the identification of cancer subtypes, disease recurrence, and response to specific therapies. These tools provide new understandings on how changes in the tumor microenvironment impacts on breast cancer progression and outcome.
September 11th, 2008
Adaptation, extinction and global change
Dr. Graham Bell (Department of Biology, McGill University)
Some ecologists have predicted that climate change, together with other kinds of landscape transformation such as habitat fragmentation, will cause massive species extinctions. These predictions are based on theory that couples the predicted change in conditions with the known ecological attributes of contemporary populations of animals and plants. They are limited by our imperfect understanding of ecological and evolutionary response. The ecological response will depend on the web of interactions among the animals, plants and microbes of a particular ecosystem. The evolutionary response will depend on the ability of natural selection to drive rapid evolutionary change. My talk will evaluate the possibility of "evolutionary rescue" of stressed populations by natural selection.