By Andrew Stobo Sniderman - Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 0 Comments
Dalhousie takes kinder approach if students are arrested
University offers most students their first real taste of freedom from home and family, including the freedom to do stupid and illegal things. Even good students can become drunken criminals.
This year, Dalhousie University unveiled a restorative justice program for students charged with relatively minor criminal offences. The university hopes to address crime without large fines or the prospect of a criminal record. It is Canada’s most ambitious effort by a university to get involved in criminal justice for its students. Other schools seem less keen to follow. Should universities act when students commit crimes off campus?
Fresh-faced undergraduates not infrequently find themselves teetering in a public place with open bottles of booze in front of unimpressed police ofﬁcers. It happens. Indeed, it happened to hundreds of students at Dalhousie University last year. Each received a ﬁne of $457.41. Those who were careless enough to damage property received the distinction of criminal records. Continue…
By Scaachi Koul - Monday, October 22, 2012 at 11:06 AM - 0 Comments
Chocolate makes snails smarter and fish could start losing weight
British Columbia: Researchers at the University of British Columbia have found that changes in ocean and climate systems could result in smaller fish. The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, looked at more than 600 species of fish from oceans around the world. It determined the maximum body weight the fish can reach could decline by 14 to 20 per cent by the year 2050.
Alberta: University of Calgary researchers exposed snails to epicatechin, a component found in many foods, including chocolate and green tea. In the study, published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, they found it helped boost the molluscs’ memories. They couldn’t determine yet whether the findings apply to humans.
Manitoba: Findings from the University of Manitoba’s faculty of medicine show that children from lower-income areas have a tougher time than kids from higher-income areas in health and school. Most worrisome, the study, which tracked Manitoba children aged 19 and under from 2000 to 2010, found that the rate of child deaths in lower-income areas was more than three times greater than in higher income areas.
Ontario: With flu season creeping up, a new study by Public Health Ontario suggests that ethnic communities are more likely to get a flu shot than Canadians who identify themselves as white or black. A dozen ethnic groups, including Filipino, Japanese, southeast Asian and Chinese, were all found to be more likely to get the shot.
Quebec: For a minority of mothers, giving birth leads to the same psychological shocks felt by soldiers in war. Researchers at McGill University found one in 13 mothers suffers post-traumatic stress disorder following delivery. The women suffer flashbacks, nightmares, sleeplessness and try to avoid anyone who reminds them of the trauma of birth, including their babies.
By Josh Dehaas - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 7:30 PM - 0 Comments
Grads are undertaking a different kind of activism—within resource companies
Alex Benzie, 26, is less than a year from finishing her master’s degree in environmental studies at Queen’s University. She shops locally, buys most of her produce from nearby farms and questions the federal government’s recent streamlining of the environmental review process. She’s an environmentalist, in other words. In fact, her belief in sustainability is one of the reasons she chose to pursue the M.E.S. after a bachelor’s degree in geology instead of going straight into a job. “I didn’t really want to be part of the oil industry or the Canadian mining industry, and that’s what a lot of geologists end up doing,” she says. “I just don’t think they’re sustainable.”
Universities are the cradle of the environmental movement. They’re a refuge where people worried about the planet can debate, research and write papers. In recent years, universities have built green buildings, imposed bottled-water bans and played host to rallies against the Alberta oil sands. So it’s easy to assume that students in Canada’s burgeoning master’s-level environmental studies and sustainability programs would spend their weekends chained to old-growth trees or marching against proposed oil and gas pipelines. Indeed, some of these students are engaged in traditional activism. But others are writing cover letters for jobs at the very corporations environmentalists are supposed to despise. Some graduates are opting to work within resources companies to encourage sustainability, rather than working against them.
That is, after all, where the jobs are. Sustainability students may dream of working in the public or non-profit sectors, but the reality is that 74 per cent of environmental workers are in private industry, according to a federally funded survey by ECO Canada, an industry-led non-profit HR organization. Not only are the jobs in private industry, they’re often in the province that’s most derided by environmentalists: Alberta. There, 43 per cent of employers said in the same survey that they had hired environmental workers in the previous year, more than any other province. In Quebec, 33 per cent of employers have taken on environmental staff, while 30 per cent had done the same in British Columbia.
By Josh Dehaas - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 7:20 PM - 0 Comments
Getting into medical school is tough. But moving to another province or territory can improve the odds.
It has been a long road for 33-year-old Kyla Adams from her high school years—when there was no question in her mind that she’d one day become a physician—to today, when the British Columbia native feels she finally has a decent shot at medical school.
In Adams’s second year of university, the academic and social stresses of life at the University of British Columbia caught up with her and she flunked out of school, temporarily shelving her ambition. After several years of selling running shoes, travelling and working as a personal trainer, Adams wrote the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) at the age of 26. She surprised herself with a decent score, which inspired her to enrol at the University of Victoria, where she earned a double degree in biology and earth sciences. She rewrote the MCAT, boosted her score and applied to medical school.
But the rules had changed. She was no longer allowed to drop those crummy decade-old marks from her application as she had thought. She applied to UBC’s medical school and didn’t get in. She applied again, and was rejected again. She applied a third time. No luck.
By Josh Dehaas - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 6:50 PM - 0 Comments
Graduating with a degree in mining engineering seems to be a ticket to a well-paying job
Kyle Buckoll finished his bachelor’s degree at the University of British Columbia in April. Unlike many 23-year-old university graduates, he didn’t settle at his parents’ house in Maple Ridge, B.C., to start hunting for internships or entry-level jobs. Instead, he went on an all-expenses-paid trip to Turkey with 31 fellow class-of-2012 graduates from UBC’s mining engineering program. They marvelled at Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia, visited two of the seven ancient wonders of the world, and lounged on beach chairs in Bodrum to toast their graduation. They also toured six mines, because the flight, hotels and buses were all paid for by mining companies eager to show their largesse.
Buckoll wasn’t worried about student loans, either. His tuition for the last four years was covered by Anglo-Swiss mining company Xstrata. In addition to working for the firm while at school, he promised to work for Xstrata after graduation (he will owe them money if he quits in the first two years). After a summer spent touring Europe for fun, he has a well-paying job waiting for him at the company’s mine in Timmins, Ont., in September. His two vehicles will be there, shipped from Vancouver at Xstrata’s expense. His girlfriend will join him there too, her flight and moving expenses covered. They’ll settle into a home with the rent taken care of for the first two months.
Buckoll’s situation, enviable as it sounds, isn’t uncommon. Practically all of his classmates graduated with jobs lined up. Good jobs: pay starts at around $65,000 per year for mining engineers-in-training (EITs) and climbs to around $100,000 after three to five years. Buckoll didn’t get a signing bonus, but he estimates that half of his classmates did.
By Alex Ballingall - Thursday, September 15, 2011 at 11:15 AM - 4 Comments
Universities are rolling out newly minted master’s programs. Just don’t call it a profession.
Carmen Smith used to think she didn’t need graduate school. And why would she? Even before finishing her bachelor of journalism degree at Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C., Smith was the publisher of a women’s magazine called Belle, which she founded.
But she changed her mind after an academic adviser told her about a new master’s in journalism program offered at King’s College in Halifax that could help her do better with her own publication. “I really thought it was interesting to see how they were developing their program around entrepreneurial journalism,” Smith recalls. “That’s why I came.”
Smith, now 22, is one of a growing number of wannabe journalists heading to master’s programs in Canada. Before 2000, there were only two degrees available in the country, at Carleton University and the University of Western Ontario. Today, there are six, with the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Wilfrid Laurier University both gearing up their own programs.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, January 18, 2010 at 11:37 AM - 16 Comments
Michael Ignatieff’s tour stop at the University of British Columbia apparently got a bit shouty on Friday. You can read the accounts of Canwest and the Ubyssey or, if you prefer, you can see and hear for yourself.
By Ken MacQueen - Monday, January 11, 2010 at 5:43 PM - 6 Comments
UBC researchers mimic mother nature to help Canada’s speed skaters go faster
The lotus leaf has a curious property, it doesn’t get wet. Water drops bead into perfect spheres, suspended by the air trapped in billions of nano-sized hairs. What’s that have to do with Olympic athletes? Well, water equals friction and friction is the enemy of speed, and speed is the stuff of Olympic glory. And so it was that a team of University of British Columbia engineers signed on to the Top Secret Program with a mandate both simple and complicated: make Canada’s athletes go faster.
If the “hydrophobia” (water repellency) of the lotus could be applied to sled runners, skates and ski bottoms, athletes could achieve higher speeds with less energy. “The idea was to mimic Mother Nature,” says engineering professor Savvas Hatzikiriakos. Researcher Anne Kietzig, who specializes in metals, began treating alloys with a laser from the university’s physics department. “You get different structures depending on the speed and the energy used by the laser,” she says. The result, viewed under an electron microscope, was a series of micro-level bumps covered in even smaller ripples measuring 500 billionths of a metre—a metallic lotus leaf.
The plan was to send this metal out to be coated with a water repellant surface, but a strange thing happened: the metal blades coated themselves. “What I initially did was just leave my samples lying around in the lab, not really paying attention to them for three weeks and all of a sudden they were hydrophobic, which we didn’t expect” says Kietzig. The treated blades bonded with carbon from the air, creating an ultra-water repellant surface, one that can reduce drag on ice by as much as 30-60 per cent.
So far, the governing bodies for bobsled, luge and skeleton won’t allow the treated runners to be used in competition. The break-through also came too late to be incorporated by Canada’s speed skaters at the 2010 Winter Games. But insiders say treated blades are likely to be used by Canadian skaters in the future. Meantime, Kietzig is happily slipping out of the lab in February to volunteer at the Olympic speed skating oval in Richmond.
By Nancy Macdonald - Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 9:20 AM - 1 Comment
Arthur Erickson was hailed in obituaries last week as one of the greats. He wasn’t always.
“It’s like entering a forest,” says architect Simon Scott, pausing outside the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, designed by architect Arthur Erickson, whose death last week, at 84, saddened design fans everywhere. Scott, who worked at Erickson’s firm while he designed the museum, steps through a row of Douglas fir and western red cedar into a dark entranceway. As you walk down a steep, black ramp—nowhere near wheelchair code—sunlight sneaks through skylights, “like light coming down through the trees,” he explains. Gradually, the room gets bigger, and brighter, until “you see this immense sky,” he says, pointing to 70-foot windows, the ocean just beyond it. A forest clearing was the intent—the Great Hall is filled with towering Haida totem poles, painted in red, green and black.
Widely considered Erickson’s master work, the museum was completed in 1976. Three years later, in a 27-page New Yorker profile, eminent U.S. architect Philip Johnson declared Erickson “by far the greatest architect in Canada, and maybe the greatest on this continent.” Flooded with blue-ribbon corporate and institutional clients, and with two universities (Simon Fraser and Lethbridge) as well as Vancouver’s downtown courthouse complex under his belt, Erickson would nevertheless soon see his sterling reputation tumble—partly a reaction to shifting styles, partly his own doing.
By Nancy Macdonald - Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 5:25 PM - 2 Comments
Next year 200 Winnipeg trees will get the shot for Dutch elm disease
Winnipeg, the global leader in the fight against Dutch elm disease, is adding another weapon to its arsenal. Home to 165,000 elms, the continent’s largest intact elm population, the Peg boasts a vaunted forestry program, monitoring strategy, and even has a grassroots army of tree vigilantes. Since 1992, the not-for-profit Coalition to Save the Elms has been patrolling city streets, educating property owners and banding threatened elms with sticky pink belts filled with tanglewood glue. Like a spiderweb, the gooey mess entraps cankerworms and bark beetles, protecting the tree. But the battle to maintain the city’s stately canopy is far from won. In each of the past three years, Winnipeg has lost an annual 4,400 specimens, with the lush, green giants turning into gaunt, grey ghosts, says city forester Martha Barwinsky.
Starting next year, however, 200 city trees will get a shot in the trunk to prevent the disease, which has killed over 80 per cent of Toronto’s elm trees, and decimated elm populations in both Montreal and Ottawa (which recorded its first diseased tree in 1948, on Parliament Hill). But Dutch Trig, the biological vaccine developed at the University of Amsterdam, won’t help trees that are already infected. And the protection, which must be re-injected annually, won’t come cheap: roughly $60 to $120 per tree, say its Netherlands-based maker, BTL Bomendienst.
By Andrew Potter - Tuesday, December 30, 2008 at 10:34 AM - 5 Comments
The monthly news magazine published by UBC has a neat little feature this month:…
The monthly news magazine published by UBC has a neat little feature this month: they asked a handful of researchers to talk about interesting and futuristic-y developments in their field.
A nuclear weapon-free world would be nice, but I’m not holding my breath. I’m also extremely wary of psychology prof Elizabeth Dunn’s proposal to make enhancing subjective reported happiness “the explicit goal”of public policy. “I’m from the government and I’m here to make you happy” does not strike me a fruitful direction for public policy.
If we must have centralized control, how about systems that eliminate the need to drive:
We have now reached a stage, thanks in part to work on guided missiles, where camera systems can do a better job than the human eye and brain. Couple this with communication of precise positions and headings of vehicles in the vicinity and you have the possibility of safe, driverless vehicles operating over existing roads. There would be no need for traffic lights or signs and vehicles would hardly ever need to stop. A central control would normally manage all vehicle movements.
Finally, if there is one advancement on this list that I think will do most to enhance human welfare, it is professor Frank Ko’s work on tissue scaffolds:
Like the scaffolding we see on construction sites, the nano scaffolds are being created by Ko to reconstruct damaged tissue within the human body. Burn victims would benefit from scaffolds used to regenerate new skin. Those with failing heart valves or damaged nerves could count on scaffolds to regenerate these parts from within the patient’s own body. As healing progresses, the scaffold, being constructed from a biodegradable material, is absorbed and metabolized by the body while slowly releasing drugs to aid in the healing process.
By Paul Wells - Monday, May 12, 2008 at 12:45 PM - 0 Comments
“A focus on cost-cutting and efficiency has helped many organizations weather the downturn, but this approach will ultimately render them obsolete. Only the constant pursuit of innovation can ensure long-term success.”
— Daniel Muzyka, Dean, Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia (2005)
Industry Minister Jim Prentice today appointed Muzyka to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, uh, Council. This gave me a start, because Muzyka is not a physicist or engineer, but the Council is a loose advisory body designed to bring broader societal wisdom, if any, to NSERC’s work. From that perspective, Muzyka’s appointment is actually quite clever because he’s thought more than most people about how to get bright ideas out of the lab and into factories and management suites. Sauder is nowhere near as prominent as the big Ontario biz schools, Rotman and Ivey, but Muzyka has worked diligently to position his school as the one that pushes hardest to keep Canadian business competitive in a highly-innovative global market.
If business is going to have an influence on what goes on in Canadian university labs, it might as well be somebody with a clue, and Muzyka qualifies.