<h1>UBC Science Connect</h1>

Dive and Dine: The Holiday Eating Habits of Humpbacks

Photo: John Calambokidis

Jeremy Goldbogen is tagging humpbacks to study how one of the largest animals on earth feasts on the smallest of prey—and how those eating habits impact whale dive times and size.

"Weighing up to 40 tons, humpback whales and their close relatives have relatively short dive times given their large size," says the UBC Zoology PhD candidate. "Our study suggests that this has to do with the enormous energy costs of its unique foraging behaviours."

Humpbacks take deep dives in search of dense patches of tiny zooplankton, such as krill or copepods. Goldbogen's team found that lunge-feeding requires a large amount of energy compared to other behaviours—humpbacks breathe three times harder after returning to the surface from foraging than from singing. They also spent half as much time under water compared to singing whales.

"We believe lunge feeding is related to the overall evolutionary and ecological success of this type of whale, but the high energy cost may impose a physical limit on how big, and also how small, a whale can get." [Photo: John Calambokidis]

» Read more Diving and Dining ...

MSL Helps Teachers DIY Tiny Microscopes

Photo: Nick Wiebe

Roughly 90 science teachers from high schools across the lower mainland took in talks by eminent UBC researchers, tackled lesson plans, and built DIY microscopes at a conference put on by UBC's Michael Smith Labs this fall.

"The combination of talks, professional development, and hands-on activities proved a good mix," said Joanne Fox, an instructor with the education and outreach facilities at MSL. "The big hit was the DIY microscope activity lead by Patrick Keeling and Gillian Gile from Botany. Literally, with only a pasteur pipette, cardboard, a stapler and some chewing gum, you can build a microscope capable of 250x magnification."

Teacher conferences are one of many outreach efforts happening at MSL—Fox and senior instructor Dave Ng also run in-lab student field trips, symposia that meld science with creative writing, and the Terry Project, which explores connections between the arts, science and global citizenship. [Photo: Nick Wiebe]

» More on education and outreach at MSL...

Making Science and Health
a Global Passion

Nabeela Khan will take more than a Bachelor of Science degree with her as she heads to the London School of Economics to pursue a master's this fall. The Genetics and Cell Biology grad—named UBC's Outstanding Future Alumna this November—will take a track record of student leadership and a worldly outlook along with her.

Raised in Pakistan and Brunei, Khan received a full UBC scholarship via an International Leader of Tomorrow award. The award was apt—upon arrival, Khan helped found UBC's International Students' Association and served as a student leader for the university's Global Citizen Project. She also brought an already well-developed interest in health policy into her Science Co-op, working for the Centre for Excellence in HV-AIDS and researching health policy for female sex workers in Vancouver's downtown eastside. Not surprisingly, Khan's degree in the U.K. will focus on international health policy.

» Meet Nabeela Khan, student leader, outstanding future alumni
» Meet Chris Waltham, physics outreach pioneer, faculty community service award winner

Dolby Boosts Next-Gen Display Research at UBC


This fall, Dolby Laboratories invested $1.15M into high dynamic range (HDR) research at UBC, including $750,000 to establish the Dolby Computer Science Research Chair. The Chair will support Wolfgang Heidrich, whose work has already resulted in processing algorithms that are a key part of Dolby's HDR display technology.

"HDR gets us much closer to the range of contrast we see in the real world," says Heidrich. "The brights get brighter, the darks darker. The results are simply striking." The research also includes development of new HDR applications—displays, content authoring tools, and software for converting legacy video—as well as fundamental research into how humans perceive extreme contrast and colour.

"We're grateful for Dolby's recognition and support of UBC's leadership in this eye-opening technology," noted John Hepburn, UBC's Vice President, Research. "The partnership will accelerate the development of HDR for industry and consumers."

» Read more Dolby Boosts ...

Remember Your Science Teacher This Holiday Season

Remember that great first-year science prof who got you excited about molecular weights, plate tectonics or the probability of winning the lotto? Well, here's your chance to thank them. UBC Science is seeking nominations for 2008-09 Killam Teaching Awards and all it takes is a letter! Deadline is January 30.

Making Molecular Plasma Cooler Than You Think

UBC researchers led by Chemistry's Ed Grant have found a way to make ultra-cold plasmas out of molecules—opening up the study of the most abundant form of matter to a world of possibilities.

Plasmas are found in fluorescent light bulbs, thermonuclear explosions, the Earth's upper atmosphere, lightning bolts, and virtually all stars. In the lab, cold plasmas have traditionally been studied by cooling trapped atoms to a fraction of a degree above absolute zero. Now, Grant and colleagues have found a way to make ultra-cold plasmas out of molecules. The resulting plasmas are colder than expected, surprisingly long-lived, and much denser than plasma made from single atoms. "Molecules represent a holy grail of ultra-cold science," says Grant. "The ability to break out of the atom 'trap' is tremendously liberating and could lead to a whole new field of physics."

» Read more Making Plasma ...

Microbiologist's Work Leads to First E. Coli Vaccine for Cattle


Research by UBC bacterial disease expert Brett Finlay has resulted in the world's first vaccine to reduce cattle shedding of a dangerous strain of E. coli.

Econiche-developed by the Canadian biopharmaceutical company Bioniche in partnership with UBC, the Alberta Research Council (ARC) and the University of Saskatchewan-was approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency this October. "Cows carry E. coli but don't get sick. Where the disease comes from is people encountering contaminated food or water, usually from cow feces," says Finlay. "If we block the colonization of cows, we basically decrease the number that humans are exposed to, and drop the disease levels in humans." An estimated 100,000 cases of human infection with the strain targeted by the vaccine are reported each year in North America.

» Read more First E. Coli Vaccine ...

Quantum of Science: Physics-Based Animation Shaken and Stirred

Check out the latest instalment of the James Bond franchise to enjoy some hot simulations powered by code from UBC Computer Science professor Robert Bridson. Creating photorealistic animations of fire and smoke with traditional key frame approaches is difficult—Bridson's algorithms simulate the underlying physics of the phenomena. Through London-based Double Vision Visual Effects, Bridson has helped out with a few other modest flicks, including Hell Boy II and The Dark Knight. His work also focuses on enabling complex simulations without requiring excessive amounts of CPU time—which has blockbuster potential beyond the silver screen.

» Watch examples of Robert Bridson's simulations ...

UBC Sci T-Shirts Up for Grabs

We want your feedback on Science Connect, and have the swag to prove it: t-shirts (designed by the Science Undergraduate Society), water bottles and business card holders. And congratulations to last issue's prize winners: Pauline Barmby (BSc 1995), Dr Bryan Henry (BSc 1963) and Kim Jonat (BSc 2003, BEd 2004).

Taking Stock of Pacific Salmon

Two new studies out of UBC Science this fall take a look at the impact of climate change and human activity on imperilled Pacific salmon stocks. UBC zoologist Tony Farrell has developed a way to accurately predict the impact of climate change on salmon stocks. And in a first-of-its-kind study that may raise more questions than it answers, UBC researchers have found that some salmon stocks are surviving in rivers with hydroelectric dams as well as they do in rivers without dams.

Featured Alumni

Rachel Moll (2002, MSc Physics)

Current position: Instructor, PhD Candidate, Faculty of Education, UBC.

Best UBC memory: One of the first activities I participated in continues to be one of the most memorable: I gave a Science 101 lecture to learners from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside on magnetic resonance imaging and my own research into the structure of white matter in the human brain. I've never encountered more eager and inquisitive learners. Their thirst for learning was infectious. Science One is one of many programs at UBC that I've become involved with, including Let's Talk Science and Physics and Astronomy's summer camps. I'm well and truly addicted to science outreach and the impact of these kinds of programs is the focus of my PhD research.

Favourite professor or course: Physics 343, Physics by Inquiry. The course is founded on education research into common ideas about concepts such as electricity, magnetism and light. Students explore these concepts with hands-on materials within an inquiry-based curriculum. The course is designed for non-science majors and is especially useful for those interested in teaching—they become familiar with an extremely powerful teaching technique as learners and develop a deep understanding of core physics concepts. I was extensively trained to teach the course and had to complete all the activities myself. In the process I was challenged by my own surface understanding of some concepts, often created by a dependence on formulas! Teaching 343 was incredibly rewarding. New students were often fearful and discouraged about science, but by the end many indicated they were much more confidant. Some become fascinated by the scientific method and tempted to pursue a science degree!

Importance of science background: The master's has definitely given my teaching career an edge. I've been able to get involved with the BC Association of Physics Teachers (I was president for two years) and the American Association of Physics Teachers. My strong science background has allowed me to get involved in outreach—coordinating programs like Physics and Astronomy's summer camps and competitions like BC's Brightest Minds at the PNE. I've been able to provide my high school students with advice about career paths after their post secondary degree and to encourage them to think ahead to graduate school in fields they may not have considered. Finally science has prepared me for a PhD in the social sciences. After teaching high school physics and math for three years, I returned to UBC to complete a PhD in science education. My analytical and research skills are applicable across the disciplines and during my PhD enabled me to design my own interpretive, qualitative research into student experiences during outreach activities and conduct education research aimed at improving curriculum and instruction using more quantitative, statistical approaches.

Most memorable experience after graduating: While at UBC I lived at Green College—an incredibly enriching experience. I was fortunate to be able to get involved in many aspects of College life, including sitting on the board of directors as an alumni representative with many eminent scholars who believed strongly in the College's mission of interdisciplinarity. I served for several years, attending the annual meeting in February, where I reported on activities and took part in discussions about future directions for the College. Soon after graduating I was also invited to help organize Green College's 10th anniversary celebration. It was a wonderful opportunity to remain in touch with the College and UBC alumni, and I was honoured to help celebrate the contributions that Green College has made.

Overall UBC Science experience: UBC is a wonderful place to complete graduate work and Physics and Astronomy, in particular, felt like home. It offers so many opportunities to grow as an individual and as a scientist and you can tailor your educational experience to your interests and passions. While completing my MSc in medical physics I was able to also pursue my passion for education through teaching and science outreach.

Class Connections


Robert Blake's (1961, Honours Math) celebrity claim to fame may well be winning the Jeopardy! 1990 Tournament of Champions. "For a considerable period—until they doubled the prizes—I had won the most prize money of any contestant!" After graduating from UBC with what was then a BA, Blake spent several years studying to qualify as a fellow of the Society of Actuaries and Canadian Institute of Actuaries. Married to Sheila, with no children, his working career was spent as a life insurance actuary, almost entirely in Vancouver. Since retiring from Industrial Alliance Pacific Life in 2005, Blake has been enjoying winters in Mexico, reading, and playing bridge.

Bryan Henry (1963, Chemistry) earned his PhD from Florida State in 1967 before embarking on an academic career that took him to the University of Manitoba and the University of Guelph, serving as head of Chemistry and Biochemistry at both institutions. He is currently Professor Emeritus at Guelph. Henry has taken on a variety of leadership roles during his career, including President of the Canadian Society for Chemistry, Chair of the Chemical Institute of Canada, and President of the International Union of Pure and Chemistry. In 2005, he was elected to the executive of the International Council for Science, and chairs the Council's finance committee. Among other honours, Henry has received the Gerhard Herzberg Award of the Spectroscopy Society of Canada, the LeSueur Memorial Award from the Society of Chemistry Industry, and the Montreal Medal from the Chemical Institute of Canada.


The not-quite-star-crossed (but truly star-gazing) Pauline Barmby (1995, Physics and Astronomy) and Charles McKenzie (1993, Physics) met in UBC's Astronomy Club. They married shortly after Barmby's graduation, but parted to pursue graduate school—Barmby at Harvard and McKenzie at the University of Western Ontario. The couple was finally able to live together again in Boston for eight years, during which time McKenzie worked at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Barmby finished school and worked for the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Their son Duncan was born in 2004. In 2007, the couple moved back to Canada to take up faculty positions at Western and enjoy the Great White North's steady supply of Shreddies.

The past few years have been exciting ones for Kristin Mellish (nee Smith, 1997, Physics). Currently in Tucson, Arizona, Mellish married physicist Dr Robert Mellish in 2004. "We had a beautiful baby daughter in January of 2007," says Mellish. "It's been a great joy watching Katherine discover the world." This year saw professional advances, as Mellish was promoted from electro-optic engineer to production manager. "It's been a wonderful challenge as the company I work for makes the transition from research and development to a low-rate production facility." The company's first production system will handle underwater laser imaging sensors.


James Dai (2002, Computer Science) earned a masters from MIT in 2004. After graduation, he worked at Microsoft prior to returning home to Vancouver to pursue a timely career in finance--just as the markets became interesting. He is currently an investment banking analyst at Raymond James. Dai loves bubble tea, is addicted to Facebook, and is a member of the Shadow Yacht Group, a syndicate of young banking professionals providing career advisory services in planning and executing careers in finance.

After graduation, Victoria Chan (2003, Computer Science, Minor Commerce) began working at TELUS Communications in Burnaby. She has taken on increasingly senior roles with the company since, including developing work-flow solutions for internal business units, leading a team that managed transactions worth $3.5 billion per year, and managing projects related to enterprise-wide network infrastructure. Chan has kept in touch with UBC by volunteering with Computer Science's Tri-Mentoring program. In her spare time, she enjoys travelling and pursuing her passion for food photography.

Kim Jonat (2004, Biology and Education) is currently teaching senior international baccalaureate biology and junior science. "I was delighted to read the feature on the new dual degree in science and education in the September issue of Connect," he notes "Looking back on my undergrad, I always wished there was something of this sort." Jonat did take a biology directed studies course and helped TA a first-year biology lab, but wished he could have partnered his science courses with education courses earlier.

A recent graduate from UBC's software engineering program, Charles Bihis (2008, Computer Science) is pursuing a career as an engineer and brings with him some hardcore developer cred. He's currently working on Adobe System's hosted-services team in Seattle, helping to build a platform that delivers software over the web. He's also the local Flash user group host and a technical editor for Wiley Publications. A strong proponent for engaging students with technology, Bihis serves as an industry mentor for the Computer Science Tri-Mentoring program.

Recent travels? A new family addition? A promotion or career transition? Whatever it is, we'd love to hear from you. Connect by sending a brief note to: science.connect@ubc.ca. We'll make every effort to include it in our next issue.


UBC Science Show for Children
Physics and Astronomy's 2008 Faraday Science Show explores the physics of transportation—that includes rockets, planes, and a demo of a magnetic levitating train! Free and open to children of all ages.
» December 7, 2008

Science Stanzas
Writer Mari-Lou Rowley reads from CosmoSonnets and other works. Part of Green College's Contemporary Canadian Readings series.
» December 3, 2008

Science at the Blue and Gold Review
CBC's hip and sexy science show Project X and the blue whale project highlight UBC's showcase of outstanding students.
» December 12, 2008

Blue Whale Talk at Vancouver Museum
Andrew Trites on piecing together Beaty Biodiversity Museum's forthcoming blue whale skeleton exhibit.
» January 8, 2009

Landscapes and Climate
David Battisti, University of Washington at Earth and Ocean Sciences.
» January 16, 2009

Want to Build a Quantum Gaming Machine?
TRIUMF's and Physics and Astronomy's public lectures in the New Year cover quantum physics and quantum computers. Saturday afternoons.
» January 17, 2009
» February 14, 2009

Efficiently Learning to Behave Efficiently
Michael Littman, Rutgers, in the Computer Science Distinguished Lecture Series.
» January 22, 2009


Grad Student and Friend to Turtles Makes Pop Sci's Brilliant 10
UBC PhD candidate Todd Jones chosen as one of Popular Science magazine's Brilliant 10: young scientists pushing their fields to the next level.

UBC Top Ranked Canadian Institution in The Scientist's Best Places to Work Survey
Readers of The Scientist rank UBC as one of the top ten places to work in academia—sixth-place finish in the international survey makes UBC the top-ranked Canadian institution.

Renewed CRCs Investigating Bacterial Pathogens, Nanostructures, Probability
Four UBC Science researchers—with expertise ranging from bacterial pathogens to nanostructures to probability—among 13 Canada Research Chairs renewed at UBC this fall.

Humbolt Awardee Joins Rich Crop of International Fellows at Physics and Astronomy
Michael Uhlmann has been awarded a Feodor Lynen Fellowship by Germany's Humbolt Foundation to conduct research at the UBC Department of Physics and Astronomy. Uhlmann joins other impressive international fellows already at the department, including current Marie Curie fellows Alejandro Gaita and Silke Weinfurtner.

Undergrads Recognized at Physics Conference
Firas Moosvi and Ruobing Yang—both alumni of UBC's Science One and Co-op programs—win student presentation awards at the Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference in Toronto this October.

Science Students Shine as Westbrook Scholars
UBC Science students Mathew Li, Kayli Johnson and David Leung among UBC's 2008 Westbrook Scholars—the highest designation the University can bestow for academic achievement, leadership or community involvement.

Holiday Gift for the Flora Aficionado

Looking for gift ideas for the plant-lover who has everything? How about framed and matted prints of UBC Herbarium specimens? Featuring species of local interest, prints are 7 by 10 and come matted in your choice of cream or dark green.
» Fine Flora


1992: Cold Fish, Hot Science
Raymond Andersen, a professor in the departments of Chemistry and Earth and Ocean Sciences, conducts the world's first investigation of the secondary metabolism of cold-water organisms.

Errata on Education
The new dual degree featured in our last issue is obviously a joint effort of the faculties of Science and Education, not Science and Arts, as reported.

Get Scientific About Giving in a Bear Market

December is a good time to maximize the tax benefits that come with charitable giving, and to invest in the Faculty's outreach programs and student support efforts. Even in a down market there's an upside—gifts of securities can be used to offset capital gains in previous or future years. In Canada, capital losses can be carried back three years and forward indefinitely. As always, talk to a professional investment advisor to determine whether these options would benefit your situation.

Esther Jang
P: 604-827-4464
E: esther.jang@ubc.ca

UBC Science Connect Sponsor

This issue marks our last of 2008. We'd like to take the time to thank all our readers for their kind comments and to extend a special thanks to the folks at Top Producer for coming forward as a sponsor.

Copyright 2008, UBC Faculty of Science
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