<h1>UBC Science Connect</h1>

Toward a New Home for UBC Earth & Ocean Sciences

Preliminary rendering of the future Earth Systems Science Building at UBC.

$37.5 million provincial investment puts UBC Science a step closer to making the Earth Systems Science Building a reality.

The Province of British Columbia is investing $37.5 million towards the UBC Earth Systems Science Building, a state-of-the-art new home for the students, staff and researchers at EOS. The Provincial contribution toward the new $75-million facility was announced by Premier Gordon Campbell at a ceremony at UBC's Pacific Museum of the Earth on April 6.

"The department has certainly outgrown its 35-year-old facilities," notes Dean of Science Simon Peacock. "The new building will not only benefit the students and researchers who learn and work here, but also help BC's mineral exploration and mining industry meet increasing demand for trained geologists and geoscientists."

The balance of the funding will be provided by unprecedented private support from industry, UBC and other sources. "We're grateful to both the provincial government and to our industry partners for their tremendous vision in supporting our students," adds Peacock.

The building, which will also house the Department of Statistics and the Pacific Institute of the Mathematical Sciences, will feature high-tech research and teaching labs, classrooms, a lecture theatre, quiet study spaces and common areas. More than 170 graduate students and 6,400 undergraduates are enrolled in earth science courses at UBC. [Image: Preliminary rendering of the building.]

» Read more about the ESSB

The New Spider, Man

Photo: Chris Balma

Beaty Biodiversity Museum Director Wayne Maddison has uncovered 30 to 50 never-before-identified species of jumping spiders during a Conservation International expedition to Papua New Guinea. The discovery gives scientists a peek into a section of the evolutionary tree previously thought to be sparse, and could have implications for the development of medicines.

Jumping spiders are found in every part of the world, and as the name indicates, are capable of jumping 30 times their body length. "More than anything else, it's an amazingly beautiful world and we're simply trying to reveal it," says Maddison. "There is a whole lot of beauty in these small spiders if we look closely enough." It's likely some of the creepy specimens will make their way into UBC's new Beaty Biodiversity Museum, set to open in 2010.

» Read more about jumping spiders | Watch jumping spiders in action

Survey Draw Winner

Thank you to the more than 120 alumni and friends of the Faculty who took the time to respond to our communications survey early this year. We're pleased to announce that the winner of a $50 Starbucks gift card (selected randomly from respondents) is science alumna and current med school student Colleen Sweeney.

During her undergrad in biochemistry, Sweeney joined the Science Undergraduate Society and volunteered throughout the program. After graduating, she worked as a geneticist to gain experience before embarking on a degree in medicine. Now coming to the end of her first year, she's enjoying the challenges and variety of topics the degree introduces.

Balloon-Borne Telescope Helps Uncover Starlight's Origins


An international team of astronomers—including scientists from UBC Physics and Astronomy and the University of Toronto—have unveiled the birthplaces of ancient stars using a two-tonne telescope carried aloft by a 33-storey high balloon. After two years analyzing data from the Balloon-borne Large-Aperture Sub-millimeter Telescope (BLAST), astronomers and astrophysicists from Canada, the U.S., Europe, Mexico and South America revealed that half of the starlight of the universe comes from young, star-forming galaxies several billion light years away.

"The history of star formation in the universe is written out in our data. It's beautiful. And it is just a taste of things to come," says Professor Mark Halpern, head of the BLAST team at UBC.

» Read more about the BLAST project | Watch the BLAST movie trailer

Putting a New Spin on Electrons

Researchers led by Physics and Astronomy's Joshua Folk have controlled the spin of electrons by bouncing them through a precisely constructed microscopic channel within a semiconductor. It's the first time the intrinsic properties of a semiconductor—not external electric or magnetic fields—have been used to achieve the effect. The new technique could have implications for the development of spintronic circuits—systems that use the directional spin of electrons to store and process data. "The need to use high-frequency external fields to control spin is one of the major stumbling blocks in using electrons for information processing," notes Folk, Canada Research Chair in the Physics of Nanostructures.

» Read more on controlling electron spin

Travel in Style: UBC Sci Luggage Tags

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 new UBC Science luggage tags. The rugged tags made out of recycled circuit boards let fellow travellers know that you're both tech-savvy and environmentally responsible!

A Surprising Bouquet: Male Flower Parts Responsible for Grapevine Perfume


Michael Smith Labs researchers have traced the scent of grapevine flowers to pollen grains stored in the anthers, contrary to common perception that petals alone produce perfume. Joerg Bohlmann and collegues made the discovery while studying grapes used to produce Cabernet Sauvignon from the Okanagan region of British Columbia.

"This was a surprise in fundamental plant biology," says Bohlmann, also with the Department of Botany. "If you ask people where the perfume of a flower comes from, they'll likely say the female parts or the petals. This discovery gives us strong clues to the origin and evolution of fragrant flowers." While flowers such as roses and snapdragons rely on their petals to produce perfume and attract insects, few other species have been so closely studied.

» Read more about the scent of grapevine flowers

Battle Between Nature's Helpers and Cheaters Could Boost Biodiversity

Mathematicians have long used evolutionary 'game theory' to investigate why organisms appear to act in ways that benefit others, but are detrimental to themselves. Now researchers at UBC have added population dynamics and migration to the venerable mathematical model to take a new look at self-destructive behaviour in nature.

"Organisms that act in altruist ways interact with cheaters—organisms that basically look out for themselves—in a way that shapes their environments," says Christoph Hauert, Assistant Professor of Mathematics at UBC. "The feedback between evolutionary and population dynamics helps altruist organisms cluster around and protect common resources. Those physical formations help co-operators survive in situations where cheaters would typically drive the entire population to extinction." The findings could offer a new way to model habitat diversity and species co-existence, and suggest mechanisms to promote biodiversity.

» Read more about the project | Watch visual representations of the model

Featured Alumni

Brad Anholt (1989, PhD, Zoology)

Current position: Director, Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, University of Victoria.

Best UBC memory: The old Institute of Animal Resource Ecology, housed mostly in post-war huts, was an incredibly warm and welcoming place. Christmas parties with skits lampooning faculty and students were anticipated for weeks. Post-seminar pizza, often at a colleague's or professor's home, was a great time to really chew over new ideas.

Favourite professor or course: My supervisory committee, which consisted of Bill Neill, Judy Myers, Charlie Krebs and Jamie Smith. They scared me to death!

Importance of science background: I was very well trained in how good science is done—mainly because there were so many great role models available at UBC.

Most memorable experience after graduating: I graduated at a time of retrenchment, when there were few jobs available. It meant a long series of two-year appointments, including one in Switzerland. In the end I was lucky enough to come back to British Columbia and renew old friendships.

Overall UBC Science experience: We were part of a large group of graduate students studying the same area. Having so many supportive and competitive peers helped me to conduct better research. That time has really determined how I run my own lab and interact with students.

Class Connections


Michael Ma (BSc '83 Computer Science) has spent over 25 years in the information technology industry, both in North America and Asia. Currently a corporate vice president with American International Assurance Company, Ma's responsibilities span 15 countries and territories in Asia Pacific. As an active industry leader, he is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and seminars.

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.

Next Month in Synergy

Peering Back in Time: How Galaxies Form in a Flat, Lumpy Universe
Molecular Mechanics: Fine Tuning Proteins for Optimal Performance
Environmetrics without Borders: Multi-Institutional, Multidisciplinary
And much more . . .


Official UBC Science Guide to Alumni Weekend
Take Botanical Garden tree top tours, learn how we could use nanofibre technology to make bionic people, visit the control room of the world's largest cyclotron, explore tidepools at Stanley Park. And more!
» May 22 to 24, 2009

The Curious World of Probabilities
Jeffrey Rosenthal, best selling author of Struck by Lightning, in a Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences public lecture.
» June 4, 2009

UBC Phenomenal Physics Summer Camps
Campers build planes, go Scuba diving, learn the physics of sound, construct Martian habitats, and more. Registration open to grades 2 to 10.
» July 13 to 31, 2009


Math Students Rack Up Numbers at International Competition
UBC places eight students in the top 500 at the prestigious Putnam Math Competition, including high scorer Cedric Lin, who placed 13th out of 3,627 participants.

Making Chemistry Cool Again
Major Thematic Grant from the Peter Wall Institute helps launch the UBC Centre in Ultracold Coherent Chemistry, which brings together researchers from both UBC Chemistry and Physics and Astronomy.

50-Year-Old Biosci Buildings Get a Green Facelift
Government funding will help bring about much needed upgrades to the Biological Sciences West and South wings, which serve 400 researchers and 14,000 student enrolments a year.

CS, Stats Lauded for Improving Student Experience
Computer Science, Statistics, ESSA and two UBC Science employees recognized for their efforts to improve the student experience at UBC.

UBC Biologist Receives $8M to Study Cash Crops
Project led by UBC and Indiana University plant evolution expert Loren Rieseberg awarded $8 million by the US National Science Foundation.

Science Co-op Student Wins Two Awards
Fifth-year engineering physics student Dorian Gangloff wins both the UBC Science Co-op Student of the Year award and the BC Association of Co-operative Education Student of the Year award.

Building Core Illumination System Nabs $2M in Sustainability Funding
Invention out of Structured Surface Physics Lab that channels sunlight into multi-floor office buildings could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from commercial lighting by ten to 25 per cent.

UBC Computer Science Research Impact Highest in Canada
Sciencewatch.com rankings indicate UBC researchers have the highest journal publishing impact factor in computer science in Canada.


Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman
Dr. Carl Wieman talks about receiving the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics, and about his collaborative efforts with departments to nurture effective and evidence-based science education at UBC. Courtesy Proftalk on CiTR 101.9 FM.


1996: First of Many Firsts
Computer scientist and mathematician Maria Klawe becomes the first female dean of the UBC Faculty of Science, after serving as the University's first female senior vice-president and science department head. Klawe goes on to become president of Harvey Mudd College (another first), a small US college focused on engineering, science and math. Last month, she was appointed to the Board of Microsoft.


The impact of the gifts we receive from alumni, friends and community partners is felt throughout the Faculty—in the lives of our students, in our capacity for research, in the calibre of our teaching, and in our ability to reach into the community. This support helps nurture a thriving teaching and learning community, builds outreach activities, and drives research into sustainability, health, biodiversity, new materials, safety and much more. Please take a moment to view some of the faculty's funding priorities and feel welcome to contact our development staff with questions you may have.


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