<h1>UBC Science Connect</h1>

CLASS Act Returns to Campus

UBC Zoology Graduate Jay Chan heads back to CLASS. Photo: Chris Balma.

Science alumnus Jay Chan returns to UBC to help Science's largest ever incoming class transition to university life.

Zoology graduate Jay Chan knows all too well how overwhelming the transition to campus life can be for first-year science students at UBC.

"What they say about being a big fish in a small pond is true," says the honours physiology student who graduated last May. "At UBC, all of that changes. Everyone was a big fish in their high school, but here the pond is a lot bigger."

So Chan returned to campus this fall alongside a record 2,208 new Science undergrads--but not as a student. Now a staff member with UBC Science's Student Development Office, Chan is overseeing UBC's 2009 Conference for Learning and Academic Student Success (CLASS)--a program he helped spearhead as a student.

During his undergrad, Chan witnessed fellow students struggling to make the shift from high school to university. Their study skills couldn't keep up to the university pace, and many had difficulty managing their time. Resources were available, but they were fragmented, and often students didn't know where to look for help.

Chan and a few of his classmates launched Get Learn't, a conference that connected students who were struggling with academic resources. Get Learn't met with such success in its first year that students from the faculties of Arts and Engineering were eager to participate. It evolved into CLASS, a day-long conference consisting of workshops, presentations, and a resource fair for students campus wide.

"It's not just about study skills," notes Chan. "It's about making the most out of your time at UBC, getting involved in clubs and activities, meeting people. CLASS can help you learn how to balance it all."

In October, CLASS kicks off Celebrate Learning, a week-long initiative aimed at highlighting and promoting student learning and development opportunities. The CLASS team is expecting around 400 students, a big jump from last year's 250.

Chan is excited to take on CLASS in a new capacity. "Peer coaching, workshops, and orientations all broadened my university experience. Now I get to share that with other students. Four years can go by in the blink of an eye. I want science students to know they can leave with more than a degree--they can leave with the experience of a lifetime."

» Visit the CLASS website

Andromeda Takes a Bite out of Neighbouring Galaxies

Photo: Rendering courtesy European Space Agency.

UBC astronomers, including professor Harvey Richer, are part of the first international team to chart the unexplored outskirts of the Andromeda galaxy, a survey that has detected stars and giant structures that are almost certainly remnants of smaller galaxies gobbled up by Andromeda as part of its ongoing growth. The survey--results of which are published in Nature--is the broadest and deepest panoramic image of a galaxy ever made.

Andromeda--our closest giant neighbour and visible to the naked eye from the Northern Hemisphere--is more than two million light years from the Milky Way. The new survey spans a diameter equivalent to nearly one million light years around the galaxy.

» Read more about the survey

Killam Teaching Awards

Did you have a prof whose analysis of programming algorithms or explanation of neutrino oscillation has stuck with you even after graduation? Here's your chance to say thank you. UBC Science is seeking nominations for 2009 Killam Teaching Awards, and all it takes is a letter! Deadline is October 16.

Back to School Makeover for Introductory CS

Photo: Martin Dee, Courtesy of UBC Public Affairs

UBC Computer Science is revamping the way it introduces students to programming with CS 110, a new course designed to overcome some of the stereotypes associated with the field.

"The new course focuses on learning a simple programming language better and more quickly," says Professor Gregor Kiczales, course instructor. "Students of different academic backgrounds can more easily work with what they've learned instead of shelving it and hoping to use it one day."

By using a simplified programming environment called DrScheme, students are able to focus on program design and downplay semantic details that vary from language to language. Kizcales hopes the move will attract students turned off by the "nerds and details image of computer science" and make the course more accessible to students from physics, math, engineering, and even music.

"Computer science is a field that is having a huge impact in our world," says CS Professor Anne Condon. "To ensure that computer technologies are well designed and can have a broad positive impact on our society, students coming to computer science must manifest a greater diversity of backgrounds and skill sets."

"Many women go through first-year computer science and don't continue on," she adds. "But if a woman has an incredible experience taking a computer science course at the start of her academic career, then there's a great chance she will continue on in computer science."

Condon has high hopes for the redesigned course. "With a new focus on design and understanding problems instead of getting caught in details, this course will give them some computer science skills and concepts they can use for life-long learning."

» Read more about CS 110

An Amazing Co-opportunity

Is your company looking for the best and brightest Do you need an infusion of new ideas, fresh energy and the latest knowledge in the field? Consider a UBC Science co-op student. UBC Science co-op students are professional, come from a wide talent pool and are ready to join your company. Visit the Science Coop website

Fishy Travel Habits of Sticklebacks

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

A gene previously associated with physical traits also dictates related behaviour in the tiny stickleback fish, according to a new study by UBC zoologists. Measuring three to 10 centimetres, stickleback fish originated in the ocean but began populating freshwater lakes and streams following the last ice age. Over the past 15,000 years, freshwater sticklebacks have lost their bony lateral plates, or 'armour,' in these new environments.

Scientists have identified a mutant form of a gene, or allele, that prohibits growth of armour and is commonly found in freshwater sticklebacks but exists in less than one per cent of their marine counterparts. Now UBC PhD candidate Rowan Barrett and colleagues from the Department of Zoology have found that the gene may also be contributing to the fish's tendency to relocate instead of adjusting to its surroundings--the first time a gene associated with this type of behaviour has been identified.

» Read more about the study

Travel in Style: UBC Sci Luggage Tags

We want your feedback on Science Connect, and have the swag to prove it: 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!

New DNA Extraction Method Gets Down and Dirty in the Athabasca Oil Sands

Photo: Stock.xchang

A new DNA extraction technique developed by UBC researchers could make it much easier for forensic investigators and molecular biologists to isolate DNA or RNA in small or heavily contaminated samples. The new technique, which uses electric fields instead of chemical properties to isolate DNA, has already been tested on forensic samples provided by the RCMP, and on large-scale biological samples from the Athabasca oil sands.

"By exploiting the physical traits of DNA--electric charge, length and flexibility--we've been able to extract DNA from samples that would otherwise not produce enough clean DNA for analysis," says UBC biophysicist Professor Andre Marziali.

» Read more about the new DNA extraction method

High Altitudes are Good for these Geese

Photo: Wikipedia Commons.

A higher density of blood vessels and other unique physiological features in the flight muscles of bar-headed geese allow them to do what even the most elite of human athletes struggle to accomplish--exert energy at high altitudes, according to UBC zoologists. Named for the dark stripes on the backs of their heads, bar-headed geese are native to South and Central Asia. Often bred in captivity as domestic garden birds, they migrate annually in the wild between India and the high altitude plateaus of China and Mongolia, flying over the world's highest mountains on their way.

"They fly at altitudes up to 9,000 metres," says UBC Zoology PhD student Graham Scott. "That's the equivalent of humans running a marathon at the altitudes commercial airlines fly."

» Read more about bar-headed geese

Featured Alumni

Ashley Good
(2006, BSc Honours Environmental Science)

Current employer: Engineers Without Borders

Current position: I work with rural farmers and local governments in northern Ghana to help farmers harness the business potential of the agricultural industry. Our goal is to help farmers move from subsistence farming to profit-generating farming. In Northern Ghana, almost 85% of the population relies on agriculture. We empower farmers to use their skills and natural resources to lift themselves out of poverty. By understanding the challenges of delivering aid on the ground and communicating these difficulties to donors, policy makers and political leaders, I hope that Canada can become an innovative leader in the struggle to tackle extreme poverty.

Best UBC memory: Bamfield Marine Science Centre, the summer after fourth year. Friends teased me for spending my summer at "Science Camp" but to me, Bamfield was heaven! I went diving in a kelp forest surrounded by harbour seals; I spent hours on the Pacific Ocean identifying killer whales by their dorsal fins and saddle patches; and I spent a week at a remote light house on the West Coast Trail studying a colony of Steller sea lions.

Favourite professor or course: Working with Dr. George Spiegelman, Director of Environmental Science on the student directed seminar program was the most challenging, influential and exciting academic endeavour I undertook at UBC. The program allows senior students to propose, design and facilitate their own fourth-year university course.

Importance of science background: There is no doubt in my mind that a Bachelor of Science from UBC is held in high esteem by employers. It demonstrates and speaks to one's ability to think critically and to understand and embrace the complexity of the world around you.

Most memorable experience after graduating: My first job, a CIDA-funded internship with the coordinating centre for the United Nations Environment Program in Cairo, Egypt. I researched the accuracy of environmental information being reported by African and Middle-Eastern countries, and was asked to present my findings to the developers of the UN publication Environmental Outlook for the Arab Region. My presentation helped ensure that environmental recommendations made to governments were based on accurate data.

Overall UBC Science experience: UBC is huge. There were so many students and so many possibilities! The high calibre of students and professors was a huge motivator for me. UBC Science gave me the skills to follow my passion for environmental science and the opportunity to blaze my own trail in my field.

Class Connections


Mike Ingledew (BSc '65, PhD '69, Microbiology) earned a DSc from the University of Saskatchewan this May, and has put his science degrees to spirited use. He studied the biochemistry of yeasts and their use in the production of fuel alcohol, beer and distilled spirits for 37 years, publishing over 170 papers with his students, and presenting 225 talks worldwide. He enjoyed Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council funding, received research awards from industry, and saw his lab's discovery of Very High Gravity fermentation (a cheaper and less wasteful way to make suds) taken up by industry. Ingledew is now scientific director at Lallemand Ethanol Technology, where he runs the company's Alcohol School in Toulouse and Montreal. He and his wife Lynne reside in Parksville.


Mia Thomas (BSc '89 Biology) took a year of journalism studies at Langara four years after graduating from UBC and has been working in newspapers ever since. She is currently a reporter at the Burnaby Now and New Westminster Record papers, based in Burnaby.


After working at a local analytical instruments manufacturer, Conrad Chevalier (BSc '01 Chemistry) changed career directions and got into the accounting business. He now has his Chartered Accountant designation and is working towards his Chartered Business Valuator designation as well. Chevalier lives in East Vancouver with his wife and two young daughters, and tries to fit in a round of golf every now and again. He has more time for hockey, and enjoys taking a break from accounting in the evenings to play a few games a week.

Lisa Weger (BSc '05, Biology) took a few years off before pursuing her Masters in Health Administration. She worked as a research coordinator for various projects, and decided on a Master of Health Administration as a great way to expand her knowledge of the health care industry. Weger saw the MHA program as the perfect complement to her degree in Biology, and it has provided her with a well rounded education that is serving her well in the field of health administration.

After graduation, Sylvie Bryant (BSc '07, Microbiology and Immunology,
studied Mandarin on scholarship in Taiwan for two months. The travel bug bit and Bryant moved to San Francisco to work as a rotational program analyst for Genentech, Inc. where she had done a co-op while at UBC. Genentech was then acquired by Roche, and she worked at their Oceanside facility in California. Bryant's rotation at Roche wrapped up in August, and while her future location is still uncertain, she is looking forward to the possibilities--and new travel destinations! Right now Bryant is enjoying San Diego and spending as much time on her boogie board as possible while searching for the perfect placement. She is also keeping busy working through an MSc in Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University, exploring, going out, and playing ultimate Frisbee!

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.


Pacific Museum of the Earth Open House
Explore your planet with tours, demonstrations and hands-on activities at the 2009 PME Open House.
» October 24 and 25, 2009

Personalized Medicine: Hope or Hype?
A look at the ethical and social implications of using individual genetic information to make critical decisions about health care.
» September 29, 2009

Computer Science Distinguished Lecture Series
Doug James, Cornell University, dicusses the coming of age of physically based sound rendering.
» October 1, 2009

UBC Apple Festival
Come celebrate one of BC's favourite fruits at the Apple Festival, hosted by the UBC Botanical Garden.
» October 17 and 18, 2009

2009 UBC Alumni Awards
Meet this year's alumni achievers at UBC's 15th annual award gala.
» November 10, 2009


UBC Gains New CRC, Five Renewals
UBC Computer Science Adjunct Professor Andrew Warfield has been awarded the Canada Research Chair in Computer Systems and Security. UBC Science also had five CRC renewals in this round of funding out of the departments of Math, Chemistry, Physics and Earth and Ocean Sciences.

UBC Science Awarded $4.6M for Health Research
UBC Science has been awarded $4.6 million in research funding from the latest competition held by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Researchers in Chemistry, Microbiology and Immunology, and Zoology received grants. In total, UBC received more than $26 million in funding in the latest round.

Canadian Team Performs Well at International Physics Olympiad
Team Canada, led by Physics and Astronomy’s Andrzej Kotlicki, received a silver and three bronze medals at the 40th International Physics Olympiad held in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, this July. High school students from over 70 countries around the world competed in this year's Olympiad.

Two UBC Computer Scientists Elected to RSC
Professor David Kirkpatrick and Professor and CRC Alan Mackworth have been elected as Fellows to the Royal Society of Canada. The award is the highest honour that can be attained by scholars and scientists in Canada.

UBC Life Sciences Institute Names New Director
Dr. Christian Naus--a leading expert on the role that intercellular channels play in the developing brain and in disease process--has been named director of UBC's Life Sciences Institute (LSI).


1914: Construction of the University's first major edifice--the Science Building--begins. Eventually, it is renamed the UBC Chemistry Building and becomes home to the department.

2008: The Chemistry Building gets a $10 million facelift as part of UBC Renew project.

2009: This year, over 5,000 UBC students will take classes in the Chemistry Building every week--nearly 100 years after construction first began on the heritage wing of the building.


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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