Researchers from the Department of Statistics at UBC are leading a $500,000 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada-funded project to develop improved statistical methodologies for the wood products industry.
In response to market demand for improved product performance and industry's need for more flexibility in the range of products produced, initial studies will focus on monitoring the strength and quality of the lumber supply.
"Lumber is a surprisingly complex material," says Jim Zidek, professor emeritus with the Department of Statistics and co-principle investigator on the project. "The large variability from one piece to another leads to some interesting statistical challenges in determining overall strength and ensuring consistent product quality."
Couple's Legacy Takes Flight at UBC
A passion for birding drew Hildegard and Werner Hesse to UBC for over half a century and created a legacy that will benefit avian research for years to come.
It all started during a summer road trip through British Columbia's Cariboo region in 1956. Across the Cariboo's rolling grasslands and lush valleys, Hildegard and Werner Hesse spotted bird after bird they didn't recognize. When they returned home to Vancouver, the Hesses decided to improve their birding skills by taking a three-year UBC night course on the birds of BC.
The course nurtured their love of birding and eventually drew the couple into avian research at UBC and beyond, helping them cement a large network of like-minded friends across North America. It also led to a lasting relationship between the couple and the university.
The Hesses both passed away in 2008, but generously made arrangements to leave UBC an estate gift that will bolster avian research for years to come. The endowments-which could total as much as $1,150,000-will support avian research in the faculties of Science and Forestry, and provide ongoing summer grants to UBC Science undergraduates conducting ornithological research.
"It's a privilege, and quite humbling, to be able to honour the Hesses' lifelong commitment and passion with these endowments," says UBC dean of Science Simon Peacock. "Their foresight will benefit research and conservation efforts, and enrich the field learning experience for zoology and forest science students for years to come."
The ornithology research endowments follow a long history of support to the university, which included funding for research on Mandarte Island (a bird sanctuary south of Vancouver Island, BC) and for UBC's Beaty Biodiversity Museum.
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 January 29.
UBC microbiologist Lindsay Eltis is leading a new $3.45 million Genome BC-funded project which will explore using bacteria to degrade toxic residue left by military munitions.
Nitramines--specifically a compound called RDX--have been used in military munitions for decades, often to propel tank shells. But with increased knowledge of the compounds' environmentally harmful effects, Canadian and US militaries are looking for ways to clean up contaminated test sites.
"RDX is a rich source of nitrogen, and certain bacteria including Rhodococcus and Gordonia, have evolved to thrive on this explosive," says Eltis, a professor with UBC's Department of Microbiology and Immunology.
Are you searching for the perfect gift for the flora-lover on your list? The UBC Herbarium offers beautifully framed and matted prints, wildflower cards and plant presses. Visit the Herbarium Gift Shop.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia and the US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute have mapped the genome of a microbe that is silently shaping the ecology of the planet's expanding ocean dead zones.
"Microbes specialize in metabolic innovation and many can use alternatives to oxygen, including nitrates, sulfates and metals, breathing these compounds instead of oxygen," says Steve Hallam, an assistant professor of Microbiology and Immunology. "These adaptations likely enable them to thrive in dead zones where their combined metabolic activity influences nutrient and greenhouse gas cycling on a global scale."
'Tis the Season...
...to nominate an outstanding alumnus, student or friend for an Alumni Achievement Award. If you know a noteworthy grad whose story needs to be told and applauded, fill out this online nomination. Deadline for nominations is January 31, 2010.
UBC microbiologists have identified a key defence mechanism used by the immune system against Listeria, a finding with important implications for the development of vaccines.
Listeria is the bacteria that causes listeriosis, the food-borne infection that caused 22 deaths in Canada in an August 2008 outbreak in meat products produced by Maple Leaf Foods.
"Dendritic cells are gatekeepers--they are small in numbers but very active in patrolling tissues that are in contact with the external environment, such as the skin," says Wilfred Jefferies, a professor at UBC's Michael Smith Laboratories and Department of Microbiology and Immunology.
"Their job is to apprehend the pathogens while avoiding getting infected. We've found that they achieve this by sampling bits and pieces of the bacterial pathogens in the area surrounding infected cells, instead of directly approaching the bacteria."
Listen to Professor Wayne Maddison on ProfTalk as he shares stories from his extensive field research in Papua New Guinea, Africa and the Dominican Republic. Maddison has discovered several new species of spider and has observed the mating behaviour that has earned these arthropods the moniker "Jumping Spiders."
Renowned evolutionary biologist Peter Grant, who received his PhD in Zoology from UBC in 1964, and his wife Rosemary have won the 2009 Kyoto Prize in the Basic Sciences.
The Grants, both currently professors emeriti at Princeton University, earned the prize for their work documenting rapid evolution caused by natural selection in response to environmental changes. The couple is the first husband and wife team to receive the award, which was presented to them this November.
The Grants met in 1960 at UBC, where Rosemary was a research associate. They have spent decades studying 14 species of Galápagos Island finches-including seminal research demonstrating how the beak size of ground finches evolves as a consequence of the availability of different-sized seeds, which fluctuates with rainfall. Their scientific output includes more than 200 papers, and the couple has shared numerous honours including the Darwin Medal (Royal Society, UK) and the Edward O. Wilson Naturalist Award (American Soceity of Naturalists).
The Open Source Outbreak
Watch UBC Science alumna Jennifer Gardy's TEDx Terry Talk on how open source access to information played a defining role in the H1N1 outbreak. Gardy is a researcher with the BC Centre for Disease Control and blogs as Nerd Girl for The Globe and Mail.
Dana Hosseini (1987, BSc)
Festive Bach Cantatas for Christmas
GET IN ON THE OLYMPICS ACTION!
Science grads, here's your chance to win tickets to a Women's Olympic Hockey or Paralympic Sledge Hockey game held at UBC. Enter online and you could find yourself cheering on world class athletes this winter!
The Faculty of Science wishes all of our zoologists, geologists, botanists, chemists, pharmacologists, marine biologists, immunologists, microbiologists, actuaries, professors, researchers, oceanographers, mathematicians, programmers, physicists, faculty and staff--our Science alumni--a very happy and healthy holiday season.
UBC to Host National New Media and Animation Research Network
UBC Mathematician Wins Rising Star Prize
UBC Computer Science Students Reclaim Title at International Programming Competition
Unruh Appointed Perimeter Institute Distinguished Research Chair
UBC Scientists to Help Evaluate Canada's Biodiversity Research Capacity
UBC SCI FACTS
December, 1939: Christmas Mountains, New Brunswick--Zoology Professor Kris Kringle conducts the first behavioural study of flying reindeer. In his field notes, he records an unusual phenomenon in one reindeer--his nose glows red! Kringle dubs the occurence "The Rudolph Effect."
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