ISSUE 03/2010 01 Events + Featured 02 UBC Sets Sights on Visual Analytics Institute 03 UBC Zoologist Dies Shy of Centenary Birthday 04 UBC Mathematicians Add Up Evolution 05 Class Connections + Kudos
UBC Science Connect

UBC Researchers Design New Biomaterial that Mimics Muscle Elasticity

A UBC chemist has cast artificial proteins into a new solid biomaterial that very closely mimics the passive elasticity of muscle. The approach opens a new avenue to creating solid biomaterials from 'crosslinked' single molecule engineered proteins--in addition to offering potential applications in material sciences and tissue engineering.

"There are obvious long-term implications for tissue engineers," notes Hongbin Li, associate professor in the Dept. of Chemistry. "But at a fundamental level, we’ve learned that the mechanical properties we engineer into the individual proteins that make up this biomaterial can be translated into useful mechanical properties at the larger scale."

Free Summer Previews of UBC Blue Whale Exhibit

The Beaty Biodiversity Museum is hosting free summer previews of its new blue whale exhibit. Come take part in themed programs and activities being offered on the following dates:
» May 22, 2010 from 10am to 4pm
» May 29, 2010 from 10am to 4pm
» June 19, 2010 from 11am to 3pm
» July 17, 2010 from 11am to 3pm
» August 21, 2010 from 11am to 3pm

Come Party at the Point at Alumni Weekend 2010!

Bring your friends and family and join fellow alumni, donors and friends for a cultural, social and intellectual odyssey. Stimulate your intellect in one of the Classes Without Quizzes or climb your way up into the treetops during a canopy tour at the Botanical Garden. Spaces for some events are limited, and some are already sold out, so be sure to register today!
» May 28-30, 2010

International Day of Biodiversity
Celebrate biodiversity! Join us for a day of exploration and discovery around the Beaty Biodiversity Museum's new blue whale exhibit.
» May 22, 2010

Starting and Building a Company
Brainify and WebCT founder Murray Goldberg on the ups and downs of starting your own business.
» May 29, 2010

Computer Science Class of 2000 Reunion
Reconnect and celebrate with your fellow computer science alumni at Mahony & Sons Public House.
» May 29, 2010

The Search for Randomness: 2010 Niven Lecture
Persi Diaconis, Stanford, on tossing coins, roulette wheels and shuffling cards.
» May 31, 2010

Valid Representations of Complex Data
Susan Holmes, Stanford, on useful methods for data integration in today's data rich environment.
» June 1, 2010

UBC Science Opens Beaty Biodiversity Centre

UBC has opened the Beaty Biodiversity Centre, a new home to some of the world’s top biodiversity researchers and Canada's largest blue whale skeleton exhibit.

UBC President Stephen Toope was joined by CFI President Eliot Phillipson, Iain Black, B.C. Minister of Small Business, Technology and Economic Development, Ross Beaty and Hamid Eshghi, president of the djavad mowafaghian foundation, for the official opening ceremony.

"The Beaty Biodiversity Centre exemplifies UBC’s goal to engage and inspire," said Professor Toope. "The synergy and intellectual discourse enabled by the shared research space, and the curiosity and reflection inspired by the museum’s public programs, will have an enormous impact on our understanding of our complex and interconnected world."

The ceremony was held in the Djavad Mowafaghian Atrium, a two-storey glass gallery in the Beaty Biodiversity Museum that houses the 25-metre skeleton of a blue whale. The foundation contributed $3 million to the atrium.

"The museum’s atrium will become a focal point for outreach and educational activities that will help school children and the general public gain a better understanding of, and appreciation for, the interconnectedness of all living things on earth," says Djavad Mowafaghian, whose foundation is dedicated to bettering children's lives through health and education.

GEER Up! For Summer

GEERing UP! UBC Engineering & Science for Kids is offering a series of summer camps to introduce kids of all ages to science, engineering and technology.

Best of all, UBC Science alumni receive a 10% discount on camp rates. Just enter coupon code ‘alumni2010’ during registration!

Summer Tech Trek in Computer Science

UBC Computer Science is introducing Summer Tech Trek, a series of summer camps designed to expose high school students to a variety of fun and educational concepts, topics and activites related to computer science!

The camps are aimed at students who are entering grades 8,9 and 10 in September. Spaces are limited, so register early!

UBC, SFU Set Sights on Visual Analytics Research Institute

A $1.25 million investment from The Boeing Company is helping to make Vancouver home to one of the top visual analytics research institutes in the world. The Vancouver Institute for Visual Analytics (VIVA) will bring researchers from Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia together with industry partners to lead the next wave of innovation in turning massive amounts of data into actionable knowledge.

Ronald Rensink, an associate professor in computer science and psychology at UBC, is the university's principle investigator on the project. He received his PhD in computer science from UBC in 1992, and completed his post-doctorate at Harvard's Vision Sciences Laboratory. Rensink's research focuses on the physical limits of visual perception and how visual analytics systems can be designed to allow users to easily analyze immense amounts of data.

Visual analytics makes it possible for people to use their computers to work visually with data, and to better understand what the data is saying. The information helps decision makers in banking, health care, transportation and public safety interpret the overwhelming amount of information they face daily.

Volunteer with CEDAR

CEDAR is looking for summer day camp volunteers! The CEDAR Program is an educational outreach inititative developed for Aboriginal Youth in Vancouver and beyond. We're looking for quality summer camp volunteers who will inspire and mentor our campers and show them how much fun learning can be!

Renowned UBC Zoologist Dies Shy of Centenary Birthday

Ian McTaggart-Cowan, a nationally recognized zoologist considered one of Canada’s fathers of conservation, passed away April 18. He was just shy of his 100th birthday.

Born in Scotland, McTaggart-Cowan immigrated with his parents to Canada at the age of three and settled in North Vancouver.

He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 1932 and earned a PhD from the University of California in 1935. A career biologist, he gained a reputation for his work in the systematics, biology and conservation of mammals, birds and molluscs.

A professor of zoology at UBC, McTaggart-Cowan became department head in 1953. Later, he served as dean of graduate studies until his retirement in 1975. During his 35 years at UBC he established and taught courses in vertebrate zoology, undertook research in birds and mammals, and guided the research of some 100 graduate students.

It's a Virus World...

...and we just live on it. In this podcast, Curtis Suttle, a professor of microbiology and marine virology at UBC, is interviewed on Meet the Scientist with Carl Zimmer. Suttle studies the diversity and population of viruses across the entire planet, and he has helped show that viruses are by far the most common life forms on Earth. They also contain most of the genetic diversity of life, and even control how much oxygen we have to breathe.

UBC Mathematicians Make Evolution Add Up

UBC researchers have proffered a new mathematical model that seeks to unravel a key evolutionary riddle--namely what factors underlie the generation of biological diversity both within and between species.

Evolutionary biologists have long recognized that the emergence of rare traits within a population can spur diversity.

For example, being one of a few under-sized predators in a population dominated by larger-sized predators can offer advantages--access to an abundance of small prey--and increase the likelihood of that trait prospering in the population.

“But existing mathematical models that incorporate these 'rare type' advantages tend to have some serious shortcomings," says Michael Doebeli, a researcher at UBC's Biodiversity Research Centre and professor with the departments of Mathematics and Zoology. "They rely on single traits--like body size--and predict that the advantage offered by that trait has to be very significant in order to maintain large amounts of diversity.”

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Connect with classmates, share stories and updates and discover what's new by checking out the UBC Science page on Facebook. We'll be posting news from the faculty, as well as volunteer opportunities and event updates--and we promise never to tag you in any unflattering photos.

Jessica Dhillon,
BSc '08 Biology, Commerce

Current Employer and position: I'm a production associate for Kerner, a spin-off company of George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic. I'm also a faculty member at the Drive Dance Centre, and an actor and model.

What were you involved in as a student? I was a member of the UBC Leadership Club and helped run the Elite Leadership Conference. I played in the Nitobe Basketball League, and was an executive member and dancer for the UBC Bhangra Club.

Favourite UBC memory? It's hard to pinpoint one particular UBC memory. There are so many moments that I look back on and remember fondly, but winning the championship with my co-rec Nitobe basketball team, staying up late with my roommates, studying or watching TV and spending countless hours choreographing and dancing with the UBC Bhangra Club are definitely some of the highlights.

How has your education at UBC helped you get to where you are today? My combined major in science and commerce, along with my participation in various clubs and events taught me problem solving, time management and discipline. It also helped me develop strong interpersonal skills.

Being an actor, model, dancer and production associate, it is very important that I balance my life well and have strong time management skills, something all well-rounded students at UBC learn to master. It is also important to have a strong business sense and networking ability to succeed on the production side of film. And although I don't use my biology background on a daily basis, my Science degree has helped me understand 3D stereoscopic technology, something that Kerner has recently been pursuing.

What has been your most meaningful involvement with UBC after graduating? Last year I was welcomed back as a primary choreographer for the UBC hindi dance team alongside my sister who also graduated from UBC. It was such a great feeling to come back and stay involved with a team and art form I am so passionate about!

Maria Klawe to be Awarded Honorary UBC Degree

Former Dean of Science Maria Klawe is among the recipients being awarded an honorary degree during UBC Vancouver's Spring Congregation. Klawe served as dean of science from 1998 to 2002, vice president of student and academic services from 1995 to 1998 and head of the Department of Computer Science from 1988 to 1995. A renowned computer scientist and scholar, Klawe is now president of Harvey Mudd College.

2010 Science Achievement Awards
The winners of the 2010 Science Achievement Awards have been announced. These awards recognize staff, students and faculty whose contributions in areas such as service, administration, leadership and outreach have had a significant positive impact in achieving the goals of the Faculty of Science.

Vivien M. Srivastava Memorial Endowment and MITACS Co-Sponsor Graduate Student Workshop
On May 7, 2010 UBC Science hosted the Srivastava Career Mentoring Workshop for Graduate Students in honour of science pioneer Vivien M. Srivastava and in partnership with MITACS. Over 100 graduate students attended the event, which featured noted plenary speaker Cecilia Aragon, Staff Scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Graduate students were able to interact with panel members and participate in breakout sessions to help them prepare for a career after completing their graduate studies. Thank you to all the exceptional speakers, panelists, breakout session leaders and mentors who participated in the workshop, and to MITACS for co-sponsoring the event.

UBC Researcher Shortlisted for Top Conservation Award
UBC zoologist Amanda Vincent of UBC’s Fisheries Centre and co-founder of Project Seahorse, is a finalist for the $100,000 Indianapolis Prize-a top international animal conservation award-for her pioneering international work in the conservation of sea horses. Vincent was the first person to study seahorses underwater, document their extensive commercial trade, and initiate a seahorse conservation project. Vincent is considered the leading authority on seahorse biology and conservation.

» 1974

Tri-University Meson Facility (TRIUMF)—Canada's national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics—opens on UBC's South Campus. TRIUMF houses the world's largest cyclotron, and is one of only three subatomic research facilities that specialize in producing extremely intense beams of particles.

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