ISSUE 03/2011 01 Events + Featured 02 Interactive Teaching Method Doubles Learning 03 Name that Spider Contest 04 Class Connections + Kudos
UBC Science Connect
Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Milky Way Galaxy, home of 55 Cancri e

UBC Astronomers Help Unveil Galaxy's Densest Known Planet

UBC researchers are part of an international team of astronomers that have revealed details of a “super-dense” earth-like planet whose characteristics could have been culled from an episode of Star Trek.

The planet, named 55 Cancri e, is 60 per cent larger in diameter than Earth but eight times as massive. Twice as dense as Earth – almost as dense as lead – it is the densest solid planet known, according to a team led by astronomers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, UBC, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the University of California at Santa Cruz .

Approximately 40 light years from Earth, 55 Cancri e orbits a star – called 55 Cancri A – so closely that its year is less than 18 hours long. “You could set dates on this world by your wrist watch, not a calendar,” says UBC astronomer Jaymie Matthews.

UBC Science Invites you to Party at the Point: Alumni Weekend 2011

Alumni Weekend is back with tours of UBC’s amazing attractions, classes without quizzes, reunions, spectacular kid events and much more. Check out our special guide to all things Science! RSVPs are now open, so act fast to secure your place!
» May 28, 2011

Software Development Productivity: Why it's Important, and Why it's Too Hard
Peter Smith examines why many productivity improvements fail, largely due to the financial bottom line, but also due to the organization's overwhelming focus on other goals.
» April 9, 2011

The Mathematics of Doodling
Ravi Vakil shares the mathematical aspects of doodling--patterns, shapes, and numbers--and talks about finding patterns in nature.
» May 30, 2011

Seahorses are Way Cool Because...
Amanda Vincent introduces the world according to seahorses, the fascinating (and only) fish who holds your hand, whose males get pregnant, and whose females dance with their partners each morning.
» June 5, 2011

The Carolinian Forest
Spring has sprung in the UBC Botanical Garden. Join Douglas Justice for a presentation that explores the beauty of North America's Carolinian Forest, a biodiverse collection of deciduous forests.
» June 13, 2011

Faculty of Science Welcomes UBC Botanical Garden

Photo credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins/APL/Carnegie Institution of Washington

The UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research, including the Nitobe Memorial Garden, have joined the Faculty of Science.

The transfer of these major venues to UBC Science creates a cluster of biodiversity and natural history related attractions within the Faculty, which is already home to the Beaty Biodiversity Museum and the Pacific Museum of the Earth.

“I'm very excited by this opportunity to develop strong connections between the Botanical Garden and the Beaty Biodiversity Museum in community engagement, education and research,” says Dean of Science Simon Peacock.

“I invite all our alumni to visit the UBC Botanical Garden. The Faculty of Science is pleased to be serving as the new home for the Garden, and we hope that our alumni and friends will embrace this wonderful, and historic, venue.”

Get to know the UBC Botanical Garden! Whether you're a veteran green thumb or a weekend garden warrior, the Garden blog has something for you! From rare plants, to composting tips, and the perfect garden pet (think buzzing, not barking) the blog is a fun way to find out what's happening at the Garden!

Are you a 2001 UBC Computer Science Grad? Alumni Weekend Just Got Even Better!

UBC Computer Science is hosting a 10 year reunion for the class of 2001! After enjoying a day of tours and family-friendly activities at Alumni Weekend, head on over to Mahony & Sons Public House to reconnect and celebrate with your fellow computer science alumni. Don't miss out on this opportunity to reminisce with old classmates, and get an update on what's been going on in the department since graduation.

Interested in attending? Please contact Michelle Ng for more details.

Bueller? Bueller? Interactive Teaching Doubles Learning

Interactive teaching methods significantly improved attendance and doubled both engagement and learning in a large physics class, according to a UBC study published in Science.

Led by Louis Deslauriers, a post-doctoral researcher at UBC’s Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative, the study compared the amount of learning students experienced when taught by traditional lecture and by using interactive activities.

The research team found that students in the interactive class were nearly twice as engaged as their counterparts in the traditional class.

“In addition to the objective measurements of engagement, we also surveyed students and found that these teaching methods generated a lot of excitement in class – which makes for a great learning environment,” says Deslauriers.

Speaking of Alumni Reunions...Did You Graduate 1961, 1987, or 2002?

If so, you’ll be marking an important milestone in 2012: your 50, 25 or 10 year reunion! This is an occasion to celebrate, but we need your help. Enthusiastic and dedicated alumni volunteers are the key to planning a successful class reunion. If you’d like to be the lead--or even play a supporting role--in your next reunion, please contact Kim Duffell, Alumni Relations Manager.

Have the Perfect Moniker for a Newly Discovered Arachnid? We Need You to Name that Spider!

In November of 2010, Wayne Maddison and three colleagues were in a cloud forest on the west slopes of the Andes in Ecuador, South America. They were looking for an undiscovered species of jumping spider--lapsiines, a strange group of jumping spiders from South and Central America--of which only a handful of species are known.

Photo credit: Wayne Maddison

As dusk approached, a little brown spider fell out of the moss-covered vines he was shaking onto his collecting sheet. He knew almost instantly it was a new lapsiine, the first known from western South America. This new species now needs a formal scientific name and Dr. Maddison wants your suggestions.

One lucky participant's suggestion will christen this recently discovered species of jumping spider!

Submit your entries online or at the museum between May 22, 2011 to August 22, 2011 for your chance to win!

UBC Science Likes You

Visit us on Facebook and you can like us too!

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.

Tom Balabanov,
BSc '74, Biology, Honours

Current employer and position: Manager of Application Support, Central1 Credit Union.

Favourite UBC memory? After my first class of the day, I would head down to the Old Auditorium cafeteria for a famous UBC cinnamon bun and a cup of coffee with friends. I still visit UBC sometimes just to get one! After my classes were over for the day, I would head to the SUB where I would hang around the Science Fiction Club room reading and talking to people.

Favourite UBC professors? I had a few favourites, including David Suzuki and Nathan Divinsky, but my most memorable instructor was Fred Freedman, who taught my first year math class. He spent a lot of time talking about the Kennedy assassination--he was convinced it was a conspiracy--as well as other topics that brought math class to life. He was a good teacher and a fascinating person. One day he put a huge banner outside his second floor office in the math building that read 'Free Fred Freeman.'

How has your education at UBC helped you get to where you are today? My degree helped me land my first job, but over the years I've realized that what people are bringing to a working environment isn't just the set of skills they learned while at university, but their ability to learn. Now that I'm the one doing the hiring, I look more at a person's ability to learn new subjects, rather than focus solely on the subject itself.

What was the most significant thing you learned while at UBC? I don't think there was one single thing that was more important than another. It was the learning experience as a whole that was significant. During my undergrad, I took a single term course on computer languages. Each week in class, we covered a new language. We learned the language in the first class, had an assignment on the language in the second class, and reviewed it in the third! It taught me not worry about my ability to learn new things. If I can learn a new language in a week, I can do anything! Ten years ago I visited the Siwa oasis in Egypt, and the town had its own language. I spent an afternoon learning new words and phrases. I may never use them again, but the experience will last a lifetime.

Any recent celebrations or accomplishments you wish to share? My youngest daughter graduated from UBC a few years ago, and she recently completed her second degree. She is one smart cookie I would like to congratulate.

Science Connections Shine in Canada's Top 40 Under 40

Former UBC Science postdoctoral fellow Brian Coombes and UBC Science alumnus David Vocadlo were among five recipients with UBC connections named to Canada’s Top 40 Under 40. Coombes completed his postdoctoral work at UBC’s Michael Smith Laboratories in 2006, where he developed a research program investigating the role of type III secretion in bacterial pathogenesis. Vocadlo obtained his BSc in Biochemistry in 1994, and his PhD in Chemistry in 2002. He is the co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Alectos Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company dedicated to the discovery and development of innovative small-molecule therapeutics.

Two UBC Science Researchers Awarded Guggenheims
UBC botany professor Patrick Keeling and zoologist Sarah Otto are among five Canadian researchers awarded 2011 Guggenheim Fellowships. In molecular and cellular biology, Keeling was recognized for his research on the role of coral reefs in apicomplexan parasite origins. In organismic biology and ecology, Otto was recognized for her research into evolutionary responses to extreme environments in yeast.

Shell GeoCanada Awards Give Students Real-World Exposure
UBC geology students Nicholas Joyce and Eric Letham, geophysics student Taylor Milne and geological engineering students Erica Lewynsky and Jake Matthews have received 2011 Shell GeoCanada Awards. The award, one of several that Shell Canada underwrites at UBC, supports student attendance at the annual Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists Conference. “This type of award is critical in giving our students the opportunity to network with industry professionals and gain exposure to industry-scale science and engineering issues early in their careers,” says Greg Dipple, head of Earth and Ocean Sciences. Shell Canada also supports fieldwork and mapping prizes awarded at UBC’s Oliver Field School.

NSERC Funding Boosts UBC Math Research into Data Acquisition and Conversation
UBC mathematicians have received Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada funding to tackle problems underlying more efficient data acquisition, conversion and processing. UBC mathematician and principal investigator Ozgur Yilmaz’s work complements a multi-million-dollar project, involving researchers from' the Earth and Ocean Sciences and the Computer Science departments, that is designing the next generation of seismic imaging technology.

» 1925

First installed in offices in downtown Vancouver by John Davidson, Provincial Botanist of British Columbia, the UBC Herbarium is moved to Point Grey, and evolves into the largest collection west of Ottawa, Canada.

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