Dr. Michael Strong, Dean of the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and Distinguished University Professor at Western University
Rather than being a single disease entity, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) is now considered to be a syndrome in which the death of motor neurons occurs through a wide range of pathological processes. However, there is now emerging a consensus view that alterations in RNA metabolism play a critical role and perhaps the final common pathway uniting these pathological processes. In this lecture, we will review the evidence that, for the majority of cases, that ALS is a disorder of RNA metabolism.
In partnership with the Gairdner Foundation
Prof Bryan Gaensler, Director of the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto, and Canadian Science Director for the Square Kilometre Array
Some of the biggest questions about our Universe are as yet unsolved. How did the first stars form? What is the mysterious “dark energy” that is pushing the Universe apart? And are there other planets out there like our own, perhaps harbouring life? To answer these and other key questions, astronomers are about to build the biggest telescope ever conceived, the Square Kilometre Array. Prof Gaensler will describe this enormous international project, the results it promises to deliver, and the major role being played by Canadian scientists and engineers in this exciting endeavour.
In partnership with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Toronto Centre
Photo credit – Daniel Boud, University of Sydney
For more information on this topic:
Square Kilometer Array – Canadian website
Jane Heffernan, PhD, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, York University
Mathematical models can be used to describe the spread of infectious diseases and how infections affect your immune system. We will discuss diseases such as influenza, measles, pertussis, and HIV.
Professional Engineer with the Province of Ontario, Assistant Professor in the Biological Engineering program of the University of Guelph, Director of the BioNano Laboratory
The risk of a major biological incident in farmed animals, such as the emergence of a novel infectious agent and/or a global pandemic, is on the rise due to globalization and ecological pressures. Anticipating when and where an incident may occur can enable a timely and well-informed response. The 4th revolution in agriculture has begun, bringing novel technologies such as Internet of Things, SMART and Precision Agriculture and mobile ‘apps’ for disease surveillance. I will discuss nanosensor biotechnologies for innovative detection and advanced diagnostics for farmed animal health management.
Chris Fletcher, Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Management at the University of Waterloo
Human activities are changing Earth’s climate, making it imperative to determine the impact on climate if we continue to use fossil fuels. I will explore computer models of the climate system which allow us to gaze into the future by making projections of how Earth’s climate could evolve over the coming century.
Hosted by Ryerson University.
Large-scale brain models have become a mainstay of “big science”. Currently, Canada has the largest functional brain model known as “Spaun”. This brain model produces behaviour comparable to people and animals. Researchers use Spaun to understand normal brain function, disorders, the effects of drugs and how to build smarter artificial agents.
Catherine Scott, PhD Student, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto Scarborough
Darwin wrote, “who indeed could suspect that [spiders] should be susceptible of the finer feelings? Yet such is the fact.” The private lives of spiders are filled with fine scents, sounds, and silk. This discussion of the sophisticated sexual communication system of the black widow spiders is the perfect way to celebrate both Valentine’s day and Darwin’s theory of sexual selection.
Catherine’s blog: spiderbytes.org, @Cataranea on twitter
Cesar Hidalgo, Associate Professor at MIT, Director of Macro Connections at MIT Media Lab
Making sense of data requires the development of tools that can transform data into narratives. In this presentation I show various examples of tools that we have created at The MIT Media Lab that facilitate the ability of people to construct visual narratives from large datasets. These data visualization engines include (i) the Observatory of Economic Complexity (atlas.media.mit.edu), a comprehensive effort to visualize international trade data; (ii) DataViva (dataviva.info), a tool visualizing data for the entire formal sector economy of Brazil; (iii) Pantheon (pantheon.media.mit.edu), a tool focused on human collective memory centered on data from globally famous biographies; (iv) Immersion (immersion.media.mit.edu), a tool that focuses the interface of email on people to reveal your personal story of professional and personal interactions; (v) Place Pulse and StreetScore (pulse.media.mit.edu & streetscore.media.mit.edu), which are tools exploring the physical evolution of cities, and (vi) DataUSA, a tool that visualizes public data for the entire United States. I conclude by demoing a prototype of (vii) DIVE, a data visualization and integration tool that helps automate the creation of data driven narratives.
In partnership with the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences
Mr. Ken Knox,
Chair of the Science, Technology, and Innovation Council (STIC), CEO of Knox-Vannest Inc
The Science, Technology and Innovation Council (STIC) is an independent body that advises the Government of Canada on science, technology and innovation. With STIC’s latest “State of the Nation” report, I will explore how Canada’s performance compares to the rest of the world in science & technology innovation.
For further reading, visit the STIC website and download the “2014 State of the Nation” report.
Premysl Bercik, Associate Professor in the Division of Gastroenterology and member of the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute at McMaster University
The evidence is growing that intestinal microbiota influences the brain chemistry and behaviour of the host. I will discuss the data obtained in animal experiments, as well as recent evidence from a clinical trial, which suggest that probiotic bacteria may be beneficial in treatment of depression.
Leptin and the Biological Basis of Obesity
The discovery of leptin has led to the elucidation of a robust physiologic system that maintains fat stores at a relatively constant level. Leptin is a peptide hormone secreted by adipose tissue. This hormone circulates in blood and acts on the hypothalamus to regulate food intake and energy expenditure. When fat mass falls, plasma leptin levels fall stimulating appetite and suppressing energy expenditure until fat mass is restored. When fat mass increases, leptin levels increase, suppressing appetite until weight is lost. By such a mechanism total energy stores are stably maintained within a relatively narrow range.
In this talk, Dr. Jeffrey Friedman, a Professor at The Rockefeller University, and an Investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute will discuss his discovery of the leptin hormone and how recessive mutation in the leptin gene is linked to obesity, infertility, diabetes and other immune abnormalities. He will also explore the several avenues by which leptin can be used to treat or correct an increasing number of human conditions.
Dr. Jeffrey Friedman is a physician scientist studying the genetic mechanisms that regulate body weight. His research on various aspects of obesity received national attention in late 1994, when it was announced that he and his colleagues had isolated the mouse ob gene and its human homologue. Since then, Dr. Friedman has received countless honours and awards for his contribution to science, including his most recent Harrington Prize for Innovation in Medicine in 2016.
This talk is presented in partnership with the Gairdner Foundation.
RCIScience at Lunch!
The Food from Thought project
As the world’s population continues to grow, stories of food poverty and barriers to access persist. This is not because we are undergoing a food shortage. On the contrary, despite exponential rises in population over the past 25 years, production has historically always surpassed demand. The unfortunate truth is that one third of the world’s food does not find its way to the table. In the city of Vancouver alone, 80, 000 potatoes, 30,000 eggs and 70,000 cups of milk are thrown away each day. It is this level of waste, along with the severe inequality that accompanies it, that creates an increased demand which threatens both local and global food security. To meet this demand, food is often produced in varieties and quantities that are vastly different than what the world’s population needs.
Join RCIScience and Evan on Friday, January 20th at the First Canadian Place for a special look at factors like food waste, climate change, extreme weather events, and policy influence food security in Canada and globally.
Evan did degrees in forestry, anthropology and agriculture at the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto. After graduating, he worked in a policy institute with the Hon. Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, and began his academic career in 2003 in the UK where he worked on farming and climate change at the University of Leeds. He is the author of over 75 scientific papers or book chapters on these topics, has written for the Guardian.com, CNN.com, ForeignAffairs.com, the Walrus, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and the Ottawa Citizen, and has two popular non-fiction books about food and food security including Empires of Food: Feast, Famine and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations that was shortlisted for the James Beard Food Literature Award in 2010. In late 2014, he self-published a graphic novel called #foodcrisis that depicts a global food crisis hitting North America in the 2020s as a way of reaching 18-24 year-olds. His web video series on “feeding nine billion” has been watched over 280,000 times and used in classrooms around the world. Currently, Evan is Director of the Food Institute, a professor of Geography in the Department of Geography at the University of Guelph, where he holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security. He is also an associate of the Guelph Food Institute, a Fellow of the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation, a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geography Society, and a Member of the Royal Society of Canada’s college of new scholars.
Dr. Richard Zemel
Interpreting the World with Machines: How information systems & statistical inference influence decisions
Information systems are becoming increasingly reliant on statistical inference and learning to render all sorts of decisions, including the issuing of bank loans, the targeting of advertising, and the provision of health care. This growing use of automated decision-making has sparked heated debate among philosophers, policy-makers, and lawyers, with critics voicing concerns with bias and discrimination. Bias against some specific groups may be ameliorated by attempting to make the automated decision-maker blind to some attributes, but this is difficult, as many attributes may be correlated with the particular one. The basic aim then is to make fair decisions, i.e., ones that are not unduly biased for or against specific subgroups in the population. In this talk, Dr. Zemel will discuss social implications of this problem, and work that he has done on it as well as that by other groups.
Richard Zemel is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Toronto. Prior to that he was on the faculty at the University of Arizona in Computer Science and Psychology, and a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Salk Institute and at CMU. He received the B.Sc. in History & Science from Harvard, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Toronto. His awards and honors include a Young Investigator Award from the ONR, a US Presidential Scholar award, and seven Dean’s Excellence Awards. He is a Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, an NVIDIA Pioneer of AI, and a member of the NIPS Advisory Board. His research interests include topics in machine learning, computer vision and neural coding.
Hosted by Ryerson University.
Where Captain Nemo Got It Right, and Wrong – Life in the Deep Earth
From Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo, to Astronaut Mark Watney stranded on Mars, we remain fascinated by the theme of Exploration. Fact can be stranger than fiction however as we discover that even here on Earth, there are parts of the planet we have only begun to probe for new habitable domains and microbial ecosystems.
Today we will journey with explorers past, present and future as we descend into some of the places on Earth where life ekes out an existence far from the energy of sunlight. We will discuss microorganisms that draw their energy for life not from the sun but from the power of chemistry in the deep dark places of the Earth – in subsurface habitats ranging from the black smoker vents of the ocean’s hydrothermal fields, to deep fracture waters bubbling up 3 km below the surface of northern Canada and in the gold mines of South Africa.
How did they get so deep? What do they eat? How old are they? Some of the answers will make Mark Watney wish he had looked under a few rocks.
Dr. Barbara Sherwood Lollar, C.C. FRSC is a University Professor in Earth Sciences at the University of Toronto. She is Research Chair in Isotopes of the Earth and Environment, Director of the Stable Isotope Laboratory, and Past-President of the Geochemical Society. In 2015 she was named a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union. Sherwood Lollar has published extensively in research on stable isotope geochemistry and hydrogeology, the fate of carbon-bearing fluids and gases such as CO2, CH4 and H2 in ancient fracture waters in the Earth’s crust, and the role of deep subsurface microbial populations in carbon cycling. She has been a recipient of many academic awards (including the NGWA Darcy Lecturer, Steacie, Killam and NSERC Accelerator Awards) and most recently the 2012 Eni Award for Protection of the Environment 2012 Geological Society of America Geomicrobiology and Geobiology Prize, and NSERC Polanyi Research Award. Sherwood Lollar was selected in 2000 by Time Magazine Canada for their feature on ”Leaders for the 21st Century” and by Canadian Geographic in 2013 for their list of Ten Canadians “Changing the World” along with and Astronaut Chris Hadfield.
Dr. Justina Ray
How did the secretive and solitary wolverine of the north acquire its reputation as a dangerous and ruthless killer?
Few people have laid their eyes on a wolverine, an elusive creature that dwells in the farthest reaches of the world’s northern hemisphere and emblem of Canadian northern wilderness. This talk will provide a behind-the-scenes look at a decade of research in Ontario’s Far North addressing questions about this animal that range from the very basic (is there a breeding population in the province and where does it occur?) to complex issues that will be vital to the future survival of this animal (is natural resource development compatible with wolverines?).
Dr. Ray’s talk will be a behind-the-scenes look at a decade of research and policy engagement in Ontario. It would not only detail some of the scientific work and discoveries (starting from essentially no knowledge in the province), to how we have applied the best available information to real-world management and conservation decisions, including working with the trapper community.
Dr. Justina Ray has been President and Senior Scientist of Wildlife Conservation Society Canada since its incorporation in 2004. In addition to overseeing the operations of WCS Canada, Justina is involved in research and policy activities associated with land use planning and large mammal conservation in northern Canadian landscapes. She has been appointed to numerous government advisory panels related to policy development for species at risk and land use planning in Ontario and Canada and is Adjunct Professor at the University of Toronto (Faculty of Forestry) and Trent University (Biology Department).
Edible Nanostructures & The Pleasures of Chocolate
Butter and chocolate – two very pleasurable foods – taste the way they do because of their underlying fat crystal networks. In this talk we discuss cocoa butter, the structuring material in chocolate and confections, from solid-state structure and polymorphism to melting behavior and mechanical strength. The reason for a tempering chocolate while mixing will become clear upon review of the effects of shear on the crystallization behavior of cocoa butter. Recent advances on our understanding of how oil migrates through chocolate and causes blooming and chocolate softening will also be discussed.
You will never look at chocolate in the same way after this talk.
Alejandro G. Marangoni, Ph.D., FAOCS, FRSC
Professor and Tier I Canada Research Chair Food, Health and Aging at the University of Guelph, Canada. His work concentrates on the physical properties of lipidic materials in foods, cosmetics and biolubricants. He has published over 300 refereed research articles, 60 book chapters, 13 books, and over 40 patents. He is the recipient of many awards including the 2013 AOCS Stephen Chang award, the 2014 IFT Chang Award in Lipid Science, the 2014 Supelco/Nicholas Pelick Award, and the 2015 ISF Kaufmann Medal. Marangoni was honored as one of the 10 most influential Hispanic Canadians in 2012 and a Fellow of the American Oil Chemists’ Society in 2015. He is the first co-editor in Chief of Current Opinion in Food Science and Technology, and past Editor-in-Chief of Food Research International. Dr. Marangoni has trained over 100 people in his laboratory; many occupy positions of importance in the academe and industry, including eleven professors at major North American universities.
RCIScience at Lunch with Dr. Howard Hu, Dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health
The Role of a Re-emergent Canadian School of Public Health in a Hot, Hungry, Polluted, Aging, Polarized World Prone to Pandemics, Chronic Disease, and Unsustainable Health Systems
Howard Hu, M.D. (Albert Einstein); M.P.H., Sc.D. (Harvard). Dr. Hu is the inaugural Dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and Professor of Environmental Health, Epidemiology, Global Health and Medicine at the University of Toronto. He is a physician-scientist who previously had been Professor at the Harvard School of Public Health (1990-2006); and a Department Chair and Professor at the University of Michigan (2006-2012). Dr. Hu has led multi-institutional teams that have generated over 300 peer-reviewed publications on the environmental, nutritional, social, psychosocial, genetic and epigenetic determinants of child development as well as the risk for chronic disease in adults in population-based studies around the world, several of which have influenced policies affecting millions. He also served as the Chair of the Research Commission for the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (Nobel Peace Prize, 1985) and served on fact-finding missions for Physicians for Human Rights (Nobel Peace Prize Co-Laureate, 1997). Among his awards are the 1999 Progress & Achievement Award from the U.S. National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, the 2011 Award of Excellence from the American Public Health Association, and the 2015 John Goldsmith Award for Outstanding Contributions to Environmental Epidemiology from the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology. In 2016, four years after arriving in Canada and the University of Toronto, he became a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.
3 recipients of grants from the Banting Research Foundation. The Banting Research Foundation’s mission is to invest in the early careers of researchers who demonstrate excellence and creativity in health and biomedical sciences. We are delighted to have this new partner to showcase excellence in early career researchers.
A wide variety of microorganisms in the mouth are embedded in biofilms that contribute to periodontal diseases such as gum disease and tooth decay. To understand the contribution of a consortium of periodontal pathogens to biofilm formation and dental diseases, Dr Suits’ research group will clone, produce and isolate ~40-50 proteins selected using a bioinformatics-based approach with the aim of characterizing novel factors that contribute to biofilm formation and immune evasion.
Individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. There is an urgent need to identify neurobiomarkers of FASD and individuals at risk in order to reduce recidivism and the resulting high social, health, and economic costs. Novel use of neurotechnologies, including portable eye movement control tracking and EEG, may offer a window into the brain and aid in the identification of patterns of deficits in offenders with FASD.
Dr. Noam Miller
Animals that live in groups, including humans, have many advantages, including enhanced safety from predators and the possibility of taking advantage of social information. I will present an experiment designed to explore which of these two motivations for grouping drives cohesion in zebrafish schools. This research highlights that fish cognition is more complex than we often assume.
This panel discussion will feature concussion researchers, athletes who can suffer from them and doctors who treat them. The presentation and subsequent discussion by key experts in the field will explore the science behind concussions and what is (or should be) done to protect athletes.
Attendees will learn about evidence-based research, prevention and policy and how to be aware and vigilant about concussions, while continuing to participate in sports and all of the benefits that brings.