Winner of the McLaughlin Medal awarded by the Royal Society of Canada, in recognition of his scientific contributions to the Medical Sciences
Heart disease is the number one killer in the world. It is preventable as shown by modifying known conventional risk factors such as cholesterol and high blood pressure. However, 50% of the risk for heart disease relates to your genes. The technology became available in 2005 to identify these risk-carrying genes. We identified the first gene in 2007 and, together with an international consortium, have identified a total of 36 genes. We believe comprehensive prevention based on conventional and genetic risk factors could eliminate heart disease in this century.
This talk is co-sponsored by the Gairdner Foundation.
The security of encrypted computer protocols such as credit card transactions depends on unproven mathematical assumptions concerning the limits of computation. The central assumption is the conjecture known as ‘P versus NP’ (one of the ‘million dollar questions’ listed by the Clay Mathematics Institute). I will explain the conjecture, and how our world could be very different if it turns out to be false.
Co-sponsored by the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences
Insects often arrive as hitchhikers from other countries and become pests in our own agricultural production systems. For some invasive pests, biological control using natural enemies is a cost-effective, safe, and efficient solution. This option is being explored for the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, a high-profile, recently introduced pest in Canada which threatens a wide variety of field, fruit, and vegetable crops. New methods, including the use of molecular diagnostics, can be used to rapidly identify and track invasive pests in urban and agricultural settings. Furthermore, DNA-based tools can help unravel the unseen interactions between pests and their parasites. Using these tools provides insight into the safety and efficacy of biological control agents and may help refine and fast-track biological control solutions for invasive insect pests.
Canada’s Arctic is still in a relatively natural state. But very rapid changes in climate, infrastructure, transportation, and accelerating viability of developing mineral, oil and gas deposits there present very significant risks that must be properly addressed by local people, investors, industry and governments alike. Around the world local people, wildlife and natural habitats have usually lost out in such situations. Will Canada’s upcoming chairing of the Arctic Council truly ensure that this doesn’t happen here? The talk will focus on risk assessment, scenarios planning, and social-ecological resilience, trying to help set a new approach in these new changing conditions.
Most of the mass in the Universe is believed to be in an unseen form called dark matter. In this talk I will present the observational evidence leading to this incredible realization. I will then focus in particular on the use of gravitational lensing to investigate dark matter. In gravitational lensing light is bent by the presence of
massive objects in much the same way that an optical lens bends light. Remarkably, we can use lensing to study the amount and distribution of dark matter in the universe on scales ranging from individual galaxies to the entire universe itself.
Joint lecture with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada – Mississauga
Chocolate is enjoyed worldwide for its unique sensory properties. These sought-after properties of chocolate strongly depend on the composition of chocolate and in particular how cocoa butter is crystallized. In fact, cocoa butter is responsible for the snap, gloss and sharp melting profile of chocolate at body temperature. This presentation will explore how chocolate is made and how the solidification process of cocoa butter is a finely-tuned and controlled process. Next time you bite into your favourite chocolate bar, perhaps you’ll be astonished at just how important all those little cocoa butter fat crystals are.
We encounter ionizing radiation throughout our lives through naturally occurring radioactive materials, diagnostic and therapeutic medicine, air travel and nuclear power production. The measurement of the interaction of radiation with biological materials is termed ‘dosimetry’ and is a fundamental measurement science that ensures that appropriate standards are established for the application of ionizing radiation in medicine, industry and for radiation protection. However, in order to fully understand the effects of ionizing radiation on living tissue we need also to consider radiation interaction on the microscopic scale which, appropriately is termed ‘microdosimetry’. This talk will cover how we encounter radiation, what is meant by ‘dosimetry’ and ‘microdosimetry’ and how an appreciation of radiation interaction at the cellular and subcellular level can lead to advanced radiation therapies, improved radiation protection and a better understanding of the risks of low-dose exposures.
A fun-filled afternoon for kids aged 6 to 12. Explore science through fun hands-on activities. Parents welcome! Doors open at 2 pm.
Free, with no reserved seats.
Neutrinos are among the most abundant particles in the universe, and omnipresent. They are nonetheless the least understood of the fundamental particles because they rarely interact with other matter. They played a big role in the evolution of the universe after the Big Bang. Studying the properties of neutrinos is one of the current grand quests in physics and we are in a period of exciting discoveries. One such discovery is that neutrinos have a small but non-zero mass, contrary to what was believed, and this has shaken up the field. The universe we know is made of matter even though matter and anti-matter were created equally after the Big Bang, and neutrinos may be the reason for this! One way to test this is through controlled production of neutrinos at accelerators. I will describe the T2K experiment in Japan which has recently shed important light on a key missing ingredient in the neutrino puzzle.
Liquid crystals are a phase of matter with properties between that of a solid and a liquid: they exhibit some degree of molecular ordering (like solids), yet still maintain some fluidity and allow molecular motions (like liquids). The unique properties of these phases make them useful in a variety of applications, ranging from display technologies to solar cells. In this lecture, I will provide a brief introduction to this class of materials and explain what types of compounds display liquid crystalline phases and how these materials can be used in electronic devices. I will also highlight some of our research efforts that focus on the design and preparation of new liquid crystals using techniques in organic chemistry.
Both conventional wisdom and research evidence suggest that severe stress is unhealthy. Serious and sometimes debilitating mental health responses often follow trauma experiences such as combat exposure, assault or a serious motor vehicle accident. More recently, evidence shows that stress can impact our physical health as well. I examine factors that may change the relationship between stress and health, such as the age of exposure, the type of traumatic experience, and sociocultural supports that may buffer the mind-body effects of stress.
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.