Jack W. Szostak, PhD, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2009; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School; Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology,
The amazing diversity of life is the result of billions of years of evolution. But how did evolution itself begin? I will describe how efforts to design and build very simple living cells are testing our assumptions about the nature of life, generating ideas about how life emerged from the chemistry of the early Earth, and even offering clues as to how modern life evolved from its earliest ancestors.
Co-sponsored by the Gairdner Foundation
Global energy consumption is conservatively projected to expand two-fold by 2050. A survey of our renewable options reveals the Sun as the only viable non-carbon based energy source. Currently, silicon-based photovoltaics (PV) dominate the market. They are a practical and mature technology, but expanding the solar energy market to meet our needs will require a substantial change in technology. This presentation will survey recent advances in PV technology and ‘shed some light’ on the current research directed at making materials that can supplement our current use of silicon cells.
The first European settlement of Toronto was simply a continuation of patterns that had been in place for thousands of years. The Aboriginal occupants of the encampments and semi-permanent villages that lined the former water courses in the City left no written record of their lives. Their legacy consists of the oral histories and traditions passed on to descendants and the surviving traces of those settlements. This talk will summarize this rich archaeological record and discuss how the City of Toronto is ensuring its conservation.
Liette Vasseur, BSc, MSc, PhD, Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, Brock University; Thematic Group Leader of Climate Change Adaptation of the Commission for Ecosystem Management of IUCN; Minjian Scholar at Fujian Agricultural and Forestry University, China
Climate change affects different parts of Canada in different ways. Predictions indicate that Southern Ontario will experience more droughts and heavy rainfalls that can greatly affect ecosystems and especially plants. In Atlantic Canada, sea level rise, continuous coastal erosion and more frequent storm surges threaten the fragile coastal ecosystem. I will describe some of the projects that I am involved with to examine the potential impacts of climate change on the human condition in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, and the actions taken to try to adapt and improve resilience of communities and ecosystems.
The impact hazard from small asteroids is uncertain because of many poorly understood factors. These include how asteroids vapourize in the atmosphere together with the associated impact effects at the ground. The Chelyabinsk event gave scientists their first detailed instrumental data on a well observed, damage-producing airburst. I will describe what we have learned about the Chelyabinsk airburst in the year since it occurred and what it may tell us about future impacts at the Earth.
Co-sponsored by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada–Toronto Centre
Social insects like ants, bees and some wasps live in large colonies composed of many sterile workers and a few reproductive individuals. The division of labour between workers and queens is believed to be at the heart of the dominance of social insects. But how do social insects evolve and adapt when most members of their societies are sterile workers? I will present our laboratory’s recent progress on understanding the relationship between genes, worker behaviour, and evolution in the honey bee, Apis mellifera.
The shrinking Arctic sea ice cover is often taken as one of the most prominent indicators of recent climate change, andThe shrinking Arctic sea ice cover is often taken as one of the most prominent indicators of recent climate change, and its early, complete disappearance seems almost inevitable in the public debate, spawning speculations about the opening of northern shipping routes and resource exploration, as well as about the extinction of polar bears and the collapse of Arctic food-webs. However, little is actually understood about the recent rapid sea ice changes in the
Arctic, and climate models continue to predict sea ice changes with little skill. The presentation will provide a status of observed sea ice changes in the Arctic and Antarctic, and will discuss some of the uncertainties related to changes of the sea ice mass balance. I will then focus on results of our own field and remote sensing research with regard to Arctic sea ice, particularly results from airborne and snowmobile-based ice thickness surveying. Results show large regional sea ice variability in the Canadian Arctic which represent different environmental conditions and prevents easy, general predictions of future ice conditions.
The incredibly small bits of matter we call neutrinos may hold the secret to why antimatter is so rare, how mighty stars explode as supernovae, what the universe was like just seconds after the big bang, and even the inner workings of our own planet. In Neutrino Hunters, I will take you on a thrilling journey into the shadowy world of neutrinos and the colorful lives of scientists chasing these elusive particles, recounting a captivating saga of scientific discovery and celebrating a glorious human quest. Hear what the next decade of neutrino hunting may hold in store.
*Robin Kingsburgh, PhD Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences/ School of Interdisciplinary Studies OCAD University; Natural Science, York University
*Stephen Morris, PhD, Department of Physics, University of Toronto
Lisa Carrie Goldberg, Multidisciplinary Artist, and founder of Action Potential Lab, dedicated to merging science and art.
Moderator: Ian Clarke, BSc, PhD, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences/ School of Interdisciplinary Studies, OCAD University
Science and art often have a perceived divide in contemporary culture, yet historically their roots stem from similar manifestations of creativity and aesthetics, in exploring, responding to and explaining Nature. This panel presentation brings together scientists, artists and those with a foot in each of the ‘two cultures’ to discuss their interdisciplinary practices, and encourage novel ways to understand the world around us.
*Curatorial team members for “Occam’s Razor: Art, Science & Aesthetics”, a juried exhibition of works of art inspired by science, examining similarities in practice amongst scientists and artists, at Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts (April 2-20, 2014), and the !dea Gallery, Ontario Science Centre (May 3- June 1, 2014).
Microscopes have been serving scientists for more than four hundred years and provided a possibility to glimpse into the lives of cells and minute living organisms. Modern microscopes utilize lasers with very short pulses to help visualize cells without labeling and in their natural environment. We use advance microscopy to study the structural dynamics of cells in plant and animal tissue, and how their behaviour is affected by diseases including cancer. I will guide you into the inner parts of a moving cell and discuss how cells contract and react to changes in the environment.
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.
How Will We Eat on Mars? An Update on Life Support Research at the University of Guelph
Presented in partnership with the Mississauga Centre of the RASC
If humans hope to ever get to Mars or farther, we will need to be able to grow food in space. The space travel environment produces unique challenges to growing food, including microgravity, limited water, artificial light sources and many more. Research at the Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility at the University of Guelph is showing us how to grow food in space and, in the process, is developing beneficial technologies for earth-bound farming.
Dr. Mike Dixon is the Director of the Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility and program, and Chair of the Environmental Biology Department, University of Guelph. Dr. Dixon joined the University in 1985 as an NSERC fellow after earning his PhD from Edinburgh University in Scotland and is now a full professor.
Off campus he is the Technology Exchange Coordinator for the International Advanced Life Support Working Group (IALSWG) which is a strategic planning group offering information and personnel exchange between international space agencies such as NASA, CSA, ESA, RSA and JAXA (Japan). He also is Chair of the Space Exploration Advisory Committee of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and is a member of the Life Sciences and Technical Committee within the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
As project leader for the Canadian research team investigating the contributions of plants to life support in space, Dr. Dixon formed the Space and Advanced Life Support Agriculture (SALSA) program at the University of Guelph. This program currently represents Canada’s prime contribution to the International Space program objectives in Life Support.
Dr. Dixon is also the project leader for the research team at Guelph investigating the biofiltration of indoor air as a method of alleviating what is commonly known as “sick building syndrome”.