Tag Archives: Cafe Scientifique

Café Scientifique (Vancouver, Canada) makes a ‘happy’ change: new speaker for April 28, 2015

For the first time since I’ve started posting about Vancouver’s Café Scientifique there’s been a last minute change of speakers. It’s due to an addition to Dr. Kramer’s family. Congratulations!

So, Tuesday, April 28, 2015’s  Café Scientifique, held in the back room of The Railway Club (2nd floor of 579 Dunsmuir St. [at Seymour St.], will be hosting a talk from a different speaker and on a different topic,

Ph.D candidate and Vanier Scholar, Kostadin Kushlev from the Department of Psychology at UBC presenting his exciting research. Details are as follows:

Always Connected: How Smartphones May be Disconnecting Us From the People Around Us.

Smartphones have transformed where and how we access information and connect with our family and friends. But how might these powerful pocket computers be affecting how and when we interact with others in person? In this talk, I will present recent data from our lab suggesting that smartphones can compromise how connected we feel to close others, peers, and strangers. Parents spending time with their children felt more distracted and less socially connected when they used their phones a lot. Peers waiting together for an appointment connected with each other less and felt less happy when they had access to their phones as compared to when they did not. And, people looking for directions trusted members of their community less when they relied on their phones for directions rather than on the kindness of strangers. These findings highlight some of the perils of being constantly connected for our nonvirtual social lives and for the social fabric of society more generally.

On looking up the speaker online, I found that the main focus of his research is happiness, from the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Graduate and PostGraduate webpage for Kostadin Kushlev,

 Research topic: Happiness and well-being
Research group: Social Cognition and Emotion Lab
Research location: UBC Vancouver, Kenny Building, 2136 West Mall
Research supervisor: Elizabeth Dunn

Research description
My research focuses on the emotional experience of people. The topics that I am currently investigating range from what gives (or takes away from) people’s experience of meaning in life to how people react to shame and guilt, and to what extent new technologies introduce stress and anxiety in our lives.

Home town: Madan
Country: Bulgaria

Given that the United Nations’ 2015 World Happiness Report (co-authored by UBC professor emeritus John Helliwell) was released on April 23, 2015,  the same day that the Museum of Vancouver’s The Happy Show (Stefan Sagmeister: The Happy Show) opened, Kostadin Kushlev seems like a ‘happy’ choice for a substitute speaker just days later on April 28, 2015, especially since the original topic was ‘pain’.

Three Vancouver (Canada) science events: Vancouver Public Library on April 27, 2015, Café Scientifique on April 28, 2015, and the Wall Exchange on May 26, 2015

Monday, April 27, 2015, 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm is a combined bee/poetry event at the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library. From the Vancouver Public Library “Honey, Hives, and Poetry in the City” event page,

Celebrate National Poetry Month by investigating food and poetry as a means of cultural and social activism and community building. Featured will be:

  • Rachel Rose, Poet Laureate of Vancouver
  • A collaborative reading by scientist and author Mark L. Winston (Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive) and award winning poet Renee Sarojini Saklikar (Children of Air India)
  • Readings from author and poet Elee Kraljii Gardiner and the Thursdays Writing Collective.
  • Presentation and honey tasting with Hives for Humanity.


Address: 350 West Georgia St.
VancouverV6B 6B1

  • Phone:

Location Details: Alice MacKay Room, Lower Level

[ETA April 21, 2015 at 1000 PST: I’ve just embedded a video which launches a new year of Science Rap Academy (Tom McFadden) in my April 21, 2015 post titled: Please, don’t kill my hive! (a Science Rap Academy production).]

*Change of Speaker for April 28, 2015  Café Scientifique, see Café Scientifique (Vancouver, Canada) makes a ‘happy’ change: new speaker for April 28, 2015 posting.”*

The day after the bee/poetry event, Tuesday, April 28, 2015  Café Scientifique, held in the back room of The Railway Club (2nd floor of 579 Dunsmuir St. [at Seymour St.], will be hosting a talk on pain (from the April 13, 2015 announcement,

Our speakers for the evening will be Dr. Matthew Ramer and Dr. John Kramer.  The title of their talk is:

Knowing Pains: How can we study pain to better treat it?

Pain is arguably the most useful of sensations.  It is nature’s way of telling us to stop doing whatever it is we are doing in order to prevent damage, and to protect injured body parts during the healing process.  In the absence of pain (in certain congenital conditions and in advanced diabetes, for example), the consequence can be loss of limbs and even of life.

There are circumstances, however, when pain serves no useful purpose:  it persists when the injury has healed or occurs in the absence of any frank tissue damage, and is inappropriate in context (previously innocuous stimuli become painful) and magnitude (mildly painful stimuli become excruciating).  This is called neuropathic pain and is incredibly difficult to treat because it is unresponsive to all of the drugs we use to treat normal, useful (“acute”) pain.

Ultimately, our research is aimed at finding new ways to minimise suffering from neuropathic pain.  Prerequisites to this goal include understanding how normal and neuropathic pain are encoded and perceived by the nervous system, and accurately measuring and quantifying pain so that we can draw reasonable conclusions about whether or not a particular treatment is effective.  We will discuss some historical and current ideas of how pain is transmitted from body to brain, and emphasize that the pain “channel” is not hard-wired, but like the process of learning, it is plastic, labile, and subject to “top-down” control.  We will also tackle the contentious issue of pain measurement in the clinic and laboratory.*

Both speakers are from iCORD (International Collaboration On Repair Discoveries), an interdisciplinary research centre focused on spinal cord injury located at Vancouver General Hospital. There’s more about Dr. Matt Ramer here and Dr. John Kramer here.

*Change of Speaker for April 28, 2015  Café Scientifique, see Café Scientifique (Vancouver, Canada) makes a ‘happy’ change: new speaker for April 28, 2015 posting.”*

The Wall Institute for Advanced Studies is bringing Dr. Bonnie Bassler, the bacteria whisperer, to speak in Vancouver. From the Wall Exchange series event page,

Dr. Bonnie Bassler, Molecular Biology, Princeton University

The Secret Social Lives of Bacteria

May 26, 2015
7:30 pm. Doors open at 6:30 pm.
Vogue Theatre, 918 Granville Street, Vancouver

Tickets available online, 2015 or by calling the Vogue Theatre Box Office: 604-569-1144

Learn more:

Bacterial behaviour may hold key to combatting antibiotic resistance
The Wall Papers

Here are some more details about the tickets, the event, and the speaker from the Northern Tickets event page,

Bonnie Bassler
The Secret, Social Lives of Bacteria
Vogue Theatre
Tuesday May 26th, 2015
Doors 6:30PM, Begins 7:30PM
Free Entry
**Tickets must be redeemed by 7:15PM to be valid**

Dr. Bonnie Bassler is an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Squibb Professor and Chair of the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University. The research in Dr. Bassler’s laboratory focuses on the chemical signaling mechanisms that bacteria use to communicate with each other known as “quorum sensing.” Therapies that block quorum sensing activity may represent an important new strategy for combating bacterial infections. Her research reveals new insights into the basic biology and ecology of bacteria; findings that may have direct application in the future treatment of disease.

Vogue Theatre
918 Granville Street – Vancouver

Go forth and enjoy!

* Removed ‘,t’ at very end of Café Scientifique excerpt on April 24, 2015.

Two September 2013 Café Scientifique meetings in metro Vancouver (Canada)

There’s a Café Scientifique meeting tonight, Sept. 18, 2013  in Surrey, BC (a municipality in metro Vancouver). Here’s more from a Sept. 12, 2013 Simon Fraser University news release,

Café Scientifique – brainpower, bacteria & super seniors

 Simon Fraser University’s popular Café Scientifique series returns to Surrey this fall and the general public is invited to participate and learn more from what the experts have to say about key topics in health.

Three sessions will be held this fall at Surrey’s City Centre Library (main floor) from 7-8:30 p.m. The events are free.

SFU biological sciences professor Gordon Rintoul kicks off the first session on Wednesday, Sept. 18 with a discussion on the changes that occur in healthy brain cells versus those found in people with age-related brain diseases.

Rintoul, a neuroscientist, focuses on mitochondria, microscopic structures within brain cells, which provide energy for cellular process.

“Mitochondria have been called the powerhouses of the cell,” says Rintoul. “Our lab investigates the role of mitochondria in healthy neurons and in disease mechanisms.”

Rintoul will speak about his research and other recent findings linking changes in mitochondria to Parkinson’s disease, stroke and the process of aging.

The study involves over 500 “super seniors” between the ages of 85 and 105, who have never been diagnosed with cancer, cardiovascular disease, major pulmonary disease, Alzheimer disease or diabetes. The study looks at genetic features that correlate with long-term good health in these exceptional individuals.

The news release offers a bit more about the Fall 2013 season of Simon Fraser University Café Scientifique meetings,

Sessions to follow include:

Oct. 16: Julian Guttman, an assistant biological sciences professor, will explain how pathogenic bacteria such as E.coli create serious global health concerns, causing disease through their interaction and subsequent control of host cells’ normal cellular functions. Guttman will discuss the conditions that transform bacterial infection into disease.

Nov. 20: Angela Brooks-Wilson, an associate professor of biomedical physiology/kinesiology and a Distinguished Scientist at the BC Cancer Agency, will shares insights from her study on health aging.

These presentations are designed to stimulate conversation (from the news release),

Speakers will discuss their health or popular-science related topics for approximately 20 minutes, followed by a discussion with the audience. Reserve your free seat at: café_scientifique@sfu.ca.

The second Café Scientifique is being held in the back room of the The Railway Club (2nd floor of 579 Dunsmuir St. [at Seymour St.], Vancouver, Canada), and could be a more relaxed affair as it will be accompanied the sounds of slurping beer  on Tuesday, September 24,  2013 at 7:30 pm. Here’s the talk description (from the Sept. 17, 2013 announcement),

 Our next café will happen on Tuesday September 24th, 7:30pm at The Railway Club.  Our speaker for the evening will be Ian Cromwell, MSc. The details of his talk are as follows:
The HPV Vaccine and You: What You Need to Know to Make an Informed Choice
With British Columbia recently approving the HPV vaccine in young women across the province, members of the public have been engaged in a conversation about the value and safety of the vaccine. Ian Cromwell, a health economics researcher at the BC Cancer Agency, will discuss the vaccine and introduce the available evidence supporting the policy. He will also address some of the specific concerns people in British Columbia have about the vaccine, with a grounding in the scientific literature.

Ordinarily the talks at the Railway Club are pretty relaxed but those references to “evidence supporting the policy”, as well as, “a grounding in scientific literature” in the speaker’s description are a little concerning to me given that the “conversation [is] about the value and safety of the vaccine.” I suspect  the only “informed choice” will be yes and any objections will be shot down while reams of scientific literature and evidence are being quoted at whomever has the temerity to question the BC Cancer Agency’s policy.

Dr. Robin Coope will be speaking at Vancouver’s (Canada) Café Scientifique on July 30, 2013

The back room of the The Railway Club (2nd floor of 579 Dunsmuir St. [at Seymour St.], Vancouver, Canada), should be raucous with the sounds of beer slurping and talk of engineering in the life sciences at  the next Café Scientifique Vancouver talk given by Robin Coope on Tuesday, July 30,  2013 at 7:30 pm. Here’s the talk description (from the announcement),

Explain what it is you do again? Engineering in the life sciences

After studiously avoiding biology from high school on, Robin Coope wound up doing a PhD in Physics which involved understanding some exotic failure modes in capillary DNA sequencing. This led to a job at the BC Cancer Agency’s Genome Sciences Centre where he is now the Instrumentation Group Leader. This mostly involves managing the Centre’s liquid handling robots but with various funding sources, projects have involved novel automation platforms for DNA sample prep, as well as several medical devices for cancer treatment and even orthopaedics.

It turns out that practicing engineering while embedded in a clinical research lab with ready access to physicians and life scientists presents a fantastic opportunity to pursue the fundamental objective of engineering: to identify challenges and develop tools to solve them. The clinic is full of problems and unmet needs but the success of a solution often hinges on subtle issues, so it can take many prototypes and much discussion to get something that works. Working in this science-based industry also elucidates a clear distinction between engineering and science where success in the latter should be measured by publishing important ideas, whereas success in the former is really in making solutions available to a broad audience, which ultimately means commercialization. After seven years of in this field its also clear that the most interesting part of the work is the people and the challenges of communicating with specialists in widely divergent fields.

In this talk, Robin will present some recent projects and reflect on key lessons in what has thus far been a remarkably exciting adventure.

Happy slurping!

Vancouver’s (Canada) Café Scientifique; an origins story on May 28, 2013

Returning to  the back room at The Railway Club (2nd floor of 579 Dunsmuir St. [at Seymour St.], Vancouver, Canada), the next Café Scientifique Vancouver talk will be given by Lars Martin on Tuesday, May 28,  2013 at 7:30 pm. Here’s the talk description, from the announcement,

Nuclear Astrophysics at TRIUMF

Nuclear Astrophysics is the field of science that tries to explain the natural origin of all chemical elements. [emphasis mine] Scenarios that are studied in this field include the Big Bang, the life cycle of a regular star like our sun and cataclysmic events like supernovae. One key ingredient for this endeavour is the experimental study of nuclear reactions in accelerator labs like TRIUMF.

In his presentation Lars Martin will give an introduction into the field of nuclear astrophysics and describe some of the experiments he was involved with as a PhD student at TRIUMF.

That’s all I’ve got.

Ian Bushfield weighs paper with his lasers

Café Scientifique Vancouver (Canada) will be holding a meeting on the subject of lasers and weighing paper at The Railway Club on the 2nd floor of 579 Dunsmuir St. (at Seymour St.) next Tuesday, from the Mar. 19, 2013 email announcement,

Our next café will happen on Tuesday March 26th, 7:30pm at The Railway Club. Our speaker for the evening will be Ian Bushfield.

The title and abstract for his café is:

“Weighing Paper With Lasers”

Until the 1990s, a narrow band of radiation in the far-infrared had remained largely unexplored. Terahertz radiation’s unique interaction with water molecules and weak interaction with most plastic and fabrics make it an ideal probe for a wide range of applications, from security scanners to death rays. One area of interest is in product testing and quality control. In this talk, Ian Bushfield will describe his masters of physics work in developing a technique to use terahertz radiation to obtain the thickness, weight, and water content of paper, for application in paper manufacturing. These non-contact sensors offer industry a way to improve accuracy and production speed by replacing sensors that rely on physical contact with paper reams. This work was supported by the NSERC Industrial Postgraduate Scholarship, SFU, and the Honeywell Vancouver Centre for Excellence.

We hope to see you there!

Ian Bushfield has his own website,

I am the executive director of the British Columbia Humanist Association and a passionate advocate for science outreach and education. I have recently completed an MSc in Physics and have a BSc in Engineering Physics. I have worked as a research assistant and as a science summer camp instructor.

I gather Bushfield will be focusing on the work he did for his master’s thesis (from Bushfield’s résumé page),

Master of Science in Physics, Simon Fraser University 2011

Given the description for his talk, I don’t imagine Bushfield will be discussing his interest in humanism although I’m sure he’ll be open to questions. I’ve found the meetings at the Railway Club to be pleasantly fueled by beer, burgers, and conversation about science and any other topics attendees care to raise. (Bushfield was last mentioned here in my Feb. 8, 2013 posting about Charles Darwin Day and the February 2013 Café Scientifique meeting.)