Tag Archives: McGill University

McGill University and Sandia Labs validate Luttinger liquid model predictions

A collaboration between McGill University (Québec, Canada) and Sandia National Laboratories (New Mexico, US) has resulted in the answer to a question that was posed over 50 years ago in the field of quantum physics according to a Jan. 23, 2014 McGill University news release (also on EurekAlert),

How would electrons behave if confined to a wire so slender they could pass through it only in single-file?

The question has intrigued scientists for more than half a century. In 1950, Japanese Nobel Prize winner Sin-Itiro Tomonaga, followed by American physicist Joaquin Mazdak Luttinger in 1963, came up with a mathematical model showing that the effects of one particle on all others in a one-dimensional line would be much greater than in two- or three-dimensional spaces. Among quantum physicists, this model came to be known as the “Luttinger liquid” state.

The news release provides more information about the problem and about how the scientists addressed it,

What does one-dimensional quantum physics involve?  Gervais [Professor Guillaume Gervais of McGill’s Department of Physics] explains it this way: “Imagine that you are driving on a highway and the traffic is not too dense. If a car stops in front of you, you can get around it by passing to the left or right. That’s two-dimensional physics. But if you enter a tunnel with a single lane and a car stops, all the other cars behind it must slam on the brakes. That’s the essence of the Luttinger liquid effect. The way electrons behave in the Luttinger state is entirely different because they all become coupled to one another.”

To scientists, “what is so fascinating and elegant about quantum physics in one dimension is that the solutions are mathematically exact,” Gervais adds. “In most other cases, the solutions are only approximate.”

Making a device with the correct parameters to conduct the experiment was no simple task, however, despite the team’s 2011 discovery of a way to do so. It took years of trial, and more than 250 faulty devices – each of which required 29 processing steps – before Laroche’s [McGill PhD student Dominique Laroche[ painstaking efforts succeeded in producing functional devices yielding reliable data.  “So many things could go wrong during the fabrication process that troubleshooting the failed devices felt like educated guesswork at times,” explains Laroche.  “Adding in the inherent failure rate compounded at each processing step made the fabrication of these devices extremely challenging.”

In particular, the experiment measures the effect that a very small electrical current in one of the wires has on a nearby wire.  This can be viewed as the “friction” between the two circuits, and the experiment shows that this friction increases as the circuits are cooled to extremely low temperatures. This effect is a strong prediction of Luttinger liquid theory.

“It took a very long time to make these devices,” said Lilly. “It’s not impossible to do in other labs, but Sandia has crystal-growing capabilities, a microfabrication facility, and support for fundamental research from DOE’s office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES), and we’re very interested in understanding the fundamental ideas that drive the behavior of very small systems.”

The findings could lead to practical applications in electronics and other fields. While it’s difficult at this stage to predict what those might be, “the same was true in the case of the laser when it was invented,” Gervais notes.  “Nanotechnologies are already helping us in medicine, electronics and engineering – and this work shows that they can help us get to the bottom of a long-standing question in quantum physics.”

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

1D-1D Coulomb Drag Signature of a Luttinger Liquid by D. Laroche, G. Gervais, M. P. Lilly, and J. L. Reno. Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1244152 Published Online January 23 2014

This paper is behind a paywall.

Grand Challenges Canada funds 83 projects to improve global health

For the third year in a row (as per my Dec. 22, 2011 posting and my Nov. 22, 2012 posting), I’m featuring Grand Challenges Canada funding for its ‘Stars in Global Health’ programme . From the Grand Challenges Canada (GCC) Nov. 21, 2013 news release,

Imaginative: 83 Bold Innovations to Improve Global Health Receive Grand Challenges Canada Funding

Among novel ideas to reduce disease, save lives in developing world:
Diagnostic diapers to detect deadly rotavirus; Rolling water barrel;
Special yogurt offsets pesticides, heavy metals, toxins in food;
Inventive shoe, boot material releases bug repellent when walking

50 innovators from low- and middle-income countries,
plus 33 from Canada, share $9.3 million in seed grants

Grand Challenges Canada, funded by the Government of Canada, today extends seed grants of $100,000 each to 83 inventive new ideas for addressing health problems in resource-poor countries.

The Grand Challenges Canada “Stars in Global Health” program seeks breakthrough and affordable innovations that could transform the way disease is treated in the developing world — innovations that may benefit the health of developed world citizens as well.

Of the 83 grants announced today, 50 are given to innovators in 15 low- and middle-income nations worldwide and 33 to Canadian-originated projects, to be implemented in a total of 30 countries throughout the developing world.

“Innovation powers development leading to better health and more jobs. I feel proud that Canada, through Grand Challenges Canada, has supported almost 300 bold ideas to date in our Stars in Global Health program,” says Dr. Peter A. Singer, Chief Executive Officer of Grand Challenges Canada.  “This is one of the largest pipelines of innovations in global health in the world today.”

Says the Honourable Christian Paradis, Canadian Minister of International Development and Minister for La Francophonie: “Grand Challenges Canada’s portfolio of projects shows how innovators with bold ideas have the potential to make a big impact on global health.  By connecting game-changing ideas with some of the most pressing global health challenges, these projects will lead to sustainable and affordable health solutions in low- and middle-income countries.”

The portfolio of 83 creative, out-of-the-box ideas, selected through independent peer review from 451 applications, includes projects submitted by social entrepreneurs, private sector companies and non-government organizations as well as university researchers.  Among them:

Diagnostics

  • A simple, portable, dry, yeast-based blood screening test (Belize, Jamaica).  WHO estimates almost half of 46 million blood donations in low-income countries are inadequately tested;  in Africa up to 10% of new HIV infections are caused by transfusions.  A University of Toronto-developed yeast-based blood screening tool will detect combinations of diseases. Like baking yeast, it can be stored dry, and can be grown locally with minimal equipment and training, improving accessibility in rural areas.
  • A bedside, Litmus paper-like test to detect bronchitis (Brazil, India). Being pioneered at McMaster University with international collaborators, a simple sputum test will detect infectious and allergic bronchitis in adults and children, reducing mis-diagnosis in developing countries and saving resources: time, steroids, antibiotics.

Water, sanitation, hygiene and general health

  • Special yogurts formulated to offset the harm to health caused by heavy metals, pesticides and other toxics in food (Africa).  Between 2006-2009 in Nairobi, only 17% of the total maize sampled and 5% of feed was fit for human and animal consumption respectively. University of Western Ontario researchers have developed novel yogurts containing a bacteria that, in the stomach, sequesters certain toxins and heavy metals and degrades some pesticides.
  • Addressing arsenic-laced groundwater. In Bangladesh, 1 in 5 deaths (600,000 per year) occur due to groundwater arsenic, dubbed by WHO as the largest mass poisoning in history, with some 77 million people at risk.  Project 1) Toronto-based PurifAid will deploy new filtration units via franchised villagers who will filter and deliver purified water, perform maintenance, acquire new filters and dispose of old ones, which can be used to produce biofuels.  Project 2) A project based at the University of Calgary, meanwhile, will work to increase the use of Western Canadian lentils in Bangladeshi diets.  The crop is rich in selenium, which can decrease arsenic levels and improve health.
  • “WaterWheel” (India, Kenya, Mongolia).  This simple, innovative device from India is a wheeled water container that enables the collection and transport of 3 to 5 times as much water as usual per trip, as well as hygienic storage, saving valuable time for productive activities and improving health.

Malaria

  • A vaccine based on a newly-discovered antibody in men that prevents malaria infection in the placenta (Benin, Colombia).  Colombian men exposed to malaria are found to have antibodies that can prevent infection in the placenta of a pregnant woman. This University of Alberta finding forms the basis for developing a novel vaccine against several forms of malaria, which cause 10,000 maternal deaths and 200,000 stillbirths annually.
  • Insect-repellent clothing, footwear and wall plaster (East Africa).  1) In Tanzania, the Africa Technical Research Institute will lead the design and manufacture of attractive, affordable insecticide-treated clothing while 2) the Ifakara Health Institute will develop anti-mosquito footwear material that slowly releases repellents from the friction of walking.  A key advantage: no compliance or change in habits required.  3) Uganda’s Med Biotech Laboratories, meanwhile, will produce a colorful, insecticide-infused ‘plaster’ for the outside walls of African village homes.

Maternal and child health

  • Mothers Telling Mothers: improving maternal health through storytelling (Uganda).  Work by Twezimbe Development Association has found that stories told by mothers in their own words and reflecting shared realities are most likely to increase the number of moms seeking skilled health care, and convince policymakers to improve healthcare access.  This project will capture 3 to 5 minutes stories to be shared through digital media platforms and health clinics.

Mobile technology

  • Digital African Health Library (Sub-Saharan Africa).  The University of Calgary-led project is creating an app to support bedside care by medical doctors in Africa: a smartphone-accessible resource providing evidence-based, locally-relevant decision support and health information.  A pilot involving 65 doctors in Rwanda showed point of care answers to patient questions more than tripled to 43%, with self-reported improvement in patient outcomes.

Health care

  • Simple sticker helps track clean surfaces in healthcare facilities (Philippines).  WHO estimates that 10% to 30% of all patients in developing country health care facilities acquire an infection.   An innovative sticker for hospital surfaces developed by Lunanos Inc. changes colour when a cleaner is applied and fades color after a predetermined period of time, helping staff track and ensure cleanliness of equipment and other frequently touched surfaces.
  • “Mystery clients” to assess and improve quality of TB care (India).  India accounts for 25% of global tuberculosis (TB) incidence.  To evaluate variations in practice quality, and identify ways to improve TB management in India, this project, led by Canada’s McGill University, will send researchers into clinics posing as a patient with standard TB symptoms.  The project builds on earlier work related to angina, asthma and dysentery, which revealed incorrect diagnoses and treatment.

And many more.

A complete set of 83 short project descriptions, with links to additional project details, available photos / video, and local contact information, is available in the full news release online here: http://bit.ly/HOLt5b

Here’s a video for the one of the projects (filtering arsenic out of Bangladesh’s water),

I chose this project somewhat haphazardly. It caught my attention as I have written more than once about purification efforts and as it turns out, this is a Canada-based project (with a Bangladeshi partner, BRAC) from the University of Toronto.

You may have heard the video’s narrator mention scotch whiskey, here’s why (from the YouTube page hosting the project video,page),

We plan to roll out a new generation of filtration units which run on an organic by-product of the beverage industry. The units address many of the failings of existing devices (they require no power or chemicals and are very low maintenance).

This project gets still more interesting (from the full project description page),

Device for the Remediation and Attenuation of Multiple Pollutants (DRAM) removes 95% of arsenic from contaminated water within 5 minutes of exposure. With an estimated 600,000 deaths directly attributable to arsenic poisoning every year, these units hold the potential to save millions of lives. Existing solutions are too complicated and suffer from significant usability issues (2012 UNICEF study).

We will deploy our units through a franchise business model. [emphasis mine] Local villagers will filter and deliver purified water, perform maintenance, acquire new media, and dispose spent media. The current market leader, the Sono Filter, has less than 20% uptake (according to UNICEF). DRAM costs only 25% of this solution, has lower maintenance requirements (4-6 month media cycle vs. 2 week media cycle), higher durability, and can be retrofitted onto existing tube wells villagers use thereby requiring no behavior change. The spent media (which must be replaced every 4-6 months) can be used to produce biofuels, giving PurifAid a decisive capability over competitors.

With the assistance of our local partner BRAC (ranked #1 on Global Journal’s list of top NGOs in 2012) we will retrofit our units onto existing tubewells. Contaminated water is pumped from the tubewell into the unit where it passes into the bottom of the unit, rising up through a bed of the organic filter media, binding the arsenic. Clean water is displaced and forced out of the top of the unit and out through the built-in tap. Our community based solution will begin with a proof-of-concept installation in the Mujibnagar District (pop. 1.3 million). BRAC will assist in testing our filter water quality on the ground and these results will be used to obtain regulatory approval for our technology. We will then operationalize our community-run DRAM systems. A council of local stakeholders will nominate prospective franchisees amongst villagers. These villagers will replace filter media in 4 month intervals and order annual delivery of new media. We are securing partnerships with nearby distilleries to locally source the filter media. [emphasis mine] Disposal will be handled by a local caretaker who will store spent media in bulk before transferring it for use as biofuel. Caretaker salary, media sourcing, and delivery costs will be paid by charging a levy on customer households. PurifAid will monitor behavioural and health indicators to ascertain DRAM’s immediate and long-term impact. To this end PurifAid has partnered with Ashalytics, a start-up global health analytics company, to report operational issues, measure impact, and communicate important metrics to key staff and stakeholders via mobile phones. This results in an environmentally-friendly value chain that uses beverage industry waste, maximizing positive impact. If the Bangladesh installations are a success then this system can be introduced across the Indian subcontinent and in west Africa, where arsenic in groundwater poses a serious health problem. DRAM has the potential to improve the lives of millions globally.

After 18 months we envisage having installed 15 DRAM systems supplying 45 liters of purified water per day to 2,700 households. In order to ensure maintenance, 15 paid caretakers will operate the pumps and a driver will supply the caretakers with fresh media every 4-6 months. Biannually, new bulk media will be provided to storage unit in the village, spent media will in turn be taken to a plant and converted to biofuel. Villagers will invest collectively to purchase, install and operate DRAM on pre-existing tube wells – thus no behavioral changes needed.

Our filters employ a new water filtration technology. Our franchise model involves social and business innovation, empowering communities to manage their own water treatment under the stewardship of a local partner that manages 17 social businesses with combined annual revenues of $93m in 2011.

(Aside: Don’t they ask for a ‘dram’ of whiskey in the movies?) This project is intended to do more than purify water; it’s designed to create jobs. Bravo!

Now back to the news release for details about the countries and agencies involved,

The global portfolio of grants, broken down by region and country:

30 projects based in 6 African countries (16 in Kenya, 5 in Tanzania, 5 in Uganda, 2 in Nigeria and 1 each in Senegal and Ghana)
17 projects based in 7 countries in Asia (7 in India, 2 in Pakistan 4 in Thailand and 1 each in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Mongolia and the Philippines)
Two projects based in South America (Peru) and one in Europe (Armenia)
33 projects based in 11 Canadian cities (14 in Toronto, 3 each in Calgary, Montreal and Vancouver, 2 each in Winnipeg, Edmonton and London, and 1 each in Halifax, Hamilton, Ottawa and Saskatoon)

The Canadian-based projects will be implemented worldwide (a majority of them implemented simultaneously in more than one country):

15 countries in Africa (5 in Kenya, 4 in Tanzania, 3 each in Uganda and Ethiopia, 2 each in Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, and Zambia, and 1 each in Benin, Botswana, Ghana,  Malawi, Nigeria, and DR Congo)
8 countries in Asia (8 in India, 6 in Bangladesh, 1 each in Bhutan, China, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines and Thailand)
5 countries in South and Latin America (Belize, Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica, Peru.) and
1 in the Middle East (Egypt)

Including today’s grants, total investments to date under the Grand Challenges Canada “Stars in Global Health” program is $32 million in 295 projects.

For full details: http://bit.ly/HOLt5b

* * * * *

About Grand Challenges Canada

Grand Challenges Canada is dedicated to supporting Bold Ideas with Big Impact in global

health. We are funded by the Government of Canada through the Development Innovation Fund announced in the 2008 Federal Budget. We fund innovators in low- and middle-income countries and Canada. Grand Challenges Canada works with the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and other global health foundations and organizations to find sustainable, long-term solutions through Integrated Innovation − bold ideas that integrate science, technology, social and business innovation. Grand Challenges Canada is hosted at the Sandra Rotman Centre.

Please visit grandchallenges.ca  and look for us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.

About Canada’s International Development Research Centre

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) supports research in developing countries to promote growth and development. IDRC also encourages sharing this knowledge with policymakers, other researchers and communities around the world. The result is innovative, lasting local solutions that aim to bring choice and change to those who need it most. As the Government of Canada’s lead on the Development Innovation Fund, IDRC draws on decades of experience managing publicly funded research projects to administer the Development Innovation Fund. IDRC also ensures that developing country researchers and concerns are front and centre in this exciting new initiative.

www.idrc.ca

About Canadian Institutes of Health Research

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada’s health research investment agency. CIHR’s mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to enable its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health care system. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to more than 14,100 health researchers and trainees across Canada. CIHR will be responsible for the administration of international peer review, according to international standards of excellence. The results of CIHR-led peer reviews will guide the awarding of grants by Grand Challenges Canada from the Development Innovation Fund.

www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca

About the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

The mandate of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada is to manage Canada’s diplomatic and consular relations, to encourage the country’s international trade, and to lead Canada’s international development and humanitarian assistance.

www.international.gc.ca

About Sandra Rotman Centre

The Sandra Rotman Centre is based at University Health Network and the University of Toronto. We develop innovative global health solutions and help bring them to scale where they are most urgently needed. The Sandra Rotman Centre hosts Grand Challenges Canada.

www.srcglobal.org

I have found it confusing that there’s a Grand Challenges Canada and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has a Grand Challenges programme, both of which making funding announcements at this time of year. I did make some further investigations which I noted in my Dec. 22, 2011 posting,

Last week, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a $21.1 M grant over three years for research into point-of-care diagnostic tools for developing nations. A Canadian nongovermental organization (NGO) will be supplementing this amount with $10.8 M for a total of $31.9 M. (source: Dec. 16, 2011 AFP news item [Agence France-Presse] on MedicalXpress.com)

At this point, things get a little confusing. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has a specific program called Grand Challenges in Global Health and this grant is part of that program. Plus, the Canadian NGO is called Grand Challenges Canada (couldn’t they have found a more distinctive name?), which is funded by a federal Canadian government initiative known as the Development Innovation Fund (DIF). …

Weirdly, no one consulted with me when they named the Bil & Melinda Gates Foundation programme or the Canadian NGO.

Sustainable Development Technology Canada, Vive Crop, two projects, and $14.7M in funding

The Canadian government used to create Crown Corporations, a kind of quasi-government agency/ business corporation that was run as a not-for-profit operation. Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) bears some of the marks of a crown corporation (completely government-funded) but it’s self-described as a not-for-profit foundation. Before getting to the main event (Vive Crop) here’s a little bit from the SDTC Profile page,

Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) is a not-for-profit foundation that finances and supports the development and demonstration of clean technologies which provide solutions to issues of climate change, clean air, water quality and soil, and which deliver economic, environmental and health benefits to Canadians.

SDTC operates two funds aimed at the development and demonstration of innovative technological solutions. The SD Tech Fund™ supports projects that address climate change, air quality, clean water, and clean soil. The NextGen Biofuels Fund™ supports the establishment of first-of-kind large demonstration-scale facilities for the production of next-generation renewable fuels.

SDTC is clearly focused on the economy and entrepreneurship in addition to sustainability as per their Sept. 9, 2013 news release about  a recent $14.7M investment,

The Government of Canada is showing its commitment to a green Canadian economy with an in investment of $14.7 million to help four new clean technology projects from across the country reach commercialization. The announcement was made today by the Honourable Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources, and Dr. Vicky Sharpe, President and CEO of Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC).

“Canada must nurture highly skilled individuals and new ideas that will help our businesses innovate, secure new markets and create well-paying jobs,” said Minister Oliver. “By supporting advanced research and technology, our government is investing in Canadian prosperity and a cleaner environment.”

“The projects announced today are great examples of the Canadian innovation and entrepreneurship that characterizes SDTC’s portfolio, valued at more than $2 billion and brimming with innovative technological solutions,” said Vicky Sharpe, President and CEO of SDTC. “Canadian cleantech leaders are continuing to create economic opportunities and open up avenues to new export markets.”


The newly-funded projects are representative of the investment priorities established in the SD Business Cases™, a series of six reports published by SDTC that provide strategic insights into specific economic sectors (available in the Knowledge Centre section of the SDTC website at http://www.sdtc.ca/).

SDTC’s SD Tech Fund™ has committed $598 million to 246 clean technology projects. These figures include adjustments made to the portfolio.

Vive Crop, headquartered in Toronto, Ontario,  is a recipient for two of the four projects being funded. Here’s more about one of the projects from the Sept. 18, 2013 Vive Crop news release,

Vive Crop Protection is pleased to announce that it received an investment of $3.7 million from the Government of Canada through Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) to develop an improved pesticide application distribution method that will translate into greater efficiency and reduced wastage.

Vive’s Allosperse® particle will be used to hold pesticides and deliver them precisely where they need to go.

“Canada must nurture highly skilled individuals and new ideas that will help our businesses innovate, secure new markets and create well-paying jobs,” said Minister Oliver. “By supporting advanced research and technology, our government is investing in Canadian prosperity and a cleaner environment.”

“Canadian farmers want a more economical and effective way to protect their crops from pests,” said Keith Thomas, CEO, Vive Crop Protection. “Thanks to support from the Government of Canada through Sustainable Development Technology Canada, Vive Crop Protection will further develop the Allosperse platform, precisely targeting pesticides where they act on crops.”

The best crop protection happens when pesticides stay where they are intended to protect the crop, for example on a crop’s leaves or at its roots. Vive has developed Allosperse®, a tiny particle that has unique properties: it has a hydrophilic (water-loving) exterior and an oleophillic (oil-loving) interior. Pesticides, which are also oleophillic, are loaded into the particle before application to crops. The next generation of Allosperse particles will have increased stickiness to leaves, avoiding run-off during the rain, and will penetrate leaves and seeds to offer systemic plant protection. Finally, the specially-designed particles will control the movement of the particle through the soil, allowing it to target pests at the plant’s roots. Less product, and therefore less cost, would be required to achieve equivalent results, and growers can get better protection with less accidental surface water run-off and soil contamination.

I have written about Vive Crop previously (most recently in an Aug. 7, 2013 posting when they received approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency for an insecticide) and my curiosity about Allosperse particles has not yet been satisfied. What are the chemical constituents? In lieu of an answer to that question (it’s nowhere on the company website), I found more information about Vive Crop and its SDTC-funded projects in this latest round of funding. As I noted previously, Vive Crop is involved in two of the funded projects as per the Sept. 9, 2013 SDTC backgrounder,

2. Lead organization: Macrotek

Project Title: Novel MVI Acid Gas Scrubbing Technology Project

Environmental Benefits: Climate Change/Clean Air/Clean Water/Clean Soil

Economic Sector: Waste management

SDTC Investment: $2 million

Consortium Members:

Macrotek

Vive Crop Protection [emphasis mine]

Plasco Energy Group

Project Description:

To avoid injecting contaminants into the atmosphere, industries use chemical reactions to “scrub” exhaust before it is emitted from smokestacks. However, current scrubbing techniques use caustic and oxidizing reagents (materials used to produce a chemical reaction). Macrotek has developed a groundbreaking suite of technologies that scrub in a novel, cost-effective and efficient way. The technology is developed initially to eliminate hydrogen sulfide (H2S), which is a major component of acid rain, from industrial gas streams. The technology uses a regenerative reagent, drastically reducing reagent consumption. It also converts H2S into its elemental form of sulphur, eliminating the current need to treat sulphate byproduct in wastewater streams. When full life-cycle costs are considered, this technology could cost less than 50 percent of the operating costs of traditional scrubber technologies, while maintaining or improving contaminant removal efficiency. This technology has the potential to address a multitude of other pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, simultaneously.

3. Lead organization: Vive Crop Protection

Project Title: Targeted Delivery for Crop Protection

Environmental Benefits: Clean water/clean soil

Economic Sector: Agriculture

SDTC Investment: $3.7 million

Consortium Members:

Vive Crop Protection

Dow AgroSciences LLC

Loveland Products Inc. (a division of crop production services)

Makhteshim Agan of North America Inc.

Halltech Inc.

University of Alberta – Office of Environmental NanoSafety

University of Toronto – Institute for Optical Sciences

McGill University

Project Description:

The best crop protection happens when pesticides stay where they are intended to protect the crop, for example on a crop’s leaves or at its roots. Vive has developed Allosperse®, a tiny particle that has unique properties: it has a hydrophilic (water-loving) exterior and an oleophilic (oil-loving) interior. Pesticides, which are also oleophilic, are loaded into the particle before application to crops. The next generation of Allosperse particles will have increased stickiness to leaves, avoiding run-off during the rain, and will penetrate leaves and seeds to offer systemic plant protection. Finally, the specially designed particles will control the movement of the particle through the soil, allowing it to target pests at the plant’s roots. Less product, and therefore less cost, would be required to achieve equivalent results, and growers can get better protection with less accidental surface water run-off and soil contamination.

Congratulations to Vive Crop and all of the other funding recipients!

Situating Science and the future

The end is in sight (2014) for Canada’s Situating Science; Science in Human Contexts network or rather,  the organization’s funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) will be exhausted sometime soon. According to their Fall 2013 newsletter, they are making plans for the future,

I. SUSTAINING THE NETWORK AND ACTIVITIES BEYOND 2014
While this year is the last for the Situating Science SSHRC Strategic Knowledge Cluster, it is an opportunity to celebrate and build upon our successes. As part of our plans, we will follow up on last year’s “think-tank” and management meetings to set out concrete plans for sustaining the network and activities of Cluster scholars beyond its 7 years. A number of Cluster partners and stakeholders will meet during a second “think-tank” to discuss best strategies for moving forward.

The “think-tank” will dovetail nicely with a special symposium in Ottawa on Science and Society Oct. 21-23. For this symposium, the Cluster is partnering with the Institute for Science, Society and Policy to bring together scholars from various disciplines, public servants and policy workers to discuss key issues at the intersection of science and society. [emphasis mine]  The discussions will be compiled in a document to be shared with stakeholders and the wider public.

The team will continue to seek support and partnerships for projects within the scope of its objectives. Among our top priorities are a partnership to explore sciences, technologies and their publics as well as new partnerships to build upon exchanges between scholars and institutions in India, Singapore and Canada.

There’s not much information about the Science & Society symposium (mentioned in the excerpt from the newsletter)  being held Oct. 21-23, 2013 in Ottawa other than this, from the About page (the text seems as if it was lifted out of a grant proposal),

Science and Society 2013 Symposium
Emerging Agendas for Citizens and the Sciences
From the evening of Mon. Oct. 21 through Wed. Oct. 23, 2013
University of Ottawa
[email protected]

What?

The Mission of the symposium is to create an open forum, in the Nation’s capital, to understand and address the key issues at the interface of science, technology, society and policy. The event will display the importance of connecting disparate themes and will bring together groups not usually in contact to discuss subjects of common interest and brainstorm solutions to common challenges. It will demonstrate that collaboration among academics, students, policy makers, stakeholders and the public at large can lead to new insights, new perspectives, and a deeper understanding of the social implications of science and technology.  It will also make the discussion of science more prominent in the national dialogue.

The symposium will be a major event in Ottawa during National Science and Technology Week. It is a collaboration between the Situating Science Strategic Knowledge Cluster and Institute for Science, Society and Policy (ISSP).

Fostering dialogue between scholars, students, public servants and the general public will not only shed new light on the common challenges and opportunities facing these groups but will also point the way towards novel solutions and courses of action.

The uniqueness of the symposium consists in its aim to provide recommendations on how to envision and improve the science-society interface.  As part of their involvement in the event, all speakers and participants will be asked to address the following question:

How can we understand and improve the interplay between science and society, and improve science policies for the future?

On the basis of the debate and answers, a results document will be created in which the potentially diverging views of different groups will be analyzed and distributed among media and key decision makers.

Science and Society 2013 aims to connect different communities and uncover common goals, competing concerns and the possibility of joint strategies. It will involve and reach out to practitioners from various sectors, academics of diverse disciplines and an increasingly interested public.  At its broadest level it will explore the relationships between public policy, scientific research and the study of science itself – including but limited to how these inform one another.

The symposium will have an academic component during much of the day; and a public component designed for a truly broad audience and potentially involving additional collaborators.

How?

The proposed Session Themes include:
Science and Democracy; Value-Laden Science; International Lessons in Science Policy; Citizen Science; Technology and Media; Responsible Innovation and the Future of Technology; Art, Science and Technology; Open Science; Government Science; Education and the Culture of Science; and Innovation and Society.

The event will produce the following outcomes:

  • New media and political interest, in particular with respect to key issues (e.g. muzzling scientists, evidence-based decision making, the importance of public science);
  • A results document, published by the ISSP, summarizing key insights regarding science and society for distribution among media and key decision makers;
  • New thinking and debate among scholars, policymakers, scientists, students and the public;
  • New networks;
  • Dissemination of conference content in print and/or www formats and/or video/podcast/live streaming;
  • Student training and engagement.

Why?

Science and technology shape our world. They present great promise but they are also the source of much controversy and social anxiety. Like never before, there is a need for broad and informed discussion of science and technology and their place in our society.

Yet the communities that engage in, benefit from, and seek to understand science and technology are often disconnected.  Their shared interests are often misunderstood, and their common goals overlooked.  This disconnect not only impoverishes our grasp of science and technology and their social implications but can also have negative consequences for the public good, particularly at a time when Canadian science faces such profound challenges.

Who?

The partners and co-organizers of the event are the Situating Science SSHRC Strategic Knowledge Cluster and the University of Ottawa Institute for Science, Society and Policy.

The Organizing Committee consists of:

  • Marc Saner, Director, Institute for Science, Society and Policy, University of Ottawa
  • Jeremy Geelen, Project and Public Affairs Manager, Institute for Science, Society and Policy, University of Ottawa
  • Dara Marcus, Student Event Organizer, Institute for Science, Society and Policy, University of Ottawa
  • Gordon McOuat, Director, Situating Science Strategic Knowledge Cluster, University of King’s College
  • Emily Tector, Project Coordinator, Situating Science Strategic Knowledge Cluster, University of King’s College.

Each partner has a proven track record of organizing events on science and society.
Situating Science, through the various conferences, symposium and public events it has supported across Canada with its many partners from different disciplines and sectors, has explored the social and cultural significance of science and technology.  And the ISSP has held and supported several events in Ottawa dealing with cutting-edge technologies and their social and political implications.

Both partners have brought diverse groups together before.  Each has its own networks, resources and strengths that align with select themes and audiences of the symposium.  The successful combination of these capacities will make Science and Society 2013 a multi-sectorial, multi-disciplinary event that addresses issues of concern to all Canadians.

The following organizations are current supporters:

The organizers expect approximately 60 participants at the event during the day, with a much larger audience at the public sessions.

Getting back to the Situating Science Fall 2013 newsletter, there will be a number of workshops and events across the country this fall,

ATLANTIC:
Can We Sustain the Plant, and Democracy too?
Philip Kitcher, John Dewey Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University
Oct. 3, 2013 7pm
Ondaatje Hall, Marion McCain Building, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS

Isaac Newton’s General Scholium to the Principia: Science, Religion and Metaphysics Tercentenary Workshop
October 24-26, 2013
University of King’s College, Halifax, NS

MONTREAL:

Canadian Science and Technology Historical Association Conference
UQAM, Montreal, Qc.
November 1-3, 2013

Fall Lecture Series at UQAM
All held at 12:30pm in Local N-8150, Pavillon Paul-Gérin-Lajoie, UQAM, Montreal, Qc.

Schedule:
Expérience et expérimentalisme chez John Dewey
Joëlle Zask, maître de conférences en philosophie, Université de Provence
September 11, 2013

Une fuite de phosgène à l’usine Tolochimie en 1973. Réflexions sur ce que contenir veut dire en matière de pollution atmosphérique ?
Florian Charvolin, Centre Max Weber et Université Jean Monnet
September 13, 2013

In the Kingdom of Solovia: The Rise of Growth Economics at MIT, 1956-1970
Mauro Boianovsky, Département d’économie, Universidade de Brasília
et Kevin Hoover (conférencier), Département d’économie et de philosophie, Duke University.
Coorganisée avec le Département  de sciences économiques de l’UQAM
December 6, 2013

Thomas Jefferson, Count Buffon, and a Giant Moose: When Natural History and History Collide?
Lee Dugatkin, Department of Biology, University of Louisville.
Coorganisée avec la Faculté de sciences de l’UQAM
December 13, 2013

Fall Lecture Series at McGill
Full details to be posted shortly.

Highlights:
Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, Director, Max-Plank Institute for the History of Science.
In partnership with the department of Social Studies of Medicine.

Steven Shapin, Franklin L. Ford Professor of the History of Science, Harvard University.
In conjunction with McGill’s Mossman Lecture.

Liquid Intelligence and the Aesthetics of Fluidity Workshop
October 25-26, 2013
McCord Museum, McGill University, Montreal, Qc.

ONTARIO:

Reading Artifacts Summer Institute
August 19-23, 2013
Canadian Science and Technology Museum, Ottawa, Ont.

Science and Society Symposium
Oct. 21-23, 2013
University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ont.

Technoscience Salon on Critical Itineraries
University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont.

Preliminary Schedule:
Celia Lowe, Anthropology, University of Washington
September 26, 2013

Kavita Philip, Women’s Studies, UC Irvine
November 8, 2013

Others confirmed:
Fa-Ti Fan, History, Binghamton University

Stacey Langwick, Anthropology, Cornell University

Alondra Nelson, Institute for Research on Women and Gender, Columbia University

SASKATCHEWAN:

Connections and Communities in Health and Medicine Conference
Manitoba-Northwest Ontario-Minnesota-Saskatchewan (MOMS) & Society for the Social History of Medicine Postgraduate (SSHM) / Early Career History of Medicine (ECHM) Conference
September 12-14, 2013
University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada

ALBERTA:
More than Natural Selection: A Lecture Series on Alfred Russell Wallace
October 2-30, 2013 Wednesdays at 3:30pm
Tory Building 2-58, University of Alberta

Kathleen Lowrey, Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta
October 2, 2013

Robert Smith, Department of History and Classics, University of Alberta
October 9, 2013

Andrew Berry, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University
October 16, 2013

Martin Fichman, Department of Humanities, York University
October 23, 2013

Christine Ferguson, School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow
October 30, 2013

UBC [University of British Columbia]:
Details will become available online shortly.

IN THE WORKS:
Keep abreast of all the latest developments of events and activities online via our website and social media.

Planning for a national lecture series for late winter/early spring is underway. The focus of this series will be on the timely issue of science and evidence. The Cluster is also in the process of planning a special Cluster Summer Institute for next summer.

I have some news about the University of British Columbia and a Science and Technology Studies event for Fall 2013. Bruno Latour will be in Vancouver giving both lectures and seminars. There’s a lecture for which there are absolutely no tickets (but there will be a standby line)  on Monday, Sept. 23, 2013, from the Peter Wall Downtown Lecture Series event page (Note: Since this is an ‘event’ page, once the Bruno Latour lecture has been delivered, they will likely list the next lecture in their series on the page),

War and Peace in an Age of Ecological Conflict

The Vogue Theatre — Monday, September 23, 2013, at 7:30 pm

Tickets are now sold out. A standby line will be available the night of the event.

Dr. Bruno Latour is professor at Sciences Po Paris. Trained in philosophy, he has been instrumental in the development of an anthropology of science and technology. This field has had a direct impact on the philosophy of ecology and on an alternative definition of modernity. He has taught for many years in North American universities. Most of his books have been published with Harvard University Press. The most recently published is An Inquiry into Modes of Existence ‐ An Anthropology of the Moderns. All references and most articles may be found on www.bruno‐latour.fr. Bruno Latour gave the six Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion for 2013, under the title Facing Gaia, Six Lectures on the Political Theology of Nature, and was awarded the prestigious Holberg Prize for 2013 http://www.holbergprisen.no/en.

While politics has always been linked to geography, the Earth itself has largely been seen as playing a backstage role, the mere window-dressing for human intention and interest. With the advent of the epoch known as the ‘Anthropocene’, the Earth is no longer in the background, but very much in the foreground, in constant rivalry with human intentionality. In the meantime, human action has taken on a dimension that matches that of nature itself, and consequently the definition of geo‐politics has been transformed. Appeals to nature, therefore, do not seem to have the same pacifying and unifying effect that they did in earlier ecological movements. By drawing on anthropological and philosophical literature, this lecture will discuss this new geopolitical framework and show how the extension of politics into nature must modify our views on war and peace in the future.

About the Venue

Designed as a dual-purpose theatre to showcase both live performances and movies, the Vogue has been a preferred venue for performers, filmmakers, and audiences alike since 1941 and is prominent landmark of Vancouver’s theatre district.

The Vogue Theatre is located at:
918 Granville Street
Vancouver, BC V6Z 1L2

Parking
The closest pay parking available is behind the theatre on the 900 block of Seymour St.

Accessibility
Wheelchair spaces are located to the right of the center aisle, on the orchestra level (row 19).

Other opportunities to see Bruno Latour in Vancouver include, from a July 10, 2013 posting on the UBC Geographer blog,

Sept 25 [2013]: STS seminar

BRUNO LATOUR, Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris
An Inquiry into Modes of Existence
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Location: TBA 10am-12pm
DAY’S SCHEDULE IN DETAIL
10-12pm Discussion with Bruno about An Inquiry into Modes of Existence (Harvard UP, 2013)
5:30pm Debate with Philippe Descola at MOA [Museum of Anthropology]
“Approaches to the Anthropocene”
Contact [email protected]  if you have any questions about Bruno Latour’s visit to UBC

I offer one hint about contacting Neil Safier, he was not responsive when I sent a query earlier this summer (2013) about another public workshop  (Simon Schaffer of Leviathan and the Air Pump fame) so, you may need to send more than one query to get a response.

Returning one more time to Situating Science, for those who want to see the whole Fall 2013 newsletter, here’s the PDF.

Cyborgian dance at McGill University (Canada)

As noted in the Canadian Council of Academies report ((State of Science and Technology in Canada, 2012), which was mentioned in my Dec. 28, 2012 posting, the field of visual and performing arts is an area of strength and that is due to one province, Québec. Mark Wilson’s Aug. 13, 2013 article for Fast Company and Paul Ridden’s Aug. 7, 2013 article for gizmag.com about McGill University’s Instrumented Bodies: Digital Prostheses for Music and Dance Performance seem to confirm Québec’s leadership.

From Wilson’s Aug. 13, 2013 article (Note: A link has been removed),

One is a glowing exoskeleton spine, while another looks like a pair of cyborg butterfly wings. But these aren’t just costumes; they’re wearable, functional art.

In fact, the team of researchers from the IDML (Input Devices and Music Interaction Laboratory [at McGill University]) who are responsible for the designs go so far as to call their creations “prosthetic instruments.”

Ridden’s Aug. 7, 2013 article offers more about the project’s history and technology,

For the last three years, a small research team at McGill University has been working with a choreographer, a composer, dancers and musicians on a project named Instrumented Bodies. Three groups of sensor-packed, internally-lit digital music controllers that attach to a dancer’s costume have been developed, each capable of wirelessly triggering synthesized music as the performer moves around the stage. Sounds are produced by tapping or stroking transparent Ribs or Visors, or by twisting, turning or moving Spines. Though work on the project continues, the instruments have already been used in a performance piece called Les Gestes which toured Canada and Europe during March and April.

Both articles are interesting but Wilson’s is the fast read and Ridden’s gives you information you can’t find by looking up the Instrumented Bodies: Digital Prostheses for Music and Dance Performance project webpage,

These instruments are the culmination of a three-year long project in which the designers worked closely with dancers, musicians, composers and a choreographer. The goal of the project was to develop instruments that are visually striking, utilize advanced sensing technologies, and are rugged enough for extensive use in performance.

The complex, transparent shapes are lit from within, and include articulated spines, curved visors and ribcages. Unlike most computer music control interfaces, they function both as hand-held, manipulable controllers and as wearable, movement-tracking extensions to the body. Further, since the performers can smoothly attach and detach the objects, these new instruments deliberately blur the line between the performers’ bodies and the instrument being played.

The prosthetic instruments were designed and developed by Ph.D. researchers Joseph Malloch and Ian Hattwick [and Marlon Schumacher] under the supervision of IDMIL director Marcelo Wanderley. Starting with sketches and rough foam prototypes for exploring shape and movement, they progressed through many iterations of the design before arriving at the current versions. The researchers made heavy use of digital fabrication technologies such as laser-cutters and 3D printers, which they accessed through the McGill University School of Architecture and the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology, also hosted by McGill.

Each of the nearly thirty working instruments produced for the project has embedded sensors, power supplies and wireless data transceivers, allowing a performer to control the parameters of music synthesis and processing in real time through touch, movement, and orientation. The signals produced by the instruments are routed through an open-source peer-to-peer software system the IDMIL team has developed for designing the connections between sensor signals and sound synthesis parameters.

For those who prefer to listen and watch, the researchers have created a video documentary,

I usually don’t include videos that run past 5 mins. but I’ve made an exception for this almost 15 mins. documentary.

I was trying to find mention of a dancer and/or choreographer associated with this project and found a name along with another early stage participant, choreographer, Isabelle Van Grimde, and composer, Sean Ferguson, in Ridden’s article.

NanoValid invites you to a Sept. 2013 workshop on the Advanced Characterization of Nanomaterial

I received (Aug. 5, 2013) an announcement, which I’m passing on here, about a workshop taking place in Spain this coming September (2013),

The EC-funded NanoValid Project (www.nanovalid.eu) invites you to register for the last remaining places at the “Advanced Characterization of Nanomaterials” workshop organised by the University of Zaragoza and the Institute of Nanoscience of Aragon (INA).

When: September 16th – 20th 2013

Where: University of Zaragoza, Institute of Nanoscience of Aragon

BACKGROUND:

The characterization of nanomaterials is a challenging topic that requires in-depth knowledge of physicochemical techniques and state-of-the-art devices. This workshop contributes to continuous training of analytical procedures at the nanoscale for enhancing current knowledge and developing novel materials and procedures in nanotechnology.

FEATURES AND BENEFITS:

•             Addresses both PhD students and Post-Doc researchers

•             Access to advanced techniques of nanotechnology

•             Fully qualified scientific and technical personnel

•             Open poster and oral communication sessions

FEE:

€ 525:    This includes workshop fees, a welcome reception, lunches, coffee-breaks & booklet.

Optional banquet in a traditional Aragonese cuisine venue (€50)

PROGRAMME:

The full programme includes theory sessions, practical demonstrations and training sessions, as well as oral and poster presentations (…).

REGISTER HERE:

http://www.nanovalid.eu/events/ws/registration.htm

FURTHER INFORMATION:

[email protected]

M. Pilar Lobera, PhD ([email protected]); Francisco Balas, PhD ([email protected])

http://ina.unizar.es

Not having previously investigated the NanoValid project, I checked out the homepage,

The EU FP7 large-scale integrating project NanoValid (contract: 263147) has been launched on the 1st of November 2011, as one of the “flagship” nanosafety projects. The project consists of 24 European partners from 14 different countries and 6 partners from Brazil, Canada, India and the US and will run from 2011 to 2015, with a total budget of more than 13 mio EUR (EC contribution 9.6 mio EUR). [emphasis mine] Main objective of NanoValid is to develop a set of reliable reference methods and materials for the fabrication, physicochemical (pc) characterization, hazard identification and exposure assessment of engineered nanomaterials (EN), including methods for dispersion control and labelling of ENs. Based on newly established reference methods, current approaches and strategies for risk and life cycle assessment will be improved, modified and further developed, and their feasibility assessed by means of practical case studies.

In cooperation with other relevant projects, such as MARINA and QNano, and relevant standardization bodies, such as the OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] WPMN [Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials], existing industrial or newly designed ENs will be subjected to a rigid and comprehensive inter-laboratory validation campaign that includes the currently most advanced methods and instruments for measuring and characterizing of ENs, to generate accurate and reproducible material data and standardized method protocols, also for tracing and quantifying nanoparticles (NP) in complex matrices. The stability and behaviour of selected NP will be monitored and tested in a variety of relevant environmental samples and test media to derive optimum and reproducible fabrication, measurement and test conditions.

The validated characterization methods will be used to design well-defined certified reference materials, which in turn will help to validate, adapt, modify and further develop current biological approaches (in vitro, in vivo and in silico) for assessing hazard and exposure of ENs, and associated risks to human health and the environment. Effects of chronic and accumulative exposure and of exposure under real-life conditions, where ENPs [engineered nanoparticles] are likely to act as components of complex mixtures, will be duly taken into account.

It was a little surprising to find Canada listed as one of the project partners. I also found this map of the consortium participants which lists McGill University specifically as the Canadian participant.

I briefly mentioned NanoValid in a June 19, 2012 posting which featured a listing of Environmental, Health and Safety projects being funded by the European Union’s 7th Framework Programme.

Canadian and Japanese researchers create new technique for using iron nanoparticles in greener hydrogenation process

McGill University’s Audrey Moores and her team’s latest green chemistry work with researchers at RIKEN (The Institute of Physical and Chemical Research, Wako, Japan) and the Institute for Molecular Science (Okazaki, Japan) is featured in a June 27, 2013 news item on Nanowerk,

Researchers from McGill University, RIKEN (The Institute of Physical and Chemical Research, Wako, Japan) and the Institute for Molecular Science (Okazaki, Japan) have discovered a way to make the widely used chemical process of hydrogenation more environmentally friendly – and less expensive.

Hydrogenation is a chemical process used in a wide range of industrial applications, from food products, such as margarine, to petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals. The process typically involves the use of heavy metals, such as palladium or platinum, to catalyze the chemical reaction. While these metals are very efficient catalysts, they are also non-renewable, costly, and subject to sharp price fluctuations on international markets.

Because these metals are also toxic, even in small quantities, they also raise environmental and safety concerns. Pharmaceutical companies, for example, must use expensive purification methods to limit residual levels of these elements in pharmaceutical products. Iron, by contrast, is both naturally abundant and far less toxic than heavy metals.

Previous work by other researchers has shown that iron nanoparticles — tiny pieces of metallic iron — can be used to activate the hydrogenation reaction. Iron, however, has a well-known drawback: it rusts in the presence of oxygen or water. When rusted, iron nanoparticles stop acting as hydrogenation catalysts. This problem, which occurs with so much as trace quantities of water, has prevented iron nanoparticles from being used in industry.

The June 27, 2013 McGill University news release on EurekAlert, which originated the news item, provides details about the new technique,

The key to this new method is to produce the particles directly inside a polymer matrix, composed of amphiphilic polymers based on polystyrene and polyethylene glycol. The polymer acts as a wrapping film that protects the iron surface from rusting in the presence of water, while allowing the reactants to reach the water and react.

This innovation enabled the researchers to use iron nanoparticles as catalyst in a flow system, raising the possibility that iron could be used to replace platinum-series metals for hydrogenation under industrial conditions.

“Our research is now focused on achieving a better understanding of how the polymers are protecting the surface of the iron from water, while at the same time allowing the iron to interact with the substrate,” says Audrey Moores, an assistant professor of chemistry at McGill and co-corresponding author of the paper.

“The approach we have developed through this collaboration could lead to more sustainable industrial processes,” says Prof. Uozumi [Prof. Yasuhiro Uozumi of Riken]. “This technique provides a system in which the reaction can happen over and over with the same small amount of a catalytic material, and it enables it to take place in almost pure water — the green solvent par excellence.”

I last wrote about greener chemistry and iron nanoparticles in a March 28, 2012 posting concerning some work at the University of Toronto while the last time McGill, green chemistry, and Audrey Moores were mentioned here was in a Jan. 10, 2011 posting concerning ‘nanomagnetics.

For those who are interested in this latest work from McGill, here’s a link to and a citation for the published paper,

Highly efficient iron(0) nanoparticle-catalyzed hydrogenation in water in flow by Reuben Hudson, Go Hamasaka, Takao Osako, Yoichi M. A. Yamada, Chao-Jun Li, Yasuhiro Uozumi, and Audrey Moores.
Green Chem., 2013, Advance Article DOI: 10.1039/C3GC40789F

First published online 27 Jun 2013

This paper is behind a paywall.

TRIUMF looks for new Director as Nigel S. Lockyer exits for the Fermilab (US)

The circumstances around Nigel S. Lockyer’s departure as Director of Canada’s National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics, TRIUMF,  are very interesting. Just weeks ago, TRIUMF announced a major innovation for producing medical isotopes (my June 9, 2013 posting), which should have an enormous impact on cities around the world and their access to medical isotopes. (Briefly, cities with cyclotrons could produce, using the technology developed by TRIUMF,  their own medical isotopes without using material from nuclear reactors.)

Also in the recent past, Canada’s much storied McGill University joined the TRIUMF consortium (I’m surprized it took this long), from the May 10, 2013 news release,

At its recent Board of Management meeting, TRIUMF approved McGill University as an associate member of the consortium of universities that owns and operates Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics. McGill joins 17 other Canadian universities in leading TRIUMF.

Paul Young, Chair of the Board and Vice President for Research at the University of Toronto, said, “The addition of McGill to the TRIUMF family is a great step forward. McGill brings world-class scientists and students to TRIUMF and TRIUMF brings world-leading research tools and partnerships to McGill.”

The university’s closer association with TRIUMF will allow it to participate in discussions about setting the direction of the laboratory as well provide enhanced partnerships for new research infrastructure that strengthens efforts on McGill’s campuses. Dr. Rose Goldstein, McGill Vice-Principal (Research and International Relations), said, “We are delighted to formalize our long-standing involvement in TRIUMF. It is an important bridge to international research opportunities at CERN and elsewhere. Associate membership in TRIUMF will also help McGill advance its Strategic Research Plan, especially in the priority area of exploring the natural environment, space, and the universe.”

McGill University has been involved in TRIUMF-led activities for several decades, most notably as part of the Higgs-hunting efforts at CERN. TRIUMF constructed parts of the Large Hadron Collider that ultimately produced Higgs bosons. The co-discovery was made by the ATLAS experiment for which TRIUMF led Canadian construction of several major components, and McGill played a key role in the development of the experiment’s trigger system. McGill and TRIUMF have also worked together on particle-physics projects in Japan and the U.S.

Professor Charles Gale, chair of the Department of Physics, played a key role in formalizing the relationship between TRIUMF and McGill. He said, “Our department is one of the top in North America in research, teaching, and service. Undoubtedly our work with TRIUMF has helped contribute to that and I expect both institutions to blossom even further.” Professor of physics and Canadian Research Chair in Particle Physics Brigitte Vachon added, “TRIUMF provides key resources to my students and me that make our research at CERN possible; the discovery of the Higgs boson is a perfect example of what such collaboration can achieve.”

Nigel S. Lockyer, director of TRIUMF, commented, “The addition of McGill to the TRIUMF team is welcome and long overdue. We have been working together for decades in subatomic physics and this acknowledgment of the partnership enhances both institutions and builds stronger ties in areas such as materials science and nuclear medicine.”

A scant month after McGill joins the consortium and weeks after a major announcement about medical isotopes, Lockyer announces his departure for the Fermilabs in the US, from the May 20, 2013 TRIUMF news release,

In his capacity as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Fermi Research Alliance, LLC, University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer today announced that TRIUMF’s director Nigel S. Lockyer has been selected to become the next director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, located outside Chicago.  Lockyer is expected to complete his work at TRIUMF this summer and begin at Fermilab in the autumn.

Paul Young, Chair of TRIUMF’s Board of Management and Vice President of Research and Innovation at the University of Toronto said, “Nigel was selected from a truly outstanding set of international candidates for this challenging and important position.  Although it will be a short-term loss, this development is a clear recognition of Nigel’s vision and passion for science and the international leadership taken by TRIUMF and Canada in subatomic physics.  On behalf of the entire TRIUMF Board, we wish Nigel, TRIUMF, and Fermilab every success in the future.”

Lockyer set TRIUMF upon a new course when he arrived six years ago, focusing the team on “Advancing isotopes for science and medicine.”  Based on TRIUMF’s existing infrastructure and talent, this initiative ranged from expanding the nuclear-medicine program so that it is now playing a leading role in resolving the medical-isotope crisis to the formulation and funding of a new flagship facility called ARIEL that will double TRIUMF’s capabilities for producing exotic isotopes used in science and for developing tomorrow’s medical isotopes.  At the heart of ARIEL is a next-generation electron accelerator using modern superconducting radio-frequency technology.

Commenting on Nigel’s leadership of TRIUMF, Paul Young added, “One look at TRIUMF’s current trajectory and you can see that this is a man of great ambition and talent.  Working with the Board and a great team at the lab, he propelled TRIUMF to new heights.  We have all been fortunate at TRIUMF to have Nigel as a colleague and leader.”

Reflecting on his time at TRIUMF and the upcoming transition to Fermilab, Nigel Lockyer said, “Knowing that TRIUMF is in good hands with a superb leadership team and seeing its growing string of accomplishments has helped make this decision a tiny bit easier.  The laboratory’s future is secure and TRIUMF knows exactly what it is doing.  I am proud to have contributed to TRIUMF’s successes and it is my hope to ignite the same energy and enthusiasm in the U.S. by heading the team at Fermilab.”  He added, “I also expect to foster a new level of partnership between the U.S. and Canada in these key areas of science and technology.”

“Nigel has had a profound impact on TRIUMF,” said David B. MacFarlane, chair of the National Research Council’s Advisory Committee on TRIUMF and Associate Laboratory Director at the U.S. SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.  “He articulated an ambitious new vision for the laboratory and energetically set it upon a path toward an exciting world-class program in rare-isotope beams and subatomic-physics research.  When ARIEL comes online, the lab will be fulfilling the vision that Nigel and his team boldly initiated.”  David MacFarlane added, “The TRIUMF community will certainly miss his warmth, his insatiable scientific curiosity, his creativity, and his faith in the laboratory and its entire staff.  However, I fully expect these same characteristics will serve Nigel well in his new leadership role as Fermilab director.”

As per standard practice, the TRIUMF Board of Management will announce plans and timelines for the international search process and interim leadership within the next few weeks.

Before speculating on the search process and interim leadership appointment, I have a comment of sorts about the Fermilab, which was last mentioned here in my Feb. 1, 2012 posting where I excerpted this interesting comment from a news release,

From the Feb. 1, 2012 news release on EurekAlert,

In this month’s Physics World, reviews and careers editor, Margaret Harris, visits the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) to explore what future projects are in the pipeline now that the Tevatron particle accelerator has closed for good.

After 28 years of ground-breaking discoveries, the Tevatron accelerator has finally surrendered to the mighty Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN [European Laboratory for Particle Physics], placing Fermilab, in some people’s mind, on the brink of disappearing into obscurity. [emphasis mine]

It seems the Fermilab is in eclipse and Lockyer is going there to engineer a turnaround. It makes one wonder what the conditions were when he arrived at TRIUMF six years ago (2006?). Leading on from that thought, the forthcoming decisions as to whom will be the interim Director and/or the next Director should be intriguing.

Usually an interim position is filled by a current staff member, which can lead to some fraught moments amongst internal competitors.  That action, however fascinating, does not tend to become fodder for public consumption.

Frankly, I’m more interested in the board’s perspective. What happens if they pick an internal candidate while they prepare for the next stage when they’re conducting their international search? Based on absolutely no inside information whatsoever, I’m guessing that Tim Meyer, Head, Strategic Planning & Communications for TRIUMF, would be a viable internal candidate for interim director.

From a purely speculative position, let’s assume he makes a successful play to become the interim Director. At this point, the board will have to consider what direction is the right one for TRIUMF while weighing up the various candidates for the permanent position.  Assuming the interim Director is ambitious and wants to become the permanent Director, the dynamics could get very interesting indeed.

From the board’s perspective, you want the best candidate and you want to keep your staff. In Canada, there’s one TRIUMF; there are no other comparable institutions in the country.  Should an internal candidate such as Meyer get the interim position but not the permanent one (assuming he’d want to be the permanent Director) he would have very few options in Canada.

Based on this speculation, I can safety predict some very interesting times ahead for TRIUMF and its board. In the meantime, I wish Lockyer all the best as he moves back to the US to lead the Fermilab.

Montréal Neuro and one of Europe’s biggest research enterprises, the Human Brain Project

Its official title is the Montréal Neurological Institute and Hospital (Montréal Neuro) which is and has been, for several decades, an international centre for cutting edge neurological research. From the Jan. 28, 2013 news release on EurekAlert,

The Neuro

The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital — The Neuro, is a unique academic medical centre dedicated to neuroscience. Founded in 1934 by the renowned Dr. Wilder Penfield, The Neuro is recognized internationally for integrating research, compassionate patient care and advanced training, all key to advances in science and medicine. The Neuro is a research and teaching institute of McGill University and forms the basis for the Neuroscience Mission of the McGill University Health Centre.

Neuro researchers are world leaders in cellular and molecular neuroscience, brain imaging, cognitive neuroscience and the study and treatment of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and neuromuscular disorders. For more information, visit theneuro.com.

Nonetheless, it was a little surprising to see that ‘The Neuro’ is part one of the biggest research projects in history since it’s the European Union, which is bankrolling the project (see my posting about the Jan. 28, 2013 announcement of the winning FET Flagship Initatives). Here’s more information about the project, its lead researchers, and Canada’s role, from the news release,

The goal of the Human Brain Project is to pull together all our existing knowledge about the human brain and to reconstruct the brain, piece by piece, in supercomputer-based models and simulations. The models offer the prospect of a new understanding of the human brain and its diseases and of completely new computing and robotic technologies. On January 28 [2013], the European Commission supported this vision, announcing that it has selected the HBP as one of two projects to be funded through the new FET [Future and Emerging Technologies] Flagship Program.

Federating more than 80 European and international research institutions, the Human Brain Project is planned to last ten years (2013-2023). The cost is estimated at 1.19 billion euros. The project will also associate some important North American and Japanese partners. It will be coordinated at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, by neuroscientist Henry Markram with co-directors Karlheinz Meier of Heidelberg University, Germany, and Richard Frackowiak of Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (CHUV) and the University of Lausanne (UNIL).

Canada’s role in this international project is through Dr. Alan Evans of the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI) at McGill University. His group has developed a high-performance computational platform for neuroscience (CBRAIN) and multi-site databasing technologies that will be used to assemble brain imaging data across the HBP. He is also collaborating with European scientists on the creation of ultra high-resolution 3D brain maps. «This ambitious project will integrate data across all scales, from molecules to whole-brain organization. It will have profound implications for our understanding of brain development in children and normal brain function, as well as for combatting brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease,» said Dr. Evans. “The MNI’s pioneering work on brain imaging technology has led to significant advances in our understanding of the brain and neurological disorders,” says Dr. Guy Rouleau, Director of the MNI. “I am proud that our expertise is a key contributor to this international program focused on improving quality of life worldwide.”

“The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is delighted to acknowledge the outstanding contributions of Dr. Evans and his team. Their work on the CBRAIN infrastructure and this leading-edge HBP will allow the integration of Canadian neuroscientists into an eventual global brain project,” said Dr. Anthony Phillips, Scientific Director for the CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction. “Congratulations to the Canadian and European researchers who will be working collaboratively towards the same goal which is to provide insights into neuroscience that will ultimately improve people’s health.”

“From mapping the sensory and motor cortices of the brain to pioneering work on the mechanisms of memory, McGill University has long been synonymous with world-class neuroscience research,” says Dr. Rose Goldstein, Vice-Principal (Research and International Relations). “The research of Dr. Evans and his team marks an exciting new chapter in our collective pursuit to unlock the potential of the human brain and the entire nervous system – a critical step that would not be possible without the generous support of the European Commission and the FET Flagship Program.”

Canada is not the only non-European Union country making an announcement about its role in this extraordinary project. There’s a Jan. 28, 2013 news release on EurekAlert touting Israel’s role,

The European Commission has chosen the Human Brain Project, in which the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is participating, as one of two Future and Emerging Technologies Flagship topics. The enterprise will receive funding of 1.19 billion euros over the next decade.

The project will bring together top scientists from around the world who will work on one of the great challenges of modern science: understanding the human brain. Participating from Israel will a team of eight scientists, led by Prof. Idan Segev of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC) at the Hebrew University, Prof. Yadin Dudai of the Weizmann Institute of Science, and Dr. Mira Marcus-Kalish of Tel Aviv University.

More than 80 universities and research institutions in Europe and the world will be involved in the ten-year Human Brain Project, which will commence later this year and operate until the year 2023. The project will be centered at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, headed by Prof. Henry Markram, a former Israeli who was recruited ten years ago to the EPFL.

The participation of the Israeli scientists testifies to the leading role that Israeli brain research occupies in the world, said Israeli President Shimon Peres. “Israel has put brain research at the heart of its efforts for the coming decade, and our country is already spearheading the global effort towards the betterment of our understanding of mankind. I am confident that the forthcoming discoveries will benefit a wide range of domains, from health to industry, as well as our society as a whole,” Peres said.

“The human brain is the most complex and amazing structure in the universe, yet we are very far from understanding it. In a way, we are strangers to ourselves. Unraveling the mysteries of the brain will help us understand our functioning, our choices, and ultimately ourselves. I congratulate the European Commission for its vision in selecting the Human Brain Project as a Flagship Mission for the forthcoming decade,” said Peres.

What’s amusing is that as various officials and interested parties (such as myself) wax lyrical about these projects, most of the rest of the world is serenely oblivious to it all.

Situating Science in Canada; excerpts from the Winter 2013 newsletter

Situating Science is a SSHRC (Social Science and Humanities Research Council) funded network for Canadian Science and Technology Studies (STS) and Philosophy and History of Science scholars amongst others who examine the social impacts of science both in the present and in the past. The network is in its seventh and final year of funding (sunsetting) although there are plans for the future as per its most recent newsletter. Here’s a brief description of Situating Science’s  recent activities along with a listing of activities taking place in various Canadian cities over the next several months, as well as, a hint about future plans, from the Winter 2013 newsletter,

Happy New Year!

It’s been a busy few months. Members of the Cluster are now able to present you with all the latest in this Winter 2013 newsletter. In this issue, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s Strategic Knowledge Cluster, Situating Science: Cluster for the Humanist and Social Study of Science (www.situsci.ca) is pleased to update you on activities …

Given our past successes, Cluster members plan to move forward with a few grant applications to sustain and initiate partnerships and activities. Some partners and stakeholders met in October to begin the planning process for a national and international partnership to explore sciences, technologies and their publics. They also plan to arrange to meet again this year to concretize plans for a sustainable network and national centre.

The Cluster hopes to build upon partnership activities with scholars and institutions in Southeast Asia and India. Members are currently planning to seek support for a Canada-Southeast Asia and India partnership to explore cosmopolitanism and circulation of knowledge.

The Cluster Centre and its many and varied local partners kept Dr. Evelyn Fox Keller busy during her 3.5 week fall visit to Halifax as the Cluster Visiting Scholar. Her time here allowed her to research genotypic plasticity, biological information and mathematical biology on top of participating in several activities, including a public lecture on “Paradigm Shifts and Revolutions in Contemporary Biology”. She then continued to Montreal to present and discuss her work at McGill [University] and UQAM [Université de Québec à Montréal] (CIRST) [Centre interuniversitaire de recherche sur la science et la technologie] and then to Toronto for discussions at York University, a University of Toronto IHPST [Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology] Brown Bag colloquium and a Wiegand Memorial Foundation Lecture on “Self-organization and God.” Select videos and podcasts of her public events are available on our website.

Dr. Anne Harrington, professor of History of Science at Harvard University, came to the Cluster Centre in October for a packed history of medicine luncheon conversation on “Culture in the Brain and Under the Skin”. This was followed by a post-performance discussion of placebo effect and medical attitudes and treatments after an original 2b Theatre production of “The Story of Mr. Wright.” Other recently supported events and visiting speakers to the Cluster Nodes include the Reading Artifacts Summer Institute at the Canada Science and Technology Museum (CSTM); Toronto’s Technoscience Salon on Ecologies; Women in Science and Engineering Symposium at McGiIll University; Dr. Suzanne Zeller, Wilfrid Laurier University in Halifax; Dr. Arun Bala, National University of Singapore at York University; Dr. Michael Lynch, Cornell University at U. Alberta [University of Alberta]; and many more.

II. UPCOMING WORKSHOPS, CONFERENCES AND EVENTS    

All of our events are supported by a host of partners and some are recorded, streamed live online or blogged about. Please visit our website for more information.

Fri. January 25, 5 PM, University of Toronto: “Technoscience Salon: Queer(y)ing Technologies.”

Wed., Feb. 27-28, National University of Singapore: “The Bright Dark Ages: Comparative and Connective Perspectives.”

Fri. Mar. 22-23, UBC [University of British Columbia]: Workshop on “Bodies in Motion: Translating Early Modern Science.”

Mon. April 1- Th. April 4, Calgary [University of Calgary], Edmonton [University of Alberta], Vancouver [University of British Columbia]: Dr. Evelyn Fox Keller continues her Node visits out west as the Cluster Visiting Scholar.

Fri. April 5, U. [University] King’s College: “Aelita: Queen of Mars” screening with live music.

Fri. Apr. 26-27, McGill University: McGill Node supports the Indian Ocean World Centreconference on “Histories of Medicine in the Indian Ocean.”

Fri. May. 3-4, York University: Conference on “Materiality: Objects and Idioms in Historical Studies of Science and Technology.”

Fri. Jun. 7-9, 2013, University of Calgary: Workshop on “Where is the Laboratory now? “Representation”, “Intervention” and “Realism” in 19th and 20th Century Biomedical Sciences.”

Mon. Oct. 21-23, 2013, U. Ottawa: Conference on “Science and Society.” In partnership with University of Ottawa’s Institute for Science, Society and Policy and the Professional Institute for the Public Service of Canada.

V. BLOGS, VIDEOS AND PODCASTS

Blogs: A fascinating array of blog entries on summer, fall and winter workshops, lectures and events are now available on our website here: www.situsci.ca/blog.

The entries treat topics as diverse as

  • “The Women Question in Science: Women in Science, Engineering and Medicine Symposium (WISEMS) 2012”,
  • “The Play’s the Thing: Putting History of Science on Stage”,
  • “The story I hold about myself: the epistemology of Mr. Wright”,
  • “Narrative Theory, Historical Ethics, Sound Reasoning Through Pseudo-Science, and Testing Implicit Bias: a day at the WISEMS”,
  • “A Week with the Wonder Photo Cannon”,
  • “Reflections on Reading Artifacts Summer Institute 2012”,
  • “Gender and the Digital Silo: Cultures of Knowledge at Situating Early Modern Science Networks Workshop” and
  • “Notes on Caring in a Technoscientific World”. Please feel free to share and comment.

Videos and Podcasts: Videos and podcasts of events are constantly uploaded and announced on our website and via our social media. The latest uploads include:

Evelyn Fox Keller speaking on “Self-Organization and God”, “Paradigm Shifts And Revolutions In Contemporary Biology” and “Legislating for Catastrophic Risk”.

Heinrich von Staden’s HOPOS 2012 presentation entitled “Experimentation in Ancient Science?