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UBC Reports Mar 4, 2004

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VOLUME  50   I  NUMBER  3   I  MARCH  4,2004
2 UBC in the News
3 35th in the World
4 Dangers of Nursing
> The First Cyberpunk
8 Micro Gadgets
UBC law professor Joel Bakan (centre) with film-makers Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott.
^olving the Mysteries of Spider Silk
UBC researcher freeing industry from a web of problems, by Michelle cook
People have been using silk for more than 2,000
I" Jj   years but scientists are still trying to unravel the
jf--, mystery of its strength and flexibility. One question
\ \ that continues to stump them is why spider silk contracts to almost half its size when wet.
In a recent study, UBC physicists found the answer,
and it could help synthetic fibre manufacturers create
better artificial silk.
"One of the things that the people making silk-
inspired fibres should be able to control is supercon-
traction," says Carl Michal, an assistant professor who
conducted the study with PhD candidate Philip Eles.
"Can you remove it? Can you enhance it? Do you
need it at all? Can you tailor a material with that sort
of property? My feeling is 'yes' and this study identifies
what parts of the silk's molecules [called polymers] are
responsible for the supercontraction. We've laid the
groundwork for the people developing these fibres to
be able to control that."
Spider silk is one of nature's material marvels.
Lightweight, biodegradable and five times stronger by
weight than steel, it is one-tenth the width of a human
hair but can snag a bee flying at 32 km/hour without
For decades scientists have been trying to duplicate
these remarkable properties with a view to developing
higher performance sporting equipment, stronger nets
and parachutes, more protective clothing for police and
military personnel, and improved sutures, bandages,
artificial tendons and ligaments.
While researchers already know a lot about spider
silk's molecular architecture, opinions differ on why it
supercontracts when it comes into contact with water.
Spider silk undergoes an interesting transformation
when it gets wet. As it soaks up water, it swells in
diameter but shrinks to almost half its length.
Popular theory is that this supercontraction tightens
up a web weighed down by rain or morning condensation, helping it to keep its shape. For this reason, some
researchers claim, supercontraction lasts for as long as
conditions require it to - that is, as long at the silk is
wet. But other researchers suggest that wet spider silk
only shrinks to a certain point then stops, and it has
nothing to do with a sagging web.
Using a technique called nuclear magnetic resonance
(NMR), Michal and his research team studied the
dragline silk of the golden orb-weaver, a fist-sized
arachnid from the tropics that produces honey-
coloured silk.
The orb-weaver uses its dragline as a frame for
spider webs and it also allows the spider to dangle and
plummet down to nab prey.
continued on page 7
Carl Michal has unravelled how spider silk shrinks
to half its size in water.
The Pathological Pursuit
of Profit and Power
A conversation with Joel Bakan, author of The
Corporation, by erica smishek
UBCIawprofessorJoel Bakan has a
hit movie on his hands.
The Corporation, which Variety
calls a "cogent, entertaining, even
rabble rousing indictment of perhaps
the most influential institutional
model of our era," has won critical
acclaim, audience appreciation and
awards from such film festivals as the
the International Documentary
Festival in Amsterdam and the
Sundance Film Festival in Park City,
Utah. It is currently playing in a
number of Canadian centres, including Vancouver, and will be released in
select U.S. cities in June.
Penguin Group has just released
Bakan's book, The Corporation: The
Pathological Pursuit of Profit and
Power, upon which the film is based
to Canadian bookstores; Simon and
Schuster will do the same in the U.S.
later this month.
Bakan recently sat down with
UBC Reports to talk about the
unique project.
Q. The film deals with a phenomenon so pervasive that it is difficult to
see. What first inspired you to tackle
Around 1996,1 realized the world
was changing in some profound
ways. Corporations were being transformed from economic institutions
into governing institutions, ones that
were governing societies and the lives
of individuals in ways that they had
never done before. At the same time,
I thought, people know very little
about the corporation as an institution. We are aware necessarily of corporations; they touch every aspect of
our lives. But we don't understand
how the corporation operates as an
institution - and, as corporations gain
more power over our lives and societies, we really need to, especially in
light of the corporation's peculiar
institutional character, which, in the
book and the movie, we liken to that
of a psychopath.
Q. The climate when you started this
project was quite different than today,
given recent scandals like Enron. Even
six or seven years ago, CEOs were
still being hailed as heroes.
Well, I'd like to say we were prescient.
But we may have just been lucky in
terms of the timing. Certainly around
1997, several things were clear. One is
that due to the processes of economic
globalization, privatization, deregulation and relaxation of merger and
acquisition requirements, corporations were becoming much larger and
much more powerful than they had
ever been. They were operating on an
international scale and they were
pressuring governments in ways that
they had never had the capacity to
pressure them before. So the corporation was truly looking like it was
becoming the world's dominant institution.
At the same time, government was
in rapid retreat from its traditional
role of providing checks and balances
on corporate power through deregulation, and, through the process of
privatization, governments were
handing over to corporations authority over the fundamental institutions
of civil society.
continued on page 3 2       |      UBC      REPORTS      |       MARCH      4,     2OO4
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Highlights of UBC Media Coverage in February 2004. compiled by brian lin
Why Canadians Are Healthier
An impressive array of comparative
data shows that Canadians live longer
and healthier lives than their neighbours south of the border What's
more, Canadians pay roughly half as
much per capita - $2,163 versus
$4,887 in 2001 - for the privilege.
Infant-mortality rates show striking
differences between the United States
and Canada, according to Clyde
Hertzman, associate director of the
Centre for Health Services and Policy
Research at UBC.
To counter the argument that racial
differences play a major role, Hertzman
compared infant mortality for all
Canadians with that for white
Americans between 1970 and 1998.
The white US infant mortality rate was
roughly six deaths per 1,000 babies,
compared to slightly more than five for
B.C. Genome Scientists Pop
the Cork on Wine Project
For centuries, winemakers have tested
soil conditions and meticulously
planned when to harvest to produce the
perfect grape. Now scientists at UBC's
Wine Research Centre will be part of
the mix thanks to a $3.1-million grant
from Genome Canada and Genome
B.C. to sequence the genome of cabernet sauvignon grapes.
"The whole point is to build not just
a high-quality wine, but a consistent
high-quality wine," Steven Lund, an
assistant professor in the agricultural
sciences faculty told The Vancouver
Sun. "The vintage is affected by the
environment, but the genetic makeup is
responding to the environment."
By sequencing the genes of the grape
berry, researchers at hope to look at the
pathways for compounds that contribute to the taste of wine.
Lund says the role of scientists is to
work with viticulturalists, the people
who plan, supervise and coordinate the
growing of grapes for the production
of wine.
"It's bringing 21st-century genomics
to wine and what we call wine
Brain Research Facility
Opens In Vancouver
The Vancouver Coastal Health
Authority and UBC recently opened
the $20 million New Brain Research
Centre at UBC Hospital, where specialists will be trying to unlock the mysteries surrounding such neurological diseases as autism, Parkinson's disease and
fetal alcohol syndrome.
"You've got people with skills that
range from physics to chemistry to
biology to engineering to medicine to
anatomy," director Max Cynader
told CB C Television, who adds that
the formation of the centre comes at a
crucial time because the number of
people with brain disease is expected
To help winemakers improve their product, Steven Lund of the Wine
Research Centre is studying the genes of the Cabernet Sauvignon
to triple in the next 20 years without
new treatments.
Classtalk Puts Damper On
Classroom Noise
UBC researcher Murray Hodgson
has designed a software program that
will put a major damper on noise in
the classroom.
The software, called ClassTalk, is the
first of its kind in the world. It helps
architects, engineers and acoustical consultants to build classrooms that help
students learn and protect teachers
from unnecessary voice strain.
Hodgson, an acoustics expert at
UBC's Centre for Health and
Environment Research who created the
program, said that very little attention
is being paid to the acoustics of classroom design, and that "designing the
noise out of classrooms benefits both
students and teachers."
The program takes into account the
physical characteristics of a classroom,
such as building materials, the number
of windows, the texture of surfaces,
lighting fixtures and fittings, all of
which influence how a teacher's voice
carries through the room and is heard
by students.
Gut Reaction
That feeling in one's bones, according
to UBC psychologist Ronald
Rensink, can be mapped.
An associate professor in psychology
and computer science at UBC, Rensink
calls visual sensing without seeing
"mindsight." He discovered the phenomenon when he was testing how
quickly people can detect a visual
It is not some sort of supernatural
sensory perception, Rensink is quick to
point out. "It is completely natural."
And do personal experiences and
prejudices play into our hunches? Yes
and no, Rensink says. Personal experience plays a role. But we also receive
cues "that we would not consciously
Oxygen Detected In Distant
Solar System
Scientists using the Hubble Space
Telescope have for the first time detected oxygen and carbon in the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar
The Hubble scientists cautioned that
the elements are not signs of life, as the
planet is a hot, gassy orb with surface
temperatures of about 1,000G
UBC astronomy professor Jaymie
Matthews told The National Post
that the detection of oxygen is not particularly surprising, but is important as
another step in learning about far-off
solar systems.
"The physical conditions of this
planet are unlike any planet we've ever
studied," he said. Known as HD
209458b, the planet is similar in mass
to Jupiter, but orbits its parent star
every four days at a distance of only
seven million kilometres. Earth is about
150 million kilometres from the sun. □
Director, Public Affairs
Scott Macrae  scott.macrae@ubc.ca
Paul Patterson  paul.patterson@ubc.ca
Design Director
Chris Dahl  chris.dahl@ubc.ca
Sharmini Thiagarajah  sharmini@exchange.ubc.ca
Cristina Calboreanu  mccalbor@exchange.ubc.ca
Michelle Cook michelle.cook@ubc.ca
Brian Lin  brian.lin@ubc.ca
Erica Smishek erica.smishek@ubc.ca
Hilary Thomson  hilary.thomson@ubc.ca
Cristina Calboreanu  mccalbor@exchange.ubc.ca
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paul.patterson@ubc.ca or call UBC.NEWS (604.822.6397) UBC      REPORTS      |       MARCH      4,      2 O O 4      |      3
UBC Now Ranks 35th among World's Universities
12th among North America's public universities, by Hilary Thomson
^ j ,j
The University of British Columbia
is now ranked 35th among the world's
500 top universities, according to a
study cited in the Jan. 24 issue of the
Published by the European
Commission, the executive body of the
European Union, and compiled by
researchers at the Shanghai Jiao Tong
University Institute of Higher
Education, the 2003 academic ranking
guide placed Harvard at number one
spot with Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, Oxford University and
University of Cambridge in the top 10.
UBC and the University of Toronto
(23rd place) are the only Canadian
universities in the top 75. The next
Canadian university in the list is
McGill University, ranked 79th.
"Strong research-intensive universities, able to compete and collaborate
with the very best internationally, help
Canada take its place in a world where
global scholarship must fuel global citizenship," said UBC President Martha
"Internationalization is a pillar of
UBC's strategic plan, and this survey
confirms that we are making great
strides in this area."
The survey, published for the first
time this year, is described in the
Economist article as a "painstaking
ranking of the world's best universities." It scores universities on five evenly weighted indicators of academic and
research performance. They include the
number of Nobel laureates produced
between 1911 and 2002, the number
of highly cited researchers and number
of articles published in science and
social science journals. Universities are
scored out of a possible maximum of
100 points.
UBC's highest individual score is in
the category that tallied articles cited in
the Science Citation Index-expanded
and the Social Science Citation Index.
Some of UBC's most-cited faculty
members include economist Erwin
Diewert, geneticist Phil Hieter, and
neuroscientists Edith and Patrick
For more information on the
survey, visit http://ed.sjtu.edu.cn/
rankinghtm □
The Pathological
continued from page 1
None of this was going unnoticed
by the citizenry. This was also the
moment when the anti-globalization
movement really gained momentum.
The first major demonstration in
North America was on this campus in
response to the APEC meeting.
And people in the business world
were responding, both to the new
powers and freedoms of corporations
and to the dissent in the streets. This is
the time business people really started
to embrace corporate social responsibility. 'Well, we have all this power,
and people are getting mad at us,' they
seemed to be saying. 'So we better be
more socially responsible, or at least
appear that way'
So a lot was going on. It made sense
to start a project aimed at understanding the corporation's institutional
nature and impact.
Q. You make the analogy that the corporation is a psychopath. Can you
A. A psychopath is defined as a person
who is pathologically self-interested,
lacks the capacity to be concerned
about others, lacks the capacity to feel
guilt or remorse when others are
harmed, and lacks the capacity to feel
any moral obligation to comply with
legal or social norms.
A corporation is a legal person that
is programmed to only be able to serve
its own self-interests and that lacks the
capacity to be concerned about others
as an end in itself. And I thought, well,
that's interesting - you have this legal
person created that has been given the
personality of a psychopath.
This is particularly noteworthy at a
moment in history when corporations
are becoming so powerful. Here we, as
a society, have created our dominant
economic institution in the image of a
psychopath. And now we are giving it
the power to control our societies.
Q. A lot of people hear about corporate
social responsibility and think - this is
great, they're making great strides. But
it's not really quite that simple, is it?
I think it's better that corporations try to
be socially responsible than not. It's better that we as consumers and investors
try to be ethical and socially responsible
than not. And I think there are some
very sincere and committed people
within the business world who want to
push the envelope as far as it can be
pushed in terms of trying to do good.
But there is still an envelope there.
Ultimately corporate directors and managers are legally incapacitated from pursuing social and environmental goods
unless they can make the case that such
actions will lead to more profit, corporate social responsibility must always be
a means to the self-interested ends of the
corporation. And that imposes profound limits on how far it can be taken.
Ultimately we need democratic legal
regulation of corporations. We can't
simply put our faith in markets or
benevolent CEOs to stop the spiral
towards ecological disaster, and corporate assaults on human welfare and
Q. Mark Achbar told The Globe and
Mail "we have to force corporations to
be sustainable''
I can't come up with a five-year plan as
to what we need to do. But I think there
are certain principles and one of them is
that we need to have structures in place
where citizens actually participate in
shaping the world that they live in,
democracy, in other words.
Whether that means that we have to
abolish corporations or we have to
impose greater constraints on corporations or we have to re-engineer the corporation so that it's designed to serve
public interests rather than only private
interests, or some combination of all of
that, I don't really know. What I do
know is that we need to reinvigorate
our sense as individuals of citizenship
and do what we can do and what we
have to do, to try to regain control of
corporations democratically.
Q. When you look back at the project,
is there one thing that stands out as the
most disturbing?
Actually I was pleasantly surprised -
pleasantly surprised by the humanity of
many of the people we encountered
along the way. The lesson that I learned
is that it's very hard to take people's
humanity away. They remain human
beings even if what they're doing in
institutional contexts, in particular that
of the corporation, is quite inhuman. To
me, that's very hopeful. □
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REPORTS      |       MARCH      4,      2OO4
Study Shows Nurses are Regular Targets of Violence
But 70 per cent of incidents go unreported, by Hilary Thomson
When she went on shift that day
in May 1992, Dorothy Leslie
thought it would just be another
day at work. It turned out to be
her last.
An emergency room nurse with
12 years' experience, Leslie was
the victim of a violent assault -
kicked hard in the back by a
patient high on drugs - that
severely aggravated a recent back
injury and resulted in chronic disability.
"I still can't believe I'm not able
to work - it all happened in the
blink of an eye," she says. She
charged the man with assault and
he was sentenced to two years
plus probation.
This is the kind of situation
UBC Nursing Assoc. Prof. Angela
Henderson has explored in one of
only a handful of qualitative studies ever done on nurses' experience of workplace violence. She
interviewed about 50 nurses
working in four different clinical
departments in hospitals and clinics in western Canada and the
She found that nurses routinely
encounter verbal abuse and physical violence in the workplace.
"Nursing is a physically dangerous job - that's nothing new,"
says Henderson, whose research
focus is women and violence.
"Nurses expect a certain amount
of abuse from dealing with
patients and families who are
stressed. However, they were profoundly affected by the level of
'unnecessary' abuse directed at
Henderson says these experiences not only have implications
for nurses' ability to be effective
in their work but may also make
it difficult to attract and retain
nurses, a key issue in the face of
international nursing shortages.
Linda Silas, president of the
Canadian Federation of Nurses
Unions, agrees.
"This is a growing problem
because violence at work is not
being addressed, despite zero tolerance policies," she says, noting
that few incidents result in
charges being laid with police.
"It's hard to focus on this issue
when the nursing shortage issue is
so acute. But when workplaces
are understaffed it just adds to
the pressure for both nurses and
patients and aggressiveness
Henderson's findings, recently
published in the Canadian
Journal of Nursing Leadership,
were that nearly all the nurses
interviewed had been personally
threatened at work and several
had been assaulted and disabled
from work because of injuries.
One emergency room (ER)
nurse was admitted on a stretcher
to her own ER following an
attack by a man angry at being
kept waiting to have his sore
throat examined. In addition to
physical assaults, violent acts
reported in the study included
emotional abuse, sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Vickie Fowler, (not interviewed
in the study) is an emergency
room nurse with 25 years' experience. She was bitten by a violent
patient who was being restrained
by six people. The patient had
hepatitis C and Fowler spent a
year having blood tests to find
out if she had contracted the disease.
"I was furious - I was trying to
save her life," says Fowler, who
says she was pretty disappointed
in the support she received from
management. She charged the
individual with assault and the
woman was sentenced to six
months' house arrest. "We have
to stand up for our own rights. I
tell my co-workers that. It's just
not right to put up with the
Inadequate response by administrators was a common theme in
the nurses' accounts. Supervisors
often were unsupportive and
some nurses who had been
assaulted or threatened were discouraged from reporting the violation to supervisors, administrators or the police. An ER nurse
who had been attacked was told
to delay her police interview and
go back to work.
In addition, some nurses' stories
described a double standard
where violence against nurses was
accepted but violence against doctors was not.
"Interestingly, it's the situations
where nurses felt they were held
in contempt that bothered them
the most - not the lethal or dangerous ones," says Henderson.
"When administrators tolerate
verbal or physical violence against
nurses, they send a message to the
public and to nurses that they are
not valued."
Despite descriptions of high levels of abuse, most nurses feel that
no one other than nurses takes the
threats seriously, says Henderson.
As many as 70 per cent of incidents are unreported according to
a 2001 study of nurses' experience
of violence in Alberta and B.C.
hospitals, reported in the
Canadian Journal of Nursing
Research. That study also reported that nearly half of the almost
9,000 nurses surveyed had experienced one or more types of violence in the last five shifts
Henderson would like to see
more reporting to bring the issue
out into the open and allow for
interventions. Most important,
she says, is that health-care workplaces must exemplify safety.
"If nurses are to support others,
they must feel supported and safe
themselves. In particular, if we
want nurses to work with female
victims of violence, we need to
demonstrate that nurses' safety is
important and that they will be
protected when they intervene in
difficult situations."
To read the study, visit _
NL164/NL164Henderson.html □
Shell Shock in the Emergency Room
Every day, nurses, doctors and other emergency department personnel face these and other upsetting events.
It's part of the job - and for some, it's leading to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
"When nurses talk about the things they see, you wonder, 'how does anyone do this work without emotional
damage,'" says UBC psychology professor Lynn Alden.
"Their descriptions about events are horrible - treating
children that have been charred, children that have been
injured, routinely watching people die. It's very hard
PTSD is an anxiety condition that can develop subsequent to traumatic events. Symptoms include intrusive
memories and images of the trauma, and behavioural
avoidance of cues that remind the person of the incident.
PTSD is known to create significant life impairment,
including occupational dysfunction.
PTSD was first recognized in people who had directly
experienced trauma, such as war veterans and assault
victims. But more recently, researchers have demonstrated that PTSD can develop in individuals who witness
upsetting events in the workplace, such as ambulance
attendants and firefighters.
In the first study of its kind, Alden and doctoral
student Judith Laposa are examining the relationship
between work-related stress and the development of
PTSD in emergency department personnel.
Preliminary findings suggest that as many as 20 per
cent of emergency department workers surveyed report
clinically significant levels of PTSD symptoms and 12
per cent meet the full criteria for the disorder - more
than double the rate found in the general population.
"There is almost a macho attitude. Health care professionals think they should be tough enough to deal with
it," says Alden. "It comes as a shock to learn that they're
human, that to be subjected to traumas that others do
Not the patients . . . the staff, by erica smishek
A child the same age as your own bleeds
profusely from a wound; her leg has been
dismembered. A severely burned patient
stares into your eyes before dying. An irate
member of a patient's family physically
accosts you in a moment of rage and despair.
not normally encounter can have a significant impact on
their work and their lives."
In the first of two studies supported by the Social
Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Natural
Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the B.C.
Medical Services Foundation, 51 emergency department
workers at a major hospital in a large urban B.C. centre
completed a questionnaire that measured sources of
stress (organizational characteristics, patient care and
interpersonal conflict) as well as reactions to traumatic
work events, including how they interpreted the cause of
events as well as their state when the events happened.
At least half of the participants reported dissociation -
some degree of going on automatic pilot and feeling
unreal at the time of the traumatic incident.
"They can feel like they're in a dream when these bad
things happen," says Alden. "They process information
about the event differently because of the anxiety."
The majority of participants reported feeling emotionally upset when reminded of the event, trying not to
think, talk or have feelings about the event and having
upsetting thoughts or images about the event that came
into their heads when they didn't want them to.
Some participants reported a more negative belief
system about the world ("the world is a more dangerous
place") and themselves following a traumatic event.
In a second study, the researchers examined factors
that would increase the likelihood of PTSD. They found
an association between interpersonal conflict and PTSD
"After a very difficult incident, you often need to share
the experience. You all go for dinner or a drink and try
to laugh, maybe using black humour to help cope with
what you've just been through," Alden explains. "But if
you can't do that, if you don't feel that sense of support
from your colleagues and hospital administration, traumatic events can be harder to process."
With funding from the Workers' Compensation Board
of B.C., the pair has embarked on a third, more comprehensive study in partnership with several B.C. hospitals.
It will include questionnaires and interviews with full-
time nurses and will examine what impact factors like
the density of traumatic experiences and the down time
away from traumatic events have on the development of
Ultimately, they hope their findings will help hospital
administrations not only be aware of the extent of workplace stress and PTSD symptoms in their employees but
help them improve the workplace climate to support
employees following traumatic events.
"According to the literature, we haven't hit upon a
way to prevent PTSD," says Alden, "but there are ways
to treat it once it develops."
They would also like to work with educators to develop programs that prepare nursing students for what they
will inevitably experience in the workplace.
"I've always been fascinated by the resiliency of the
human spirit," says Laposa, who has studied clinical psychology for four and a half years. "Ultimately, I am
interested in developing strategies that medical personnel
can use to minimize and deal with any negative emotional impact of assisting patients through medical crises." □ REPORTS      |      MARCH      4,      2OO4      |      5
Innovation, Ideas
Crossing Boundaries
Theme of Research Awareness Week.
If ideas carried passports, we'd see that
they cross many borders before having
an impact on our lives.
That concept is the theme of this
year's Research Awareness Week
(RAW) to be held March 6-13 at
UBC's main campus, UBC Robson
Square and at UBC's affiliated hospitals.
Titled "Innovation: Ideas Crossing
Boundaries," the week comprises
workshops, seminars, panels, research
days and open houses.
"We want to celebrate the new
ideas developed at the university
which have a direct and positive
impact on society," says Sid Katz,
executive director, UBC Community
Affairs and RAW organizer;
"Innovation is all about crossing
boundaries - from knowledge to
solutions, from university to community, from discipline to discipline and
from research to teaching."
Cardiovascular researcher Dr. Bruce McManus (above) is one of eight Royal Society Fellows at UBC.
Psychology prof. Sheila Woody (left)  is one of 10 UBC Killam Research Prize winners.
Highlights of the week include a
presentation on the institution of
marriage in light of the current issue
of same-sex marriage as well as a
noon-hour panel discussion on how
pharmaceutical drugs are developed.
In addition, there will be a public
debate on the compatibility of teaching and research, a presentation on
managing fairness in the workplace
and an undergraduate multidiscipli-
nary research conference.
"Every day, UBC's research
enterprise is being strengthened by
new discovery, by the addition of
new and talented researchers and by
the translation of ideas into practical
solutions and successful businesses,"
says Indira Samarasekera, UBC
vice-president, Research. "And
through interaction with researchers
in the classroom and the lab,
students receive this new knowledge
and, in turn, generate new ideas of
their own."
Other highlights include a lecture
about how governments and scientists are dealing with SARS and a
presentation by Vancouver Coastal
Health Research Institute on the
promises and risks of gene therapy.
Also, a panel of health researchers
will discuss issues such as schizophrenia treatment, ovulation and the
ethics of patents.
Samarasekera and UBC President
Martha Piper will celebrate the
accomplishments of more than 200
researchers at the Celebrate Research
Music Prof. Stephen Chatman is this year's
recipient of the Dorothy Somerset Award for
Excellence in Performance and Development in
the Visual and Creative Arts.
As a professor of composition, co-ordinator
of the School of Music's composition division,
and director of UBC Contemporary Players new
music ensemble, Chatman has mentored a
generation of prominent Canadian composers.
His career as a composer spans nearly three
decades. He has published more than 40 chora
works and his orchestral compositions have
been performed by
symphonies around the
world, including Berlin,
San Francisco, Sydney
and Vancouver. His
music is regarded as
eminently "accessible"
with a complete musical
expression, encompassing a broad range of
musical traditions,
eclecticism and
post-modern aesthetics.
Chatman was recently invited by the
National Library of
Canada, Manuscript Section, Music Division to
deposit his complete archives.
Education Prof. Rita Irwin has been awarded the
Sam Black Award for Excellence in Education
and Development in the Visual and Performing
Irwin, a professor of art education and head
of the department of curriculum studies, is
Education prof.
Rita Irwin
Composition prof. Stephen Chatman has earned
the Dorothy Somerset Award for Performance and
Development in Arts.
recognized as a superb teacher and mentor to
learners from a variety of cultural backgrounds.
She has been honoured internationally, nationally
and locally for her consistent and exemplary
service and for her commitment to re-imagine
and enrich the study and practices of teaching
and learning through the arts.
Her research has focused in the areas of First
Nations' art, culture and pedagogy, and art
teacher education and educational change. Irwin
has published extensively in the areas of art
education, curriculum theory, qualitative research
and teacher education.
An accomplished visual artist, she presented a
solo exhibition of her paintings at a Richmond,
B.C. gallery in 2003. □
Awards gala to be held on the evening
of Thursday, March 11.
The event features video vignettes
describing the work of selected
honourees as well as performances by
the UBC School of Music. Individuals
to be recognized include Royal
Society of Canada Fellows as well as
the winner of the Jacob Biely Faculty
Research Prize.
For more information on RAW,
visit www.research.ubc.ca and click
on events. For complimentary tickets
to the gala, call 604.822.6010. □
INNOVATION: ideas crossing boundaries
Topics include: The Science Behind The Technology Unveiled,Drug Discovery
Working For You, Marriage in the 21st Century and Cities and Governance.
UBC-Robson Square   800 Robson Street - Theatre   604.822.1700
March 8 - 7pm
Join Professors Dr. William Honer (Psychiatry) and Dr. Jerilynn Prior (Endocrinology)
for this free evening discussion on wide ranging research from schizophrenia to
the ethics of patents. Moderated by Dr. Sid Katz, Professor, Pharmaceutica
Sciences & Executive Director, UBC Community Affairs.
UBC-Robson Square   800 Robson Street - Theatre   604.822.17
March 9 - 7pm
What are the ethical sources and uses of stem cells and other human tissues?
Is the time and money involved in these highly personalized therapies really
worth it? Join us for this free public forum where we will take a closer look
at cell and gene therapy with four internationally recognized scientist
Moderated by former CBC radio host Hal Wake.
Children & Women's Hospital Campus - Chan Auditorium for Family
Health Education  950 W 28th Avenue   604.875.2446   reseduc@cw.bc.ca
March 10 - 5pm
Join us for a free interactive seminar on how to manage justice in the workplace
with Dr. Daniel Skarlicki. Participants will first learn what the payoff of fairness is,
and what happens when we lose track of fairness in terms of individual's morale,
commitment and productivity. Dr. Skarlicki will then provide specific strategies for
managers to increase fairness in their organization.
Register online at www.sauder.ubc.ca/alumni/raw.index.cfm or call 604.822.6027.
UBC - Robson Square   800 Robson Street - Room C100
March 12 - 12:00pm /
It has been called "shocking," "riveting.," The Globe and Mai
heralds it as "a rich layered drama packed with excellent performances that
will take most of us into a world we've never known." A screening of the
CBC miniseries, with a talk by co-writer, co-producer, UBC Associate Professor
Linda Svendsen. Free admission.
Frederic Wood Theatre    6354 Cresecent Rd   604.822.1700
The above events are just a few of many public forums, research days and exhibits that
comprise Research Awareness Week. For a comprehensive and up to date listing please
go to www.research.ubc.ca
UBC proudly acknowledges the support from
Discovery Parks 6     I
REPORTS      |      MARCH      4,      2 O O 4
The First Cyberpunk
The first thing to know about
William F. Gibson is that he
is not a Luddite. Popular
journalism has him clacking
out his nine novels on cyberspace, ultra modernity and
the advent of hyperlife on a
manual typewriter. In fact, he
wrote his first novel,
Neuromancer in 1983 on a
manual typewriter because
that's what he had at the
time. He finally booted up in
1985, and hasn't looked
back. He claims to have resisted the Internet initially, but when he discovered that it was
such a magnificent way to waste time, he couldn't resist. To
prove the point, just visit his Blog at
The second thing to know about him is that he graduated
from UBC in 1977 with "a desultory degree in English."
Born in South Carolina in 1948, he spent most of his teen
years in Virginia and Arizona, and drifted to Canada in the sixties to avoid the draft. As he says, the draft avoided him: he was
never called up. But Canada and the Canadian woman he married kept him here. He and wife Deborah have lived in
Vancouver since the early 1970s. His novels have had a huge
influence on modern science fiction, and some critics cite
Neuromancer as the most influential novel of the genre written
in the late 20th century.
Gibson remains one of the brightest stars currently writing
science fiction. He invented the word "cyberspace," and takes
full responsibility for cyberpunk. While only one of his stories
has been made into a movie (Johnny Mnemonic, 1995), many of
the ideas he presents in his novels have shown up in movies
because, as he says, it's easy to use the ideas without having to
buy the film rights from him.
His current book, Pattern Recognition, is science fiction set in
current time, about a woman who can sense cultural trends
before they emerge. □
^^f Eleven to Receive Honorary Degrees
Two Nobel prizewinners, a former
federal Cabinet minister, an Olympic
rower and a renowned pianist are
among the 11 individuals who will
receive honorary degrees from the
University of British Columbia this
Recipients are recognized for their
distinguished career achievements
and for their contributions to UBC
and to Canada. Honorary degrees
will be awarded during Spring and
Fall Congregation ceremonies.
Daniel Kahneman, a former UBC
professor of psychology, earned the
Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic
Sciences in Memory of Alfred
Nobel, 2002. He was honoured for
integrating psychological research
into economics, particularly concerning human judgement and decision-making under uncertainty.
Kahneman currently works at
Princeton University.
Sydney Brenner earned the 2002
Nobel Prize in Physiology or
Medicine for his contribution to
understanding the genetic regulation
of organ development and differentiation. His work has had enormous
influence on genomics and biology
and he has been extensively involved
with UBC students and faculty at
Vancouver's Centre for Molecular
Medicine and Therapeutics.
The Hon. John Fraser is a UBC
Faculty of Law alumnus and has
served Canada as an elected official
since 1972 until he left political life
in 1994. His service includes being a
member of Parliament, federal cabinet minister and Speaker of the
House of Commons. In 1994, Fraser
was selected to head the Fraser
River Sockeye Public Review Board
investigating the salmon fishery. He
subsequently represented Canada as
Ambassador for the Environment,
Foreign Affairs and International
Trade. Fraser is active in the environmental movement and is chair of
Pacific Fisheries Resource
Conservation Council.
UBC alumna and rowing champion Kathleen Heddle won nine world
championships and Olympic medals
while a member of the Canadian
national rowing team from 1987 to
1996. She and rowing partner
Marnie McBean are two of the most
successful athletes in Canadian
Olympic history. Heddle is a member of the Canadian Sports Hall of
Prof. Emeritus Robert Silverman
served for 30 years as a UBC professor of piano and was a former director of the School of Music. An internationally recognized pianist and
teacher, Silverman has performed
with more than 50 symphony
orchestras. He earned a Juno Award
nomination for his recording of all
32 of Beethoven's piano sonatas.
Other distinguished recipients are:
(in alphabetical order)
Artist and professor of fine arts
Iain Baxter; alumnus Larry Bell, former UBC Board of Governors chair
and business executive; Dana
Brynelsen, an alumna, innovator
and advocate for services for young
children with disabilities; alumnus,
librarian and former UBC senior
administrator Samuel Rothstein;
aboriginal health expert and advocate Madeleine Dion Stout; internationally influential psychologist and
former UBC faculty member Anne
Treisman of Princeton University.
All recipients will receive their
honorary degrees at Spring
Congregation, May 26 to June 2,
with the exception of Brenner and
Heddle, who will receive their
degrees at Fall Congregation.
UBC's Spring Congregation will
be web cast from the Chan Centre
for the Performing Arts. For details,
visit www.graduation.ubc.ca. □
Former federal cabinet minister
John Fraser will receive an honorary
in May.
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Study Reveals Canadians Willing to Pay
More for "Healthy" Houses
New opportunities for Canadian wood product companies, by Michelle cook
Retiring Within 5 Years?
Many Canadian homeowners are keenly
interested in having "healthy" houses
and they are willing to pay more for
building materials to improve the
indoor air quality, lighting and acoustics
in their homes.
The findings, part of a nationwide
survey conducted by graduate student
Wellington Spetic, in UBC's Faculty of
Forestry, suggest there is a significant
niche market for value-added building
products such as cabinetry, paneling,
windows, doors, flooring and structural
systems that many Canadian wood
producers may be overlooking.
"The idea was to find out what, if
any, impressions Canadian householders had regarding indoor environmental
quality and their level of knowledge
about healthy housing," says Spetic.
"What we found was that almost 60
per cent of the people interviewed were
familiar with the term 'healthy housing'
and there's a group of people who
would at least be willing to look at
builders who offered these features in a
Canadians spend up to 90 per cent
of their time indoors and the majority
of that time is spent at home.
Eight hundred homeowners across
Canada participated in the study, the
first of its kind to look at Canadians'
attitudes about their home's 'health.'
They responded to questions about
what they value and desire in the
indoor environment of their homes,
specifically the indoor air quality, lighting and acoustics, their level of knowledge about 'health/ housing, and their
willingness to pay for better indoor
environmental quality.
Of those who participated, 56 per
cent said they were familiar with the
term 'healthy house' through sources
such as broadcast and print media.
The 'healthy house' concept gained
momentum after the energy crisis of the
1970s when the need to conserve energy led to the construction of 'tighter'
houses. While these were more energy
efficient, they produced increased
amounts of moisture and mould in
homes which, in recent years, have
been linked to respiratory-related illnesses such as asthma.
A third of those surveyed think they
can get allergies, asthma and skin irritations from materials in their homes -
carpets, paints, glues, off gassing from
building materials and other toxic substances.
"We don't know if this is reflected in
reality or not but, what's important is
that this is what homeowners think,"
Spetic says.
Among the study's other findings
were that 56 per cent of respondents
would be prepared to pay up to nine
per cent more for improved air quality;
44 per cent would be willing to pay up
to eight per cent more for improved
lighting; and 40 per cent would be willing to fork over up to seven per cent
more for better acoustics in their
The study also indicated that women
are more knowledgeable than men on
the topic of healthy housing, but are
not necessarily willing to pay extra for
it. Older homeowners appear to be less
concerned with house-related environmental issues and are less willing to pay
more for healthy house features.
While the survey didn't reveal any
significant differences by region, what
emerged from the data was a consumer
profile of the homeowner who would
be most likely to consider 'healthier'
building materials.
They are those least satisfied with
their indoor air quality and environmental quality, and who place a high
importance on indoor air quality. They
are most likely women, middle-aged or
younger, and they have experienced
health problems they thought were
caused by something in their homes.
The results suggest that a significant
proportion of the homeowner population could be reached with targeted promotion if a company were interested in
manufacturing healthy houses and
building materials says Rob Kozak, a
professor in the Wood Science department and Spetic's advisor on the project.
"There seems to be a fairly evolved
understanding of healthful living concepts and at the same time, a clear disconnect between producers and the
marketplace. There may be an opportunity there that's being missed," Kozak
He adds that Canadian wood products companies should be looking at
how they can venture into this niche
market, because wood from sustainably
managed forests is the most conducive
material for constructing a healthy
Those who responded to the healthy
home survey seem to agree. Spetic says
many indicated they would prefer wood
products, but they feel it is less available
and more costly than other materials
and they are concerned about sustainability issues.
It's an attitude that calls for more
consumer education says Kozak, who
is part of a team that will be conducting similar healthy home surveys with
Japanese and European homeowners.
"Wood is the ecologically responsible material to be used in applications
like houses," Kozak says. "It's renewable, it's recyclable and it's long-lasting
when homes are properly designed."
In addition to this work, Kozak and
his team are currently exploring the
positive psychological impacts that
wood has when used in interior
The Healthy House Survey of
Canadian Households was funded by
Akira Yamaguchi, a Japanese philanthropist and owner of the KST-
Hokkaido, a homebuilding company
with a distinct philosophy of healthy
housing and healthful living. □
Mysteries of Spider Silk
continued from page 1
Dragline silk is made up of long
polymers. When dry, the polymers are
solid and stationary. UBC researchers
found that when the silk absorbed
water, it underwent a large-scale, rapid
molecular transition with some regions
remaining solid and other others collapsing into a rubbery state.
Picture strands of dry spaghetti that,
when tossed into boiling water, collapse and become pliable but don't fall
apart completely. Silk molecules react
in much the same way - only in room
temperature water.
"What we saw was molecules transforming from completely stationary
and static to liquid-like and rapidly
tumbling," says Michal. "There was
no in-between, no slow motions at all,
and that had not been recognized
Michal says the UBC findings support earlier studies, providing the clearest evidence to date of how supercontraction occurs at the molecular level.
He hopes the research, funded by
the Natural Sciences and Engineering
Research Council of Canada, will
guide industry in its ongoing quest for
better synthetic silk.
"For a lot of the applications for
silk-inspired fibres, you really wouldn't want supercontraction," Michal
says. "Silk's combination of strength
and stretchiness make it fabulous for
something like a seatbelt, but you
don't want a seatbelt to shrink in the
rain or when you spill coffee on it."
But will artificial silk be as strong
as the real thing if its ability to super-
contract is removed?
Michal thinks so, but that's for
industry to figure out.
"The fibres that people are developing aren't as good as what the spider makes yet. They're making
progress and I'm sure there will be
trial and error as to how you remove
some properties without affecting
others, but in some sense that's an
engineering problem that industry has
experience in solving." □
There was a time when UBC coeds could aspire to royalty.
Being a campus queen could get you a very large photo in the
UBC yearbook Totem. In 1951, there were six campus queens,
the Homecoming Princess, the Phrateres Sweetheart, the
Freshette Queen, the Totem Queen, the Mardi Gras Queen
and the one pictured above, Joan McLean, the Sweetheart of
Sigma Chi. Totem 'ji reports that each reigned supreme at
various functions and were picked by students as an important
part of campus life. □
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Dr Chu's Micro Gadgets
Mini sensors provide maximum data, by celine horner
If you're like most faculty and staff, your day starts in traffic.
Fortunately, there are other options. UBC is creating residential
neighbourhoods around the academic core that offer urban living,
recreational and cultural amenities in a spectacular physical setting.
Faculty and staff could be among the first to have the
opportunity to rent or own. For example, through the innovative
co-development housing program, you could join a group to
purchase and develop your own home. To register for an information session, call 604.731.3103.
For more information visit www.universitytown.ubc.ca
or call 604.731.3103 to register.
Just as James Bond was always armed with amazing
gadgets that Q secreted in his pens, watches, and Aston
Martin cars, researchers at UBC's new Centre for Health
and Environment Research (CHER) can now equip
themselves with high-tech micro gadgets provided by the
centre's micro sensor specialist, Winnie Chu.
CHER researchers rely on accurate measures of
human exposure to air pollutants, noise, water pollutants, and workplace hazards among others to predict
health outcomes and identify control strategies.
"One of the challenges in measuring personal exposure to environmental threats is taking measurements as
unobtrusively as possible. Sensors must be discreet and
lightweight so as to allow the wearer to continue their
normal activity," according to Prof. Paul Demers,
CHER's acting director.
In other words, there's no point in giving an ice hockey player a heavy briefcase-sized sensor to assess his
exposure to gas from a Zamboni machine during a
Designing micro sensors to help researchers overcome
these types of sampling obstacles is all in a day's work
for Chu, who is CHER's fabrication specialist.
Top of her list at the moment is the development of a
sensor that Prof. Kay Teschke can use to assess the
impact of whole body vibration on truck drivers and
other workers in heavy industry. Such a sensor would
have to be worn comfortably by the driver and measure
forces acting on the back muscles without changing the
driver's posture or position. The sensor must also measure the vibration that the driver is exposed to from the
jostling and jolting of the truck cab.
Chu explains that she will build two accelerometer
sensors: one is worn on a belt that positions the sensor
next to the muscle and measures its mechanomyograph-
ic frequency changes, and one that will be placed in the
driver's seat to measure the forces due to vibration of the
Mechanomyography measures the vibration frequency
of individual muscle fibre contractions as the muscle
moves.  Each movement registers at a different frequency, but the higher the frequency the more likely that the
muscle won't return to its original size or shape, much
like a spring that has been pulled beyond its elastic limit.
"Accelerometers have been perfected and fine tuned in
industry for use in crash impact air bags. They open at
forces indicating a collision - not if you slap the dash at
the sight of yet another traffic jam. The back injury sensor, which will be smaller than the size of an aspirin, will
yield data about muscle movement and the effects of
external forces that will allow us to predict muscle strain
and therefore avoid back injury," explains Chu.
Chu, who has a PhD in chemistry from Simon Fraser
University, is likely to be in high demand by CHER's 31
researchers over this first year of the centre's operation.
Winnie Chu determines the impact of vibrating
equipment with the help of a tiny sensor.
She is already working with Prof. Susan Kennedy on
analytical lab methods to detect indications of inflammation in the exhaled breath of workers exposed to
grain dust.
Asst. Prof. Karen Bartlett has enlisted Chu's help in
building a sensor to monitor airborne fungal spores of
the deadly Cryptococcus neoformans var. gattii, which
has been the cause of a number of deaths on Vancouver
Island. Another long-term plan is to build an indoor air
quality sensor that will use artificial intelligence to eliminate background contamination and produce reliable
readings for contaminants such as carbon monoxide.
The Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research
has provided the funds for CHER which, in addition to
micro sensors and state-of-the-art sampling techniques,
provides researchers with assistance in grant facilitation,
knowledge transfer and biostatistics.
The hope is that CHER research will involve few
high speed car chases or gun battles and that, unlike Q's
spy craft devices, Chu's micro sensors will not be
destroyed in the line of duty. □
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Have Lab, No Travelling Required
BY BRIAN LIN   (with files from Krista Charbonneau)
A unique pilot project will soon
allow UBC pharmacy students to
access laboratories south of the
border without leaving their own
A demonstration was conducted last term in a third-year pharmacy course where UBC pharmacy senior instructor Simon Albon
used the Internet to access and
operate instruments in a lab at
Western Washington University
(WWU), through its new
Integrated Laboratory Network
(ILN). _
The in-class science experiment
marked the first time a Canadian
university has utilized the ILN to
support teaching and learning.
Students observed as Albon conducted a gas chromatography
mass spectrometry experiment, a
technique commonly used by
pharmaceutical scientists but one
UBC students rarely get to practice on because the faculty doesn't
have the necessary equipment to
run it in the student laboratory.
Working with a team of professors from UBC's Faculties of
Pharmaceutical Sciences and
Education, and WWU's Huxley
College of the Environment,
Albon set up the equipment and
appropriate samples at the WWU
site and ran the experiment virtually from a UBC classroom while
students observed through a two-
way video and audio connection.
Students then used the experimental data generated to solve the
pharmaceutical case developed as
the focus for the in-class learning
"As a teaching tool, the concept
of an ILN could revolutionize
what we do, and the experience is
unique to Canadian Pharmacy
schools," said Albon.
"It's a completely different
approach," said Albon. "When
students collect their own samples,
they have ownership of their work
from the start, which helps them
see the relevance of what they're
Albon's involvement with the
ILN is a perfect marriage between
leading-edge learning technology
and collaborative teaching partnerships. As part of UBC's campus-wide eStrategy initiative, e-
learning encourages professors and
students to explore creative, technology-savvy ways to enhance
their learning experience. □


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