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UBC Reports Feb 28, 2011

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 a place of mind
THE  UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA
February 2011
Mapping the power
of sunshine
Aboriginal portal
emphasizes video
The value of vitamins
Get moving
Professor Mark Beauchamp
is embarking on a study
to help Canada's youth
get more active.
By Heather Amos
By Jody Jacob First gene cloned at
UBC's Okanagan campus
By Jody Jacob
In the news
Soheil Mahmoud wants to understand how plants produce and store natural products,
UBC REPORTS
VOLUME FIFTY SEVEN : NUMBER TWO
WWW.PUBLICAFFAIRS.UBC.CA/UBC-REPORTS
Executive Director
scott macrae  scott.macrae@ubc.ca
Editor
randy schmidt randy.schmidt@ubc.ca
Design Manager
arlene cotter arlene.cotter@ubc.ca
Public Affairs Studio
ping ki chan  ping.chan@ubc.ca
amanda fetterly amanda.fetterly@ubc.ca
Photographer
martin dee  martin.dee@ubc.ca
Web Designer
tony chu tony.chu@ubc.ca
Communications Coordinators
heather amos heather.amos@ubc.ca
Lorraine chan  lorraine.chan@ubc.ca
jody jacob jody.jacob@ubc.ca
brian lin  brian.Iin@ubc.ca
bud mortenson  bud.mortenson@ubc.ca
basil waugh basil.waugh@ubc.ca
Advertising
pearlie davison  pearlie.davison@ubc.ca
Distribution
emmy buccat emmy.buccat@ubc.ca
Printer
TELDON PRINT MEDIA
Publisher
UBC Reports is published monthly by:
The University of British Columbia
Public Affairs Office
310-6251 Cecil Green Park Road
Vancouver BC Canada V6T1Z1
Next issue: 3 March 2011
Submissions
UBC Reports welcomes submissions.
For upcoming UBC Reports submission guidelines:
www.publicaffairs.ubc.ca/ubcreports/about.html.
Opinions and advertising published in UBC Reports
do not necessarily reflect official university policy.
Material may be reprinted in whole or in part with
appropriate credit to UBC Reports. Letters (300 words
or less) must be signed and include an address and
phone number for verification.
Submit letters to:
The Editor, UBC Reports
E-mail to publicaffairs@ubc.ca or
Mail to UBC Public Affairs Office (address above)
UBC NEWS ROOM
WWW.PUBLICAFFAIRS.UBC.CA/NEWS
Visit our online UBC News Room for the latest
updates on research and learning. On this site you'll
find our news releases, advisories, news extras, as
well as a daily media summary and a real-time
UBCNEWS twitter feed. You can also find resources
including access to more than 500 faculty experts
and information about UBC's radio and TV studios.
Website: www.ubc.ca/news
Tel: 604.822.NEWS (6397)
E-mail: public.affairs@ubc.ca
Twitter: @ubcnews
Publication mail agreement no. 40775044.
Return adian addresses to circulation department.
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Email: public.affairs@ubc.ca
IUBCI      a place of mind
ISSiSj the  UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA
Highlights of UBC media coverage
in January 2011
Compiled by Heather Amos
Public Affairs Office
UBC RESEARCH
Shrinking glaciers
Glaciers in the European Alps could
shrink by 75 per cent by the end ofthe
century, according to new research
conducted by scientists from UBC that
was picked up by The Guardian, Agence
France Presse, the Vancouver Sun and
others.
The study concludes thatmountain
glaciers and ice caps are projected to
lose 15-27 per cent of their volume
by 2100. The researchers argue this
will result in "substantial impacts" on
regional water availability, as well as a
rise in sea levels.
"Many small glaciers will actually
disappear by the end of 21st century,"
says glaciologist Valentina Radic,
a professor at UBC and the lead
researcher ofthe study. She noted that
small glaciers are responsible for a
substantial portion of sea level rise.
Gene discovery
The Vancouver Sun, the Province,
News 1130 and others reported that
researchers at UBC and the Vancouver
Coastal Health Research Institute have
identified the gene that destroys brain
cells in both Alzheimer's patients and
people with Down syndrome.
Dr. Weihong Song, the Canada
Research Chair in Alzheimer's disease
and UBC professor of psychiatry who
led the team, said the discovery opens
the way to find a drug that could
forestall dementia in people with
either condition.
"It will likely take years to find a
therapy or drug that could block the
spread of the disease, and that's our
next target," he said.
Mysterious salmon infection
Large numbers of sockeye salmon
are dying in the Fraser River before
spawning because of a mysterious virus,
suggests new research from UBC and
the federal Department of Fisheries
and Oceans that appeared in stories
by Wired, Reuters, the Globe and Mail,
Postmedia News and others.
The new study suggests that the fish
that die en route to their spawning
beds have a common "genomic
signature"—or a pattern that shows
changes have taken place in an array of
genes activated to fight infection.
"It may not be a virus ... but the
hypothesis is that it is," said
Tony Farrell, research chair at UBC's
Department of Zoology.
"We need to find out if it is a virus - and
if it is picked up somewhere, we need
to find out where."
Scott Hinch, ofthe Department of
Forest Sciences at UBC, said work is
already under way to try to determine
where in their life stage the fish get the
infection.
SCIENTIFIC DEBATE
Game changer
CBC wrote that a blog post by UBC
microbiologist Rosmary Redfield,
critiquing a paper by NASA scientists
claiming they'd found a bacteria that
could live off arsenic, was the biggest
Canadian Science story ofthe year in
2010.
Redfield criticized the paper's
methodologies on her blog, bringing
the scientific debate to the public.
CNN, the New York Times, the
Independent, MSNBC and others
reported on Redfield's blog posting and
her doubts about the results described
in the NASA paper, which had been
published in the journal Science.
Planetary doubt
Wired, Scientific American, Canadian
Press, CTV, CBC and others picked up on
a debate about the existence of a planet
found orbiting in the habitable zone of
another star. Using the exact same data
that identified the small planet, UBC
professor emeritus and astronomer
Phil Gregory found no significant sign of
the planet.
Using Bayesian statistics, Gregory
questions last year's discovery of a
planet known as Gliese 581g.
"I decided that I would have a go at the
Gliese 58 g data because I bring to the
table the unique system of Bayesian
statistics," he said.
Biology professor Soheil Mahmoud and
his team of graduate researchers, PhD
student Zerihun Demissie and MSc
student Lukman Sarker, have cloned
the first gene at UBC's Okanagan
campus.
The gene produces
beta-phellandrene—one ofthe
compounds present in the essential
oil of some lavender species. Lavender
essential oils are used for a variety
of purposes around the world—from
cosmetic to medicinal. Mahmoud's
research could potentially be used to
develop new varieties of lavender that
produce the specific essential oil in
greater quantity or higher quality.
However, Mahmoud stresses his focus
is on the bigger picture—better insight
into how plants in general produce and
store natural products, and how the
genes that control the production of
these compounds could potentially be
controlled.
"Using lavender as our test model,"
he says, "we want to understand how
plants produce and store natural
products, and what genes are involved
in this process. Once identified,
these genes can be used to improve
production of natural products in
plants and other systems."
Plants produce more than 200,000
natural products. Some produce colour;
some produce aroma and scent. Some
are toxic, while others are medicinal.
Mahmoud notes that understanding
the production of natural products
in organisms is important. He cites
as an example the naturally produced
compound Paclitaxel—which is
obtained from the bark ofthe Pacific
yew tree and has cancer-fighting
abilities.
"There is not enough Paclitaxel in the
world," says Mahmoud. "In fact, there
is very little of it available. But once
you clone the genes responsible for
its biosynthesis, you can use them to
improve Paclitaxel production.
"We just need to better understand the
biosynthesis of natural products, which
is what we are working on using the
lavender plant as a model."
"We are grateful to all supporters,
including funding agencies and local
businesses; in particular, Okanagan
Lavender Herb Farm in Kelowna," says
Mahmoud.
With the assistance of Genome BC,
Investment Agriculture Foundation
of BC, and the National Research
Council Plant Biotechnology
Institute, Mahmoud's research team
has produced the largest lavender
genomics resource in the world, which
includes approximately 24,000 partially
sequenced genes. The resource is
facilitating the discovery of novel
lavender genes.
"The cloning of beta-phellanderene
synthase demonstrates that we have the
technology to clone and characterize
genes here," says Mahmoud.
"I would estimate somewhere between
100 to 200 genes are involved in the
production, secretion and storage of
essential oil constituents in lavender,
and so far only four have been cloned
around the world. This is only the
beginning." •
Plants produce
more than 200,000
natural products.
Some produce
colour; some
produce aroma
and scent.
Some are toxic,
while others are
medicinal.
UBC Reports The University of British Columbia   February 2011 /
Residents of North Vancouver can go online,
find their house and see how much sunlight
hits their roof and where.
To use the website and
see the power of sunshine, visit:
http://www.geoweb.dnv.org/
applications/solarapp/
To watch a video tutorial of UBC
student Rory Tooke using the
solar calculator website visit:
http://www.publicaffairs.ubc.
ca/2011/02/01mapping-the-power-of-
sunshine To watch a video about the program
or for more information about
Changing Aging and how to apply, visit:
http://www.hkin.educ.ubc.ca/
fitness/changingaging.htm
'Students reported improvements
in motivation and confidence to be
physically active after teachers
participated in a transformational
teaching workshop." a place of mind
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Portal profiles
UBC's growing
Aboriginal
community
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By Basil Waugh
The University of British Columbia
has launched a web portal with an
emphasis on video to showcase the
growing number of programs and
opportunities for Aboriginal students
and scholars at UBC.
The UBC Aboriginal Portal-
aboriginal.ubc.ca—provides a single
online destination to learn about UBC's
Aboriginal student services, academic
programs, research community and
outreach programs.
Unlike many institutional websites,
it uses video to help put a human face
on the team that exists to support and
mentor Aboriginal students through
admissions, graduation and beyond.
"We want to help students and their
families get to know the people who
are here to support them," says Line
Kesler, Director of UBC's First Nations
House of Learning and Senior Advisor
to the President on Aboriginal Affairs.
"We felt that a personal medium like
video would help to do that."
The portal features dozens of videos
of key UBC contacts. This ranges from
basic information on admissions,
scholarships and day care to profiles
of UBC's Indigenous Academic Caucus,
an informal association of 26 faculty
members who identify as Indigenous
and are actively involved in research,
teaching and administration, much
of it with an Aboriginal focus and
substantial community engagement.
The portal opens with a welcome
in the Coast Salish dialect ofthe
Musqueam people by Larry Grant, a
UBC adjunct professor and Musqueam
elder. In another video, Ojibwa student
Catherine Pitawanakwat shares her
experience in UBC's Go Global student
exchange program. Elsewhere, UBC
Zoology Prof. David Close discusses a
scientific discovery he made that could
help conserve the Pacific lamprey,
an important source of food for his
community, the Confederated Tribes of
the Umatilla Indian Reservation
in eastern Oregon.
"These outstanding students and
scholars are important role models for
young people," says Kesler, a professor
of Oglala Lakota ancestry who also
leads UBC's Aboriginal Strategy, a
university-wide initiative to increase
recruitment, support and programming
for Aboriginal students and researchers
at UBC. "We hope their stories will
inspire students to consider
opportunities and pathways they may
not have thought possible."
Since UBC's Aboriginal Strategy
was launched in 2009, the university
has nearly doubled its complement of
Aboriginal faculty to 26, making UBC
one ofthe top recruiters of Aboriginal
faculty among research universities.
Enrolment is growing too. More
than 630 UBC students current
self-indentify as Aboriginal. Graduate
student enrolment has jumped 16
per cent since 2008. There is record
enrolment in the Faculty of Law, home
to UBC's First Nations Legal Studies
Program that (along with the Faculty
of Education's Native Indian Teacher
Education Program) was launched in
1975 to help address a national shortage
in Aboriginal lawyers and educators.
Since 2008, UBC has created 13
courses with significant Indigenous
content, bringing the total to 66 across
the faculties of Medicine, Law, Business,
Arts, Education, Forestry, Graduate
Studies and Continuing Studies.
"UBC is emerging as a leading
destination for Aboriginal students
and scholars, so we have more stories
to share," says Kesler, who encourages
students to subscribe the portal's RSS
feed to receive regular updates.
"Since 2009, UBC
has nearly doubled
its complement of
Aboriginal faculty,
making it one ofthe
top recruiters of
Aboriginal faculty
among research
universities."
"The UBC Aboriginal Strategy has
created a real jump in interest from
prospective students and faculty,
First Nations bands, high schools
and other universities."
While the idea of attending a large
research-intensive university may
be intimidating to some students,
Kesler says those qualities produce a
unique combination of opportunities
for students.
"Our size allows us to offer more
programs with an Aboriginal focus
than any university in Canada," he says.
"It means students can work beside
top Aboriginal scholars and research
important topics at much deeper levels
of investigation—opportunities they
might not get at smaller institutions."
Maija Tailfeathers, a UBC student
who produced videos for the site, says
the process was inspiring. "It was great
to meet so many researchers working in
areas that are important to Aboriginal
communities. The site really shows
some ofthe amazing things people are
doing here."
Tailfeathers, whose heritage
includes Blackfoot and Sami, an
indigenous people from Scandinavia
and Russia, says she is happy to
contribute to something that will
improve student life.
"When I think back to my first years
here, this portal would have been really
helpful," says Tailfeathers, sitting in the
First Nations Longhouse, a home away
from home for many Aboriginal students
at UBC. "It shows you who to contact for
things and helps you get to know them.
It was a really fun project to work on." •
Select
Programs
Law
First Nations
Legal Studies
Medicine
Aboriginal
Residency
Program
Education
Native Indian
Teacher Education
Program
Arts
First Nations
Studies Program
UBC's Aboriginal Portal will connect Aboriginal students with key UBC contacts, resources and opportunities, says student and videographer Maija Tailfeathers.
UBC Aboriginal Alumni
1946 1955 1958 1961   1978 1985 2005
Frank Calder
First Aboriginal
person elected to
any legislature in
Canada
nisga'a
first nation
Howard Adams
Scholar and
activist
METIS
Leonard Marchand      Alfred Scow
Retired senator,
UBC's first
Aboriginal
alumnus
OKANAGAN
FIRST NATION
Retired judge and
first Aboriginal
lawyer called to
the B.C. bar
KWICKSUTAINEUK
FIRST NATION
Ed John
Grand Chief
and former
B.C. minister
tl'azt'en
first nation
Stephen Point
B.C. lieutenant-
governor
SKOWKALE
FIRST NATION
Kim Baird
Chief
TSAWWASSEN
FIRST NATION
Visit the
UBC Aboriginal
Portal at:
aboriginal.ubc.ca
8
UBC Reports The University of British Columbia   February 2011 El
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The value of vitamins
However wonderfully made,
our bodies sometimes need
extra help to keep healthy and strong.
By Lorraine Chan
Assistant professor Yvonne Lamers studies human nutrition and vitamin metabolism.
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10
In recent years, dietary supplements
have gained popularity as a surefire
route to wellbeing.
All the more reason, says Faculty
of Land and Food Systems researcher
Yvonne Lamers, to understand how we
use nutrients from supplements as well
as natural food sources and fortified
food products.
A Canada Research Chair in Human
Nutrition and Vitamin Metabolism,
Lamers focuses on B vitamins,
specifically the levels required for
normal cellular activity. She explores
the metabolic consequences of both
high and low B-vitamin intake and
aims to discover potential underlying
mechanisms between nutrition and
disease.
Asst. Prof. Lamers explains that
B-vitamins such as folate and vitamin
B-12 are necessary not only for making
cells and DNA synthesis, but also to
UBC Reports The University of British Columbia   February 2011
keep the brain healthy.
"Lower levels of folate and vitamin
B-12 have been linked to higher risk of
pregnancy complications, heart disease,
stroke, cancer and Alzheimer's disease."
Lamers is using an innovative
research method that allows her
to trace and quantify B-vitamin
dependent pathways in the cell's
metabolic processes. Called a whole
body kinetic study, the amino acids
and vitamins have been "labeled"
with stable isotopes, atoms that are
naturally occurring and found in the
environment, food and our bodies.
The labeled amino acids, or
vitamins, are delivered into the study
participants' circulation either orally
or intravenously. Over a time span
of several hours, the researcher can
take blood, breath or urine samples to
evaluate the turnover ofthe labeled
vitamins or amino acids, their ways of
degradation and their transformation
into other cellular components.
"This approach helps us to clarify
which pathway is affected to what
extent by the altered B-vitamin level,"
says Lamers. "For example, I can look at
how different vitamin levels may assist
or potentially impair and lower the
formation of amino acids, which are the
building blocks for proteins."
Another line of inquiry for Lamers's
work is folic acid, a synthetic form of
folate—a B vitamin that helps to prevent
birth defects. Currently, women of
childbearing age are recommended to
take between 0.4 and one milligram of
folic acid per day for the prevention of
neural tube defects such as spina bifida,
a type of birth defect that develops in
the first few weeks of pregnancy.
In 1998, the Canadian federal
government introduced a mandatory
program to fortify foods such as white
Folate Foods: Spinach, cabbage, leafy
greens, meat, liver, eggs, nuts, beans,
lentils, grapes, tomatoes, oranges, whole
grain bread, eggs, milk and dairy products.
flour, pasta, and cornmeal with folic
acid. The food fortification program
has succeeded in lowering the rates
of neural tube defects. However, the
high intake of fortified foods and
supplements has made it possible
for people to ingest large amounts of
folic acid. Recently, scientists have
raised questions about whether high
intake levels of folic acid may create
imbalances with other nutrients,
specifically with a less than optimal
vitamin B-12 status. "I want to look at
the metabolic effects of high amounts
of folic acid in comparison to a
naturally occurring folate form,
whether folic acid impairs the
pathways linked to DNA formation
and cellular activity."
Lamers's findings will feed into
a review of current public health
policies regarding nutrient intake,
vitamin supplementation and food
fortification. •
Vitamin D
for
pregnant
women
By Lorraine Chan
Blame it on Canada's watery winter
sun, but women who are pregnant or
breastfeeding need to take vitamin
D supplements, according to human
nutrition researcher Tim Green.
"Our preliminary data shows that
Vitamin D levels in the mother's blood
are fairly low," says Green, an associate
professor in the Faculty's Food, Nutrition
and Health program and lead investigator
ofthe study funded by the Canadian
Institute of Health Research.
He explains that vitamin D is vital
for bone health. Without it, babies can
develop rickets, a condition when bones
are too soft and do not form properly.
Green's research partners include the
BC Women's Hospital and Health Centre
and the departments of pediatrics and
obstetrics and gynecology at UBC's
Faculty of Medicine.
"Although we get a small amount of
vitamin D from food, our bodies create it
as it absorbs sunlight," says Green. "And
during the Canadian winter, especially in
Vancouver, there isn't enough sun for this
to happen."
Green is exploring how much vitamin
D pregnant and breastfeeding women
are currently getting and how much
they should take as supplements to
ensure health for themselves and their
babies. The study makes use of donated
supplements created by Natural Factors.
With more than 200 pregnant women
as study participants, the research team
is measuring the effect of vitamin D
supplements on the growth ofthe baby
and on the bone health of mother
and baby.
As well, the study investigates the
possible eff ect of skin colour on vitamin D
levels. Skin with darker pigments,
either naturally or from a tan, tend
to absorb less light, and therefore affects
the amount of vitamin D the body
produces. Researchers will measure how
much light is reflected by a person's skin
using a device called
a colorimeter. •
11 The human touch
BBC NEWS
CBS NEWS
THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION
THE ECONOMIST
THE FINANCIAL TIMES
THE GLOBE AND MAIL
THE HUFFINGTON POST
INSIDE HIGHER ED
KELOWNA DAILY COURIER
LE MONDE
MACLEAN'S
THE MIAMI HERALD
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
NATIONAL POST
NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO
NBC TODAY
THE NEW YORK TIMES
NEWSWEEK
PC WORLD
THE PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS
THE PHILIPPINE STAR
PSYCHOLOGY TODAY BLOG
SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN
THE SEATTLE TIMES
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
THE TELEGRAPH
THE TIMES
USA TODAY
THE VANCOUVER SUN
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Last year, UBC's faculty researchers
and students made international news
headlines for their global advances.
Their initiatives, innovations and
insights are captured in the
2009110 Year in Headlines.
ubc.ca/yih
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12
UBC to study
green building inhabitants
By Salina Marshal
When it opens, CIRS is designed to be among the greenest and most comfortable buildings in the world.
Busby Perkins + Will Rendering
If you build it, they will come.
But if you build a green building—one that aims to be
environmentally responsible and resource-efficient—but people
aren't comfortable living or working in it, you risk falling short
of your green goals.
That's why UBC Master of Arts student Julia Reckermann is
factoring people into the environmental equation, conducting
one ofthe first pre-occupancy surveys ever to gather baseline
data to help study the happiness of green building occupants.
"Behavioural aspects can impact building performance,"
says Reckermann. For example, if one person opens a window
to cool off while another cranks up the heat, energy efficiency
is compromised. Additionally, if workers aren't happy in their
offices, their productivity may decline, and green buildings
will be more difficult to promote.
UBC is constructing the Centre for Interactive Research on
Sustainability (CIRS). When it opens in summer 2011, CIRS
will be a space for multidisciplinary education and research,
and one ofthe greenest buildings on Earth. It will scavenge
heat from neighbouring buildings and from the ground, draw
ventilation from the wind and harvest its water from the rain.
Using new technologies, CIRS will purify its wastewater and
generate electricity by capturing solar energy in photovoltaic
cells that are integrated into the building's exterior. And with
wood as its primary building material, it will sequester more
carbon than the carbon emitted in constructing the building
and decommissioning it at the end of its life.
For her MA thesis in Resource Management and
Environmental Studies, Reckermann hopes to shed light on
how inhabitants affect the building's performance, and how
UBC Reports The University of British Columbia   February 2011
the building affects its inhabitants.
"It's like an organism where all the
components need to work together for
the best result," she says.
"You have to look at the internal organs
as well as the shell...the influence ofthe
building inhabitants has been largely
ignored in the research."
In conventional buildings, systems
tend to be automated, and tenants are
passive recipients. At CIRS, inhabitants
will have the option of opening windows
for natural ventilation
or using manually adjusted air diffusers,
and working in naturally lit spaces or
adjusting the intensity of overhead
lamps through a web-based lighting
control system. They will be able to
review building performance data
through a web-based interface and
vote on building-wide adjustments.
CIRS aims to continuously improve
the building systems' performanceas
well as the health, productivity and
happiness of inhabitants overtime.
How will CIRS' inhabitants compare
the green experience to their old one?
Typically, inhabitants are surveyed
only after they've occupied a green
building, not before. John Robinson,
the Executive Director ofthe UBC
Sustainability Initiative, is the principal
investigator on a study that's significant
because it's one ofthe first times a
green building's inhabitants will be
surveyed both pre- and post-occupancy.
Co-investigator Reckermann is
handling the pre-occupancy survey,
to be conducted in February. She will
collect baseline data by surveying
people from more than a dozen
buildings who will be moving into CIRS.
Among other things, the survey explores
how satisfied people are with their
current work environment (in terms of
thermal comfort, acoustics, air quality,
etc.), what they know about building
systems and the activity surrounding
them (for example, thermal controls)
and their past experience with green
and conventional buildings. It also
looks at their expectations ofthe new
building, to compare to their end
experience.
Co-investigator Sylvia Coleman
will follow-up with a post-occupancy
evaluation one year after occupancy
that will allow researchers to consider
the significance and effectiveness ofthe
CIRS approach.
The study is one example of how
CIRS aims to bridge the gap between
sustainability theory and practice by
treating the campus as a living laboratory.
According to Robinson, it's not enough to
build an impressive green building. The
university needs to "study it to death:
what are all the features ofthe building,
what works and what doesn't, how do we
take that learning and get it out into the
marketplace?"
With CIRS, UBC aims to create a model
for sustainable development that can be
replicated on its campuses and in cities
around the world—a model that factors in
the human element. •
For more information on CIRS and
sustainability at UBC, visit:
www.cirs.ubc.ca.
For more information on the impact
of UBC's green buildings, and on the
university's innovative renewal program
for aging buildings, visit:
www.sustain.ubc.ca/green-buildings
1996
Setting a new
green building
standard, again
Martin Dee Photographer
The world-leading green CIRS project
is not the first time UBC has influenced
the green building industry.
In 1996, UBC broke new ground when it
opened its first official green building,
the CK Choi Building for the Institute
of Asian Research. The building was
named one ofthe Top Ten Green
Buildings by the American Institute of
Architects in 2000.
A high-performing green campus
icon that continues to draw significant
interest from green building
professionals, the CK Choi Building
boasts:
50%
Construction materials that included 50
per cent reused or recycled materials
100%
100 per cent natural ventilation
1,000
Composting toilets that save more
than 1,000 litres of water per day
23%
Overall energy use that is 23 per cent
below a comparable building
1
One plant-based greywater recycling
system that processes compost tea from
the toilets and waste water from kitchen
and bathroom sinks
13 Postdoc zeros in on genes
linked to psychiatric disorders
By Brian Lin
outtakes
Reflections on academic life
Hideto Takahashi is zeroing in on a family of genes that may be responsible for neuropsychiatric disorders
Excitatory and Inhibitory Synapses
Fluorescent neuro-imaging reveals
synapses that serve (A) inhibitory roles
and (B) excitatory roles in brain cell
communication.
Martin Dee Photograph
Like a detective zeroing in on the
Mafia, Hideto Takahashi is piecing
together clues to reveal how a family of
genes may be the culprit of debilitating
neuropsychiatric disorders.
In Takahashi's genetic crime story, the
victims are synapses, the basic units of
communication in the brain. These tiny
gaps between neurons either promote—
called excitatory synapses—
or diminish—called inhibitory
synapses—electrical and chemical
connection in the brain cell network.
The suspects—six members ofthe
Slitrk gene family—have been associated
with obsessive compulsive disorder,
autism, schizophrenia and Tourette's
syndrome. The rap sheet goes on.
A few years ago, a team led by UBC
Psychiatry professor Ann Marie Craig
developed a screen for the genes that
promote the formation of synapses.
The suspects—six members of the
Slitrk gene family— have been associated
with obsessive compulsive disorder, autism,
schizophrenia and Tourette's syndrome.
Using a combination of fluorescence
imaging, molecular biology and
electrophysiology, Craig, who holds a
Canada Research Chair in Neurobiology,
deciphers how nerve cells communicate.
"A finely tuned balance of excitatory
and inhibitory synapses is crucial
for proper brain development and
function," says Craig, who is also a
member ofthe Brain Research Centre
at UBC and Vancouver Coastal Health
Research Institute.
Building on Craig's work, Takahashi,
a postdoctoral researcher in UBC's
Department of Psychiatry, recently
found that the gene called Slitrk2
promotes the formation of excitatory
synapses, while other genes in the
family appear to encourage the
formation of inhibitory synapses.
He was recently given a Young
Investigator Award by NARSAD: The
Brain and Behavior Research Fund, of
up to $60,000 over two years, to further
define the roles played by other genes in
the Slitrk family.
"Knowing which Slitrk gene plays what
role in the formation of excitatory and
inhibitory synapses will not only help us
better understand what contributes to
synapse balance, but provide valuable
clues to other, similar genes that have
also been associated with psychiatric
disorders and behavioral abnormalities,"
says Takahashi.
"Hideto is a very talented and
hard-working researcher who has
already identified multiple new genes
that promote formation of synaptic
connections," says Craig.
"This kind of fundamental research
that unites the molecular basis of brain
development with the genetics of
diseases will deepen our understanding
ofthe mechanism that might cause
psychiatric disorders and, I believe,
ultimately lead to novel directed
therapies." •
Prof. Douglas Scott comments on the Planck
Satellite Mission and the thrill of uncovering
never-before-seen extraterrestrial objects
By Brian Lin
Douglas Scott, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, led one of
two Canadian teams in an international collaboration that recently unveiled results
from the first detailed survey of the entire sky.
Using the European Space Agency's $l-billion telescope, the 15-nation team
is poring over cosmic microwave background—the oldest source of light and remnant
ofthe Big Bang—and revealing never-before-seen objects in the foreground.
More than 300 ofthe world's top experts in physics, astronomy and cosmology
gathered in Paris last month to show off a catalogue of more than 10,000 of
these "exotic" extraterrestrial objects. Scott was there.
"I was trained as a cosmologist in an era
when theory took the lead, because there
was so little data available/
ii
"To say it was exciting would be an understatement," says Scott, who has
been involved in the Planck Mission since 1996. "Watching the launch from
French Guiana in 2009 was an emotional event, but there was uncertainty
around how well the satellite would do its job and what the data would look like."
These first results show that the satellite is working as expected and the quality
ofthe data, Scott says, is simply unprecedented.
He should know. Scott and his team—including research associates Adam Moss,
Jim Zibin and programmer Andrew Walker—are developing software to analyze and
calibrate the enormous amount of data being collected by the satellite.
It will take years of data-crunching before scientists can truly decipher what
secrets Planck's microwave detectors have witnessed, and they may cement—
or fundamentally alter—our view ofthe Universe.
"I was trained as a cosmologist in an era when theory took the lead, because there
was so little data available," says Scott. "Now cosmologists around the world are
watching this closely because the quality of the data is so good that theories have to
catch up."
As for a favourite memory ofthe Paris conference, "I delivered a humorous lecture
peppered with in-jokes about the mission," says Scott.
"The scientists really enjoyed them. The family members? Not so much."
And this won't be the last such conference. "The best is yet to come," says Scott.
Artists illustration of the Planck Satellite, which is uncovering secrets of the universe.
14
UBC Reports The University of British Columbia   February 2011 "Similar to medicine," says Walton,
"there can be problems with access to oral health
care in rural areas of B.C. These placements enable
students to experience a non-urban environment."

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