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Table 1: Glen Van Der Kraak, Ph.D., Professor and Associate Dean of Research, Department of Integrative Biology, College of Biological Science, University of Guelph

Tailings Ponds, Naphthenic Acids and Ducks: the Legacy of Water Issues and the Alberta Oil Sands

All aspects of the oil sands developments including surface mining, in situ extraction and bitumen upgrading are dependent on water.  Oil sands mining and processing activities may impact the aquatic environment by withdrawal of surface water and ground water, loss of fish and benthic invertebrate habitat and the leaching of contaminants from tailings ponds and in situ operations into ground water and rivers.  We will explore whether the oil sands development will jeopardize the sustainability of water resources in northern Alberta and if the oil sands industry is the most environmentally destructive project on earth as has been suggested by some media and declared critics of the industry. 

Prof. Van Der Kraak’s research has included the testing of chemicals and complex effluents for effects on the reproductive physiology of fish and amphibians in both the lab and field.   He has written extensively on the risks posed by endocrine-disrupting chemicals and recently was a coauthor of the Royal Society of Canada’s report on the environmental and health impacts of the oil sands industry. 


Table 2: John Smol, Professor of Biology, Queen’s University, and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change

“The Fierce Urgency of Now”: Our Planet’s Ecosystems are in Crisis, But Why are so few People Listening?

The Earth’s ecosystems are under multiple environmental threats.  Despite very strong scientific data pointing to the urgency of these problems, meaningful action to address these issues has been painfully slow.  What is going wrong?

Dr. Smol founded and co-directs the Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Lab (PEARL), a group of over 30 students and other scientists dedicated to the study of global environmental change.  He has authored over 400 journal publications and chapters, as well as completed 18 books on environmental science, with a special focus on Arctic ecosystems. He was the founding Editor of the international Journal of Paleolimnology (1987-2007) and is the current Editor of the journal Environmental Reviews.  Since 1990 he has been awarded over 25 research awards, including the 2004 NSERC Herzberg Gold Medal as Canada’s top scientist or engineer.  He has also won 6 teaching awards, including the 3M National Teaching Fellow, considered by many to be Canada’s highest teaching honour.  Recently Nature magazine named him Canada’s Top (mid-career) Scientific Mentor.

Table 3:  Lyle Palmer, Professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, U of T; Executive Scientific Director, Ontario Health Study

The Ontario Health Study:  Creating a Platform for Revolutionary Science and Transformational Biology

To answer the current challenges of an unsustainable health system and a broken drug delivery pipeline, we are in the process of constructing new provincial-level core enabling infrastructure in Ontario.  The Ontario Health Study is a longitudinal cohort study that will be the largest population-based health study ever attempted in North America, and seeks to enrol every volunteering adult in Ontario.  Other platforms being built include the Ontario Birth Study, designed to be the largest and best characterized parent-and-child cohort in the world.  These unique and big-vision Canadian resources will have major international impact, and are designed to revolutionize the way we conduct medical research and the way we translate new knowledge to the bedside.  They are also a social experiment: How do we engage an entire society in taking responsibility for their own health?  The current state of the art of public health, chronic disease research and translational medicine will be among the topics of discussion.

Professor Palmer is an internationally recognized leader in genetic epidemiology, recently recruited to Canada to lead the construction of a number of key national research infrastructures, including the Ontario Health Study.

Table 4: Jeffrey Rosenthal, Professor of Statistics, Department of Mathematics, U of T


The Curious World of Probabilities

Probabilities and randomness arise whenever we're not sure what will happen next.  They apply to everything from lottery jackpots to airplane crashes, casino gambling, homicide rates, medical studies, election polls, avian flu, coincidences, and games of poker.  They are also essential for statistical inference and for Monte Carlo computer algorithms.

Prof. Rosenthal’s recent book for the general public, Struck by Lightning: The Curious World of Probabilities, discusses all the various ways probabilities and randomness arise in everyday life, and how a probability perspective can shed new light on familiar situations.  The book made various bestseller lists, which in turn led to his being invited to give numerous public talks and media interviews.  He looks forward to discussing all things probabilistic at this RCI Gala dinner.

Table 5:  John Dirks, C.M., M.D., F.R.S.C, F.R.C.P.(C), President and Scientific Director, the Gairdner Foundation

Fostering Excellence in Science: a Critical Piece for a Robust Science Culture in Canada

A major mission of the Gairdner Foundation, which had its 50th anniversary in 2009, is to foster excellence in science and to support a vibrant science culture in Canada through awarding major international prizes in biomedicine.  During the last 15 years the Gairdner Awards have received increasing international recognition, bringing a high profile to science excellence in Canada.  In 2008, the Government of Canada awarded the Foundation $20 million, so the awards were renamed the Canada Gairdner International Award and the Canada Gairdner Global Health Award was inaugurated.

Dr. Dirks received his BSc (Med), MD from the University of Manitoba in 1957, a Fellowship in Medicine in 1963 from the Royal College of Physicians of Canada and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.  He has held a number of major Professorships at McGill University, UBC, and the U of T.  His own medical field is nephrology.  He chaired the International Society of Nephrology Commission for the Global Advancement of Nephrology from 1994 to 2005.  In 2005 he was awarded the NFK International Medal by the National Kidney Foundation (USA).  He was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2006.  In 2010, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Biotechnology Initiative and is the recipient of the RCI Sandford Fleming Medal in 2011.

Table 6:  Fergus Craik, Ph.D., F.R.S., Senior Scientist, Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest, Toronto

Memory and Aging

It is well known that memory declines as we get older, but it can still be a shock when we experience it ourselves!  What is known about age-related memory decline?  Is it inevitable?  Can anything be done to slow its progress? What changes in the brain are associated with memory failures?  Can we distinguish normal from pathological decline?  We will discuss these and other related questions from the perspective of cognitive neuroscience.

Dr. Craik trained as an experimental psychologist in Edinburgh and Liverpool, and was a faculty member at Birkbeck College, London, and at U of T.  His research deals with theoretical and experimental studies of human memory, its nature, neural correlates, and how it changes with age.  He is a Co-Editor of The Oxford Handbook of Memory and is a member of the team involved in setting up the Ontario Brain Institute.

Table 7:  Jatin Nathwani, Ph.D., P.Eng., Professor and Research Chair in Public Policy for Sustainable Energy, Executive Director, Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy (WISE)

Energy Use and Environmental Conundrums: Any Clear Paths?

Abundant and widespread availability of high quality energy has been instrumental in delivering unprecedented improvements to quality of life.  Lack of access to energy by almost a third of humanity is the blight that underpins the cross currents of policy debates about energy production, affordability and the unintended consequences to the environment of energy use.  Prof. Nathwani will slice and dice his way through the impenetrable thicket of issues: if solar energy is free, why is solar power so expensive?  Fickle wind – can you bank on it?  If we all become more efficient in the way we consume energy, would the total demand for energy go down?   And bio fuels?- Please pass the salt!

At Waterloo Prof. Nathwani leads a major multi-disciplinary effort to develop cleaner energy technologies and promote policies to improve the environmental and economic performance of the energy system over the long term.  He serves on several Boards at the provincial and national levels and is Chair of the Board of the Canadian University Network of Excellence in Nuclear Engineering (UNENE). 

Table 8: Lesley Lewis, C.E.O., Ontario Science Centre

Science Centres as Community Builders

Science centres exist on every continent except Antarctica as visible and trusted hubs of activity, dialogue and discourse on science.  As well as engaging children and teens (tomorrow’s leaders and decision makers), adult visitors become better informed and participate in dialogue on science related topics.  What roles can science centres play in building better communities?

Lesley Lewis became CEO of the Ontario Science Centre in 1998.  Under her leadership, the Centre’s vision is to extend its audience reach and relevance.  She is Past President of the Association of Science Technology Centers, the global science centre network; chaired the Fifth Science Centre World Congress in 2008; and led development of the Toronto Declaration, the field’s shared statement of beliefs and commitments.  Ms. Lewis is active internationally, speaking on the evolution of a new model for public engagement with science and an invited member of the AAAS Committee on Science and Technology Engagement with the Public.

Table 9:  Veronica Sanz, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, York University

Dark Matter, and Why it Matters

Particle physics is the study of the laws governing the smallest building blocks of Nature.  It is an exciting and challenging area of physics, more so these days with the newborn LHC.  The LHC (Large Hadron Collider), which began to operate a few months ago, will explore the energy frontier in particle physics.  Particle physics’ aim is to answer questions like “what is the genesis of our Universe?” and “what is the Universe made of?”  A large part of the Universe is ‘Dark Matter’, a new and mysterious particle that will be produced at the LHC.

Originally from Valencia, Spain, Prof. Sanz has done research at MIT, Harvard, Yale, Boston and Durham, besides her hometown university in Valencia.  She was a Fulbright fellow at Harvard and Marie Curie fellow at Yale.  She has been awarded a Large Hadron Collider-Theory initiative prize for her work on LHC physics.

Table 10:  Gerry Wright, Ph.D., Director, Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research, McMaster University

Antibiotic Resistance:  is it Really That Bad?

Microorganisms are ubiquitous and are major components of the biosphere, contributing to extensive biological diversity and activity.  My laboratory conducts research on the Chemical Biology of antibiotic resistance, on the mechanisms of antibiotic biosynthesis, and on the discovery of new antimicrobial targets, in particular antifungal agents.  I will discuss aspects of antibiotic resistance, how it develops, and some consequences, positive and negative, in the context of these ubiquitous and important organisms.

Dr. Wright was Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences from 2001 to 2007 and is the founding director of the McMaster Antimicrobial Research Centre.  He holds a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Antibiotic Chemistry and is the author of over 140 published papers and book chapters.

Table 11:  Mark Daley, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Computer Science and Biology, University of Western Ontario, and Adjunct Professor, University of Saskatchewan

It’s a Small World in There:  Complex Networks in the Brain

The “six degrees of separation” observed between individuals in social networks has attracted popular attention in recent years.  This small-world phenomenon actually occurs in many types of complex networks, including the networks found in the brain.  My research group is currently studying the dynamics of large-scale brain networks using the mathematics of graph theory applied to real world data gathered from functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of humans.

Prof. Daley has authored over 50 peer-reviewed papers, primarily in the fields of natural computing and theoretical computer science, and has spoken at conferences and institutions worldwide.  He is actively involved in high-performance computing and has served on the Board of Directors of the SHARCNET consortium.

Table 12:  Vincenzo De Luca, Ph.D., Professor in Biological Sciences, Brock University; Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Plant Biotechnology

Combining Plant Biodiversity with Biotechnology to Solve Planetary Issues

Human populations have always explored the biological world in the search for novel foods, building materials, medicines and all manner of other ingredients that would improve both the quality of human life and its longevity.  The success of this search has resulted in the many of the benefits of life for 21st century civilizations.  In spite of these successes, there is a clear need to improve our ability to exploit the plant world in a more manageable and environmentally friendly manner.  Is it too late to achieve environmental harmony and sustainability without sacrificing our modern way of life?

Prof. De Luca is a plant biochemist who has worked on the mechanisms that plants use to manufacture different natural products that are beneficial for human health and nutrition and for combating cancer.  He has worked in government, industry and academic laboratories over a period of 26 years.  Currently he is on the Scientific Advisory Boards of the Max Plank Institute for Chemical Ecology in Germany and the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in Vineland, Ontario.


Jim Friesen: Flute, piccolo, clarinet, bass clarinet, and saxophones.  He is the former Chair of the Banting and Best Department of Medical Research at the U of T.

Ken Fudurich: clarinets, saxophones.  After forty years playing in various bands, orchestras, musicals and chamber groups in southern Ontario, he realizes that the more he plays, the less he knows about music, a challenge vastly different from his previous profession as a telecommunications engineer.

Rolf Rogde: clarinet, bass clarinet, saxophone and bad flute (which he continues to work at).  Until his retirement, he held numerous marketing positions at IBM, evidence, his band mates say, that he never could hold a job.

Joe Resendes: Saxophones and clarinet.  The newest and youngest member of the group, Joe is currently completing his PhD in music at York University.

Margaret Wolf: Trumpet. While she is not actually a saxophone player, Marg’s trumpet turned the original quartet into a quintet and opened up new musical possibilities for the group.  Marg is a vice-principal in the Toronto school system.


Gala 2011 - Tables and Topics

(Thursday April 28 at MaRS)

There are 25 tables.  Here are the first twelve.

For Tables 13 to 25, go HERE