The Winter 2007 Lectures


Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Threat of Avian Influenza

Donald E. Low, M.D., F.R.C.P.C., Microbiologist in Chief, Toronto Medical Laboratories/Mount Sinai Hospital

The H5N1 strain of avian influenza virus first erupted in its highly pathogenic form in 1997, but then did not appear until 2003 when it began spreading among poultry flocks in Southeast Asia, eventually affecting more than 52 countries and causing more than 200 cases in humans with a 50% mortality rate. This unprecedented outbreak among poultry flocks and successful transmission to humans creates a scenario where pandemic influenza in humans is possible. The H5N1 disease seen in humans has a number of characteristics in common with the H1N1 that caused the 1918 Spanish flu. If it successfully adapts so that it can transmit from person to person, it could not only have severe human health consequences, but also could have a major impact on the world economy.

Further reading:


1. Luke, CJ, Subbarao, K. Vaccines for pandemic influenza. Emerg. Infect. Dis. 12(1) : 66-72, 2006 

2. Hayden FG. Respiratory viral threats. Curr. Opin. Infect. Dis. 19(2) : 169-78, 2006

3. Fauci AS. Pandemic influenza threat and preparedness. Emer. Infect. Dis. 12(1) : 73-7, 2006

4. The Writing Committee of the World Health Organization (WHO) Consultation on Human Influenza A/H5. Avian influenza A (H5N1) infection in humans. NEJM 353: 1374-86, 2005.

5. Lewis DV: Avian flu to human influenza. Annu. Rev. Med. 57 : 139-54, 2006

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Embarrassment of Riches:  The Ecological Consequences of Increasing Numbers of Arctic Geese

Robert L. Jefferies, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Department of Botany, U of T

Many arctic goose populations that winter in farmland in Europe and North America have shown, in recent decades, a geometric increase in numbers, primarily the result of an agricultural food subsidy and the presence of nearby reserves where the birds are protected. Hunting is either restricted or has little effect on population sizes. Increased numbers of birds return to the Arctic in early spring where they forage on wetland vegetation, which has been damaged or lost in coastal areas of Hudson Bay and elsewhere as a result of this feeding. In sharp contrast to geese, some populations of shore birds that breed in polar regions are declining, possibly because of loss of habitat and food supplies along migration routes and on wintering grounds. This difference in response to changes in land use indicates the complexity involved in attempting to conserve wildlife populations.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Patterns, Patterns Everywhere*

Martin Golubitsky, A.B., A.M., Ph.D., M.I.T., Cullen Distinguished Professor of Mathematics, University of Houston, Texas

Regular patterns appear all around us: from vast geological formations to the ripples in a vibrating coffee cup, from the gaits of trotting horses to tongues of flames, and even in visual hallucinations. The mathematical notion of symmetry is a key to understanding how and why these patterns form. The lecturer will show some of these fascinating patterns and explain how mathematical symmetry enters the picture.

*Co-sponsor Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Science

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Novel Therapies for Viral Infection

Katalin A. Hudak, Ph.D., Department of Biology, York University

Viruses, regardless of the disease they cause or the type of organism they infect, are essentially composed of the virus genome dressed in a protein coat. Their mission is to invade a host cell, quickly synthesize their viral proteins and replicate their genetic material, at the expense of the host's own machinery. These new viral components are then packaged into virus particles for release from the host cell, to allow subsequent infection of other cells. This typical virus "life cycle" has been the target of numerous strategies to control the rate of infection. This talk will describe the current approaches used to limit virus proliferation and will introduce research into novel antiviral compounds extracted from plants.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

University Automotive Research as an Asset for Canada

Peter R. Frise, Ph.D., FCAE, P. Eng., Automotive Engineering, University of Windsor; Scientific Director and CEO, AUTO21 Network of Centres of Excellence

The automotive industry is Canada's largest single business sector, employing more than 500,000 people across the country. Automotive manufacturing is one of the largest consumers of materials in our economy and present and future automobiles are extremely high technology articles. The North American automotive sector is under significant competitive pressures and so must innovate. The presentation will describe the present status of automotive related research in Canada and will illustrate, with examples, how it is a critical asset to Canada's largest manufacturing sector. In addition, the whole notion of academic applied research will be examined to show how Canada can benefit from more academic work in key areas of the economic and social fabric of our country.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Regeneration of the Injured Spinal Cord: Pipe Dream or Reality?

Michael G. Fehlings, M.D., Ph.D., FRCSC, FACS, Department of Neurosurgery, Krembil Chair in Neural Repair and Regeneration, U of T; Medical Director, Krembil Neuroscience Centre, Toronto Western Hospital

The human spinal cord is exquisitely vulnerable to injury and displays very limited capacity for self repair or regeneration. The past 15 years have seen dramatic advances in our knowledge of the molecular mechanisms underlying the progressive cell death and failed regeneration following spinal cord trauma. The promise of  regenerative medicine for spinal cord injury is now beginning to be realized.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Cultural Acceleration of the Biological Evolution of Behaviour:  A Population Genetic Model

R. Paul Thompson, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., Department of Philosophy and Zoology, U of T; Director, Institute for History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, U of T

Some important behavioural propensities have a genetic basis, usually mediated by the hormonal, circadian, or neural systems. Many such propensities can be overridden by cognitive agents. This ability to override behavioural propensities, combined with the human capacity for cultural transmission of newly discovered and fitness enhancing behaviours, makes possible rapid evolutionary change in a behavioural propensity. In this lecture, a population genetic mechanism for accelerated evolution driven by human cognition and culture is developed.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Special Event for Ages 6 - 12, conducted by U of T students



Explore science through fun hands on activities. 

Take home more than your experiments -- take home the experience!


A fun-filled hour and a half for kids ages 6-12