The Winter 2011 Lectures


Sunday, January 16 at 3 pm                    TORONTO

The Achilles Heel for Cancer?  
Improving Outcomes by Inducing
Apoptosis More Efficiently

Suzanne Cory, Ph.D., Director Emerita, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne, Australia

Impairment of the natural process of cell death (apoptosis) is a critical step in the development of cancer and a major impediment to effective therapy.  An exciting new class of anti-cancer drugs is emerging, built on molecular understanding of how the cellular life/death switch functions.   
This lecture is co-sponsored by the Gairdner Foundation

Sunday, January 23 at 3 pm                     TORONTO

Forensic Taphonomy:  Processes of Decomposition and Mummification
Shari L. Forbes, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Director of Forensic Science, and Tier II Canada Research Chair in Decomposition Chemistry, Faculty of Science, University of Ontario Institute of Technology
Forensic taphonomy is the study of the environmental factors that affect remains from the time of death to the time of recovery.  The field of forensic taphonomy encompasses many disciplines including decomposition chemistry which involves understanding the chemical processes that occur in the body post mortem.  This talk will discuss the competing processes of decomposition and mummification and the unique forensic environments in which these are typically observed.  The purpose of forensic taphonomy research is to provide additional information which may assist police and forensic investigators to locate and recover decomposed remains, thus assisting with the determination of cause, manner, and time of death.  Several case histories will be discussed.  Some of the images will be disturbing and are not suitable for children under the age of 16 unless accompanied by an adult.  

Sunday, January 30 at 3 pm                    TORONTO

Big Discoveries Made in Small Laboratories-on-a-Chip

Eugenia Kumacheva, Ph.D., Department of Chemistry, U of T,

Recent years have seen remarkable progress in the development of miniature laboratories (“labs on chips”).  This research field has been stimulated by the ability to carry out rapid, controllable and highly reproducible experiments on very small scales and in a highly parallelized manner.  “Labs on chips” defined new operational paradigms and paved the way for discoveries to be done in the most time-efficient and labour-saving way.  In my lecture, I will show how research conducted in ”labs on chips” has led to high value materials, new knowledge about the changes occurring in the environment and in cell biology, and efficient tools for medical diagnostics. 

Thursday, February 3 at 7:30 pm      MISSISSAUGA

Groundwater Contamination Research and Applications to Source Water Protection
Beth Parker, Ph.D., Professor and NSERC Industrial Research Chair, School of Engineering, University of Guelph.
Groundwater comprises more than ninety-six percent of our available freshwater resource globally; however, its quality has been impaired locally over the past several decades due to chemical uses and poor waste management practices.  As populations continue to grow, cities sprawl, and climate changes, natural flow systems will be altered and the demand for these freshwater resources will increase.  Managing these valuable groundwater supplies to ensure both quantity and quality when and where needed requires more knowledge regarding our impacts to these natural flow systems, the nature of a wide variety of contaminant types and their transport and fate in the subsurface, especially in bedrock aquifers.  New characterization methods and insights regarding contaminant behaviour in fractured rock aquifers will greatly advance our current understanding and improve decision-making in the future.   

Sunday, February 6 at 3 pm                 TORONTO

The Quantum World: From Weird to Wired
Joseph Emerson, M.Sc.,, Ph.D., Department of Applied Mathematics and Institute for Quantum Computing, University of Waterloo
Does quantum mechanics tell us that particles, molecules, and maybe even cats, can be in two places at once?  Does it force us to deny the existence of a reality that is independent of our observation?  How can scientists disagree about what quantum mechanics means and yet still agree that it is right?  Joseph Emerson, co-writer of the award-winning documentary "The Quantum Tamers", will address these questions and then describe, drawing on clips from the documentary, how the weirdness of the quantum world is now being harnessed for a quantum information revolution that gives us quantum teleportation, super-secure quantum communication, and the exponential power of quantum computation.

Sunday, February 13 at 3 pm                TORONTO

The Hardest Math I’ve Ever Really Used
Dror Bar-Natan, Ph.D., Department of Mathematics, U of T 

What’s the hardest math I’ve ever used in real life?  Me, myself, directly — not by using a cellphone or a GPS device that somebody else designed.  And in “real life” - not while studying or teaching mathematics?  I use addition and subtraction daily, adding up bills or calculating change.  I use percentages often, though mostly it is just “add 15 percents”.  I seldom use multiplication and division: when I buy in bulk, or when I need to know how many tiles I need to replace my kitchen floor.  I’ve used powers twice in my life, doing calculations related to mortgages.  I’ve used a tiny bit of linear algebra for a tiny bit of non-math-related computer graphics I’ve played with.  And for a long time, that was all.  In my talk I will tell you how recently a math topic discovered only in the 1800s made a brief and modest appearance in my non-mathematical life.  There are many books devoted to that topic, yet for all I know, nobody ever needed the actual gory formulas for such a simple reason before.
This lecture is co-sponsored by the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences

Sunday, February 20 at 3 pm               TORONTO

What  Can the Arts do for
Piergeorgio Odifreddi, Ph.D., 
mathematician and science writer,
 University of Turin (Torino), Italy

Mathematics is usually considered to be the most abstract of the sciences, and the most difficult to visualize.  However, there are deep and close relationships between the objects of mathematics and of the arts.  In this talk we will take a bird's eye view through many artworks, ancient and new, to see how they can be used to illustrate some of the fundamental concepts and results of mathematics.  For example, a pair of paintings of Mondrian and Van Doesburg provide almost literally a proof of Pythagoras’ Theorem.  Conversely, a little known result of Archimedes provides a way to compute the volume of a building such as the passenger terminal of the St. Louis Airport, planned by the architect Yamasaki (who later also planned the World Trade Center).
This lecture is co-sponsored by the Italian Cultural Institute

Sunday, February 27 at 3 pm               TORONTO

Owner’s Guide to the Human Genome
Philip A. Marsden, M.D., Department of Medicine, U of T
Over the past decade we have held, as a society, the human blueprint.  How has having the sequence of 3.3 billion nucleotides of human genomic DNA changed our understanding of ourselves as individuals, affected our families, helped our medical care givers, or impacted us as a society?  I argue, as is common to technological advances in our fast-paced march through the past decade, that we have overestimated the short-term impact of having the human blueprint and risk underestimating its longer-term influence.  What are the facts?  As owners, where do we look for wisdom?

Thursday, March 3 at 7:30 pm          MISSISSAUGA

The Kiss of Death:  Rhodnius as a Vector of Chagas’ Disease
Ian Orchard, Ph.D., D.Sc., Department of Biology, U of T at Mississauga 
Rhodnius prolixus, the kissing bug, is a blood-feeding insect found in Central and South America.  Rhodnius is one of the vectors for the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi that causes Chagas’ disease in humans.  This talk will examine the physiological and endocrinological aspects of Rhodnius that leads to the transmission of this disease, using data from its recently sequenced genome.

Sunday, March 6 at 2:30 pm               TORONTO


A fun-filled afternoon for kids aged 6 to 12.  Explore science through fun hands-on activities. Parents welcome!  Doors open at 2 pm .  Free, with no reserved seats.

Thursday, April 7 at 7:30 pm           MISSISSAUGA

Bacterial Biofilms:  Scum of the Earth
Lori Burrows, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, McMaster University

Scientists are interested in bacterial biofilms for a number of reasons, ranging from understanding the basics of how bacteria are able to stick to various materials to form a biofilm, to the role of biofilms in chronic diseases.  Other areas of interest include contamination of food and water by biofilm-forming bacteria, the colonization of medical devices such as catheters and contact lenses, and the potential applications of ‘good’ biofilms formed by probiotic organisms.

We thank the University of Toronto and 
the Mississauga Central Library for their support

FREE public one-hour lectures followed by a question period

TORONTO:  Sundays at 3 pm (doors open at 2:15)

Macleod Auditorium, Medical Sciences Building, University of Toronto

1 King’s College Circle (Nearest Subway is Queen’s Park Station)

Parking on campus, pay/display; limited disabled parking available

MISSISSAUGA: Thursday evenings at 7:30 pm at Noel Ryan Auditorium, Mississauga Central Library, 301 Burnhamthorpe Road W.  Free parking is available under the library.  The entrance is an unmarked ramp that can only be accessed southbound on Duke of York Boulevard between City Centre Drive and Burnhamthorpe Road.