Skip to main content Skip to local navigation

For York profs, it's science on-demand at Royal Canadian Institute gala dinner

For York profs, it's science on-demand at Royal Canadian Institute gala dinner

Have you ever wanted to have dinner with a scientist? Ask questions about Canada’s laser radar on NASA's 2007 Phoenix mission to Mars, the role of human genomes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, the consequences of dwindling fossil fuels or perhaps how biochemical pathways affect obesity?

The Royal Canadian Institute (RCI) for the Advancement of Science, Canada's oldest scientific society at 161 years, is hosting a gala dinner featuring 25 scientists, and guests get to choose which one they’d like to sit with.

Five of the scientists are from York, which is a sponsor of the dinner. They are physics Professor Emeritus Allan Carswell, humanities and science & technology studies Professor Bernard Lightman, Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Giuseppina D’Agostino, anthropology and science & technology studies Professor Natasha Myers, and Canada Research Chair in Ecology & Conservation Biology, Professor Bridget Stutchbury. In addition, Mark Lievonen, president of Sanofi Pasteur Ltd., a York alumnus and member of York's Board of Governors, will also host a table.

Right: Giuseppina D’Agostino

Founder and director of Osgoode's Intellectual Property Law & Technology Program (IP Osgoode), D’Agostino, a recent recipient of the Law Commission of Ontario’s Visiting Scholarship Program, will talk about "Challenges to the Commercialization of Intellectual Property". The commercialization of intellectual property is often said to be indispensable for fostering a vibrant, creative and innovative economy, but many challenges remain before an invention can be brought from the lab into the marketplace. D’Agostino is currently investigating the intellectual property and privacy aspects of the electronic health record in Canada.

Left: Bernard Lightman

Lightman, editor of the history of science journal Isis, will discuss "Who, Exactly, Was Charles Darwin? The Making of a Cultural Icon". Lightman's early work, summed up in his The Origins of Agnosticism: Victorian Unbelief and the Limits of Knowledge, centred on the birth of a new form of unbelief in the wake of the debates over evolutionary theory. More recently, he has tackled the issue of how science was popularized in the second half of the 19th century in Britain. His current project is a biography of the eminent Victorian physicist John Tyndall.

Right: Allan Carswell

Former president of the Canadian Association of Physicists and vice-president of the Canadian Academy of Science, Carswell founded Optech Inc. in 1974 to develop commercial lidars (laser radar). He and a Canadian team provided a lidar on NASA's 2007 Phoenix mission to Mars as part of a meteorological station, MET, for studies of the Martian atmosphere. After the landing in May 2008, MET provided measurements of outstanding value, including the discovery of snowfall on Mars. An internationally recognized leader in the lidar field, Carswell will present "Canada Goes to Mars".

Left: Bridget Stutchbury

Stutchbury, Canada Research Chair in Ecology and Conservation Biology and a field biologist who has studied bird behaviour and conservation for 25 years, has followed Canadian migratory songbirds to their wintering grounds in Latin America to understand the threats they face far away. She is author of Silence of the Songbirds: How We are Losing the World's Songbirds and What We Can Do to Save Them, a Governor General’s Literary Award non-fiction finalist, and the forthcoming The Bird Detective: Investigating the Secret Lives of Birds. She will discuss "Conservation Biology Studied Through Birds".

Right: Natasha Myers

Myers' research examines the lively visual cultures that thrive in contemporary life science laboratories and classrooms, with an interest in the artistry, craft and creativity of scientific work. She will discuss "Art Meets Science". Myers has been engaged in art-science collaborations for over a decade. Her most recent project was the 2009 Art Meets Science Series at York University, a year-long series of events designed to foster a culture of collaboration among York’s artists and scientists.

Left: Mark Lievonen

Lievonen (BBA Spec. Hons. ’79, MBA ’87), a member of the Board of Directors of Oncolytics Biotech Inc. and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, will talk about the Canadian Vaccine Capability: Collaborating for Continued Success.

In addition, ex-Yorkie Brock Fenton, a biology professor at the University of Western Ontario and former chair of York’s Department of Biology as well as former associate vice-president research, will ask "How do Universities Interact With Society?" He has written several books about bats intended for a general audience, including Just Bats (University of Toronto Press, 1983) and The Bat: Wings in the Night Sky ( Key Porter Press, 1998)).

Right: Brock Fenton

Scientists are chosen from various disciplines and many southern Ontario academic institutions. Each scientist hosts a table of eight. The gala partners are awarded several places, and their guests, as well as individual ticket purchasers, can choose the table of greatest interest to them. After a reception of an hour or so, dinner will start. Each scientist will provide a brief overview of their subject and/or current work and guests are then free to ask any questions or suggest topics they would like the host to discuss. For tables and topics, click here. Following the dinner, the president of the RCI will open a general question-and-answer period at which time any of the participants are free to direct a question to any of the scientists present.

The RCI for the Advancement of Science is a not-for-profit organization founded in Toronto in 1849 by a small group of civil engineers, architects and surveyors and led by Sir Sandford Fleming (1827-1915) who established the concept of time zones.

The gala will take place Thursday, April 22, from 6 to 9:30pm, in the MaRS Collaboration Centre, 101 College St., Toronto. Tickets are $250. The dinner will help to raise awareness and funds for the RCI's outreach activities, in particular the free public lectures it presents every year in Toronto and Mississauga on a diverse range of topics. The fundraising also goes toward providing scholarships for deserving high school students to attend university.

York provides the Webcasting and archiving for all the lectures through the support of University Information Technology and the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation. Click here to view archived Webcasts of previous lectures. York also supplies many of the speakers. This winter two of the six Toronto speakers were from York.

For more information, visit the RCI Web site or contact York biology Professor Ron Pearlman, a member of the RCI council and the gala organizing committee, at

Republished courtesy o f YFile – York University’s daily e-bulletin.