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Law mourns former Dean

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 14:33

The Faculty of Law is saddened by the passing of John W. Durnford, emeritus professor.

John Durnford served as Dean from 1969 to 1974, playing a vital role in the successful implementation of the bilingual National Programme, the first iteration of a curriculum combining the common law and the civil law.

A native Montrealer, Durnford was a two-time graduate of McGill (BA’49, BCL’52). Admitted to the Bar in 1953, he practiced law for several years in Montreal before returning to McGill as an associate professor in 1959. In 1977, he was appointed Sir William C. Macdonald Professor.

A beloved teacher, Prof. Durnford taught a wide range of courses, with an expertise in taxation and special contracts. In the late 1990s, the Law Students’ Association recognized his contributions by renaming its teaching award the John W. Durnford Teaching Excellence Award. In 2017, a classroom was renovated thanks to the generosity of the Classes of 1974, 1975 and 1966, and the Durnford Family; it is now called the John W. Durnford Classroom.

“The Faculty of Law extends its deepest sympathies to the Durnford Family,” said Dean Robert Leckey. “I know from my conversations with our alumni around the world what an impact Professor Durnford had on his students.”

The Faculty invites people to share their thoughts and memories about Prof. Durnford.


McGill grad nominated Commissioner of Official Languages

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 10:12

By McGill Reporter Staff

Raymond Théberge (PhD84), who holds a PhD in Linguistics from McGill, has been nominated to be Canada’s next Commissioner of Official Languages. The announcement was made Thursday morning by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (BA94).

President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Moncton since June 2012, Théberge’s distinguished career as an educator and academic spans more than 35 years and encompasses a number of important roles with universities, associations, and governments, according to the biography on the University of Moncton website.

A Franco-Manitoban by birth, Théberge will be the first official languages commissioner who is not from either Ontario or Quebec.

Théberge has held a number of positions in post-secondary teaching, research, and administration between 1985 and 2003, including senior positions at the Université de Saint-Boniface and the Centre d’études franco-canadiennes de l’Ouest, his biography says. He is also the author of dozens of reports and publications on the themes of education, community, communication, culture, and economics.

From 2004 to 2005, he served as Assistant Deputy Minister of the Bureau de l’éducation fran?aise in Manitoba’s Department of Education, Citizenship and Youth and then served as the Executive Director of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada. He also worked as Assistant Deputy Minister of the French Language, Aboriginal Learning and Research Division in the Ontario Ministry of Education and Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

“Raymond Théberge’s passion for linguistic duality and minority language rights makes him the perfect choice to be Canada’s new Commissioner of Official Languages,” Trudeau said in a statement. “His experience as a community advocate, an academic and a public servant has provided him with a greater appreciation of the challenges faced by English- and French-speaking communities across Canada. I am confident that Mr. Théberge will hold our government to account for the full implementation of the?Official Languages Act.”

This is the second time the federal government has nominated someone to fill the post on a permanent basis this year. Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly had first nominated former Ontario Liberal MPP and cabinet minister Madeleine Meilleur earlier in the year – a choice that provoked swift and furious backlash, as it was perceived she was too partisan for the role. Meilleur eventually withdrew her nomination in June.

If approved, and Opposition parties are already complaining that they have not been sufficiently consulted, Théberge will take over for?Ghislaine Saikaley, who has been interim official languages commissioner since December 2016, after Graham Fraser stepped down following a decade in the post.

Remembering the women of école Polytechnique

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 15:57

The plaque on the exterior wall of école Polytechnique commemorating the victims of the massacre. / Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

McGill will commemorate the école Polytechnique massacre at the Université de Montreal, in which 14 women were murdered on Dec. 6, 1989, and another 14 injured. McGill’s flags will be set at half staff on Wednesday, Dec. 6, and a memorial service will be held at Birks Chapel (3520 University Street, 2nd floor) beginning at 5 p.m.?There will also be?musical and spoken word poetry performances, and dinner will be provided to all those who attend.

McGill’s flags will fly at half-mast on Dec. 6.

The Senate Subcommittee on Women?has issued the following statement to the McGill Reporter:

On Dec. 6, 1989, 14 women were killed at école Polytechnique. They were killed because they were women, because most were students in an engineering program. What has come to be called the Montreal Massacre is an event we are all called upon to remember: violence against women continues to be part of our present.

It is 28 years since the murders of these women, and Dec. 6 is again to be commemorated as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. It is an occasion to remember the women murdered and for all of us to recommit to ensuring their deaths were not in vain. As we mourn the 14 deaths in 1989, as well as the too many women and girls murdered or abused since then, we need to continue to work for women’s equality, for policies that lead to equity among women, and to an end to structural and individual violence against women and girls.

Canada is still not a safe country for all women who live here, with more than 50 per cent likely to experience violence sometime in their lives, usually before they are 25. For some women, those most marginalized, these risks are even greater. Societal and structural policies and programs continue especially to harm single mothers, women with disabilities, and indigenous and immigrant women. These, as well as increasing limits on women’s access to justice and to continuing inequities, may explain why Canada is only at 16th place in the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum.

The Fourteen Not Forgotten are:

  • Geneviève Bergeron, 21, was a second year scholarship student in civil engineering.
  • Hélène Colgan, 23, was in her final year of mechanical engineering and planned to take her Master’s degree.
  • Nathalie Croteau, 23, was in her final year of mechanical engineering.
  • Barbara Daigneault, 22, was in her final year of mechanical engineering and held a teaching assistantship.
  • Anne-Marie Edward, 21, was a first year student in chemical engineering.
  • Maud Haviernick, 29, was a second year student in engineering materials, a branch of metallurgy, and a graduate in environmental design.
  • Barbara Maria Klucznik, 31, was a second year nursing student.
  • Maryse Laganière, 25, worked in the budget department of the Polytechnique.
  • Maryse Leclair, 23, was a fourth year student in engineering materials.
  • Anne-Marie Lemay, 27, was a fourth year student in mechanical engineering.
  • Sonia Pelletier, 28, was to graduate the next day in mechanical engineering. She was awarded a degree posthumously.
  • Michèle Richard, 21, was a second year student in engineering materials.
  • Annie St-Arneault, 23, was a mechanical engineering student.
  • Annie Turcotte, 20, was a materials engineering student.

People abuzz over Art Hive Initiative

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 15:04

By McGill Reporter Staff

In an airy open area at the back of the first floor of the former library of the Faculty Education is a colourful space filled with art supplies and work tables. Along the wall there are bins and boxes of fabric, coloured pencils and paints, sketch pads, paper, and all manner of recycled objects, ready to be remade into anything the visitor desires. Welcome to the McGill Art Hive Initiative (MAHI).

Launched on Nov. 28, the MAHI is an open access walk-in studio for making art and is a repository for art supplies of all kinds, available at no charge to whomever wants to use them, in an unguided, respectful and fun way. MAHI is?open Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The MAHI website says the Art Hive “is a gathering place, a simple space for making art. Participation requires no art background or experience. It is a space where conversation, getting to know fellow artists, and creating community can accompany the process of making art. It affords members of the McGill community the opportunity to step out of their daily challenges, spend time in a very different place, and to return to their work feeling more relaxed and focused.”

When Maria Ezcurra became the Artist-in-Residence in the Faculty of Education in 2015, she was already involved with the Art Hives Movement through Concordia University and the founder of the Art Hive movement, Professor Janis Timm-Botts. Ezcurra suggested that the Faculty of Education start an Art Hive.

There are now about 20 Art Hives in Montreal, including one at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Ezcurra smiles when asked what people make at the Art Hive. “All kinds of things!” she says. “They make both art projects (painting, modelling, drawing, collage, crafts) and amazing crazy little endeavours. They see other people’s work and share their own creations. They write and read. They talk. They have lunch or drink tea. And sometimes they visit the space but don’t do anything specific, which is perfectly fine.”

Ezcurra is now the Art Facilitator of the MAHI, and the Artists in Residence are Victoria Stanton and Aaron Richmond.

“Doing art helped me survive and finish my PhD,” says Ezcurra. “There is a growing awareness of the need for different approaches to wellbeing for students, and the entire McGill community. Art making in a warm and friendly environment can help make people be more successful by lowering stress levels and stimulating creativity. Taking a break and doing an art project can maybe help you solve a math or legal problem by stimulating the imagination.

“We have long been interested in the role of the arts in helping people relax, a key part of our Art Hive initiative,” continues Ezcurra. “We have also been interested in how art making helps to provoke important conversations about different aspects of life. For a learning community, which is what universities are meant to be, conversations about caring, compassion, and curiosity are all important. Art making process can be key to helping people listen to each other.”

One of the main projects for the MAHI in 2018 is to start collecting and recycling usable materials from the Faculty of Education, and McGill at large, to make them available for the Art Hive.

Ezcurra says there is always a need for donations of materials from individuals and the larger community. The Art Hive works with a tight budget to buy art supplies. Most of the materials available at the MAHI are donated by the Art Hives Movement and the Concordia University Centre for Creative Reuse.

The Faculty of Education’s Art Hive is supported by the P. Lantz Initiative for Excellence in Education and the Arts, the Rossy Foundation,?and the McGill Institute for Human Development and Well Being.

Dec. 10: Principal’s Holiday Skating Party

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 11:47

Principal Suzanne Fortier?has been known to invite?special?guests?to the Annual Holiday Skating Party.

Principal Suzanne Fortier invites members of the McGill community and their families to the Annual Holiday Skating Party on?Sunday, Dec. 10, from 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.?at the McConnell Winter Arena. On top of lots of skating, there will be music, hot dogs, snacks, hot and cold beverages. Admission is a non-perishable food donation to the Yellow Door’s Food for Thought program, which provides food pantries to McGill students in financial difficulty. Free parking will be available via the student residences entrance at the top of University Street.

RSVP to Athletics and Recreation at extension 0273 or the Welcome Centre?at extension 6555 by?Monday, Dec. 4.

What will you read over the holidays?

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 08:48

The Reading, 1885, Paolo Bedini

Although the temperate?fall makes it hard to believe, the holiday season is almost upon us. For the fifth straight year, the Reporter is asking members of the McGill community what books they plan to read during their downtime this year. Not surprisingly, theses communal lists have been long, eclectic and fascinating. In keeping with tradition, we’re asking McGill students, staff, faculty, friends and alumni to tell us what they plan on reading during the break.

Send your personal choices (along with your name, job title and brief reason why you’ve chosen your particular books) to [email protected].

Revisit the lists from previous years; 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013.


McGill grad named to Supreme Court

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 15:59

Sheilah Martin will replace?retiring Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin on the Supreme Court of Canada.

By Doug Sweet

McGill Law graduate Sheilah Martin (BCL81/LLB81) has been named by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (BA94) to replace retiring Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin on the Supreme Court of Canada. Trudeau will name a new Chief Justice next month, his office said. McLachlin is to retire Dec. 15.

Martin, 60, a bilingual Montreal native, has served as Dean of Law at the University of Calgary, as well as practising as a criminal and constitutional lawyer and serving on both the Court of Queen’s Bench in Calgary and on the Courts of Appeal of Alberta, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

In a statement, Trudeau said, “I am confident that, with the wealth of experience she has gained over a distinguished 30-year career, she will be a valuable addition to the Supreme Court, an institution well respected in Canada and around the world for its strength, independence, and judicial excellence.”

In addition to her undergraduate degrees from McGill, Martin hold a Master of Laws from the University of Alberta (1983) and a Doctor of Juridical Science from the University of Toronto (1991)

She worked as a researcher and law professor as well as a laywer and from 1991 to 1996 she served as both Acting Dean and then Dean of UofC’s Law Faculty. She taught subjects that included commercial law and feminist legal theory.

In a questionnaire posted online that is part of the judicial appointment process, Martin described her pro bono work:

“My pro bono activities have been for both legal and non-legal organizations, with legal activities being the majority. For example, almost all of my speaking engagements (which are further explained below) were pro bono as was my involvement in the committees and organizations listed above. I have also volunteered for community organizations, some of which are further described below under “Community and Civic Activities.

“Additionally, as a lawyer, I provided pro bono legal service to many clients in need, however, such work often did not result in reported decisions. Three pro bono cases went to the Supreme Court of Canada. I acted for the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund in Winnipeg Child and Family Services (Northwest Area) v G(DF), [1997] 3 SCR 925 and R v Shearing, [2002] 3 SCR 33. In R v Mills, [1999] 3 SCR 668, I acted for the Alberta Association of Sexual Assault Centres. I also provided pro bono legal services to a wilderness coalition in a reported environmental law case.”

Additionally, during her 20-year career as a legal educator, she “gave presentations on topics such as legal ethics, legal roles and responsibilities regarding indigenous residential school litigation, equality, violence in law, and comparative constitutional rights.”

Martin’s nomination not only ensures the top court will maintain a full nine-member bench after McLachlin – the country’s longest-service Chief Justice and the first woman to hold the post – steps down, but it also maintains the Court’s current gender makeup ?of four women and five men. She will join fellow McGill alumnus Justice Clément Gascon (BCL81), who graduated with a BA in Civil Law the same year as Martin.

In the online questionnaire, Martin also spoke about a variety of presentations she prepared in connection with the National Judicial Institute.

“I have also given presentations and prepared educational documents on topics such as Rape Myths and Stereotypes; Safety and Security of Women; Roles and Responsibilities after the Truth and Reconciliation Report; Balancing Rights in Sexual Assault Trials; Making Credibility Determinations; How to Prepare for Oral Judgments; Equality Analysis under Section 15 of the Charter; Good Judgment; Judicial Method and Decision-Making; Sentencing; Culture in Legal Institutions and Courtrooms; Environmental Class Actions; Social Context Education; the Charter; Equality Rights under the Charter; Sections 15 and 1 of the Charter, among many others.”

According to a release from the Prime Minister’s Office, MPs who are members of the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights will participate in a special hearing during which Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould?will explain the selection process and provide reasons Martin was nominated.

Martin’s husband, lawyer Hersh Wolch, who was known for his advocacy on behalf of wrongfully convicted Canadians including David Milgaard, died of a heart attack in July at age 77.


It’s that time: Exams begin Dec. 8

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 15:49


By McGill Reporter Staff

Just as Christmas music follows (or sometimes precedes) Remembrance Day, final exams arrive at McGill ?in the run-up to the holidays.

This year, final exams run from Friday, Dec. 8, until Thursday, Dec. 21. The schedule with room assignments will be posted this week.

Morning exams begin at 9 a.m., while afternoon exams start at 2 p.m. Evening exams will be held at 6:30 p.m., while Continuing Studies exams will be held at 6 p.m. More details can be found here.

Students who might be struggling at this time of year can find a variety of resources to help, whether through Student Services, or from their peers. If a student falls ill during finals, they can look into options for deferred exams, which will be held during Spring Reading Break, the week of March 5, 2018.

There are also a variety of de-stress activities for students, including yoga sessions and therapy dogs

On every exam day on the downtown campus, therapy dogs will be available in the lobby of the Brown Building from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Yoga sessions will be held in the adjacent SSMU building, in the Lev Bukhman room, from noon to 1 p.m., while mindfulness sessions will be held in Brown 4200 from 4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. In addition, a new session on Mental Health for Finals will be held in Brown 4200 on Dec. 14, from 10 to 11:30 a.m.

Counselling Services are also offering drop-ion sessions for students to learn how to better understand their emotional experience and free themselves from unhelpful thinking patterns. Students may attend one or both sessions and can register?online.

As well, the McGill Library is a go-to destination for health, wellness, enlightenment, and enjoyment during the exam period. McGill students, faculty, and staff members have access to millions of print items found in their catalogues as well as online resources, recordings, games, gadgets, and more. The Library also offers health and wellness spaces for users who want to keep active while working. Get more information online.


Jean Béliveau Awards highlight Martlet Foundation honourees

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 13:26

(L to R): Patrick Farias (track), Sanchit Gupta (soccer), Marjolaine Ste-Marie (volleyball), Nathan Chiarlitti (hockey), Sidonie Chard (hockey), Alex Kiss-Rusk (basketball), Sarah Zhou (rowing), William Stone (rugby & skiing), Lysanne De Broux (synchro). ABSENT: Catherine Duchaine (volleyball) / Photo: Paul Fournier

By Earl Zukerman

Four recipients of the prestigious Jean Béliveau Award?were among 11 scholarships handed out recently to McGill student-athletes at the Martlet Foundation’s annual general meeting held recently at the Ritz-Carleton Hotel.

Alex Kiss-Rusk of Beaconsfield, Que., who led the basketball Martlets to their first-ever national championship last spring, heads the list for the Béliveau Awards, a $3,000 bursary established in 2016 to recognize outstanding student-athletes for leadership in the community. The three other honorees include hockey team captain Nathan Chiarlitti, a native of Maple, Ont.; volleyball’s Marjolaine Ste-Marie of St. Lambert, Que.; and soccer’s Sanchit Gupta, who hails from Ottawa.

Gupta was a double winner, pocketing an additional $2,000 as one of three 1938 Champions Award recipients, along with William Stone of Toronto, a rare two-sport athlete who competes for both, the rugby and alpine ski teams and Patrick Farias, a track and field sprinter who hails from Laval, Que.

The award is named after the 1938 championship-winning McGill football and hockey teams, who lost eight men during the Second World War. The prize is awarded to recognize students who have demonstrated high academic performance and have shown leadership in the McGill community through a significant contribution to student activities and organizations, including athletics.

Also announced were three recipients of the Dorothy Nichol Award, a $2,000 bursary presented on the basis of academic achievement and contributions to extra-curricular activities in athletics.

The new laureates included rower Sarah Zhou of Mississauga, Ont., volleyball’s Catherine Duchaine of Anjou, Que., and Sidonie Chard of Kingston, Ont., who skates for the hockey Martlets.

Finally, Lysanne De Broux of Westmount, Que., and a member of the Martlets synchronized swim team that won a national championship last spring, received the T. Palmer-Howard Award, an annual $2,000 prize awarded annually to a student, preferably on the swim team, who has demonstrated leadership on an intercollegiate club while maintaining high academic standing.

Canada-wide movement to improve pediatric cancer treatment

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 13:06

“Our goal is to find a cure for all children living with cancer, and with PROFYLE we are taking a giant leap forward,” says Nada Jabado,

By MUHC Public Affairs

In Canada, cancer remains the leading cause of illness-related death in children. In an effort to accelerate research breakthroughs and ensure a faster path to a cure for children living with resistant, recurrent or metastatic cancer, more than 30?pediatric research centres and non-profit organizations are joining forces to support the PRecision Oncology For Young peopLE?(PROFYLE) program, an initiative of the Terry Fox Research Institute. This unique partnership represents $16.4?million in funding, over a quarter of which will come from Quebec.

Terry Fox PROFYLE seeks to tap into world-renowned Canadian expertise in genomics and pediatric oncology. The program uses real-time molecular profiling to personalize treatment for patients with tumours that are difficult to treat with conventional therapy, no matter where they live in Canada. Eight-year-old Karl from the greater Montreal area is one of these patients.

Karl was six when he and his parents found out that a persistent pain in his arm was in fact ganglioglioma, for which the prognosis in children is less than encouraging.?“It was such a shock. We could barely wrap our heads around it,”?his mother Josée recounted. They were told that the chances of being able to completely remove Karl’s tumour, which was lodged in his brain stem, were slim and that the repercussions could be serious. Fortunately, an experimental treatment was available through Terry Fox PROFYLE.?“Instead of undergoing highly complex surgery, Karl is taking a pill to shrink the tumour. This has given him back his mobility and let him return to school.”

Although 80 per cent of pediatric cancer patients now survive, the outlook for the remaining 20 per cent continues to be grim. Terry Fox PROFYLE Program Director Dr.?David Malkin of the SickKids Hospital in Toronto is delighted to see specialists in precision medicine converge for the first time and work together instead of in their respective silos. This is the key to modern-day medical advances.

The medicine of tomorrow in Quebec

Dr. Nada Jabado, a senior scientist with the Child Health and Human Development Program at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and a pediatric hematologist-oncologist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital of the MUHC, is a primary physician for children with brain tumours. “The PROFYLE initiative is an unprecedented catalyst for collaboration among Canadian scientists who are tackling particularly aggressive, hard-to-treat forms of pediatric cancer. I am proud of the synergy between our two teams in Quebec and of the expertise we’ve developed in studying genetic biomarkers that we can bring to this massive undertaking,” said Dr. Jabado, leader of the PROFYLE biomarker node. “Our goal is to find a cure for all children living with cancer, and with PROFYLE we are taking a giant leap forward. By sharing our knowledge and our know-how, we will maximize our chances of success in reaching out to children in need and their families.”

Karl, MCH patient, is also a huge fan of P.K. Subban.

Professor Daniel Sinnett, senior scientist and head of the laboratory of genomic determinants of childhood leukemia, part of the Charles-Bruneau Research Unit in Immunology, Hematology and Oncology at CHU Sainte-Justine, agrees.?“Our dream is to defeat cancer through research. By joining forces to take our work to the next level, we can make the most of our resources to greatly benefit children across the country. This nationwide collaboration will enable us to strengthen the leadership of our pediatric oncology teams,”?he stated.

“With precision medicine, we can develop molecular profiles that will show us how a disease is likely to progress so we can determine the most effective course of treatment to recommend to children and their families. These personalized treatments adapted to the needs of individual patients will help better our chances of finding a cure,”?he added.

Quebec is contributing more than a quarter of the initial $16.4?million in funding, by way of several prominent donors, namely the Charles-Bruneau Foundation?– the lead Quebec partner in this initiative, Sarah’s Fund for Cedars?/?Cedars Cancer Foundation, the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation and the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation.

“At the Charles-Bruneau Foundation, we are proud not only to be continuing our fight against childhood cancers through a generous contribution to this research initiative, but also to be extending the scope of our work to a national scale,”?said Rébecca Dumont, chief executive of the Charles-Bruneau Foundation.?“Curing children with cancer is what our foundation is all about. It is with pride and confidence that we are working hand in hand with Sainte-Justine and the Montreal Children’s Hospital, two vital partners in Quebec, to advance the frontiers of knowledge and bring hope of a cure to all children.”

Funding for this initiative, which will be spread out over five years, is expected to grow as new donors are added.

Watch the Terry Fox PROFYLE patient video below to learn more about how the project is helping young Canadians.

McGill commits to carbon neutrality by 2040

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 10:20

Faculty, staff, and students discuss possible initiatives for the Climate & Sustainability Action Plan at an Action Team Meeting in March 2017. / Photo: Brayden Culligan

By Toby Davine

A year of big questions, tough conversations, and lofty ideas has finally materialized in the Vision 2020 Climate & Sustainability Action Plan (2017-2020), released earlier today. Designed to expand and enhance the University’s commitment to sustainability, the Action Plan also outlines a number of initiatives to lower McGill’s own carbon footprint.

To set the University on the right path, two long-term targets were set to guide the Action Plan: achieve carbon neutrality by 2040 and attain a Platinum sustainability rating by 2030.

“We knew that if we were going to address climate change on campus, we needed to think beyond 2020. That is why we set these long-term targets,” says Sustainability Director, Francois Miller. “Addressing a challenge like this – arguably the defining challenge of a generation – requires us to go towards a more longstanding vision of change. This [2017-2020] Plan is only the beginning of a much longer journey.”

An institution achieves carbon neutrality when the amount of?greenhouse gases released is equivalent to the amount sequestered or offset. McGill’s own plan for carbon neutrality includes strategies for campus energy systems, air travel, and commuting policies, among other emissions sources. Achieving carbon neutrality by 2040 means that McGill will eliminate its greenhouse gas emissions – currently 54,060 tonnes – through significant carbon reduction and, to a lesser extent, carbon sequestration and carbon offsets. This amounts to the equivalent of taking 11,576 cars off the road.

The Platinum sustainability rating is the highest possible rating developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). The Action Plan outlines twenty-two short-term actions across five areas (Research, Education, Connectivity, Operations, and Governance & Administration), many of which will move the University closer to achieving this goal by 2030.

“I’m proud that [this Plan] addresses many new areas of sustainability and climate change for the first time,” says Amelia Brinkerhoff, Vision 2020 Coordinator. “I think it reflects how complex and multi-dimensional sustainability is, and how we’re adapting to what McGill and our community need to see.”

Vision 2020 – McGill’s Sustainability Strategy – was launched in 2014 following a two-year community engagement process, along with a 2014-2016 Sustainability Action Plan. The Climate & Sustainability Action Plan (2017-2020), which covers the final phase of Vision 2020, is also the result of an extensive consultation process that engaged over 500 McGill community members.

“Not only did the Vision 2020 process engage a broad cross-section of the McGill community in the creation of the Climate & Sustainability Action Plan, it outlines a series of actions that are to be tackled by units throughout the University,” says Vice-Principal Administration and Finance, Yves Beauchamp. “This multi-sectoral approach is integral to creating a more resilient and sustainable institution.”

The entire Climate & Sustainability Action Plan will be made available in French in early 2018, along with an executive summary in the three main Indigenous languages in Quebec: Innu-aimun, Cree, and Kanien’keha (Mohawk).

Action highlights:

  • Develop a “carbon responsibility” program to offset air travel emissions
  • Increase bike parking across campus
  • Develop a Waste Reduction and Diversion Strategy
  • Address GHG emissions from McGill’s fleet of vehicles
  • Facilitate and support planning of sustainable events across campus
  • Recruit an Indigenous scholar or artist-in-residence

Read the?Vision 2020 Climate & Sustainability Action Plan (2017-2020) online.

McGill’s plan for achieving carbon neutrality includes strategies for campus energy systems, air travel and commuting policies, among other emissions sources.


Put a smile on the face of a child this holiday season

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 09:50

By McGill Reporter Staff

Being a McGill student is challenging, as is being a parent. Combine the two – a McGill student who also has a child – and throw in the holiday season, when economic pressures sometimes make it tough to buy presents, and you have a potential recipe for rising stress levels.

With this in mind, the Family Care Program of the Social Equity and Diversity Education Office (SEDE) has joined forces with the Post Graduate Students (PGSS) Society to expand the holiday gift program for the children of McGill student parents. Sponsors sign up to buy a gift for one of these children to make their holiday season all the happier.

“We want to make the holidays fun for the kids of McGill students. We want to make people feel seen, heard and appreciated,” says Julia says Pingeton, the Family Resources Coordinator with SEDE and one of the organizers of the gift drive.

The gift drive was started last year by the PGSS with Christmas stockings in Thompson House. Pingeton has been working with Jenny Ann Pura, Membership Services Officer with PGSS, to expand the program by including undergrad student parents, and opening the program up to sponsorship by members of staff and faculty.

There is no data on the number of student parents at McGill, but there are about 400 on a list serv run by SEDE’s Family Care program. The ages of the children in the program range from just a few weeks to teenagers. So far 50 families, some with multiple children, have signed up, and about 35 sponsors/donors have come forward.

Many parents in the gift program are newly arrived to Canada and?a long way from their families. Some are from out of province, some are single parents and on single-incomes. Many are on tight budgets and can’t afford to travel to see family. “The holidays can be very stressful emotionally and financially for all students, and especially student parents,” says Pingeton. “We are hoping people come forward to share.”

Here’s how the holiday gift drive works:

  • Student parents sign up their children to receive a holiday gift from sponsors.
  • Sponsors sign up to sponsor a family or child.
  • The Family Care Program matches up sponsors and families confidentially.
  • Organizers tell sponsors what gift has been requested by a family (or the general age range and interests of a child if no specific gift is requested), and they will drop off the unwrapped gift to the SEDE Family Resources Coordinator.
  • Families can pick up their gift at the Dec. 7 holiday party, or any time before Dec. 22.

There is a $20 ceiling on the value of the gifts.

If you’re a student parent interested in receiving a gift or gifts for your child or children, please fill out the following form.

If you are interested in donating one or more gift, please fill in this form.



Sign of the times: Morphing mice adapt to changing climate

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 09:01

White-footed mice, like the one pictured here,?have undergone physiological changes as a result of a warming climate, says McGill’s Virginie Millien. / Photo: Virginie Millien

By Chris Chipello, Media Relations Office

New research by McGill biologists shows that milder winters have led to physical alterations in two species of mice in southern Quebec in the past 50 years – providing a textbook example of the consequences of climate change for small mammals.

The findings also reveal a stark reversal in the proportions of the two mice populations present in the area, adding to evidence that warming temperatures are driving wildlife north.

At McGill’s Gault Nature Reserve, about 40 kilometres east of Montreal in the St. Lawrence valley, biologist Virginie Millien for the past 10 years has been studying two similar, coexisting species: the deer mouse and the white-footed mouse. Both are common in eastern North America. But while the deer mouse can be found in Canada’s northern reaches, the white-footed mouse is a more southerly species, rarely found north of the St Lawrence River.

Virginie Millien is an Associate Professor and Curator, Redpath Museum; and Director, Gault Nature Reserve / Photo: Neale McDevitt

By comparing data from the past decade with specimens collected by McGill researchers as far back as the 1950s, Millien’s team discovered that the skull shapes of both mouse species have changed over time. The changes in the two species paralleled each other, but have been more pronounced in the white-footed mouse — with the result that the cranial shapes of the two species have become more distinct.

At the same time, the white-footed mouse has been moving farther north as winters get milder – at a rate of around 11 kilometres a year, the researchers estimate. While nine of 10 specimens caught in the reserve by researchers in the 1970s were deer mice and only 10 per cent were white-footed, those proportions are now reversed, according to findings by Millien’s team, published recently in the journal?Evolutionary Ecology.

Morphological changes

“Evolutionary theory predicts morphological changes in response to climate warming, but there is very little evidence for it so far in mammals,” Millien says.

These changes may be related to a dietary shift caused by climate change, combined with competition for food resources between the two species of mice, according to the researchers. A shift in the position of a molar tooth in both species, for example, could reflect changes in the type of food that the mice need to chew.

One question that remains to be settled is whether the changes are genetic, and will be passed on to future generations – actual evolution?– or whether they represent “plasticity,” the capacity of some species to adjust to rapid environmental change.

In either case, the physical changes – although difficult for untrained observers to discern?– are significant. “We are talking about bones and teeth, hard structures that are not easy to bend,” Millien notes.

The findings add to the few documented cases of rapid responses by wildlife to climate change, such as Rosemary and Peter Grant’s studies of finches in the Galapagos archipelago for four decades starting in 1973. By careful measurements of the population of two species on one tiny island over the course of major weather changes such as El Ni?o events and droughts, the Grants were able to show that evolutionary changes in beak size and body size can occur in as little as a couple of years.

A forested ‘island’

For Millien, the old-growth forest of the Gault Nature Reserve on Mont Saint Hilaire in Quebec’s Monteregie area similarly provided a kind of insulated, open-air lab. “When I arrived in Quebec from France 15 years ago, I was working on the evolution of island mammals,” she recalls. “I was pretty disappointed, because there was little opportunity to find islands close to Montreal. Then I saw a picture of the Monteregian hills taken by NASA in the winter: these were islands of forest within a matrix of agricultural field and urban areas. I had found my study system.”

What made these wooded hills particularly special was that Millien also had access to museum specimens from the same locations, collected in the 1950s through a McGill field survey, and in the 1970s by Peter Grant, who did some work on small mammals at Gault while he was a biology professor at McGill. (He and Rosemary Grant are now emeritus professors at Princeton University.)

With its 1,000 hectares of old-growth forest, “Gault is unique” in southern Quebec, says Millien, who has also been director of the reserve since last year. “It provides an opportunity for researchers to study the effects of climate change, putting aside the added disturbance of human activities. One of our colleagues in Biology is working on developing a project similar to ours, revisiting some plant surveys that were done decades ago.”

Read the study online

Caroline Palmer receives 2017 NSERC CREATE program funding

Mon, 11/27/2017 - 15:22

Caroline Palmer is one of the few researchers in Canada to receive two CREATE training grants to date.

By Amanda Testani

Caroline Palmer of McGill’s Department of Psychology has received a $1.65 million research grant, to be distributed over six years, from NSERC’s Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) for her research and training program, Complex Dynamics:? Accelerating discoveries in brain and behavior.

Palmer is one of the few researchers to receive two CREATE training grants to date. From 2009-2015,?she led an NSERC funded CREATE program in auditory cognitive neuroscience, training over 180 students and postdoctoral fellows. Her significant findings from that program informed her training program application in Complex Dynamics.

Palmer is among 18 other Canadian researchers awarded $1.65 million in grants from the Canadian government for a period of up to six years. The innovative training programs must foster the acquisition and development of important professional skills among students and postdoctoral fellows that complement their academic qualifications, in preparation for careers in industry, government, non-governmental organizations and/or academia.

Palmer’s program is designed to train future scientists to evaluate fluctuations in biological rhythms critical to heart rate, sleep and respiration. It will also consider the impact of these nonlinear periodic oscillations on attention, memory and motor activity. Mismatches between biological rhythms and environmental or societal demands can have serious consequences for job performance, mental health and quality of life. For example, night work shifts and sleep deprivation have been shown to play a role in industrial accidents. The program integrates training in mathematics, physics, and computer science with neuroscience, physiology and psychology to extract the complex dynamics that underlie both the neural and behavioural activity of humans.

“We are especially fortunate, following our experiences running a previous CREATE training grant, to have fantastic training facilities in the Image Analysis Lab in Stewart Biology,” said Palmer. “With the support of the Dean of Faculty of Science and the CRBLM, we are able to host CREATE trainees and their data in this excellent facility for computational modelling of nonlinear processes.”

Palmer’s trainees will work in a multi-disciplinary environment and each graduate trainee will hold an internship with an industry partner. This industry experience will expose trainees to brain-sensing technologies, bioinformatics measurements, and a wide range of brain-behaviour interface technologies. Jointly held workshops and trainee exchanges with six Canadian universities and three international networks will strengthen trainees’ professional networks.

“I would like to thank the Government of Canada, NSERC and our industrial partners for this significant investment in McGill’s innovation and excellence in?the field of cognitive neuroscience,” said Martha Crago, McGill’s Vice-Principal of Research and Innovation. “The CREATE program enables an emerging generation of researchers to pursue fundamental, long-term research while at the same time gaining the skills they need to bridge the gap between academia and industry.”

The program will benefit from the expertise of McGill’s Center for Applied Mathematics in Bioscience and Medicine, McGill’s Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship and the Healthy Brains for Healthy Lives CFREF-funded program, who are partners on the Complex Dynamics training grant.

Read the NSERC announcement


Fostering respectful engagement

Fri, 11/24/2017 - 10:51

By James Martin

Over the past year, there have been ongoing conversations about how the McGill community can best maintain its commitment to the core principles of the University’s academic mission: academic freedom, integrity, responsibility, equity and inclusiveness.

In early November, Principal Suzanne Fortier struck the Task Force on Respect and Inclusion in Campus Life. The group has a mandate to “recommend a set of concrete measures by which the University may ensure the full and effective operationalization of its core principles across all University activities but with particular consideration paid to student life at McGill.”

“A word that’s going to come up over and over again is ‘collegial,’ ” says Task Force co-chair Bruce Lennox, Dean of the Faculty of Science. “That doesn’t mean ‘I’ll stay out of your way if you stay out of my way.’ Collegiality describes a way of interacting; you can have highly disparate views on a topic, and still have a collegial exchange of ideas.”

Co-chair Nandini Ramanujam, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law, characterizes the Task Force “as something that is neither the beginning nor the end…. At the Faculty of Law [for example], we’ve been talking a great deal, for a long time, about safe spaces and inclusive spaces and respectful spaces. There have been many conversations between students, faculty and administration. [The University] has had task forces before about freedom of assembly and expression. This is part of a continuous process.”

Now completing what Lennox calls “the construction phase,” the Task Force membership – coming from across the University community, including three students, two staff members, and two additional faculty members – will be announced shortly.

The heavy lifting is about to begin. The Task Force will soon launch a survey of students, faculty and staff, which aims to determine how existing structures help or hinder free expression, respect and inclusion. In order to capture even more individual and group perspectives, the Task Force will conduct wide-ranging consultations on the downtown and Macdonald campuses through January. There will be open forums on both campuses in the New Year.

“It’s about who we are as an institution,” explains Ramanujam. “The more diversified we get as a community, [the more] we ought to be reflecting on creating a space for fostering diversity and creating pathways for people to connect. The rich diversity of our community calls for a continuous reflection on interactions [between, and within, various McGill populations] in different dimensions. There is vast work ahead of us.”

Before joining McGill, Ramanujam worked for the Open Society Institute and worked with the process of democratization and reform of universities in former communist countries in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. As the Executive Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism, she now often engages with Voices-Voix, an umbrella group representing more than 200 civil society organizations across Canada. When asked to co-chair the Task Force, she found the mandate “resonated with me. I care about a respective, inclusive, enabling environment where diversity of voices finds expression.”

The University-wide consultations may very well identify particular sources of tension, but Ramanujam clarifies that specific incidents are not the focus of the Task Force.

“The Task Force is not a reaction,” she says, “it’s a proactive engagement with addressing issues that the community feels are restricting the space for free and respectful engagement. The University consists of 50,000 members and people have so many different concerns and issues. We see our mandate as looking at the broader space.”

Lennox adds that he anticipates the Task Force will make recommendations that are “mostly operational rather than brushstroke policy.”

“The level of discussion of this Task Force is about the role of respectful debate in a university,” he says. “How does one apply the freedom of expression within an academic environment? How does one make it a reality?

“There are issues that are the subject of debate, and people may bring forward these [specific] topics, but we’ll be steering the discussion in the direction of how does one engage in a respectful debate in order to discuss whatever topic.”

Ramanujam notes that similar explorations are taking place on campuses around the world, and the Task Force will study what is being done – and what is working well – at peer institutions.

“Globally, universities are undergoing deep reflection about emerging challenges and opportunities related to a rapidly diversifying community and stakeholders,” she says. “It’s part of the process of maturing and growing up. We hope to be informed by the work that is going on [elsewhere], but to also have something to share with other institutions.”

The Task Force will present a progress report to Senate on February 21, and a status report on March 28. The Principal will receive the group’s final report and recommendations by April 27. The work, however, will not stop there.

Ramanujam sees the Task Force’s goal as “fostering an environment that will carry on long after I’ve retired and current students have graduated. It’s not just [about] a one-off survey. This will be one of many surveys in order to understand whether things are changing, whether our recommendations are moving forward. What work needs to be done? In which areas? It’s not just talk, it’s action.”

Lennox speculates that, no matter what is learned over the next five months, the Task Force will recommend ongoing introspection and examination of the state of respect and inclusion at McGill.

“Many students only spend three or four years on our campus,” he says. “If we leave this to five-year intervals, it’s as if we’re bringing the subject up de novo – when freedom of expression is really the DNA of this institution. Free speech is how we share knowledge. If you can’t do it in a university environment, you can’t do it anywhere. It’s what we are.”

Three McGill professors awarded Senate of Canada 150 medals

Fri, 11/24/2017 - 09:04


McGill professors Alan Evans, Andrea C. LeBlanc and Bernard J. Lapointe were awarded Senate of Canada 150 medals?for their commitment to advancements in Alzheimer’s disease and palliative care research.

By Amanda Testani

McGill professors Alan Evans of The Neuro, Andrea C. LeBlanc of the Lady Davis Institute, and Bernard J. Lapointe, Director of Palliative Care McGill, were awarded Senate of Canada 150 medals?for their commitment to advancements in Alzheimer’s disease and palliative care research. Senator Judith Seidman, a former research fellow at The Neuro and Associate Professor of the McGill School of Social Work, nominated them.

The medals are being awarded to Canadians or permanent residents actively involved in their communities who, through generosity, dedication, volunteerism and hard work, make their hometowns, communities, regions, provinces or territories a better place to live.

In her letter to?Drs. Evans and LeBlanc, Seidman stated that, “I have chosen to nominate you because I believe that your tireless commitment to advancements in Alzheimer’s disease research is a great service to our province and an inspiration to others.” They are among 12 outstanding community leaders awarded medals in the province of Quebec by Senator Seidman.

Five other community leaders with connections to McGill were awarded medals by Senator Seidman: Olivia Monton, founder of the philanthropic organization, Live for the Cause and student of medicine at McGill; Houda Moussallier, a three-time ovarian cancer survivor who raises awareness of this disease at the McGill University Research Centre (MUHC); Wendy Wray, Nurse Director of the Women’s Healthy Heart Initiative at the MUHC; and Paige Isaac, former Coordinator of McGill University’s First Peoples House.

The Senate of Canada 150 medal was created to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the first sitting of the Canadian Senate on November 6, 1867, the year of confederation. Created to commemorate this occasion and to give Honourable Senators the opportunity to recognize Canada’s unsung heroes, awardees are deeply involved in the betterment of their communities through generosity, dedication, volunteerism, and hard work. The bronze medal, struck at the Canadian Mint, features the Senate’s emblem on one side and the Senate Chamber, along with the recipient’s name, on the other.

“McGill is extremely proud of professors Evans, LeBlanc and Lapointe” said Martha Crago, Vice-Principal, Research and Innovation. “All are champions of research and discovery and this medal recognizes their significant contributions to Canada.”

Dr. Evans is a James McGill Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Psychiatry and Biomedical Engineering, and the Scientific Director of the Ludmer Centre for Neuroinformatics & Mental Health. He is also the Scientific Director of Healthy Brains for Healthy Lives (HBHL), a?high profile, high priority multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral initiative in neuroscience at McGill, made possible with support from the?Canada First Research Excellence Fund?(CFREF).

In addition to pioneering neuroimaging techniques and advancing research into neurodegenerative diseases, Dr. Evans’ lab, the McGill Centre for Integrative Neuroscience, has developed neuroinformatics technologies — the tools that make big-data analytics in neurosciences possible — that now underpin large-scale data-sharing initiatives globally. The cutting-edge infrastructure also underpins major research initiatives at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, including the Ludmer Centre, HBHL, and the new Tanenbaum Open Science Institute (TOSI).

In Alzheimer’s and dementia research alone, Dr. Evans’ neuroinformatics team supports or is the data-coordination centre for three Quebec initiatives (CIMA-Q, PREVENT-AD, Memory Clinic), Canada’s largest national initiatives (CCNA, CDAN), and the international Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI). Through Dr. Evans’ lab, the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital is strategically positioned to connect Canada’s neuroscience community in Alzheimer’s and dementia-related research both nationally and internationally.

“I’m absolutely flattered to have won the Senate of Canada 150 medal,” said Dr. Evans. “I am delighted that the field I’m working in has been recognized in that way. Alzheimer’s disease is such a terrible scourge and it is important that Canada puts research resources into this field so our older population are better protected against the disease.”

Dr. Andrea C. LeBlanc is a James McGill Professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery and a researcher of the Bloomfield Center for Research in Aging in the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research in Montreal. Dr. LeBlanc focuses her research on the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative diseases in aging individuals. She is renowned for her discovery of Caspase-6 in age-dependent cognitive (memory) impairment and in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer disease. Her research results provide novel therapeutic targets to develop efficient medication or treatments against the disease before it causes irreversible damage to the brain.

“As a basic research scientist, it is an honour to be recognized with a Senate of Canada 150 medal,” said Dr. LeBlanc. “Many scientists, young and old, dedicate tireless efforts to finding mechanisms of disease that will allow the development of efficient treatments and medications. This medal recognizes their efforts to improve the health of many Canadians.”

Dr. Bernard J. Lapointe was appointed Chief of the Division of Supportive Care and Palliative Care at the Jewish General Hospital in 2001, a role he holds to this day. In addition, he is an associate professor of palliative medicine in McGill’s Departments of Family Medicine and Oncology. He has held the Eric M. Flanders Chair in Palliative Medicine at McGill since 2009.

Throughout his career, Dr Lapointe has been deeply committed to addressing the needs of the dying, particularly as president of the Quebec palliative care association, president of the Canadian Hospice and Palliative Care Association and as an active member of both the Quebec and Canadian Societies of Palliative Care Physicians.

Dr Lapointe has been recognized for this work with numerous awards, including the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians (CSPCP) Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.? Dr Lapointe continues to focus his research on reducing and controlling pain in people living with terminal illnesses. He has led or collaborated on a wide range of studies on pain management, including those that explore new and experimental medications in the treatment of cancer pain. Dr Lapointe is currently the Chair of the International Congress on Palliative Care organized biennially by McGill since 1976, of which the 22nd edition will be held in October 2018.

“I am deeply honoured by the attribution of the Senate of Canada Sesquicentennial Medal in recognition of my role in the development of palliative care in this country,” said Dr Lapointe. “I wish to thank and recognize the contribution of hundreds of collaborators and colleagues who have shared this quest to ensure access to quality end-of-life care for all Canadians.”

To learn more about how McGill researchers are using big data to advance research, listen to the recent lecture on Alzheimer’s and Dementia Research Powered by Big Data.

The?Senate of Canada 150 medals are awarded to Canadians or permanent residents involved in their communities who, through generosity, dedication, volunteerism and hard work, make their hometowns, communities, regions, provinces or territories a better place to live.

Xue Liu and Justine Behan honoured by Mitacs

Fri, 11/24/2017 - 07:45

Professor Xue Liu was awarded the Mitacs Professor Award for Outstanding Leadership for his commitment, outstanding leadership, and exceptional talent to merge industry with academic research.

By Meaghan Thurston

A McGill professor and a McGill alumna were among seven researchers, academic and business leaders from across Canada recognized?on Wednesday by Mitacs, a national, not-for-profit research and training organization, for their innovative efforts to transform the lives of Canadians. Professor Xue (Steve) Liu, from the School of Computer Science, and Justine Behan, a recent graduate of the Ingram School of Nursing, were each recognized with Mitacs Awards. The annual awards honour the work of outstanding participants in Mitacs’ research and training programs. The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, gave remarks at the event celebrating the exceptional researchers.

Professor Liu was awarded the Mitacs Professor Award for Outstanding Leadership for his commitment, outstanding leadership, and exceptional talent to merge industry with academic research. Through a Mitacs project with Aerial Technologies, a Montreal-based artificial intelligence company, Professor Liu led a group of graduate students on the research and development of device-free, human activity recognition technologies using standard Wi-Fi signals. The research achievements contributed largely to the establishment and growth of Aerial Technologies, and helped the company raise more than two million dollars in funding to accelerate the commercialization of their technologies.

Justine Behan, a graduate of the Ingram School of Nursing and a research assistant for McGill’s VOICE research team,?accepts her Mitacs Award from Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science.

Justine Behan, a graduate of the Ingram School of Nursing and a research assistant for?McGill’s?Views on Interdisciplinary Childhood Ethics (VOICE) research team was awarded the Mitacs Master’s Award for Outstanding Innovation. While a student at McGill, Ms. Behan conducted an ethnographic study aimed at improving the lives of children living with cancer in India. Her work involved collecting data at three different study sites in New Delhi to better understand how young cancer patients participate in health-related decisions. Ms. Behane’s project provided much-needed empirical findings to spearhead childhood ethics research in India. She was the recipient in 2016 of a Mitacs Globalink Research Award, which provides funding to support senior undergraduate and graduate student research projects abroad.

“The annual Mitacs Awards celebrate the some of the very best people in Canadian research and innovation,” said the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science. “This event allows us to recognize their outstanding leadership and achievements that pave the way to new discoveries, innovations, and opportunities. I want to congratulate all of the students receiving this year’s awards and I look forward to their many future successes in science.”

Listen to the interview Justine Behan did on CBC’s Home Run.



Two more from McGill to be hitting the Rhodes

Thu, 11/23/2017 - 16:40

Alexander Lachapelle and Claire Lyle are McGill’s 143rd and 144th Rhodes Scholars. / Photo: Neale McDevitt

By Neale McDevitt

Clare Lyle, a U3 Joint Honours Math and Computer Science student, and Alexander Lachapelle, currently pursuing his Medical Doctorate and Master of Surgery, have been awarded Rhodes Scholarships. This brings to 144 the number of McGill Rhodes Scholars since the awards were created in 1902 to provide for studies at the University of Oxford, the most in Canada.

Both Lyle and Lachapelle will finish their McGill studies in May before heading out to Oxford in October for the next phase of their academic adventure. The Reporter spoke with both recipients to find out?what respective?road they took to Rhodes and what they hope to accomplish when they get there.

Alexander Lachapelle: Always more to discover

On the verge of completing his Doctorate of Medicine and Master of Surgery (M.D.,C.M.) at McGill, Alexander Lachapelle has also undertaken a formidable engineering task over the past several years – working to build better bridges between medicine and innovation.

Partway through his studies, but wanting to learn the world of medical technology inside and out, Lachapelle took the road less travelled, but one he believed would best serve his vision. Putting his studies on hold for a year to work in healthcare policy, he moved to New York and joined an artificial intelligence start-up, where he worked applying machine learning to diagnostic radiology.

Alexander Lachapelle

“Basically, we were creating deep learning algorithms to help reduce diagnostic errors and improve patient outcomes,” says Lachapelle. “It was one of the most enriching experiences of my life,” he says of his time in New York, “because it showed me two things. First, it gave me a real sense of how much machine learning can improve the quality of and the access to healthcare for patients, through early disease identification and management.

“But it also gave me insight into the complex process that goes into innovating clinical care,” Lachapelle continues. “Even once you’ve developed the technology and published the results, you still have to go through the regulatory process; you have to develop a commercialization strategy; you have to get all the right partners around the table working on the more entrepreneurial side of things, you have to teach the healthcare professionals how to use it and make sure it works, you have to update it and adapt it to changes in the literature. These are so many things you have to take on to get a new tool to the patient.”

Not surprisingly, Lachapelle plans on focusing on these interests while at Oxford. “I want to study how we can use technology – more specifically, machine learning – to improve access to healthcare, in Canada and globally. How can we work together and make sure that innovation doesn’t just live in a publication and that it actually benefits the patient?”

People working together is a common theme in Lachapelle’s life. A Terry Fox Scholar, he said he decided he decided to become a doctor when he was a teen working with the Dr. Julien Foundation, a Montreal social pediatrics enterprise that ensures children living in vulnerable circumstances have access to pediatrics care. “Rather than just treating the disease, [the Foundation] brought everyone from the child’s life around the table – from the parents to the teacher to the speech therapist to the pediatrician,” he says. “The Foundation works on dozens of projects, in Montreal and in Quebec. In this case, we developed a new summer social pediatrics program, and we raised over $200,000 to support it through partnerships with local organizations and the governments of Canada and Quebec. It made me realize firsthand the importance of the social aspect of medicine.”

As if Lachapelle wasn’t busy enough, he has also done a lot of health policy work over the past several years. Last year, he was elected to be the official representative of medical education for the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA), an organization that represents some 1.3 million medical students from 127 countries.

As such, Lachapelle represented the IFMSA at conferences and meetings organized by, among others, the World Health Organization, UNESCO and the U.S. Congress. He also sat on the executive board of the World Federation for Medical Education.

“It really gave me opportunity to see what happens behind the scenes when health policies are being created,” he says. “How do you plan your health workforce; how do you ensure social accountability of the medical curriculum; how do you train the doctors of tomorrow?

“I saw a real desire for a lot of schools to teach their students to become lifelong learners,” says Lachapelle. “With medicine evolving so fast, especially on the technological side, how do you keep people in the mode where they always read the literature and stay up-to-date, so that they aren’t just learning medicine once? There is always so much more to discover!”

Clare Lyle: Interested in pretty much everything

If you’re going to recite a list of Clare Lyle’s interests and accomplishments, you’d better take a deep breath beforehand

Recent Rhodes Scholarship aside, Lyle is pursuing a Joint Honours Math and Computer as a Loran Scholar, Canada’s most comprehensive undergraduate award for character, service and leadership. On top of her classroom prowess, the native of Gibsons, B.C. (population 4,605) is the web editor for the McGill Tribune, Director of HackMcGill and the Computer Science Undergraduate Society representative for students. She is also a mentor for Ladies Learning Code, leading workshops to teach women how to code.

If that wasn’t enough, Lyle has served as co-chair of the World University Service Canada, during which time she worked to increase funding for the student refugee program.

An avid musician (clarinet, bass, saxophone, cello and piano), Lyle is also a basketball player who organizes kids’ basketball camps. And, of course, there are the animals. Lyle was a volunteer at her local animal shelter for eight years.

Clare Lyle

“It’s not a huge secret,” Lyle says with a shrug when asked why she is involved in so many different activities. “I do things that I find interesting and meaningful. I just happen to find a lot of things interesting and meaningful.

Right near the top of Lyle’s list of interesting and meaningful things is computer science. “I think it helps that I love my program so much that I see homework as a fun thing I get to do on the side,” she says.

At Oxford, Lyle will work toward a DPhil in Computer Science. “I am especially interested in looking at theoretical foundations for machine learning,” she says. “Right now, there has been a lot of success empirically, but it isn’t really understood why our empirical results have been so good. I hope to focus on this.”

It won’t be Lyle’s first stay at Oxford. The Loran program has Fellows doing summer internships along different themes. “I wasn’t sure what I could do in public policy that would be very meaningful or that I could contribute to as a computer scientist,” says Lyle. “Then I came across [the Future of Humanity Institute] at Oxford. I spent the summer looking at the public policy implications of artificial intelligence.”

When asked how she reacted when she got the call from the Rhodes people, Lyle laughs. “My roommate had had a deathly cough and, as a result, I had a bad sleep the night before. I was actually taking a nap, sort of mid-afternoon when they called,” she says. “I was still half asleep when they asked me if I would accept the Rhodes Scholarship. Honestly, there was this moment where I said ‘Wait, did I wake up yet or is this a dream?’

“I was thrilled. The way they pose the question is they ask you, ‘If we offered you a Rhodes Scholarship, would you accept?’ I think I said ‘Yes’ twenty times. I didn’t want there to be any doubt,” she says.

Lyle will be graduating in the spring and she reflects upon her time at McGill with fondness. “I’ve had a lot of really fantastic mentors here without whom I definitely would not be here today,” she says. “I’m blown away by the sense of community here, even though it is a big university. Once I got into my department, I felt like I was back in a small town again. The profs know my name and ask me how I’m doing when we pass in the hall.”

Lyle chose McGill because “it is a fabulous university,” but also because she has roots here. “I figured university was a chance to live somewhere else for 3-4 years. I wanted to live in a completely different part of Canada and experience something completely different,” she says. “My grandmother grew up near Montreal and I still have some relatives here, so I wanted to get back to my French Canadian roots.”

Her coming to McGill was the first time Lyle was away from her parents. “It was a good stepping stone for my parents getting used to me not being around,” says Lyle with a laugh, “which is a good thing now that I’m going to Oxford.”

And how did her parents take the news of the Rhodes Scholarship? “They were ecstatic,” says Lyle, “maybe more excited than I was – if that is possible.”


McGill’s third campus takes big step

Thu, 11/23/2017 - 12:45

In coming months, the?Gault Nature Reserve?will see the development of three new labs and the installation of a network of meteorological technologies, including drones. / Photo: Neale McDevitt

By Doug Sweet

Thanks to a significant Canada Foundation for Innovation grant for a ground-breaking project in environmental research that will link the Gault Nature Reserve with other McGill research stations in different parts of the world, McGill’s “third campus” on Mont St-Hilaire will see some big changes in the coming months.

Significantly, the campus, nestled in the woods atop the South Shore mountain will see the development of three new labs and the installation of a network of state-of-the-art meteorological technologies, including drones, that will allow for the intensive study of the St. Lawrence River Valley ecosystem. The effort will boost the Gault Nature Reserve’s research capabilities, just as it is about to celebrate a 60-year affiliation with McGill next year.

Principal Suzanne Fortier with Mont Saint-Hilaire Mayor Yves Corriveau. /?Photo: Neale McDevitt

“I think we all increasingly realize the challenges we are facing with sustainability,” Principal Suzanne Fortier told a gathering of researchers and local officials earlier this week, as snow flakes drifted from slate-grey skies across the picturesque lake in the heart of the Reserve and the 40 or so people stayed warm within the main building’s thick stone walls. “At McGill, it is one of the top teaching and research priorities.” The fact the CFI recognized this project “speaks to the quality of the work of our researchers,” Prof. Fortier said.

The Reserve’s new Director, Virginie Millien, spoke of how proud the installation is to be considered a third campus of the University, complete with classrooms, other teaching facilities and research infrastructure. In 2017, she said, about 400 undergraduates, representing 12 courses, studied at Gault, while nine research groups conducted their studies there. “These students we’re training today – it’s our future,” she said. “I want more students to come here, more research to be done here.”

John Gyakum, Chair of Atmospheric and Oceanic Studies, got a laugh from the audience by showing off his tie with symbols of every weather event.

The project, to establish an Adaptable Earth Observation System (EOS), is led by John Gyakum, Chair of Atmospheric and Oceanic Studies, and is supported by a $17.5-million CFI grant.

Not only will this effort help connect the University’s numerous far-flung research stations, in such places as Barbados, the far North, Panama and East Africa, that span 30, 40, even 50 degrees of latitude, Dean of Science Bruce Lennox said, describing it as an “environment within an environment that is truly world class.”

The project, which will involve researchers from McGill, the Université du Québec à Montréal and the University of Northern British Columbia, will conduct an intensive study of the St. Lawrence River Valley ecosystem, which is recognized as a unique ecosystem that contains “all the meteorological elements,” Gyakum said. The three new labs to be built include a Living Earth Laboratory, a Physical Earth Laboratory and a Field Data Analysis centre. Monitoring of meteorological fluctuations will be conducted by a network of sensors and even some airborne drones. Two mobile labs will also be part of the project.

McGill “will provide the scientific community with a model for studying the local ecosystem, and the Earth ecosystem.”

All this was music to the ears of recently re-elected Mont Saint-Hilaire Mayor Yves Corriveau, who was delighted to describe his community of about 20,000 on the Richelieu River as “a university town.”

“Thanks to McGill, the mountain will be preserved for future generations,” he said. “We’re counting on you!”

The magnificent Gault House on the shore of Lake Hertel.



Brain stimulation can change how much we enjoy and value music

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 15:46

MNI researchers have shown it is possible to increase or decrease our enjoyment of music, and our craving for more of it, by enhancement or disruption of certain brain circuits.

By?Shawn Hayward

Enjoyment of music is considered a subjective experience; what one person finds gratifying, another may find irritating. Music theorists have long emphasized that although musical taste is relative, our enjoyment of music, be it classical or heavy metal, arises, among other aspects, from structural features of music, such as chord or rhythm patterns that generate anticipation and expectancy.

Now, researchers from the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital have proven it is possible to increase or decrease our enjoyment of music, and our craving for more of it, by enhancement or disruption of certain brain circuits.

Previous studies using brain imaging found that listening to pleasurable music engages brain circuits involved in reward anticipation and surprise, known as the fronto-striatal circuits. However, nobody had ever tested whether these circuits are essential to musical reward, or if they can be manipulated, leading to changes in subjective and physiological measures of experienced musical pleasure.

In order to modulate the functioning of fronto-striatal circuits, the researchers from the lab of Robert Zatorre used a non-invasive brain stimulation technique, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which uses magnetic pulses to either stimulate or inhibit selected parts of the brain. In this case, the researchers applied TMS over the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Brain imaging studies have shown that stimulation over this region modulates the functioning of fronto-striatal circuits, leading to the release of dopamine, a key neurotransmitter in reward processing.

In three separate sessions, the researchers applied either excitatory, inhibitory or no real TMS over the left DLPFC to healthy participants. After the stimulation, participants listened to their own favorite music as well as a music selection chosen by the researchers.? While listening to the music, participants had to rate in real-time their enjoyment of the music, and the researchers also measured their psychophysiological responses. In addition, participants were offered the opportunity to purchase the music selected by the researchers, using real money, in order to measure their motivation to listen to the music again.

The researchers found that, compared to the control session, liking of music, psychophysiological measures of emotion and participants’ motivation to buy music were all enhanced by excitatory TMS, while all of these measures were decreased by inhibitory TMS.

“Their findings show that the functioning of fronto-striatal circuits is essential for our enjoyment of music. This indicates that the role of these circuits in learning and motivation may be indispensable for the experience of musical pleasure,” says Ernest Mas Herrero, a postdoctoral fellow and the study’s first author.

Mas Herrero is now using a combination of TMS and functional magnetic resonance imaging to determine which specific regions and circuits are responsible of the changes found in this study.

“Showing that pleasure and value of music can be changed by the application of TMS is not only an important – and remarkable – demonstration that the circuitry behind these complex responses is now becoming better understood, but it also has possible clinical applications,” says Robert Zatorre, a professor of neurology and neurosurgery and the study’s senior author. “Many psychological disorders such as addiction, obesity, and depression involve poor regulation of reward circuitry. Showing that this circuit can be manipulated so specifically in relation to music opens the door for many possible future applications in which the reward system may need to be up- or down-regulated.”

This study was?published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour?on Nov. 20. Read it online.


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