Top Ten

December 4, 2014

$10 M gift establishes DNA science centre at uCalgary

The University of Calgary has received a $10 M donation from local businessman Dave Robson, which will be used to establish the Robson DNA Science Centre. Robson made the donation in honour of his late wife Val, who died in May of a rare cancer. He hopes that the centre can help reduce cancer rates and help victims of the disease. “If you can find root causes of problems in your life, you can generally fix them … DNA is a root cause of cancer,” Robson said. Susan Lees-Miller, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at uCalgary, said, “we were really thrilled that Mr Robson wanted to invest in basic science … Understanding the fundamentals is important.” She added that the gift will help the Centre recruit new staff and establish student fellowships. Calgary Herald

WesternU to open $5 M AIDS research facility

Western University has announced plans to establish a new $5 M facility dedicated to the study of pathogens such as HIV/AIDS at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. Researchers at the facility, to be called The Imaging Pathogen and Knowledge Translation Facility, will use advanced imaging technology to track viruses, bugs, and treatments in lab animals without having to rely on dissections. “This type of facility doesn’t exist anywhere in the world,” said researcher Eric Arts. Arts added that he expects that the new building, which will replacing outdated existing pathogen containment facilities at WesternU, will enable the institution to attract more leading researchers. “We haven’t been able to do the imaging work,” said Greg Dekaban, who had been involved in the creation of a containment facility at WesternU in the late 1980s. “I’m really pleased to see this re-birth.” London Free Press | WesternU News Release

What can institutions do to support grad students looking for non-academic careers?

In a new essay for Academica Group’s Rethinking Higher Ed Forum, Catherine Maybrey, Graduate Career Strategist at McMaster University, examines how the “silo effect” has affected career preparation for graduate students. Maybrey says that career service professionals are often left outside of discussions around post-graduate employment. Meanwhile, measures of doctoral program success have been too narrowly focused on academic appointments. Maybrey urges faculty to be more open to non-academic careers for their graduate students, and calls on institutions to incorporate applied activities into the curriculum. She adds that graduate students would benefit from the kinds of career resources that are often made available to undergraduate students. “If we want to ensure successful employment outcomes, we need to invest in knowledgeable staff and build bridges between faculty and those responsible for the professional development of graduate students,” Maybrey argues. Rethinking Higher Ed

Colleges partner with CANARIE to support applied research projects

Centennial College, George Brown College, Humber College, and Selkirk College have partnered with CANARIE, which will provide its Digital Accelerator for Innovation and Research (DAIR) cloud resources in support of applied research programs. DAIR will offer the colleges rapid access to scalable technological resources that can adjust to meet small business needs. “The partnerships with CANARIE enable colleges and institutes to use transformative cloud technologies to respond to the applied research needs of industry, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises, the source of 70% of new jobs,” said Denise Amyot, President of Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan). Susan St Maurice, Director of Technology Development at CANARIE, added, “the college partnerships are drivers of long-term cloud adoption, as both students and businesses see first-hand the power that cloud technologies deliver.” CANARIE News Release

Federal cuts threaten "unique" research facility

The Canadian National Ultrahigh-Field NMR Facility for Solids in Ottawa is at risk of closure after losing its federal funding. The facility is home to the most powerful magnet in Canada, which is used in an NMR spectrometer used to gather information about the structure of molecules and the interaction of atoms. This makes the facility the most advanced of its kind in Canada, and one of the most advanced in the world. The facility was slated to close on December 15 after the federal government canceled the Major Resource Support program, which provided nearly $100,000 a year in operating funds. Researchers came to a new agreement with the National Research Council to stay open until at least March. However, they say that they still need another $200,000 if they want to stop the facility from closing in the near future. The University of Ottawa’s Sylvain Charbonneau, who helps manage the machine, said that he has been in touch with 8 institutions across Canada to help come up with the additional funds, while Gang Wu, a professor at Queen’s University, added that the facility’s steering committee is trying to negotiate with federal granting agencies for operating funds. CBC News

Representatives from 7 ON universities in Turkey to build partnerships

Representatives from 7 Ontario Universities are joining the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) in Turkey this week to establish and strengthen partnerships in research and academic programs. The delegates will meet counterparts from at least 10 Turkish universities, research councils, and governments. Among those attending will be university Presidents Feridun Hamdullahpur (University of Waterloo), Tim McTiernan (University of Ontario Institute of Technology), Mamdouh Shoukri (York University), and Alan Wildeman (University of Windsor); Ontario Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Reza Moridi will also be on hand. Moridi said, “In an increasingly globalized world, the connections we make between Turkey and our province will support the success of our academic and research communities. These collaborations will lead to greater economic growth both in Turkey and right here in Ontario.” COU News Release | Windsor Star

Symposium at UQAM examines relationships between faculty, students

A recent symposium at l'Université du Québec à Montréal examined romantic relationships between professors and students. “Everyone knows it happens, but no one talks about it. And when we do talk about it, it’s to point to couples that have worked out. That way we avoid talking about the other scenarios, which are much more common, with issues that are more complicated, desperate, and, frankly, shameful,” said organizer Martine Delvaux, a professor at UQAM. The symposium was expected to be fairly small, but was caught up in recent current events including the allegations against former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi and the posting of stickers denouncing sexual harassment on the doors of 3 UQAM professors. Attendees discussed issues including what constitutes consent at university as well as the uneven power dynamic involved in a relationship between a faculty member and a student. Dalvaux said that usually the student is the one with the most to lose in such a relationship. “She has lost her power of speech. No matter what she says, she will be accused of having wanted to seduce her professor or of having been naïve enough to be seduced,” she said. University Affairs

100 brains disappear from Texas university collection

The University of Texas at Austin found themselves investigating a strange case of brain drain after approximately 100 brains preserved in jars of formaldehyde went missing. Timothly Schallert and Lawrence Cormack, the co-curators of the collection, were initially at a loss to explain their whereabouts. Cormack said, “it’s entirely possible word got around among undergraduate students and people started swiping them for living rooms or Halloween pranks.” However, the brains later turned up at the University of Texas at San Antonio. “I know the brains will be treated very well there,” said Schallert. uTexas-Austin had received the brains from the Austin State Hospital about 28 years ago; due to capacity issues in the university’s psychology lab, the missing brains had been stored in the basement of the Animal Resources Centre. Among the collection of brains is one that belonged to Charles Whitman, the so-called “clock tower sniper” who in 1966 killed 16 people at the uTexas-Austin. Globe and Mail | Toronto Star

Postscript: December 4, 2014

The 100 brains that went missing from the University of Texas at Austin were not transferred to the University of Texas at San Antonio, as previously reported. Rather, they were destroyed in 2002. In a statement, uTexas-Austin said that the brains were destroyed after faculty members determined that they had been in poor condition upon their receipt from the Austin State Hospital; they were then disposed of in accordance with protocols concerning biological waste. The university added that it intends to investigate the handling of the brain specimens as well as how the decision to dispose of the brains was made. uTexas-Austin also said that there is no evidence that one of the specimens belonged to Charles Whitman, the clock tower sniper. UTexas-Austin News Release | The Chronicle of Higher Education

Can PSE institutions benefit from a Chief Digital Officer?

An article in Campus Technology examines the benefits of employing a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) in a PSE setting. The article notes that often the definition of “digital” can be particularly unclear in education, encompassing areas from social media to digital libraries to data analytics. The article suggests that PSE institutions may benefit from understanding the “D” in “CDO” as standing for “disruptive change.” An officer in such a role would be able to bring disruptive change into focus, and help the campus community understand the forces driving change, the challenges associated with it, and ways to harness it, eventually integrating a disruptive technology into the campus workflow. A CDO role may not be a good fit for every institution; however, it may be worthwhile to consider the benefits such an individual could have on campus. Campus Technology

More parents going to college, but on-campus child care declining in US

A new report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) has found that the proportion of US PSE institutions with child care on campus has declined even as a growing number of parents are attending college. The proportion of community colleges with on-campus child care dropped from a peak of 53% in 2003–2004 to 46% in 2013; among public 4-year institutions, the proportion dropped from a peak of 55% to 51%. The figures at community colleges are especially notable, as the largest share of student parents are community college students. The report notes that in spite of an increase in the number of students with children, federal funding for campus child care has remained relatively static. “Improving access to child care for students with children would be likely to contribute to increasing college persistence and degree attainment among low-income adults,” the report concludes. Full Report