Nathan Skolski

Email: nathanskolski@okmain.cms.ok.ubc.ca


 

Nobel Night 2016

Annual discussion highlights world-changing discoveries and accomplishments

What: Nobel Night panel discussion with distinguished professors
Who: University researchers discuss the 2020 Nobel Prizes
When: Thursday, December 10, beginning at 7 p.m.
Where: Virtual event on Zoom. Register at NobelNight.ok.ubc.ca

This year, the long-established tradition of Nobel Night at UBC Okanagan will continue, but in a virtual format. The event will be divided into two segments with the main presentation taking place from 7 to 8 p.m. followed by a moderated question and answer session with the panel.

Each presenter has just eight minutes to explain the significance of the work achieved by this year’s winners. The event will be hosted by UBCO’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal Lesley Cormack and emceed by Phil Barker, vice-principal and associate vice-president of research and innovation.

The Nobel Prize in Physics: 

Alex Hill, assistant professor of astrophysics with the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, will highlight the research and findings on black holes conducted by Nobel Prize winners Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry: 

Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science’s Kirsten Wolthers, who teaches biochemistry, chemistry and molecular biology, will discuss the findings of Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna and their development of a method to edit genomes.

The Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine: 

Sarah Brears, regional associate dean of UBCO’s Southern Medical Program will discuss the work of Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice—all three share the prize for their work on the hepatitis C virus including new tests and medicines that can save lives.

The Nobel Peace Prize: 

Professor Haroon Akram-Lodhi, editor-in-Chief with the Canadian Journal of Development Studies will speak about significant of the World Food Programme being named the winner of the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize.

The Nobel Prize in Literature: 

Nancy Holmes, associate professor of creative studies and creative writing will talk about poet Louise Glück and her award-winning writing.

Advance registration is required to join this virtual event. Register at NobelNight.ok.ubc.ca

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

 

Understanding how gut mucus packages microbiota could lead to new ways of disease detection 

Gut mucus. It may not be everyone’s favourite subject, but new research from UBC Okanagan has found it’s more complex and intimately linked to the body’s microbiota than previously thought.

Microbiota is a physiological force made up of microbes—mostly bacteria, fungi and viruses. While it often does good, like extracting energy from diet, warding off pathogens and promoting a healthy immune system, if it’s off-balance, it can also work against the body to promote illnesses like cancer, inflammation and obesity.

Working with colleagues at Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, UBCO researchers recently published a study in Science examining this new-found relationship, why it matters, and how it may lead to less-invasive disease screening.

Kirk Bergstrom, assistant professor of biology in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science.

Kirk Bergstrom, assistant professor of biology in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science.

Kirk Bergstrom is an assistant professor of biology in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science and co-lead author of the study.

Let’s talk mucus. What are the misconceptions about it and how is it useful for our bodies?

I think people associate mucus with being sticky, gooey and kind of gross—but in the gut, it’s actually really important physiologically, and can protect from microbiota-driven diseases like cancer and inflammatory bowel disease.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about it, and that’s because it’s really complicated, decorated with thousands of sugar structures we call O-glycans that make up most of the molecule. It’s also hard to access so we could never get a lot of it to study.

Your study provides some new insight into how the mucus system works. Can you elaborate on this?

It was long-thought that mucus was continually produced along the entire length of the gut, especially in the colon, and that it stuck to the tissue to form a barrier to these microbes. It was thought to be immobile and have an overall similar chemical composition throughout.

Our study essentially showed the opposite. We found that the mucus does not attach to tissue, it attaches to the microbiota within the fecal mass, forming a seal around the community as it moves through the colon.  It’s also made up of two chemical sugar ‘flavours’—a dominant one is produced way up in the first part of the colon and the other, previously undiscovered kind, is formed in the lower colon.

What’s also really interesting is that the microbes themselves promote their own sealing by boosting production of the mucus in the first part of the colon. The sugars on this mucus then influence the types of microbes that thrive, the molecules they produce and where they position themselves in the gut.  All this, we believe, promotes their good functions, for example, by preventing unwanted inflammation.

How do your study results help advance knowledge in the field, and what impact could they have for the general public? 

Discovering this connection between mucus, its sugars, and microbes really changes how we view our microbial friends and how they live, move and behave in the gut. This has implications for microbial transmission—once they are packaged up, how does this influence where they ultimately go? How do pathogens escape this sealing and cause disease?

Another really exciting opportunity is that since the mucus system is attached to the fecal mass, this opens the door to easier non-invasive ways of accessing mucus, and that’s going to lead to a better understanding of its chemistry and biology. In line with this, we envision new opportunities for non-invasive biomarker discovery for chronic diseases like inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer, since changes in the mucus sugars can be early warning signs for disease, we can potentially easily screen from these markers without the need for uncomfortable biopsies and endoscopies.

Where do you go from here? 

These were pre-clinical studies, meaning they were conducted using mouse models, which are essential biologic tools for health researchers. However, our next step is to take these results and replicate them in humans. Actually, our study already shows evidence that a similar mucus formation mechanism is present in humans, but we want to dig deeper to see if microbes influence this as we move forward.

We also want to begin using this new understanding and way of analyzing mucus in fecal samples to explore how things like diet, antibiotics, lifestyle or disease impact the structure and composition of the mucus.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

Bergstrom would like to thank his mentor Lijun Xia, and colleagues Xindi Shan, Wesley Zandberg, Deanna Gibson and Sepideh Pakpour for their contributions to this research.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Telhiqox, in the traditional territories of the Tŝilhqot'in people. Image courtesy Kevin Hanna.

Telhiqox, in the traditional territories of the Tŝilhqot'in people. Image courtesy Kevin Hanna.

Agreements to strengthen collaborative research partnerships with UBC’s Centre for Environmental Assessment Research

On August 11, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) and an Indigenous Knowledge Protocol Agreement (IK Protocol) were signed by the Tŝilhqot’in Nation and the University of British Columbia. These agreements were led by Chief Russell Myers Ross, Vice Chair of the Tŝilhqot’in National Government (TNG) and Prof. Helen Burt, Associate Vice-President, Research and Innovation at UBC.

The MOU and IK Protocol are a first between UBC and the Tŝilhqot’in Nation and set a path forward for collaboration, cooperation and partnership grounded in respect for the Indigenous Rights of the Tŝilhqot’in Nation.

“The relationship with Kevin Hanna and his team at UBC has worked well, from the original conversations about cumulative effects to working with the Tŝilhqot'in Nation lands department to conduct a variety of useful projects to fill the gaps of understanding the Tŝilhqot'in territory,” says Chief Myers Ross. “The MOU and IK Protocol collectively represent one of many projects from UBC, collaborating with the support of the Indigenous Research Support Initiative (IRSI), to further our research priorities. IRSI has ensured continuity and governance support in fostering the relationship between UBC and the Tŝilhqot'in Nation.”

A key feature of the MOU and IK Protocol is to ensure that research is undertaken with cultural safety, an approach that recognizes and addresses systemic power imbalances and fosters a culture free of racism and discrimination, thus creating a safe arena for Indigenous partners. In addition, the agreements recognize the intellectual property rights of the Tŝilhqot’in knowledge and solidify the Nation’s data ownership and control. Further, the MOU establishes a foundation for future research collaborations that incorporate Tŝilhqot’in knowledge, community needs and sustainable environmental practices and opportunities within Tŝilhqot’in Nen (lands).

UBC and TNG have multiple research collaborations underway, including a number of projects with the Centre for Environmental Assessment Research (CEAR), which is a research centre based at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan Campus and led by Director, Dr. Kevin Hanna. Current CEAR-TNG research collaborations include Indigenous-led impact assessment, mapping and visualization of landscape change, new approaches and technologies for wildlife monitoring, and water governance.

“This MOU represents an important step forward in the relationship between UBC and the Tŝilhqot’in National Government,” says Dr. Hanna. “We have a unique opportunity to learn from the knowledge and experience of our Tŝilhqot’in colleagues, and to connect the resources and expertise of UBC to a range of historic and emerging environmental and natural resource management challenges in Tŝilhqot’in territory. There is a lot of innovative work we are already doing -- in impact assessment and geospatial science, and more is being planned. But this is very much about connecting different forms of knowledge, creating new collaborative approaches to doing research, and ensuring that the outcomes have value to Tŝilhqot’in communities.”

Background

  • The Tŝilhqot’in Nation is a Dene-speaking Nation comprised of six First Nation communities; Xeni Gwet’in (Nemiah Valley), Tl’etinqox (Anaham), Tl’esqox (Toosey), Yunesit’in (Stone), ʔEsdilagh (Alexandria) and Tsideldel (Redstone). The Tŝilhqot’in Nation is located in central British Columbia and is the first in Canada’s history to secure a court declaration of Aboriginal Title to a portion of their homelands.
  • The University of British Columbia is a global centre for research and teaching, consistently ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world. Since 1915, UBC’s entrepreneurial spirit has embraced innovation and challenged the status quo. UBC encourages its students, staff and faculty to challenge convention, lead discovery and explore new ways of learning. At UBC, bold thinking is given a place to develop into ideas that can change the world.
  • Located on Musqueam territory at UBC’s Point Grey, Vancouver campus, the Indigenous Research Support Initiative (IRSI) at UBC provides professional research support and services to Indigenous communities and university researchers in order that they may undertake collaborative projects based on community-led interests, reciprocal relationships, and principles of mutual accountability and understanding.
  • Located in Syilx Okanagan Nation territory at UBC’s Okanagan campus, the Centre for Environmental Assessment Research (CEAR) at UBC supports research about environmental assessment (EA) processes and methods and helps integrate this information into practice. Research conducted and supported by CEAR contributes to resource development by furthering knowledge about the role that EA plays in helping to advance natural resource management practices that benefit Canadians.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

A physician uses data science in healthcare research.

A physician uses data science in healthcare research.

UBCO student drops the books, dons medical gear amid COVID-19 outbreak

Ngan Nguyen Lyle was studying for an upcoming data science quiz when she got the call.

Lyle, a Master of Data Science (MDS) student at UBC Okanagan and medical doctor, was being summoned to return to work to support Interior Health’s COVID-19 response team.

“It wasn’t a tough decision,” she says. “I had been following the outbreak in the media and I was starting to realize that this was something extraordinary. I was already thinking about calling former colleagues to see if I could help before I was contacted.”

With the support of her professors and her physician-husband, Lyle returned to work full-time as an infectious disease doctor at Kelowna General Hospital (KGH) in late-March.

MDS student and medical doctor Ngan Nguyen Lyle.

MDS student and medical doctor Ngan Nguyen Lyle.

Having worked as an internal medicine resident during the 2009 H1N1 epidemic, Lyle had experience working in stressful environments. But this time was different.

“It was incredibly challenging,” she says. “I was asked to help the infection control team who had been working long days for weeks before I arrived—they were exhausted.”

Lyle worked most days on KGH’s COVID-19 floor, supporting staff who were caring for patients with confirmed or suspected infection due to the virus. She also supported staff in the Intensive Care Unit and the emergency department. She also worked in a somewhat investigative role, reviewing virus case files and addressing questions and concerns brought up by staff.

Though Lyle had previously worked in a clinical setting, she’s grateful for the infection control experience that the outbreak provided her.

“It challenged me,” she says. “I really had to try and find a balance and take everything into consideration.”

After five weeks of supporting the COVID-19 response team without any significant surge in cases, Lyle has shifted her focus back to completing her master’s degree.

Though it’s unlikely Lyle will graduate with her classmates due to the volume of work missed, she’s working with professors to make up assignments and plans to complete the program later this year.

“I definitely don’t regret going back to work,” says Lyle. “Graduating is important to me, but when your community is facing a once-in-a-century pandemic, there was no question as to where I was needed most.”

Now that she’s dropped the scrubs and picked up the books again, her goal is to apply the concepts she’s learning in the MDS program to medicine.

Before moving to the Okanagan, Lyle worked as a research fellow at UBC Vancouver studying sepsis—a potentially life-threatening condition caused by the body’s response to an infection.

“I was exposed to data informatics in that role but I didn’t have the quantitative or technical skills to engage in those analyses. I wanted to change that,” she explains. “That’s why I came back to school.”

Though Lyle has found the program challenging due to the heavy focus on mathematics, statistics and computer programming, she says it’s been an enjoyable and eye-opening experience.

“Before MDS I was skeptical of the role artificial intelligence and machine learning could play in healthcare — but now that I understand what’s under the hood, the statistics behind the algorithms, I’m more open to the possibility.”

As for the doctors, nurses and hospital staff Lyle worked alongside to care for COVID-19 patients, she’s still in awe.

“I just want to say that they’re all so dedicated, hardworking and that they deserve recognition too. Healthcare is a community effort.”

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Rebecca Tyson, associate professor of mathematical biology.

Rebecca Tyson, professor of mathematical biology.

Research links polarization, echo chambers to the spread of disease

Understanding how disease is passed from one individual to another has long been key to protecting populations from diseases like COVID-19. But new research from UBC’s Okanagan campus suggests that polarized opinions and apathy towards taking action can move through society like a virus and can seriously endanger efforts to contain a pandemic.

Rebecca Tyson is a professor of mathematical biology at UBC Okanagan and study lead author. She says that opinions and behaviours—like engaging in frequent hand washing, avoiding physical contact, or taking the threat of a pandemic seriously—can themselves spread throughout society and play an important role in how disease is transmitted during an epidemic.

“While we didn’t have COVID-19 specifically in mind when we conducted our research, we did try to imagine an epidemic that didn’t have a vaccine and that was best prevented by hand washing and other relatively simple actions,” says Tyson. “Behaviours like these can have extremes on either end of the spectrum, from denying the problem and doing nothing to completely isolating oneself.”

Using a mathematical model for both the spread of opinion—or opinion dynamics—and the spread of disease, she and her team were interested in how the presence, distribution and transmission of extreme behaviours can influence the epidemiology of a pandemic. They were particularly interested in how quickly a pandemic can take hold, the infection peak, the final number of those infected and the risk of a second peak.

“Our results show that opinion dynamics have a profound effect on the progression of disease in a population,” says Tyson. “In particular, the state of public opinion at the onset of a pandemic can have enormous influence—either dramatically reducing the fraction of the population that will be infected and the peak epidemic size, or making the epidemic worse than it would be otherwise.”

Tyson points to Hong Kong as an illustrative case of a population that was quick to adopt physical distance rules and were highly compliant with government regulations to eliminate spread, noting that COVID-19 is largely under control there. She adds that other countries, where compliance with government regulations was lower or slower, are having a much harder time.

While she’s quick to point out that her research is focused on mathematical models, she adds that the current COVID-19 outbreak is already showing some of the same outcomes she predicted in her models.

“Our models show that when faith in opinion influencers, like public health officials, is high, extreme preventative behaviours like quarantine and social distancing spread quickly through the population and the pandemic slows,” says Tyson. “This is exactly what we’re seeing in places like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea.”

On the other hand, Tyson says that populations that are politically polarized can see the disease spread much more quickly. Extreme behaviours, like disbelief in the problem, are amplified through influencer ‘echo chambers,’ which include mainstream or social media, creating pockets where the disease can spread more quickly.

“I believe this is part of the issue in the United States, where faith in government and public health officials is perhaps weaker than it is elsewhere and where there has been mixed messaging from different levels of government,” Tyson adds.

Looking to the future, she says her model shows that sustained and extreme physical distancing and hygiene behaviours are necessary to keep a highly-infectious disease at bay.

While the research provides a useful model for explaining the evolution of a pandemic, Tyson says that there are limitations.

“We assume things like a well-mixed population and we’re simplifying very complex human behaviour,” she says. “But there are definitely lessons in how opinion can shape the course of a pandemic and how we can leverage media and influencers to help keep public opinion from making a difficult problem worse.”

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Everything that grows in the Okanagan will be impacted by climate change, population growth, consumption, production and changes in land use. Learn more at the Okanagan Research Forum on December 3.

Everything that grows in the Okanagan will be impacted by climate change, population growth, consumption, production and changes in land use. Learn more at the Okanagan Research Forum on December 3.

What: Okanagan Research Forum
Who: UBC Okanagan Institute for Biodiversity, Resilience, and Ecosystem Services and UBC Okanagan Institute for Community Engaged Research
When: Monday, December 3 from 8:45 a.m. to 6 p.m.; keynote lecture at noon
Where: Summerhill Pyramid Winery ballroom, 4870 Chute Lake Road, Kelowna

The Okanagan Research Forum invites the community to listen to experts and take part in an open discussion about the future of food production in the Okanagan.

The forum is hosted by UBC Okanagan’s Institute for Biodiversity, Resilience, and Ecosystem Services (BRAES) and the Institute for Community Engaged Research (ICER). It’s a collaboration with partner organizations in an effort to share information and encourage conversation between the community, government and academia.

Presenters from local organizations include Westbank First Nation, the Certified Organic Association, the City of Kelowna, the Central Okanagan Food Policy Council, the B.C. Wildlife Federation, the En’owkin Centre and the Institute for Sustainable Food Systems.

This year’s theme is to explore changes in local food systems and will consider issues such as climate change, access to land, consumption, sustainable food production and future land use.

Four expert panels will discuss agricultural land use, policy, production and consumption. Each panel will be moderated by a UBC Okanagan professor or alumnus, and include farmers, representatives from relevant organizations and other experts. The goal is to explore how 'eating the Okanagan' applies to social, cultural and ecological systems. The day will conclude with a research poster session accompanied by a wine and cheese event.

The afternoon keynote lecture on indigenous plant foods will be presented by Nancy Turner, emeritus professor and ethnobotanist from the University of Victoria. All four panel discussions and the keynote lecture are open to the public. There is a nominal registration fee for the day to cover the cost of food and beverages.

This year’s forum is sponsored by UBC Okanagan’s BRAES, ICER, the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences, the College of Graduate Studies and the BC Institute of Agrologists.

To register, or get more information, visit okresearchforum.geolive.ca or contact Carolina Restrepo at carolina.restrepo@ubc.ca.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world. For more visit ok.ubc.ca.

Computer science and math students hope the award will inspire others

In BC, women make up 20 per cent of the high-tech workforce, far less than the national average according to the BC Tech Association. But those statistics are changing thanks in part to three young women from UBC’s Okanagan campus.

Emily Medema, Angie Pinchbeck and Marlie Russell were each awarded one of ten $10,000 Women in Technology Scholarships this week from the Irving K. Barber BC Scholarship Society. The scholarship recognizes exceptionally high-calibre students seeking degrees in computer science, engineering, and math.

Medema is in her second year of an undergraduate degree in computer science and came to UBC Okanagan from Vernon, BC. While she balances her time between her role as VP of Finance for the Quantitative Sciences Course Union and her school work, she says her love of problem solving and creativity is what truly drives her.

“Computer science provides me with an outlet for both my logical and creative sides,” says Medema. “Sadly, there’s a lack of women in STEM and the tech industry. I believe we’re an untapped asset for any company operating in that space, and indeed for STEM fields as a whole. My hope is that this scholarship can help many more women continue in technology.”

Pinchbeck, a fourth-year undergraduate student, is pursuing a double major in math and computer science and says she found her calling in technology after taking a chance on one of her courses.

“I never would have guessed I would end up pursuing math and computer science,” says Pinchbeck. “I was in the midst of a journalism degree that wasn’t really working for me when I took a programming class and loved it. Now, with the help of this award, I’ll be continuing my education in machine learning. A field that will undoubtedly reshape the world in which we live.”

She also hopes that the scholarship will spark more opportunities for mentorship.

“As women, we need to see and support each other in these industries—especially in computer science, which was originally a female dominated field,” adds Pinchbeck. “We are among the first ten women to ever achieve this scholarship, and I'm looking forward to meeting and supporting future recipients.”

Russell is from Williams Lake, BC, and is also working towards an undergraduate degree in computer science at UBC Okanagan. As a former wildfire fighter, she says she hopes her past experience can help shape her future in the tech industry.

“Computer science has encouraged me to expand my mental capacity in ways I never thought possible,” says Russell. “My goal is to return to the Cariboo region and apply my skills in technology to the natural resource sector.”

For Deborah Buszard, UBC Okanagan’s deputy vice-chancellor and principal, these three scholarships demonstrate the ingenuity and potential of the Okanagan campus and its students.

“At UBC Okanagan, we have world-class programs in science, engineering and technology. Encouraging more women to enter these fields will bring untold potential to the tech sector,” says Buszard. “I’m delighted that three students have been selected for this award and I thank the province as well as the Irving K. Barber British Columbia Scholarship Society for recognizing their unique talents and the potential of all women in technology.”

Medema, Pinchbeck and Russell formally received their award on November 13 at an event hosted by Her Honour, Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. For more information about the award, visit: ikbbc.ca/women-in-tech/about-this-scholarship

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world. For more visit ok.ubc.ca.

Public is invited to discussion about extinction and our peril

What: The great dying: The modern extinction of species and humanity’s peril
Who: Professor Corey Bradshaw, Matthew Flinders Fellow in Global Ecology Flinders University, Australia
When: Tuesday, November 20, from 3:30 to 5 p.m.
Where: Library building, room LIB 305, 3333 University Way, UBC Okanagan

Conservation ecologist Corey Bradshaw, professor at Flinders University, comes from an eclectic background. Growing up as the son of a trapper in Canada, he had the opportunity to form a unique view of the environment. From his childhood experiences, he learned that without intact environmental functions, precious resources quickly degrade or disappear. This appreciation of natural processes later led him into academia and the pursuit of reducing the rate of the extinction crisis.

He is now based at Flinders University in Australia and has a vibrant research lab where he applies quantitative skills to everything from conservation ecology, climate change, energy provision, human population trends, ecosystem services, sustainable agriculture, human health, palaeoecology, carbon-based conservation initiatives and restoration techniques.

This event, sponsored by the UBC Okanagan Institute for Biodiversity, Resilience and Ecosystem Services, is free and open to the public.

For more information contact: carolina.restrepo@ubc.ca

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world. For more visit ok.ubc.ca.

Using a specialized optical technique, called Raman spectroscopy, Andrew Jirasek and colleagues are the first to use the technique to look at the unique cellular changes that occur following radiation.

Using a specialized optical technique, called Raman spectroscopy, Andrew Jirasek and colleagues are the first to use the technique to look at the unique cellular changes that occur following radiation.

Infrared fingerprinting of cancer cells can lead to better radiation therapies

Researchers from UBC’s Okanagan campus have discovered a new method of using infrared light to monitor cancer progression during radiation treatment that may lead to better and more personalized therapies.

Cancers are typically treated using a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. The challenge for physicians is that once a treatment begins, it can last for weeks and usually isn’t adjusted to reflect how the cancer is responding.

“Previous research tells us that patients can be either over- or under-treated with radiation,” says Andrew Jirasek, associate professor of physics at UBC Okanagan and one of the study’s lead authors. “The problem is that even cancers of the same type, like breast cancer, can have different behaviours in individual patients.”

One of the most important behaviours, explains Jirasek, is sensitivity to radiation.

“Our goal was to identify a technique that can monitor a cancer’s sensitivity and response to radiation so that the dose can be adjusted to meet an individual patient’s needs,” says Jirasek. “It turns out that Raman spectroscopy is a minimally invasive means of doing just that.”

Relatively simple to perform and minimally invasive, Raman spectroscopy provides information about a sample of cancer tissue by shining an infrared light on it. Different components within the cells absorb the infrared light at specific wavelengths, creating a cancer ‘fingerprint’.

“The important difference is that as the cancer is exposed to radiation, levels of particular components in the cells will change over time and so too will the spectral ‘fingerprint’,” says Jirasek. “This opens up exciting new opportunities to track the progression in individual patients and personalize their radiation dose.”

While the technique isn’t ready to be applied to cancer patients yet, Jirasek is encouraged by the possibilities.

“We’ve shown that Raman spectroscopy can be an incredibly useful tool in measuring biochemical changes in cancer tissue,” says Jirasek. “Our next step will be to document what kinds of spectral fingerprints correspond to radiation sensitivity or resistance.”

“This could well open up new avenues for more effective and safer personalized medicine.”

The study was published in the journal Radiation Research and is supported by funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Western Economic Diversification, the BC Cancer Foundation and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world. For more visit ok.ubc.ca.

The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) is a Canadian radio telescope located at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory

The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) is a Canadian radio telescope located at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory

Audience to learn about the early expansion of the universe and the role of CHIME in deciphering its mysteries

What: Learn about the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment
Who: UBC astrophysicist Professor Mark Halpern, and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada
When: Saturday, March 24 at 7 p.m.
Where: Okanagan Innovation Centre Theatre, 460 Doyle Ave, Kelowna

For anyone who has ever looked into the night sky and wondered how it all came to be, UBC Okanagan is hosting an evening with UBC astrophysicist Mark Halpern.

Halpern, who teaches on UBC’s Vancouver campus, will be in the Okanagan to explain the potential of the newly established Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME). His talk titled ‘CHIME: Lullabies of the Infant Universe, and characterizing dark energy in the Okanagan’ will explain the role of the new telescope in today’s study of modern astronomy.

The telescope, located at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory near Penticton, began operation last fall. CHIME will help scientists learn more about how the universe grew and expanded by detecting and measuring the remains of sound waves in intergalactic gas.

“The CHIME telescope will measure the expansion history of the universe and we expect to further our understanding of the mysterious dark energy that drives that expansion ever faster. This is a fundamental part of physics that we don’t understand and it’s a deep mystery. This is about better understanding how the universe began and what lies ahead," explains Halpern.

There will be a Q&A session after his talk and, weather permitting, the audience will be invited to use telescopes—courtesy of the Kelowna Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada—located on the rooftop patio of the Innovation Centre.

This event, co-presented by UBC Okanagan and Okanagan College, is free and open to the public but pre-registration is required: chime-2018.eventbrite.ca.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world. For more visit ok.ubc.ca.