UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 06 | Mar.
Microbiologist, physicist receive Biely, McDowell
by Hilary Thomson staff writer
Superbugs to superconductivity is the span of science seen
in the work of this year's recipients of UBC's top research prizes.
Microbiology and Immunology Prof. Bob Hancock has been given the
Prof. Jacob Biely Faculty Research Prize and Prof. Doug Bonn of
the Physics and Astronomy Dept. received the Charles A. McDowell
Award for Excellence in Research.
Hancock, who joined UBC in 1978, directs the Centre for Microbial
Diseases and Host Defense Research. Studying the antibiotic-resistant
mutant superbugs and developing new antibiotics is the focus of
"This prize is a wonderful endorsement by the university of the
value of my work," says Hancock, who was recently named a Canada
Research Chair. "It's especially gratifying to receive this acknowledgement
in the middle of my career -- it confirms I'm on the right track."
Hancock examines the way groups of amino acids called cationic
peptides interact with bacteria and their potential as a new class
of infection-fighting drugs. Cationic peptides attach to bacteria
and physically interact with their membranes and DNA to cause their
Hancock has licensed his discovery of a peptide production technology
and many new improved peptides to Micrologix Biotech Inc., a UBC
spin-off company that develops new drugs to kill resistant
bacteria or improve the effectiveness of existing antibiotics.
Bonn joined the Faculty of Science in 1994. He has an international
reputation for his expertise in high temperature superconductivity
and how electrons respond to microwave and infrared radiation.
"I am surprised and delighted to receive this prize -- it's an
honour to be associated with such a famous name on campus," he says.
Bonn and colleague Physics Prof. Walter Hardy were the first to
report accurate measurement of the depth that microwaves penetrate
a superconducting crystal. The discovery changed the understanding
of the nature of high temperature superconductivity.
High temperature superconductors are materials that can carry
electrical current with zero resistance. The term high temperature
is relative, however. Bonn works with materials at about minus 196
C -- high by superconductivity standards. To better understand these
materials, researchers create them in tiny crystal form.
UBC is a world leader in experiments on these crystals, says Bonn,
whose work has implications for high frequency electronics such
as cell phone base stations and communications satellites.
The two awards are named for former UBC researchers. Prof. Emeritus
Charles McDowell headed UBC's Chemistry Dept. for 26 years. Biely,
an international poultry scientist, was a UBC faculty member from
1935-68. He died in 1981.