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UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 06 | Mar. 22, 2001

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 his work.

"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 death.

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.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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