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UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 8 | Jun. 6, 2002

In The News

Highlights of UBC Media Coverage in May 2002.

Compiled By Brian Lin

Asian arms trade

Commenting on Malaysia's announcement of a major weapons modernisation programme, UBC International Relations Prof. David Capie told Forbes.com that "since the end of the Cold War, patterns of arms acquisitions in Southeast Asia have been closely linked to the performance of regional economies."

Age of universe

Using the Hubble Telescope, a team of scientists led by UBC Astronomy Prof. Harvey Richer said they had arrived at a new measure of the age of the universe: the cosmos is at least 13 billion years old. "We're not peering at the edge of the universe," Richer told the New York Times. "We're a peeping tom looking at our neighbour . . . This new observation short-circuits getting to the age question, and offers a completely independent way of pinning down that value."

Health care cuts

UBC Medical School's Clinical Assistant Prof. Leon Bard told the Vancouver Sun that staff shortage has resulted in inadequate patient-care in the ER. "Although I agree that that the status quo is unsustainable, the changes proposed by this Liberal government will only make the situation dramatically worse," warned Bard. "Rather than relying on information and advice from economists, bureaucrats or politicians, I would suggest consultation with those of us in the front lines who are dealing with these problems face-to-face every day."

Workplace depression

UBC Psychiatry Prof. Raymond Lam is urging employers to be aware of clinical depression at the workplace. Health Canada estimates that workplace depression costs more than $1.4 billion in lost productivity to Canadian companies. "We're hoping business will recognize how important this is and step up to the plate," Lam told Business in Vancouver.

Spinal cord breakthrough

In a breakthrough that could help people living with paralysis, a team of UBC researchers has found nerve cells in the spinal cord can survive at least 12 months after an injury. "This discovery offers a line of hope on the horizon for people who have been paralyzed for some time," UBC Zoology Prof. Wolfram Tetzlaff told the National Post. "It opens a whole new avenue of research." "We now understand that we can revive chronically injured nerve cells - the next step is to grow them across the injured part of the spinal cord," said co-investigator Brian Kwon, orthopedic surgeon.

UBC toughest to get in

Due to a surge in applications over the last two years, UBC has increased the minimum grades required to be guaranteed admission to 86% for science and engineering programs, 82% for arts and 88% for commerce. "It's scary," Acting Registrar David Holm told the National Post. UBC has overtaken Canada's older schools - Queen's, U of T and McGill - as the most selective in the country. "We are certainly popular. Maybe too popular."


Populations of jellyfish are exploding in seas and oceans around the world, raising concerns about the health of marine ecosystems. If over-fishing continues in the North Atlantic and elsewhere, fishing boats could soon be chasing jellyfish instead of fish, UBC fisheries scientist Daniel Pauly told the Washington Post.

Fierce mice

UBC geneticist Elizabeth Simpson has found an inherited gene mutation in mice that affects the brain and results in a tendency for violence. "There is a growing field recognizing the potential of mice to study human brain disorders," Simpson told the British news web site Annanova. "Even in a mouse, it's quite a surprise that a single gene would do this and be able to change the brain that much."

Toxins onboard

Commenting on a lawsuit brought against Alaska Airlines by its former employees, who have allegedly suffered neurological damage caused by toxic chemicals onboard, UBC Health Care and Epidemiology Prof. Chris van Netten told USA Today that while the industry keeps saying there's no evidence that people have been hurt, "there's no evidence people have not been hurt either." "Basically, we don't know because we have yet to catch one of these incidents with the proper instruments," he added.

Cloning legislation

UBC Medical Genetics Prof. Patricia Baird says legislation to ban sex selection clinics, cloning units and commercial enterprises dealing in human tissues is long overdue. "What we have to do is get our own house in order in this country and have regulations and policies that we believe are ethical and humane," Baird told CBC News. "And then we need to work in the international community to make sure that as far as we can that other countries participate in some global agreement on some of these technologies."

Baseball star

UBC baseball player Jeff Francis is expected to become a millionaire as he makes Canadian baseball history. Francis is a left-handed pitcher projected to be a first-round selection in the June 4 amateur draft. "It's hard to try to pitch normally when there are 20 scouts watching every move you make," Francis told USA Today. "I'm getting excited. Sometimes it's hard to think of anything else." Francis said he chose UBC over other U.S. offers for its academics. The physics major's favourite subject was biophysics. "Science has always come easier than the rest," said Francis, who is fascinated by what makes a CD player or an EKG machine work.

Research funding

A full-page feature in the Vancouver Sun details UBC's achievements in innovation and how a variety of channels are explored to ensure an abundance of funding is available to researchers. UBC Museum of Anthropology director Ruth Phillips said UBC has clarified and reasserted its role as one of Canada's major research universities. "This clarity has encouraged all parts of the university to participate as fully as possible in the research enterprise." The MoA was recently awarded $17.2 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation for a redesigned research wing that will allow First Nations partners to access digitized material from 15 museums in England and North America. UBC Microbiology and Immunology Prof. Bob Hancock was one of the first of a possible 156 recipients of the Canada Research Chair program at UBC. Hancock said the increased emphasis on research is absolutely critical to the university's future because it helps reverse the so-called brain drain and creates new opportunities for academics.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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