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UBC Reports | Vol. 50 | No. 4| Apr. 1, 2004

In the News

Highlights of UBC Media Coverage in March 2004

Compiled by Brian Lin

A Whirring Adult Brain

Millions of people have mild versions of autism, depression and attention deficit disorder. Without a diagnosis, these “shadow syndromes” can ruin lives.

Attention deficit disorder, for example, is too often ignored in impulsive, distracted adults.

“This isn’t a problem that goes away after puberty,” Margaret Weiss, director of research for the division of child psychiatry at UBC, told the National Post.

“And one of the great problems we face is that once children with ADD turn 18, they are no longer eligible for [provincial] funding for treatment and counselling. This is a time when they are going to university; when they have tremendous stresses to deal with, like scheduling, organizing themselves to study and so on. This is a vulnerable time.”

Experts say the solution lies in focusing on people’s strengths and developing their coping strategies.

Business Fills the Gaps in University Funding

Business leaders and corporations are coming forward with record donations to meet the funding demands of Canada’s post-secondary institutions. Ike Barber and Bill Sauder,
who both made fortunes in forest products, each gave $20 million to UBC, where private donors have always represented more than half of all gifts.

The size and number of private gifts is rising, Clark Warren, associate vice-president of development, told the National Post.

Last year UBC raised $82.6 million, a significant gain from the $67.8 million raised the year before.

“Fundraising is now a continuing business and not a series of campaigns spaced a few years apart,” he says. “It also relies heavily on establishing relationships with potential major donors. Major gifts are rarely first-time things.”

Some Flowers are the Bee’s Knees

UBC Zoology doctorate candidate Risa Sargent is the first to have come up with solid numbers to demonstrate that flowers with their petals arranged in one way appear in more botanically different species than flowers with petals in different arrangements.

At the heart of her pioneering findings lie two basic evolutionary concepts: speciation and reproductive isolation.

“Many different insects can pollinate flowers like buttercups or roses because they’re radially symmetrical,” Sargent says, meaning the petals are evenly spaced around the flower centre. So, a honeybee, moth or bumblebee can fly in from any direction to pick up or drop off pollen.”

Such specialist pollination increases the prospects of survival because these flowers are less likely to receive pollen from an incompatible plant or to have their own pollen transferred to incompatible stigma, Sargent told the Toronto Star.

Wristwatch Sensors to Detect Pollutants

Groundbreaking research being conducted at UBC on “microsensors” means that in a few years you may be able to buy a watch that can detect everything from a bad smog day to an anthrax attack.

Winnie Chu, laboratory manager at UBC’s new Centre for Health and Environment Research, has developed a chip that does the same thing, reports The Vancouver Sun. It’s about only two centimetres long and one centimetre wide.

While Chu stressed that her research has not focused on terrorism, it could be used to identify biological agents, like anthrax, that some fear could be used in a terrorist attack.

Other sensors, modified somewhat, could test water samples for deadly bacteria like E. coli.

Long-Awaited Bill On Assisted Human Reproduction Clears Senate Hurdle

A Senate committee recently unanimously approved legislation banning human cloning, rent-a-womb contracts and the sale of human sperm and eggs.

The Assisted Human Reproduction Act would also set standards for embryonic stem cell research, and create a federal agency to oversee fertility clinics.

“At long last, eh?” UBC geneticist Patricia Baird told CP Wire. “I’m just delighted. I think it’s really in the best interests of Canadians that this has gone forward.”

Key elements of the legislation were recommended in 1993 by the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies, of which Baird was the chair.

“[The legislation] is going to help protect the health and safety of literally thousands of Canadians who use infertility treatments every year,” said Baird.

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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