In the News

Highlights of UBC media coverage in October 2009.  COMPILED BY SEAN SULLIVAN

Canadians uncover cancer map

The possibility of using a patient’s genetic information to create personalized therapies to battle cancer is one step closer to reality after UBC and other Canadian scientists decoded, for the first time, the entire genome of a patient’s metastatic breast cancer, reported the Globe and Mail.

The newspaper called it “a landmark achievement that sheds light on how cancer develops and provides new insights into how to fight it.”

“I’m excited by the possibilities,” said Samuel Aparicio, Canada research chair in molecular oncology, the Nan and Lorraine Robertson chair of breast-cancer research at UBC, and one of the lead scientists involved with the study.

“In fact, I never thought I would see in my professional lifetime that it would become possible to routinely sequence genomes in the way that we’re now doing.”

The findings were also heralded by Reuters, AFP, Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, The Canadian Press and Canwest News Service.

Golden Mean turns heads

Author and UBC Creative Writing instructor Annabel Lyon has earned three major award nominations for her debut novel, The Golden Mean.

The Golden Mean is a fictionalized story of Aristotle’s childhood up to the time when he became a tutor to the boy who would become Alexander the Great, notes Canwest News Service.

The novel is a nominee for the Governor General’s prize for fiction, made the longlist for the $50,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize and is a finalist for the $25,000 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize.

Lyon, a UBC alumna, was interviewed by the Globe and Mail, The Canadian Press, the Vancouver Sun and CBC.

Engineering student nets Discovery spot

Fourth-year UBC engineering student Aaron Coret was featured on the Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet for the snowboard Landing Pad he co-invented with UBC alumnus Stephen Slen.

In 2005, Coret’s freestyle career came to a dramatic halt when he had a bad landing and became a quadriplegic. In the Daily Planet feature, he is on Blackcomb Mountain in Whistler testing the latest prototype of the Landing Pad, a giant vinyl pillow that allows freestylers to land hard and continue safely downhill to reduce big injuries.

“It’s like the best day of the year,” Coret said.

Lynch goes to your brain

Surrealism may be good for the brain, according to a UBC study published in the journal Psychological Science and covered by international media including the New York Times, the Times of India and the Globe and Mail.

Watching the films of David Lynch, director of Blue Velvet and Eraserhead, or reading a Franz Kafka short story, can improve learning by compelling the brain to make an extra effort to seek out structure, the Globe reported.

“We rely on structure to make sense of the world,” said Steven J. Heine, co-author of the study and UBC professor of psychology. “If you encounter something that you can’t relate [to other things], that you don’t know what to do with it, this sort of puts you off your game and you need to search for a reference point again to again find some structure.”

Prison plan slammed

UBC Law Prof. Michael Jackson made a national splash with a report that slams the federal government’s plan to “toughen” Canada’s prison system.

The report, co-authored with a former director of the John Howard Society of Canada, argues the government is ignoring “more than a century of correctional and legal history, empirical research and the recommendations of inquiries and royal commissions” in its blueprint to overhaul federal prisons.

The study attacks the Harper government for adopting an amateur and “alarming” document that ignores human rights, gives the false impression that crime is rising, and provides no costs for flawed policies that would flood penitentiaries with more inmates, reported Canwest News Service.

“With no public review or consultation, the plethora of recommendations – some good , some trivial, but many with draconian implications for the protection of human rights, public safety and the public purse, are being presented as the future of federal corrections in Canada, “ Jackson and Steward wrote.

The Canadian Press, CBC, the Vancouver Sun and the Edmonton Sun also reported on the study.