Highlights of UBC media coverage in March 2011


‘Clean fuel’ not always successful

As reported by the New Scientist, United Press International and the Vancouver Sun, UBC researchers say a program in New Delhi, India, to switch vehicles to clean fuel has not significantly improved harmful emissions in more than 5000 vehicles.

In New Delhi’s 5,000 auto-rickshaws with two-stroke engines, the conversion to “clean fuel” was making the vehicles dirtier, producing emissions that have a negative impact on climate change.

“Our study demonstrates the importance of engine type when adopting clean fuels,” lead author and UBC post-doctoral fellow Conor Reynolds said.

Swapping fecal bacteria

Pathogen microbiologist Brett Finlay has shown that, in mice, resistance to a deadly E.coli-like bacterium depends on their gut microbes, reported Nature and Science. Finlay explained that those microbes can be swapped around by effectively feeding the mice each others’ feces.

“When 100 people at a wedding eat the potato salad, only a few get sick,” says Finlay. He thinks these results might help to explain why. “Resistance to many diseases could be from our microbiota.”


Volleyball, basketball championships

The Globe and Mail, Vancouver Sun, The Province, the Daily Courier and others reported on the success of UBC athletic teams the Thunderbirds and Heat.

The T-birds won the CIS women’s volleyball championship for the fourth consecutive year. With eight national titles, they are the most decorated team in the league. The T-birds took home the bronze in the men’s basketball CIS championship in Halifax.

UBC’s Okanagan campus men and women’s Heat volleyball teams took gold in the BCAA championship, in their last year as members of the CCAA. The men’s team took home silver at the CCAA National Championship, while the women came in fourth.


Japan’s Triple Disaster

Faculty, staff and students quickly responded to the disaster caused by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan.

Stories by the BBC, Canadian Press, CTV, CBC and others featured members of the UBC community responding to the disaster. Joseph Caron, Jessica Main, David Edgington, Carlos Ventura, Perry Adebar, David Measday, Solomon Tesfamarian, Mika McKinnon, Barbara Lence, Michael Bostock, Julian Dierkes, Kenneth Elwood, Andrew Riseman and others provided expert commentary to the media.

“Most of the neighbourhood was congregating outside and the older residents noted that this was more severe than anything they had ever experienced,” said Christina Laffin, an assistant professor in UBC’s Department of Asian Studies who was in Tokyo during the earthquake.

“The fundamental issue is not going to be funding, it’s going to be reassuring Japanese people that the government is in control and that they need not panic,” said Paul Evans, director of the Institute of Asian Research, about the recovery process.


Michael Hayden wins  Wightman Award

Dr. Michael Hayden has received the Canada Gairdner Wightman Award.

Hayden, a professor in the Faculty of Medicine and director of the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics, is the most cited author on Huntington disease in the world and best known for developing a predictive genetic test for Huntington disease.

Nineteen of the last 26 Nobel Prizes in medicine or physiology in the past 10 years have gone to past Gairdner Award recipients. The only other British Columbian to receive a Gairdner was the late Michael Smith, who went on to win the 1993 Nobel Prize for Chemistry after receiving the Gairdner International Award in 1986.

Hayden is the 15th recipient of the Wightman Award and the first British Columbian to be bestowed this honour.