News and events

Pushing the limits of chemistry with iridium Posted: October 22, 2014

Canadian scientists working with the element iridium in Gary Schrobilgen's lab at McMaster university set a new record for the highest formal oxidation state in the periodic table of the elements. Oxidation state describes the number of electrons an atom loses or gains when it joins with other atoms in chemical compounds; the higher the oxidation state, the more electrons, critical in many applications, especially batteries. Previously the highest number was 8. Working with Chinese and German colleagues, the scientists created a gaseous form of iridium tetroxide reaching an oxidation state of 9. More at the Science Media Centre...

Take two parasites and call me in the morning Posted: July 26, 2014

Two recent papers suggest that some parasites may be good for us. UBC botanist Laura Wegener-Parfrey and Julius Lukeš of the Canadian Centre for Advanced Research question our traditional perception of intestinal parasites. The papers offer a systematic review of cases where humans have deliberately ingested parasites for research and suggest that certain parasites could have beneficial effects on conditions such as Crohn's disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. More at Science Media Centre of Canada.

Unlocking the secrets of amber’s toughness Posted: July 12, 2014

Amber is fossilized tree sap, an organic polymer that lasts millions of years, far longer than any plastic. A new analysis technique delveloped by scientists at the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa explains how amber achieves its strength and durability, and could help humans mimic it in their own materials.  Scientists have been able to isolate the building blocks – including communol, ozol and succinic acid. Now we are beginning to understand how exactly how they fit together. More at the Science Media Centre of Canada.

How salmon evolve to beat the heat Posted: July 8, 2014

Researchers have discovered a link between egg size of chinook salmon and their ability to deal with warmer temperatures. The team captured spawning salmon and measured examined the genetic and maternal effects acting on the ability of offspring to tolerate heat; they found that mothers with larger eggs have more thermally tolerant offspring. As egg […]

A breakthrough for organic reactions in water Posted: June 26, 2014

Green-chemistry researchers at McGill University have discovered a way to use water as a solvent in one of the reactions most widely used to synthesize chemical products and pharmaceuticals.

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New horned dinosaur reveals unique wing-shaped headgear Posted: June 18, 2014

Scientists have named a new species of horned dinosaur (ceratopsian) based on fossils collected from Montana in the United States and Alberta, Canada. Mercuriceratops (mer-cure-E-sare-ah-tops) gemini was approximately 6 meters (20 feet) long and weighed more than 2 tons. It lived about 77 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous Period. Research describing the new species is published online in the journal Naturwissenschaften.

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International team maps nearly 200,000 global glaciers in quest for sea rise answers Posted: May 11, 2014

An international team led by glaciologists from the University of Colorado Boulder and Trent University in Ontario, Canada has completed the first mapping of virtually all of the world's glaciers -- including their locations and sizes -- allowing for calculations of their volumes and ongoing contributions to global sea rise as the world warms.

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Ancient Virus DNA behind Stem Cell Power Posted: March 31, 2014

A virus that invaded the genomes of humanity's ancestors millions of years ago now plays a critical role in the embryonic stem cells from which all cells in the human body derive, Canadian research shows. Computational biologist Guillaume Bourque at McGill University in Montreal, co-authored the study published online March 30 in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology. Read more about this at National Geographic.

New fossil field discovered in British Columbia Rocky Mountains Posted: February 11, 2014

Expected to rival the Burgess Shale, a new fossil bed in the Kootenays should shed more light on the great Cambian explosion of diversity of living creatures that happened about 550 million years ago. Many fosilized creatures found at the new site have never been seen before. The team leader Jean-Bernard Caron is a paleontologist with the Royal Ontario Museum. Read more...

Quality control of mitochondria as a defense against disease Posted: January 21, 2014

Scientists from the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital in Canada have discovered that two genes linked to hereditary Parkinson's disease are involved in the early-stage quality control of mitochondria. The protective mechanism, which is reported in The EMBO Journal, removes damaged proteins that arise from oxidative stress from mitochondria.

Stats Canada study verifies difference in male/female interest in science Posted: December 18, 2013

A study released today demonstrates how Canadian women prefer to choose non-science and non-mathematics related university courses even if they have a propensity for math in high-school. The study was based on the 2011 National Household Survey as well as a long-term Youth in Transition study that followed students from 2000 - 2010. Even if women have high mathematics aptitute they are twice as likely to choose to study the social sciences rather than engineering and computer science. Read the full study at the Statistics Canada Website. The data supports the findings of Canadian neuroscientist Doreen Kimura who has studied sex differences in human brains all her life.

Twitter not a good indicator of scientific impact Posted: December 9, 2013

Trends related to the most-tweeted peer-reviewed scientific papers published between 2010 and 2012, and their social media success, have been identified by Stefanie Haustein at the University of Montreal's School of Library and Information Science. Based on 1.4 million documents from PubMed and Web of Science, it is the largest Twitter study of scholarly articles so far. Consider that a paper about an altered gene during radiation exposure was tweeted 963 times but only received 9 academic citations. "When we look at the most tweeted articles, many have a surprising or humourous character. Articles are often tweeted anecdotally," says her supervisor Vincent Larivière.

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Improved colon cancer treatment by targeting cancer stem cells Posted: December 4, 2013

Scientists and surgeons at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto have discovered a promising new approach to treating colorectal cancer by disarming the gene that drives self-renewal in stem cells that are the root cause of disease, resistance to treatment and relapse. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the Western world.

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Quantum memory advance Posted: November 15, 2013

An international team of scientists led by physicist Mike Thewalt of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada have created stable "Qubits" of information encoded in a room temperature silicon system lasting 100 times longer than ever before. Such memory systems are essential for future quantum computers. More from the BBC.

Fecal transplant pill knocks out recurrent C. diff infection, study shows Posted: October 4, 2013

Swallowing pills containing a concentrate of fecal bacteria successfully stops recurrent bouts of debilitating Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infection by rebalancing the bacteria in the gut, according to Dr. Tom Louie at the University of Calgary.

University of Calgary researchers enhance quantum-based secure communication Posted: September 21, 2013

University of Calgary scientists have overcome an "Achilles' heel" of quantum-based secure communication systems by using a new approach that works in the real world to safeguard secrets.

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What scientists can see in your pee Posted: September 6, 2013

Researchers at the University of Alberta announced today that they have determined the chemical composition of human urine. The study, headed by David Wishart took more than seven years and involved a team of nearly 20 researchers. It found that more than 3,000 chemicals or "metabolites" can be detected in urine. The results are expected to have significant implications for medical, nutritional, drug and environmental testing. read more

People recycle more when stuff looks good Posted: August 27, 2013

University of Alberta marketing researcher Jennifer Argo found that people don't recycle products that look like garbage. If a can is dented or a paper package is torn people are more likely to throw it out. The research has implications for policy makers as well as manufacturers of products.

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Boning up: McMaster researchers find home of best stem cells for bone marrow transplants Posted: August 1, 2013

McMaster University researchers have revealed the location of human blood stem cells that may improve bone marrow transplants. The best stem cells are at the ends of the bone.

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BigBrain: An ultra-high resolution 3-D roadmap of the human brain Posted: June 20, 2013

Canadian neuroscientists in Montreal contributed to a landmark three-dimensional (3D) digital reconstruction of a complete human brain, called the BigBrain. You can fly through brain anatomy at a spatial resolution of 20 microns, smaller than a human hair --and it's in the public domain. Lead author is Alan Evans at the Montreal Neurological Institute.

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Potentially 'catastrophic' changes underway in Canada's northern Mackenzie River Basin: report Posted: June 10, 2013

Canada's Mackenzie River basin -- among the world's most important major ecosystems -- is poorly studied, inadequately monitored, and at serious risk due to climate change and resource exploitation, a panel of international scientists warn today.

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Billion-year-old water could hold clues to life on Earth and Mars Posted: May 15, 2013


A team of researchers including McMaster’s Greg Slater discovered what may be some of the oldest pockets of water on the planet pouring out of boreholes in a mine nearly 2.5 km below the ground in Timmins, located in northern Ontario, Canada – and they may contain life. read more


Canadian scientists figure out what makes us buy music Posted: April 16, 2013

 Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University scanned participants’ brains as they heard particular patterns of sounds for the very first time. They found that neural activity in a part of the ‘pleasure center’ of the brain reacts differently for different individuals depending on the kind of music they have listened to throughout their lives. Activity in this region also predicted how much people were willing to pay for music. Learn more...

Discovery opens door to efficiently storing and reusing renewable energy Posted: March 31, 2013

Two University of Calgary researchers have developed a ground-breaking way to make new affordable and efficient catalysts for converting electricity into chemical energy.

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German scientists abort tar sands research Posted: March 19, 2013

Germany’s largest and most prestigious research institute has pulled out of a Canadian government-funded $25 million research project into sustainable solutions to tar sands pollution, citing fears for its environmental reputation. As many as 20 scientists at the world-famous Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres have ceased involvement in the Helmholtz Alberta Initiative (HAI), after a moratorium on contacts was declared last month. Read more...

Remains of extinct giant camel discovered in High Arctic by Canadian Museum of Nature Posted: March 5, 2013

A research team led by the Canadian Museum of Nature has identified the first evidence for an extinct giant camel in Canada's High Arctic. The discovery is based on 30 fossil fragments of a leg bone found on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut and represents the most northerly record for early camels, whose ancestors are known to have originated in North America some 45 million years ago.

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Canadian adult obesity at historic high Posted: February 27, 2013

Obesity rates across Canada are reaching alarming levels and continue to climb, according to a new University of British Columbia study.

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New radio telescope near Penticton, BC to probe secret of dark energy Posted: January 28, 2013

Construction has begun on a new radio telescope in British Columbia’s south Okanagan that will act like a type of time machine and help astrophysicists travel back to better understand the composition of our expanding universe.
The $11-million project is being built at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory southwest of Penticton, B.C., and will use components from the cellphone industry to capture and turn radio waves emitted six to 11 billion years ago into a three-dimensional map.

It’s the first research telescope built in Canada in more than three decades and includes scientists from the observatory, the University of British Columbia, McGill University and the University of Toronto. Read more at Macleans.

Waterloo scientists win race to create first truly thinking model human brain Posted: November 30, 2012

 A group of Canadian scientists at Waterloo University led by engineer philosopher Chris Eliasmith have developed Spaun— the Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network— which is capable of complex behaviours such as seeing and recognizing, remembering, thinking about, and writing numbers. It draws numbers "by hand" based on what it learned.  The group published a paper recently in Science entitled 'A Large-Scale Model of the Functioning Brain' with details about this state-of-the-art brain model that has redefined the race for a synthetic animal-like brain. Another story appears in Nature.

Eminent Canadian scientist critical of tar sands development Posted: November 23, 2012

One of Canada's greatest scientists, David Schindler says the rapid expansion of the tar sands is not based on valid science: "Both background studies and environmental impact assessments have been shoddy, and could not really even be called science. This must change." As reported by Desmogblog.

Improving our understanding of volcanic eruptions Posted: October 19, 2012

An international research team led by Prof. Don Baker of McGill University’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences has published a new study in Nature Communications that suggests the difference between a small or large eruption depends on the first 10 seconds of bubble growth in molten rocks. The findings suggest ideas for improved volcano monitoring systems. Read more...

Honey bees fight back Posted: September 27, 2012

The parasitic mite Varroa destructor is a major contributor to the recent mysterious death of honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies. New Canadian research published in BioMed Central's open access journal Genome Biology finds that specific proteins, released by damaged larvae and in the antennae of adult honey bees, can drive behavior that promotes improved hive hygiene. Dr Leonard Foster at the University of British Columbia, who led this research says, "Bee keepers have previously focused on selecting bees with traits such as enhanced honey production, gentleness and winter survival. We have found a set of proteins which could be used to select colonies on their ability to resist Varroa mite infestation and can be used to find individuals with increased hygienic behavior. Given the increasing resistance of Varroa to available drugs this would provide a natural way of ensuring honey farming and potentially survival of the species."

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Canadian science advocacy group takes on homeopathy Posted: August 2, 2012

The new Canadian science advocacy group Bad Science Watch plans to convince Health Canada to de-register homeopathic health products that are offered as unproven replacements for childhood vaccinations.  This project will combat anti-vaccine groups within homeopathy that offer so-called “nosodes”--ultra dilute remedies made from diseased tissue, the sale of which directly contradicts Health Canada’s own efforts to promote childhood vaccinations.

Three Canadian scientists criticize new fisheries legislation Posted: June 22, 2012

The research journal Science (with more than a million readers worldwide) published a letter from SFU scientists criticizing the federal government for closing labs and planning to weaken the protection of fish habitat. In their letter, doctoral student Brett Favaro and profs John Reynolds and Isabelle Côté of SFU Biological Sciences say in part: “The Fisheries Minister argued that current polices go ‘well beyond what is necessary to protect fish’. The continued decline of Canadian fish and other aquatic species due to habitat loss and degradation suggests otherwise." More at SFU News.

Canadian Science Writers Association gets Press Freedom Award Posted: May 5, 2012

The Canadian Science Writers Association (CSWA) and the Association des communicateurs scientifiques (ACS) are winners of the 14th annual Press Freedom Award for their work in exposing government restrictions on federal scientists that prevent or delay the free communication of public science through the media. The award includes a cash prize of $2,000 and a certificate from the Canadian Commission for UNESCO whose Secretary-General, David A. Walden, presented it at a noon luncheon in Ottawa on May 3rd  at the National Arts Centre.

Canadian scientist creates first open source Star Trek tricorder Posted: March 29, 2012

Peter Jansen, a recent PhD graduate from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario has openly released the designs for a series of Science Tricorders that he developed while a graduate student. The Science Tricorders are capable of sensing a variety of atmospheric, electromagnetic, and spatial phenomena and can be built by anyone. Learn more at his Science Tricorder website.

Anti-matter measured for first time by Canadian researchers Posted: March 7, 2012

An antimatter atom has been measured and manipulated for the first time ever, by a Canadian-led team of physicists.

"This is the first time that anyone has ever interacted with an antimatter atom," said Mike Hayden, a physics professor at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., describing the results published in the journal Nature Wednesday. More at the CBC or at the link above at SFU. 

UBC researchers discover key to immune cell's 'internal guidance' system Posted: February 5, 2012

University of British Columbia researchers have discovered the molecular pathway that enables receptors inside immune cells to find, and flag, fragments of pathogens trying to invade a host.

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First HIV/AIDS vaccine from Canadian labs Posted: December 20, 2011

The first and only preventative HIV vaccine based on a genetically modified killed whole virus has received approval by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to start human clinical trials. Developed by Dr. Chil-Yong Kang and his team at The University of Western Ontario, with the support of Sumagen Canada, the vaccine (SAV001) holds tremendous promise.

Canadians discover how cancer spreads Posted: October 31, 2011

A team of scientists led by David Waisman at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia have identified a key mechanism of metastasis that could lead to blocking tumor growth if their findings are confirmed.
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