THE PIR BLOG

Dr. Frank Plummer Recognized by the Gairdner Foundation

Dr. Frank Plummer received the Gairdner Foundation Wightman Award at a black tie gala at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto on October 27, 2016 for his groundbreaking research in Africa in understanding HIV transmission and his leadership at the Canadian National Microbiology Laboratory with pivotal roles in SARS, influenza and Ebola epidemics. The Canada Gairdner Awards are Canada’s most prestigious medical award.   They recognize and celebrate the research of the world’s best and brightest biomedical researchers.

Partners In Research Canada (www.pirweb.org) is proud to have recognized Dr. Plummer in 2014 with the Partners In Research Canada Biomedical Science Ambassador Award for his work doing educational outreach in Research in the BioMedical Sciences field. These National awards celebrate the promotion to the public of leading Canadian research through outreach activities and recognize the impact of this research on the lives of Canadians.

dr-frank-plummer-2016-canada-gairdner-awards

(L-R): DR. JANET ROSSANT (PRESIDENT & SCIENTIFIC DIRECTOR, GAIRDNER FOUNDATION), DR. FRANK PLUMMER, DR. LORNE TYRRELL (CHAIR, GAIRDNER BOARD OF DIRECTORS) AND PRESIDENT BARNARD.

Dr. Plummer’s Research findings shocked the early 1980s worldview of AIDS being a male homosexual or blood-borne disease with his discovery of male to female transmission of HIV, overturning conventional wisdom that women were less susceptible to acquiring HIV sexually.

His findings have had enormous impacts on global health policy and are saving many millions of lives. Dr. Plummer is recognized for his outstanding leadership in medicine and medical science throughout his career by the Gairdner Foundation – 2016 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award given annually to a Canadian who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in medicine and medical science consistent with the purpose of the Foundation.

Throughout his career, Dr. Plummer has been at the cutting edge of research on sexually transmitted infections (STIs), particularly HIV/AIDS, and he has trained the next generation of researchers to his exceptional Degree. He co-founded the University of Manitoba-University of Nairobi Collaborative Research Program in the early 1980s and brought other academic institutions into the collaboration, including the University of Washington Oxford University, University of Ghent, the Tropical Diseases Institute of Antwerp, and the University of Toronto.   This consortium is the leading infectious diseases research initiative in sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr. Plummer is a native Manitoban and received his medical degree from the University of Manitoba in 1976. He trained in internal medicine and infectious diseases at the University of Southern California, the University of Manitoba, the University of Nairobi, and the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. He joined the University of Manitoba faculty in 1984 and spent 17 years in Nairobi as the leader of the world-renowned Manitoba Nairobi collaboration. From 2000-2014 he was Scientific Director of the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, building it into a globally preeminent public health laboratory.

Dr. Plummer has received numerous honors, including; Officer of the Order of Canada, Order of Manitoba, Killam Prize; Prix Galien; two honorary degrees.; Rh Institute Award; Achievement Award from the American Venereal Disease Association; I.S. Ravdin Award, American College of Surgeons; St. Boniface Hospital Research Foundation International Award; Canadian Institutes of Health Research Researcher of the Year 2007; Scopus Award, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  He has been elected to the American Society of Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians and advised has the National Academy of Sciences in the US, the World Bank, the World Health Organization, and the Governments of Kenya, India and Lesotho.

http://news.umanitoba.ca/gairdner-award/

http://www.chrcrm.org/en/future-health/public-health-researcher-extraordinaire-meet-dr-frank-plummer

http://www.gairdner.org/content/about-foundation-0

Starting Coop at PIR

Hey guys. My name is Georgey Kurien and I’m the new Coop student here at Partners in Research. I’d like to say that I’m looking forward to working here and with the people in this community. With the new location set up and all of us here ready to go, I’m just itching for an opportunity to help. I’ll be here from now to the end of May. Can’t wait!!

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Scientific Studies and the Replication Crisis

We are often quick to cite results from scientific studies; however, in recent years, the scientific publication industry has been challenged by a reproducibility crisis according to the journal Significance (Peng, 2015). Recent results from a survey in Nature showed that 52 percent of 1576 researchers believed there was a significant reproducibility crisis (Baker, 2016). Replication plays an integral role in science by verifying findings, checking the probability of error and more effectively controlling extraneous variables (Good, 1992). What this means is that many scientists are unable to reproduce the findings of earlier results. So why is this happening?

Many articles under Natures reproducibility crisis editorial address the numerous and multifaceted nature of this issue. To begin, researchers are under constant pressure to publish or risk losing tenure and funding. This pressure to publish can result in a failure to adhere to rigorous scientific methodology. Moreover, journals sometimes demonstrate publication bias, preferring to publish outcomes that show a significant finding (Siddiqi, 2011). This can put pressure on researchers to conduct studies that have statistically significant findings (Reality Check on Reproducibility, 2016).

Poor use of statistics can also contribute to this predicament, with many scientists not trained properly in statistical methodology (Nuzzo, 2014). In addition, researchers can be hindered by the tools they are given, like antibodies, even when their methods are reliable (Baker, 2015). These are just some of the contributors to this issue, but there are many more.

Unreproducible work cannot prompt further research and wastes time and resources. The Conversation points out that this problem doesn’t have a single solution. The replication crisis must be tackled by journals, scientists, institutions and funders in order to reduce irreproducibility and move science forward (Science is in a reproducibility crisis – how do we resolve it?, 2013)

References:

Baker, M. (2016). 1,500 scientists lift the lid on reproducibility. Retrieved July 26, 2016, from http://www.nature.com/news/1-500-scientists-lift-the-lid-on-reproducibility-1.19970

Baker, M. (2015). Reproducibility crisis: Blame it on the antibodies. Nature, 521(7552), 274-276. doi:10.1038/521274a

Good, R. (1992). The Importance of Replication Studies. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 29(3), 209-209.

Nuzzo, R. (2014). Scientific method: Statistical errors. Nature, 506(7487), 150-152. doi:10.1038/506150a

Peng, R. (2015), The reproducibility crisis in science: A statistical counterattack. Significance, 12: 30–32. doi: 10.1111/j.1740-9713.2015.00827.x

Reality check on reproducibility. (2016). Nature, 533(7604), 437-437. doi:10.1038/533437a

Science is in a reproducibility crisis – how do we resolve it? (2013). Retrieved July 26, 2016, from http://theconversation.com/science-is-in-a-reproducibility-crisis-how-do-we-resolve-it-16998

Siddiqi, N. (2011). Publication bias in epidemiological studies. Retrieved July 26, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21739906

RASC’s Annual Assembly Comes to London Ontario

Jeremy Hansen at the RASC GA 2016 - photo credit: Kai Hutchence 2016

It was an amazing opportunity for space science enthusiasts in London Ontario. May 2016 saw the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s (RASC) general assembly, and AstroCATS telescope trade show return to the city. The event was fortunate enough to have Jeremy Hansen, one of Canada’s two active astronauts give a keynote address. The stars seemingly aligned for a week of exciting Canadian space news leading into the event.

Starting on the Monday before the convention Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister for Innovation, Science and Economic Development and minister responsible for the Canadian Space Agency announced that David Saint-Jacques would be Canada’s next astronaut in space. In 2018 he would be heading to the International Space Station for a 6-month mission as Canada’s 9th person in space. As an engineer, medical doctor, astrophysicist and pilot, he’ll be a great representative for Canada and keenly able to perform important assignments and experiments in space.

The next day, as if on queue, a bright meteorite was seen streaking across the sky over Ontario, Quebec and the northeastern US. It was a great display of the wonder and power of nature, reminding people of the importance of astronomy. Two great events in a row to get space enthusiasts eager for a weekend full of space science! The event started with some great ways to get people started in astronomy. On Thursday and Friday there were workshops on astrophotography, an open house at the Cronyn observatory, an artist’s workshop for drawing astronomical subjects and a teacher’s workshop that covered great ways to get youth interested in space science.

Jeremy Hansen at the RASC GA 2016 - photo credit: Kai Hutchence 2016

Jeremy Hansen at the RASC GA 2016 – photo credit: Kai Hutchence 2016

Saturday morning started with a keynote by Lieutenant Colonel Jeremy Hansen (RCAF), a fighter pilot, engineer and Canadian astronaut. Addressing the crowd at Fanshawe College, he gave a talk about the importance of discovery and exploration. He related his personal attempts to show his kids the beauty of space and nature to inspire them on their own journeys of discovery. Speaking in the city he was born in, he took the time to point out some local connections. He showed pictures of a training excursion he took to the Canadian high arctic with some of Western University’s Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration geologists and meteor experts.

Showing a famous picture of the earth rising above the lunar surface taken during the Apollo 8 mission, he pointed out the often overlooked side of exploration. We don’t just discover the world, or the universe, by exploring, we discover ourselves. Taking the time to look back we gain a perspective of our world, we see ourselves in context, seeing our frailty and our similarities. He urged the attendees to be explorers, explaining that the drive to discover and explore propels humanity forward, to do better, to learn more, to improve.

Aside from Jeremy Hansen’s inspiring speech, the event brought together astronomers and space science enthusiasts from across North America. Talks by NASA scientists, comet discoverers, dark matter researchers, and many others provided a wide-range of informative lectures. Dr. David Gregory also brought some of his world famous meteorite collection for public display, giving attendees a chance to hold a piece of space in their hands. While the event is over, the RASC have public events year round across Canada for anyone interested in space and astronomy. Partners in Research’s own Virtual Researcher On Call (VROC) is also a great way to connect to scientists for classrooms across Canada to learn more about the science and research behind space exploration.

Impact Science at Western University was Out of this World

Science Odyssey came to Western University with the Impact Science event hosted by the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX). This was one of many events held around the country as a part of Science Odyssey, a 10-day celebration of science and research in Canada. Organized by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) the 10 days are a great opportunity to get involved and learn about Canada’s science and technology sector like the out of this world research done at CPSX.

Held at the University of Western Ontario’s Physics and Astronomy Building, the event focused on the science of meteors and meteorite impacts. Canada’s largest space research centre

e, the CPSX is a world leader in researching impact craters and their unique geology. Thanks in big part to the vast Canadian geography and the major impact sites in Ontario, Quebec and the Northwest Territories.

Astronomers and planetary scientists were on hand to answer questions from the public and show off some of CPSX’s interesting work and specimens. Demonstrations of model impacts provided a close up look at the effects of these devastating events. High speed cameras helped capture the minute details showing the process of crater formation in vivid slow-motion close up. Visitors could even try their own hand at modeling an impact with a number of model meteorites.

On hand were samples of impactites; minerals formed by the violent high heat and pressure metamorphic processes of a meteor impact. They gave a beautiful example of the fusing, melting and fracturing changes that can occur to rocks under the extreme conditions only meteorite impacts can create. As well a collection of real meteorites collected from all over the world were on display. Thin sections showed the stunning crystalline structures and gemstones hidden within these amazing scientific treasures. Dr. Haley Sapers gave an engaging and entertaining talk on the different aspects of research involving meteorites. She discussed not only their origin and the geology of impacts, but also touched on their probable role in the extinction of dinosaurs and their possible involvement in the origin of life on earth.

When not hosting public events, the CPSX works with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to do research and training for space missions, even helping to train astronauts! They’ve helped run training missions to test possible lunar and martian rovers. This helps train future mission specialists as well as testing hardware in field exercises to make sure it will live up to the task when they’re sent into space. Beyond just training, scientists at the CPSX have helped plan and run some of the missions to Mars and Saturn including the Curiosity rover, HiRISE orbiter, and Cassini orbiter.

CPSX runs an outreach program and some of its researchers are available through PIR’s VROD program to help teach and inspire kids about space and planetary science.

Biomass Energy Predicted to Grow Across Ontario

Biomass is a renewable energy resource that is widely regarded as carbon neutral. Recently, the biomass industry in Ontario has been predicted to grow rapidly. While there has been much talk about biomass and building its respective infrastructure over the past few decades, progress might now soon take place. 

Biomass takes organic matter, especially plant matter, and converts it into fuel. The most common biomass materials used for energy are plants such as switchgrass and miscanthus and wood products such as sawdust and bark, and waste. 

Ontario Biomass Producers Co-operative members estimate that switchgrass and miscanthus growth will increase from 2,000 acres to double digits.

This predicted growth comes after the “cap and trade plan” unveiled in the 2016 Ontario budget. The “cap” part enforces a limit on the amount of greenhouse gas pollution that businesses, institutions, and households can emit. The cap limit will drop each year to urge lower emissions. The “trade” refers to a market where companies can buy or sell carbon credits. The trades are dependent on the amount of greenhouse gasses that the company does or does not emit.

Check out the full article: Ontario Biomass producers in expansion mode

Learn more about the Ontario Cap and Trade Plan

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PIR Blog

The Challenges of Feeding Nine Billion People

The current world population, as of March 2016, is estimated at around 7.4 billion. This number is expected to increase to nine billion by the year 2050. With an increase in world population, we are met with various challenges. These challenges include ‘how do we grow enough crops to feed 9 billion people?’ ‘How do our governments distribute food accordingly?’ And ‘how do we stop people from third world countries from dying due to starvation and malnutrition?’ These are the questions that have been pushing Dr. Evan Fraser, a professor at the University of Guelph, to solve the issue of global food security.

 

In his YouTube video series, Dr. Fraser outlined four ways that we can achieve feeding nine billion people. First, we need to invest in science, technology and (possibly) GMOs. Doing so will allow farmers to grow more crops at a reduced cost. Second, we need to change our current policies to ensure that resources that go into farming are not wasted. This includes water and fertilizers, which are often overused by farmers. It also means that we need to discourage people living in Western countries from wasting food. Third, we need to strive for a more equitable food distribution system. Many people in third world countries are consuming far less calories than their daily minimum while many people in developed countries are consuming far more calories than their daily maximum. Fourth, we ought to abandon our current food system where a handful of multinational corporations control the world’s food supply and instead foster a local food system. Multinational corporations often pollute our environment and exploit farmers in order to maximize their profits while local food systems are much more environmentally friendly.

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An Alternative Solution to Insulin Injection for Diabetic Patients!

Diabetes is an illness that affects the lives of more than 387 million people globally and is expected to affect more than 500 million people by the year 2030. What exactly is Diabetes and how does it adversely affect the human body? For healthy individuals, their bodies’ beta cells produce, store and release insulin to regulate blood sugar level. These beta cells reside in the pancreas and release insulin into the bloodstream after consumption of a meal. However, people with Type 1 Diabetes have trouble with this process because their beta cells lack the ability to produce insulin and regulate blood sugar levels. Therefore, untreated diabetic patients experience blood sugar levels that skyrocket after a meal, leading to medical complications.

 

Traditionally, Diabetes patients have been combating their illness by self-monitoring their blood sugar levels and injecting themselves with insulin in varying amounts. This process is often painful and imprecise to say the least. The imprecision means that injecting the wrong amount of insulin can lead to side effects like blindness and limb amputations, or even diabetic comas and death, which are more extreme cases.

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Ryerson University’s NExT Lab Helps ‘New Year’s Resolution-ers’ Obtain Gains!

Three months into 2016, many of the ‘new year’s resolution-ers’ have either given up or fully integrated a healthy diet and a regular exercise routine into their weekly agenda. With all the hard work being put in, how does one measure the effectiveness of one’s efforts? How can an individual tell if all the hard work is actually improving their overall health? This is often one of the most commonly asked questions by people who are just starting a new diet and a new exercise routine. In addition, when these people fail to see their hard work being paid off, they are often discouraged and abandon their healthy diet and exercise routine altogether.

 

Ryerson University’s NExT Lab officially launched a program to allow the general public to visit the lab and have their level of personal fitness measured accurately. How is this achieved? NExT Lab offers a Bod Pod, which is an egg-shaped device that allows a person to sit inside. While situated inside, the Bod Pod will use ultrasound to measure the body composition of the participant. “It’s the wave of the future,” says Nick Bellissimo, assistant professor as well as the director of NExT Lab. By having your body composition measured, you are better able to make decisions on which part of the body to work on in the following weeks or months.

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