UBC Daily Media Summary
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Thursday, May 23, 2013
Scientists sequence Norway spruce DNA. The tree’s genome is LONG
Researchers reported Wednesday that they had sequenced the genome of the Norway spruce, a giant evergreen native to Europe that has also been planted widely in parts of North America.
Published in the journal Nature, the catalog of the tree’s DNA was notable for its length. The human genome is made up of about 3 billion pairs of DNA base letters, which store all the genetic information needed to make a person. The Norway spruce genome was nearly seven times longer, at 20 billion base pairs. Putting its DNA in the right order was a technical challenge because the genome includes so many repetitive segments.
Another super-long conifer genome, that of the white spruce, was also described this week in the journal Bioinformatics. UBC plant biochemist Joerg Bohlmann, a coauthor on both studies, said in a statement that the newly assembled genome sequences would let researchers perfect the way foresters breed trees, focusing in on challenges such as “insect resistance, wood quality, growth rates and adaptation to changing climate.”
The story was also covered in the Vancouver Sun.
Medical degree, PhD and patent at age 25
Will Guest, a 25-year-old UBC student, has earned an M.D. and a PhD and will soon patent an algorithm that could have implications for Creutzfeldt–Jakob Disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In case you’re wondering, he skipped fifth grade, finished his undergraduate at the University of Manitoba in three years and completed his combined M.D./PhD a year ahead of schedule. After just returning from a vacation in China, we spoke about his route to success, the Canadian university system and how others can succeed.
Lochte back in the pool doing what he does best
At UBC’s Aquatic Centre, at lunch time midweek, one end of the pool is occupied by a small group of older people in a water aerobics class. Adjacent, there’s lane swimming, the slow and steady pace of recreational swimmers and their breaststrokes or freestyle.
Poolside stands Ryan Lochte, in a long-sleeve cotton white top, maroon knee-length shorts and white canvas sneakers.
He is in town as he resumes a life in swimming, with an eye on this summer’s world championships in Barcelona, and the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, set to compete at UBC this weekend in six races at the annual Mel Zajac Jr. International meet.
This story was also covered in the Vancouver Sun and The Province.
Vancouver’s grand connectivity plan
Vancouver, whose council has been accused of not listening to the public and whose residents say they are lonely and alienated, launched the first steps on Wednesday of a plan to make people who live there more connected.
“Vancouver is a dynamic city undergoing a great deal of change,” Mayor Gregor Robertson said. “The connection between city hall and citizens is tenuous at the best of times. I felt a real need to invest more in engagement.”
The mayor outlined a number of possible activities including: Turnout in civic elections is abysmal, with typically fewer than a third of registered voters bothering to show up. “People who register to vote in advance are much more likely to cast a vote than those who don’t,” says the city report on the task-force initiatives.
REACTION: “This might help. I’m not sure it’s the best. I’m a fan of people going out and knocking on the door to enumerate. But anything that can improve turnout helps.” – Max Cameron, director of UBC’s Centre for Democratic Institutions.
Ontario’s architects gather in praise of good design
From a Vegas-style light show at Ryerson University and a sublime pharmaceutical building at UBC, to a beautifully composed residence on the Cedarvale ravine and another on the Scarborough Bluffs, jurors tasked with doling out Design Excellence Awards on behalf of the Ontario Association of Architects were bleary-eyed, to say the least.
UBC Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences/CDRD: If Star Trek’s Borg had more design sense, they’d build something like this. Seriously, though, this is one sexy lab building by Saucier + Perrotte Architectes (and Hughes Condon Marler Architects) that deserved Best in Show. Judges enjoyed learning about the design process – a pixelated photo of a tree was used as inspiration for the protruding glass façade – and photos of the stunning, shard-like wood interior.
Housing market slowdown to cost B.C. jobs: mortgage brokers
Almost a year after the federal government’s latest tightening of the rules for insured mortgages, the association that represents mortgage brokers has come out with a dire assessment of the effect of those changes.
Canada’s housing market is slowing dramatically in terms of both sales and construction, dragging down economic growth and putting 150,000 jobs at risk in coming years.
Tsur Somerville, director of the centre for urban economics and real estate at UBC’s Sauder School of Business, said it’s problematic to tie all of the drop in sales to the tightening of the mortgage rules because the Canadian economy is slowing at the same time and it’s difficult to separate the effects of one from the other.
Police issue warning after women assaulted at UBC
People walking around UBC at night are being warned to be vigilant after two women were groped on campus.
A 20-year-old woman walking along Wesbrook Mall near Thunderbird Blvd. around 3 a.m. on May 19 was fondled by a man who approached her from behind and grabbed her buttocks under her skirt, say RCMP.
This story was also covered in The Province and CTV BC News.
Looking for Earth 2.0
He remembers it starting as a boy in school, with a classroom show-and-tell session. It was a newspaper photograph of a U.S. shuttle astronaut performing the first free walk in space.
The astronaut’s bright white suit was backdropped in the bottom half of the picture by the blue arc of the earth’s horizon and in the top half of the picture by black empty space. It was 1984, and Jason Rowe was a six-year-old growing up in Mississauga, Ont. He thought of that photo: “Pretty neat.”
That childhood interest led him to the University of Toronto, and then to UBC for his master’s and PhD in astronomy and physics.