Mathematician is making waves in medicine

A scientist’s innovative work is helping to make sense of multiple sclerosis, reported The Globe and Mail Jan. 15 in a feature about Hongmei Zhu, who is part of the scientific brain drain from China to Canada. Zhu thinks in waves and, because she is a mathematician, she translates those patterns and waves into trigonometric functions. All this is a standard for a mathematician. What’s not is that Zhu, an applied math professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, takes her new ways of looking at all this and applies it to medicine. Already, her work is being used to help doctors understand multiple sclerosis. “I like to help people,” said Zhu, who recently moved to York from Calgary’s Foothills Hospital, where she helped neurologist and other doctors interpret MRI data better. “My research is a marriage of math with medicine.” Zhu’s work is so innovative that its potential applications across medicine, science, engineering and even finance stun North America’s scientific elite. She is “the first person to apply this method in the life sciences,” said Samuel Shen, a professor of applied math at the University of Edmonton and a key adviser to the Chinese government on science and technology.

In the case of a brain affected by multiple sclerosis, Zhu’s work means the ability to discern the texture of the brain. And because the texture changes as the disease progresses, an image interpreted through Zhu’s S-transform calculations could see tumours or lesions in the brain as much as a month before traditional MRI readings can. Over time, that may mean being able to figure out the differences among tumours or lesions and how each type can be treated. And once this same idea is applied to other fields where waves play a role – climate, finance, physics and engineering, to name a few – the sky is the limit.

Darfur crisis needs world’s attention: rights expert

Canada must push “publicly and loudly” for the International Criminal Court to take action in Sudan’s Darfur region, where a government-backed militia has killed an estimated 30,000 people and “raped women in the thousands,” an international human rights conference was told, reported the Toronto Star Jan. 18. “The Sudanese government has done nothing to see that justice is done. International prosecution is needed,” said Georgette Gagnon, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s African division. “It will signal to the people of Darfur that the world no longer considers their demise and forced relocation acceptable.” Gagnon was taking part in a panel discussion on how the international community can prevent or intervene to stop mass atrocities. The panel, moderated by Torstar president Robert Prichard, was part of a two-day conference organized by York’s Osgoode Hall Law School to honour the legacy of Raoul Wallenberg.

PM pressing for China access

Prime Minister Paul Martin will be pressuring China to open its mining sector to Canadian firms in response to concerns about equal access underscored by ongoing talks by China Minmetals Corp. to acquire Noranda Inc., Canada’s biggest mining revenue earner, reported Metro Toronto Jan. 18. But with Chinese state firms potentially buying stakes in Canadian assets, Martin will have to tread carefully. “These are state companies in China and there are human rights issues, so you’ve got this whole political baggage attached to it,” said political scientist Bernie Frolic, director of the Asia Business Management Program at York’s Centre for Asian Research. “It means they’ll be very careful on what they announce and how they announce it and they’ll have lots of guarantees.”

Martin is also a key supporter of the G20, a forum of developing and developed countries in which Canada sees itself playing a leading role and gaining influence among growing regional powers. “It’s an important place both to engage China but also to contain China,” said David Dewitt, director of the York Centre for International & Security Studies.

Students tackle applications for college, university

The stress of mid-terms may by over, but college and university application deadlines are sneaking up, reported the subway tabloid Metro Toronto Jan. 18. David Huckvale, associate director of recruitment for York University, said the university application process has always been competitive, but if students do their research on universities they can increase their chances of being accepted. “I think it’s an important step for the students to take a realistic look at their ability and how they’re going to be performing in their classes, especially over their last year of high school studies, to figure out what’s in the ball park for them,” he said.

Professors share practical advice with students

Lectures can seem like torture but according to York University professors Thomas Klassen and John Dwyer, skills you practise in class can make you a better employee tomorrow. Klassen and Dwyer, who teach in York’s Faculty of Arts, are the authors of A Practical Guide to Getting a Great Job after University or How to Flourish Both at University and in the Labour Market. The book helps students make the practical link between school and work. “The payoff of learning this link is that you are not only invaluable to your employers but you have the strategic and persuasive skills necessary to navigate the tough situations and bad supervisors you’ll likely face at one time or another,” said Dwyer. According to Klassen and Dwyer, ignoring length requirements in reports, exams or presentations makes students seem less knowledgeable. Concise writing and speaking comes in handy in fast-pace work environments where information is often needed quickly. “Asking insightful, relevant and to-the-point questions is a skill that identifies students on the career fast track,” said Klassen. “Now is the time to practise your classroom skills since the ‘real world’ of work is often less forgiving of errors.”

Martin’s response leads to questions

Satwant Kaur, a master of business administration student at York’s Schulich School of Business, wrote this letter to the Toronto Star Jan. 17: “I would have to agree with James Travers in regard to federal Immigration Minister Judy Sgro. By not acting on the earlier allegations, Prime Minister Paul Martin has once again led Canadians to question the Liberal government. His late response hints that he does not take such ethical issues very seriously and leads me to question whether we may have made a mistake entrusting them with our country.”

New stadium could attract soccer’s Under-20 World Cup

Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium and the planned York University stadium in Toronto have already been named as sites for the 2007 Under-20 World Cup, but the Canadian Soccer Association also wants games in four other cities, reported the Winnipeg Free Press Jan. 18.

For the love of a daughter

It’s been more than six years since Lisa died at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, and nearly two since criminal charges against two nurses were abruptly dropped. But her mother, Sharon Shore, fights on, reported The Globe and Mail’s Christie Blatchford Jan. 15. Lisa had broken her right leg in a playground accident earlier that year, and it was the persistent pain in that leg that saw her parents take her to Sick Kids. Her mother had been sleeping just a few feet away from Lisa the night she died. After charges were dropped, Shore continued on with her study of the law at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, where she is now three months away from graduation – a decision born in all she saw after her daughter’s death. In the midst of that onerous schedule of study and her roles as wife and mother (she and husband Bill have two sons), Shore also managed to write a book called No Moral Conscience: The Hospital for Sick Children and the Death of Lisa Shore. Though it is told from Shore’s blunt point of view, and while she has an obvious bias, it would seem that her lawyer’s training also kicked in: As lawyers are taught to do, she often simply lays out the facts of the case as the coroner’s jury heard them, remarkable, given that it is the death of her beloved child she is detailing.

Student hooked on travel and teaching

Robyn Ercul doesn’t need textbooks to learn about the world. At just 19, the first-year kinesiology student at York University has travelled to eight countries over the past six years, teaching moral education to children, youths and adults, reported The Barrie Examiner Jan. 17 in a story about World Religion Day. One of her most recent adventures took her to Guyana and Thailand, where she worked on literacy projects. Her travel highlights include Cambodia, Malaysia and Ukraine. “I hope to get a better understanding of the world around me so I can share my experiences with other people,” she said.

Singer regains her voice

There was a time when York music grad Linda Middlebrook feared she might lose her voice but worried more about singing than talking, reported the Newmarket/Aurora Era-Banner Jan. 18. “I’d had surgery and was in voice therapy for a year,” she said. “I’m known in Newmarket for singing O Holy Night at Midnight Mass,” says the former music consultant and special education teacher with the York Catholic District School Board. She earned a BA in music from York in 1984 and has a wealth of experience in conducting children’s and adult choirs, bands and church choirs.

On air

  • Rudhramoorthy Cheran, a sociology professor with York’s Faculty of Arts, discussed Prime Minister Paul Martin’s visit to tsunami-ravaged Sri Lanka, on the South Asian edition of “OMNI News” Jan. 14.
  • Paul Delaney, a senior lecturer in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, discussed new satellite pictures of Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, on CTV’s “NewsNet Morning” Jan. 17.
  • Ian Greene, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, discussed the latitude given to ministers and the situation with Judy Sgro, who has stepped down over alleged improprieties as immigration minister, on CBC Newsworld’s “Canada Now” Jan. 17.
  • James Laxer, political science professor in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, talked about his latest book, Red Diaper Baby, about growing up the child of committed communists in Canada, on TVO’s “Gregg & Company” Jan. 17.