Time shift throws off our body clocks

The changeover to Daylight Saving Time last weekend, much like jet lag, triggers a shift in our circadian rhythms, says York University biologist Pat Lakin-Thomas, reported the Toronto Star April 2. Your body is “a clock shop full of lots of independent clocks synchronized by the clock in your brain, which sends out information to get everything else in step,” explained the biology professor from York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering. “Even a one-hour time shift can put all those clocks out of step with each other.” While sunlight may quickly reset the brain clock – a little cluster of cells called the supra-chiasmatic nuclei – getting the rest of the body clocks reset takes longer, she said. “The clock in your brain can get out of sync with the clock in your liver.” But the one-hour time shift caused by Daylight Saving Time is about the same as flying across one time zone and should really take only a day to get over, she said. “You may feel on Monday morning that you’re getting up an hour earlier than you want to but if you stick to a new schedule and get out and get some exercise, then you’re really not going to feel the effects for more than a day.”

Lakin-Thomas is studying time shifting using a common fungus called neurospora crassa. It has an “excellent circadian clock” and makes spores once a day right on schedule. But by messing up its time and temperature cues in a lab dish, she’s hoping to try to learn more about how those time signals work. “In every organism, it’s light that resets the clock,” she said. “Our internal clock has to be reset every day so that we stay in step with the day-night cycle.”

Similar stories appeared in The Hamilton Spectator, the North York Mirror and Scarborough Mirror.

Milton Harris: business genius and York philanthropist

Milt Harris’s business acumen was legendary, but it was only a small part of the man. A self-made entrepreneur who took his family’s scrap-metal business and turned it into a hugely successful reinforced-steel business, he was also a crusader, a civil libertarian, and a quiet but generous philanthropist to a range of causes, including the YMCA, opera, First Nations, and especially primate research and human cognitive evolution, wrote The Globe and Mail’s Sandra Martin of the York benefactor who died March 26 of cancer at the age of 77.

In the early 1980s, he became involved in the Canadian Jewish Congress, serving on its war-crimes committee and as president from 1983 to 1986. After reading None Is Too Many by York history Prof. Irving Abella and Harold Troper, their landmark exposé of anti-Semitism in Canada, he invited Abella to speak to the CJC. “He was a dynamo – single-minded, generous, energetic and gutsy,” said Abella. “He knew what he wanted to do and how to do it.” What he wanted was to find war criminals who had found refuge in Canada. “Although he had no relatives that he knew of who had died in the Holocaust and he’d had a pretty comfortable life in Canada, he was angry that Canada had allowed people who have committed such horrific crimes into this country, allowed them to stay and made no pretense at prosecution,” said Abella. “His sense of justice and his sense of the values this country represents were assaulted.”

About five years ago, Harris phoned York President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden, an acquaintance from the Liberal Party and their days sitting on the board of Air Canada, and invited her to talk to him about the University’s research projects. One of the qualities Marsden always appreciated about Harris was his low-key style. “He had conversations, he didn’t lecture you,” she said. Since that telephone conversation, he quietly financed scholarships for francophone students to study at the university’s bilingual Glendon campus. He also become heavily involved in funding research into brain development in humans, an outgrowth of his long-time interest in and support of anthropologist Jane Goodall’s work with primates. “His gifts were such involved philanthropy. He wanted to be there and talk to the people,” said Marsden. “That’s an incredible gift to a faculty member to have somebody who is interested in their research, understands their research and supports it.”

York leads trend towards hybrid degrees

York University has collaborations with a number of colleges, including Seneca, Centennial, Humber, Georgian and Sir Sandford Fleming, reported The Toronto Sun April 3 in a story about the growing trend towards hybrid degrees. York’s bachelor of design program, offered in partnership with Sheridan Institute, is the largest in Ontario. “It’s a fully integrated program,” says Rodney Webb, associate vice-president of academics. “Students spend two years at Sheridan and then two years at York. Even the groups of faculty act as one. They don’t come more integrated than that.”

The University also offers a joint degree/diploma program with Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS) of Canada. At the end of five years, graduates receive an Honours Bachelor of Fine Arts from York and a teaching diploma from NBS. “York University and colleges are always looking for areas that intersect that benefit our students. I see lifelong learning becoming increasingly important and think many of these (collaborative) programs may help to meet that need,” Webb said. “The Rae Report is really good at encouraging appropriate interaction between colleges and universities. You have to be imaginative. We are looking at brand new programs that don’t even exist yet.”

Residents want more subways, but light rail cheaper

According to a new poll, residents want more subways, reported the National Post April 4. In December, the TTC declared the extension of the Spadina line to York University a top priority. A poll of Canadian Automobile Association members last year found overwhelming support for two public transit proposals: the York extension, and the extension of the Bloor-Danforth line to Mississauga. But subway construction remains prohibitively expensive. A kilometre of subway costs $200-million and the TTC estimates the price tag for York would be $1.5-billion.

Some believe light rail could offer relief to long-suffering York students, while others suggest the campus could just as easily be served by a dedicated bus route. But city planners have contemplated far more than just a single rail link to a single university, reported the Post. A blueprint for an expanded transit network appears in the city’s official plan, which was approved in 2002. It envisions a network of 20 light rail lines across the city, including a spur mirroring the Don Valley Parkway and others to carry passengers along the lakeshore to Mississauga and along Eglinton to the airport.

Insp. Banks fans like setting

The Inspector Banks novels are marked by a sure sense of place, despite the fact that author Peter Robinson has lived in Canada off-and-on since the mid-’70s, reported The Edmonton Journal April 2. That awareness of locale is understandable given the fact that Robinson earned a PhD in English from York University in 1984 for a thesis based on the heady topic of the sense of place in contemporary British poetry. “A lot of readers have commented on the fact that they like the setting,” Robinson said in an interview about his latest book, Strange Affair. He keeps current by spending a few weeks a year in a cottage in Yorkshire.

Prospect of new team boosts Toronto soccer

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment’s recent application for an MLS expansion team has breathed new life into pro soccer in Toronto, reported The Globe and Mail April 2. The city is being considered by MLS commissioner Don Garber as the league’s 13th franchise along with Seattle, Cleveland, San Antonio, Tex., and Houston. A proposed Toronto franchise would play at the recently announced 25,000-seat soccer and football stadium to be built on the campus of York University.

York designated 2007 soccer event headquarters

Calgary and Winnipeg have withdrawn bids to host part of the 2007 world under-20 soccer championship, leaving nine cities competing for the four remaining spots, reported Canadian wire services April 2. Toronto and Edmonton have already been designated two of the six venues for the World Youth Championship. The planned new outdoor stadium at York University will be the focal point in Toronto, where the World Youth Championship will be headquartered.

Canadians embrace resurgence of cocktail era

Canadians are embracing a new era of sipping cocktails, says Christine Sismondo, a humanities lecturer and researcher at York University, reported Canadian Press in a story that continues to be picked up by newspapers across the country, such as The Calgary Herald and the Okanagan Weekender. “I think we are looking at a resurgence of cocktails and cocktail culture,” said the 34-year-old former bartender whose book, Mondo Cocktail, will be published by McArthur in the fall.

On air

  • Farheen Rashid, career programs coordinator at York’s Career Centre, gave students advice on what to wear and how to behave at dinners and cocktail parties, during a segment on job-hunting etiquette, on CFTR’s “Weekend Business” April 2.