Gairdner Award winners to talk science to high school students at York

Two award-winning medical research scientists will speak to more than 300 high-school students from the Greater Toronto Area on Wednesday, giving them a rare glimpse into the worlds of metabolic engineering and cell function.

The event is presented jointly by York University’s Faculty of Science & Engineering and the Gairdner Foundation, which awards some of the most prestigious international awards in medical research.

Professor Anthony Pawson (right), a 1994 Gairdner Award winner, will speak about “Discovering how human cells work, and why they go bad.” A scientist at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital, professor at the University of Toronto and Distinguished Scientist of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Pawson is renowned internationally for his research into the mechanisms that control cell behaviour. His findings, which were quite contrary to the prevailing wisdom, have transformed how we think about diseases such as cancer.

Professor Ronald M. Evans (left), a 2006 Gairdner award winner, will speak about “Nuclear Receptors: Metabolic engineering and the dawn of synthetic physiology.” A professor in the Salk Institute’s Gene Expression Laboratory and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Evans heralded a molecular revolution in 1985 with his cloning and characterization of the first nuclear hormone receptor, work which transformed our understanding of how hormones, fat soluble vitamins and dietary lipids elicit changes in gene expression in health and disease. He has uncovered nearly 50 receptors that represent an important link between diet, exercise and a number of human diseases including cancers, diabetes and osteoporosis. Particularly noteworthy is his discovery of a new hormone that appears to be the molecular trigger controlling the formation of fat cells.

The Gairdner Foundation Lectures at York are being offered to teachers and senior-level science students from a select number of high schools. Established in 1957 by Toronto businessman James Gairdner, the Gairdner Foundation recognizes outstanding contributions by medical scientists around the world whose work will significantly improve quality of life. Some 68 Gairdner winners have gone on to win the Nobel Prize.

Since 2003, the lead national sponsor of the awards has been the CIHR. As the major federal agency responsible for funding health research in Canada, CIHR supports the work of 10,000 researchers in universities, teaching hospitals and research institutes across Canada.

The event will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 25, from 10am to noon, in the Sandra Faire and Ivan Fecan Theatre, Accolade East Building on York’s Keele campus. This event is not open to the public.