Feed your inner Einstein at Royal Canadian Institute gala

From the Milky Way to antihydrogen atoms and managing superbugs in hospitals, scientists at this year’s upcoming Royal Canadian Institute (RCI) for the Advancement of Science gala will answer some tough questions for their dinner.

The gala dinner will take place Thursday, April 26, from 6 to 9:30pm, at the MaRS Discovery District, 101 College Street, Toronto. Gala tickets cost $250.

Twenty-five scientists will host a table, including three from York University. They are physics Professor Scott Menary, Professor Marshall McCall, chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and Professor Brenda Zimmerman, director of health industry management at the Schulich School of Business. In addition, York honorary degree recipient Calvin Stiller will also host a table.

Scott MenaryGuests have the opportunity to choose which table they wish to be seated at, as long as it’s not already sold out. Each scientist will provide a brief overview of their subject and/or current work and guests are then free to ask any questions or suggest topics they would like the host to discuss. Scientists are chosen from various disciplines from academic institutions and other sectors across southern Ontario.

Scott Menary

Menary’s present main research thrust is the ALPHA experiment at the antiproton decelerator at CERN, the European Centre for Particle Physics located in Geneva, Switzerland. ALPHA aims to produce, “trap”, and spectrally analyze a sample of antihydrogen atoms. Comparison of the properties of antihydrogen to those of hydrogen, the most precisely understood system that exists, promises to be a stringent test of our present description of the interactions of the fundamental objects in our universe.

Before coming to York, Menary was a scientific associate of CERN, a research associate with the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a staff scientist with the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) located near Chicago. He has performed research at CERN (specifically at LEP – the Large Electron Positron collider), Fermilab where he helped design a neutrino beam, as well as HERA, the large electron-proton collider at the DESY laboratory in Hamburg, and the CLEO experiment at the CESR electron-positron collider located on the Cornell University campus.

Brenda ZimmermanBrenda Zimmerman

Zimmerman will discuss hospital-acquired infections, such as Clostridium difficile, which are typically antibiotic-resistant organisms and often nicknamed “superbugs”, and whether or not a different approach can provide the solution. Patients and staff in hospitals are at risk of becoming infected and of infecting others. Positive deviance is a change-management approach that has been used in six Canadian hospitals to address this challenge. The hallmark of positive deviance is locally created and implemented solutions in contrast to dictated guidelines or rules. How can the lessons learned from these hospitals be used to broadly spread the ideas without destroying the very essence of the PD approach?

Zimmerman‘s primary research applies complexity science to organizations, especially health-care organizations.  She was a member of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences chronic disease expert panel, is a member of the Health Foundation’s Improvement Science Network (UK), advises the Canadian Public Health Agency and is the chair of Patient Safety and Quality Committee for Mount Sinai Hospital.

Marshall McCallMarshall McCall

“How We Got Here: The Milky Way and Beyond” is the title of McCall’s discussion. He’ll talk about our understanding of the Milky Way and how our place within it is inextricably tied to thinking about galaxies. Our own bodies bear the imprint of galactic evolution.  How did we get here mentally?  How did we get here physically?  How special are we?

McCall is an astronomer who has spent most of his research life studying the structure, evolution and formation of galaxies and galaxy aggregates. He has spent two years observing southern skies at Mt. Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories in Australia. His primary research adversary is interstellar dust, and he has spent a good deal of time uncovering what lies behind it, including two hitherto unknown galaxies in the backyard of the Milky Way.

Stiller will talk about the translation of university discoveries to world markets. As the role of universities is the pursuit of Calvin Stillertruth, their societal responsibility is to translate those findings where possible into goods and services that serve the community. Canada has lagged behind in this translation of discoveries to the community and many programs are seeking ways to improve this performance.

Calvin Stiller

Stiller, who started his career in organ transplantation and immunology research, and leading the major transplant program in Canada, has been involved with promoting translation of research both locally and nationally. He was a co-founder of MaRS and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and led the formation of venture capital to fill the gap that exists in Canada in early translation.

Following the dinner, there will be a general question-and-answer period, at which time any of the participants are free to direct a question to any of the scientists present.

The RCI for the Advancement of Science is a not-for-profit organization founded in Toronto in 1849 by a small group of civil engineers, architects and surveyors, and led by Sir Sandford Fleming (1827-1915) who established the concept of time zones.

For more information, visit the RCI website or contact York biology Professor Ron Pearlman, a member of the RCI council and the gala organizing committee, at ronp@yorku.ca.