2014 Gala Dinner – Tables 1 to 12

Yvonne Bombard -110

Table 1: Yvonne Bombard, Scientist and Assistant Professor, St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto

Personalized Genomic Medicine: Hope or Hype?

What would you do with the opportunity to peer inside your entire genetic code (or have your ‘genome sequenced’)? What would you want to know and why? What would you do with the information? What are some of the ethical and policy issues that we as a society must consider if genome sequencing becomes part of mainstream health care?

Yvonne Bombard is a genomics and policy expert. She received her Interdisciplinary doctorate in Medical Genetics at the University of British Columbia and completed postdoctoral fellowships at Yale University, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the University of Toronto. She conducts research on the benefits and risks of emerging genomic tools and tests on patients, providers and health service use. She has received awards for her research, which has translated into policy developments in Canada, and into international clinical practice guidelines. She serves on international genetics and policy expert committees and is a frequent contributor and commentator on genetics in both broadcast and print media.


Table 2: Nora Young, Host of Spark, CBC Radio; Author of The Virtual Self

Big Data: Beyond the Hype

We generate enormous amounts of data about our habits. All those Facebook updates, loyalty card purchases, cell phone locations, and search engine queries can be tremendously valuable in building smarter cities, better health care, not to mention better target marketing! It also poses real risks to privacy and fairness. How can we harness the benefits of Big Data while protecting our privacy?

Nora Young is the host and the creator of Spark, CBC’s national radio show and podcast about technology and culture. As a journalist, author, and speaker, Nora explores how new technology shapes the way we understand ourselves and the world around us. Her book, The Virtual Self, on the explosion of data about our behaviours, opinions and actions, is now in paperback. Find her at


Table 3: Hind A. Al-Abadleh, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Associate Director of Laurier Centre for Women in Science, Wilfrid Laurier University

Fixing Climate Change: Is Geo-engineering a Solution?

We have been unintentionally ‘geo-engineering’ the Earth’s atmosphere for the past 200 years by pumping in carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. The consequence? An amplified greenhouse effect, resulting in rising surface and ocean temperatures, increased ocean acidity levels and increased rates of species migrations and extinctions. Some experts advocate for geo-engineering solutions to mitigate climate change while others oppose the idea. What is geo-engineering? What is the debate about? How much does the public know about it to contribute meaningfully to the discussion?

Hind is an environmental physical chemist who established award-winning research programs in atmospheric chemistry and geochemistry at Wilfrid Laurier University. She obtained her PhD from the University of Iowa and moved to Wilfrid Laurier University after a postdoctorate at Northwestern University.  Through her research, teaching and outreach activities, Hind is passionate about highlighting how Chemistry helps us make sense of everything around us. She is very active in promoting women in science.


Table 4: John E. Moores, Assistant Professor, Lassonde School of Engineering, York University

Searching for Water Across The Solar System with Robotic Spacecraft

A common mantra in our exploration of the solar system is, ‘Follow the Water.’ Why is water so important? What have such diverse missions as the Curiosity Rover and Phoenix Lander at Mars, the Cassini Mission at Saturn and the Galileo Mission at Jupiter taught us about how this molecule is distributed through our solar system? What we learn by exploring these exotic environments has direct relevance on the future of our own planet and may even shed light on our own human origins.

John Moores has worked on four separate space missions for NASA and its European Counterpart, ESA. He was a science team member on the Huygens Probe at Titan (the largest moon of Saturn) and one of the first dozen people to see its surface; he served as a strategic science planner on the Phoenix Mission, the first mission to the Martian Arctic; and he is a Participating Scientist on the Curiosity Rover presently exploring Gale Crater. He is the recipient of three NASA Group Achievement Awards, and has published extensively on Planetary Science and Exploration.


Table 5: Dave Patton, Associate Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Trent University

Our Cosmic Origins: From the Big Bang to Us

The rise of modern civilization on Earth is a very recent occurrence in a 13.8 billion year series of interconnected events, starting with the Big Bang, followed by the formation and evolution of galaxies, the birth of our solar system and the emergence of life on Earth. Is this sequence of events likely to be common or rare in the universe? Is there anything special about our planet, our Sun, or our Galaxy that favoured this outcome? We will discuss recent advances in cosmology, galaxy evolution and astrobiology, which are providing new insights into these fundamental questions.

Dr. Patton has been a faculty member at Trent University since 2001. As an observational astronomer, he has used a wide range of world-class observatories, including the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope. Dave holds an NSERC Discovery Grant, and has published primarily in the area of galaxy evolution. His research specialty is the study of interacting and merging galaxies.


Table 6: Kate Hartman, Assistant Professor of Wearable & Mobile Technology and Director of the Social Body Lab, OCADU

Wearable Electronics: The Future of Computing

Google Glass, FitBit and the Samsung Pebble are wearable electronics that have taken the market by storm. Has wearable computing finally made it to the mainstream? How far will we go to integrate electronics into our everyday lives?

Kate Hartman is an artist, technologist and educator whose work spans the fields of physical computing, wearable electronics, and conceptual art. She is the co-creator of Botanicalls, a system that lets thirsty plants place phone calls for human help, and the Lilypad XBee, a sewable radio transceiver that allows your clothing to communicate. Her work has been exhibited internationally and she was a speaker at TED 2011. Hartman is based in Toronto, but is also the director of ITP Camp, a summer program at ITP/NYU. Hartman enjoys bicycles, rock climbing, and someday hopes to work in the Antarctic.


Table 7: Robert Thirsk, Former Astronaut; RCI Fleming Medal Recipient

The Medical Effects of Spaceflight

Weightlessness, ionizing radiation and isolation are all part of the environment in which astronauts live aboard a spacecraft. Each of these factors can cause physiologic or psychological changes that make adjusting to the spaceflight environment and the return to Earth difficult. Countermeasures have been successfully developed for most of the medical problems associated with short-duration spaceflight. What medical issues face future astronauts when they venture to Mars or other interplanetary destinations?

In 1996 Dr. Robert Thirsk flew aboard the space shuttle Columbia with six international crewmates as part of the Life and Microgravity Spacelab Mission. This 17-day mission was devoted to the study of life and materials sciences. In 2009 Bob launched aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station. As members of the ISS Expedition 20/21 crew, Bob and his five crewmates performed multidisciplinary research, robotic operations and maintenance and repair work of Station systems and payloads. Upon return to Earth, Bob had lived and worked in space for another 188 days. He continues to be a strong promoter of a Canadian economy based upon exploration, innovation and advanced education.

Professor Brendan Frey

Table 8: Brendan J Frey, Professor and Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, University of Toronto

Tales From the Genome: Surprising Discoveries That Will Change Our Lives

What does your genetic code have in common with your grandmother’s cookbook? We are on the cusp of seeing a radically different interpretation of the genetic code emerge, and deciphering this code is one of the greatest scientific challenges of our time. The standard interpretation of the genetic code is holding us back; how will the new code revolutionize science, medicine and society? Will this discovery allow us to genetically engineer our children and ourselves?

Brendan Frey’s research team works to decipher the way in which DNA encodes life. They use sophisticated computer algorithms to compare fragments of DNA with biochemical activities in different types of human cells, and elucidate how ‘words’ stored in the DNA instruct the generation of biomolecules. Prof. Frey recently received the NSERC John C. Polanyi Award. He is a Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, a Canada Research Chair, an NSERC EWR Steacie Fellow, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


Table 9: Bill Anderson, Ontario Research Chair in Cross-Border Transportation Policy, University of Windsor

Will a More Open Border Make a More Prosperous Ontario?

If Ontario were a separate country it would have one of the most trade dependent economies in the world, most of that trade being with the United States. Ontario trades more with the US than it does with the rest of Canada. Technological developments like real-time traffic analysis allow the study and prediction of the delay at the border and traffic on the corridors. These are important factors in Ontario in supporting the commercialization strategy and economic development emanating from advances in science. A more open border is an important science policy question and may lead to expanded opportunities both in North America and globally. But what are the costs?

Bill Anderson is an economic geographer who studies how places relate to each other. His interests include the Canada-US border; economic analysis of transportation infrastructure investments; Canada-US economic integration; urban and regional economic development; transportation and border security; international trade and transportation planning. At Windsor, he founded the Cross-Border Institute, which conducts research on the movement of goods and people across the Canada-US border and the economies of the border regions.


Table 10: Roy Eagleson, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Western University

Surgical Simulators: Training Surgeons with Robots

Training a surgeon is a complex and ethically-charged matter. Developments in computer and robotic training have changed this field in recent years. User interface features, such as the tactile ‘haptic feedback’ that help you type accurately on a smartphone, can also help train a surgeon. What will graphics, new media and research in the human-computer interface design bring to the future of surgical training?

Roy brings engineering to health care. He is an Associate Scientist at the Robarts Research Institute and a Scientist and Principal Investigator at The Canadian Surgical Technologies and Advanced Robotics Research Centre, part of the London Health Sciences Centre. He is the co-leader within the National Centres of Excellence on Graphics and New Media project on Simulation and New Media for Healthcare Training.  His research interests include systems, software engineering, artificial intelligence: computer vision and robotics, biomedical imaging, human-computer interaction, facilitated learning, and  spatial reasoning.


Table 11: James Ellis, Senior Scientist, Developmental & Stem Cell Biology Program, Hospital for Sick Children

Turning Skin into Stem Cells for Personalized Drug Discovery

The Nobel Prize was awarded in 2012 to Shinya Yamanaka for discovering that skin cells can be “reprogrammed” into stem cells to produce any cell type in the human body.  When stem cells are generated from patients they can be used to make personalized cells for drug tests.  How are the stem cells generated?  Which diseases can be studied?  Can clinical trials be conducted on cells in a dish?  We will explore these issues and the future of stem cell-based drug testing.

James Ellis is a Senior Scientist at SickKids and Full Professor at the University of Toronto.  His lab was the first in Canada to reprogram patient cells using the Yamanaka method.  His research focus is to make stem cells to study neurodevelopmental disorders like autism and to use personalized nerve cells for drug tests.  Dr. Ellis obtained his PhD in Toronto in 1990 and his research is funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the Ontario Brain Institute, and Brain Canada.


Table 12: Brian J. Murray, Associate Professor of Neurology, Department of Medicine, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, University of Toronto

Understanding Sleep Regulation: Recent Advances

How do we sleep and why do we sleep? Most people spend around a third of their life oscillating in dramatically altered states of consciousness. The better we understand the mechanisms that produce various stages of sleep, the more effectively we will be able to develop therapies to address common and serious sleep disorders. Numerous neuro-psychological and genetic studies suggest that sleep is important for modulating synaptic connections in the brain. Recent studies point to sleep as an important player in clearing waste products from the brain that are implicated in disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Brian Murray is an associate professor at the University of Toronto in neurology and is the director of the sleep laboratory at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. His major clinical and research interests are in neurological aspects of sleep medicine, and the relationship between sleep and behaviour. He is currently the Director of Integrated Medical Education for the University of Toronto Department of Medicine and Chair of the Sunnybrook Research Ethics Board.


View the details of Tables 13-25, here.