Outreach Event: This Molecular World: From the Depths of the Earth to Infectious Disease Abstracts

Plenary Lecture
Sir Martyn Poliakoff,
University of Nottingham
Abstract: From Test-Tube to Youtube

This talk tells a story of something which came as a complete surprise to me. It explains how my participation in making some videos for the University of Nottingham’s YouTube channel, led to my collaboration with a very talented video-journalist Brady Haran and the creation of the YouTube channel, The Periodic Table of Videos. This began as a collection of 120 videos (one for each of the 118 elements of the Periodic Table, plus an introduction and a trailer). Quickly, it gathered momentum and now (10th March 2016) it has 614 uploaded videos with 905k YouTube subscribers and a total >152 M views in over 200 countries. I will outline how the concept has evolved and suggest tentatively how the channel came to be successful in communicating out love of chemistry across the world.

Joe Schwarcz, McGill University
Abstract: ‘Fake News” in Science

The propelling of the notion of “fake news” onto the front pages of newspapers in light of recent political events has had an interesting spinoff. It has allowed science communicators to bring to the public’s attention the growing threat of the penetration into the media of pseudoscience, which is in itself, a type of “fake news.”

Molly Shoichet, University of Toronto
Abstract: Making Change: Shaping the Future of Medicine

Imagine going beyond treating symptoms of disease and instead stopping and reversing disease progression. This is the promise of regenerative medicine. We will explore three stories - in cancer, blindness, and stroke - where chemistry, biology and engineering come together to solve the unanswered questions in biology and medicine. 

In cancer, we can biopsy your tissue, but often we cannot grow cells in the lab. This limits our understanding of your disease and your treatment. By developing materials in which to grow cells in the labratory, we have a more predictive drug treatment strategy and can figure out how nest to treat your disease. 

In blindness, the cells in the retina, at the back of the eye, degenerate. By replacing these exact cells, precisely where they were lost, we propose to restore vision. In models of disease, we show how stem cells can be programmed to those cells that are lost in blindness and then transplanted into the back of the eye, thereby restoring some vision. 

After stroke, the stem cells in the brain are stimulated, but not sufficiently to achieve repair. Using a drug infused patch (or band-aid) applied directly on the brain, we deomonstrate both tissue and funtional repair in models of disease. 

Gilbert Walker, University of Toronto
Abstract: Eco-friendly Salmon Fishing

Wild fish stocks have been plummeting since the 1980s. Yet there are plenty of fish to be found at the grocery store as fish farming has expanded by leaps and bounds. While this brings delicious, health-giving protein to our tables, fish farms raise some of the challenges already known to land animal farmers. Fish growing up so close to each other can get sick more easily, just like people do in crowded places.

This story focuses on the challenges of making medicine and farming in ways that are safe for the marine environment. We have been working on two technologies. The first aims to replace copper used to keep salmon cage nets clean, so that the environment is not burdened with heavy metals and the fish are still provided with a high-oxygen environment. The second aims to control sea lice, which can afflict cage-farmed salmon and against which there are currently remarkably few available treatment options.

Aaron Wheeler, University of Toronto
Abstract: Hacking Healthcare in a Refugee Camp

Scientists have the best job in the world! Why? Because scientists have the great fortune to be able to use, describe, and apply one of humanity’s most powerful inventions – the scientific method. The scientific method comprises four simple steps: making an interesting observation, attempting to explain the observation, testing the potential explanation, and finally (if one is lucky) using the observation and its explanation to effect change in the “real world.” This powerful invention has been developed and refined over the course of centuries, and has resulted in incredible transformations of the world that we live in. And what’s even better – you do not have to be an official “scientist” to use it – anyone can do it! But with great power comes great responsibility, and it is critical that we all (whether we are “scientists” or not) learn to use and apply the scientific method correctly. In this talk I will describe a series of examples (including some from my lab’s work) of how the scientific method is being applied in way that affects our lives (for better or worse) ranging from electrostatics and disease diagnostics to vaccines and neurodevelopment.