All first-year Science courses will be delivered virtually for Winter 2021. Due to the COVID-19 provincial lock-down, all students who were expecting in-person labs, should check their McMaster e-mail for important winter announcements..

Faculty of Science Newsmakers

Image of a tweetKudos to Ed Reinhardt for having the most viewed Brighter World story of 2020. The story, which showcases Ed's research with an international team in the underwater caves of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula had been viewed nearly 360,000 times by the end of December.

Congratulations to Jianping Xu on receiving the Genome Publication Award. Jianping's paper Fungal species concepts in the genomics era was selected the the Genome editorial board as one of the 5 best papers published in the journal in 2020. Genome is an international journal for genetics and genomics.

Three more McCall MacBain Postodoctoral Fellows have been published in The Conversation Canada. Congratulations to Leanne Grieves ("Birds sniff out potential mates who are genetically different"), James Barnett ("Glass frogs, ghost shrimp and clearwing butterlies use transparency to evade predators") and Cayleih Robertson ("Baby mice 'shut down' to survive extreme cold on the highest mountain tops") are the latest to showcase their research in the online journalism site. Postdoctoral Fellows in the teaching and leadership program supported by the McCall MacBain Foundation submit guest columns to The Conversation Canada to further hone their science communication skills.

The International Journal of Exercise Science has published research by Martin Gibala and McMaster kinesiologists together with researchers at the Mayo Clinic. Their research, which was also featured in the New York Times and on Brighter World, shows the health benefits of brief and intense body-weight workouts at home - an important finding at a time when the pandemic has closed gyms and fitness centres.

The Heart and Circulatory Physiology Podcast invited Dean Maureen MacDonald to talk about her research into the impact of sleep disorders on cardiovascular health. Maureen, who was joined by Karyn Esser from the University of Florida, was interviewed by Editor-in-Chief Dr. Irving Zucker.

Bhagwati Gupta left and Avijit Mallick

Research by Associate Dean Bhagwati Gupta (left) and Avijit Mallick, a Ph.D. candidate in Bhagwati's lab, was published in the peer-reviewed Cell Press journal iScience. McMaster's Brighter World also showcased Bhagwati and Avijit's research into whether the axin protein could hold the key to a longer and healthier life.

Biology Department Assembles Home Lab Kits For More Than 1,700 Students

Assemblying lab kitsLast summer was a warm-up for the BIO1A03 team.

After mailing lab kits to 120 Biology students in early June, the team began assembling kits during the fall term for more than 1,700 first-year students from across Ontario.
The kits, which filled eight shipping skids, were packaged by Lab Technicians Tracy Rerecich, Julie Freund-Zimmerman and Natalie Mari with help from Biology and Engineering students Marry Nissan, Kyle Amaral, Alia Voss, Veronica Rerecich and Labib Kazi.

"The students were amazing," says Rosa da Silva, Assistant Professor and Associate Chair, Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Biology. "We couldn't have done this without them."

Other staff and faculty played key roles, says Rosa, including Rebecca Woodworth who collected student addresses, printed off 1,737 shipping labels and coordinated getting the kits out the door, Stan Zolinski who helped with shipping, and the core BIO1A03 Course Team who decided what to put in the kits.

Over the winter term, students will use their kits to conduct three experiments that will be livestreamed with their teaching assistants and labmates. Students will also complete online virtual simulations and perform data analysis.

The BIO1A03 Course Team plans to survey students at the end of the term to get their perspectives on the at-home lab kits.

Tracy's advice to colleagues who are thinking about creating at-home kits for their students? "There's far more involved than just assembling kits and sending them out the door. This was a months-long process that involved a lot of planning and coordination by the entire BIO1A03 Course Team in collaboration with amazing colleagues from across the whole university. We had tremendous support from McMaster's Equity and Inclusion Office, Environmental and Occupational Health Support Services, legal advisors, Shipping and Receiving, Customs and Traffic, the Campus Store, the Office of the Provost and our Dean Maureen MacDonald who was a champion of this project from the very beginning. Our team is incredibly grateful for the help provided by everyone"

"Together, we're giving students a unique opportunity to do science at home," says Rosa."We hope they have a great learning experience and we can't wait to welcome them to our labs on campus once the pandemic ends."

Biology lab

Updates to Winter 2021 Science Courses

All courses for every first-year Science student will be delivered online for Winter 2021. Due to the COVID-19 provincial lock-down, second, third and fourth year students who were expecting in-person labs, should check their McMaster e-mail for important winter announcements.

In response to the ongoing pandemic and the recent Provincial announcement regarding the minimum 28-day province-wide lockdown that began on December 26, we have made the difficult decision to replace the in-person labs with virtual labs for a number of courses (Medical Radiation Science courses will still run with planned in-person elements). Courses originally planned for virtual will continue as planned. Details regarding courses that have changed due to this announcement are listed below:

Clinical Courses Remaining On-campusCourses pivoting to VirtualCourses cancelled for Winter 2021
   EARTHSC 4P03  

*indicates course is now being planned for spring/summer offering in addition to fall 2021 offering with additional capacity
** indicates course will not be offered in spring/summer but additional capacity for fall 2021 is being planned.

If you have questions you are encouraged to review the advising options at the Associate Dean (Academic) Office


Four McMaster Researchers Named Canada Research Chairs

Four Research ChairMcMaster University's newest Canada Research Chairs. Clockwise from top left: Gita Ljubicic, Alemu Gonsamo, Gabriel Xiao and Jennifer Heisz.

Four McMaster University researchers have been awarded Canada Research Chairs by the Government of Canada.

The new Chairholders - all from the Faculty of Science – were announced today by the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.

McMaster’s newest Tier 2 Canada Research Chairs are:

  • Dr. Alemu Gonsamo, an Assistant Professor in the School of Earth, Environment & Society, is the new Canada Research Chair in Remote Sensing of Terrestrial Ecosystems (Tier 2). The global carbon cycle is the exchange of carbon among the atmosphere, oceans and land. The land carbon cycle is less understood than either the atmosphere and ocean carbon cycles, contributing the largest error to the global carbon budget estimates. This is attributed largely to the lack of understanding of the magnitude of carbon dioxide fertilization effect on plant growth and the changing sensitivity of plant growth to warming-induced stress. Dr. Gonsamo’s research program integrates carbon cycle models and emerging satellite technologies that directly measure photosynthesis for improved insight into photosynthetic processes to reduce the land carbon cycle estimation uncertainty.
  • Dr. Jennifer Heisz, an Associate Professor in the Department of Kinesiology, is the new Canada Research Chair in Brain Health and Aging (Tier 2). For the first time in history, older people outnumber younger generations. This has created unique health challenges including dementia, a debilitating disorder that cause severe memory loss with no cure. Dr. Heisz’s research examines how one session of exercise impacts the brain to improve memory, and will then determine how those temporary changes become permanent with regular exercise training and whether they can be enhanced with brain training games that target memory. This research will inform evidence-based guidelines for exercise interventions to keep older Canadians healthier longer.
  • Dr. Gita Ljubicic, an Associate Professor in the School of Earth, Environment & Society, is the new Canada Research Chair in Community-Engaged Research for Northern Sustainability (Tier 2). Research in the Canadian North has a conflicted history, being used as both a tool of exploitation and empowerment. Working with Inuit communities in Nunavut, and learning from Elders and Indigenous leaders across Canada, Dr. Ljubicic explores how community-engaged research can contribute to northern sustainability. Her research will provide unique insights into the interconnections between climate resilience, environmental governance, and Indigenous self-determination in research.
  • Dr. Gabriel (Naiqi) Xiao, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behavior, is the new Canada Research Chair in Perceptual Development (Tier 2). Dr. Xiao was also awarded an additional $210,000 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund, designed to help universities attract and retain the very best researchers by providing them with the foundational equipment and facilities to ensure they become leaders in their fields. Dr. Xiao’s research investigates the early development of perceptual and social capacities in infancy. While most studies examine infants’ prolonged perceptual development over months, Dr. Xiao will explore how neonates and infants can actively change their perception within seconds and how this cognitive capacity is impaired in preterm infants. The finding will contribute to understanding the origins of cognitive deficits by prematurity. Dr. Xiao will also examine how social biases emerge as early as infancy. Identification of the origin of social biases offers an opportunity for mitigating the pervasive social biases in our society.

Dr. Karen Mossman, McMaster’s Vice-President, Research, saluted both the new Chairholders and the federal government. “Congratulations to our new Chairholders whose pioneering work will advance our knowledge and help to solve complex societal issues,” she says. “The Canada Research Chairs program plays an integral role in our ability to attract and retain scholars with diverse backgrounds which is so important to our research enterprise.”

Dr. Gonsamo, Dr. Ljubicic and Dr. Xiao were recruited to the Faculty of Science in 2019 while Dr. Heisz joined in 2013.
“Our Faculty of Science is incredibly proud of Alemu, Jennifer, Gita and Gabriel,” says Dean Maureen MacDonald. “Our colleagues have quickly established themselves as outstanding researchers and the Government of Canada’s investment will further accelerate the impact of their vitally important work.”

Tier 2 Chairs, which are held for five years and renewable once, are for exceptional emerging researchers who have the potential to lead in their field. For each Tier 2 Chair, the University receives $100,000 annually, with an additional $20,000 annual research stipend for first-term Chairs. The McMaster researchers were part of a $195 million investment by the federal government to support 259 new and renewed Chairs announced across the country. McMaster has been allocated 88 Canada Research Chairs, with 19 Chairs in the Faculty of Science.

The Canada Research Chairs Program invests up to $295 million annually to attract and retain some of the world’s most accomplished and promising researchers. The Government of Canada invests in research in health sciences, engineering, natural sciences, social sciences and the humanities through the three federal research granting agencies: the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

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