Peter Wall News Feed





Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Testing human exposure to diesel exhaust

Testing human exposure to diesel exhaust

The Institute is delighted to welcome William Brune, Distinguished Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University, as Peter Wall International Visiting Research Scholar to UBC.

Brune's research addresses fundamental questions of air quality near the Earth's surface and atmospheric effects of global pollution in the middle and upper troposphere.

During his stay at UBC, he will be working with UBC host, Chris Carlsten from the Faculty of Medicine and the School of Population and Public Health, to bring Brune's innovative Potential Aerosol Mass (PAM) concepts chamber to UBC's Air Exposure Pollution Lab (APEL).

Carlsten is recognized for his novel methods for performing safe human exposure tests to a variety of inhaled toxicants in order to understand mechanisms by which these toxicants effect our respiratory and immune systems.

Leveraging principles of PAM, Brune and Carlsten intend to rapidly age diesel exhaust  - in just a few minutes - so that it has the properties of exhaust that has been subject to days to weeks of chemical aging in the atmosphere. They will then study the effects of human exposure to this more realistic aged diesel exhaust.

Stay tuned for a public lecture with William Brune. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

New international paper answers age-old question in Ecology

New international paper answers age-old question in Ecology

A new paper published today in the journal, Ecology, has answered a longstanding ecological question.

Diane Srivastava, one of the authors of the study, a Wall Scholar and a UBC Professor of Ecology, says that by collating data from around the world on a common aquatic food web, the study has determined why some habitats seem to have a lot of predators, while other habitats just have a few.

"Habitats with lots of predators are often large," says Srivastava. "The types of predators that are highly efficient in consuming prey, like fish, lizards, frogs or carnivorous insects like damselflies, are exactly the same types of predators that are sensitive to the disturbances in small habitats."

The study showed that in sites with damselflies, the large bromeliad plants were disproportionately full of predators (including damselflies), which drove down the number of prey. The sensitivity of a dominant predator - damselfly larvae - to the size of its habitat can cascade through multiple levels in the foodchain, creating a shift in the entire food web as the bromeliad plant size increases.

Researchers collected composition and biomass data from 651 plant communities (bromeliads) from eight sites across Central and South America differing in environmental conditions, species pools and the presence of large-bodied carnivorous insect predators, like damselflies.

This is one of the first publications of the Bromeliad Working Group, an international network of researchers, who has pooled their data to answer big questions in ecology like this one.

"Important generalities can emerge when we examine ecological patterns not just in one location, but around the world," adds Srivastava. 

"This shows the power of scientists pooling their data when they study the same system but in different parts of the world. We could have never determined this from data from just one site."

For more information, read Dominant predators mediate the impact of habitat size on trophic structure in bromeliad invertebrate communities.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Derek Gregory to be bestowed Honorary Fellowship of King's College London

Derek Gregory to be bestowed Honorary Fellowship of King's College London

Join us in congratulating Derek Gregory, Peter Wall Distinguished Professor and UBC Professor of Geography, on his recent Honorary Fellowship from the Council of King's College London. 

An Honorary Fellowship of King's recognizes the exceptional distinction achieved on the part of the holder through their public and professional life. 

Gregory will officially be bestowed the Fellowship at King's College in London, UK in July 2015 during graduation ceremonies. 
Thursday, February 5, 2015

Wall Scholar receives Award from American Craft Council

Wall Scholar receives Award from American Craft Council

Wall Scholar and UBC Assistant Professor of Art History, Visual Art & Theory, T'ai Smith, has been awarded the Emerging Voices Award from the American Craft Council.

Smith received the award in recognition for best emerging scholar of 2015. She will also be featured in the 2015 June/July issue of American Craft magazine as well as in a journal published by the American Craft Council. 

The newly established American Craft Council Emerging Voices Award will be presented biennially in recognition and support of the generation of makers and thinkers in the field of contemporary craft. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Christian Naus receives $1.5 million grant for Alzeimer's research

Christian Naus receives $1.5 million grant for Alzeimer's research

Christian Naus, professor in UBC's Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences and 2013-2014 Peter Wall Distinguished Scholar in Residence, has just received $1.5 million from the British Columbia Alzheimer's Research Award Program.

His project, Improving the neighbourhood for brain cells in Alzheimer’s disease, will identify unique new drugs which will not only directly target neurons but also enhance the astrocytes’ abilities to protect neurons that are vulnerable to degeneration in Alzheimer’s.

He says the connections he made as a Distinguished Scholar through the Peter Wall Institute helped him develop the proposal for this award. 

“I was able to gather experts from around the world for the first Canadian Colloquium on Gap Junctions and Disease, as well as host Christian Giaume as a Peter Wall International Visiting Research Scholar from the Collège de France, who is an expert in targeting glial connexin channels for the treatment of neurological disease," says Dr. Naus.

"These opportunities helped us develop the Brain Canada proposal on gap junction channels, which will now lead to new research and treatments for Alzeimer’s Disease in BC and Canada.”

Naus is among two other UBC researchers and three other SFU researchers, who together, have received $7.5 million in research funding towards Alzeimer's. The Alzheimer's Research Award Program is a collaboration between Brain Canada, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR), Genome British Columbia (Genome BC), and The Pacific Alzheimer Research Foundation (PARF).

Friday, November 7, 2014

Planting the seed for hip health

Planting the seed for hip health

Centre for Hip Health receives provincial grant to prevent hip fractures in older adults

Peter Wall Faculty Associate, Heather Mckay, Director of UBC’s Centre for Hip Health and Mobility, recently received a $4.5 million grant through the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) to help prevent falls and hip fractures in older adults and enhance mobility though early intervention.

The seeds for Mckay's research into fall prevention began during her tenure as an 2001-2002 Early Career Scholar at the Peter Wall Institute and continued during a 2002 Exploratory Workshop, Transdisciplinary Research to Prevent the Epidemic of Hip Fracture, led by Karim Khan, founder of the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility, and 2001-2002 Peter Wall Early Career Scholar

“Our Exploratory Workshop helped build substantial relationships that led to collaborations across Canada and internationally,” says Khan.

Two years later in 2004, Khan and others received funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation program to build the Centre. The Centre subsequently opened in 2011.

"The important relationships we created during our tenure as Scholars at the Institute shaped the course of the workshop and later studies," adds McKay.

McKay is also the Principal Investigator of the Wall Solutions Initiative project, Active Streets Active People, which focuses on the intersections between physical mobility, the neighbourhood built environment, social interactions — and ultimately, how these things impact health. The goal is to better identify those built environment features that help individuals across the lifespan (1 to 100 yrs) live healthy, active lives in their neighbourhoods.

Part of the recent $4.5 million grant from PHSA will enable the Centre for Hip Health to expand programming that increases the mobility of less active seniors through education and awareness, tailored programs, and the development of tools to create safe and healthy communities.

Learn more about the Wall Solutions Active Streets, Active People project and the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Prize-winning author Camilla Gibb visits UBC

Prize-winning author Camilla Gibb visits UBC

The Institute is delighted to host prize-winning Canadian author, Camilla Gibb, at the Institute and UBC as 2014 writer-in-residence. 

She has written four critically acclaimed novels—Mouthing the WordsThe Petty Details of So-and-so’s LifeSweetness in the Belly and The Beauty of Humanity Movement—and is published around the world in fourteen languages. 

During her two week stay, Gibb will participate in the creative and intellectual life of the Institute, and will meet with with professors and students from UBC Creative Writing. 

On November 5, 2014, she will give a public talk as part of the Wall Wednesday Afternoon Series entitled Empathy, Narrative Truth and Artistic Process.

Read a recent Q&A with Camilla Gibb in The Wall Papers.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Peter Wall Faculty Associate, Kiley Hamlin, shares research on early moral cognition with the Dalai Lama

Peter Wall Faculty Associate, Kiley Hamlin, shares research on early moral cognition with the Dalai Lama

The Institute was thrilled and honoured to support the Dialogue with the Dalai Lama - Educating the Heart in the Early Years, held today at UBC's Chan Centre. 

The sold out auditorium of students listened intently as His Holiness the Dalai Lama provided insights to a panel of UBC researchers and to the audience about his own questions around science research, early childhood development, kindness and compassion. 

Peter Wall Faculty Associate and UBC Canada Research Chair in Developmental Psychology, Kiley Hamlin, was among one of the panelists. She shared her research in early development of moral cognition, which examines whether pre-verbal infants make judgments about which behaviors and individuals are good and praiseworthy, and which are bad and blameworthy.

Her studies suggest that infants come into the world liking niceness and appreciating generosity, she said. 

"Young humans are sensitive to goodness, they enjoy being helpful, compassionate and good," she indicated. This means that we need to give kids opportunities to see these behaviours and engage in these behaviours, she added. 

"I have seen no research prior to hers that shows how generosity is built into the human spirit," offered John, Helliwell, co-panelist, UBC professor and co-Director of CIFAR's program on "Social Interactions, Identity and Well-Being." 

His Holiness the Dalai Lama ended the event with words of encouragement for the generation of the 21st century. He suggested that we must not think of ourselves as part of a nation, but as part of humanity - as part 7 billion other people living on the planet. He urged the generation of the 21st century to act now to see a more peaceful, humane and happy world at the end of the century. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Wall Scholar brings men's health exhibit to small town Alberta

Wall Scholar and UBC Nursing Professor, John Oliffe, is bringing the Man-Up-Against-Suicide exhibit, which was on display in Vancouver this summer, to Rimbey, Alberta - a rural community an hour south west of Edmonton.

Risk for suicide among men in rural areas increases by 40% or more the further away one gets from urban centres. Men are four to five times more likely to die by suicide than women in rural areas in Canada. But it wasn’t the stark statistics that brought two local Rimbey friends to lobby Oliffe's team, asking them to extend their research project to the small town in Alberta.

Emma Palm and Cayley Thomas Haug, united by the loss of both of their brothers to suicide, lobbied John Oliffe and his colleague, John Ogrodniczuk, to bring the exhibit to Rimbey. Palm and Haug will co-host the Movember-funded photography exhibit in Rimbey from October 16-20, 2014.

The Man-Up Against Suicide project, led by Oliffe and Ogrodniczuk, also a Rimbey native, interviewed over 40 men and women who were affected by men’s suicide. The participants narrated their experiences through taking photographs, and a collection of these photographs are shared at various local, national, and international photo exhibits as well as online.

For more information on the project, please visit

Monday, September 29, 2014

Brett Finlay awarded Prix Galien Canada

Brett Finlay awarded Prix Galien Canada

Dr. B. Brett Finlay, Peter Wall Distinguished Professor and UBC Professor in the Departments of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Microbiology & Immunology, has been awarded the Prix Galien Canada Research Award 2014.

The award is presented to the researcher or the research team judged by the Jury to have made the most significant contribution to pharmaceutical research in Canada.

"I am absolutely thrilled and honoured to have been awarded the Prix Galien Research Award 2014," says Dr. Finlay. "Our hope is that our most recent research into the microbiota and its effect on diarrhea and asthma will help to deliver new preventions and treatments."

The award is the most prestigious award in the field of Canadian pharmaceutical research and innovation. Referred to as the Nobel Prize of pharmaceutical research, it recognizes the efforts and achievements of pharmaceutical research and development. The Prix Galien Canada is a branch of Innovation Life Canada.

Please join the Institute in congratulating Dr. Finlay on this prestigious award.

To learn more about his research, watch The World of Microbes.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fashioning Cancer project raises nearly $40 000 for cancer research

Fashioning Cancer project raises nearly $40 000 for cancer research

Fashioning Cancer: The Correlation between Destruction and Beauty has raised approximately $40 000 for cancer research by auctioning off ball gowns inspired by microscopic images of cancer cells.

The 10 ball gowns, designed by UBC Theatre's Jacqueline Firkins and inspired by Christian Naus' lab at UBC, were sold at an auction on September 23 at the Porsche Centre Vancouver.

"It was an amazing evening of great energy and inspiration and personal stories. I was truly overwhelmed," said Firkins. "I'm so grateful for all of the support from start to finish on this project. It means so much to be able to give something back to the community and to use my skills in a new and exciting way."

The project originated through the Peter Wall Institute's Research Mentorship Program and aimed to get people talking about the disease, and how it relates to beauty and body image.

To learn more, read Professor designs gowns inspired by microscopic images of cancer.