Taking kids off the assembly line

 “Think of our current model of education as an assembly line,” says Dr. Khym Goslin, Assistant Professor of Education, and one of the presenters at UPEI’s 25th Research Breakfast. “They move along the line from Kindergarten to Grade 12 and get a little more general knowledge added as they go.”

Goslin will present his talk, "Instructional Leadership for the 21st Century Changes in Teaching and Schooling," at the Research Breakfast, 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, December 1, in the Georgian Room of the Rodd Charlottetown. (details below)

“This was a very useful model of education for an industry-based society, and it served us well,” says Goslin, “but times have changed, society has changed, and we need to adjust to these changes by adjusting how we teach our children.”

Goslin says rather than simply learning about things like environmental problems, students need to be learning how to solve them.

“We wouldn’t have the problem in the first place if we knew how to solve it,” says Goslin. “Rather than being knowledgeable about a lot of stuff, we need to work on becoming better problem solvers, better communicators, and better critical thinkers.”

Goslin says rapidly evolving communication technology requires us to evolve along with it. He says living in a global world, we need to use this communication to work together to solve our problems.

“There won’t be one hero that will save the day anymore,” says Goslin. “We’re going to collaborate with people around the world, and that is critical. We will need to teach our children how to do this.”

Goslin also argues that some of the tools we use in the classroom won’t be useful in the future.

“In the last century, we assigned word problems with only one correct answer. That’s not what our real problems are like. There is no one answer to global warming. Our new problems are messy with many answers.”

Many things will change as we adopt 21st century skills in the classroom, says Goslin. He says we need to rethink everything from the school day, to the school year.

“Using an agrarian calendar made plenty of sense when we were an agrarian people,” says Goslin. “If we are going to be collaborating with students in India or Australia to find solutions to our problems, it’s not terribly helpful for us to be taking the summer off. These seasons are meaningless in a global world.”

Dr. Goslin will discuss some of these ideas and propose some changes to help education adapt to new problems at the 25th Research Breakfast on Wednesday, December 1, at 7:30 a.m. in the Georgian Room of the Rodd Charlottetown.

Tickets for the breakfast are $10 each and may be purchased at the door. Please respond regarding your ability to attend by calling the Office of the Dean of Arts at 566-0307. 

Photo credit: Saad Khadi

"Trying to Stop Sea Lice From Partying Like It’s 1999"

 When Prince penned his classic song “1999”, he likely wasn’t thinking about the sea lice that infect Atlantic salmon. Dr. Mark Fast says that was a crucial year for sea lice in the aquaculture industry, and now the parasite is partying again like it’s 1999.

Fast is the Novartis Research Chair in Fish Health at the Atlantic Veterinary College of UPEI. He’s giving one of two presentations at UPEI’s 25th Research Breakfast (details below).

“1999 was the year the aquaculture industry gained what would be its most powerful tool in the fight against sea lice,” says Fast. “It’s called SLICE. It’s an in-feed treatment that, for a time, acted like a silver bullet. It was so effective that as a researcher studying sea lice, I found it difficult to harvest sea lice from salmon in an aquaculture environment. I just couldn’t find them. It worked that well.”

Fast says the treatment was so effective, research into other potential sea-lice fighting agents tapered off.

“Prior to 1999, there was a lot of promising research into vaccines, different chemotherapeutics, even echnology that would block the parasite’s ability to find a salmon to attach itself to. But SLICE was so effective, development of many of these projects just fell by the side.”

Some researchers warned against the silver-bullet approach, arguing the sea lice could eventually build up a tolerance—which is exactly what has occurred in aquaculture settings around the world.

“SLICE’s effectiveness started to seriously wane around 2008,” says Fast. “The sea lice were adapting. The previous two summers had been worse than ever. Sea lice were partying even harder than they were in 1999.”

In the meantime, researchers such as Fast have been digging out some of those old treatments, and meshing them with new ideas. Some of them are showing great promise.

“Industry needs these tools right now,” says Fast, “but regulators don’t move quite as fast because these products need to be tested. We’re working to find a medium-term solution—something that perhaps has already been approved for use—that could control the parasites until we have a long-term solution.”

Fast says that long-term solution must have several components. Neither the researchers nor the industry will trust just one solution again.

“More than likely, there will be several things incorporated into a long-term management plan that include vaccines, immune-boosting feed, anti-attachment technology, and treatment for fish that are already infected.”

Learn more about Dr. Mark Fast’s work at UPEI’s 25th Research Breakfast, Wednesday, December 1, 7:30-9 a.m. in the Georgian Room of the Rodd Charlottetown. Dr. Khym Goslin, Assistant Professor of Education will also present "Instructional Leadership for the 21st Century Changes in Teaching and Schooling."

Tickets for the breakfast are $10 each and may be purchased at the door. Please respond regarding your ability to attend by calling the Office of the Dean of Arts at 566-0307.

Let's talk about inorganic chemistry

“I can’t show a general audience a diagram of a complex molecule and expect them to know what it means,” says Jeanna Brothers, a third-year chemistry student at UPEI. “But it’s important information. So I have to find a way to simplify this science without dumbing it down, and without making it boring.”

Jeanna will be one of several third-year chemistry students giving public lectures this weekend on “Inorganic Chemistry in Real Life.” The lectures run from 2-4 pm in room 128 of the K.C.Irving Chemistry Centre.
Inorganic chemistry is the chemistry of the array of elements that aren't Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen and Oxygen. The students will lecture on the diversity and impact of inorganic chemistry on people’s real lives.
“My presentation is on inorganic chemistry in pesticides,” says Jeanna. “When you’re talking about pesticides, some of the most effective we have contain chlorine. Chlorine-based pesticides were a 20th century revolution. It resulted in increased production, and decreased bugs—with the added benefit of decreasing certain diseases that are carried by bugs, such as malaria.”
Jeanna points out that the downside of some of these chemicals weren’t known until after they had been in use for many years. Often, they were not only effective in harming their targets, but other species as well. Jeanna will discuss some of the pros and cons of inorganic pesticides, including the importance of regulation to ensure that their effectiveness is balanced with potential negative impacts.
Jeanna’s teacher, Dr. Michael Shaver, says the public component of these lectures is crucial.
“Clear communication is a lost art in many disciplines but is essential to creating public awareness, support, and motivation for change,” says Dr. Shaver. “The small class sizes at UPEI offer students a unique opportunity to learn skills that aren't traditionally associated with science courses. These students are learning the important skill of communicating science to the public.”
Presentations include:
"Green Chemistry in Inorganic Chemistry"
"Inorganic Chemistry and the Environment"
"Inorganic Compounds in our Bodies"
"Electronic Inorganics: Inorganic Chemistry in Batteries and Computers"
"The Periodic Table and the Elements"
"Transition Metals in Medicine"
"Hydrogen Fuel Cells: An Energy S"
Photo provided by Dr. Jason Pearson. It is a representation of a molecule of iron oxide — the compound that gives soil on Prince Edward Island its characteristic red colour.

UPEI researchers in the news, part 15

 Not content to rest on the accolades of an unprecedented decade of growth in research, UPEI researchers continue to make a difference in the world. Here’s a roundup of recent media stories featuring UPEI researchers.

 UPEI signed its first-ever licensing agreement in late summer. The agreement licensed technology developed at UPEI to extract anti-inflammatory agents from sea coral to Nautilus Biosciences Canada. The technology was developed in the lab of Dr. Russell Kerr, Canada Research Chair in Marine Natural Products.

 Dr. Kerr and PhD student Beth Pearce: (Guardian photo)Dr. Kerr and PhD student Beth Pearce: (Guardian photo)

As reported by the Charlottetown Guardian, “Pseudopterosins are currently in use in some products, such as cosmetics, but they come from coral collected in the Bahamas, which means they can only be collected in limited amounts. Kerr said the current collection method is sustainable but the process he developed could extract the chemicals in a way that’s more economically viable and has less of an impact on the environment.”

Read the whole story here.

Just a few weeks later, UPEI signed its second licensing agreement — this time, four pieces of UPEI technology were licensed to Island-based bioscience company CNS CRO. The technologies include research models for pre-clinical testing of new treatments for stroke, epilepsy, and schizophrenia.

In its story on the announcement, the Guardian quoted Ken Cawkell, CEO of CNS CRO’s parent company, Neurodyn Inc.

“The reason for (anticipating) the research money is that because we believe that we have leading-edge models — we can actually do our own research,” he said. “Very, very important from our point of view in doing our discovery research here based in P.E.I., based at the University here.’’

Read the whole story here. The journal Outsourcing Pharma also wrote about the agreement here.

In August, UPEI hosted the 2010 Palmer Conference on Public Sector Leadership. One of the members of a national media panel at the conference, L. Ian MacDonald, wrote afterward in his column in the Montreal Gazette about what he discovered at UPEI.

“And for those who think of Canada Research Chairs as being the exclusive domain of big universities, think again. UPEI, with no less than eight CRCs, is proof that a smaller campus can compete with the big schools. Recently, UPEI won one of the 19 new Canada Excellence Research Chairs, each funded at $10 million, and each a cottage industry unto itself. Says [Palmer Conference Chair] Kevin Lynch: ‘UPEI has become a mini-Waterloo,’ citing the research-driven university that gave the world the BlackBerry.”

Read the whole column here.

On November 9, CBC Prince Edward Island profiled the research of AVC student Sarah Stewart-Clark. She’s developed a test that can discover the presence of an invasive species called a tunicate much earlier than previously possible. Tunicates are an aquatic species that are particularly harmful to the Island’s mussel-farming industry.

“Historically invasions have been discovered when populations have reached such a high level that an aquaculture grower or a member of the general public or scientist or government employee can visually see this huge fouling species,” Stewart-Clark told the CBC.

“By then the population is so large it's very difficult to control and mitigate.”

Stewart-Clark’s test detects the tunicate when it is still invisible to the human eye.

Read the complete story here.

(Main photo: Maggie Brown/CBC)