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Meeting Summaries – 2012-2013


Monday, 1 October 2012

Time: 7:30pm
Location: Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History
Speaker: Dr. Tamara Franz-Odendaal
NSERC Atlantic Chair, Women in Science & Engineering
Department of Biology, Mount Saint Vincent University
Title:“GIRLS and Science: Why it’s Important and How You Can Support Them”

Regardless of your role in our community, you can play a part in supporting young women to enter the fields of science, engineering and technology. Women make up 48% of the labour workforce yet are vastly under-represented in these fields. Dr. Franz-Odendaal, Associate Professor of Biology at MSVU and the NSERC Chair for Women in Science and Engineering for the Atlantic Region shares her story of becoming a scientist and why it’s important to encourage girls to pursue STEM careers. She will discuss what parents, grandparents and teachers can do to support girls to pursue these careers. Dr. Franz-Odendaal is a developmental biologist and will share with you how she uses her research with zebrafish to excite students to the thrill of scientific discovery. The goals of the Wise Atlantic program is to increase girls’ self confidence in science, engineering and technology; provide mentors and role models for girls; and dispel stereotypes surrounding women in science, engineering and math. Visit WISEatlantic.ca to find out more about this program.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Time: 7:30pm
Location: Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History
Speaker: Dr. Arunika Gunawardena
Department of Biology, Dalhousie University
Title:“Dying to Live: The Role of Programmed Cell Death in Plant Development”

Programmed cell death (PCD) is a genetically encoded, active process which results in the death of individual cells, tissues, or whole organs. PCD has been studied most extensively in animal cells where it plays a major role during development. As in animals, PCD plays an important role in plant development and defense and occurs throughout a plant’s life cycle, from the fertilization of the ovule to the death of the whole plant. One of the fascinating examples of PCD in plant development is perforation (hole) formation in the lace plant (Aponogeton madagascariensis) leaves. This lecture will focus on plant PCD and the unique lace plant as an excellent model for studying PCD.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Time: 7:30pm
Location: Potter Auditorium, Dalhousie University
Speaker: Dr. Suzanne Zeller
Professor of History, Wilfrid Laurier University
Title:“The Natural History of a Sustainable Institution: The Nova Scotian Institute of (Natural) Science Since 1862”

The 150-year history of the Nova Scotian Institute of Science and its published Transactions offers a welcome opportunity to reconsider in historical context the Institute’s timely foundation, its subsequent achievements, and its remarkable longevity. Established in Halifax in 1862 as a regional natural history society during the heyday of Victorian (and especially Scottish) approaches to science, God, and nature, the Nova Scotian Institute of Natural Science sought first and foremost an inventory of the colony’s natural resources. Over time, however, new members who practised – and emphatically preached – new modes of science in a changing environment inspired the Institute’s repeated renewal through a process of adaptation, reflected most clearly in the 1890 name change to the Nova Scotian Institute of Science. A constant tension in the Institute’s history between time and place illuminates the interplay between a responsiveness to broader cultural trends and a persistent dedication to the overarching importance -and the shifting implications of- modernity and environment in a very particular locality.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Time: 7:30pm
Location: Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History
Speaker: Dr. Eric Mills
Professor Emeritus of History of Science
Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University, and Inglis Professor, University of King’s College
Title:“Canadian Marine Science from Titanic to BIO”

When Titanic sank in 1912, the country had very few scientific resources to study the sea for practical or scientific reasons. Marine sciences and technologies had developed separately in Canada, some of them originating in the late 19th century. Marine laboratories, devoted mainly to marine biology, were established in 1908 in St Andrews, NB and Nanaimo, BC, and it was in them that the first studies of ocean circulation in Canadian waters were undertaken by Canadians during the 1930s. For several scientific and political reasons, Canadian marine sciences developed most rapidly after the Second World War, including work in the Arctic, the beginning of graduate programs in oceanography on both coasts, , increased work on marine geology and geophysics, the increasing influence of the Federal Department of Mines and Technical Surveys and eventually, in the early 1960s, the founding of the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, which brought together all the marine sciences in Canada for the first time.


Monday, 7 January 2013

Time: 7:30pm
Location: Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History
Speaker: Dr. Doug Wallace
Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Ocean Science and Technology
Department of Biology, Dalhousie University
Title:Sea Change in the Ocean: What do We Know? And How do We Know It?

Human-induced changes to our ocean are shifting from the local and regional to the global scale. This presentation will highlight the causes of change as well as new technological approaches, many originating in Canada, to making measurements within the global oceans.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Time: 7:30pm
Location: Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History
Speaker: Dr. Luigi Gallo
Associate Professor, Department of Astronomy and Physics, Saint Mary’s University
Title:Seeing the Universe in X-rays

X-ray light is about 1000-times more energetic than the optical light we see with our eyes. X-rays are generated under extreme conditions and in environments that cannot be duplicated in laboratories. During this talk Dr. Gallo will present to you the Universe as it appears when viewed in X-ray light. He will discuss the various phenomena, describe how X-ray telescopes work, and discuss Canada’s role in the next generation X-ray observatory, Astro-H.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Time: 7:30pm
Location: Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History
Speaker: Jeff Dahn, FRSC
Professor of Physics and Professor of Chemistry
NSERC/3M Canada Industrial Research Chair, Canada Research Chair
Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science, Dalhousie University
Title:How Good Can a Battery Be?

Lithium-ion batteries have played a strong part in the information age. Without lithium-ion batteries, there would be no smart phones, i-pads, laptops, etc. The market for batteries in portable electronics is large but pales by comparison to the market in electrified vehicles. However, the battery used in an electric vehicle is subjected to much more demanding use than that in portable electronics, in areas of temperature range, calendar lifetime and charge-discharge cycle life. Additionally, the cost of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles is too high at the moment. Can lithium-ion batteries, or some other battery technology, ever be good enough and inexpensive enough so no one will want a gas-powered vehicle?

Monday, 1 April 2013

Time: 7:30pm
Location: Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History
Speaker: Dr. Danny Silver
Professor and Director of the Jodrey School of Computer Science, Acadia University
Title:“Getting a Machine to Learn: Extending Man’s Reach Beyond His Grasp”

Machine Learning (ML) is the study of how to build systems that can automatically learn and improve with experience similar to humans. Since the early 1980’s there have been significant advances in ML that have affected things such as marketing, banking and stock trading, manufacturing, household appliances, national defense, automobiles, medicine and health care, and most recently the Internet, search engines and mobile devices. ML is poised to extend man’s mental reach in the virtual world of the 21st century in the same way as flight extended his physical reach in 20th century – it provides the means to filter massive amounts of data, recognize complex patterns, and rapidly make difficult decisions. This lecture will present the fundamentals of ML, beginning with human learning and its relationship to statistical modeling, inductive bias and the need to retain learned knowledge. The history of ML research is reviewed emphasizing its multidisciplinary nature involving computing, mathematics, physics, psychology and neuroscience. The basic framework for machine learning is presented, various ML methods are outlined and demonstrated, and several current and surprising ML applications are discussed. The talk concludes with a look to the future of ML as it takes flight into the next 10 years.

Monday, 6 May 6 2013

Time: 7:30pm
Location: Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History
Speaker: Dr. Sean Myles
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University
Canada Research Chair in Agricultural Genetic Diversity
Title:“Sex-Deprived Fruit: How a Lack of Breeding Threatens our Food’s Future and How Genomics Can Help Fix the Problem”

We recently celebrated the 200th anniversary of the McIntosh apple. But is such an anniversary a reason for celebration or a reason for despair? While pathogens continue to evolve and exert pressure on McIntosh, it has remained genetically identical for 200 years because we continue to propagate it clonally year after year. Many of our fruit crops, including apples and grapes, are sex-deprived: they have experienced very little sex over the past few thousand years due to the practice of clonal propagation. Sex is the only way to generate novel combinations of traits. We need breeders to continue to generate novel genetic combinations that are tasty, high-yielding and require less chemical input to grow. If we want sustainably grown food in the future, it is essential that we support long-term breeding efforts that make use of all of the information available, including DNA sequences. This talk will focus on how we use genetic information to make breeding more efficient and cost-effective so that we can produce tasty fruit that requires less chemical input. The research performed here in Nova Scotia by Dr Myles and his collaborators aims to generate new apple and grape varieties that promote environmental and economic sustainability.