Research exhibition highlights some of McGill's top work

By William Raillant-Clark

“Almost all the profs who were there were smiling, because we love teaching,” grinned Guillaume Gervais of McGill’s Physics Department as he recalled the 2009 edition of the Excellence in Research exhibition – an event that offers the public an opportunity to discover McGill’s excellence in a vast range of research fields across all faculties.

From Arctic microbiology and the search for life beyond Earth to digital costume illustration and robots in the great outdoors, this year’s lineup is thought-provoking by any definition. From the life-long effects childhood trauma has on genes and the brain through to baby-boomers’ new retirement trends, the themes and the displays encompass all aspects of society and daily life. Challenge your understanding of international migrant law. See and hear the highly publicized “Virtual Haydn Project,” which recreates Haydn’s masterpieces with the help of virtual acoustics. Discuss “Green Chemistry” with McGill’s world-class experts. McGill researchers are at the cutting edge and Excellence in Research offers a unique opportunity to pick their brains.

For example, Linda J. Wykes from the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at Macdonald Campus is looking forward to sharing her research on baby piglets. She’s trying to improve the nutrition of post-operative patients who must be fed by intravenous drip. Wykes explains that one of the major problems of stress after surgery is that patients break down their protein – reducing the effectiveness of the immune systems, breaking down muscle mass and ultimately delaying recovery. “[Our research] can provide a tangible benefit in helping patients recover from surgery,” she said.

This year’s event will be held next Thursday, Feb. 4, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Redpath Hall.

Gervais explains the gist of the event in a very touching way. “We are first and foremost researchers, but our excellence allows us to be teachers. This event enables a reconnection between our ‘teacher’ and ‘researcher’ hats.” Satisfaction surveys show that the overwhelming majority of attendees shared his enthusiasm for last year’s expo, which was in fact the first ever. One visitor opined her impressions of the experience very succinctly: “Inspirational!”

That’s great feedback, as one of the major objectives of the initiative is indeed to inspire and engage young people, undergraduates and prospective graduate researchers. The infectious energy of the attending faculty and students was apparently able to reach even the most phlegmatic of participants. “I enjoyed almost everything… not so much learning, but my eyes were opened to so many research opportunities.” This high school student’s lukewarm response may be amusing, but it also underscores that it really is the ground-breaking research that makes this event special.

“Opening eyes” is another key phrase, because seeing is believing and Excellence in Research offers everyone the opportunity to do just that. So why not set aside some time to pop over to Redpath Hall? You’ll definitely discover research you haven’t heard of, and you may even learn something – whether you like it or not!

On the Web: