“It’s Your Experiment!” High School Science Teacher Conference 2008 (Oct 24th & 25th)

From the Michael Smith Laboratories

Archive for the ‘Day One (Oct 24th)’ Category

Dr. Brian Ellis’ Talk

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Dr. Brian Ellis, Professor, Michael Smith Labs, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences

Dr. Ellis’ research interests are in the area of plant metabolism. His current projects include biochemistry and evolution of metabolic enzymes, discovery of signaling mechanisms through which plants sense and respond to environmental changes, and genetic engineering of crop and forest plants to improve their value. He is also interested in the commercial production of biological control agents for horticultural pests. In 2000/01, he served as co-chair of the Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel on “The Future of Food Biotechnology”.

link to contact info

Slides here (ppt)

Click here to view video (mov format – 122Mb)


Written by David Ng

October 24, 2008 at 4:33 pm

Brainstorming session

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Brainstorming… bring it on! (great movie by the way).

1. What kinds of things would you like to try in your classroom?

The DIY microscopes for sure.
Make a telescope – HOWTO website has a “fancy” one. MacGyver’d it to make it a little easier to construct (teac

2. What are challenges?

Inquiry based learning. How to incorporate student led inquiry to test theories, rather than forcing a set curriculum? The system is kind of screwed – but maybe easier access to materials/experiences that address this issue.

Demands on schools to cover a huge amount of material. This includes not just technical aspects, but also societal elements.

Use of technology is something that should be fostered. Web based learning. Learning these tricks…
Social network computer tools are very useful (also low maintenance)

blogs, wikis, jing, google tools.

Biodiversity is cool… Biology 11 has a significant element on Biodiversity.
American Society of Microbiology
Next year’s teacher conference is in collaboration with the Vancouver Evolution Festival (big year for Darwin!!!)

Crossing over – physics explaining biology. Interdisciplinary approach? science-science arts-science interconnectivity.

i.e. Like heart rate lab – PE – science – math.

3. Care to share any of your successes?


Written by David Ng

October 24, 2008 at 4:27 pm

Dr. Patrick Keeling’s Talk

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Dr. Patrick Keeling, Associate Professor, Botany, and Scholar of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research

Dr. Patrick Keeling is a biologist and Director of CIFAR’s Integrated Microbial Biodiversity program. Dr. Keeling’s research group studies the evolution and cell biology of protists, the most diverse class of eukaryotic organisms (store their genetic material in the cell nucleus) that are mostly unicellular. Although protists compose the vast majority of eukaryotic diversity, little is known about their history or biology. Dr. Keeling’s group uses molecular biology, microscopy and genome sequencing to change that.

link to contact info

Slides not available – but almost all pictures were obtained here (tolweb.org)

Click here to view movie (mov format – 131Mb)

Written by David Ng

October 24, 2008 at 3:30 pm

MSL Research Lab Tours

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A group of post-doctoral fellows and graduate students hosted tours of the Michael Smith Laboratories.

As a follow-up to these tours, Arshad & Adrienne offer the following additional resources for teachers. Adrienne recommends this list of websites including: EurekAlert! Science News website, the Tree of Life website, and our own Bioteach & Terry websites.


Arshad offers this presentation on Stem Cells for viewing and downloading by teachers who are interested in learning more.

Written by joannealisonfox

October 24, 2008 at 3:00 pm

Superconductor stuff

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Email from Ryan regarding some of the supplies:

Hi Dave,

I asked Walter Hardy about where he gets his YBCO and magnets for the superconductor demo. He sent me all of the information which I’ve included below. I called Air Liquide, and asked about their services for high schools. Someone would have to go to the Richmond filling station (the only one in the lower mainland) with a stainless steel Thermos (these aren’t too expensive, I have one for my coffee) (It has to be steel, however, the plastic will crack). They will usually fill for free because the amounts are so small. Another possibility is to go to a company in their area that has a supply, and ask nicely.


Begin forwarded message:

> From: Walter Hardy
> Date: October 27, 2008
> To: Ryan Wicks
> Subject: YBCO pucks
> Hi Ryan,
> The pucks came from:
> SCI Engineered Materials
> 2839 Charter St.
> Columbus, Ohio  43228
> Phone: (800)292-8639; (614)486-0261
> Fax: (800)292-8654; (614)486-0912
> Web: www.sciengineeredmaterials.com
> The magnets from a company called National Imports, magnetic products
> division:
> http://www.rare-earth-magnets.com/
> Phone: 1-888-774-6005
> Cheers, Walter.

(Note: Just called the superconductor place, and they unfortunately don’t make the discs anymore – they just sell the powder ~ Dave)

– – –

Ryan: Some demos that may be translatable to your schools. Magnetism and high temperature super conductivity.  Two fields are very related.

Superconductor work is a part of experimental research in astronomy, condensed matter, and particle physics.  These are different subfields in physics, which interestingly enough have different scales.

Ryan personal research looks at condensed matter physics.  Anything made up of a lot of particles (macroscopic size things).  Look at things like this “cold”  (room temperature and cold).  Things that are complex and cold.  Why does stainless conduct, but not a table.  How do magnets works, superconductor materials – how to these work?

Many have industrial applications (computers, etc), some not so much (not yet anyway).

Magnetism demo (1st year student). Doing a demo with a copper pipe, and comparing the time it takes for a magnet to fall through it versus just dropping in the air. (A notable delay in time). In fact, the principles you see here are indicative of the electric turbine.

In a superconductor scenario, you would actually expect the magnet to stay put, since no resistance is present in the system and the opposite force would be allowed to be totally equivalent. i.e. the magnet will float (not fall, not be delayed for that matter, or if you like delayed “indefinitely).  Actually, better to read this – a brief overview of the <a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meissner_effect”>Meissner Effect</a>.

The linfrost(?) effect is also why you can put your finger in liquid nitrogen (if only for a moment)
Something about textbook writer demonstrating this effect, but putting liquid nitrogen in his mouth, leaving it in just a little too long, and accidently freezing his teeth. In fact, even though his mouth was ok, his teeth shattered and he lost them (get anecdote from Ryan)

UBC physics student lighting a liquid oxygen dewar.
(liquid nitrogen coke can cannon)

Whoa… that’s cool. I want to buy one of those High Temperature Super Conductor discs now. I wonder how much they are?

Written by David Ng

October 24, 2008 at 2:34 pm

DIY microscope – MacGyver does Leeuwenhoek

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We have Gillian, a graduate student of Patrick Keeling, and Patrick himself running a session of how to make your microscope, specifically a Leeuwenhoek microscope. With practice you should be able to construct a workable microscope capable of somewhere around 100x to 200x maginification.

Bonus is that with this, you may also be able to discuss things like magnification, trigonometry, as you work out the capabilities of your lens.

I overheard Patrick saying that the true genius of Leeuvenhoek was that he made these lens by melting whilst everyone else was trying to grind the perfect lens.

Basically, in true MacGyver fashion, all you need is a pasteur pipette, paper, some Mac Tack, and (dum dum dum) a real live flame. Full list of stuff is below.

DIY microscope

First making the lens: (you can also buy premade lens at Efston)

1. Take a pasteur pipette. Pinch either end with finger and thumb, ad then place the middle in the flame. (Here’s the finesse part – that may take a few attempts). When the glass is soft, pull the pipettee apart, and this will create a thin strand of glass (see video below) – you can aim for a length of about one to two hand widths.

2. Once you have this strand, break off one end, so that you have a strand with a free end. This end you will place down into a flame (tilted an angle – if you have propane, great, but if not, you’ll need to hold the bunsen burner at about a 45 degree angle). Drop the strand into the flame, and you’ll see the tip melt upwards, collecting in a ball. If you leave it in there, it will continue melting upwards. Aim to produce an relatively spherical looking glass ball that is about 1mm to 2mm in diameter (see above video).

DIY microscope

3. Break at the stem about a cm or so away from the ball (the ball is your lens). This is then going to fit snuggly in between two pieces of cardboard, which will have a small hole drilled into them (say about 1.6mm – essentially small enough that the ball lens won’t fall out). Staple everything together so that the lens is trapped between the cardboard.

DIY microscope

4. Over the hole, you can also place some TEM grid over the hole so that a grid is visible whilst viewing. You used a “100 mesh squared grid – part # 1GC100” in class).

5. Just below the hole, put a small blob of thumb tack. Secure to this thumb tack, a cover slip. This is your bridge – by moving your thumb you can alter the plane of observation since the cover slip will move ever so slightly depending on how you gently contort the thumb tack.

DIY microscope

And voila – a DIY microscope!

Now… what can you do with this puppy?

Well, obviously, you can look at stuff. Feather strands are good. So is something like onion skin with a bit of staining. A hair. It’s kind of cool just to see the grid actually.

But if you want to get technical, you can also figure out the magnification of your lens. This is relatively simple, although you will need to create a contraption that can hold something like a laser pointer, and align your microscope with it. You’ll also need a dark room – the darker the better if your laser is weak (you can get pretty strong ones here – ask Patrick).

DIY microscope

Anyway, here’s a layout of of what you’ll see, and what you need to measure.

DIY microscope

And here is the equation you need to plug in.

DIY microscope

Written by David Ng

October 24, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Dr. Hadi Dowlatabadi’s Talk

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Dr. Hadi Dowlatabadi, Canada Research Chair, Professor of Applied Mathematics and Global Change

Prof Dowlatabadi research interests involve systems approach to public policy especially when dealing with scientifically complex issues such as interactions between energy, environment and public health; communicable and vector-borne diseases (HIV/AIDS, malaria, dengue, …); and Global change mitigation, impacts and adaptation. Hadi Dowlatabadi is viewed as something of a luminary in integrated research systems. He’s been credited with almost single-handedly bringing broad-scale assessment models into popular use. Because of his work, climate and energy research can now be observed in an integrated way.

Link to contact info

Slides here

Click here to view movie (mov format – 120Mb)

Written by David Ng

October 24, 2008 at 11:36 am