Dear Café Scientifiquers, our next café will happen on Tuesday, September 25th at 7:30pm in the back room at Yagger’s Downtown (433 W Pender). Our speaker for the evening will be Dr. Suzanne Vercauteren the Director of BC Children’s Hospital BioBank. Her topic will be:

Giving patients, the public, and health-care providers a voice in pediatric biobanking

Dr. Vercauteren is a hematopathologist and associate head of the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at BC Children’s Hospital. She obtained her MD and PhD at the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands and did her residency in hematological pathology at the University of British Columbia. Since 2013 Suzanne has been the director of the BC Children’s Hospital BioBank, the first institutional pediatric biobank in Canada to allow for a standardized approach of patients and sample collections and ensuring high quality samples and data and reduce consent burden for patients. “My research includes ethical issues as well as public engagement and education in biobanking. I believe that a systematic approach for the collection of patient specimens and data is allowing groundbreaking research that can quickly be translated into improved diagnosis and clinical care in many areas of research.” She has published several papers regarding pediatric biobanking and consenting and is a member of the Canadian Tissue Repository Network Management Committee. She received several grants to study public perception on (pediatric) biobanking topics.

Dear Café Scientifiquers, our next café will happen on Tuesday, August 28th at 7:30pm in the back room at Yagger’s Downtown (433 W Pender). Our speaker for the evening will be Dr. Katie Marshall from the Department of Zoology at UBC. Her topic will be:

Getting the message: what is gene expression and why does it matter?

Many of us think that DNA is like a light switch; you have a particular sequence of base pairs or a particular chromosome, and these directly cause a large change in biological functioning. But the truth is that any given gene can be up or downregulated through a dizzying array of biochemical “dimmer switches” that finely control how much that particular gene is expressed. Understanding how this works is key to answering questions like “How does a sequence of base pairs in DNA become a whole organism?” and “Why is it that every cell has the same DNA sequence but different function?”. We’ll chat about the advances in computing needed to answer these questions, the importance of gene expression in disease, and how this science can help us understand social issues better too.

Dear Café Scientifiquers, our next café will happen on Tuesday, July 31st at 7:30pm in the back room at Yagger’s Downtown (433 W Pender). Our speaker for the evening will be Dr. Nienke van Houten from the Faculty of Health Sciences at SFU. Her topic will be:

Test Tubes to Teaching: How Anti-Vaxxers and a Global Financial Crisis Shaped my Career

Part research talk, and part memoir, Dr. van Houten will describe her career progression from vaccine design scientist to education researcher. From early childhood, Dr. van Houten developed an unrelenting interest in human biology and infectious diseases and made it her goal to become a scientist. Her passion for vaccines came about, in part, due to the publicity surrounding the infamous retracted paper in The Lancet that erroneously connected measles vaccination with autism. Her Ph.D. and postdoctoral research focused on how vaccines work, and she engineered anti-viral vaccines to produce focused antibody responses. However, her plan of working in the pharmaceutical industry was sidelined by the financial crash of 2008, and she was offered a full time teaching faculty position. This created an opportunity to study how students think critically about science and apply those findings to train students to recognize bad science such as that promoted by anti-vaxxers and other garbage “science” that pervades our society.

Dear Café Scientifiquers, our next café will happen on Tuesday, May 29th at 7:30pm in the back room at Yagger’s Downtown (433 W Pender). Our speaker for the evening will be Dr. Michelle Tseng, Assistant Professor in the Zoology department at UBC.  Her topic will be:

Insects in the city: shrinking beetles and disappearing bees. How bugs help us learn about the ecological effects of urbanization and climate change

Living in the city, we don’t always see the good bugs amongst the pesky ones. In this presentation, I’ll take you on a trip down insect lane and share with you the incredible diversity of insects that have lived in Vancouver over the last 100 years. Many of these bugs have been collected and preserved in museums and these collections provide us with a historical snapshot of insect communities from the past. My students and I have made some remarkable discoveries using museum insect collections, and these findings help us understand how these fascinating creatures are changing in response to warming climates and increased development.

Michelle Tseng is a professor of insect ecology at the UBC Biodiversity Research Centre. She and her students study the impacts of habitat and climate change on plankton and insects. Her group’s work has been featured in national and international media, and on CBC’s Quirks and Quarks. Michelle is also the zoologist on the award-winning CBC kids show Scout and the Gumboot Kids.


Dear Café Scientifiquers, our next café will happen on Tuesday, April 24th at 7:30pm in the back room at Yagger’s Downtown (433 W Pender). Our speaker for the evening will be Dr. James McCormack, Professor from the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Services at UBC.

James received his undergraduate pharmacy degree at the University of British Columbia in 1982 and received his doctorate in pharmacy (Pharm.D.) in 1986 from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, South Carolina.  He has had extensive experience, both locally and internationally, talking to health professionals and consumers about the rational use of medication, and has presented over 500 seminars on drug therapy over the last 30 years.  He focuses on shared decision-making using evidence based information and rational therapeutic principles. He is also the co-host of one of the world’s top medical podcasts – the Best Science (BS) Medicine podcast.

Medical Myths You Need to Learn About Before It’s Too Late

What if much of what you thought about medications was wrong? In this talk you’ll learn that the following are myths:

1)  You should finish the full course of an antibiotic prescription – THE TRUTH – for most infections you should stop after you have had no symptoms for 2-3 days

2)  Most people benefit from blood pressure/diabetes treatment – THE TRUTH – less then 30% benefit over a lifetime of treatment

3)  The recommended doses of medications are what you should be on – THE TRUTH – you should likely start with a 1/4 or an 1/8th of the recommended dose for most medications

4)  And much, much, more

Dear Café Scientifiquers, our next café will happen on Tuesday, March 27th at 7:30pm in the back room at Yagger’s Downtown (433 W Pender). Our speaker for the evening will be Dr. David Shiffman, Liber Ero Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Simon Fraser University, where he studies the sustainability of shark fisheries. David is an award-winning science communicator with bylines in the Washington Post, Slate, and Gizmodo, and has been interviewed for over 200 media outlets including National Public Radio and the New York Times.

Everything I Needed to Know in Life I Learned from a Shark

Sharks are some of the most fascinating and misunderstood animals on the planet. Come learn from SFU marine conservation biologist Dr. David Shiffman about lessons learned from a life obsessed with sharks.

Dear Café Scientifiquers, our next café will happen on Tuesday, February 27th at 7:30pm in the back room at Yagger’s Downtown (433 W Pender). Our speaker for the evening will be Dr. Robert Tarzwell, from the Department of Psychiatry at UBC.

Functional Brain Imaging in Psychiatric Disorders – Current Uses and Future Directions

Functional brain imaging seeks to detect and map specific activity happening within the brain, such as changes in blood flow, metabolic activity, or neurotransmitter levels within the whole brain or specific areas of interest. Currently, functional imaging has a role in the diagnosis of dementia, and localizing the focus of seizures. Emerging roles with good evidence include traumatic brain injury. On the wild frontier, Robert’s work includes the use of deep learning models to analyze large datasets of brain images in the hunt for biomarkers of psychiatric disorders.

Dear Café Scientifiquers, our next café will happen on Tuesday, January 30th at 7:30pm in the back room of Yagger’s Downtown (433 W Pender).  Our speaker for the evening will be Dr. Andrew Tait, founder of Tait Labs, a Vancouver-based startup putting a modern spin on traditional natural medicines with scientific research.

Come find out more about his research journey and how the mandarin peel is being used in the treatment of a variety of gastrointestinal issues.

Dear Café Scientifiquers, our next café will happen on Tuesday, November 28th at 7:30pm in the back room of Yagger’s Downtown (433 W Pender).  Our speaker for the evening will be Dr. Lucas Brotz.

Jellyfish – friend, foe, or food?

Did you know that in addition to stinging swimmers, jellyfish also cause extensive damage to fisheries and coastal power plants? As threats such as overfishing, pollution, and climate change alter the marine environment, recent media reports are proclaiming that jellyfish are taking over the oceans. Should we hail to our new jellyfish overlords or do we need to examine the evidence behind these claims? Join Café Scientifique to learn everything you ever wanted to know about jellyfish, and find out if jelly burgers are coming soon to a menu near you.

Dr. Lucas Brotz is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Sea Around Us at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries. Lucas has been studying jellyfish for more than a decade, and has been called “Canada’s foremost jellyfish researcher” by CBC Nature of Things host Dr. David Suzuki. Lucas has participated in numerous international scientific collaborations, and his research has been featured in more than 100 media outlets including Nature News, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. He recently received the Michael A. Bigg award for highly significant student research as part of the Coastal Ocean Awards at the Vancouver Aquarium.

Dear Café Scientifiquers, our next café will happen on Halloween night Tuesday October 31st, 7:30pm in the back room at Yagger’s Downtown (433 W Pender). Our speaker for the evening will be Kaylee Byers.

Rat Detectives: Uncovering the disease ecology of our most despised bedfellow

Few animals are as appropriate to discuss on Halloween as the rat. Just mentioning these critters in conversation (and believe me, I have experience) illicits both exclamations of disgust and appreciation for their perseverance in spite of our control efforts. In the past year, pest control professionals have reported an increase in rat sightings, suggesting that rat populations in Vancouver are on the rise. But do we need to worry? Over the past 7 years, the Vancouver Rat Project has worked to understand the risks posed by rats to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside residents. In this talk, I will discuss what we have learned about Vancouver’s rats and the diseases they carry, as well as how certain human interventions can have the paradoxical effect of increasing disease spread among rats.

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