Chemists and biochemists enjoy academic contest

chemistryThirty young scholars from four Quebec universities presented their work at a Chemistry and Biochemistry Graduate Research Conference at Concordia on May 14.

Graduate students from Universitˇ Laval, McGill University, Universitˇ de Montrˇal and Concordia University gathered in the atrium of the J.W. McConnell Building to share their work with one another and have a little friendly competition. Here are the results:

The Wyeth Ayerst Award for Outstanding Performance in the chemistry oral presentation category was presented to Evelyn Martins from McGill University by Dr. James Farina (Wyeth Ayerst, Rouses Point, USA).

The Merck Frosst Award for Outstanding Performance in the biology and biochemistry oral presentation category was awarded to Christina Esposito from Concordia University. It was presented by Professor Ann English, of Concordia.

The Fisher Scientific Award for outstanding performance in the biology and biochemistry poster presentation category was awarded to Frˇdˇric Vaillancourt (Universitˇ Laval) and Pascale Gaudet (Concordia), by Concordia's Miriam Posner.

The Cedarlane Laboratories Ltd. Award for outstanding performance in the chemistry poster category was presented by Susan Gater (Cedarlane Laboratories Ltd., Toronto) to Hugo Bˇlisle from Universitˇ de Montrˇal.

The People's Choice Award for an oral presentation was awarded to Angelo Filosa, and the People's Choice Award for a poster presentation was awarded to Tania D'Alesio. Both are from Concordia University, and the award was presented by Professor John Capobianco.

The organizing committee of graduate students comprised Angelo Filosa, Delna Ghadiali, Michael Harvey, Araz Jakalian, Fouad Karam, Donald Paquette and Isabelle Turner.

They would like to thank all their internal sponsors and those from industry, including Merck Frosst Canada Inc., Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd./Bio-Mˇga Research Division, Hoescht Marion Roussel Inc., Wyeth Ayerst Research, Cedarlane Laboratories Ltd., Fisher Scientific and the Canadian Society for Chemistry.








Culture clash can be a beautiful thing

Thirty-eight full-time Fine Arts faculty members attended an all-day seminar on May 11 to look at how electronic technology can best be integrated into the delivery of fine-arts education.

"It's two very different ways of looking at the world," said Associate Dean Academic Affairs Andrea Fairchild, but that doesn't mean that a creative marriage between the fine arts and technology can't be made.

The seminar had been in the planning since January. A questionnaire was sent out to every department, asking what impact the new technology was likely to have on that discipline.

A range of options and their attendant pitfalls was laid out at an evening lecture on May 10 by Michael Century, who has advised governments on technology and the arts and designed a program for the Banff School of Fine Arts.

The following day, a series of workshops was held in the Faculty, with the participants broken into small groups to mix the disciplines. They looked at how technology would affect teaching and curriculum development, extenal relationships with government and industry, and internal relationships at the University.

The subject will be taken up again in the fall, Fairchild said, and will be expanded to include part-time faculty, who have much to contribute to the discussion.

The stereotypical starving artist may become a relic of the past, thanks to the digital age.

McGill professor of communications Michael Century, who gave the keynote lecture on May 10 to kick off a Concordia Fine Arts symposium on teaching art with computers, said in an interview that there is a growing demand for artists who can bring meaning to interactive media.

"It's no secret that artists become more employable when they work with interactive media. People trained in the arts are the most skilled in using new media; they are using it to create, to make a statement.

"New media are by nature fluid and fast-changing, but artists can ride the surf more easily than the average person. They are driven by a creative purpose, and are prepared to invest their creativity in mastering technological tools, or in developing their own."

Century emphasized that interactive media is not an end in itself -- content is key. "It's not surprising that early computer animation, for example, was boring. It became more interesting when more artists got involved, and started telling good stories in exciting ways.

"In the early days of cinema, people went to theatres to see moving pictures with no story -- for example, a film of a train leaving a station. Today we're past that stage. There is a huge amount of hype built up around interactive media; expectations have been raised very high, but there has not yet been enough attention paid to content."

Fine arts departments are addressing this problem in one of two ways. "One approach is to treat it as a specialty, setting up a separate multimedia department to segregate the expertise. Another way is to treat it as a pervasive technology, something that any fine arts student can use, whether they're doing cinema, dance, painting or design.

"In this model, all students would get some training in using digital tools and equipment. Both are valid, but I think the second approach yields better results in the long run."

- by Sylvain Comeau





Religion students show sweeping range of subjects

by Anna Bratulic

Seemingly everything -- from the deconstruction of the ideal wife using Hindu goddess Sita as a template of the creativity of southwestern American yard shrines, to the political ontologies of the Dao -- fell under the huge umbrella of the fourth annual Canadian Graduate Student Conference in Religion and Culture, held on May 12.

The day-long conference, titled Interpretations and Implications: Interdisciplinary Studies in Religion and Culture, gave graduate students from across the country an opportunity to present their work to an audience. There were 42 different presentations in all, many of them going on simultaneously.

"Many people presented things that weren't their main areas of research," said Deidre Butler, one of the three organizers of the event. "Conferences are great places to experiment and to take chances academically."

One presentation, called "The Ecological Symphony," was given by Mary Hale, of Concordia, and Blake Wright, of St. Paul University. They examined the culture of indifference toward the ecological crisis, comparing it with the ending of the movie Heidi's Farewell Symphony, where, one by one, members of an orchestra leave the stage during a performance before the symphony they're playing is completed.

"You know there is someone in the audience who is just dying to yell out, "Stay!" Wright said. "We are the audience of an ecological symphony." Coming from an eco-feminist perspective, they tried to unravel the roots of this indifference.

Another presentation was a critique of Alfred C. Kinsey, whom Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner has called the father of the sexual revolution. In his paper, "Eros and Transgression in an Age of Immanence," James Mark Shields, of McGill University, elaborated on eroticism in Western culture by viewing Kinsey through the lens of a critique by French theorist Georges Bataille in 1957.

Kinsey's scientific approach classified good sex as the "explosiveness of orgasm" and paved the way for a more secular attitude about sex. Bataille argued that Kinsey's work is part of a larger trend that seeks the "desacralization" of all aspects of life, ridding it of any eroticism.

Some presentations were given in the form of films and photo exhibits. A concert of music composed by cloistered women of the Renaissance was given on the evening of May 11 in the chapel of the Grey Nuns Convent.

"We really were trying to encourage difference," Butler said, "but the art had to connect with the academic discourse and be theoretically grounded."

Katja MacLeod Kessin, of Concordia, acted out her presentation, "Aryan Household." She performed a skit of a popular German nursery game where the children pretend to search for gifts in a suitcase their aunt brought from America. Kessin uncovered toys she had received as a child in post-war Germany-- mostly black dolls -- to show how racial stereotypes were ingrained in children at that time.

The conference was inspired by a class assignment given in Vox Populi, Vox Femini, a course on women in Christianity taught by Professor Rosemary Hale, in which she required the students to submit a proposal for a hypothetical conference.

That led to the real thing four years ago, and the conference has continued to grow in scope, attracting presenters this year from across Canada, in such disciplines as history, sociology, anthropology, art history, theology and physics.

According to Butler, organizers even received requests to participate from American universities such as Harvard, but there are no plans to go international.