U of G Research Featured by Discovery Channel, Time magazine

February 20, 2013 - In the News

Two University of Guelph professors and a researcher were featured on the Discovery Channel and in Time magazine this week.

Physics professor Joanne O’Meara was featured Tuesday night on Discovery's popular science show Daily Planet , where she demonstrated how some amusement park rides such as the Drop Tower at Canada’s Wonderland rely on electromagnetic induction to go from a free fall to a sudden halt. (watch the video: 6:25 into the segment)

She also demonstrated the strength of eggs on the show Feb. 6. She used a special device to show co-host Ziya Tong how an egg’s shape makes it incredibly strong, in this experiment withstanding a weight equivalent to about 27 watermelons before breaking. (7:10 minutes into the segment)

O’Meara makes regular appearances on the show as a resident science expert. She does demonstrations and explains science, physics and engineering to viewers in an understandable and interesting fashion. It’s part of her ongoing science education outreach programs, which also include workshops and physics shows for both elementary school teachers and students. She also researches effective ways to improve physics education in university classrooms.

O’Meara’s education outreach is among the reasons she was awarded the Medal for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2011 from the Canadian Association of Physicists. It recognizes teachers who possess an exceptional ability to communicate their knowledge and understanding.

Atsuko Negishi, a research associate in the Department of Integrative Biology, was featured on Daily Planet Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. The segment focused on her work on a novel and unlikely source of natural fibres that may one day lessen our dependence on petroleum: hagfish slime.

Hagfishes are an ancient group of eel-like, bottom-dwelling animals that have remained relatively unchanged for more than 300 million years. When threatened, hagfishes secrete a gelatinous slime containing mucous and tens of thousands of protein threads. These threads belong to the “intermediate filament” family of proteins, have remarkable mechanical properties and are incredibly strong.

Hagfish slime protein threads have the potential to be spun and woven into novel biomaterials, which could provide a sustainable alternative to oil-based polymers.

Negishi is exploring the potential of making synthetic protein-based fibres using hagfish slime threads. Her collaborators include integrative biology professors Douglas Fudge and Todd Gillis and food science professor Loong-Tak Lim.

Research by U of G biomedical sciences professor Neil MacLusky was mentioned in an article in Time magazine.

The Feb. 19 story looks at Olympic and Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius’s defence in the shooting death of his girlfriend and the possible role steroids may have played. The article looks at several studies that have found connections between changes in hormone and brain chemical levels and increased tendency torward violent behaviour, including one by MacLusky.

His study found that high levels of testosterone in mice, for example, suppress the brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is involved in depression and inappropriate reactions to stimuli in humans. The results suggest that increased testosterone, which belongs to a family of steroid hormones called androgens, can alter mood, in some cases perhaps even promoting more aggressive tendencies, the article states.

MacLusky is quoted as saying: “These are hypothesizes, of course, and absolutely not proven for people. Just as people vary a great deal in the extent to which they are predisposed to depression, this may be why people vary a great deal in their response to androgens.”

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