Apologies for the delay – this semester has been pretty hectic and it’s been a while since I’ve had the bandwidth to put one of these notes together.

We’ve come through the semester pretty well all things considered. All reports are that undergraduate and graduate teaching has gone as well as can be expected – thanks to the Alexes, Jen Haughton and Carrie Harber for their hard work keeping those ships afloat. Thanks as well to Ayesha Glover and Lynette Anderson who have worked tirelessly to keep the paycheques and grant dollars in order. We would be lost without you!

In fact, we’ve continued to shine on all fronts. And so, congratulations to Karen Maxwell, winner of the 2020 Polanyi Prize; to Oliver Ernst winner of the 2020 Conrad Adenauer Research Award and Alexio Muise winner of the Crohn’s and Colitis Canada 2020 Research Leadership Award.

And December would not be December without our annual end-of-the-year party. I’d like to thank Elaine Thai and the BGSU for a suitably weird and wonderful online party.


Rest/work during the Holidays.

I think we all need a rest at this point and I encourage you all to take one.

I note that the university has extended the break to 11 January giving faculty and TA’s another week of R&R before the winter semester teaching begins. To my chagrin, the university has not extended this courtesy to staff including our wonderful Administrative team. I would therefore like to ask you to please refrain from emailing Jen, Carrie, Ayesha and Lynette during that extra week unless it’s an absolute necessity. I particularly caution faculty who will be teaching in the winter semester – please make sure that you have your ducks in a row before the break so that Jen and Alex E are not bombarded with emails between 3 and 11 January.

I realize that some students, postdocs and techs will want to do some lab work during the university closure. I think most of the campus-based personnel who need lab access have requested and received it. If I’ve missed anyone please let me know and I’ll get you sorted out.

For those of you who will be doing lab work over the holidays please be advised that there will be fewer people on site. I strongly encourage you to use the buddy system when in the lab. That is as simple as taking a minute to check in with one of your lab mates or a friend/acquaintance in another group – just so that they know you’re there. At the very least, make sure that someone who is off-site knows your whereabouts

And regardless of the location you work at, it is important that you continue to follow the covid19-associated safety rules (masks at all times and physical distancing). Also take the time to review the local mechanisms for reporting possible covid19 symptoms.


New admin team member.

I’m delighted to announce that Lynette and I have hired a new member for our administrative team. Shenique Baker will be joining us in the New Year. Shenique comes with very highly recommendations from the Sick Kids where she fulfilled myriad roles in Nursing and Inter-professional Education. Her new role in Biochemistry will include assisting me and Lynette in various departmental activities (she arrives in the nick of time to help with our faculty search) and to provide support to the admin team in general – more information about that in the New Year. After more than a year with a short-handed admin, this is a welcome development. Welcome aboard Shenique!


Very large sums of money

Its still early days for the F o M’s plans around the Temerty gift however there are some things worth announcing now. First, the Faculty will now have a series of grants for faculty members whose proposals score well at the CIHR but miss by a very narrow margin. As those of us who routinely apply for such grants know, this is a relatively common experience. Second, the family has endowed research chairs for senior faculty coming off Tier I CRCs – also a welcome development. Third and perhaps most importantly, part of the donation is earmarked for the purchase of a 200 kV electron microscope; funds to renovate a lab for it in the MSB are also included. This cutting edge device will facilitate many kinds of experiments including, most notably, screening samples for subsequent cryoEM analysis on the Titan Krios (housed at the PGCRL).


Faculty search.

For those of you who don’t know, we have an active faculty search. If you’re interested in the details please see:


I encourage you to forward this link to any PIs you know who work in this area or any postdoctoral fellows who might fit our criteria.


Transfer/Qualifying exams.

There is a fair bit of anxiety among MSc students about the effect of the pandemic on their research progress – specifically how this will influence decisions when it comes time for transfer and qualifying  exams. The graduate committee has thought this through and decided that we should go ahead with these exams as normally scheduled. Please know however, that faculty are cognizant of the fact that you may not have as much data as students in normal years would have; this should not dissuade you for taking the exam. The exam is mostly about testing your knowledge of your field, your ability to develop a rational hypothesis and your overall suitability and preparation for completing a PhD. We will make sure that all of the transfer/qualifying exam committees are reminded of this fact before the exams get going in the spring.


Postdoctoral fellows

One thing that has been missing in this department is an educational support mechanism for postdoctoral fellows. I’m therefore happy to announce that Kate Lee and Igor Stagljar have agreed to start a committee to this end.

Their first job will be to put a mailing list of current postdocs together and make sure that it is up to date. I realize that postdocs in the institutes are members of their own local postdoc societies – participation in the campus based activities is not mandatory however any and all are invited to do so. It’s early days yet however ideas that have been discussed include professional development measures such as planning and securing jobs in academia and the private sector as well as social events to bring postdocs closer into the departmental community.

Kate and Igor will be putting a small committee together to develop a plan. I encourage any postdocs who would be interested in serving on this committee to contact me and let me know.


EDI and expanding our community.

Biochemistry has a pretty diverse student body – this may be our greatest strength. Still, like most such departments across the country, there are specific groups that are clearly under-represented in our graduate student body. One of the chief barriers to these people is a lack of undergraduate research experience. Turning this around is a priority for the Dean and I think we all share that goal.

We’ve therefore been working with the Faculty of Medicine teams to identify and select undergraduate students across Canada for summer research projects. Any faculty members who are interested in participating can contact the WIDE committee.

Various holiday activities and coping mechanisms.

The BGSU and the WIDE committees have assembled various activities and resources that may be of interest to you all. Anyone is welcome to join and you are encouraged to invite friends, particularly those who may be away from family and friends over the Holidays.

Finally, please everyone, continue to stay safe and do your best to refuel over the holidays. Winter’s going to be a little tough but there is light at the end of the tunnel and we’re going to get through this. So far,  we’ve come through the pandemic unscathed and 2021 will be better for sure. While I intend to take a break myself, I will be checking email over the holidays, and will respond to any emergency.

Happy Holidays to you all, whatever your faith or lack thereof. I’ll see you in January!!