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U n i v e r s i t y o f M a n i t o b a’ s G r a d ua t e S t u d e n t M a g a z i n e Jan uary 2012

GSA appoints new senator Seat vacant since 2011 spring election Chu t h a n Ponna mpa l a m


raduate student Adam Reisacher was appointed a seat on the University of Manitoba’s senior academic governing body — the senate — after the seat remained vacant following the Graduate Students’ Association’s (GSA) 2011 spring election. The senate oversees all matters of an academic nature. This means that, among others things, the senate determines what courses of study are offered, conditions of matriculation, and all matters regarding scholarships. Therefore, its membership is diverse. Senate membership reflects the range of roles found at the university. University administration, faculty deans and even students, can sit on senate. Usually students can claim a senate seat by being elected to it, but in some cases students are appointed. The GSA holds three voting seats on senate, but in last spring’s GSA election only two students ran for senatorial positions, leaving the third seat vacant. “After October, council can appoint a person to senate, and as a collective, it was the opinion that we should use all our seats on senate to raise concerns and keep graduate students’ voices in senate,” explained GSA vice-president (internal), Angela Freeman. According to Freeman all senators representing the GSA are required to sit on senate and student senate caucus, as well as at least one senate committee. “There is a time commitment, and council felt that [Reisacher] was the right person for the position, based on his previous experience, and his statement of interest,” said Freeman discussing Reisacher’s appointment. Reisacher was chosen from about a dozen applicants to fill the vacant seat. “I am very excited about being a senator,” Reisacher told the Gradzette. “I look forward to working with the rest of the GSA to provide the best possible representation for graduate students. It really was an honour for the council to appoint me to the executive.” Reisacher stated that he would be filling the position until the next election in March, and that he would work with the new incoming senator to ensure, “they can hit the ground running.” Reisacher’s primary goal as a senator representing the University of Manitoba’s graduate students is to ensure that the university’s administration remains focused on the best interests of students. “I guess this really should be common sense, but given the tough economic challenges facing universities across the country, I think it’s far too easy for administra-



tions to lose sight of what is most important: the quality of education provided,” explained Reisacher. “Universities need to tighten their belts, and that’s understandable,” he continued, “but that cannot come at the expense of student’s education or safety.” Reisacher feels that the importance of the GSA’s senatorial position stems from, “the fundamental necessity of students being involved in the decision-making process at the U of M.” “Students can’t complain about the problems we face at university unless we are willing to be part of the solution, and [ . . . ] by actively working with the faculty and administration, we can demonstrate the added value students bring to the table,” stated Reisacher. Reisacher’s credits his wife for his involvement in student politics. “My wife was the one who first got me into student politics. She [ . . . ] joined the Arts Student Body Council (ASBC) in her second year at the U of M. I got to know the people and issues on campus through her and became more involved,” explained Reisacher. “In 2006, I was elected senior stick/president of the ASBC. It was a fantastic, and eye-opening experience for me. Working closely with the administration, UMSU and other student groups on campus taught me a lot about the many challenges students face at university. It also showed me the many benefits organizations such as the [ . . . ] GSA can provide for their fellow students.”

Photo by Leif Larsen

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Where are all the women at? New NSERC chair hopes to address the lack of women in science and engineering Leif L arsen


espite the fact that women make up the majority of the students at the University of Manitoba — close to 57 per cent according to a recent study — women make up the vast minority of students in the faculties of science, agriculture, engineering and environment. According to soil science professor Annemieke Farenhorst, the new Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) prairie region chair for Women in Science and Engineering (CWSE), the number of women “varies with the program,” but is extreme in some cases. “For example if you look at engineering, less than 17 per cent, on average, are female,” says Farenhorst. The reason why this gap exists is “a very large question,” but Farenhorst thinks it might have something to do with a lack of role models. “Ten Years After: Sex and Salaries at a Canadian University,” a study published in the journal Canadian Public Policy, examined the University of Manitoba using 2003 data, and found that less than one third of the faculty at the University of Manitoba were women. According to Farenhorst this number plummets further when talking about science, agriculture, environment and engineering faculties. “If you look at the science cluster [ . . . ] only two out of every 10 full professors are women and if you’re looking at the assistant and associate professor level, only three out of 10 are women.” When asked if she thought this was a result of tenure track positions not offering enough flexibility for women who had or were interested in having children, Farenhorst said that she knew many women in tenure track positions with young children, but thought that it is important for us to develop a better understanding of the tasks men and women perform



in the home and workplace. “If we look at the lives of men and women at home and at the professional level, how does that all work together? Are there certain supports that women need to more readily help them consider careers in academia including tenure track positions?” Beyond the lack of role models, some people, such as high school computer science teacher Dan Harmer, have claimed that the perception that sciences and en-

Photo by Leif Larsen

gineering are a “boys club” represents an intimidating environment for women students. In an interview with the Globe and Mail Hammer outlined the success he has had with his girls-only computer science class: “It worked, the intimidation factor was gone and the girls loved it.” When asked about Hammer’s intimidation theory existing at the university level, Farenhorst agreed that it can be daunting being the only woman in a class. “Let’s say if you have a class of 30 students, and only one female student, I think the voice of that female student is lost.” As such, encouraging more women to go into traditionally male-dominated faculties could have a cascade effect. “I would like to suggest that the more participation that you have of women in programs the better their voices are being heard, and because their voices are being heard and being acted upon it will be easier for other women to participate in the program and be encouraged,” says Farenhorst. The soil science professor further stressed the importance of role models, saying that we need to make sure that, even if more women start taking undergraduate level science and engineering courses, we need to make sure they continue on to the PhD and faculty level, so they might themselves become role models to the next generation of students. One finding of the “Ten Years After” study that women considering pursuing faculty positions might find discouraging was the claim that female faculty are paid less than their male counterparts — by as much as eight per cent in the case of full professors. While the University of Manitoba had some problems with the methodology of the study, according to an article in the Winnipeg Free Press, some people have identified a lack of data as one of the factors that is preventing researchers from painting a clearer picture of what is going on at the University of Manitoba in terms of the gender gap. University of Manitoba Faculty Association’s President, Cameron Morrill, told the Winnipeg Free Press that following a study conducted at the U of M in 1993, examining the gender gap, a committee recommended that the university implement a monitoring program to track things such as starting salaries for new hires, promotions and raises. Something Morrill says never happened. When asked about the effect more transparency would have at the University of Manitoba, Farenhorst was enthusiastic. “I think that [transparency] not only helps women specifically, but it also helps everyone in an institution. I think it makes everyone happier, makes them more dedicated to the institution. I think it’s the best thing that any institution can do.” Farenhorst is the first to admit that she doesn’t have all the answers, and is asking people to help her by participating in discussions, and to help develop a CWSE logo. To this end, she has created a CWSE Facebook page, and is hoping to use it as a way to encourage dialogue and develop new ideas.

University of Manitoba’s Graduate Student Magazine


c/o The Manitoban Newspaper Publications Corporation 105 University Centre University of Manitoba Winnipeg MB, R3T 2N2

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Editor: Sheldon Birnie Copy Editor: Leif Larsen Designer: Kevin Doole Contributors: Leif Larsen, Sheldon Birnie, Beibei Lu, Ben Clarkson and Chuthan Ponnapalam. Cover: Beibei Lu. The Gradzette is the official student newspaper of the University of Manitoba’s graduate student community and is published on the first Monday of each month by The Manitoban Newspaper Publications Corporation. The Gradzette is a democratic student organization, open to participation from all students. It exists to serve its readers as students and citizens. The newspaper’s primary mandate is to report fairly and objectively on issues and events of importance and interest to the graduate students of the University of Manitoba, to provide an open forum for the free expression and exchange of opinions and ideas and to stimulate meaningful debate on issues that affect or would otherwise be of interest to the student body and/or society in general. The Gradzette serves as a training ground for students interested in any aspect of journalism. Students and other interested parties are invited to contribute. Please contact the Editor for submission guidelines. The Gradzette reserves the right to edit all submissions and will not publish any material deemed by its editorial board to be discriminatory, racist, sexist, homophobic or libelous. Opinions expressed in letters and articles are solely those of the authors. The Gradzette is a member of the Canadian University Press, a national student press cooperative with approximately 65 members from St. John’s to Victoria. All contents are ©2011 and may not be reprinted without the express written permission of the Manitoban Newspaper Publications Corporation. Yearly subscriptions to the Gradzette are available, please contact for more information.

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Researcher profile:

Sijo Joseph Shel don Birnie


ijo Joseph is a doctoral candidate currently completing his final year of research and study at the University of Manitoba, in the department of physiology. Working under the supervision of Thomas Netticadan, a Research Scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and adjunct professor in the department of physiology at the U of M, Sijo is researching the beneficial effects of a polyphenol, resveratrol, on hypertension and heart disease. “Resveratrol is a compound found in grapes and berries,” Sijo explained recently to the Gradzette. “Resveratol [has been] getting a lot of attention recently, because of the ‘French Paradox.’” Historically, the French maintained a high calorie diet and lifestyle that is often associated with higher risk of heart disease. “But we can see that cardiovascular disease is comparatively less [prevalent in the French] than in other high calorie consuming populations,” Sijo says. “It is attributed to regular wine drinking with their meals.” The “French Paradox” postulates that the regular consumption of wine present in the French diet contributes to the lower frequency of heart disease. While there is an association, Netticadan points out that to experience the positive benefits of resveratrol from wine alone, a person would have to down many glasses. The negative health effects of doing so on other body and organ functions would, of course, outweigh the positive effects of resveratrol on heart disease. As such, Sijo’s research is focused on pure polyphenol resveratrol. “For my project, I have studied the effects of the pure compound, not wine,” he explains. “We used an animal model called the spontaneous hypertensive rat, which mimics characteristics of human hypertension.” Sijo explained that these special rats develop hypertension in a period of eight weeks, and then develop cardiac problems by 15 weeks. “In my study, I investigated the possibility that resveratrol administration would be beneficial in prevent-



ing cardiovascular abnormalities in these hypertensive animals,” he continued. “For this purpose, resveratrol was administered orally. Blood pressure measurements were carried out on these animals during the treatment. Cardiac structure and function were assessed by echocardiography. From the results, we have found that resveratrol administration was beneficial in preventing the development of cardiovascular abnormalities in this animal model of hypertension.” These findings have been recently published in the American Journal of Hypertension, and the results led Sijo and his team to explore the effects of resveratrol further. “The second objective of my study was to explain the molecular mechanisms involved in the cardioprotective effect of resveratrol,” Sijo continues. “In order to understand this, I isolated the adult cardiomyocytes (heart cells) from the rat hearts and exposed them to different compounds, to induce the disease in the presence and absence of resveratrol. These cellular studies revealed some of the main intracellular targets in the heart.” His results were recently published in the European Journal of Pharmacology. “This work and other observations of cardioprotection with resveratrol in other animal models of heart disease from our laboratory have lead to examining its potential in humans,” says Sijo. “A clinical trial to test the efficacy of resveratrol in patients with heart failure has been initiated my supervisor Dr. Netticadan and cardiologists Dr. Shelley Zieroth and Dr. Amrit Malik at the St. Boniface Hospital.” Sijo did his undergraduate in chemistry at the University of Calicut and received his master’s in Biochemistry from the Bharathiar Univeristy, both in India. Afterwards, he worked “for two or three years for a pharmaceutical company called Biocon, back home in India.” Wanting to further his education and “passion for research,” Sijo began to explore the options abroad. “I was applying to U of T and McMaster, because my brother was in Toronto at that time.” As luck

Resveratrol administration was benef icial in preventing the development of cardiovascular abnormalities would have it, his brother suggested he look into the University of Manitoba. With his strong background and credentials, the U of M quickly accepted Sijo’s application. “I didn’t know much about the research at U of M when I was in India.” explains Sijo. “But I had read about Dr. Netticadan’s research and found it interesting because it is not just basic research with no obvious applications. He conducts studies with cells and animals then applies the findings to humans. Dr. Netticadan’s research is therefore attractive because it has a potential to translate from the bench to bedside.” While Sijo will have finished his PhD by the time this clinical study is underway, he hopes the studies prove beneficial to patients suffering from heart disease. During his almost five years in Winnipeg, Sijo has made friends in the community, and has also seen his friends from back home in India relocate to Winnipeg. Jessay Gopuran, whom the Gradzette profiled in December 2011, was a classmate of Sijo’s in India. Gopuran applied at the University of Manitoba on

Photo by Sheldon Birnie

Sijo’s suggestion. Sijo has also been involved with the GSA, sitting as the grad student representative for the department of physiology in 2009-2010. In the summer, Sijo enjoys taking time away from research to put a hook or two in the water. He says one of the lab technicians in his lab introduced him to fishing some years back, and he’s taken to it like a jack fish to a carp. “It is my most favourite, most common activity,” he says of one of Manitoba’s favourite summer pastimes. “We go for pickerel, cat fish, bass, anything. We’ll go near Lockport and Whiteshell, mostly.” Sijo laughs when asked if he’s tried out ice fishing yet. “No,” he replies, “Nevertheless, I would definitely like to try, but I don’t have anyone to guide me!”

Do you want your research profiled in the Gradzette or know someone doing exciting work? Email for more information.

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The importance of being published A valuable yet competitive aspect of grad studies

Chu t h a n Ponna mpa l a m

It would seem that one of the biggest concerns plaguing graduate students, apart from coursework and research, is the need to get their work published. While publishing is not an explicit requirement of most graduate programs in Canada, it is most certainly an expectation, and a big one at that.

Indisputable Significance Digvir Jayas, who is the vice-president (research and international) at the University of Manitoba, has over 650 publications to his name, 300 of which have been peerreviewed. Jayas discussed why there is such an emphasis on publishing, explaining that “the publication of the work in any of the different forms (papers, books, monographs, conference proceedings, etc.) is a necessity because publishing brings exposure to students’ work by others.” “It is similar to showcasing one’s creative activities, such as a musician would perform for the audience and an artist would display his/her creations to the public.” Colin Gilmore graduated with a PhD in 2010 after completing all his schooling at the University of Manitoba. Gilmore felt that publishing was the easiest way to evaluate abilities, when good grades became the benchmark. “The metric of how you’re measured, in terms of your abilities [is] by marks,” he told the Gradzette. “So when you’re getting advanced, or you’re getting scholarships or whatever you’re going for, people will evaluate you based on marks. Once you get into grad studies, especially near the end of your PhD everybody is getting good marks, so [ . . . ] that’s why you need to publish, because the easiest way to rank someone is by how much they’ve published,” explained Gilmore. George MacLean, an associate dean of graduate studies, shared his thoughts on why publishing is important by saying that, “Generally one of the common goals or objec-



Photo by Leif Larsen

tives in any graduate studies program is to train academics, and part of what academics do is publishing. [ . . . ] Not only is it part of [their] training, its also going to make [them] marketable, because having publications under [their] belt is a real asset.”

Evolved Expectation It used to be that a university degree was an asset, but nowadays it is an expectation. Publishing on the other hand has always been an expectation — one that has steadily evolved with time. “Twenty or 30 years ago the emphasis on publication was just as great as it is today. The expectation though, I think is much higher today. [ . . . ] Twenty years ago the emphasis might have been more along the lines of: ‘well what is the expectation that you will be publishing your work in the future? What sort of first stages, and first steps have you made towards having your work published?’” explained MacLean. “Today the competition is so great that there is no question about this at all, in all fields. [. . . ] I would say that much is true, the pressure [ . . . ] certainly has been increased for students today to be published, because the expectations have certainly gone up.”

Meeting Expectations Jayas, Gilmore and MacLean all stated that the number of publications required to

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be competitive varied from discipline to discipline. In general though, it seems that students will produce enough material for about five publications between their master’s program and PhD work. “When I was doing my PhD, the numbers that were thrown around was a journal paper out of your masters, and three or four out of your PhD would be a good result. Of course it can be very competitive, so the more the better,” said Gilmore.

Publishing Process Gilmore explained that when submitting a paper for publishing to a journal, the paper would be assigned to an associate editor, respective to the topic of the paper. “The associate editor then looks for people to review it, who are hopefully experts in their field. The hardest thing you have to do is find people, because [reviewers] don’t get paid and it is a lot of work to review papers,” said Gilmore. “Typically they prefer professors or someone else who has published extensively in the area, but then those people get quite busy. So sometimes they will accept a PhD student of that person to review the paper, but I’ve never heard of a master’s student reviewing a paper.” According to Gilmore there are typically two reviewers assigned to a work, but sometimes there can be as many as five.

Potential Challenges “The first challenge that just about everybody faces,” explains MacLean, “is transferring academic work into publishable work, because quite frankly the paper that you pass-in, in graduate class — or the manuscript that you’ve been working on for your dissertation — is not publishable. [ . . . ] It’s a rare case when you find someone who is able to take their PhD dissertation word for word [ . . . ] and have the work published as is. There are almost always some changes made to it.” This translation of work stems from a difference in writing-style and presentation of information between academic writing and published work, because published work has to be somewhat understandable by a general audience. MacLean also stressed the importance of finding the right outlet and maintaining realistic goals. “You may have published something that has a tremendous practical value, but rather then going to an esoteric theoretical journal and having your work published, it makes more sense to find something practically orientated,” said MacLean. Gilmore touched on another challenge encountered by those seeking to get published: peer-reviewers and their lack of feedback. “There are many things out of your control, and it depends on the arbitrary-ness of how your peer-reviewers get selected. Sometimes reviews come back, and it’s obvious that they are just saying, ‘yeah sure publish it,’ or, ‘no, not [publishable].’ And they don’t give any good reasons, and some people obviously just don’t understand the paper,” explained Gilmore. “It can be a very slow process, and you especially as a student have so much weighted on it, and so much work put into it [ . . . ] that feedback is very important to have.”

Professional Advice According to MacLean, in order to initiate a publishing career it is important to communication and network. He suggests starting a dialogue with advisors about



one’s publishing goals. “Advisors are often so overwhelmed with the work that they are doing, that it may not occur to them that part of the job that they have with their student is to develop the professional and career goals of their students; its not just about their academic work,” explained MacLean.

Publishing has always been an expectation — one that has steadily evolved with time. “It’s really important for students to take charge of this and recognize that this is their career, this is their professional development, and so they need to tap into people who can help them out.” MacLean also suggested students seek-out others in their community of study, and even find people beyond it, because anyone with success in publishing would be worthwhile to connect with. Finally MacLean recommended that students attend workshops, seminars and development sessions to maximize exposure to the publishing world. “Those sessions can be incredibly useful. I remember when I was a PhD student sitting in on a session with a number of publishers who came to the university where I was doing my degree . . . they basically sat us down and gave us the straight goods about publishing.” MacLean said that there were usually book-fairs at conferences and seminars, which major publishers attended. Students could potentially meet developmental editors, or even the acquisitions people for these publishers, and try to arrange a meeting with them. Ultimately though, MacLean feels that it all comes down to the individual and their motivation to develop as an academic and get published. “It’s not going to be intuitive, it’s going to take time to figure out how it’s done, but if you don’t plunge right in and start asking the questions that need to be posed, you’re not going to get anywhere. So sitting back and expecting someone else to just show you how to get it done is a recipe for frustration,” advised MacLean. To make the entire journey smoother, Jayas stressed the importance of planning and organization, suggesting that notes should be taken every step of the way. “Implementation of most projects requires one to start by reviewing the existing literature,” Jayas explains. Articles being reviewed must be summarized, and extensive notes must be taken while reading the article to ensure proper citations have been made, and that summary paragraphs have actually been written, and not merely copied. “During synthesis of the literature these notes play a major role.” Gilmore’s counsel to students is to try and publish anything they believe to be even remotely publishable, and to not fold on an idea even if “journal one” rejects it. “I’ve certainly made mistakes where I’ve dropped ideas that I took to a conference publication level, where I should have just put in the extra effort. Then a few weeks later, or a few months later, or even a year later someone has already done something and science has moved on,” shared Gilmore. “At the time you think that’s not big enough of an idea; well it’s always worth it to try, because the worst-case scenario is they say ‘no.’”

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An Indigenous approach to global crisis Dr. E. Richard Atleo presents at the NRI Shel don Birnie


n Monday, Jan. 9, the Natural Resource Institute (NRI) at the University of Manitoba will host a keynote presentation by E. Richard Atleo titled “Principles of Tsawalk: An Indigenous Approach to Global Crisis.” Atleo is a research liaison at the U of M, and an associate adjunct professor at the University of Victoria. Born on the west coast of British Columbia, Atleo has held various positions over his career, including 10 years as a professor in the First Nations Studies department at Malaspina University College on Vancouver Island. His keynote presentation will be drawn from his book Tsawalk: A Nuu-Chah-Nulth Worldview, published by University of British Columbia Press in 2004. “Dr. Atleo is a leader in bringing Indigenous studies more mainstream in his important role in creating the First Nations Studies Department to Vancouver Island University where he taught from 1994 to 2004,” says Shirley Thompson of the NRI, who is organizing the event. Thompson believes the ideas that Atleo will be speaking to “are key to human survival and quality of life which is increasingly at risk due to climate change, pollution and inequitable development.” “Humans should relate to nature in a deeply respectful way; not as an inanimate ‘resource’ to be managed,” she added. Atleo’s work in this regard is similar to work being done at the NRI, Thompson explains. “There is a new appreciation of indigenous knowledge systems, not limited to traditional ecological knowledge, at NRI and on participatory action research,” she says. “For example, we have a First Nation doctoral student, Myrle Ballard, who will defend in January her thesis in this area applied to her community of Lake St. Martin First Nation in Manitoba.” Thompson said that Ballard’s research is being used to help rebuild the Lake St. Martin First Nation, which has been permanently displaced due to artificial flooding. The new reserve, according to Thompson will be “a culturally vibrant ‘eco-reserve’ that is walkable, self-sufficient for food and energy production through local community development.” She added that she felt “a holistic approach — that considers environment, culture and economy — is needed to solve many of the problems wrought by inequitable development.” Graduate students with an interest in environment, Indigenous studies, geography or social development may find this presentation of interest, and Thompson is keen to encourage all to attend the free event. “Dr. Atleo is a truly remarkable man and eloquent speaker with much wisdom to share.” “Principles of Tsawalk: An Indigenous Approach to Global Crisis” takes place from 12.30 to 1.30 on Monday, January 9, 2012, in the seminar room of the Sinnott Building at NRI, 70 Dysart Road.



Illustration by Ben Clarkson

January 2012 Gradzette  

This is the January 2012 issue of the Gradzette