Science and the City: January, February, and March | By Hanhmi Huynh

Welcome back Wanderer readers! I hope the past few months have been good to you — your January full of the promise of a new year, your February full of love rather than broken bonds, and your March well-rounded (pun intended). There were many science inspired events that I am ecstatic to share with you, and there are many more coming up that I hope to see you at.

Let’s start with some new beginnings as January was the start of a new year. I had the pleasure of attending Science in the Cinema, which in January featured The Crash Reel. The documentary film follows professional snowboarder Kevin Pearce as he recovers from a traumatic brain injury. Once a revered Olympic hopeful, Kevin grapples with his dedication to snowboarding and the reality of his life after injury. His journey, captured by two time Academy Award nominated filmmaker Lucy Walker, is both poignant and inspirational. The movie also emphasizes the important role his family plays in his recovery; there are many heart felt moments in which his family pleads with him not to return to snowboarding — moments made more emotional by Kevin’s genuine passion for the sport. I highly recommend it to everyone, especially those who know someone who has been affected by brain injury and those who have an interest in snowboarding and other extreme sports.

The movie was followed by a Q&A with Dr. Garnet Cummings, Executive Director of the Brain Care Centre, and Dr. Shaun Gray, Director of the Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Alberta, about the risks of a societal obsession to continually push the limits of extreme sport and the metamorphosis following recovery. I think Kevin echoes the significance of his journey best in his own words: “…courage does not need to be a monumental, heroic, life-saving act.  It can be a subtle shift in perspective or the resolve to take just one more step along a difficult journey”. Science in the Cinema also featured The Incredible Hulk in February and Amour in March.

January was a busy month! Other science-related events in January included: Dark Matters: AuroraNerd Nite #24, the Edmonton Open Winter 2016 Rubik’s Cube Competition, Edmonton World Health Simulation, Dark Energy and the Runaway Universe, The Student Sustainability Summit, and International Week 2016, featuring Me to We and Free the Children founders, Marc and Craig Kielburger.


In February, there were a number of events focused on health in our city. On campus, Movies for Mental Health shed light on the imperative issue. Hacking Health Edmonton also hosted their Hackathon on campus, focusing on technology to provide solutions for the growing aging population. Hacking Health is an organization that has chapters in multiple regions around the world, including in Canada, Germany, Switzerland, South Africa, the United States, and Malaysia. The organization brings together health care providers and patients with computer programmers, developers, and entrepreneurs to innovate health solutions. Check out some of the ideas from the Edmonton event here. I am excited to see how these ideas will develop, as I got to get a glimpse of winner from Hacking Health 2013, eZReferral, at the Hacking Health Cafe in January.

Significant science news arrived in February when scientists detected gravitational waves. This is a topic we are hoping to explore further on The Wanderer, so stay tuned for that! Other events in February included: 2016 Picard Lecture: Less Medicine, More Health: 7 Assumptions That Drive Too Much Medical Care, Humanism in Medicine Film Fest, Science in the Cinema – The Incredible Hulk, and Hacking Health YEG Cafe: Building Smarter Healthcare Apps with IBM Bluemix.

February is of course also the month of love, and so I feel it is only suitable to segue into March’s events with a highlight from the Festival of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (FURCA) — my favourite poem from the event – Periodic Chemistry, by Daniel Neuman.

March marked Albert Einstein’s 137th birthday as well as “Rounded Pi Day“, both on the same day. Quite fittingly, there was an infinite number of events in March. Some of the highlights included Chimprov featuring 6 degrees of ScienceTime, Einstein and the coolest stuff in the universe, The International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes, and The Festival of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities. If you haven’t already checked out Rapid Fire Theatre, I highly recommend you do. My personal favourite performers are 6 Degrees of Science, a duo of high school science teacher Joe Vanderhelm and bio-medical engineer PhD candidate, Kory Mathewson. The hilarious pair have such an incredible breadth of knowledge in science; their talent in improvising skits based on scientific equations is all at once impressive, hilarious, and educational. Here is their performance from March:

There were also some amazing guest speakers on campus in March. Nobel Laureate William D. Phillips came to campus for an interactive presentation titled Time, Einstein and the Coolest stuff in the Universe. His presentation highlighted how Einstein’s ideas on time have innovated technology in terms of measuring time and navigating the world with GPS, and he provided his own insights into cooling atoms with lasers at temperatures once never thought possible. Dr. Phillips had an incredible enthusiasm and kept the audience captivated as he incorporated many fascinating demonstrations with liquid nitrogen and floating magnets into his presentation. The speaker event was packed with people of all ages (you can stream the full presentation here!). We were fortunate enough to have another Nobel Laureate, Dr. Art McDonald, on campus this month for his lecture on Understanding Neutrinos as well as world-renowned physician and humanitarian, Dr. Paul Farmer, to speak on Ebola and the Future of Global Health Equity.

Time, Einstein and the Coolest stuff in the Universe 2

Another passionate advocate for science learning, Alan Nursall, joined us on campus as the keynote speaker for The Festival of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (FURCA). FURCA was a week-long celebration on campus to highlight student accomplishments in research and creative activities. The week included oral and poster presentations, performances, and guest speakers. The 3rd Annual event featured more than one hundred students from twelve different faculties. Congratulation to the award winners! I am always amazed by the incredible research efforts on this campus. It’s great news to see that research is celebrated and supported with the Minster of Science, the Honorable Kristy Duncan, on campus for the announcement of further research funding. To end the week-long celebration, Alan Nursall provided an entertaining and educational keynote presentation. Alan, Daily Planet correspondent and President and CEO of the TELUS World of Science, shared some of his hilarious experiences from his own show, the Alan Nursall Experience, and took us through a lively exploration of sound. He created a speaker from nothing more than a potato salad container, wire, and magnet, as well as a working electric guitar with some plywood, a glass bottle, wire, and magnet! Alan is also a proud University of Alberta alumnus, as are many of the hosts on Daily Planet (Jay Ingram and Dan Riskin).


Speaking of the Telus World of Science, they had some pretty incredible exhibits and shows this month. Our writer, Srosh, explored the new Sherlock Holmes exhibit this month. Edmonton is the only stop in Canada for the International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes, so it is worth checking out! I also had a chance to check out America Wild in 3D Imax. The feature movie highlighted some breathtaking views of American National Parks. Another reminder of why it is so important to protect our national parks, to raise awareness about environmental issues, and to take part in the Earth Hour this month. Other events in March included another sold out NerdNite and Dark Matters: Robots.

Here are some events I am looking forward to attending in April and May:

I hope to see you at some of these upcoming events. Until next time Edmonton, stay curious and wander often!


Banner illustration courtesy of Wanderer Online Design Editor Janelle Holod.

Related posts: