Archive for February 2010

Heading south

February 26, 2010

Dr. Michael Mahon

Edmonton’s loss is Lethbridge’s gain. Dr. Michael Mahon is leaving his position as the dean of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Alberta to become president of the University of Lethbridge. Mahon succeeds Dr. Bill Cade.
When asked about the highlights of his two terms as dean, Dr. Mahon points to his academic staff. “About three-quarters of our cohort of faculty members has changed. As a result of that, we’ve had some real growth in new areas, the emergence of academic areas and others that had lost a little bit of zip over past years.”
Dr. Mahon is also proud of his efforts to internationalize the faculty and his involvement in the expansion of the U of A to the south campus.
He sees the move from a campus of 37,000 students to one with 8,000 students as an opportunity to really get to know his university community. Over the past few years, the University of Lethbridge built a strong reputation in the sciences, and Mahon hopes to do the same for the humanities.
“I am enthusiastic in terms of building in the areas of social sciences, humanities, and fine arts because I see those areas as real strengths in the undergraduate level at the university. But, from a research perspective, they haven’t built as many new initiatives in those areas. I would say it will build balance across the academy. My own research has been in the social sciences and humanities. It has been funded by SSHRC. I have always had a more interdisciplinary research approach. So I am quite enthusiastic about doing that. “
Dr. Mahon will finish his current term as dean and then head south to take up his new post starting July 1st. √


New Lead on Detecting Breast Cancer

February 26, 2010

Dr. Barry Barclay

Given the current epidemic of breast cancer, wouldn’t it be great to have an early detection system?
Molecular biologist Dr. Barry Barclay, CEO of Planet Biotechnologies Inc, believes he may have stumbled upon a genetic mechanism that could lead to exactly that.
After he read an article on genetic damage related to breast cancer and a particular gene—the TYMS gene—he realized there were connections to the research he had conducted for many years on the TYMS gene. The location of interest is on Chromosome 18.
As Dr. Barclay explains, “It took me about five years to try to figure out a potential mechanism that would throw a switch that would cause a tumour. And not only does it initiate the tumour, but the structures that are generated during the episode of the switch not functioning well, themselves become tumour drivers. So once you turn the switch, it stays permanently in the position. What causes it to be dis-regulated are the factors that we know are the risk factors in breast carcinogenesis. There are environmental factors. There are nutritional factors, and there are genomic factors.”
Dr. Barclay has presented his findings at two international scientific meetings and will soon publish an article on his research. √

Reclamation Pioneer Terry Macyk Retires

February 26, 2010

Terry Macyk

After 43 years with the Alberta Research Council, now called Alberta Innovates Technology Futures, Terry Macyk is retiring.
His pioneering work in soil reclamation earned him the title of Distinguished Scientist with ARC along with recognition from all around the world for his contributions to reclamation science.
According to Macyk, time is the most critical factor in evaluating reclamation success. “I think it is just looking more at some of the long term applications in some of the areas that we’ve worked in. You have to do a lot of long term follow-up on many of the things that we did do, just to make sure that everything is on the right path and to confirm that indeed, the reclamation that was done in the past is going to stand that longer test of time.”
Macyk goes on to say that looking at a reclaimed landscape after just five years is never enough time to judge one’s success. “Twenty-five years gives you a better idea of how successful it is. Forty years even more. But if would really be nice to be looking at some of these areas 50 years later, because realistically it takes a tree to grow and mature in most parts of Alberta 50, 60, 70 years. We haven’t reached that stage with our initial reclamation yet. It’s a very new science.”
Terry Macyk’s research on reclamation has been applied across Alberta in forestry, agriculture, oil sands, oil and gas development and, now, carbon capture and storage. For example, he helped develop a means to use sludge from pulp mills as a soil amendment. For two decades he collaborated with Syncrude to research effective ways to reclaim boreal landscapes disturbed by oilsands mining.
His pioneering research helped shape regulations for reclaiming industrial sites. And Mayck considers one of his greatest contributions the introduction of the notion of salvaging and stockpiling soil before industrial development even starts. √

Where’s the beef?

February 26, 2010

For those of you who may not know, the second largest social network in Canada is an Edmonton company, Nexopia. Want to reach teens? Ninety percent of its subscriber base is between 13 and 23. Nexopia boasts over 800,000 monthly unique visitors, but that’s not what they’re most excited about these days. Connect13, its new advertising platform is what has the local 19-person team all fired-up. So too are the mad men and women of Toronto’s ad industry, according to Kelley Hajar, VP of sales and the lead for Connect13.
The Connect13 ad network has positioned Nexopia as the hub for banner ad distribution across this demographic and several social networks at the same time. “We’re well-positioned in Western Canada, but the top 12 ad agencies in Toronto want national reach,” stated Hajar. “We talked with, guys like MyYearbook, and others who have great reach and additional ad inventory out on the East Coast and in the U.S. We’ve combined our available inventories, and now Connect13 is a streamlined approach.”
If this year’s 44th NFL Super Bowl is any indication, one can expect to wait for more migration toward digital brand integration. Dubbed the “brand bowl” on Twitter, there was considerable discussion about each television commercial. Visibly absent from that discussions were the brands involved. Interestingly, despite seeing the power of a streamlined ad buy opportunity such as Connect13, the critical opportunity that still seems to elude many in the ad game is how to socially engage in support of traditional activities. Connect13 as a place to buy banner type ad space for the teen market is a very cool option. However, unless the top ad agencies in Toronto figure out that digital media buys should also be integrated with social engagement strategies, considerable opportunities for a strong brand halo effect will be lost, as was evident with the Super Bowl.
Some folks will talk about social channel integration as their saving grace on this issue. They’ll taut their many followers, connections and friends as evidence of their marketing efforts gaining ground. Some may even offer the number of digital conversations that have taken place about their brand online. Nexopia would probably offer click-through rates and brand impressions. There’s no doubt that, in order to have a complete picture, you have to include these numbers as elements, but that’s where most stop.
The remaining digital gap here is the difference between brand “impression” and brand “presence.” One is seen, the other is felt. One brand inspires zero reaction and is easily ignored. The other brand hits you right in the gut and has a lasting effect. Strong digital branding today should always include a social engagement component. When customers see your TV ad and go to your one-off campaign website (if you included the URL in the ad), and then talk about that on Twitter, Facebook or Nexopia, you as the advertiser should at the very least be there to engage… not pitch but listen, learn and communicate openly. Once the annoying screaming chickens, non-descript sub-selling digital monkeys or taco chip throwing ninjas are done on TV, the experience—good or bad—should transfer to your customers’ Twitter account or other relevant social channel. If your marketing sucks, get online and get ready to face the music. Take it on your hairy monkey chin and let your customers tell you what they want to see instead. On the other hand, if you or your ad agency would rather not defend your collective creative brilliance online, then maybe everyone should consider it the next time the “old guard” whips out the blank cheque for the standard media campaign.
That way, when you go to look under the bun to consider “where the beef is”, there will be some true customer exchanges and meaningful data offered. Instead of taking back your standard feel-good demo numbers as proof of “return on investment,” you can reference what you learned from your “return on engagement.” √