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Friday, May 30, 2008

Biochemistry's 100th Birthday: Day 2

Day 2 of the Department of Biochemistry 100th Anniversary Symposium began with a series of lectures by former graduates of the department; Shelagh Ferguson-Miller (Michigan State University), Natalie Goto (University of Ottawa), and Mark Glover (University of Alberta).

This was followed by a talk on the early history of the department by Professor Marian Packham. Marian was a student in the department from 1946-1949 and then she did her Ph.D. in the department. After a postdoc and a few years working for the government and the Red Cross, she joined the department as a faculty member in 1966 and rose to become a University Professor in 1989 (our highest title). Professor Packham gave an entertaining summary of the early years complete with humorous anecdotes that I won't repeat here.

Following Marian's talk we heard from two current members of the department: Lewis Kay and Lynn Howell.

The early afternoon was devoted to the poster session, featuring posters from students and postdocs. More than half the graduate students presented posters. One of my colleagues suggested that the high participation rate was due to the prize money being given out. Students have a 12.5% chance of winning at least $250. I'd like to think that they were motivated by a desire to communicate good science and just as many would have turned out if the prizes were just a handshake from our Chair.

I took a picture of Professor Packham at the poster session.

The speaker in the afternoon session (Theo Hoffman Lecture) was Greg Petsko from Brandies University in Boston (USA). Petsko is one of the gurus of structural biology. He has many connections to our department through his former students, postdocs and colleagues. He spoke on the structure of enzymes involved in Parkinson's disease.

Greg Petsko is as proud of his teaching as he is of his research accomplishments—and that's saying a lot. He is a very entertaining speaker. At the end of his talk everyone wanted to rush back to the lab to solve neurodegenerative diseases since many of us are going to get them. That was the main point.

The day ended with a gala banquet at Hart House that lasted until midnight. A very, very good time was had by all. There was plenty of opportunity to experience the products of anaerobic metabolism in yeast.

The person in the photo is John Challice, a former graduate student in our department and currently Vice President and Publisher Higher Education for the U.S. division of Oxford University Press.


  1. Sounds like an interesting session.

    Just one small point, Larry. It's 'University of Ottawa', not 'Ottawa University'. 'Ottawa University' is, of course, an unrelated institution in Kansas.

    I feel I should, at the very least, stand up for the institution that saw fit to give me, of all people, a Ph.D.

  2. Slaps head!

    Of course it's University of Ottawa. I grew up in Ottawa and I know the correct name of the second best university in that city.

    Dumb Larry. My only excuse is that I'm getting old and this may be the first signs of senility.