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Junior Fellow Speaker Series

The Junior Fellow Speaker Series are lectures by our residents (Junior Fellows) that showcase their work and research.  Lectures are generally held on Tuesday night in the Fairmont Social Lounge at 8:00 pm.  It’s great opportunity to present in a supportive community environment and we encourage everyone to participate at least once during their time with us.


Friday, November 15

“Event Centrality, Emotional Distress and Well-being Across Cultures” – Alejandra Zaragoza Scherman
During their lifetime, people experience both emotionally positive and negative events. Many positive events are associated with transitional moments in life, such as falling in love, graduating from college, finding a job, getting married, or having children. Examples of negative events can be tragic accidents, the death of a loved one, a serious disease, or sexual assault. The Centrality of Event Scale measures the extent to which a life event, positive or negative, is central to someone’s identity and life story. An event becomes central when it is considered as an important part of our identity and life story, when it changes the way we view the world in everyday life, and when it is seen as a turning point in our life story. Investigation of the event centrality of emotional events is relevant not only for the field of autobiographical memory, but also for that of mental health and psychological functioning. Several studies have revealed that participants with higher post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression scores reported that a traumatic or negative event was more central to their identity and life story than participants with low levels of PTSD and depression.

The objective of this study was to investigate whether cultural differences existed in event centrality, emotional distress, and well-being in Mexico, Greenland, China, and Denmark. A total of 565 adults above the age of 40 participated in the study. We measured the participants’ level of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and life satisfaction. We also compared the event centrality for the participants’ self-nominated most positive and most negative life event in order to investigate which of these two events was more central to the individuals’ identity and life stories, and whether this interacted with the cultural background of the participants. Subsequently, we compared the event centrality ratings for both most negative and most positive events in individuals who scored high versus low on measures of PTSD, depression, and life satisfaction. Results showed that across cultures, participants rated the most positive event as more central to their identity and life stories, compared with the most negative events. Furthermore, across countries, participants with high levels of distress tended to rate negative events as more central to their life stories, compared with participants with low scores, whereas a similar pattern was not seen for positive events. Finally, participants with high scores of life satisfaction tended to rate positive events as more central and negative events as less central, compared with participants with low scores. It is concluded that across cultures, positive events are seen as more central than negative events and that centrality ratings tend to be affected in similar ways by high versus low levels of distress or life-satisfaction.

Hell No GMOs, We Know Where You Live!”Yaseen Mottiar
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) represent one of the most exciting frontiers in science and engineering. Genetic engineering involves the rational design of an organism by introducing, deleting or otherwise changing the genetic code. Genetic engineering can be used to improve the agronomic traits of food crops, to enhance the disease resistance of trees and to develop designer microbes for the mass production of pharmaceuticals. But there has been considerable ambivalence about this technology among the public. Indeed there are genuine concerns about the potential ecological consequences and how large multinational corporations might use and abuse the technology. Aside from the luddites and professional protesters, I believe that this public unease largely stems from a poor biological literacy in our society. In this presentation, I will provide an overview of genetic engineering techniques, the potential applications of GMOs and some of the more pertinent questions and concerns about the technology.

Friday, November 8

“Universal rights and exceptional communities” – Elena Cirkovic 
The broader aim of this research is to examine a distinction formed historically between the ‘public law of Europe’ and the rest of the world, including the Ottoman dar al-Islam. I argue that this distinction allowed for the development of the category of the ‘anomalous’ or the ‘exceptional’ situation, which, apart from the problem of national interests, became a challenge to any universal legal project. The exceptional could not be codified in the existing law, but demanded special measures. Namely, since Carl Schmitt posed a challenge to the idea of liberal cosmopolitanism of universal norms, a variety of approaches have theorized the state of exception as the space in which the sovereign retains the prerogative to invoke the state of emergency and create the presumed legal vacuum where ‘normal’ laws do not apply. However, what needs to be added to this research is an analysis of how entire peoples have been historically seen as exceptional due to their social, political, or cultural practices. In fact, the international political and legal system has been recognized as existing in a perpetual state of exception, especially at its ‘peripheries.

“The future of cancer treatment” – Jake Lever
The human genome project was officially completed over a decade ago, but the use of genetics for improving medicine are only now being developed. The BC Cancer Agency are pioneering an exciting diagnosis and treatment method using the genomes of cancer. This talk will discuss how this is being implemented and hopes for the future of this project.

Friday, November 1

Oral Health of Chinese Immigrant Children”Chelsea Gao 

Immigrant children appear to suffer disproportionately from dental diseases as compared to children native to a country, such as the US, UK, and Canada. This presentation gives an overview of factors contributing to the disparity observed, with a special focus on Chinese culture-specific parental factors.

“Our Cosmic Environment” – Yin-Zhe Ma 
Astronomy and Cosmology have been fast developing in the past several hundred years. Due to new advancing technology, people can probe our cosmic environment to a pretty high precision, and understand our cosmic evolution from the very early Big-Bang, to the formation of atoms, molecules, stars and galaxies etc…

However, these new discoveries pose new questions to our understanding of the Cosmos, for instance:
1. Can life also exist anywhere else beyond our own planet?
2. How to understand our human life in the hierarchical cosmic structures?
3. What are the nature of Dark Matter and Dark Energy in our cosmic inventory?
4. Is there just one Universe or multiverse?


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