Backgrounder: Four new Canada Research Chair's research ranges from genetics to digital futures

The federal government’s Canada Research Chair program will create 2,000 positions by 2005 in an effort to attract and retain top university researchers at Canadian universities.

UVic’s new tier-one recipients:

As the Canada Research Chair in Genomics and Molecular Biology, evolutionary geneticist Dr. Ben Koop will continue his investigations in to how living things change over time. “There’s tremendous value to variation,” says Koop. “What might be detrimental in one circumstance might be beneficial in another. And it can all be traced back to genes and their interactions with the environment.”

Koop, who is also director of UVic’s centre for biomedical research, is in the second year of a Steacie Fellowship, a prestigious national award that has allowed him to concentrate full-time on research. Under his Canada Research Chair, which begins January 2004, he’ll continue work in two key areas—immune system genes and salmon genomics. He is especially interested in fragile sections of human chromosomes that have been linked to some cancers.
For comparison purposes, Koop is looking at similar immune system genes in other animals, including mice and cows. And he is the co-leader of a Genome Canada-funded, international project to map the salmon genome. “We’ve already identified more than 25,000 genes, and have established UVic as a world centre on salmon genomics.”

Internationally recognized as an intellectual successor to Marshall McLuhan, Dr. Arthur Kroker is UVic’s Canada Research Chair in Technology, Culture and Theory. Often described as a “futurist and cyber-philosopher,” Dr. Kroker’s research explores the creative possibilities and crucial challenges of major technological change. The fulcrum for his exploration of Internet culture, the social and political consequences of emergent biotechnologies, and the impact of information technology on contemporary culture will be the Pacific Centre for Technology and Culture.

“I want to help create an exciting, innovative space where researchers from many different disciplines can find an intellectual home, and where they can meet both face-to-face as well as in cyberspace,” says Kroker, a political scientist. The centre will feature interdisciplinary research conferences, cutting-edge workshops and annual networked seminars that will be transmitted globally.

When Kroker relocates to UVic from Concordia University in July, so will his critically acclaimed electronic journal, Ctheory and Ctheory Multimedia ( Over 25,000 researchers subscribe to this global journal of theory, technology and culture that Kroker edits with his partner, Marilouise Kroker.

UVic’s new tier-two recipients:

Dr. Allan Antliff (fine arts) is using his Canada Research Chair in Modern Art to bring new insights to the relationship between politics and modern and contemporary art. “The idea of working at UVic appeals to me because the art history program has a diversity which doesn’t exist anywhere else in Canada,” says Antliff. “As well, the program is interested in strengthening areas in which I specialize—modern art of the 20th century in the United States and Europe.”

As part of his research, Antliff is currently working on three projects: the first is a study of the Dadaist movement in New York City; the second examines contemporary anarchist art in North America; and the third is a translation from Russian of articles written by modernist artists who participated in the anarchist movement during the Russian Revolution.

Antliff, who begins his appointment in July, is also very interested in British art critic and anarchist Herbert Read, whose papers are in UVic’s collection. “I’d like to set up an archive devoted specifically to Canadian anarchism at UVic starting with the donation of my own extensive collection of Canadian anarchist posters, journals and ephemera. This will be a nice complement to the Herbert Read papers.”

Maybe it’s being part of a Royal Air Force family that put the travel bug in her blood, but Dr. Sara Ellison’s path to UVic as the Canada Research Chair in Observational Cosmology has taken her around the globe. Her childhood homes were in Britain, Northern Ireland and Germany and, since graduating with her astronomy PhD from Cambridge, her research has taken her to observatories in Australia, Spain, Hawaii and Chile, where she is pursuing her research on the evolution of galaxies.

At the age of 29, Ellison has already made significant contributions to her science, including an innovative, unbiased approach to measuring the evolutionary sequence of galaxies by combining telescope observations with data analysis. The method involves the use of the light from distant quasars to study galaxies that lie between quasars and Earth.

Ellison has already participated in a large survey to determine whether previous searches for distant galaxies have been biased. Follow-up over the next few years will involve telescopes, on the ground and in space, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the world’s largest, fully steerable radio astronomy dish—the Greenbank Telescope.

Ellison joins UVic’s physics and astronomy group at the beginning of August. “The simulations of galaxy formation by UVic’s theory group provide an important infrastructure for interpreting our observational results.”

UVic already previously appointed 13 Canada Research Chairs: Dr. Frank van Veggel, (supramolecular photonic materials ); Prof. Jeremy Webber (law and society); Dr. Cornelis “Case” van Kooten (environmental studies and climate change); Dr. Ian Putnam (operator algebras and dynamical systems); Dr. Andrew Weaver (climate modeling and analysis); Dr. Neena Chappell (social gerontology); Dr. Vijay Bhargava (wireless networks); Dr. Taiaiake Alfred (indigenous peoples); and Dr. Colin Bradley (design and computational modeling); Dr. Ted Darcie (optical systems for communications, imaging and sensing); Dr. Sadik Dost (semiconductor crystal growth); Dr. Verena Tunnicliffe (deep ocean research); Dr. Alisdair Boraston (molecular interactions).

UVic is expecting 17 more Canada Research Chairs. For further information on the Canada Research Chair program visit their Web site at

Media contacts

Patty Pitts (UVic communications) at (250) 721-7656

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Keywords: new, canada, research, chairs, ranges, genetics, digital, futures

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