Top 10 of 2017

Victoria Hand Project designs low-cost, 3D-printed prostheses and gets them where they’re needed most. Range of Motion Project clinic, Guatemala.

As the year swings to a close, we’re looking back at the news and stories that shone a light on people at UVic who made discoveries, initiated collaborations and opened doors.

Here are some of the top stories online, in print, on TV and radio, and that were talked about on campus, in Victoria’s coffee shops and beyond. It was difficult to pick just 10.

A helping hand that’s 3D-printed. Treaties translated into local Indigenous languages. Bandages that alert the wearer to infection.  Research that upends public perceptions about vaping. Indigenous law scholarship leading the way to reconciliation. And a multimedia artist who recreated an epic moment in Canadian cultural history.

For those of us lucky enough to work, teach, research, study and play at this extraordinary university, we can’t help but feel proud. Bring on 2018!

—The UVic News team


A top 10 finalist in Canada's first Google Impact challenge

The Victoria Hand Project (VHP) earned media coverage through much of 2017. Based in Nick Dechev’s Biomedical Design Lab, VHP is a not-for-profit that helps amputees in developing nations by providing them with low-cost, highly functional and custom-fitted 3D-printed upper-limb prostheses at a cost of $400 each. In March, VHP was featured in regional and national media as one of five finalists in the first ever Google Impact Challenge Canada grant. It was awarded $250,000. As one of the popular UVic exhibitors at the BC Tech summit, VHP also appeared prominently in Vancouver media and on social media and Snapchat and, following a public tour of UVic’s Centre for Biomedical Research engineering labs, VHP was also highlighted in local coverage.


BC treaties translated into Indigenous languages

The translation into two local Indigenous languages of the original treaties of the colony of Vancouver Island was a pivotal element in a Canada 150 signature event for a conference organized by Songhees First Nation and UVic in February 2017.

  • Read the story in The Ring
  • It caught the attention of media across Canada, including on the national TV morning show for CBC News and a multi-page feature in the local Times Colonist

‘Smart’ bandage uses phone app to ID infection

Wound management is a high-cost health challenge around the world due to complications caused by infection. Considering that some 22,000 surgical procedures a year in Canada result in potentially life-threatening infections, small wonder that UVic bioengineer Mohsen Akbari and his research team caught the eye of media with news of their GelDerm “smart bandage,” which features four embedded sensors that signal when infection is setting in when scanned with a smartphone app. 

  • Read the story in The Ring
  • GelDerm made headlines in the Times Colonist and was featured on CBC News, but perhaps the biggest thrill was  by writer Margaret Atwood to her 1.8 million followers

Clearing the air around e-cigarettes

Researchers at UVic’s Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (formerly CARBC) did a comprehensive review of the rapidly increasing academic literature on e-cigarettes. Their findings—

that tobacco use by youth is declining while use of vapour devices is increasing—were published in a report called “Clearing the Air” which earned national coverage in print, radio and TV and extensive traction on social media channels internationally.


Furthering knowledge about Indigenous legal traditions

For his substantial and distinguished scholarship and commitment to furthering national and international knowledge about Indigenous legal traditions, John Borrows, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law at UVic, was named the 2017 Killam Prize winner in Social Sciences in May 2017. Coverage on this award also brought additional attention to UVic’s proposed joint degree in Canadian Common Law and Indigenous Legal Orders, led by Borrows and colleague Val Napoleon, with several stories noting the transformative effect it will have on the relationship between Indigenous legal traditions and state law.


Tom Thomson multimedia project for 100th anniversary

Despite unseasonably cold winds and choppy waves, intermedia artist and UVic visual arts chair Paul Walde dove into the waters of Algonquin Park’s Canoe Lake last summer on the 100th anniversary of Tom Thomson's death and completed the first stage of his new project to reframe the early 20th-century artist’s legacy.


Can brainwaves predict baseball performance?

What makes a baseball batter successful? Some think optimal performance means an athlete has to be in “the zone.” Neuroscientist Olav Krigolson worked with MEd student and former MLB pro Anthony Pluta to see if they could quantify “the zone” using portable EEG devices and an eager group of young players from Vancouver Island.


Doctoral candidate's questioning of ninth planet prompts global buzz

A UVic PhD candidate’s work threw cold water on a hot theory about a ninth planet beyond Neptune. Cory Shankman’s paper, “OSSOS VI: Striking Biases in the Detection of Large Semimajor Axis Trans-Neptunian Objects,” garnered international headlines.


Findings at ancient site confirm oral history

A 14,000-year-old village site on Triquet Island was home to Heiltsuk First Nations and reaffirms their oral history of a place their ancestors travelled to for survival. UVic anthropology PhD candidate Alisha Gauvreau was part of the team of archaeologists from UVic, the Hakai Institute and local First Nations to unearth the ancient village site.


Syphilis linked to HIV treatment

Microbiologist Caroline Cameron contributed to a study showing that HIV treatment could be inadvertently contributing to the uptick in syphilis outbreaks. Despite prevention, screening and treatment programs, there are an estimated 36 million cases of the disease worldwide with rates in British Columbia at their highest in 30 years. Cameron also continued work on a vaccine for syphilis that promises to help efforts in eradicating the disease, with a Nature article published early in 2017.


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