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Date: April 05, 2004

Canada Research Chairs Bring Clear Vision and Digital Books to UVic Campus

You have to admit, the retina is a pretty amazing piece of human machinery. As you read this, 260 million cells in the retinas of your eyes are busily generating, processing and transmitting visual signals to your brain. But even a small glitch in this process can lead to a subtle vision disorder or even complete blindness.

As UVic’s Canada Research Chair in Retinal and Early Eye Development, Dr. Robert Chow is trying to eliminate these glitches by achieving a greater understanding of hereditary human vision disorders and the complex biology of the retina.

“Over 200 genetic lesions responsible for eye disease have been identified in humans,” says Chow. “An important point to keep in mind, however, is that the individual genes mutated in these diseases are actually team players that interact with a multitude of other genes in complex biological networks and pathways.”

Currently, Chow is a postdoctoral fellow at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. He will arrive on campus in May. His new position is being announced today along with UVic’s Canada Research Chair in Humanities Computing, Dr. Raymond Siemens. Siemens is looking for new ways to adapt books, newspapers, magazines and journal articles to the electronic medium.

“More than half of the people who live in developed countries get information of this sort directly from the Internet,” says Siemens. “It took us over a thousand years to understand the medium of print; today, we understand almost intuitively how to access, navigate, and read print materials. But electronic text is only several decades old, and the World Wide Web even younger. While it is true that, over the past few decades, we have found good ways to create, access, navigate, and read electronic textual materials, it is also true to say that we do not yet fully understand the best ways that we might treat these materials. It is early days, yet, for the electronic text.”

Siemens’ work will help create new computing tools for data-harvesting, textual content analysis, document encoding application and conversion, and communication processes. As well as his research, Siemens will teach a course on Shakespeare and a course that traces the evolution of books from 2,000 years ago to the present. Currently, he is a lecturer in the English department at Malaspina University-College and a visiting senior research fellow at the centre for computing in the humanities at King’s College, London. Siemens will arrive at UVic in July.

These UVic chairs are among 137 such positions at 38 universities across Canada —representing an investment of $138.3 million—being announced today. UVic now has 20 Canada Research Chairs.

“This investment builds additional research leadership in priority areas at UVic and further enhances the university’s position as a major research centre in the province and the country,” says UVic Vice-President Research Dr. Martin Taylor.

“The work our chairholders are doing in universities throughout the country plays a key role in making Canada a better place to live,” says Minister of Industry Lucienne Robillard. “Congratulations to all the new Canada Research Chairs.”

For more information about the federal government’s Canada Research Chairs program visit www.chairs.gc.ca.

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Media contacts:
Dr. Raymond Siemens (English) at (250) 753-3245, ext 2046 or siemensr@mala.bc.ca
Dr. Robert Chow (Biology) at (416) 813-4997 or bobchow@sickkids.ca
Dr. Martin Taylor (Research) at (250) 721-7973 or vpr@uvic.ca
Maria Lironi (UVic Communications) at (250) 721-6139 or lironim@uvic.ca


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