Volume 91, Issue 30

Wednesday, October 22, 1997

Suzuki side kick


All I got was this lousy...

By Sabrina Carinci
Gazette Staff

The last time you checked, university graduates probably weren't wearing diapers, right?

Faculty at the University of British Columbia have changed this notion by awarding honorary "infant scientist" degrees to eight children aged one and two at the opening of the UBC Research Awareness Campaign.

The honorary degrees were actually honorary T-shirts given as symbolic gestures to highlight the importance of university research, said Paula Martin, manager of public affairs at UBC.

The infants' parents volunteered their children to help UBC psychology professor Janet Werker with her research on how children process speech.

Werker began her research approximately 20 years ago with the birth of her first child. "The emergence of language in infants is miraculous to me," she said. Each child in Werker's research had participated in a previous study.

Werker explained the research on infants' speech process began this summer, but was relevant to previous research she had conducted.

"During the first year of life [infants] are very interested in the human voice. Babies become knowledgeable of language by listening," she said.

With regard to potential cuts in federal grants to the three federal granting councils: the Medical Research Council of Canada, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Werker said everyone will be affected, not only Canadian universities.

"Every university is concerned about the cuts as the federal grants are the main fuel of university research – they're the nuts and bolts," said Tim Walzak, director of Western's Research Park Corporation.

"A [second] purpose of the UBC Research Awareness Campaign was to illustrate how important funding is," Martin said.

Martin said UBC research has led to the creation of 71 spin-off companies resulting in the employment of 1,500 people as well as generating approximately $634 million in investment.

To Contact The News Department: gaznews@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997