November 22, 2004 for immediate release

The continued diversification of the northern BC economy will be one benefit of an expansion in high-tech teaching and research that was profiled today at UNBC.

Advanced Education Minister Shirley Bond attended the official opening ceremony for a $6.36 million expansion to the University's Teaching Laboratory, built in response to a Government of British Columbia initiative to expand teaching and research in programs such as Computer Science. The 23,000 square-foot addition houses computer labs, classrooms, two state-of-the-art lecture theatres, and sophisticated computer labs for graphics, networking, and landscape visualization. The extension was designed by Chernoff Thompson Architects and built by Wayne Watson Construction of Prince George.

Minister Bond also announced three high-tech research programs that are receiving $1.2 million through the BC Knowledge Development Fund:

The Enhanced High Performance Computing Centre will provide the most powerful new computers and visualization systems in the region. The infrastructure will be used by several research teams to build simulations related to air and groundwater quality, climate and wind systems, and the effects of climate on glaciers. The equipment will also be used to visualize information from large databases and support applications in interstellar chemistry, theoretical and experimental physics, astrophysics, computer science, and mathematics.

The Northern Soil and Groundwater Remediation Research Laboratory led by environmental engineering professor Jianbing Li will include advanced remediation analytical instruments and a large three-dimensional chamber (more than 5 cubic metres in size) with temperature controls, providing researchers with the opportunity to simulate environmental remediation strategies in northern soil and climatic conditions.

New Molecular Genetics equipment will provide UNBC with unique opportunities for studying how genes are activated. When the human genome was sequenced, scientists discovered that it contained only 30,000 genes - less than 1% of the total human DNA. Some of the other 99% is actually found in the middle of genes, and needs to be removed before the gene can become active. A lab at UNBC led by biochemistry professor Stephen Rader will use BCKDF equipment for developing new techniques for understanding how these extraneous regions are removed from RNA. It's believed that errors in this natural process, known as RNA splicing, may be responsible for more than 15% of inherited diseases.

Each of the projects outlined above has also received funding from the federally funded Canada Foundation for Innovation. The federal and provincial programs have been designed to enhance the conditions for research and innovation at universities.

Below: UNBC President Charles Jago shows BC Advanced Education Minister and Deputy Premier Shirley Bond the atrium of the new lab extension at UNBC.

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