To bury, or not to bury

Experts gathered at the Munk Centre on Wednesday morning to discuss the merits of carbon capture and storage, which has emerged in the past several years as a key strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Professors, policy wonks, and industry representatives responded to a conference paper titled “Burying Carbon Dioxide in Underground Saline Aquifers: Political Folly or Climate Change Fix?”

Carbon capture and storage, known as CCS, involves capturing carbon dioxide and injecting it into rock formations deep inside the earth. The federal government has earmarked $140 million for eight CCS projects, and Alberta has allotted $2 billion to build three CCS plants.

“Instead of buying us time to find alternative sources of clean energy, CCS is buying politicians time to avoid making tough, unpopular decisions,” declared Graham Thomson, the author of the paper and a columnist for the Edmonton Journal. Thomson argued that CCS is too risky, expensive, and dangerous at its current stage of development to be worth heavy investment. Investing in CCS technology also diverts resources from energy efficiency and delays more durable reforms, Thomson said. He suggested alternative policies, such as systematic reduction of fossil fuel consumption.

Several panellists agreed with Thomson to some degree. “I really don’t think carbon capture and storage is worth the money we plan to spend on it,” said geology professor Andrew Miall.

Fellow geology professor Barbara Sherwood-Lollar warned the audience that fears over CCS’s risks and liabilities could ultimately result in inaction on climate change. “The danger is that if we focus only on what can go wrong, we may be faced with the prospect of doing nothing, and the implications of doing nothing at this point are no less than disastrous,” she said.

Mary Griffiths, a former policy analyst for the sustainability advocacy group Pembina Institute, said CCS was one arrow in the quiver for fighting climate change. Other strategies include energy conservation, low-impact renewable energy, and putting a price on carbon pollution.

Government and industry reps defended CCS. “While water and energy efficiency and renewable energy are important, these alone won’t suffice to meet the increase in demand [due to a rising population],” countered Don Broussard of Lafayette Utilities System, an electric and water company.

Kevin Stringer, director of petroleum resources with Natural Resources Canada, called CCS a crucial component. “Fossil fuels are going to be around for a while, and technology will need to be a solution,” he said. Brent Lakeman of the Alberta Research Council echoed Stringer’s support, saying that uncertainties exist with any technology deployed to address climate change. “CCS is still in its infancy,” he said.

Emily Rochon of Greenpeace International attacked the credibility of CCS advocates like Stringer and Lakeman, saying that they have a vested interest in CSS because they would be out of a job if it doesn’t work.

“CCS is like a nicotine patch for a smoker. What we are trying to do is continue to get our fix and hope that we don’t get cancer,” she remarked, to the loudest applause of the day.

Google’s copyright conundrum

Google Books might be a godsend when it comes to research, but authors whose books were scanned without their permission aren’t pleased. In 2005, the American Publishers Association and the American Authors Guild took Google to court for copyright infringement. Last Thursday, a New York judge delayed a hearing on the settlement at the request of the authors’ and publishers’ groups, who wanted more time to address antitrust and copyright issues.

Under the settlement, Google will pay out $125 million, to be divided among legal fees, payments to rightsholders, and a book registry. The registry would keep track of authors in a class-action settlement and pay them 63 per cent of generated revenues. Rights holders have to opt out if they don’t want their works scanned by Google, whereas common practice until now had copyright-owners opting in if they want to participate. The deadline for filing for a cash payment is Jan. 5, 2010.

As it stands, the settlement covers access to books from around the world published before Jan. 5, 2009. No supplementary materials, such as tables or illustrations, are covered. One point of contention is that Google would keep the revenues from “orphan” books whose copyright owner cannot be identified.

“Sometimes you want to read something from a new author. I like that you get a wide array of information to look at,” said Janice Asiimwe, a second-year student, on the usefulness of Google’s scanned images of texts. Asiimwe was amazed when she found out that Google had not requested permission to digitize books. “That’s wrong! I can’t believe they were that silly. It’s a multimillion- dollar company. How did they think they wouldn’t get caught?”

At a forum last Friday, Sian Meikle from U of T’s digital library services and Tony Horava, from the University of Ottawa, discussed the merits and concerns of the settlement. While a huge corpus will be made available to a vast audience, some at the event expressed concern that Google will become a monopoly in the area of scanned books available online, as the company would get exclusive rights to published works. Under the settlement, Google would have “preferred nation” status, which stops other providers from being offered license terms better than Google’s for 10 years from the release date.

Forum attendees speculated on the future of the settlement, which could be rewritten to address these concerns. The settlement would also allow Google to leave out sections of a publication without giving a reason (and may be pressured by authors to do so), diminishing access to information.

Attendees also speculated on whether Google could raise the fairuse argument, and publish limited information for scholarly use without requiring permission.

Aakanksha Tangri, in her second year at U of T, felt divided about Google Books. “As a student, I think it’s beneficial. But from a writer’s point of view, I think it’s unethical. People slog to write. They should be rewarded.”

Other students were indifferent to the legal issues. “I don’t care as long as I get the information,” said Ian Ngaira, a third-year UOIT student. “If the authors have a problem, they can sort it out with Google. It doesn’t affect me.”

It is unclear how students will be affected by whatever turn the settlement takes. Victoria Owen, head librarian at UTSC, said that she isn’t able to gauge what will happen. “At this point it is about vigilance and libraries, as well as authors, trying to figure out where they stand,” she said.

A status hearing to discuss how to move forward is scheduled for Oct. 7.

The jewels of JULS

The academic landscape can be, let’s face it, pretty hostile. Whether it’s publications, proposals, or elbow-padded blazers, the adornments of academia can feel as unattainable as winning the lottery. But sometimes, even in the most barren terrain, you can stumble upon an oasis. U of T’s Journal of Undergraduate Life Sciences (JULS, sounds like “Jules”) is just that.

Established in the summer of 2006, JULS was conceived by a small group of students who wanted an outlet for publishing research conducted by life science students at U of T. Three years and as many issues later, JULS, once the little engine that could, is now a full-sized freight train and a force to be reckoned with. The journal is now sponsored by undergraduate departments ranging from pharmacology to physiology to molecular genetics, and boasts an ample roster of life science faculty advisors. Its editorial review board also gives students the chance to get involved in the peer-review process. And for those who aspire to more authorial ambitions, JULS accepts a range of pieces for publication, including research articles, mini-reviews, and letters.

The JULS process includes some input from faculty advisors, who provide support and who can review articles. But the bulk of reviewing goes to the student editorial board, making it a real student-run endeavour. According to Andy Dicks of the Department of Chemistry, “Once you have the peer-review process in place, that’s crucial. Because it validates the science, and you don’t just get any old stuff rearing its head in there, stuff that hasn’t been checked properly.”

JULS also emphasizes its interdisciplinary mandate by accepting pieces from a wide range of sciences, sometimes extending beyond the life sciences. “Although JULS is life science, and chemistry is a physical science,” says Dicks, “there were quite a few chemistry articles that were published in JULS. I thought that was great, because that was a real chance for our students to showcase their chemistry to a life science audience, partly so that life science students realize that chemistry is a big part of their curricula and their lives generally.”

But of course there’s always room for improvement. According to Ivana Stehlik from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, “the only thing I would, from my perspective, like to see is more articles from the ecology or evolutionary front. Mostly it’s medical science, so I hope that there will be an equal chance for everybody to get in.”

While JULS does accept non-research articles, most professors are keen about pursuing research at the undergraduate level. Research opportunities during the summer or during the year, like the second- and third-year research opportunity courses and fourth-year research projects, are great for “giving the undergraduate student a taste of what research is like,” says Physiology professor William MacKay. “It’s a total mystery to everybody until they actually do it. So it’s kind of pointless to aim for graduate school and then discover, once you’re in a Master’s program, that you hate it!”

“Don’t think of it as something extra, on top of your classes,” adds Dicks. “You’ll learn things doing research that you can’t possibly learn any other way. Sometimes there’s this perspective that undergraduates can’t do research, or they’re not ready for research until they become graduate students. I would contend that my experience and the experience of my colleagues is that there are plenty of very good second-year undergraduates who do excellent research, if they are given the right type of project. That’s the key thing.”

While one of JULS’ missions is to give students a taste of academia outside the lab and classroom, it also tries to promote communication, both among scientists and with the public. This has important implications, not only at the student level, but also in the world at large.

“People with a lot of power, both in commerce and in political structures, are having to make major decisions about matters which are scientific, whether it’s climate, nuclear energy, medical technology, drugs, vaccines [or] rapid trains,” says Andrew Baines, coordinator and professor for the Vic One life science seminar. “Pretty well everything that creates our current society and the high standard of living we have is related in some way or another to science and technology. And that means that you want to have an informed population who understand the concepts and a good chunk of the words that are used in science. And part of the problem is the words—that a lot of scientists use unnecessarily obscure words.

“We need to educate people on the scientific side to be able to communicate to each other across disciplines within the sciences. An engineer talking to a psychologist: that can be extremely important when you’re designing the cockpit of a train or an airplane. But you need to talk the same language, and very often they don’t. And certainly when you’re talking to the politician or the CEO of a major company who wants to exploit a particular piece of technology, he has to understand what he’s getting into.”

According to William Navarre from the Department of Molecular Genetics, there are also problems in the ways in which the popular media communicates science—something that hits home for Varsity science writers. “The problem comes with the disconnect between how a complex and nuanced subject like science gets translated to laypeople through traditional media sources. Traditional media sources are deadline- and headline-driven, and this is inherently incompatible with how science actually operates. It’s only gotten worse with the Internet as readers and watchers are increasingly distracted and at the same time news outlets are increasingly receptive to quick sound bites with little regard for fact-checking or complex viewpoints—in fact they often lack the ability, time and funds to do fact-checking. Almost every article about science recently is hype-driven, and it does the public little service. Go back to any health science–related article from 15 years ago and see if any of the hype was actually lived up to; 99 per cent of the time it was a blip on the radar and then forgotten about.”

But there’s also a part of science writing that shows the science wordsmith’s human side. At the risk of sounding foolish to all the arts students out there, most science students will admit that science is exciting and beautiful. “People need to see scientific writing as literature, when it’s possible to do so,” says Baines.

So what makes for good science writing? According to Navarre, “a good science piece first and foremost targets its audience. Second, it poses an interesting question or mystery up front and does so in a way that engages the reader. Then it goes about solving the mystery through the evidence. At the end I hope it actually answers or almost answers the question that was posed up front. This question-answer format can be successfully followed for a science article written for kids or to a highly specialized audience. Third, good writing in any field or subject is direct and avoids being superfluous or wordy.”

Baines adds, “I think that probably one of the first things you look at in people who are starting out writing is: do they have a clear grasp of who they’re talking to and what style they should be using? And do they have a clear grasp of what the question is that they’re dealing with? Once they get beyond that, then they’ve got to marshal their evidence and put it together in a coherent fashion. And beware of using too many adjectives. It’s just very basic rhetoric.”

At the end of the day, JULS serves a pretty noble purpose. From promoting student research to giving students a chance to take part in interdisciplinary communication, it looks like three-year-old JULS will be sticking around for the years to come.

“I think the most important function [JULS] serves right now is not so much for the reader as for the writer,” says Doug Templeton of the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, “in giving the students an opportunity to go through the exercise of writing up their work, and at the same time doing it in a way that is going to have to be put in front of the public and that they’re going to have to take responsibility for.”

Who knows? Maybe thanks to JULS, that elbow-padded blazer might even start fitting better.

Publishing in JULS: The deets

The research article

2,000-3,000 words.

The research article lets student authors who have contributed significantly to original research to submit a piece addressing a new and interesting question in the life sciences.

The mini-review

1,500-2,500 words.

Students who haven’t had the chance to conduct original research can submit mini-review articles, which present an in-depth look at narrowed-down and intriguing topics.


1,000-1,500 words.

Letters are the more concise versions, and allow authors to present their original research along with a discussion of its significance within a broader context.


Research articles and mini-reviews: eligible candidates fall under two categories. The first consists of U of T undergraduates who have worked with a supervisor on a fourth-year thesis project, 299 Research Opportunity Program course, or summer research placement at U of T or its affiliated research institutions. Undergraduate students outside of U of T who have conducted research for at least three months under the supervision of a U of T faculty member are also eligible.

Letters: these articles are open to a wider range of authors, including any undergraduate enrolled in a four-year undergraduate program at any Canadian university.

JULS & communicating science: What the experts say

“Communication is important in science because if you simply do science and don’t communicate the results, you haven’t really contributed anything. [It] is a very important part of doing research. But I think it goes beyond that. I think the exercise of communication also helps clarify our thinking quite a lot, and I often find that I actually get new insights into the meaning of the experiments that I’m writing for publication.”
—Doug Templeton, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology

“Especially for the undergrad level, [JULS] is this unique chance where students can get research results out there to a limited audience—to JULS—which otherwise they would tell just their peers in the course, or they might tell their parents. But if they actually get through the whole process of writing it up and putting more thought into it, and then seeing it printed in the paper, it’s really awesome. So I think it adds value to these small-scale projects they do.”
—Ivana Stehlik, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

JULS provides that place where [undergraduate students] can publish, even though it’s not a major piece of work that would get through in an international peer-reviewed journal. But still, it’s well done, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be presented, and [JULS] provides that avenue for the undergraduate student.”
—William MacKay, Department of Physiology

JULS is an excellent in-house journal of science. I think it is an invaluable resource for students to gain experience with writing up their results early. If the results of an experiment don’t get published, you may as well have not done the experiment to begin with. I think JULS actually has an equally important role, however, in publishing articles by professors to communicate with students about things they don’t learn in class.”
—William Navarre, Department of Molecular Genetics

“I think of JULS in the context of research, and I’m very passionate about undergraduate research and giving undergraduates opportunities to do research. I think we do a pretty good job at U of T, but I think the word has to be out there that we can do a better job. And a lot of that is education, really. It’s explaining to professors how they can involve second-year undergrads, and how they can design projects so that second-year undergrads can do them.”
—Andrew Dicks, Department of Chemistry

The history of atomic theory

The Prize:

The Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922 to Niels Henrik David Bohr “for his services in the investigation of the structure of atoms and of the radiation emanating from them.”

The Science:

Atomic theory dates back more than 7,000 years to the Ancient Greeks, who through thought experiments developed the idea that if you repeatedly split a substance in half, eventually you come to an indivisible molecule called the “atom.”

In the 13th century, Pseudo-Geber coined the theory of corpuscularianism, in which all physical matter was believed to be made of divisible particles (corpuscles). Isaac Newton and Robert Boyle combined Pseudo-Geber’s theory with alchemy to form a 16th century corpuscular theory of light. As the discipline of chemistry evolved, atomic theory and the idea of classical elements (earth, fire, air and water) was disproved by scientific thinkers. In 1803, John Dalton created the modern atomic theory, defining each element as consisting of distinct atoms that combine to form compounds. This theory was further validated by Robert Brown (who discovered “Brownian motion”), Albert Einstein, and physicist Jean Perrin. Scientists Dmitri Mendeleev and Lavoisier developed the first periodic table in 1869, arranging the distinct elements by their chemical properties and atomic number.

It was a long wait, however, until J.J. Thomson made the first discovery of a component of the atomic model—the electron—in 1897. Thomson showed that applying voltage between two electrodes in a vacuum generates a ray (known as a cathode ray) of negative-charged “corpuscles” (to use Thomson’s term). Thomson believed that electrons were the fundamental unit of matter, which he tried to prove despite knowing that atoms as a whole have no charge. To reconcile this contradiction, Thomson developed his “plum-pudding” model, wherein electron “plums” swam in a “pudding” of positive charge that neutralized the overall charge of the atom.

One of Thomson’s students, Ernest Rutherford, disproved the likeness of the atom to a fruit-filled dessert through his interpretation of the elegant “gold-foil experiment.” When positively charged alpha particles emitted from radium bromide are shot at a piece of gold foil only a few hundred atoms thick, instead of passing through the gold foil as predicted by the “plum-pudding” model, some alpha particles deflect with wide angles or reflect right back. To explain this, Rutherford proposed a new model in which a solar system of “planetary” electrons encircles a positively-charged central particle (the nucleus). This model reconciled how atoms can have a neutral charge but also deflect an alpha particle because of the large positively-charged nucleus.

What Rutherford’s model could not explain is how an accelerating negative charge (the electron) avoids emitting electromagnetic energy, a known property of accelerating charges. The planetary model also does not explain the observation that when atoms are excited, say by heat, they emit characteristic radiation spectra that can be observed by spectroscopy.

It was around this same time that quantum theory, developed by Max Planck and furthered by Albert Einstein, dawned on the world of physics. This model, for which Planck won the 1918 Nobel Prize, describes the behaviour of light and other electromagnetic waves. Light and other types of energy exist in only discrete bundles called quanta, with no half-measures. The size of the bundles is equal to Planck’s constant, h, a very small unit. Inspired by quantum theory, Neils Bohr developed his atomic model in 1913.

The Bohr model, also known as the Bohr-Rutherford model, starts with the planetary model, but incorporates quantum theory into the orbits of the electrons. Bohr postulated that like light energy, electrons have discrete amounts of energy. His model further suggested that electrons cannot travel around the positively-charged nucleus outside specific orbits that can be thought of as spherical “shells” at defined distances from the nucleus. These orbital shells are defined by a signature energy value, the quantum part of the theory.

In addition, the model states that an electron can only gain or lose energy by “jumping up” or “jumping down” into another energetic orbital shell. When an atom is excited, an electron can “jump up” into a new orbital sphere. Electrons that enter into a higher-energy orbital shell are unstable, and can not stay there for long. As they drop down to a lower orbit, they release energy in the form of radiation equivalent to the energy difference between the two orbital shells. These “jump downs” always release the same amount of radiation at frequencies that are characteristic for that atom.

Bohr’s model successfully explained many observations of the atom circulating at that time.

What Has Happened Since:

The Bohr-Rutherford model was the most advanced model of the atom for many years, but it was refined by others including Arnold Sommerfeld. It becomes less useful when applied to the properties and behaviours of large atoms. Despite this, the Bohr-Rutherford model is still taught to new science students before moving on to more complex orbital-theory models.

Current models for the movements of electrons include complex orbital patterns, wave-like behaviour, and the uncertainty principle—the concept that electrons aren’t normally at discrete foci and that their position can be best described in terms of probabilities.

We also have evidence that the nucleus is composed of more than just positively charged particles. Scientists now hypothesize that its ingredients list extends to quarks, bosons, and leptons.

Niels Bohr continued working in theoretical physics for the remainder of his life, contributing much to the field of atomic theory. During the Second World War he worked with the Americans on the Manhattan project, but was a strong advocate for a peaceful sharing of atomic knowledge and against a nuclear arms race. His son, Aage Bohr, went on to continue the family Nobel legacy, winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1975 with two others “for the discovery of the connection between collective motion and particle motion in atomic nuclei and the development of the theory of the structure of the atomic nucleus based on this connection.”

UTSC breaks ground on new instructional centre

UTSC turned over the first piece of sod to construct a new $78-million instructional centre on a sunny afternoon last Thursday. The new building will increase UTSC’s teaching and research facilities by 25 per cent upon completion in 2011.

The centre will host co-op programs and the management and computer science departments. It will also include seven research and teaching labs, 13 classrooms, and 90 offices, as well as study and event spaces and food venues.

A similar $70-million centre at UTM breaks ground next Friday, Oct. 2. The federal and provincial government gave $35 million to each project, as a part of Ontario’s capital funding allocated for post-secondary schools and the federal government’s $2-billion Knowledge Infrastructure Program. The funding comes with a deadline: the buildings have to be completed by March 2011.

The University of Toronto covered the remaining cost of $8 million for the UTSC centre, or approximately 10.3 per cent of the total.

“This groundbreaking ceremony marks a major milestone in UTSC’s growth as an intellectual and cultural hub for the eastern GTA,” said Franco Vaccarino, VP and principal of UTSC, in a news release. Science and technology minister Gary Goodyear was also in attendance at the groundbreaking, and said the centre will provide a venue that will bring academia and industry together. Goodyear said renewed facilities at UTSC will allow researchers at Scarborough to pursue world-class excellence in their fields. Wayne Arthurs, MPP, and Derrick Fung, 2008 UTSC Coop Student of the Year, also offered their congratulations.

Many UTSC students agree that they could use more study space on campus. “We had an orientation for first-year management students only, and there were a lot of us,” said Ariel Duan, a freshman in the management program. “Maybe another building will make our campus less crowded.”

Others want more for the money they’re paying. “With the amount of money the school leeches from their students, I believe it could be put to better use to enhance buildings that are already on campus, such as the terribly outdated Humanities and Science Wings,” said Kyle Larkin, a second-year journalism student.

The Instructional Centre is a part of UTSC’s plan to create a “downtown core” for the campus at the crossroads of Military Trail and Ellesmere, opening a gateway and increasing the visibility of the campus.

Ice queens

The women’s hockey team showed composure and confidence during its first win of the Marion Hilliard Women’s Hockey Tournament that took place this weekend at Varsity Arena. Defeating the Robert Morris University Eagles 2-1 in a far more lopsided game than what the final score would suggest, the Blues exhibited superior skating and strong teamwork.

The first period saw aggressive play from the Blues, who dominated shots on goal 23-0. However, it was not until the period was almost over—with only 26 seconds left—that team captain Karolina Urban capitalized on a rebound from Brenley Jorgensen to finally score.

The Eagles got their first shot on goal in the first minute of the second period, and it looked as though the American visitors were going to challenge the Blues’ dominant play. It was not to be, as the Blues immediately got back on the offense. A sloppy changeover from the Eagles in the 13th minute brought them a penalty for too many players on the ice. The Blues’ second goal came during the ensuing power play. After an assist from Urban, fifth-year Annie DelGuidice sent the puck home decisively.

There was a quick attempt from the visitors to recover, but Eagles’ goaltender Ashley Miller had to contend with another barrage of shots instead. While the Blues exhibited superior skills, their inability to score was frustrating. With only nine seconds left to go in the second, Blues goaltender Kendyl Valenta saw some action, making an excellent save from a direct shot on the net.

During the final period, it looked as though the Blues were beginning to lose focus. The Eagles came out with all the energy they had, and were rewarded in the 11th minute when Ramey Weaver gave her team their first goal. Rejuvenated, the next couple of minutes showed spirited play from the American team. It was not enough to even the score, however, and the game ended with the Blues out-shooting the Eagles 64-11.

The team went on to win Saturday’s game against Concordia 3-2, and Sunday’s game against Etobicoke 1-0.

Head Coach Karen Hughes, now in her 17th season, was pleased with the result but had one criticism. “I didn’t like the third period very much. […] We need to score on more opportunities,” said Hughes.

“This year we have a good skating team. We have 15 players back and talented new players, so it’s just a matter of how they fit in together,” said Hughes on the upcoming season. “I’m still trying out different people in different positions.” Last season the Blues were third in the league and lost in the quarterfinals to the sixth-place.

Urban thought that the team “was playing aggressive, but while we had a lot of shots, we needed to bury the puck more. [This year’s team is] more mature, we have some good rookies and a lot of depth—we can play four lines. This is our goalie’s second year, and her experience will be crucial in close games.”

Back to the drawing board

Varsity Blues fans braved the cold on Friday night, coming out to support their football team as they battled against the Ottawa Gee-Gees at Varsity Stadium. In a 35-15 loss, the Blues demonstrated that they may be starting a trend where they open strong but fall short in the second half.

The game got off to a positive start with a back-and-forth struggle to dominate the field. Neither team could truly get their offence going or the scoreboard moving. At the end of the first quarter, the Blues were leading 3-0 thanks to a 15-yard field goal from second-year kicker Andrew Lomasney.

However, the Gee-Gees picked up the pace in the second quarter as they quickly took over the scoreboard with two field goals by Matt Falvo, and a touchdown scored off of a one-yard run from Matt Todd that was successfully converted. The Gee-Gees went up by two more points, scoring off of a safety when they conceded.

Just when it looked as if the game had taken a turn for the worst, the Blues called a time out and made a daring comeback in the last minute of the half. Quarterback Andrew Gillis made his first touchdown pass of the season to rookie slotback Paul de Pass, who scored in the final seconds of play to bring the Blues back into contention. At halftime, the Gee-Gees led only 15-9.

Despite a strong defensive effort by the Blues, the third quarter brought two more field goals from Ottawa’s kicker, Falvo. But the fourth quarter was when the game really got interesting.

In just over a minute of play, Gee-Gees’ Cyril Adjeity scored a touchdown when he received a 71-yard pass from quarterback Bradley Sinopoli. Shortly after, he did it again when he connected with Sinopoli’s 66-yard pass. The game’s top scorer, Falvo converted both touchdowns.

The Blues, however, did go out with a bang. As the game was dying and supporters began to slowly filter out due to the plummeting temperature, Toronto back-up quarterback Jansen Shrubb struck first-year wide receiver Ben Sharpe with an outstanding 83-yard touchdown pass to narrow the gap on the scoreboard by six points in the closing minutes.

“When I go in there, I know I’m not going to do much running, so it’s the passing attack,” conceded Shrubb after the game. The “passing attack” strategy contributed to the Blues ability to control the clock for the majority of the fourth quarter. Shrubb’s ability to connect with his receivers was evident last week as well when he made a 64-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Wright.

Despite a few spectacular offensive plays against the Gee-Gees, the Blues are quite a new team. They rely rather heavily on their more solidified defensive counterparts. “The defence has been there all year, and we’re very appreciative of it,” acknowledged veteran slotback Drew Meerveld. “[The Blues] had a good game plan coming in; it was just a matter of being able to execute [it].”

Despite this being their fourth loss of the season, the Blues have made progress in their team dynamics. The Laurier Golden Hawks blanked them 36-0 in their season opener, at which point coach Greg Laval had no comments beyond, “Yeah, [they] steamrolled us. We definitely lost the physical battle today.” Against the Windsor Lancers, the Blues made it onto the scoreboard, falling 30-3. Last weekend, they scored their first touchdown of the season, losing 53-25 to the Guelph Gryphons.

The Blues are looking to improve their team cohesion and to play a complete game. They recognize that they have fallen into the trend of playing a strong first half that they then fail to maintain.

Although the score may seem bleak in the eyes of many U of T supporters, the Blues have shown that they are steadily improving, and they’re not giving up hope. Meerveld was firm when he said that the team does not want to get used to losing. “It’s back to the drawing board for next week,” he said.

Sports writing: How to play the game

October 5 marks the launch of a new sports writing course at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. Believed to be the first of its kind at U of T, the course teaches the basics of writing, reporting, and using new media to produce work for public consumption.

The course will be taught by Perry Lefko, a sports reporter from Rogers Sportsnet and a frequent Toronto Star contributor. In preparation for the class, The Varsity sat down with Lefko to learn more about beginning a career as a professional sports reporter.

The Varsity: How did you get into sports reporting?

Perry Lefko: I went to Ryerson in 1979 and took the journalism course, and graduated there in 1982. […] I knew all along when I was growing up that I wanted to be a sports reporter. From Ryerson, I began working professionally in the business first in London with the Free Press, and then I came back to Toronto and worked [for] The Hockey News. Then I worked for the Toronto Sun for 21 years, and for the last three years I have been working on my own, freelancing.

TV: What are your primary beats?

PL: Right now, I write a lot about the Canadian Football League for Sportsnet. I also write for Metro News and I cover a variety of sports.

TV: Tell us a little bit about your class.

PL: The class is basically going to be an entry point into learning about sports writing and the various different ways you can do it. There’s professional writing in terms of writing for newspapers and magazines. But there are so many new different ways to write about sports these days—blogs, the Internet—there are so many forms available out there. If you think you know a lot about sports and you think you can impart that, you will be able to get people to start reading your stuff.

TV: The media is changing so quickly. Where does that leave the sports reporter?

PL: The sports reporter needs to be a little bit more diversified. The sports reporter now needs to be able to get stories online much quicker. There are so many ways you can express yourself as a sports writer.

TV: What are the necessary qualities for becoming a sports writer?

PL: I think the first one has to be your ability to write. If you don’t know how to write, it will be very difficult for people to understand what you’re trying to say. Having said that, there are lots of people who are interested in blogs who are not the greatest writers, but what they have to say has value. But you still have to be a fairly good writer. Second of all, you have to be able to tell your story for people to want to read it. The third thing is you have to have integrity because if you’re just going to be sloppy about what you’re putting out there and it has no ethics, people will find it difficult to believe what you’re trying to say. The fourth thing you have to do is be fast because in this changing atmosphere of news reporting, the story that gets out there first is going to get the most traction. Above everything else, there has to be passion for what you’re doing. If you don’t have passion for what you’re doing, it will reflect in the way you do your job, how other people see you, and how your product is presented.

TV: What’s your most memorable sports story?

PL: The one that meant the most to me goes back to a story in ’97/’98. I went to Regina to do a story about a woman who was a curler—her name was Sandra Schmirler. She was a very prominent women’s curler and was very well known in not only Canada, but around the world as being the best curler ever. She was battling cancer, and I approached her wanting to write a story about her battle and how she was winning [it]. I asked about writing a book about her life. The first thing she said was, “Would anybody care?” Right there, it was an example about how humble this woman was. Tragically, she died two months later, and it was a big story in Canada. Her funeral was covered nationally. I ended up writing a book about her life and it ended up being a national bestseller. To me, that was the most memorable story because of how much that woman meant to me as a person, as an athlete, and as an icon.

Lefko’s class begins on Oct. 5. You can sign up until the second week of classes, Oct. 19.