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Last Lecture

September 2, 2017 @ 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm

What would you do if you had one last talk to give?  What would you say? Would you talk about the wonders of life, the mysteries of the universe, how you can make anything a fulfilling career? Would you pass on the knowledge you gained through your years of experience?  Find out what Dr. Joe Rasmussen and Sonya von Heyking would tell the world if they had one Last Lecture.

Last Lecture is sponsored by the ULSU.

Dr. Joseph Rasmussen
A Career in Research: How life experiences can shape our interests and determine the direction of our research

Science is a vast jungle of interrelated subjects and disciplines, and many young people though interested in science, have difficulty imagining how they would fit in and make an original contribution, amidst the bewildering variety of ill-defined options.  With all the books that are filled with ‘knowledge’, and shape our interests and education, how does one identify an interesting and original question.  In this talk I will explain how childhood and adolescent experiences obtained by exploring the world around me, and witnessing the environmental destruction caused by technological ‘progress’, shaped the research questions that I worked on for the rest of my career.  I was lucky enough to be able to travel and explore across this vast country as a young person, and will explain how witnessing mining and smelter impacts, radioactive fallout, broad-scale use of biological pesticides, badly disposed electrical transformers and pesticide dumps, and other examples of waste mismanagement, exposed me to a whole array of novel problems that no one knew the answers to.  These ultimately shaped my research interests, and led to questions about the cycling of pollutants, the biomagnification of persistent contaminants in the food chain, and the impacts of radioactive isotopes released from nuclear reactions.  These were all transdisciplinary problems that combined aspects of biology, physics, chemistry, earth sciences and engineering, and the answers that my research help to uncover challenged much of what was written at the time in the scientific textbooks in all of these fields.  So, after about 50 years or so, it is hard to imagine that way back when, it seemed like a daunting problem to find a ‘niche’ in science and to figure out what I should work on.

The current chair of University of Lethbridge Department of Biological Sciences, Dr. Joseph Rasmussen attended the University of Alberta studying Zoology during the 1960’s and 70’s. Graduating with a PhD in Freshwater Biology in 1983, he joined the Department of Biology at McGill University in Montreal in 1984 and became a full professor there. In 1998 he became one of the founders of the McGill School of Environment. While at McGill, he worked on a variety of problems including the impacts of pollutants on fisheries, the cycling of mercury, radioactive isotopes through food webs, the modelling of isotopic tracers in ecosystems, the impacts of smelter emissions on aquatic ecosystems, and the invasion of ecosystems by exotic species. In 2003, he was awarded a Canada Research Council Tier I Research Chair at the U of L, and so returned to the west. Since Joining the U of L he’s worked on problems related to coal mining impacts, especially selenium, on native salmonids, the cycling of mercury in semi-arid environments, the impacts of introduced brook trout on native species, and the dynamics of genetic hybridization between introduced rainbow trout and native westslope cutthroat trout.  Recently, he and his collaborators developed a treatment for removing seleniuim from mine drainage water using a bioreactor approach based on anaerobic microbial respiration. Last year, he was elected as a Fellow to the Royal Society of Canada in the division of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.


Sonya von Heyking
Thoughts of an Accidental Accountant

As an accidental accountant and passionate educator, the challenge in crafting this lecture came from accepting that what I consider most important has almost nothing to do with my vocation. I believe that the central question, “what wisdom would you try to impart to the world if you knew it was your last chance?” demands humility, care, and unabashed honesty. Regardless of the disasters and failures we suffer, if we are attentive to the lessons within those challenges, I believe life offers us the hope that sustains our resilience. I shall share my stories and lessons with a balance of seriousness and humour appropriate for conversation among friends.

Sonya von Heyking is an Instructor of Accounting in the Faculty of Management, and the Director of the CPA Bridging Program. Prior to joining the Faculty in 2014, she was the Director of Internal Audit at the university, and recognized as a leading assurance and consulting professional. She wrote regular columns for College and University Auditor, the international journal for university internal audit professionals, was an invited speaker at several professional conferences throughout North America, and was awarded the CPA Early Achievement Award in 2012. Sonya has learned that professional success is strongly informed by the difficult lessons learned by overcoming the failures that one suffers during one’s journey through life. Likewise, these lessons enable one to recognize that professional satisfaction is more readily found in acts of service to others, than on the rungs of the career ladder.


September 2, 2017
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm