Friday, 31 March 2017

PhD Studentship: Recovering Lost Anglophone Caribbean Authors, 1940-1980

University of East Anglia - School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing

Start Date: October 2017
Supervisor: Professor Alison Donnell
Project description: Applications are invited for a fully-funded PhD studentship for 39 months starting 1 October 2017 to work on a project on Caribbean Literary Heritage funded by the Leverhulme Trust (CoA Prof Kei Miller). Students will need to reside in or around the Norwich area for the duration of their doctoral studies and will be expected to undertake travel both nationally and in the Caribbean for archival research.
The project entails sustained exploration of West Indian writing published and written for local and educational contexts and will investigate why these writings accrued less literary value than those by writers who migrated to the UK and writings published by metropolitan literary houses. The research will be underpinned by the methodologies of feminist recovery research, book and publishing history, as well as postcolonial literary theory. Archives to be consulted include: publishers archives (Reading, UK); BBC Written Archives Centre (Caversham); Caribbean Examinations Council archives & Special Collections of University of the West Indies, Cave Hill (Barbados), and the West Indiana Collection, UWI (Trinidad).
The successful student will have input into the final project design and, as part of the project team, will join in project events and publications.
To apply for this studentship you will have:
  • Academic qualifications in Literature, including knowledge of postcolonial literatures (preferably Caribbean literature) at BA or MA level
  • Skills and disposition to help organise, deliver and participate in public engagement activities & social media channels
  • Good organisation and time-management skills
  • Self-motivation and the ability to work as part of a team
  • Practical experience of archive-based research
  • A track record of researching Caribbean Literature
  • An interest and aptitude in digital humanities
The successful candidate will work as part of the project team for approximately six hours per week.
The expected outputs, in addition to the thesis, are:
  • academic article
  • archive enrichment
  • Wikipedia entries
  • blogs and twitter feeds
Person specification: Minimum 2:1 in Literature
Funding notes: This PhD project is funded by the Leverhulme Trust. The studentship is funded for 3 years 3 months and comprises home/EU fees, an annual stipend of £16,083 and some funds to support travel expenses. Overseas applicants may apply but they are required to fund the difference between home/EU and overseas tuition fees (in 2017/18 the difference is £10,605 but fees are subject to an annual increase.

PhD Studentship: Recovering Lost Anglophone Caribbean Authors, 1940-1980 at University of East Anglia #jobsacuk

Can you dig it? Badger captured on camera burying cow


Camera traps documented 2 solitary American badgers (Taxidea taxus) independently caching juvenile domestic cow (Bos taurus) carcasses during late winter 2016 in the Great Basin Desert of Utah. One carcass was partially buried and the other was entirely buried. Both badgers constructed dens alongside their cache, where they slept, fed, and spent up to 11 days continuously underground. They abandoned the sites 41 and 52 days after initial discovery. While badgers are known to scavenge and to cache small food items underground, this is the first evidence of an American badger caching an animal carcass larger than itself.

Cámaras de caza grabaron a dos independientes y solitarios Tejónes Americanos (Taxidea taxus) almacenando cadáveres de becerro (Bos taurus) a finales del invierno del 2016 en el Desierto del Gran Barreño (Great Basin) de Utah. Uno de los cadáveres de becerro fue enterrado parcialmente mientras que el otro fue completamente enterrado. Ambos tejònes construyeron madrigueras junto a su almacén, donde durmieron, comieron y pasaron once días continuos bajo tierra. Después de este descubrimiento inicial los dos abandonaron sus escondites después de 41 y 52 días. Aunque a los tejònes les conocen por buscar carroña y almacenar alimentos pequeños bajo la tierra, esta es la primera evidencia de un tejón Americano almacenando el cadáver de un animal más grande que el mismo.

Frehner Supplementary Data (45303 kB)
Time-lapse video of Site 6, showing a solitary badger completely burying the carcass of a juvenile cow.

She’s Hot: Female Sessional Instructors, Gender Bias, and Student Evaluations

       on She’s Hot: Female Sessional Instructors, Gender Bias, and Student Evaluations
Girl Sitting at Desk
Girl sitting at desk flipping through textbook pages at Putnam School. 1961. Gar Lunney. Canada. National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque. Library and Archives Canada, e010976007. CC by 2.0. Source:
by Andrea Eidinger [1]
I would like to acknowledge and thank the many female instructors who got in touch with me over the past week, not only for their bravery in sharing their experiences with me, but for their strength in continuing in their dedication to the field of history and education. I am profoundly grateful and honoured.
“I think your feminist stances are slightly overcorrecting reality. I’m sure minorities had a harsher experience than women, ESPECIALLY today, a point you seem to overlook. You’re a really nice person though.”
That comment comes from my student evaluations from one of the first courses I ever taught, back when I was still a graduate student. At the time that I read that, I burst out laughing. I mean really, how else can you react to that kind of statement? But many courses and student evaluations later, I am starting to think that this is reflective of a larger problem in the world of academia, and history in particular, with respect to female sessional instructors and course evaluations.
Over the course of the past year or so, there have been a number of studies that have emerged detailing the gender bias against female instructors in student evaluations.  According to one study, male professors routinely ranked higher than female professors in many areas. [2] For instance, male professors received scores in the area of promptness (how quickly an assignment was returned) that were 16% higher than those of female instructors, even though the assignments were returned at the exact same time.  Another research project, which examined word usage in reviews of male and female professors on “Rate My Professor” found that male faculty members are more likely to be described as “funny,” “brilliant,” “genius,” and “arrogant,” while female faculty members are more likely to be described as “approachable,” “helpful,” “nice,” and “bossy.”[3]
While many of these studies discuss the negative impact that this bias has on tenure and promotion few consider how devastating they can be to sessional instructors, particularly given the overrepresentation of women at this academic rank. Although data on sessional instructors in Canada, both contract and regularized, remains scarce, what we do know based on a 2016 report on sessional faculty at publicly-funded universities in Ontario is that 60.2% of sessional instructors identity as female. Most of these individuals have Ph.Ds. and will spend roughly 4 to 5 years working as a sessional instructors with the hope of securing  full-time positions within academia. During these 4 to 5 years, 53.2% of these individuals will secure contracts that are less than 6 months in duration while the next largest group, at 18.2% will not have any current contract at all.? And declining enrolment in history courses across the country means that jobs of any type are becoming more and more scarce.
The effectiveness of sessional instructors is often evaluated based primarily on student evaluations, particularly when it comes to questions of hiring, contract renewal, regularization, and promotion to tenure-track positions. (This is in spite of solid evidence that student evaluations are not good measures of teaching effectiveness.) Consequently, female sessionals often face a serious disadvantage compared to their male colleagues.
Here is a quick sampling of some of the more problematic comments I’ve received over the years:
  • “The focus on social history was good but I did not learn events leading to confederation. I didn’t come out of this course with any more information, except gender and race struggles, than I came in with.”
  • “Although Andrea stated on the first day she would teach a peoples[sic] perspective it was not illustrated how much was going to be focused on first nations and women’s history.”
  • “A bit biased in her views: very feminist and consequently an alternate view isn’t respected.”
While these remarks only represent a small percentage of the student comments that I’ve received on evaluations, they are extremely troubling. They also appear to be fairly representative of the types of comments that female instructors, particularly those who appear to be younger, receive on a regular basis. While writing this piece, I put out a call on social media for Canadian female instructors who teach history to get in touch with me if they were willing to share some of these comments on an anonymous basis. Eight women came forward and shared their stories. These comments and stories generally fell into five categories: bias, inexperience, unprofessionalism, behavior/appearance, and sexualization.
One of the most common critiques is that of “bias.” You can see several examples of these types of comments that I’ve received above. Many female instructors are heavily criticized for including women and gender history in their courses, and this is often described as them imposing a personal bias on history. They are often accused of “only having one point of view” and “shutting down opposing views.”
For instance, one instructor had a student that complained, “it was obvious that she didn’t quite enjoy the boys telling her that men are biologically superior. She rapidly dismissed their explanations as outdated and sexist without giving them the reason (although she did later on in the course elaborate). But it was clear that those students had lost interest since their ideas were being rejected.”
Related to this problem are comments about female professors being “inexperienced,” “new,” or “too young.”  Female instructors often have to face criticism from students who don’t feel that they are qualified to be professors. This is particularly a problem for female professors who appear to be younger than they really are or who happen to be short. Several of the instructors shared comments from students about them being “newer,” or just “getting started in teaching.” In one case, an instructor relayed that, “I also recently had an issue with a mature male student who made comments about me being “early in my career” and that he may be able to “help me” through his own line of work. He also expressed unsubstantiated doubts about my qualifications for teaching the subject matter after admitting to doing an online search of my background.”
On a related note, this can often result in direct challenges to female instructors in classes. Recently, Heather Green related the following exchange on Twitter:
Another common complaint is that female instructors behave “unprofessionally.” The reasons for this can vary significantly, but often relate to references to one’s personal life. For instance, one instructor I spoke with had been forced to cancel a class because her child was sick. She joked about it in the following class. Then, on her student evaluations, she noted the following comment: “I found it very unprofessional that the Instructor referenced her child as an excuse for not being available or for missing class. This is not the concern of the student or any reputable faculty. Those issues should remain private and availability should be clearly indicated without reference to the Instructors personal life.”
Female instructors are criticized on everything from their behaviour to their appearance. Many are told that they should “smile more” or be “more approachable and friendly.” One student wrote, “she sounds like a dictionary with all the words she uses.” In some cases, students comment on their clothing choices in student evaluations, with comments like, “I like how your jewellery[sic] matches your clothing” and “I would love to know where you shop. You have some great dresses.”
More pernicious are the sexualized comments that female instructors received. These ranged from comments that “she’s hot” and “the prof is not hard on the eyes” to “I would really like to get you into a room alone and have some fun.” Finally, one instructor was told “I like how your nipples show through your bra. Thanks.” As the instructor herself noted, “this one led me to never wear those bras again. I now wear lightly padded bras exclusively. I was horrified when I got this one. Horrified. And not because my nipples were showing. Who the eff cares? But because someone was looking at me that way and sexualizing me while I was teaching a class in political history.”
Instructors have handled such comments in different ways, but nearly all of the instructors that I spoke with have stopped reading comments on student evaluations entirely. This is particularly the case in more recent years, as student comments have become increasingly aggressive and at times violent. Not only are these comments not helpful in any regard, but also they are profoundly unfair.
The end result to these kinds of comments is a situation that puts female sessional instructors in an un-winnable position. Their job performance is judged on teaching evaluations that are significantly biased against them. And yet teaching evaluations are used to make hiring decisions, where female instructors are ranked alongside with their male peers, on the assumption of an even playing field. And when there are no second chances and bad teaching evaluations can spell the end of your entire teaching career, female instructors get the short end of the stick.
Further, there are few support systems in place for female instructors to help them deal with these kinds of comments as well as misogyny in the classroom. While some departments and department members are sympathetic, others are less so, and some are openly hostile to even the suggestion. Female instructors are routinely told to just “ignore” these comments,[4] or are reluctant to even raise concerns for fears of being accused of “not being able to handle it” or of not being sufficiently “grateful for having a job.” Most of us end up feeling entirely alone. The situation is often worse for women of colour, Indigenous women, women with disabilities, and LGTBQ+ instructors.
However, it does seem that at least one Canadian university is starting to take this problem seriously. In May of 2014, the University of Waterloo initiated the Course Evaluation Project Team, to “assess the current practice of course evaluations and provide recommendations for improvement.” Their draft report was released to the university community in November 2016, recommending the adoption of a cascaded course evaluation model that would be consistent across all faculties. More than ninety associations and departments responded, and the final report is pending following a full review of this feedback. Three groups of faculty in particular submitted the most detailed responses, the Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo, the Status of Women and Equity Committee, and faculty members from the department of psychology.[5]
Each of these responses recommended that student evaluations should no longer be used to evaluate faculty members due to the significant gender, race, and other biases. They all specifically refuted the idea that careful design can be taken to counter the gender and racial biases in student evaluations. Instead, these reports advised that written comments in student evaluations should only be for the instructor’s use, and that alternative assessment tools be used instead, such as teaching practice inventory or correlating teaching with in one course with student grades in later courses. It remains to be seen what the final report will say.
While I can’t provide recommendations about what kind of system should replace student evaluations, what I can say is that based on the feedback that I’ve received and conversations I’ve had with other female instructors, gender bias in the classroom, and academia, is a serious problem that needs to be addressed openly, with honesty and compassion. Not only do these biases end careers, but they also deprive students of superb instructors.
This post is the first in a series of posts examining being female in academia and the realities of being a sessional instructor in today’s job market. If you have any stories you would like to share, please get in touch with the author at andrea [dot] eidinger [at] gmail [dot] com.
Andrea Eidinger is a historian of gender and ethnicity in postwar Canada. She holds a doctorate from the University of Victoria, and has spent the last six years teaching as a sessional instructor in British Columbia. She is the creator and writer behind the Unwritten Histories blog, which is dedicated to revealing hidden histories and the unwritten rules of the historical profession.
[1] Special thanks to Joanna Pearce for her comments on the piece!
[3] Scott Jaschik, “Rate My Word Choice,” Inside Higher Ed (February 9, 2015). You can use the tool itself, which was developed by Ben Schmidt, here. For information on how he developed the tool, click here.
[4] Thank you Christo Aivalis for the suggestion of this example.  The comments section of this article (and many similar articles) highlights the prevalence of the ‘just ignore’ attitude.
[5] To see the background research for the study as well as some of the other responses and commentaries, including those from students, click here. Interestingly, of the responses posted that website, only the Federation of Students was fully supportive of the draft report’s recommendations.

A planetary health approach to emerging infections in Australia

The increased mobility of people, domestic animals, and insect vectors, together with major strains on ecosystems around the world, has encouraged the World Economic Forum to rank the spread of infectious diseases second only to water crises as a serious global threat.1 Current global health frameworks are poorly equipped to deal with the threat of emerging infectious diseases because narrowly focused vertical programmes do not address the overlap between human and animal health, nor incorporate the necessary social, economic, and ecosystem expertise. The adoption of more integrated approaches to human health is central in planetary health,2 and underlies the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. However, achieving policy implementation at the country level remains difficult, and as a result, implementation is scarce.
The 2014 Ebola virus outbreak in west Africa revived the Global Health Security agenda. It also emphasised the need to better understand the mechanisms and circumstances that lead to the spread of pathogens between animals and human beings. Two major reports3, 4 of the outbreak commented on the low public health capacity, poor linkage between human and animal health surveillance systems, and dismal implementation of the International Health Regulations (IHRs) approved by the World Health Assembly in 2005, particularly in countries in which the risk of disease emergence is greatest. In response, the USA committed US$1 billion towards core capacity building in at least 30 developing countries, and the UK created a £1 billion fund in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to tackle infectious diseases. Australia did not make any financial commitments in response, but has a unique opportunity to display leadership in the Asia-Pacific region, which contains multiple areas that have not met core IHR capacity requirements and are potential hotspots for disease emergence.
The Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity at the University of Sydney organised a meeting to examine how inclusive One Health, EcoHealth, and Planetary Health approaches to emerging infections could be promoted in Australia. Key barriers and proposed solutions were identified at the meeting by experts from a wide range of disciplines (appendix). The difficulty of framing a simple value argument was perceived as a major barrier. Outbreaks and epidemics, or even the perceived threat of epidemics, lead to a flurry of activity, but lessons learned and interim policies developed during these crises are rarely consolidated during interepidemic periods. Australia has no formal framework within academic or government institutions to facilitate and support the cross-disciplinary collaboration required for optimal surveillance and response planning. The Australian National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy 2015–19,5 jointly developed by the Department of Health, and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources of the Australian Government, represents a more integrated approach, but it has not been extended to other emerging infections. Finding sustainable solutions to the health challenges posed by the 21st century will require more fluid academic and government structures to enhance collaboration across traditional boundaries, as well as strong unity of purpose between the One Health, EcoHealth, and Planetary Health communities.
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We declare no competing interests.

Supplementary Material

pdf iconSupplementary appendixpdf.18 MB


  1. World Economic Forum. ((accessed Oct 1, 2016).)Global risks 2015World Economic ForumGenevaJan 9, 2015
  2. Whitmee, S, Haines, A, Beyrer, C et al. Safeguarding human health in the Anthropocene epoch: report of The Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission on planetary health. Lancet20153861973–2028
  3. WHO. ((accessed Oct 1, 2016).)Report of the Ebola interim assessment panelWorld Health OrganizationGenevaJuly, 2015
  4. Moon, S, Sridhar, D, Pate, MA et al. Will Ebola change the game? Ten essential reforms before the next pandemic. The report of the Harvard-LSHTM Independent Panel on the Global Response to Ebola. Lancet20153862204–2221
  5. Australian Government and Department of Health. Antimicrobial resistance. ((accessed Oct 1, 2016).)

Seven scientists win the 2017 Gairdner Awards

Seven researchers have each been awarded a 2017 Gairdner Award for seminal work in areas including child nutrition and treatment for cardiovascular disease. Brian Owens reports.
Cesar Victora, an epidemiologist at the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, has won the 2017 John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award for his work on maternal and child health in developing countries.
When Victora graduated from medical school in 1976, he went to work in community health in a slum in Porto Allegre, Brazil. He saw a lot of malnutrition, diarrhoea, and other infectious diseases, and the same children kept coming back. “I was treating disease episodes, but these kids remained vulnerable, and many ended up dying”, he tells The Lancet.
That is what drove him into preventive medicine and epidemiology. He was particularly interested in child nutrition, because he had noticed that very few women in Brazil breastfed their children at that time. “It was seen as old fashioned and primitive”, he says.
Victora looked at the scientific literature around breastfeeding and found that what existed was largely from the turn of the 20th century, using outdated methods that would not pass muster in a modern scientific publication. Victora's research, using the latest study designs and data, led to a major publication in The Lancet in 1987 that showed that breastfeeding was protective against infant deaths from infectious diseases and led WHO and UNICEF to recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life.
His research has also shown how important infant nutrition is for the rest of a person's life. In 1982, he and his colleague Fernando Barros started the Pelotas Birth Cohort Study, which has been following 6000 babies born in Pelotas ever since. Results from this study have shown the importance of nutrition in the “first 1000 days”—from conception to age 2 years. “The whole pattern of adult health, chronic diseases, and what we call human capital—intelligence, productivity, physical strength—is largely defined by nutritional effects in the first 1000 days of life”, says Victoria.
The Gairdner award is a great honour, says Victora, who is the first Brazilian scientist to win the accolade. “It motivates me to continue my work in this important area”, he says.

Other award winners

The awards are given out by Canada's Gairdner Foundation for important discoveries in biomedical science. In addition to Victora's award for global health, the foundation is recognising five other individuals from around the world with its Canada Gairdner International Awards, for contributions to a variety of scientific fields, and one final award is reserved for a Canadian. Each comes with a US$100 000 prize.
Huda Zoghbi, a neurologist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, USA, is being recognised for her work to uncover the genetic basis of Rett syndrome and its implications for autism spectrum disorders. She says her work was inspired during her clinical training, when she was struck by how Rett syndrome, a condition that affects mainly girls, was distinct from all other neurological disorders. It is neither a developmental disorder that is present from birth, nor a degenerative disease that begins immediately after birth and progresses steadily. Instead, babies are born healthy but starting around age 1 year or 2 years, they begin to gradually miss developmental milestones.
“It intrigued me, the fact that they all went through the same course, I knew it had to be genetic”, she says, and she resolved to find the gene responsible. That would not be easy, since the condition was known to arise sporadically rather than run in families, and, in 1983 when she started the work, the human genome had yet to be sequenced. But Zoghbi rose to the challenge. “Sometimes the good thing about being young is [that] you are naive”, she says.
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Cesar Victora
Gairdner Foundation
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Huda Zoghbi
Daniela Xu
It took 16 years of grinding genetic sleuthing, but Zoghbi eventually identified the single gene, MECP2, responsible for Rett. Being caused by a single gene theoretically makes diseases a good candidate for treatment, but Rett and the other neurological conditions linked to MECP2 have proven frustratingly difficult to deal with, as the level of expression needs to be tightly controlled to ensure normal function. “I thought finding the gene was the hardest thing, but I was quickly humbled”, Zoghbi says. “Finding a treatment is much harder.”
David Julius, a molecular biologist at the University of California, San Francisco, USA, is being honoured for his work on the molecular basis of somatosensation—how we sense heat, cold, and pain. “I work at the nexus of pharmacology and folk medicine”, says Julius. “Exploiting knowledge gathered over hundreds of thousands of years to study pathways in the brain.”
Julius uses natural compounds such as capsaicin from chili peppers and menthol from wintergreen plants that mimic the physical sensations of heat and cold by activating the same biochemical pathways. “These chemicals activate receptors on nerve cells whose normal job is to sense changes in temperature”, he says.
These chemicals helped him to identify the receptors responsible for these sensations, ion channels called TRPV1 that sense heat and TRPM8 that sense cold. Targeting these receptors could help treat conditions such the hypersensitivity to cold that often arise with chemotherapy treatment for cancer. The TRP family of receptors are also the target of several inflammatory agents, suggesting they could be targets for treatments for a variety of chronic pain conditions.
Rino Rappuoli, chief scientist at GSK Vaccines in Siena, Italy, won the award for pioneering the technique of reverse vaccinology, which led to the creation of a vaccine against meningococcus B, a rare but deadly disease that kills otherwise healthy children and adolescents.
In the early 1990s, meningococcus B was proving to be an elusive vaccine target, because the B antigen is identical to a molecule found in human beings, meaning it was impossible to develop an antibody for it. But when Craig Venter published the influenza genome in 1995, Rappuoli sensed an opportunity. Rather than starting with the whole, live pathogen, if he had the bacteria's full genome, he could pick out proteins that could be useful in generating antibodies—hence, reverse vaccinology. He asked Venter to sequence meningococcus B, and used the sequence to identify 91 cell surface proteins—dozens more than had ever been found before. “At that point I knew we were going to make a vaccine”, says Rappuoli. “We were sitting on a gold mine.”
Rappuoli and his colleagues were eventually able to narrow down the search to three surface proteins that could generate useful antibodies, which went into the vaccine. The vaccine was approved in Europe in 2013, and in the USA in 2015. “It's already saving lives”, he says.
Lewis Kay, a molecular biologist at the University of Toronto, Canada, won his award for a more fundamental discovery—developing nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to study the structure and dynamics of proteins and molecular machines. “In structural biology we tend to think about static molecules, but actually the majority of them are changing shape to interact within the cell, and that changes their function”, he says.
The NMR techniques Kay developed allowed him to see the “invisible states” of proteins—those transient shapes that the proteins might exist in for only a short time. This development has helped researchers to discover how abnormal conformations are involved in conditions such as neurodegeneration. “The ability to see the invisible has allowed us to see the starting points of neurodegeneration”, he says.
It also opens up potential new targets for drugs by discovering binding sites far removed from the active site that nevertheless change a protein's function by changing its shape.
Akira Endo, president of Biopharm Research Laboratories in Tokyo, Japan, won the award for his discovery of statins, the inhibitors of cholesterol biosysnthesis that have become a common treatment for cardiovascular disease.
Endo discovered the first statin, compactin, in 1973 after 2 years of searching for useful molecules in various varieties of mold and fungi. But it almost didn't make it out of the laboratory, because it was ineffective at reducing cholesterol in rats. The British pharmaceutical company Beecham (now part of GSK) had discovered compactin around the same time, but abandoned it because of its failure in rats. Endo, however, persevered, studying the molecule's mechanism of action to determine why it wasn't working in the model organism.
“Our results suggested that it would be effective in animals with higher blood cholesterol, like humans”, he says. The statin class of anticholesterol drugs have gone on to become the largest-selling class of drugs in the world today—taken by more than 40 million people.
Finally, Antoine Hakim, a neurologist at the University of Ottawa, Canada, won the 2017 Canada Gairdner Wrightman Award, which is given to a Canadian researcher, for his research on treating and preventing stroke.
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David Julius
Steve Babuljak
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Rino Rappuoli
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Lewis Kay
Brooke Wedlock
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Akira Endo
Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology
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Antoine Hakim
University of Ottawa