University of Calgary

Ceri heads Sigma Xi

Jan. 22, 2009

Building ties among scientists

Howard Ceri, a professor in the Faculty of Science and chairman of the Biofilm Research Group. / Photo: Jason Stang

Howard Ceri, a professor in the Faculty of Science and chairman of the Biofilm Research Group. / Photo: Jason Stang

You could say that Howard Ceri has his fingers in many different petri dishes.

When he’s not studying the lifestyles of bacteria or finding ways to fight particularly tenacious strains, he is creating medical devices to diagnose and treat illnesses.

Add to that, a new job. Ceri will soon head up a major scientific society called Sigma Xi.

Ceri, currently the organization’s president-elect, will become the second non-American to ever hold the position of president. Sigma Xi was founded in 1886 to honour excellence in scientific investigation and encourage a sense of companionship and cooperation among researchers in all fields of science and engineering. Its goal is to better science and those who study it.

Ceri, who will begin his new role in July, says it is important that scientists build ties with one another and Sigma Xi tries to create opportunities for multidisciplinary interaction across campuses in order to create new collaboration for big picture issues.

“It’s a huge honour to be elected by the membership,” says Ceri, who is also the chairman of U of C’s Biofilm Research Group. “It will be a challenge but one I look forward to.”

Ceri says that it is unfortunate, but membership is decreasing as people become busier with their lives and don’t feel a need to give back to the scientific community.

There are nearly 60,000 Sigma Xi members in more than 100 countries around the world and chapters—more than 500 in all—can be found at colleges and universities, industrial research centers and government laboratories.

Sigma Xi hosts public lecture series throughout the semester. On Jan. 22 Jason Anderson, of Veterinary Medicine, who will discuss a fossil discovery which has set to rest one of the greatest current controversies in vertebrate evolution. It proves that frogs and salamanders are related.

On Feb. 19, Peter Dunfield of the Department of Biological Sciences, will talk about extremophiles, bacteria that live in hostile environments that don't look like they should support life. The title of his talk: Living at Hell's Gate: Bacterial communities in hot acidic springs of New Zealand.

On March 19, environmental toxicologist Jürgen Gailer, from the Department of Chemistry, will provide a global perspective on the adverse effects that dietary toxic metals have on human health. He will also present an overview about the development of an antidote against the carcinogen arsenite, which is the culprit for the world's biggest mass poisoning that is currently unfolding in Bangladesh.

For more information about the Sigma Xi Speaker’s Series check out:
If you are interested in learning more about Sigma Xi, contact Howard Ceri: