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UVic’s Ideafest an annual roundup of new insights, discoveries and research

To reach justice, lawyers should not only know the letter of the law but also its musical notes, its dance steps and its dramatic arcs, says a University of Victoria law professor.
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Lawyers on Stage presented Lost 2018 Treasure Island. They have another production at the 2019 IdeaFest called Re-imagining Justice, Art, Law and Social Change.

To reach justice, lawyers should not only know the letter of the law but also its musical notes, its dance steps and its dramatic arcs, says a University of Victoria law professor.

“There’s a theory that says: ‘Law on the books means nothing until it is actually performed,’ ” said Sara Ramshaw, associate professor of law.

“I look to the arts to try and better understand law,” said Ramshaw. “Law and the arts are not separate and distinct.”

That understanding, that link between something like a great jazz solo and the well-argued submission of a fine lawyer, will be explored Monday in the Ideafest session Re-imagining Justice, Art, Law and Social Change. Visitors will be treated to discussions from lawyer/actors, improvised dance by UVic law students and discussions of arts-based teaching of the law.

It’s the kind of wide-ranging event that makes Ideafest special. Take some long-standing principles and facts such as the law, mix in a little theatre, bring on some improvised dance and set it to music. The result can be a little quirky but never intellectually dull.

Ideafest, now entering its eighth year, runs March 4 to 9 with more than 40 events to choose from. The events are about new insights, discoveries or research advancements that will excite the imaginations of anyone.

Some of the events, such as Changemakers on March 5, are born from a little institutional pride. UVic is anxious to showcase the world-changing research and scholarship it shepherds. The university is home to 38 internationally recognized research chairs, each one pushing back the frontiers of their fields.

For Changemakers, three of those chairs, Stephanie Willerth, biomedical engineering, Magdalena Bazalova-Carter, medical physics, and Jeremy Wulff, bioactive small-molecule synthesis, will discuss their work and their personal stories about working on the edge of new developments.

Tom Deas, Ideafest co-ordinator and a new addition to UVic from Scotland, where he worked on the Glasgow Science Festival, one of the biggest in the U.K., said he has been pleasantly surprised at the neighbourliness between the Victoria community and its university.

“The level of enthusiasm here between the public and the researchers is really nice to see,” said Deas.

For lovers of new technology, Ideafest offers demonstrations of software making differences in human lives.

For example, Healthy Aging: Innovations in Mobile Health on March 7 will demonstrate a new UVic-developed app called MyCognitiveHealth, a new method to maintain good brain function.

Also on March 7, in Smart Materials for Better Lives, visitors can learn about the 3D printing of human tissue, 3D printed prosthetic limbs and nano-scale molecules at work.

On March 9, visitors can cross from the analog world of print-based libraries to the digital world in Welcome to the 21st Century Library. Visitors can watch displays of 3D printing, visit a high-tech petting zoo and try on a 3D headset (ages 13 and up).

Still on March 9 and still with high tech, visitors can stop in for a session on artificial intelligence in Alexa, Please Explain Machine Learning. UVic computer scientists will demonstrate intelligent systems and discuss the role they will play in the future.

A hallmark of Ideafest is the way many presenters will step away from their own fields and team up with members of other faculties to create a kind of cross-pollination.

So for example, humanities-based historians and science-based marine biologists will team up on March 6 for The Intersecting Cultures of Whales and Humans. They will discuss how people and members of other species can interact when respect and inquiry are watch-words.

Tara Todesco, UVic strategic initiatives officer and a longtime veteran of Ideafest, said right from the start participants are warned to be prepared to step out from behind their lecterns and work outside their fields.

“So you’ll find hard science faculty people saying: ‘I’m going to try and collaborate with the folk in Fine Arts,’ ” said Todesco. “And some of them are now at the point where they can do it really well.”

She said the annual week-long festival has become an ingrained feature of UVic culture. So faculty, researchers and students all look for ways to engage with the public beyond their own fields. Students usually have few reservations about the challenge. But even the more tradition-minded faculty members take part.

“People are willing to take up that challenge and to be more creative and accessible,” said Todesco.

David Castle, UVic president of research, knows of no other campus in Canada willing to open itself to its surrounding community the way UVic does with Ideafest.

Castle is especially proud of the Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Awards Fair on March 6, which will feature more than 100 new projects, all completed by undergraduates.

He said such an event demonstrates the intellectual depth at UVic, from its faculty through its post-graduate researchers all the way to first-, second-, third- and fourth-year students working towards a bachelor’s degree.

These undergraduate projects range from things such as a case study undertaken at William Head Institution to elements of a classic fairy tale to methods that could improve emergency drinking water at a Rohingya refugee camp.

“They have such an enormous breadth to their subjects, so it’s quite staggering,” said Castle.

“It’s really a good showcase of the tremendous amount of talent that exists at this university from its undergraduates right up to the full professors,” he said.

Ideafest runs March 4 to 9. To learn about the events, their times and where to find them on campus go to uvic.ca/ideafest.