As you probably noticed, ACCN is ringing in the New Year with a slight makeover. Art director Krista Leroux has redesigned the front cover, updated the masthead and fine-tuned the layout. We hope you like the new, more modern look. And, as always, we welcome your feedback.

This inaugural issue of 2014 presents a wide range of stories and features, many penned by our interim news editor Tim Lougheed. He contributed the cover story, “Persistent Contamination,” a Q&A with the University of Ottawa’s Laurie Chan, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Toxicology and Environmental Health. Chan has spent much of his career studying persistent organic pollutants (POPs) like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and chlorinated pesticides. Unfortunately, POPs are being detected in larger amounts in the Arctic environment and are being found in the fatty tissue of northern mammals and fish that aboriginal peoples like the Inuit depend upon. Chan, who is also director of U of O’s Center for Advanced Research in Environmental Genomics, is studying how such environmental stressors — specifically the contaminants contained in food — affect genome function and expression.

Another feature looks at a nifty new bench-top nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy instrument small enough to fit on a counter and cheap enough for a small research laboratory or university. Called the NMReady, the mini machines were created and are being manufactured by Calgary-based Nanalysis Corp., whose CEO is former NHL LA Kings draft pick Sean Krakiwsky. There’s no doubt that Nanalysis has scored a win with this analytical tool, which is proving a boon for chemical researchers and professors.

Another feature may smack of science fiction but is non-fiction through and through. University of Toronto chemical engineer Peter Zandstra, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Bioengineering, is on the cusp of being able to manufacture large quantities of pluripotent stem cells. This is an exciting new frontier of medicine, as the mass production of these cells is the first key step in growing tissue for organ transplant and correcting congenital defects.