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The year in review: top 10 University of Toronto stories for 2012

A look back on some of the year's most popular stories

Rosannagh MacLennan at the London 2012 Olympic Games (photo by Mike Ridewood, courtesy of the Canadian Olympic Committee)

In 2012, stories and images from the University of Toronto captured imaginations here at home and around the world. From Australia to the United Kingdom, readers logged on to learn about everything from tiny solar cells to the relationship between semi-conductors and Scotch tape and meet everyone from Canada’s only Olympic gold medallist of 2012 to three inspiring students chosen to be Rhodes Scholars in 2013.

The university will be closed from Dec. 24 - Jan. 6. In the meantime, these are U of T News’ biggest stories from the past year, as chosen by you.

10. Early to bed, early to rise?

Early birds are happier and healthier than night owls. That’s according to a U of T study, led by psychology PhD student Renée Biss, which riffs on the consequences of “social jetlag.”

9. What Facebook reveals about our relationships

Appearances aren’t that deceiving—not on Facebook anyway. A paper co-authored by UTM lecturer Amy Muise, UTM professor Emily Impett, and others, revealed that Facebook users’ online lives reflect their personalities and lives offline fairly accurately… and that profile pictures of couples can be a significant indicator of relationship satisfaction. Smile!

8. Time=Money=Less Happiness, Rotman study finds

Thinking about time in terms of money "changes the way you actually experience time," said Professor Sanford DeVoe, describing this study from U of T’s Rotman School. The work revealed that those who attach monetary value to their time feel anxious when they’re not actively using it to earn money.

7. Leading breakthroughs in speech recognition software at Microsoft, Google, IBM

U of T-developed software that offers near-instant translation of English to Chinese, while still maintaining the character of the speaker’s voice, is in demand with major tech companies including Microsoft. 

6. New solar cell sets world record for efficiency

A big breakthrough in a tiny package: U of T Engineering Professor Ted Sargent led an international team that developed the most efficient CQD solar cell to date, only a few nanometers in size but 37% more efficient than its predecessor.

5. University of Toronto leads Canada in major rankings reports

U of T scored top spots with prestigious ranking reports again this year. And every time another ranking was announced, readers wanted to learn more. The Times Higher Education report placed U of T 21st in its ranking of the world’s top 200 universities.

“Toronto has done very well to hold relatively firmly onto a spot very much up there among the world’s absolute elite,” said Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher Education Rankings. “It is particularly impressive that Toronto has cemented its place as number one in Canada – widening the gap on its national competitors.” 

U of T also snagged 16th place in the world from the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings, in which leading international academics also rated the university to be the top institution in Canada. The university also placed higher than any other Canadian university, with a 27th spot worldwide, in the prestigious Academic Ranking of World Universities report from Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

4. Rosie MacLennan: gold medal trampolinist at the 2012 Olympics

This U of T graduate bounced her way to the top of the podium in London. In our feature, MacLennan’s training partner and U of T PhD candidate Sarah Gairdner, and U of T alumnus and Olympic canoeist, Norman Lane-- who won bronze in London in 1948-- weighed in on Rosie’s win.

3. Three U of T students named 2013 Rhodes Scholars

The prestigious Rhodes Scholarships—postgraduate awards for Oxford University—were awarded to three U of T students this year: Ayodele Odutayo, studying medicine; Joanne Cave, studying women and gender studies and sociology; and Connor Emdin, studying biochemistry and global health. U of T was the only Canadian university with more than one Rhodes Scholar named for 2013.

2. PMS may not exist, research shows

“Our review — which shows no clear evidence that PMS exists — will be surprising to many people, including health professionals,” said Gillian Einstein, director of U of T’s collaborative program in Women’s Health. She and other U of T experts reviewed studies that tracked women’s daily moods through their menstrual cycles, with results that could begin to unpack some of the cultural baggage of PMS.  

1. A first for physics: inducing superconductivity in a semi-conductor with Scotch Tape

“Who would have thought simply sticking things together can generate entirely new effects?” asked U of T physicist and international team leader Ken Burch. But his team’s use of good old-fashioned Scotch Tape to induce high-temperature superconductivity in a semi-conductor resulted in a physics first… and the story caught the attention of Wired, Reddit users, and more.