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Top honours for two top researchers

Dr. Cathleen Crudden (Chemistry) and Dr. Troy Day

Researchers from Queen’s have been awarded two of the six Canada Council Killam Fellowships for 2015.

Cathleen Crudden (Chemistry) and Troy Day (Mathematics and Statistics) have each earned one of the prestigious Killam Fellowships, one of Canada’s most distinguished awards for outstanding career achievements in health sciences, engineering, humanities, natural sciences and social sciences.

“I’m proud that two of six Killam Fellowships are being awarded to two highly deserving researchers from Queen’s,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “These honours go to show the high quality research taking place at the university and how cutting-edge ideas are becoming reality.”

Recipients for the Killam Fellowships are chosen by a committee of 15 Canadian scholars appointed by the Canada Council.

For her project Organically Modified Metal Surfaces: Biosensing and Beyond, Dr. Crudden has proposed to carry out research important for advances in materials science, health care, energy production and the environment.

“We’ll be studying the applications of a recent discovery from our lab in which we made novel organic coatings on metals that have unprecedented robustness due to the presence of actual chemical bonds between the organic layer and the metal surface,” says Dr. Crudden, who is currently cross-appointed to the Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules at Nagoya University in Japan. “The organic film has a thickness that is approximately 100,000 times smaller than a human hair, yet it is stable to temperatures greater than 300 °C, and survives boiling in various solvents, acid, base and oxidizing environments.”

Dr. Crudden is proposing research that can be applied to the development of biological sensors for use by hospitals to improve reliability in the diagnoses of viruses and diseases such as cancer. This research could also be applied to areas including solar-cell technology, corrosion prevention and the monitoring of environmental pollutants.

For Dr. Day, combining mathematics with biology can mean a better understanding of the appropriate treatment for different diseases. While it’s widely believed that early and aggressive use of antibiotics can both kill bacterial infections and prevent drug resistance, this isn’t always the case.

“We are using mathematics to better understand how to slow the evolution of drug resistance. Our results so far point to the interesting new possibility of using chemical agents that target host molecules, in addition to traditional drug therapy, as a way of slowing evolution,” Dr. Day says.

As a part of his research, Dr. Day is using mathematics to understand when this aggressive use of drugs is called for and when other strategies may be more appropriate. His project Designing Evolution-Proof Cancer Chemotherapy with Mathematics aims to explore these same ideas in the context of resistance to anti-cancer chemotherapy.

“Thanks to the Killam Fellowship, I’ll be able to take the extra time needed to further develop my ideas on drug resistance and strengthen collaborations with researchers at other institutions who plan to test this theory experimentally,” says Dr. Day.

Queen’s distinguishes itself as one of the leading research-intensive institutions within Canada. The mission is to advance research excellence, leadership and innovation, as well as enhance Queen’s impact at a national and international level. Through undertaking leading-edge research, Queen’s is addressing many of the world’s greatest challenges, and developing innovative ideas and technological advances brought about by discoveries in science, engineering and health.