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William Leggett receives prestigious lifetime achievement award

Dr. William Leggett.

William Leggett, professor emeritus in the Department of Biology and Queen's 17th principal, has received the H. Ahlstrom Lifetime Achievement Award from the Early Life History Section of the American Fisheries Society for his contributions to the fields of larval fish ecology.

The American Fisheries Society is the biggest association of professional aquatic ecologists in the world, with over 9,000 members worldwide.

"œIt feels good to be singled out by such large group of people who I respect so highly," says Dr. Leggett. "œI didn'™t expect to receive this award so it'™s a big honour and thrill to get it."

Dr. Leggett'™s research focuses on the dynamics of fish populations and his work as a biologist and a leader in education has been recognized nationally and internationally. A membership in the Order of Canada, a fellowship from the Royal Society of Canada, and the Award of Excellence in Fisheries Education are just some of the awards he has received for outstanding contributions to graduate education and marine science.

The Early Life History Section of the American Fisheries Society recognized Dr. Leggett'™s "œexceptional contributions to the understanding of early life history of fishes that has inspired the careers of a number of fisheries scientists worldwide and has led to major progress in fish ecology and studies of recruitment dynamics."

The award was recently presented in Quebec City at the 38th annual Larval Fish Conference held in conjunction with the 144th annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society.


The Conversation: The 19th century book that spawned the opioid crisis

Thomas De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium-Eater was the first modern drug memoir and set the tone for opium use for decades.

Papaver somniferum (Opium poppy), a group of deep red flowers, buds and seed pods. Opium is extracted from the latex of the unripe seed pods. Ripe seeds are innocuous and widely used in baking.

In 1804, a 19-year-old Oxford University undergraduate named Thomas De Quincey swallowed a prescribed dose of opium to relieve excruciating rheumatic pain. He was never the same.

“Oh! Heavens!” he wrote of the experience in the first modern drug memoir, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, published in 1821. “What an upheaving, from its lowest depths, of the inner spirit! What an apocalypse of the world within me!”

That the drug took away his physical pain was “a trifle,” De Quincey asserted, compared to “the immensity of those positive effects which had opened before me.”

[The Conversation]Over the next eight years, De Quincey used opium to heighten his enjoyment of books, music, solitude and urban wandering. In effect, he invented recreational drug taking.

Yet all the while opium was tightening its grip on him, and in 1813 he succumbed to an addiction that tormented him until his death in 1859, more than half a century after he had first tampered with the drug.

“Who is the man who can take his leave of the realms of opium?” demanded the great 19th-century French poet Charles Baudelaire in his Artificial Paradises (1860). Not De Quincey.

And, as today’s opioid crisis makes clear, not millions of others who have followed him into addiction, and who have had their lives ravaged by the drug. De Quincey’s Confessions transformed perceptions of opium and mapped several crucial areas of drug experience that still provoke intense debate today.

I have conducted research into the life and writings of Thomas De Quincey for 30 years, and my work on him includes a biography, The English Opium-Eater, and a critical edition of his Confessions of an English Opium-Eater and Other Writings. My understanding of his opium addiction has benefited greatly from my consultations with Prof. Mary Olmstead of the Centre for Neuroscience Studies at Queen’s University.

The oldest drug

Opium is probably the oldest drug known to humankind. It is derived from the unripe seedpod of the poppy plant, Papaver somniferum. The ancient Greek poet Homer almost certainly refers to it as “a drug to quiet all pain and strife” in his epic poem, The Odyssey, which was written in the eight or ninth century BC, and which De Quincey quotes in his Confessions.

For thousands of year, opium was the principal analgesic known to medicine. In the 16th century, the German-Swiss alchemist Paracelsus described it as “a secret remedy.”

At the end of the 18th century, the great German philosopher Immanuel Kant warned of its dangers: Opium produces a “dreamy euphoria” that makes one “silent, reticent, and withdrawn,” he stated in his Metaphysics of Morals (1797), and it is “therefore permitted only” for medical reasons.In early 19th-century Britain, opium was everywhere. People of every age and class used it for self-medication like we use aspirin today. It was legal. It was cheap. It was available in a wide range of cure-alls, including Godfrey’s Cordial, the Kendal Black Drop and Mother Bailey’s Quieting Syrup.

It was used to treat all manner of major and minor illness, from cancer and diabetes to travelling sickness, hay fever, headache and depression. Pharmacists sold it, as did grocers, bakers, tailors, market vendors and country peddlers. There were no efforts to regulate its sale until the Pharmacy Act of 1868.


De Quincey consumed opium as “laudanum,” which is prepared by dissolving opium in alcohol. Morphine, the principal active agent in opium, was isolated in 1803 and delivered with a hypodermic syringe by the 1850s.

At the beginning of the 20th century, opium was better known in the form of one of its chief derivatives: Heroin. Today, opioids are sold in powerful prescription medications, including tramadol, methadone and oxycodone. They are also, of course, widely available in illegal forms such as heroin, or in illicit forms of legal drugs — like fentanyl, a synthetic opioid.

Fuelled by decades of over-prescription, the United States gets 30 times more opioid medication than it needs, and opioid overdoses kill more than 140 people daily.

Meanwhile, in other countries, patients are forced to endure severe or chronic pain because there is a shortage of the drug. Mexico gets only 36 per cent of the opioid medication it needs; China 16 per cent; India just four per cent.

[Confessions of an Opium Eater]
De Quincey’s descriptions of opium shaped modern perceptions: A 1962 movie was made based on his book. 

De Quincey’s descriptions of his opium experience have thoroughly shaped modern perceptions of the drug, and in a variety of ways. He glamorized opium in his Confessions, linking it to spectacular dream sceneries, visionary forms of creativity and intellectual, moral and emotional bliss.

In 1824, the authors of the Family Oracle of Health damned the Confessions for producing misery in those who had read it and begun to abuse opium.

They were right to worry. Many 19th- and 20th-century addicts have said explicitly that De Quincey led them to the drug.

Typically, “ever since I read De Quincey in my early teens I’d planned to try opium,” Ann Marlowe confessed in 1999 in her How to Stop Time: Heroin from A to Z.

De Quincey was also the first to explore the painful cycles of intoxication, withdrawal and relapse and his accounts are deeply consonant with modern descriptions. Once he was habituated to opium, he no longer experienced anything like the euphoria he enjoyed as a recreational user.

When he determined to kick his habit, what he called “nervous misery” marked the beginning of withdrawal. If he attempted to battle through it, he was hit hard by vomiting, nausea, irritability and depression. He often fought these miseries, too, but then his resolution faltered, and he went back to opium. His intake levels gradually climbed. He spiralled toward rock bottom. The grim cycle began again.

Like the vast majority of addicts from his day to ours, De Quincey could come off opium. He just could not stay off opium.

Myth making

In one fundamental respect, however, De Quincey’s account of opioid addiction does not tally with today’s medical knowledge.

By common consent, the pain of opioid withdrawal usually lasts about a week and is like having a very bad flu. De Quincey tells a different story. “Think of me as of one, even when four months had passed, still agitated, writhing, throbbing, palpitating, shattered,” he wrote.

[Confessions of an Opium Eater]
Pages from Thomas De Quincey’s novel Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

Such depictions exaggerated the agonies of withdrawal and established the erroneous conviction that it is a hellishly long process. In Romancing Opiates (2006), Theodore Dalrymple condemned the uncritical acceptance and enduring impact of De Quincey’s Confessions. “When it comes to drug addiction,” Dalrymple stated, “literature has trumped — and over-trumped — pharmacology, history, and common-sense.”

De Quincey had a deeply paradoxical relationship with opium, and more than 30 years after his addiction had taken hold, he was the first to detail the sickening confusion that so many addicts have found at the crux of their drug experience.

Opium, he asserted, was a con that could convince long-term addicts that they could lay it aside easily and within a week.

Opium was a trade-off that defeated steady exertion, but that gave irregular bursts of energy. Opium was irresistible, like a celestial lover. And opium was a blight that withered life. The collision of these competing impulses made it difficult for De Quincey to see his addiction clearly, and impossible for him to surmount it.

“Since leaving off opium,” he once noted wryly, “I take a great deal too much of it for my health.”

De Quincey initiated the story of modern addiction. There were countless users and abusers before him stretching back to the ancient world, but he was the first to publish a compelling narrative that explored the seductive pleasures and eviscerating pains of the drug.

The ConversationHe has been castigated for celebrating opium and for spreading misinformation about it. But in 1844 he was categorical about his drug abuse, and his harrowing words anticipate the testimonies of so many of the addicts caught up in today’s opioid crisis. “Not fear or terror,” De Quincey wrote, “but inexpressible misery, is the last portion of the opium-eater.”

The BBC’s,‘The Secret Life of Books,’ devoted to De Quincey’s Confessions, hosted by John Cooper Clarke. (The author Robert Morrison was involved in its production and is interviewed in the film.)


• • •


Robert Morrison is a professor in the Department of English Language and Literature..

This article was originally published on The Conversation, which provides news and views from the academic and research community. Queen’s University is a founding partner. Queen's researchers, faculty, and students are regular contributors.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca

Building LGBTQ+ allies

An event marking International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia will explore both the personal and conceptual aspects of gender.

[Markus Harwood-Jones]
Markus Harwood-Jones will speak at Thursday's event. (Supplied Photo)

A group of employees in cooperation with United Steelworkers (USW) Local 2010, is organizing an event on campus to International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia on May 17.

“The USW Local 2010 Human Rights Committee has a mandate to raise awareness and education around Human Rights issues – which is why we chose to mark this day,” says Liza Cote, a Queen’s staff member and chair of the committee. “Having a guest speaker shed light on what it means to be transgender affords us an opportunity to increase awareness on campus.”

This free event will be held on Thursday, May 17 at noon in Mackintosh-Corry Room B201. The theme for this year’s International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia is “Alliances for Solidarity”, reflecting the need for persons from LGBTQ+ communities to find supportive communities so they can effect change and build safer environments.

It’s a theme that Markus Harwood-Jones, this year’s presenter, can relate to. Mr. Harwood-Jones is pursuing his masters in Gender Studies at Queen’s, and identifies as transgender. When he came out as transgender, he had to confront family rejection and he experienced housing insecurity. Mr. Harwood-Jones says his talk will delve into both the terms and concepts as well as the very personal experiences of being transgender.

“My hope is that those who attend will not necessarily leave with a single definition, but instead will have an interest in these terms and concepts,” he says. “I have a passion for this, and a sincere belief we can transform the world. That’s why I invite anyone who is attending to ask questions – don’t be afraid of not knowing enough or saying the wrong thing.”

Prior to joining the Queen’s community, Mr. Harwood-Jones was a student at Ryerson University where he helped found their Trans Collective, lobbying for gender-neutral bathrooms and hosting regular speaking and dinner events for the transgender community.

The United Steelworkers Local 2010 Human Rights Committee became aware of Mr. Harwood-Jones' story through Gender Studies staff member Terrie Easter Sheen, and approached him to speak. Ms. Easter Sheen says these causes are both political and personal to her – she identifies as queer; chairs the USW 2010 Pride Committee; is a Board Director of Reelout, Kingston’s queer film festival (which many Queen’s departments sponsor); and is active in the broader Kingston LGBTQ+ community.

For more information on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, visit dayagainsthomophobia.org

Opening the doors to astroparticle physics research

Visitor Centre for the Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute unveiled in Stirling Hall.


The research being conducted by the newly-launched Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute is providing answers to some of the biggest questions about how the universe works.

And while many people may be interested in the ground-breaking work, it isn’t always the easiest to grasp.

That’s where the institute’s Visitor Centre can help.

Launched on Thursday in concert with the McDonald Institute, named in honour of Queen’s University’s first Nobel Laureate, Professor Emeritus Art McDonald, the Visitor Centre is located in Stirling Hall, the campus home of the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy.

“Education and outreach are very important aspects for the McDonald Institute moving forward. Through the Visitor Centre we can better understand the complex scientific problems and research being conducted by the McDonald Institute in the field of astroparticle physics,” says Barbara Crow, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science. “By making the ground-breaking research more accessible we can discover how scientists like Tony Noble, Scientific Director of the McDonald Institute, and his colleagues are working to shed light on a dark universe and discover answers to its many mysteries.”

The Visitor Centre, along with a new website, presents the ongoing research conducted by SNOLAB and the McDonald Institute, such as the discovery that neutrinos have mass and the search for dark matter, with the goal of engaging and connecting visitors to the questions and findings that are fundamental to the very properties of science and our understanding of the formation and evolution of the universe.

In addition to a series of panels highlighting research, facilities, and developments, the Visitor Centre features a virtual reality setup that will allow visitors to travel though space and experience a solar storm. The centre also offers an augmented reality sandbox that will teach guests about gravitational fields in an interactive and tactile manner.

On Thursday attendees of the opening ceremony, including a group of high school students, were the first to tour the Visitor Centre. It was also the first opportunity for the centre to see how visitors interact with the displays.

“The students really gravitated toward the interactive aspects and I think, to some degree, a lot of our interactive displays are also works in progress,” says Nathalie Ouellette, Communications, Education and Outreach Officer for the McDonald Institute. “Moving forward we hope to get more feedback as guests interact with the displays and see exactly how they want to interact with them and what kind of experience they are looking for.”

The Visitor Centre is open Monday to Friday, 9:30 am-4:30 pm. Admission is free.

  • Information panels at McDonald Institute Visitor Centre
    The Visitor Centre for the newly-launched Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute is filled with information panels as well as a number of interactive displays. (Photo by Bernard Clark)
  • Ribbon cutting for McDonald Institute Visitor Centre
    Helping cut the ribbon to officially open the Visitor Centre were, from left: Barbara Crow, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Science; Nathalie Ouellette, Communications, Education and Outreach Officer for the McDonald Institute; Tony Noble, Scientific Director of the McDonald Institute; and Benjamin Tam, a graduate student in the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy. (Photo by Bernard Clark)
  • Virtual Reality set for McDonald Institute Visitor Centre
    The Visitor Centre offers a virtual reality setup that allows users to travel though space and experience a solar storm. (Photo by Bernard Clark)
  • Gravity box at McDonald Institute Visitor Centre
    One of the interactive displays at the Visitor Centre is an augmented reality sandbox that can teach guests about gravitational fields in an interactive and tactile manner. (Photo by Bernard Clark)

African Studies conference focuses on transformation

The Canadian Association of African Studies conference hosted scholars from around the world to discuss issues of change in African countries.

[Conference attendees share a laugh during the conference. (Photo: Faculty of Arts and Science)]
Attendees share a laugh during the conference. (Photo: Faculty of Arts and Science)

The Canadian Association of African Studies (CAAS) focused their 10th anniversary conference on a broad but important topic: Transformations in African environments.

[Marc Epprecht, Amila Guidone, and Sarah Katz-Lavigne]
President of CAAS and professor in Global Development Studies Dr. Marc Epprect stands at the registration table with Amila Guidone, Research Assistant at Queen’s, and Sarah Katz-Lavigne, PhD candidate at Carleton University. (Photo: University Communications)

“I’m excited to show the progress that Queen’s has made since 2009 when we last hosted the conference. There were many professors retiring then, and it seemed African Studies had had its day here, even though Queen’s was one of the first institutions in Canada to have dedicated, tenured faculty members who taught African topics roughly 50 years ago,” says Marc Epprecht, President of the CAAS and professor of Global Development Studies at Queen’s. “Luckily in the last three or four years, there’s been quite a turn around. We’ve hired new faculty members and there is a new project partnering with the MasterCard Foundation and the University of Gondar in Ethiopia, so we’re getting all kinds of great African talent here with PhD and Masters students. To me, it’s a really exciting time to be studying Africa at Queen’s.”

The conference, held Thursday, May 3 to Sunday, May 6, included panels, round-tables, and a keynote from international scholars and specialists.

Dr. Shireen Hassim, professor (University of the Witwatersrand) and Matina S. Horner Distinguished Visiting Scholar (Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University), gives the keynote speech during the Canadian Association of African Studies Conference. (Photo: University Communications)
Dr. Shireen Hassim gives the keynote speech during the Canadian Association of African Studies Conference. (Photo: University Communications)

Shireen Hassim, professor (University of the Witwatersrand) and Matina S. Horner Distinguished Visiting Scholar (Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University), gave the keynote address on Saturday. Dr. Hassim explored the life of Winnie Mandela and violence under racist capitalism, as well as the history and intersection of racism and sexism in South Africa. She also shared how she introduced a feminist lens into academic discussions throughout her career as a researcher.

Among the many events during the conference, one of the engaging panels was Adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) for sustainable development in sub-Saharan Africa: From policy to action. Colleen Davison (Public Health Sciences) and Martin Ayanore (University of Health and Allied Sciences, Ghana) presented on the panel with their colleagues Lydia Kapiriri (McMaster University) and Danielle Mpalirwa (Carleton University).

Dr. Davison focused on ensuring rights for vulnerable populations of adolescents in African countries, such as those living in very poor families, adolescents in rural areas, young people living with disabilities, or adolescents from particular ethnic groups in some countries.

[Dr. Lydia Kapiriri, Dr. Martin Ayanore, and Dr. Colleen Davison pose together]
Dr. Lydia Kapiriri, Dr. Martin Ayanore, and Dr. Colleen Davison pose together  after their panel on adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights in sub-Saharan Africa. (Photo: Colleen Davison)

“Almost all of the seventeen sustainable development goals [discussed during the panel] give us opportunity for action related to ensuring that the sexual and reproductive rights for these even more marginalized populations are met,” says Dr. Davison.

Dr. Ayanore discussed Universal Health Coverage and its role in driving the goal of equitable sexual reproductive health rights among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa. The discussion centred on how strategic purchasing can be used to improve commodity supplies at national levels.

“There are three dimensions that must fit into the drive towards providing adolescent sexual and reproductive services in sub-Saharan Africa,” says Dr. Ayanore. “Risk protection for vulnerable population groups in terms of access to broad range of reproductive services, context-based evidence for improving services and driving further research, and strong national- and international-level commitments to drive resources to advance better health outcomes.”

Other panels and round tables explored the changing landscape of governance, the coup in Zimbabwe, the struggle against homophobia, the effect of political conflict on sustainable development, ageing research, gender politics, access to disability services, mining, and urbanism in African countries.

To find out about upcoming conferences and events, follow the new Global Development Studies Twitter account.


A lifetime achievement

Gregory Jerkiewicz receives title of Professor of Chemical Sciences for Life from president of Poland.

[Gregory Jerkiewicz]
Gregory Jerkiewicz (Chemistry), was conferred with the title of Professor of Chemical Sciences for Life by Andrzej Duda, President of Poland, during a ceremony in Warsaw on April 25. (Supplied Photo)

Gregory Jerkiewicz (Chemistry), an international-leading researcher in the fields of electrochemistry and electrocatalysis, was recently conferred with the title of Professor of Chemical Sciences for Life by Andrzej Duda, President of Poland.

Dr. Jerkiewicz was one of 52 academics to receive the award during a special ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw on April 25. He was one of only two recipients from outside of Poland.

For Dr. Jerkiewicz it was a special moment recognizing the groundbreaking work he has done over his career in developing new clean energy technologies.  

“It’s an incredible recognition for all the work I have done. It’s a culmination of many years of work,” he says, admitting he felt a bit emotional as he took part in the ceremony. “It’s very satisfying because you work on something for 25 years and it’s like putting pieces of a puzzle together and finally after so many years you see the big picture.”

Dr. Jerkiewicz’s research has led to advances in hydrogen electrochemistry and he is considered the world’s leading expert in platinum electrochemistry. More recently his lab has focused on nickel electrochemistry, and received a $4 million research grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) in 2016.

Originally from Poland, Dr. Jerkiewicz completed his undergraduate and master’s studies at Gdansk University of Technology. It was during this time that he co-founded and became a leader of the Independent Students’ Association, which supported the pro-democratic work of the Solidarity trade union that eventually toppled the communist regime in Poland. However, this work came at a cost. He was imprisoned by the communist government for six months and, fearing for his safety after being released, he moved to Canada in 1985. He remains a dual citizen of Poland and Canada.

After earning his PhD at the University of Ottawa in 1991 he taught at Université de Sherbrooke and then arrived at Queen’s in 2002.

This isn’t the first time Dr. Jerkiewicz has been by the Polish government.

In 2012 he was honoured by the Polish government for his student activism with a Knight’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta, an award equivalent to the Order of Canada.

While his latest honour recognizes the work throughout his career, Dr. Jerkiewicz considers himself a mid-career academic and plans on continuing his work for many more years.

A key component is his teaching and work with new researchers through his lab.

“I really like teaching because, very often, when I teach students come to me asking some fundamental questions and I realize ‘Oh, this is not explained in some first or second year textbook and if it is not explained it’s a challenge. But lacking knowledge or being asked about something that is not explained is an opportunity for researchers. Somebody did not explain it, I can do it.”

Visit the website of the Dr. Jerkiewicz Research Group to learn more.

Queen’s and partner institutions launch national research institute

The Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute will advance scientific research and discovery in astroparticle physics.

[logo: Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute]

Queen’s University is cementing its reputation as a world leader in astroparticle physics with the official launch of a new national research network dedicated to understanding some of the universe’s deepest mysteries.

The new Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute is a partnership of eight universities and five affiliated research organizations. Headquartered at Queen’s, the institute came to fruition as a result of the $63.7 million investment the university received in 2016 from the Government of Canada’s Canada First Research Excellence Fund.

[galaxy image]

“The launch of this new institute represents a major step forward for our efforts to create a world-leading astroparticle physics research network, building on an area of research expertise for the university and Canada” says Queen’s Principal Daniel Woolf. “We are also honoured today to be naming this new institute after one of Canada’s most accomplished and celebrated researchers, Nobel Laureate and Queen’s emeritus professor Dr. Arthur B. McDonald.”

Over the past year and a half, the institute has been building momentum, appointing a scientific director and recruiting 13 new faculty members (out of 15 designated positions) from around the world. In total, 100 people, including faculty, staff, and students across the country will be members of the institute, all working to advance its research and outreach goals.

“This new institute will bring together unique expertise from across Canada and leverages over $255 million of federal investment, with matching amounts from provincial partners, supporting astroparticle physics research over the last 20 years, including the leading experiments at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) and the SNOLAB,” says Tony Noble, Scientific Director of the McDonald Institute. “Although the dimensions of the particles we are studying are minute, the implications of these discoveries are monumental and fundamental to the very properties of science and our understanding of the formation and evolution of the universe.”

In addition to advancing research into areas such as the mysteries surrounding dark matter and neutrino science, the institute has a mandate for scientific outreach and to develop unique undergraduate and graduate student programing and opportunities.

  • [Art McDonald at the podium]
    Dr. Arthur B. McDonald. (Photo by Lars Hagberg)
  • [Nathan Brinklow offering the Thanksgiving address]
    Nathan Brinklow offering the Thanksgiving address. (Photo by Lars Hagberg)
  • [Dr. Daniel Woolf at the podium]
    Dr. Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Queen's. (Photo by Lars Hagberg)
  • [speakers on stage]
    Pictured (l-r): Sandra Crocker (Associate Vice Principal, Carleton University), Dr. John Fisher, Liz Fletcher, Dr. Art McDonald, Kate Young (Parliamentary Secretary for Science), Dr. Tony Noble, Dr. Marie-Cecile Piro (University of Alberta). (Photo by Lars Hagberg)
  • [John Burge performing his original composition "Oscillations," a piece dedicated to Arthur and Janet McDonald]
    John Burge performing his original composition "Oscillations," a piece dedicated to Arthur and Janet McDonald. (Photo by Lars Hagberg)
  • [speakers on stage]
    Pictured (l-r): Dr. John Fisher, Liz Fletcher, Dr. Art McDonald, Kate Young (Parliamentary Secretary for Science), Dr. Tony Noble, Dr. Marie-Cecile Piro (University of Alberta), Nathan Brinklow. (Photo by Lars Hagberg)

“The McDonald Institute’s extensive research community and availability of funding for undergraduate and graduate students means that students will be able to contribute to the astroparticle physics community and the larger physics community as a whole,” says Liz Fletcher, master’s student, McDonald Institute. “By fostering of an amazing research environment across all of the McDonald Institute partner institutions, there will be an increase in opportunities for students to get involved, especially at the undergrad level, from summer positions to thesis and independent study projects.”

"Although the dimensions of the particles we are studying are minute, the implications of these discoveries are monumental and fundamental to the very properties of science and our understanding of the formation and evolution of the universe."

Along with the official launch and naming, the McDonald Institute also unveiled a new Visitor Centre located in Stirling Hall at Queen’s along with a new website. The Visitor Centre will feature a virtual reality setup that will allow guests to travel though space and experience a solar storm. The centre will also have an augmented reality sandbox that will teach guests about gravitational fields in an interactive and tactile manner.

MI logoVisit the website:
Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute

“Centres like the McDonald Institute Visitor Centre can help us better understand the world and learn how scientists like Dr. McDonald and his colleagues are working to bring light to a dark universe and discover answers to its many mysteries,” says Dean Barbara Crow. “What is so great about this space is that it makes complex scientific problems and research accessible and understandable for community members, teachers, and students of all ages who are interested in learning more about how the universe works.”

VIDEO: Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute

"With SNOLAB, Canada has become an international centre for the experimental elements of astroparticle physics. Our new Institute adds to that strong international capability through the development of a strong personnel component within Canada – it has created a new generation of researchers in this field.

Additionally, the Institute creates an intellectual centre for interaction between theorists and experimentalists on topics at the cutting edge of particle astrophysics. This is already resulting in a number of experiments at the forefront of topics that will help us to understand the world around us and how it has evolved.

With the Institute, I am convinced that this will continue and keep Canada and Queen’s as a leader in this area of research."

Dr. Arthur B. McDonald
[Dr. Art McDonald]
Dr. Arthur B. McDonald

VIDEO: Opening of the McDonald Institute. May 10, 2018. Coming soon!

Healthy competition at Science Rendezvous

Queen’s and Heart and Stroke promote heart health through fun, family-friendly games.

On May 12, Queen’s University researcher Kyra Pyke and the Heart and Stroke Foundation will join forces at Science Rendezvous for a heart health exhibit jam-packed with fun, educational games and activities for the whole family.

This year’s displays will mark the fifth year of an ongoing partnership between the organizations designed to promote cardiovascular health research and awareness.

Queen's and Heart and Stroke activities from Science Rendezvous 2017
Queen's University and the Heart and Stroke Foundation continue to offer educational games and activities focused on heart health at Science Rendezvous. (Supplied Photo)

“Learning about cardiovascular health and establishing heart-healthy habits as early as possible is important,” says Dr. Pyke, Associate Professor of Cardiovascular Physiology in the Queen’s School of Kinesiology and Health Studies. “Our joint display with the Heart and Stroke Foundation at Science Rendezvous features games designed to help both children and adults become better acquainted with how their cardiovascular system works, and to engage them with some of the interesting activities that we use to challenge the cardiovascular system in our research.”

One of the games, Cardio Hopscotch, involves a giant schematic of the cardiovascular system mapped out on the floor and divided into its parts – including the heart, lungs, veins and arteries. Children will be able to hop from one element to the next to learn how blood flows through the human body, and will be asked to hop faster or slower to reflect how quickly the blood flows at different levels of rest or activity. It will also include model 'oxygen molecules' that will have to be transported to various points as kids progress through the course.

“Physically moving around a giant map of the circulatory system really helps people visualize how their cardiovascular system and respiratory system move oxygen and other nutrients to the places in the body that need them,” says Dr. Pyke. “Cardio Hopscotch really drives the point home in two ways, because it actually gets the heart pumping while you learn.”

Another family-friendly activity will include a friendly ‘grip strength’ contest, in which participants will squeeze an automated handgrip device used by Dr. Pyke and her colleagues to investigate the effects of handgrip exercise training, which has been shown to lower blood pressure. With each squeeze, the device will display a number indicating the force participants were able to apply, and that number will then be recorded on a scoreboard throughout the day. By the time Science Rendezvous comes to a close, a winner will be declared who will leave with all the bragging rights.

In addition to an array of games, the exhibit will also feature a variety of resources to help inform and inspire families to make heart-healthy living a top priority in their lives.

“We’re very excited to partner with Dr. Pyke to promote the amazing work she and her colleagues in the cardiovascular field are doing to improve the lives of Canadians,” says Cory Watkins, Area Manager of the Heart and Stroke Foundation in Kingston. “This year, the Heart and Stroke Foundation has been very focused on our Ms.Understood campaign to promote women’s heart health, so it’s very fitting that our Science Rendezvous appearance falls the day before Mother’s Day – a day when families work extra hard to recognize and cherish the most important women in their lives.”

Heart disease is the leading cause of premature death for women in Canada, killing five times as many women than breast cancer. Sadly, early heart attack signs are missed in 78 per cent of women, and yet currently two-thirds of heart disease clinical research focuses on men.

“A key focus of my current research is addressing gaps in our understanding of cardiovascular function in women,” says Dr. Pyke. “It is a great pleasure to be partnering with the Heart and Stroke Foundation to promote cardiovascular health with the Kingston community at Science Rendezvous.”

Learn more about Science Rendezvous, Dr. Pyke’s research, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Ms.Understood initiative.

Four Queen’s faculty named Canada Research Chairs

The Canada Research Chairs program advances the country’s position as a leader in discovery and innovation.

Every year, the Government of Canada invests approximately $265 million through the Canada Research Chairs (CRC) Program to attract and retain some of the world’s foremost academic talent. On May 3, 2018, four Queen’s researchers were appointed to Tier 1 and Tier 2 CRC roles – two of whom have been newly selected and two who were renewed for another term.

“The Canada Research Chairs Program continues to nurture exciting research being conducted at institutions across the country,” says John Fisher, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “Here at Queen’s we are very proud to have not only two of our current Chairs renewed to their roles, but to also have two faculty members appointed as brand new chair holders. Their leadership within their respective academic disciplines represents the research excellence our university strives to achieve.”

Tier 1 Chairs are recognized by their peers as world leaders in their respective fields, while Tier 2 Chairs are recognized as emerging leaders in their research areas. Queen’s will receive $200,000 per year over seven years for each Tier 1 Chair and $100,000 per year over five years for each Tier 2 Chair. Currently, Queen’s is home to over 40 Canada Research Chairs.

Developed in 2000, the CRC program promotes research excellence in engineering, natural sciences, health sciences, humanities, and social sciences.

Queen’s new and renewed CRCs are:

Guojun Liu (Chemistry) has been renewed at the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Materials Science. Dr. Liu’s research is focused on the development of nanostructured polymer materials for various applications, including the refinement of filters that may be able to separate water from organic solvents.


Zongchao Jia (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) has been renewed as the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Structural Biology. Dr. Jia and his team are working to understand and affect the function of several atypical protein enzymes in both bacteria and humans with the aim of developing antibiotic and therapeutic applications.


Gabor Fichtinger (Computing) has been newly appointed as the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Computer Integrated Surgery. Dr. Fichtinger’s research program will concentrate on novel technologies for minimally invasive medical interventions that use computational imaging, spacial navigation, and robotics to transcend human limitations, and ultimately improve accuracy and precision.


Kyla S. Tienhaara (Australian National University) has been newly appointed as the Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Economy and Environment. Dr. Tienhaara is joining Queen’s from the Australian National University, and will be analyzing the merits of ‘Green Keynesianism’ – an economic model in which governments take on more active and regulatory roles to bolster both economic growth and the adoption of climate change mitigating measures.


Visit the Canada Research Chair Program website for more information.

Ahmed Hassan receives E.W.R. Steacie award

Professor in the School of Computing is one of only 10 Queen's faculty members to be honoured with this prestigious fellowship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

[Ahmed Hassan with Minister Kirsty Duncan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau]
Ahmed Hassan (School of Computing), back row centre, stands between Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities Kirsty Duncan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, along with other recipients of the 2018 E.W.R Steacie Memorial Fellowship, following a meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy the Prime Minister's Office/Adam Scotti)

Canadian leader in software engineering, Queen’s University professor Ahmed Hassan was honored with the 2018 E.W.R Steacie Memorial Fellowship. He is only the 10th Queen’s faculty member to receive this prestigious honour, since the award’s creation in 1965.

The award is presented annually to up to six researchers nationwide by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to enhance the career development of outstanding faculty members who have earned a strong international reputation for their original research. Fellows receive a research grant of $250,000 over two years and are relieved of teaching and administrative duties during this period.

The Gazette recently interviewed Dr. Hassan, who holds the NSERC/BlackBerry Industrial Research Chair in Software Engineering and the Canada Research Chair in Software Analytics at the School of Computing, about this prestigious research award.

What does the E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship mean to you and your research?

Before I talk about what it means, let me briefly tell you about what I do. My research uses machine learning and data analytics to dig into the rich, yet rarely explored, stores of information associated with software systems. We analyze not only the computer code of these systems, but every piece of information gathered during their development and operation: design notes, prior code changes, user reviews, debugging histories, online discussions, and logs. By mining through these rich yet rarely-leveraged information sources, we can intelligently guide and support the evolution of these complex systems. For example, we can figure out that a system is not performing as expected even though no one ever documented the expected behaviour, or truly knows it (such is the case for most complex large-scale systems nowadays). We can also foretell future troubles long before they impact users. This line of work is called Mining Software Repositories (MSR), a field of research that I co-founded around 15 years ago.

[Ahmed Hassan]
Ahmed Hassan always tells his students to never underestimate their ability to change the world. (Photo courtesy NSERC)

The Steacie Fellowship is a huge honour and an incredible acknowledgment of not only my team’s work but also of the whole MSR field. Each year NSERC awards six Steacie Fellowships across all science and engineering fields nationwide. In the past 50-plus years, only 13 computing researchers ever received this great honour. Hence, the fellowship is a great recognition of the impact of our work and the importance of the MSR field on software systems and society in general. The award is also a huge vote of confidence for other Canadian researchers in the MSR field, given Canada’s commanding position in this field.

I am very grateful for the wonderful support from everyone at the School of Computing and many others throughout Queen’s. It feels great to have Queen’s at the podium.

As one of the top software engineering researchers in Canada, what is your most important contribution so far and what was its impact?

Research results in any engineering discipline are best judged by their impact on practice, a good amount of my team’s innovations are already adopted in practice and are in use on a daily basis. However, over the years I have come to the realization that people are really what shapes a field more than our greatest ideas. I am very grateful to the continuous support and hard work of my team.  

The work I am most proud of is growing and nurturing a very vibrant and top-notch team of international leaders. Over the years, I strived to ensure the diversity of my team, the Software Analysis and Intelligence Lab (SAIL), with members coming from all over the world – Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Iran, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United States, just to name a few. It is truly an amazing experience seeing such diverse backgrounds working together and exceling on the world stage.

Today, many of them are leaders at very successful companies in Canada, including IBM, BlackBerry, and Amazon. Being a professor, myself, I am particularly proud of the ones who became professors. Seventeen of my prior lab members are now tenured or tenure-track professors at research-intensive universities on every continent except South America. To put things in perspective, over the past five years, half of all new software engineering faculty positions in Canada (eight out of 16) and Australia (three out of six) are from SAIL at Queen’s. These researchers continue to have a strong and demonstrable impact on software research and practice worldwide through their own trainees and by serving important leadership roles in some of computing’s top conferences and journals.

What goals are you setting for yourself in regards to research?

My goals remain the same – doing top research with a strong and measurable impact on practice. That said, the Steacie Fellowship gives me the freedom to think of the next big step and to take much higher risks than I would usually take so we can ensure that Canada maintains its leadership in software engineering research and practice worldwide.

What advice do you have for students starting their careers in computer science?

Never underestimate your ability to change the world. Computing is a young and very welcoming field. Your chances of meeting and interacting with the researchers from your textbooks are high, and these people are friendly, supportive, and quite often willing to take great chances and risks on you. I co-founded MSR as a PhD student and I became Canada’s youngest Industrial Research Chair with support from NSERC and BlackBerry, thanks to people who are willing to take big risks on a younger me.

Anyone can produce world-leading research as long as they are committed and are not afraid to tackle the hard problems. Canada is a software engineering powerhouse and a leader in computing. We are shaping and enabling many of today’s innovations (from deep learning to mobile email). There are many amazing opportunities and tons of hard problems waiting for you, so come join us as we shape the future of our world.


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