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Nobody better than Best in 3MT competition

By Hollie Knapp-Fisher, Communications Intern


Mike Best, a PhD student in clinical psychology, will represent Queen’s at the Ontario 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.


Ten Queen’s graduate students advanced to the final of the competition that required them to clearly explain their research to a panel of non-expert judges in three minutes and using only one slide. Mr. Best emerged victorious for his succinct yet entertaining presentation of his research on the biases toward schizophrenia.


“I wasn’t expecting such a large audience,” says Mr. Best, “but it’s these types of platforms that allow students like me to share their research. It is needed in the post-graduate community.”


Mr. Best said the competition taught him to tell a story with his data and forced him to engage and interact with his audience in order to get the message across. He is looking forward to not only representing Queen’s at the provincial 3MT but also learning about the research happening at other universities.


With topics ranging from the mating habits of female frogs to the state of the performing arts in Ontario public schools, the competition was stiff. All of the competitors completed their presentation in the allotted time and represented their research effectively, which made the final decision very difficult for the judges.


“What a great opportunity to be able to see the diversity of research taking place at Queen’s,” says 3MT judge Peter Milliken (Arts’68), former member of Parliament and Speaker of the House. “All of the presenters succeeded today – they did an excellent job.”


The judges named Mary Chaktsiris, a PhD candidate in the Department of History, the runner-up for her presentation of her First World War research. Sima Zakani, a PhD candidate in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, earned the People’s Choice Award as voted by the audience members for her presentation on engineered hips.


The Ontario 3MT competition will take place at McMaster University on April 24.
 

If you missed listening to our finalists, their videos will be posted on the Queen’s 3MT website after the Ontario 3MT competition is completed.

 

Event shines spotlight on Royal Society scholars

The Royal Society Seminar is being held Saturday, April 12 at the University Club, 168 Stuart Street starting at 10 am.

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Four Queen’s professors recently elected to the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) will soon have the chance to share their research with RSC fellows from across the country. Gauvin Bailey (Art History), Praveen Jain (Computer and Electrical Engineering), Carlos Prado (Philosophy) and David Lillicrap (Pathology and Molecular Medicine) were among seven Queen’s professors named fellows of the RSC last November.

“The Royal Society of Canada is important to me as someone who has just moved back to Canada after living abroad for most of my adult life because it is a way for me to meet colleagues across Canada who are doing amazing things,” says Dr. Bailey. “My appointment as fellow also comes at an opportune time for my own research as I am turning my attention toward Canadian patrimony in a book I am writing on the art and architecture of the French Atlantic Empire--it will include a great deal of material about pre-Conquest Quebec and the French missions to the Great Lakes peoples.”

(L to R) Dr. Graham Bell, President of the Royal Society of Canada, Dr. David Lillicrap, Principal Daniel Woolf, Dr. Gauvin Bailey, Dr. Carlos Prado, and Dr. John Meisel, Past President of the RSC gathered in early February at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre.

The topics for the day include:

Dr. Bailey – The Art and Architecture of a Paper Empire: Utopianism and Intransigence in the French Atlantic World

Dr. Jain – Power Electronics for a Sustainable Society

Dr. Prado – Personalizing Religious Faith

Dr. Lillicrap – Hemophilia: A Disease of Royals and Dogs.

“For an academic to receive fellowship in the Royal Society of Canada is a heart-warming accolade and somehow always comes as a delightful, unexpected surprise,” says Pierre Du Prey, co-chair of the event and a professor in the Department of Art History.

The Royal Society of Canada was established by an Act of Parliament in 1882 as Canada’s national academy. The organization helps promote Canadian research and scholarly accomplishment, and advises governments, non-governmental organizations and Canadians on matters of public interest.

The event, which is free and open to the public, is being held Saturday, April 12 at the University Club (168 Stuart St.) starting at 10 am.

Queen’s is also scheduled to host the Royal Society of Canada’s annual general meeting in 2016.

Quebec politics: What's next?

Andre Juneau is a fellow at the Queen's Institute of Intergovernmental Relations.

When Quebec Premier Pauline Marois called for a provincial election in March, the Parti Québécois (PQ) expected to gain a majority government and set the stage for a new referendum on independence from Canada.
Following the victory of the Quebec Liberal Party, Quebec can expect political stability, fewer social tensions and reduced talk of separation, says Andrew Juneau, a fellow at the Queen’s Institute of Intergovernmental Relations.
In an email exchange with Rosie Hales, Communications Officer, Mr. Juneau looks to the future of Quebec politics and how the PQ will recover.

Now that the elections are over, what does the Liberal victory mean for Quebec?

The election of a Liberal majority hopefully means political stability for a few years, and fewer social tensions if Premier elect Couillard is able to deliver on his promise to work collaboratively with the other parties. It means talk of separation will be on the backburner. It means a more balanced approach to economic growth, although results here are another matter.

What do you think is the biggest challenge ahead for the Quebec Liberals?

The biggest challenge will be to deliver on their economic agenda while keeping in mind that the debt load is still high. The Liberals need to understand that no province, or even a country like Canada for that matter, can control all the forces that affect the international economy.

After losing the election, what are the next steps for the PQ?

The PQ, when it recovers from the shock of April 8, will have an internal debate about where to go from their loss and will have to figure out how that plays out in a leadership race. The debate is likely to be brutal with some arguing that in order to achieve the ultimate purpose of the PQ, they actually have to promote it vigorously. Some PQ members may indicate that they need to read the writing on the wall and accept that sovereignty is not in the cards for now. If this mentality is accepted, then what kind of party does the PQ become? A social-democratic one pushing for as much autonomy as possible? That’s not a scenario Pierre Karl Péladeau, a rising star within the party, is likely to accept.

Some PQ members may indicate that they need to read the writing on the wall and accept that sovereignty is not in the cards for now. If this mentality is accepted, then what kind of party does the PQ become?

Some Liberals have suggested that this week’s election signals a generational change in Quebec, where younger voters focus on economic matters over the sovereigntist aspiration of the older generation. Do you think this is true? What does this change in leadership signal about Quebec’s voters?

Polls do suggest that younger voters are less likely to support sovereignty than older voters. My interpretation is that the Charter of the French Language, or Law 101, has a lot to with this. Members of older generations were angered by the dominance of English in Montreal in particular. This is no longer a major issue. Young people in Quebec are much more interested in seeing the world and working abroad than before. In many ways, this is not such a big change in leadership since the Liberals have been in office since 2003 with an 18-month break. I also think that Quebec voters in general have pretty much the same concerns as other Canadians: health, education and the economy.

Quebecers are enduring a 7.6 per cent unemployment rate, and public finances have a projected deficit of $2.5 billion this year. What part can the Liberals play in helping Quebec’s economy recover?

First, a number of the new Liberal members of the National Assembly have strong economic policy credentials with an interesting mix of public and private sector experience. Second, the government will be able to focus on economic issues without being distracted by other goals (other than getting re-elected, of course). Business leaders are looking forward to working with the new government. The union movement is less enthusiastic and there will have to be major efforts to create the positive social atmosphere that is so important to economic progress. 

Research reveals enzyme's helpful secrets

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Findings from an international study led by two Queen’s researchers could lead to safer food sources and provide better protection for crops.

Research emerging from the labs of David Zechel (Chemistry) and Zongchao Jia (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) has revealed the secrets of a new enzyme, PhnZ, that can degrade phosphonates, a class of compounds that includes various herbicides. This finding may lead to a new way to remove these compounds from the environment.

Zongchao Jia

“Our research has revealed the molecular details behind the powerful reaction catalyzed by PhnZ. This sets the stage to engineer PhnZ to destroy compounds of concern, including herbicides on our major crops,” says Dr. Zechel.

Genetically modified plants currently resist herbicides used to control insects and weeds. With the discovery of PhnZ, the enzyme could be added to crops that, when sprayed with herbicides, would neutralize the herbicide, making it safe for human consumption.

The enzyme PhnZ was originally discovered a few years ago by a research team from MIT.

“Through extensive study and research, we have gained a good understanding of how this enzyme really works,” says Dr. Jia.

David Zechel

The group’s research is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research; it was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Student storytellers enjoy success

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Showcasing innovative research from Queen’s University has earned three students an opportunity to showcase their storytelling talents for a national audience.

Political Studies students Justin Mathews and Nikolas Lopez as well as Cultural Studies PhD candidate Jessica Jacobson-Konefall ranked among the top 25 participants in the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s “Research for a Better Life: The Storytellers” student challenge.

Mr. Mathews (Artsci’14) and Mr. Lopez (Artsci’14) were the first undergraduate students ever to have placed in the top 25. They chose to showcase the research of Queen’s professor Heather Bastedo, Royce Koop (University of Manitoba) and Kelly Blidook (Memorial University). The SSHRC-funded research studies the lives of members of Parliament and how they work with and represent their constituents. The unique video features a wide range of Queen’s students talking about the research in small, scripted clips.

“We saw an opportunity to focus on that research team because there has been little research done in the area of Canadian municipal politicians,” says Mr. Mathews. “We wrote a speech about the research and created a video with students speaking about the research and why the research matters.”

The duo’s story was selected because it fit the criteria of explaining where the research is taking Canada, what the research story is, and how it impacts Canadians.

Ms. Jacobson-Konefall’s video showcases her research at Urban Shaman: Contemporary Aboriginal Art Gallery in Winnipeg.  Her work, funded by a SSHRC Canada Graduate Scholarship, studies Indigenous new media art and the ways in which these artworks shape and defy perceptions of Canadian cities.

“In this video, I wanted to explain how art historical research can contribute to urgent discourses of Indigenous social justice, and advance strategies of productive Indigenous-settler collaboration,” she says.

The three students have qualified for the next competition at SSHRC’s 2014 Congress in May at Brock University, with the top teams there advancing to the national competition.

Visit the SSHRC website for information on “The Storytellers” student challenge. 

Researcher finds Canadian policing costs too high

Christian Leuprecht is a professor in the School of Policy Studies and the Department of Political Studies at Queen's.

By Rosie Hales, Communications Officer

According to a study by Queen’s researcher Christian Leuprecht, if the cost of policing in Canada is to become more sustainable there must be a discussion surrounding the extent of police service and how these are delivered.

A debate about the extent and delivery of police services must take place immediately, according to a study by Queen’s researcher Christina Leuprecht.

“The current business model for police services in this country is unsustainable, especially considering there is no evidence that greater expenditure has either made the country any safer or improved the quality of service,” he says.

Dr. Leuprecht, a professor in the School of Policy Studies and Department of Political Studies at Queen’s, says Canada spent $12 billion, or nearly 1 per cent of gross domestic product, on policing in 2012. He recommends prioritizing police responsibilities to reduce that expenditure.

“The scope of policing has expanded greatly in recent decades,” says Dr. Leuprecht. “Order is integral to freedom. But in a liberal democracy that is premised on limited state intervention, we should be debating ‘what kind’ of policing instead of ‘how much.’”

The study features other ideas for containing the costs of police services for Canadians.

“We need to place a much higher emphasis on quality over quantity when it comes to policing,” says Dr. Leuprecht. “As well, we need to shift the emphasis of police work away from law enforcement and towards ‘peace officer.’”

Order is integral to freedom. But in a liberal democracy that is premised on limited state intervention, we should be debating ‘what kind’ of policing instead of ‘how much.’

In his study, Dr. Leuprecht makes a case for economies of scale and reducing overhead, for example through greater use of technology by police in Canada to cut costs. This includes sharing court records online instead of using paper and cutting down on administrative work by using electronic messaging techniques (such as email or text messaging) to send minor offence notices. 

However, Dr. Leuprecht suggests that with up to 90 per cent of police budgets spent on salaries, core and discretionary policing activities will have to be triaged to become more efficient, effective, productive, affordable and sustainable.

“In 2012, Canada spent $12 billion, or nearly 1 per cent of gross domestic product, on policing alone,” says Dr. Leuprecht. “The current business model for police services in this country is unsustainable, especially considering there is no evidence that greater expenditure has either made the country any safer or improved the quality of service.”

The study, The Blue Line of the Bottom Line of Police Services in Canada? Arresting Runaway Growth in Costs, was released by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and can be found here

Queen's earns four new Canada Research Chairs

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Four Queen’s University professors have been named new Canada Research Chairs and one professor’s current chair position is being renewed. The five chairs are Canadian leaders in their respective research fields.

Developed in 2000, each year the CRC program invests up to $265 million to attract and retain some of the world's most accomplished and promising minds. 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.

“By attracting the most skilled and promising researchers, the CRC program facilitates cutting-edge research and advances Canada as a world leader in discovery and innovation,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research).  “Our success in garnering four new chairs and one renewal is demonstrative of  Queen’s leadership in research areas that address some of the most challenging and complex problems facing the world today – from human health and climate change to development of software intelligence.”

The university’s new chair appointments are Stephen Archer, Ahmed Hassan, Philip Jessop, Andy Take and Curtis Nickel has had his appointment renewed.

Stephen Archer (School of Medicine) has been named at Tier 1 Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Chair in Mitochondrial Dynamics and Translational Medicine. His research examines pulmonary arterial hypertension and cancer and is working towards devising new treatments.

Philip Jessop (Chemistry) has been named the Tier 1 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Chair in Green Chemistry. His research is aimed at designing more efficient and greener materials, solvents and methods for chemical manufacturing to reduce the consumption of resources, the usage of energy and the production of damaging pollutants.

Andy Take (Civil Engineering) has been named the Tier 2 NSERC Chair in Geotechnical Engineering.  His research program aims to produce the knowledge, highly qualified graduates and practical tools to better understand and manage the risk posed by climate change on the soil slopes of Canada’s natural and built environment.

Ahmed Hassan (School of Computing) has been named the Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Software Analytics. His research focuses on providing analytical approaches to support the development and operation of Ultra Large Scale Software systems like Blackberry and Facebook. Dr. Hassan, the NSERC BlackBerry Industrial Research Chair, continues his close collaboration with BlackBerry with a new $2 million investment by BlackBerry and NSERC. The two will also co-fund a long-term grant to support research projects at the Software Analysis and Intelligence Lab

Curtis Nickel (Urology) has been named the returning Tier 1 CIHR Chair in Urologic Pain and Inflammation. His research will continue to improve the categorization, diagnostics and understanding of associated psychosocial, neurologic and gastrointestinal dysfunction and develop evidence based management strategies for men and women suffering from interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome, chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome and benign prostatic hyperplasia.

For more information on Queen’s researchers’ CRC appointments, follow this link.

Improving science education one researcher at a time

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

A team of Queen’s and Harvard researchers has identified important gaps between education research and teaching practices that are impeding the adoption of novel teaching strategies in post-secondary science education. Research-based instructional strategies have been validated in many classrooms, including large enrollment first-year courses, but these highly interactive approaches have been slow to spread.

James Fraser (Physics) and the Queen’s University-Harvard University team are proposing ways that education research can better serve front-line teachers, as well as approaches faculty members can take that will provide better learning opportunities for their science students.

“About 60 per cent of students who enter college intending to major in a science-related field do not graduate with a science degree,” says Dr. Fraser. “The continued prevalence of the traditional lecture approach is surprising given the dramatic gains achieved by highly interactive approaches in improved conceptual understanding, and increased retention in enrollment.”

Working with Harvard University researcher Eric Mazur, Dr. Fraser explored particularly successful practices and ways to improve their dissemination. The researchers synthesized results from studies of instructional techniques from a wide range of North American schools.

The review identified three major barriers to improving education in the science fields: the challenges of validating teaching approaches in real classrooms (with many uncontrolled variables), a professor’s lack of specific and timely feedback about the learning environment of their students, and the time limitations of faculty who cannot put their teaching and research roles on hold to become education research experts.

“There are real barriers for a professor to adopt an interactive teaching approach.  Education research has tested methods of overcoming some of these obstacles so we need to better disseminate the successful results,” says Dr. Fraser. “But other obstacles remain and education research needs to do a better job at addressing these issues.”

The research looked at a number of schools including Harvard, Ohio State, Indiana University and Arizona State. Queen’s was not included in the study.

The paper was published in the journal Reports on Progress in Physics. In addition, Dr. Mazur has been named one of the plenary facilitators at the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education Annual Conference that will be held this year at Queen’s from June 17 to 20.

Concurrent music program formally launches

By Meredith Dault, Senior Communications Officer 

A concurrent music program between Queen's University and St. Lawrence College was formally launched this afternoon at a reception that included performances by student musicians. The five-year Bachelor of Music/Music and Digital Media program will allow students to jointly earn qualifications from Queen's and St. Lawrence College. The interdisciplinary program introduces a new partnership between the two institutions. 

Read more about the program on the Queen's News Centre. 

 

 

Evergreens restrict Arctic tundra responses to climate change

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

How climate change will affect the Arctic is a research question of increasing urgency.  New research out of Queen’s University indicates that current predictions of vegetation change that will occur as the Arctic warms could only be part of the story. There are other key players that have been overlooked.

Using experimental greenhouses located at the Daring Lake Research Station in the Northwest Territories, Tara Zamin (former PhD student, Biology), co-author Paul Grogan (Biology) and co-author Donie Bret-Harte (University of Alaska Fairbanks) demonstrated that climate change impacted the vegetation much differently than has been observed at other Arctic sites, leading to more conservative predictions for tundra change. They are the first scientists to carefully measure not only above but also belowground growth responses of individual plants, thereby allowing them to comprehensively assess how each Arctic species is being affected.

Paul Grogan and Tara Zamin research at the Daring Lake Research Station in the Northwest Territories.

“It’s the turtle and the hare of the Arctic tundra in the ongoing race to adapt to a changing climate. Deciduous shrubs are the hare, and have been rapidly increasing in more fertile arctic sites, leading to predictions that the tundra could become a birch or willow shrubland, which would feed back to increased warming. Evergreen shrubs are the turtle - slow, but well adapted to the infertile soils typical of Arctic tundra, and at our site are presently in the lead.”

 “Our results are  important because evergreens grow more slowly, are shorter, and produce litter that tends to restrict soil nutrient availability, all of which will tend to slow down the responsiveness of tundra ecosystems to climate change,” says Dr. Grogan.

As temperatures continue to rise in the Arctic, the warming will enhance soil nutrient availability. The study concludes that although deciduous shrubs are likely to become dominant in particularly fertile locations in the tundra, evergreens will dominate elsewhere.

“Over this century, we can expect substantial vegetation change across southern Canada and at lower latitudes more generally,” says Dr. Grogan. “As ecologists, our goal is to understand and predict what those changes might be.  Will evergreen trees like cedar fare better than deciduous species like maple?  The latter is an important species culturally and economically for Canada, and therefore the answers to such questions are critical to successfully adapting to the climate change that we have already committed ourselves to.”

The research was published in the Journal of Ecology.

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