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A return to Stockholm

Professor Art McDonald part of Canadian delegation on Governor General's State Visit to Sweden.

  • Queen's Professor Emeritus Art McDonald and His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, lace up the skates in Sweden. Dr. McDonald accompanied the Governor General to Sweden during a State Visit from Feb 19-23. (Photo Credit: Rideau Hall)
    Queen's Professor Emeritus Art McDonald and His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, lace up the skates in Sweden. Dr. McDonald accompanied the Governor General to Sweden during a State Visit from Feb 19-23. (Photo Credit: Rideau Hall)
  • Dr. McDonald takes part in a keynote panel on opportunities for Canada and Sweden to work together as partners in learning and innovation to members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Dr. McDonald joined His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada as a delegate on a State Visit to Sweden from Feb 19-23. (Photo Credit: Rideau Hall)
    Dr. McDonald takes part in a keynote panel on opportunities for Canada and Sweden to work together as partners in learning and innovation to members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Dr. McDonald joined His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada as a delegate on a State Visit to Sweden from Feb 19-23. (Photo Credit: Rideau Hall)
  • Dr. McDonald attends a presentation on the Mats Sundin Fellowship in Developmental Health. This was followed by a discussion with the Karolinska Institute and Mats Sundin Fellowship officials on how to encourage and support education and innovation opportunities. (Photo Credit: Rideau Hall)
    Dr. McDonald attends a presentation on the Mats Sundin Fellowship in Developmental Health. This was followed by a discussion with the Karolinska Institute and Mats Sundin Fellowship officials on how to encourage and support education and innovation opportunities. (Photo Credit: Rideau Hall)
  • Dr. McDonald addresses fellow attendees and Mats Sundin Fellowship officials on how to encourage and support education and innovation opportunities. (Photo Credit: Rideau Hall)
    Dr. McDonald addresses fellow attendees and Mats Sundin Fellowship officials on how to encourage and support education and innovation opportunities. (Photo Credit: Rideau Hall)

From February 19-23, Queen's professor emeritus Art McDonald joined Their Excellencies the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, and Mrs. Sharon Johnston as part of the Canadian delegation on a State visit to Sweden. The visit aimed at connecting Canadian parliamentarians and leaders from academia, innovation, trade and civil society with their Swedish counterparts to strengthen ties and promote new opportunities. The visit’s main theme was innovative inclusive and sustainable societies.

Amongst the notable events during the visit were a roundtable with officials from the Karolinska Institute (KI) and the Mats Sundin Fellowship in Developmental Health and a keynote and panel discussion at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (KVA) on the possibilities for collaboration between Canadian and Swedish researchers.

Travelling north

Queen’s sociology student Justine Aman, Artsci’18, is headed to Iqaluit where she will join 30 fellow youth leaders from across Canada for the Arctic Youth Ambassador Caucus March 8-12.

The event, organized by Global Vision, aims to connect youth living in southern Canada with their peers in the north to learn about and find innovative solutions to the pressing issues facing those living in Canada’s Arctic.

Justine Aman, Artsci’18, will be traveling to Iqaluit, Nunavut for the Global Vision Arctic Youth Ambassador Caucus. The event, which runs March 8-12, brings together youth from Canada's north and south to begin a dialogue and work to find innovative solutions to some of the pressing challenges facing Canada's Arctic community. (University Communications)

Ms. Aman says she was inspired to get involved in the caucus by her own experiences living in northern Ontario – seeing how distance from major urban centres affected the community through population decline and lack of job opportunities. She hopes to gain new insight into the challenges faced by northern Canadians and help develop sustainable solutions.

“My whole approach going into the caucus will be to listen and absorb the feedback coming from our northern peers,” she says. “Coming from a southern community, I recognize that my interpretation of what they need may be completely different, so I want to listen and work with them to build off their first-hand experiences. Whatever the people on the ground identify as the issues they’re facing, I want to listen to that and consider how those of us in the south can help find a sustainable option to fix that.”

Ms. Aman and her fellow southern attendees – selected from students across Canada, ranging from Grade 9 to graduate students – will spend four days meeting with local students and community leaders. They will also meet with representatives of the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut.

The trip is intended to spark a dialogue between north and south, and help foster a dialogue between communities that otherwise may never interact in any meaningful way. Many of the students – Ms. Aman included – have already scheduled presentations with community groups on their return, to share what they have learned.

“We’re one country and yet we’re so disconnected,” says Ms. Aman, of the gulf between Canadians in the country’s north and south. “I think the greatest opportunity to arise out of this conference is the chance to start a conversation.”

Founded in 1991 by former Member of Parliament Terry Clifford, Global Vision has been working in the north since 2010 to facilitate north-south dialogue and to help strengthen northern youth’s capacity to become actively engaged as leaders in their own communities. For more information on Global Vision and the AYAC150 Team, please visit the website.

Opportunities for undergraduate research

Each year, the Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowship (USSRF) provides students at Queen’s the opportunity to gain some valuable experience that will help them in their continuing studies and into their career.

Through the program, undergraduate students in social sciences, humanities, business and education are able to further develop their research skills under the guidance of a faculty researcher.

[USSRF]
Students who took part in the Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowship (USSRF) explain their research during a poster display at Stauffer Library. (University Communications)

Conor Hannigan (Artsci’17) took part in the USSRF program in 2016 and recommends it for any undergraduate student.

“The USSRF program is an exceptional opportunity for any undergraduate interested in continuing on to graduate studies or eventually academia, to develop research skills,” he says. “Not only is it useful for developing skills, but it has the potential to both broaden and deepen the student's research opportunities and activities. For example, the research I conducted through the USSRF has led me on to an undergraduate thesis as well as upcoming participation in the Inquiry@Queen's undergraduate research conference.”

He adds that the program is also an excellent way for students to build a strong relationship with a Queen’s faculty member. By working with David Haglund (Political Studies), Mr. Hannigan says he gained a greater understanding of how academic research is conducted as well as how to design and conduct research projects.

“Having a faculty member who has continued to act as a mentor for me following the USSRF work has motivated me to work harder and achieve more in my studies,” he says. “The program provides students with the opportunity to engage in research they are genuinely interested in by virtue of designing a project with a supervisor. This, of course, has both instrumental and intrinsic value.”

The USSRF program was established in 2011and is intended to provide students with meaningful opportunities to engage in discovery-based learning and to develop research and presentation skills.

The deadline for applications is March 10, at 4 pm. Up to 19 fellowships of $6,000 each will be offered to students whose projects take place on Queen’s campus and up to three fellowships of $5,000 each will be offered to students whose projects take place at the Bader International Study Centre (BISC) at Herstmonceux Castle, East Sussex, England.

For more information, visit the USSRF program website.

At the intersection of research and policy

[Diane Orihel]
Diane Orihel, the Queen’s National Scholar in Aquatic Ecotoxicology, arrived at the university at the beginning of the winter term. (University Communications)

As the newest Queen’s National Scholar, Diane Orihel is settling in at the university.

The QNS in Aquatic Ecotoxicology, Dr. Orihel’s research looks into the fate and effects of contaminants in the environment. Specializing in freshwater ecosystems, she uses an ecosystem approach to ecotoxicology.

“Traditionally, toxicology has focused on short-term assessments of the direct toxicity of a chemical on a model organism,” she explains. “Such experiments are informative but that’s not what actually happens in the real world. The real world is complex – contaminants released from smoke stacks or sewage outfalls often change as they enter and move through aquatic ecosystems, and affect not only individual plants and animals, but whole food webs. By using an ecosystem-based approach to ecotoxicology, I unravel the intricacies of how chemicals behave in our lakes and wetlands and the impacts they have on everything from plankton to fish.”  

As the QNS, Dr. Orihel is jointly-appointed to the School of Environmental Studies and Department of Biology. It’s an ideal set up she explains and was one of the biggest draws for coming to Queen’s. Her work, she says, while grounded in science, is always framed in terms of environmental policy.

“All of my research starts with the question: what is the policy need and what are the scientific  data required to address that policy need?” she says. “Being able to have a foot in the Department of Biology and a foot in the School of Environmental Studies is a very good match for me because that’s what I do. For me, science doesn’t stop at the scientific publication. I work hard to bring my science to the public and to engage decision makers, so that together we can make strides toward solving our most pressing environmental problems. ”

For example, her research has already contributed to: linking atmospheric mercury deposition and methylmercury concentrations in fish; understanding nutrient recycling and toxic algal blooms in freshwater lakes; and probing the degradation of a common flame retardant in the natural environment.

Another advantage Queen’s offered Dr. Orihel is its proximity to the Queen’s University Biological Station (QUBS). A mere 45-minute drive north and she is immersed in her research environment. At the same time Dr. Orihel is excited to be working with some of the leading experts in water issues, in Canada and around the world, at Queen’s.

The QNS program was established in 1985with the objective of attracting outstanding early and mid-career professors to Queen’s to “enrich teaching and research in newly-developing fields of knowledge as well as traditional disciplines.” 

Dr. Orihel definitely fits the mold.

Her ecotoxicology research addresses two of the leading environmental issues in Canada.

Currently, the Government of Alberta is looking at reintegrating wastewater from oil sands mining and upgrading that is currently stored in tailings ponds. First, however, the water, billions of litres, will have to be treated.

Dr. Orihel wants her research to contribute to ensuring that downstream aquatic life isn’t detrimentally impacted.

“We need to rigorously test in a realistic setting whether existing treatment technologies effectively reduce the toxicity of tailings pond water. Academia, government, and industry need to partner on this important issue. Only then can we be confident that releasing this waste water will not change the ecological integrity of downstream ecosystems and the vital services they provide to local First Nations and other communities.”  

At the same time, Dr. Orihel is part of an NSERC strategic project that is looking into the effects of diluted bitumen (dilbit) spills on freshwater ecosystems. It is a timely topic, she says, as there are a number of pipelines transporting unconventional oils such as dilbit, but little understanding of how these materials behave following a spill and what effects they have on freshwater ecosystems.

“Obviously, we have to do everything we can to prevent oil spills, but inevitably, things can go wrong and these spills do occur,” she says. “We need to be properly prepared to respond to spills in freshwater environments. We need to learn how dilbit behaves in fresh water and what treatments are best to apply to minimize the negative impacts of these spills.”

After completing her undergraduate studies at the University of British Columbia, Dr. Orihel earned a Masters of Natural Resource Management from the University of Manitoba, and a PhD from the University of Alberta. Most recently she was a Banting and Liber Ero Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Ottawa.

To learn more about Dr. Orihel’s research, visit her website.

For more on the Queen’s National Scholar program, visit the QNS page on the Provost’s website.

Tracking changes

New research links aquatic ecosystem changes in the Chinese Loess Plateau to anthropogenic climate change.

New research, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, has determined that aerosol-weakened summer monsoons have triggered changes in aquatic ecosystems of the Chinese Loess Plateau region.

The team, led by researchers at Queen’s University and Lanzhou University in China, says their research highlights how the current Anthropocene period represents an important departure from prior natural warm periods in Earth’s history. The findings provide further evidence of the complexity of climate change when assessed within the context of multiple environmental stressors. 

Researchers are seen measuring a sediment core retrieved from Lake Gonghai, Chinese Loess Plateau. The core samples provided evidence that aerosol-weakened summer monsoons have triggered changes the lakes' ecosystems. (Image taken by Dr. Can Zhang)

“One of our main findings was that anthropogenic warming over the past 50 years resulted in very different but equally pronounced responses in these lake ecosystems compared to past warm periods,” says John Smol, a professor in the Queen’s Department of Biology and a co-author on the paper.

The researchers analyzed the fossil diatoms (microscopic algae) preserved in dated lake sediment profiles from Gonghai Lake. The Loess Plateau is a high elevation region in north-central China that takes its name from extensive deposits of powdery mineral-rich, wind-blown material known as loess. This monsoon-dominated region is known for its incredibly fertile and highly erodible land. The millions of people who live there face serious erosion issues and severe eutrophication (nutrient enrichment, algal blooms) as a result of the delivery of massive amounts of soil nutrients into freshwater systems. Located at the monsoon boundary zone, the region is particularly sensitive to global climate change.

The researchers were able to determine that reduced lake fertilization and fundamental changes in lake ecosystems during anthropogenic warming of the past 50 years were linked to a marked weakening of the summer monsoons stemming from a rise in anthropogenic aerosols (microscopic particles from combustion).

“We found that the pulse of nutrients entering the lake during previous warm episodes had dramatically altered the composition of fossil diatom assemblages from species associated with nutrient-poor conditions to those that thrive in nutrient-rich conditions,” says Jianbao Liu, Assistant Professor at Lanzhou University. Dr. Liu was the study’s lead author and a visiting PhD student at Queen’s University when the study was undertaken.

Previous natural warm periods over the past 2,000 years were accompanied by increased monsoon rain and wind intensity leading to severe erosion of nutrient-laden soil and lake fertilization. In contrast to past warm periods, the most recent fossil assemblages are dominated by diatom species that thrive in waters with lower nutrient concentrations and weaker water column mixing – consistent with decreased monsoon intensity.

“This is an important shift in the aquatic regime that indicates a fundamentally different climate mechanism and biological response from previous well-documented warm periods” says Kathleen Rühland, co-author and a research scientist in the Department of Biology at Queen’s University.

Ironically, continued environmental efforts to reduce anthropogenic aerosols in Asia, whilst global warming continues, will likely result in the return of severe nutrient enrichment that will further impair the already stressed freshwater supply in this region.

“In many respects, we are entering uncharted territory,” warns Dr. Smol.

The study, titled Aerosol-weakened summer monsoons decrease lake fertilization on the Chinese Loess Plateau, was published in Nature Climate Change.

A giant step forward

Queen's-led astroparticle physics experiment makes substantial leap forward in quest for dark matter.

New research, submitted for publication by the PICO Collaboration, has produced new direct-detection constraints on the existence of WIMPs (weakly interacting massive particles) – a type of subatomic particle believed to be a leading contender for the elusive dark matter. The study, co-led by Queen’s researcher Anthony Noble (Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy), represents a significant improvement on previous detection constraints, and a substantial step forward in the search for dark matter.

Dr. Tony Noble (Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy) is the Canadian principal investigator of the PICO collaboration. Dr. Noble and his colleagues announced today that the collaboration has determined new direct-detection limits that mark a substantial step forward in the hunt for dark matter. (Supplied Photo)

 “We are extremely excited about these results,” says Dr. Noble who is the is the Canadian principal investigator on the PICO project.. “Not only have we established a new world-leading limit for dark matter interactions, but we have also demonstrated that with sufficient controls the bubble chamber technology can be run free of backgrounds that could mimic the signal. This bodes very well for the future as the collaboration is poised to launch a new tonne scale detector based on this technology. This new detector, dubbed PICO 500, will have an order of magnitude greater physics capability and will explore a vast swathe of the parameter space predicted by dark matter theories.“

The PICO-60 experiment is currently the world’s largest bubble chamber in operation. It is filled with 45 litres of octafluoropropane – a target fluid used to detect WIMP interactions.  The detector, located two kilometres underground in the SNOLAB laboratory in Sudbury, maintains the target fluid in a superheated state above its boiling point. When dark matter particles interact with the fluorine in the fluid, a slight energy deposit causes the fluid to begin to rapidly boil at that location and creates a bubble in the chamber.  Cameras and acoustic sensors around the chamber observe the bubble formation and evolution, and are used to improve the ability to distinguish between possible dark matter interactions and other background sources when analysing the data.

The PICO-60 experiment, surrounded by various sensors, designed to detect possible interactions between dark matter and a target fluid. The PICO collaboration announced today that they have determined new detection limits that will help guide the search for dark matter. (Photo credit: SNOLAB)

“Queen’s researchers have long been at the cutting edge of discoveries in the field of particle astrophysics,” says John Fisher, Acting Vice-Principal (Research) at Queen’s. “This finding by the PICO experiment continues to reflect that leadership and represents a tremendous leap forward in the hunt for the most elusive matter in our universe.”

Queen’s University is home to Arthur McDonald, co-recipient of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics for his groundbreaking research on neutrinos, as well as Gilles Gerbier, the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Particle Astrophysics. The finding announced today continues a legacy of scientific breakthroughs and world-leading research that has cemented Queen’s reputation at the forefront of the field. In 2016, the Canada First Research Excellence Fund provided Queen’s with a significant investment to support the creation of the Canadian Particle Astrophysics Research Centre (CPARC). The centre will help facilitate a number of leading-edge projects, including the current and future upgrades to the PICO experiment, which will allow Queen’s and its partner institutions to continue on this trajectory of research excellence.

The paper, titled Dark Matter Search Results from the PICO-60 C3F8 Bubble Chamber, has been submitted for peer review and is available online on arXiv.

Piano performance in the spotlight

[PianoFest 12]
Douglas Finch, Roy Howat, and Martin Karliček headline the 12th edition of PianoFest, being hosted March 1-17 at Queen's University. (Supplied photos)

Celebrating the art of piano performance, the 12th edition of PianoFest offers a pair of visitors from the UK as well as a number of leading Canadian performers.

PIANOFEST EVENTS:
Wednesday, March 1 – Improvisation Master Class with Douglas Finch, 7 pm, Harrison-LeCaine Hall, Rm. 124. Free admission.
Friday, March 3 – Colloquium Presentation by Douglas Finch: “Developing a Frame of Mind for Musical Improvisation,” 12:30 pm, Harrison-LeCaine Hall, Rm. 124. Free admission.
Sunday, March 5 – Douglas Finch in Recital, 7:30 pm, Rehearsal Room, The Isabel. Admission: $10 adults, $5 students/seniors. Tickets available at the door or by calling 613-533-2424.
Friday, March 10 – Colloquium Presentation by Martin Karliček: “Leoš Janáček and the Decade of Anguish: Works for Solo Piano,” exceptionally at 12:00 noon, Harrison-LeCaine Hall, Rm. 124. Free admission.
Wednesday, March 15 – Roy Howat in Recital, 7:30 pm, Rehearsal Room, The Isabel. Admission: $10 adults, $5 students/seniors. Tickets available at the door or by calling 613-533-2424.
Friday, March 17 – Colloquium Presentation by Roy Howat: “Chopin and unexpected: new angles on his Etudes.” 12:30 pm, Harrison-LeCaine Hall, Rm. 124. Free Admission.
Friday, March 17 – Master class with Roy Howat, 4:30 pm, Harrison-LeCaine Hall, Rm. 124. Free Admission.

Hosted by the Dan School of Drama and Music, the festival features Douglas Finch, professor of piano and composition at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in Greenwich, England, who is known for his innovative and imaginative approach to performance. Dr. Finch's visit is partially supported by the Principal's Development Fund as an International Visiting Scholar.

Also taking part in the series is Roy Howat, an internationally-renowned pianist and scholar who is regarded as the foremost authority on French keyboard music. He is a research fellow at the Royal Academy of Music in London and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

A rare treat as well comes from Martin Karliček, piano professor at McGill University and concert pianist, who will be speaking about and performing the music of Czech composer Leoš Janáček.

The festival lineup continues the tradition of providing opportunities for students to meet and interact with artists of international stature, listen to their performances, and ask questions about technique and interpretation from masters, explains PianoFest organizer Ireneus Zuk, Professor and Associate Director of the Dan School of Drama and Music.

The improvisation workshop by Douglas Finch, he adds, promises to be a departure from the typical master class format where students prepare a work, perform it for the visiting artist and await comments.

“Sometimes it is interesting to see how students are able to incorporate the suggestions into their own performance right on the spot – sometimes it takes a bit longer,” says Dr. Zuk. “Dr. Finch has been teaching the ‘lost’ art of classical improvisation for a number of years.  In his own recital programs, he includes works improvised on the spot. And his class is open to instrumentalists and vocalists, not just pianists.”

The festival receives support from the G.T. Richardson Fund, the International Visitors Program and the Belvedere Hotel.

For further information, visit the website of the Dan School of Drama and Music or contact the Music Office of the Dan School at 613-533-2066 or Dr. Ireneus Zuk at 533-6000, x. 74209.

A mutually beneficial partnership

[Leigh Cameron]
Through the Queen’s University Internship Program (QUIP), Leigh Cameron (Artsic'18) has gained work experience at the Office of the Vice-Principal (Research). (University Communications) 

The Office of the Vice-Principal (Research) has benefitted this year from an extra set of capable hands — namely those of Leigh Cameron (Artsci’18).

“The team I work with has been very supportive and has taught me so much about the research enterprise here at Queen’s,” Ms. Cameron says.

Her role in the office is a paid position through the Queen’s University Internship Program (QUIP). The program provides second- and third-year students with a 12-16 month paid work experience at a partner employer. In this case, the employer is right here on campus.

Kelly Blair-Matuk, Associate Director in the OVPR, explains that their internship position provides students an opportunity to participate in many of the OVPR’s core activities, while also furthering their knowledge and skills that will enhance their understanding of Queen’s, the job market, and of themselves.  

The internships are beneficial for employers as well, she adds.

“A QUIP intern provides us a student perspective on our day-to-day activities that enhances our outcomes and efficiencies, and the youthful energy gives our team a refreshing boost,” Dr. Blair-Matuk says. “Moreover, our own strategic research imperatives encourage the involvement of students, and this doesn’t only mean having more students in labs. It also means including students on the administrative side of the equation.” 

It’s not just the OVPR that’s benefitting from QUIP Interns. 

“This year there are six departments at Queen’s with a QUIP intern on staff. We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from them regarding the initiative, enthusiasm, and ability to learn exhibited by the interns,” says Internship Coordinator Kristen Eppel. “We are also thrilled to have several more departments that are in the process of hiring interns for the 2017-18 academic year.”

For her part, Ms. Cameron says she became involved in QUIP because she wanted to take the skills she had learned in the classroom and apply them in a workplace setting.

“I have been able to take on some of my own projects and improve my communications and interpersonal skills,” she says. “My experiences in this position have also helped me decide what type of career I want to enter after I graduate.”

The program provides a diverse set of candidates for campus employers and is open to students in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, Faculty of Arts and Science, and School of Computing. 

To learn more about the program or becoming a QUIP employer, visit the Career Services website or contact quip@queensu.ca.

 

View into student research

Two Queen’s students are competing in a national video competition to highlight their research.

Yuliya Nesterova and Sterling Mitchell are among 40 students from across Canada competing in NSERC’s Science, Action contest, with the aim of getting Canadians excited about science and engineering research through one-minute online videos highlighting their own work.

[Yuliya Nesterova]
Yuliya Nesterova – Lives Of Shapes in Space 

The 25 most-viewed videos as of Tuesday, Feb. 28 will move on to the finals where they will be judged by a panel.  A total of 15 cash prizes will be handed out, including the top prize of $3,500.

A master’s student in algebraic geometry, Ms. Nesterova took an animated approach for her video Lives Of Shapes in Space which describes how she is testing a beta invariant to try and understand its convexity.

To make the video, Ms. Nesterova spent three months drawing the images and then taught herself how to use an open-source animation program.

It has been a beneficial learning experience, she says.

“(The project) made me learn more math. There were two things that didn't end up getting animated that took a week of problem-solving and researching to try and get right, work out how the shapes would look,” she says. “And then it was too difficult to animate, so it got tossed out. But you're always learning something about your topic from unexpected sources.”

[Mitchell Sterling]
Mitchell Sterling – Mistaken Point

In his video Mistaken Point, Mr. Mitchell, a third-year geological engineering student, introduces viewers to the work by Guy Narbonne (Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering) and his research team at the recently-designated UNESCO World Heritage site in Newfoundland.

In making the video, Mr. Mitchell utilized some of the skills he has developed through working at Studio Q.

“As a geological engineer, I believe Dr. Narbonne’s research gives us fascinating insight into the history of our world,” he says. “As Mistaken Point was recently named a UNESCO World Heritage site, I thought it would be a great time to highlight his research.”

At the top of the class

Queen’s physicist James Fraser receives prestigious 3M National Teaching Fellowship.

  • Provost Benoit-Antoine Bacon welcomes attendees to the celebration in honour of Dr. James Fraser's receipt of the 3M National Teaching Fellowship.
    Provost Benoit-Antoine Bacon welcomes attendees to the celebration in honour of Dr. James Fraser's receipt of the 3M National Teaching Fellowship.
  • Marc Dignam, head of the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy, discusses how Dr. Fraser's teaching has inspired students and colleagues alike.
    Marc Dignam, head of the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy, discusses how Dr. Fraser's teaching has inspired students and colleagues alike.
  • James Fraser thanks his past and present students and teaching assistants for inspiring him to continue improving as an educator.
    James Fraser thanks his past and present students and teaching assistants for inspiring him to continue improving as an educator.
  • Students - past and present - as well as colleagues and supporters packed the foyer of Stirling Hall to celebrate Dr. James Fraser receiving the 3M National Teaching Fellowship.
    Students - past and present - as well as colleagues and supporters packed the foyer of Stirling Hall to celebrate Dr. James Fraser receiving the 3M National Teaching Fellowship.

Queen’s professor James Fraser (Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy) has received the prestigious 3M National Teaching Fellowship from the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE). Dr. Fraser is the eighth Queen’s professor to be made a 3M Fellow, with the most recent being John Smol (Biology) in 2009.

“The 3M National Teaching Fellowship recognizes exceptional academics who go above and beyond to foster a stimulating educational experience for their students,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor at Queen’s. “Dr. Fraser works tirelessly to instill an appreciation and understanding of physics in his students – encouraging them to participate as active partners in the exchange of knowledge. On behalf of the entire Queen’s community, I wish him our most sincere congratulations on this distinguished award.”

Throughout his career, Dr. Fraser has received praise and recognition for his unique, student-driven approach to teaching. As opposed to the traditional lecture format, in which students are presented with information to absorb, Dr. Fraser uses the assigned readings and the questions that they raise to guide the teaching process. By encouraging small group collaboration and discussion, the students are able to apply what they have learned and work through questions in a way that promotes a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

“It is a tremendous honour to be named a 3M National Teaching Fellow,” says Dr. Fraser “I am truly grateful for the immense support and encouragement I’ve received during my teaching career from my departmental colleagues, my teaching assistants and the students themselves.”

Dr. Fraser was previously awarded the 2016 Medal for Excellence in Teaching Undergraduate Physics from the Canadian Association of Physicists, and the Queen’s Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2012. He is also a recipient of the Chancellor A. Charles Baillie Teaching Award.

Dr. Fraser’s receipt of the 3M Fellowship is the latest major achievement for the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy – which has helped Queen’s cement its reputation as a world leader in research and education in the field. Queen’s is home to 2015 Nobel Prize recipient Art McDonald, as well as Gilles Gerbier, the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Particle Astrophysics. In 2016, the Canada First Research Excellence Fund provided Queen’s with a significant investment to support the creation of the Canadian Particle Astrophysics Research Centre (CPARC).

"I can't think of a more deserving recipient of this award than James,” says Marc Dignam, head of the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy. “Since his arrival in the Department, he has been a driving force behind the continual innovation and renewal of our courses.  His impact on the first year physics course, in particular, cannot be overstated.  I firmly believe that his innovative, student-focused approach has not only improved the learning outcomes and student satisfaction in this key course, but has also resulted in significant growth in physics majors at Queen's."

Queen’s recognizes the importance of promoting active learning and student engagement to enhancing the student learning experience. Experiential learning activities help students apply what they have learned inside the classroom and allow them to deepen their knowledge and skills. This commitment to experiential learning is exemplified through a wide range of practical, hands-on learning opportunities embedded in academic programs – such as such as internships, practica and service learning.

The 3M National Teaching Fellowship is amongst the most prestigious recognitions of excellence in educational leadership and teaching in the post-secondary sector. Founded in 1986 through a partnership between the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and 3M Canada, up to ten Canadian academics annually are named fellows. Fellows become life members of the society – taking part in its annual meeting and working to create new ways to foster academic excellence.

For more information on the 3M National Teaching Fellowship, please visit the website.

 

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