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Engineering and Applied Science

Q&A: Astronaut Jeremy Hansen

Learn more about becoming an astronaut and achieving your dreams in this Q&A interview with Canadian Space Agency Astronaut Jeremy Hansen. 

  • Lt.-Col. Jeremy Hansen discusses the career path that led him to the Canadian Space Agency, including his time as a CF-18 Hornet pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force. (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)
    Lt.-Col. Jeremy Hansen discusses the career path that led him to the Canadian Space Agency, including his time as a CF-18 Hornet pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force. (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)
  • Lt.-Col. Jeremy Hansen discusses the lengthy training process to become an astronaut. (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)
    Lt.-Col. Jeremy Hansen discusses the lengthy training process to become an astronaut. (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)
  • Principal Daniel Woolf leads the question and answer period with Lt.-Col. Jeremy Hansen. (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)
    Principal Daniel Woolf leads the question and answer period with Lt.-Col. Jeremy Hansen. (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)
  • Lt.-Col. Jeremy Hansen replies to a question from a student during the Q&A. (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)
    Lt.-Col. Jeremy Hansen replies to a question from a student during the Q&A. (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)
  • Lt.-Col. Jeremy Hansen speaks to a packed crowd of students at the Beamish-Munro Hall Atrium on Sept. 23. (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)
    Lt.-Col. Jeremy Hansen speaks to a packed crowd of students at the Beamish-Munro Hall Atrium on Sept. 23. (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)

Following his Principal’s Forum speech, Lt.-Col. Hansen sat down with communications officer Chris Armes to discuss lessons learned and tips for those who wish to shoot for the stars.

Chris Armes: Most people, at some point in their childhood, dream about being an astronaut. When did you first decide to actively pursue that dream and what inspired you to do so?

Jeremy Hansen: I was inspired to be an explorer and an astronaut at a very early age – early elementary school – mostly by seeing images of the moon landing, but my understanding of what it is to be an astronaut wasn’t clear yet obviously. It developed over time. I constantly updated that goal and that dream of being an astronaut as I continued to understand what it is to really be an explorer and never really gave up on that.

The biggest thing that I did that helped me was that I shared these dreams and aspirations with other people. You don’t do anything in a vacuum by yourself. Other people will help you achieve your goals – you just have to enable them to do so by sharing them.

CA: When you were selected by the CSA in 2009, what did you expect training to be like and how did it compare to your expectation?

JH: When I was selected I guess I didn’t really understand what the day-to-day life would be like. I had a very good picture of the demands of spaceflight, how much training time was involved – roughly two years of training for a mission once you’re selected prior to launch, six months on the International Space Station – things like that. What I didn’t know was what the day-to-day would be like. I assumed it would be pretty demanding, and it is. There’s a lot to learn and in your initial two years after selection. You basically spend all your time training. What I didn’t really get was, after I finished that initial training, that I would be a contributor to the larger space program. Now that I’m a trained astronaut, even though I haven’t flown, I spend a lot of my time contributing to the program and working with a huge team of people that makes spaceflight possible.

CA: On that same topic, what misconceptions do you find the general public has when it comes to astronaut training or space exploration in general?

JH: There are some misconceptions I see a lot. One is that spaceflight is commonplace and easy. We have learned a lot over the history of spaceflight for sure, but we are still pushing that envelope. Space is not easy for us. Every single day we have people in orbit and it is a huge challenge to maintain that. Now, we work as an international community to get this done, which adds other challenges to the work. One of the greatest rewards of the International Space Station is that we have now set an amazing example of what humanity can do by working together.

The other big thing worth considering is this invisible space infrastructure. We are so reliant on space, as humans today. There are so many conveniences and so many efficiencies that we have in today’s world and they are completely reliant on space. If we had a day without space, people would be shocked at the impact it would have on everything from driving to banking to your phones – it would have so much impact on humanity. That’s why it’s so important that we continue to push technology in space. We have to understand how we’re going to maintain that infrastructure in the future and how we’re going to do a better job of it and make it more affordable.

CA: What do universities need to do to prepare, not just the next generation of astronauts, but the next generation of leaders in science and technology?

JH: Probably the most important things going forward are going to be the way we communicate information and the way we organize information. People need to understand how they can contribute in a collaborative effort. We have this amazing communications system now – the Internet – so how are we going to organize ourselves in the future so we don’t have all this duplication of effort and nobody achieving the ultimate goal. We will need to be able to work together, set goals, set priorities, bring information together and organize it and find the right solutions so we can accomplish the most amazing things in the future. A lot of the ideas to do that will originate in universities.

CA: You’re currently awaiting a mission assignment. What is the one thing that you look forward to most about going to space?

JH: I know absolutely what I’m looking forward the most to when I get to space. It’s going to be the opportunity to look out the window at our planet. It’s very obvious to me that it’s a very emotional experience to see the planet from space with your own eyes. I’m just so excited to float up to that window, look out and just gaze upon planet Earth from space.

CA: What would be one take away from today’s presentation that you’d want attendees to leave with?

JH: In the space program, we set big goals on behalf of humanity that brings together an incredible team of people who, individually, would accomplish incredible things. But, when they are brought together with a common goal and united, they often accomplish the most impossible things. What I would love students to understand is what they need to do with their lives – they need to set goals. Some of them short-term, some of them long-term, but set goals, start off on the journey to achieve them, surround yourself with people who can help you achieve those goals, be that kind of person for the people around you and you will have a very fulfilling life experience.


Celebrating science literacy

Queen's University Library is celebrating Science Literacy Week Sept. 19-23, an annual event that brings Canadians together to celebrate science and share an appreciation for the insights, inventions and ideas that shape our world.

Alexander Braun (Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering) makes a presentation on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) during last year's Science Literacy Week at Queen's University. (Supplied photo)

This is the second year Queen’s University Library has hosted events for the Queen’s community.

“It makes sense for the library to host this event given our priorities of enhancing learning and research within the Queen’s community,” says Tatiana Zaraiskaya, Public Service and E-Science Librarian and Science Literacy Week event organizer. “It is also a great opportunity for us to provide a forum to engage with others across a number of different fields.”

Currently scheduled presentations include a Geographic Information Sciences (GIS) demo by Francine Berish, Geospatial Data Librarian, and an Online Anatomy Resources Demo at Bracken Health Sciences Library by Sarah Wickett, Health Informatics Librarian. There will also be tours of the Anatomy Museum conducted by Dr. Stephen Pang, the Miller Museum of Geology by Mark Badham, and the Museum of Health Care, an exhibit in W. D. Jordan Rare Books and Special Collections hosted by Alvan Bregman, Head of Special Collections, and Jillian Sparks, Special Collections Librarian, and science book displays.

For the full schedule, please see the schedule of events.

5 things to ease the onQ transition

Queen’s new learning management system, onQ, is now fully implemented across campus. IT Services (ITS) and the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) offer numerous supports and encourage instructors to take advantage of the drop-in sessions, workshops, and mobile help unit.

Selina Idlas, onQ Educational Support in the CTL, Margaret Hickling, Solutions Specialist in ITS, and Jacey Carnegie, onQ Transition Lead in ITS, are members of the support team available to help faculty members adjust to the new learning management system.
  1. The new onQ Support website has been developed to support students, instructors, TAs, and support staff in their use of onQ. The site features step-by-step instructions, FAQs, and videos on creating and using onQ courses, as well as links to training workshops and various methods of support.
  1. 24/7 help is available: The university is running a pilot of the End User Support (EUS) feature. Help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, by email, chat, or phone. The EUS is operated by staff familiar with all functionality within the D2L or Desire2Learn “Brightspace” platform on which onQ is built. Full details on the support website
  1. Daily drop-ins – now through Sept. 23: The daily drop-ins are held in B205, Mackintosh-Corry Hall (main floor, across from cafeteria) from 10-11 am. Staff are available to answer your onQ questions. These sessions provide you with one-on-one support.
  1. Weekly workshops: These 1.5-hour training sessions cover the basics of setting up a course in onQ and give you the necessary tools to get started in the system.
  1. The Mobile Unit in the Faculty of Arts and Science: This team of students is available to work one-on-one with Arts and Science instructors in their own offices to assist with various administrative tasks within their onQ courses. The students can help with tasks such as: formatting content, setting up the Grade Book, creating Discussions/Topics, uploading videos and files, creating Groups, posting News Items, and creating Rubrics. For more information on the new onQ Mobile Unit, visit the onQ Support website.

September is here and classes have started. Be sure to sign up for onQ Training or stop by a drop-in for help with your onQ course.



Honouring his hero

Queen's University hosts 31st annual Terry Fox Run.

A 31-year tradition continues on Sunday, Sept. 18 as Queen’s University hosts the annual Terry Fox Run. This year’s organizer Cameron Bell (Sc’18) says the Queen’s Run has generated $196,724 in its long history and his goal this year is to top the $200,000 mark.

The event is run through the Queen’s Engineering Society. However, in an effort to include the wider campus community, Mr. Bell has recruited a team of 30 volunteers from various faculties and partnered with the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society to make the event the biggest yet.

Participants make their way through the course during last year's Terry Fox Run at Queen's University.

 “Terry Fox is my hero,” says the rookie coordinator. “When I was named to this position, I went home and watched the entire Terry Fox documentary. I started participating in the Terry Fox Run in grade school and still have the t-shirts. I’ve always been passionate about this - it takes everyone to find a cure for cancer.”

Registration for the Run starts at 10 am on Sunday, Sept. 18 at the Integrated Learning Centre in Beamish-Munro Hall. The opening ceremonies are set to begin at 10:45 am at the Clark Hall Pub on the Queen's campus by the bookstore. At 11 am sharp, the 3.75 kilometer Run gets underway. The day finishes with a free barbecue back on the Clark Hall Pub patio.

Mr. Bell reminds participants that the run isn’t a race. Rather,it is a tribute to the legacy of Terry Fox and a key fundraising event. Participants can run, walk, cycle, or roll along the course.

The run is open to Queen’s students, faculty, staff and the greater Kingston community. Those interested in participating are encouraged to visit the event’s official page to register for the Run or arrive on Sunday morning and sign up then. For more information about the Terry Fox Foundation, please visit the website.

Building renovations set to begin

The development of the Queen’s Innovation and Wellness Centre is scheduled to begin this month, as renovations to the former Physical Education Centre get underway.  

The Innovation and Wellness Centre at 67 Union St. will feature expanded engineering facilities, be home to an Innovation Hub, increase opportunities for research, student design and learning, and strengthen the university’s position in world-leading research.  The facility will also be the new home of Student Wellness Services and the Chaplaincy, along with athletic and recreation facilities – promoting a holistic approach to wellness – and will house the Queen’s University International Centre and a new Exam Centre. 

The renovation project is expected to last 18 months, during which time the gyms in 67 Union St. will not be available for use. The university is working with current users to mitigate the impact of the closure on Queen’s and community groups. These strategies include maximizing time and use of the Athletics and Recreation Centre (ARC) specifically for evening intramurals, renovating and upgrading MacGillivary Brown Hall and Duncan MacArthur gym facilities, and renting the city’s Beechgrove Athletic Complex near west campus for club, team, and community use.

Due to the renovations, a portion of the parking lot at Union and Division Streets will be unavailable beginning Monday, September 12. 

Renovations to campus biomedical research facilities, which support research by the Centre of Neuroscience Studies, the Cancer Research Institute, the Queen’s Cardiopulmonary Research Institute, and the Human Mobility Research Centre, will also occur over the next few months.

The total cost of the two projects is $119 million. Queen’s has provided $45 million towards the renovations, with the remainder coming from philanthropic donations and other sources. More information will be available through the Gazette as the projects progress.




Four students awarded Schulich Leader Scholarships

Generous awards recognize talent and foster leadership in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Isabel Hazan, Sc'20

Four first-year Queen’s University students will receive the prestigious Schulich Leader Scholarships, which provide significant funding to undergraduates pursuing studies in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The honours are awarded by The Schulich Foundation, launched by Canadian philanthropist Seymour Schulich.

Isabel Hazan of Toronto and Rebecca Balcom of Wolfville, N.S., are studying engineering and will each receive $80,000 over their four years of study. Jessie Payne of Clinton, Ont., and Jaedyn Smith of Whitehorse, Yukon, are enrolled in Bachelor of Science (Honours) degree programs and will each receive $60,000 toward their undergraduate studies at Queen’s.

Jessie Payne, Artsci'20

“These scholarships are another example of Seymour Schulich’s outstanding commitment to post-secondary education in Canada,” says Principal Daniel Woolf. “These four students – as well as Queen’s – have benefited greatly from Mr. Schulich’s generosity.” 

Mr. Schulich is among Canada’s most generous philanthropists who regularly donates to higher education. Last year, Principal Woolf and Mr. Schulich joined forces to donate 400 books from their personal collections to establish the Schulich-Woolf Rare Book Collection at Queen’s. Mr. Schulich donated an additional $1 million to Queen’s to help maintain the collection.

Jaedyn Smith, Artsci'20

“On behalf of the university, I want to congratulate these highly accomplished students,” says Ann Tierney, Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs. “We look forward to welcoming them to campus, and we are grateful to the Schulich Foundation for its continued support of Queen’s and post-secondary education.”

Every Canadian high school and CEGEP (in Quebec) puts one student forward for consideration for the scholarship each year; only 50 students are selected. This is the second year that Queen’s has received four Schulich Leader Scholarships, the maximum number granted to any university partner.  

Ms. Payne is excited to be able to focus on her studies while at Queen’s and not have to worry about finances.

Rebecca Balcom, Sc'20

“The Schulich Leader Scholarship has allowed me to look at university how it should be looked at, as an opportunity to lead, learn, and inspire, by taking the pressure off of the financial burden. I know I will do this incredible foundation proud, after all that they've done for me,” she says.

“When I received the Schulich Leader Scholarship, I felt honoured and excited to be included in this unique and innovative group of students,” says Ms. Balcom.

Mr. Schulich is among Canada’s most generous philanthropists and regularly donates to higher education. He launched the $100-million Schulich Leader Scholarships fund in 2012. Mr. Schulich believes fostering leadership in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) is a way to boost Canada’s economic prosperity.

More information is available from the Schulich Leaders website.


Supporting innovative research

Queen’s researchers, representing wide range of disciplines, receive more than $2.8 million in funding from the Ontario government.

Early Researcher Awards

Amer Johri (Cardiology/KGH Research Institute)
David Rival (Mechanical and Materials Engineering)

Small Infrastructure Award

Alexander Braun (Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering)
Robert Colautti (Biology)
Qingling Duan (Computing & Biomedical and Molecular Sciences)
Gabor Fichtinger (Computing/KGH Research Institute)
Lindsay Fitzpatrick (Chemical Engineering)
Nader Ghasemlou (Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine,Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, KGH Research Institute)
Mark Ormiston (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences/KGH Research Institute)
Jordan Poppenk (Psychology)
Michael Rainbow (Mechanical Engineering)
David Reed (Department of Medicine/KGH Research Institute)
Kevin Stamplecoskie (Chemistry)
Laura Wells (Chemical Engineering)

Large Scale Applied Research Project

Virginia Walker (Biology)
[ORF Announcement]
Kingston and the Islands MPP Sophie Kiwala is given a demonstration of the work being done at Queen's University's Laboratory for Percutaneous Surgery. A total of $2.8 million in funding was announced to support the work of 15 Queen's researchers. (University Communications) 

A total of 15 Queen’s University researchers have received more than $2.8 million in funding from the Ontario Research Fund. Kingston and the Islands MPP Sophie Kiwala made the announcement today at an event at Goodwin Hall.

“We are proud to invest in the groundbreaking, world-class research being conducted at Queen’s University,” says Ms. Kiwala. “Our researchers are pivotal to building a knowledge-driven economy in Ontario, one that will draw investment and strengthen our province’s competitive edge. The fact that we have 15 researchers in Kingston and the Islands receiving these competitive awards is something for which we can all be enormously proud.”

Included in the announcement were two Early Researcher Awards and 12 Ontario Research Fund – Infrastructure Awards. Molecular genetics professor Virginia Walker received Queen’s sole award in the Large Scale Applied Research Project category to support her work in Canada’s north – using leading-edge genomic science to assist in managing the population of Arctic Char.

The Research Infrastructure Awards provide research institutions with funding to help support infrastructure needs, such as modern facilities and equipment. The awards were presented to researchers in a wide range of fields – with projects ranging from genetic sequencing of invasive species to improving computer-assisted surgery for patients with breast cancer.

The Early Researcher Awards program provides funding to early career researchers – those no more than five years into their academic careers and no more than 10 years following the completion of their first doctoral degree – to assist with establishing their research team. Amer Johri (Cardiology) and David Rival (Mechanical and Materials Engineering) will each receive $140,000 to support their research on early stage heart disease detection and autonomous flow-sensing drones, respectively.

“The continuing support we have received from the Government of Ontario, through the Early Researcher Awards and the Ontario Research Fund, will help our promising early career researchers make their mark, support the ongoing research of our more established faculty members, and foster the research-intensive environment required to keep all Queen’s scholars at the leading edge of their fields,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research).

For more information on the Ontario Research Fund: Research Infrastructure or Early Researcher Awards visit the website.

Mining venture strikes gold in pitch contest

  • [RockMass team members]
    RockMass Technologies won first prize at the QICSI Venture Pitch Competition on Aug. 18. The company includes Matas Sriubiskis, Matthew Gubasta, Shelby Yee, Nichola Trinh, Boyang Fu and Rigers Rukaj (left to right).
  • OneSpecies team members Elena Routledge and Kenedy Assman make their presentation during the final pitch competition for the Queen's Innovation Connection Summer Initiative (QICSI).
    OneSpecies team members Elena Routledge and Kenedy Assman make their presentation during the final pitch competition for the Queen's Innovation Connection Summer Initiative (QICSI).
  • Nikita Kopotun unveils the Paperweight team's innovative printer during the final pitch competition.
    Nikita Kopotun unveils the Paperweight team's innovative printer during the final pitch competition.
  • [Kerry Readwin with Laura Yu]
    NorthSprout member Kerry Readwin (Com'17), left, explains her product to Laura Yu, Business Development Manager, Academic Entrepreneurship, with Ontario Centres of Excellence.
  • Team members of Amala answer questions from the judges panel regarding their product  – a yoga mat made with algae  –  at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts on Thursday, Aug. 18.
    Team members of Amala answer questions from the judges panel regarding their product – a yoga mat made with algae – at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts on Thursday, Aug. 18.
  • [Jimmy Hamilton with Neil Longhurst]
    Jimmy Hamilton (Artsci'17), left, a member of OneSpecies, speaks with Neil Longhurst (MBA'77), a QICSI mentor.

Months of hard work and long hours have paid off for the six Queen’s University students who co-founded RockMass Technologies.

The company won the Queen’s Innovation Connector Summer Initiative (QICSI) Venture Pitch Competition, beating out seven other teams for the top prize of $30,000 in seed-funding.

RockMass Technologies is working to improve the safety and efficiency of geological mapping in the mining, civil engineering, and exploration industries. According to the company, the device “automatically maps a rock face while the software analyses the data and breaks it down into key information that is used to determine the structural stability of a tunnel, mine shaft and/or rock face.”

The technology is based on research conducted at Queen’s by Professor Joshua Marshall and PhD candidate Marc Gallant. Dr. Marshall and Mr. Gallant patented the technology through PARTEQ and the QICSI students licensed it.

“We are so fortunate to have this great technology to use. It’s really great to be able to commercialize Queen’s research and take it to market,” says Matas Sriubiskis, Chief Executive Officer of RockMass Technologies. 

Mr. Sriubiskis (Artsci’17) and his teammates Shelby Yee (Sc’16), Chief Operating Officer, Matt Gubasta (Artsci’17), Chief Financial Officer, Boyang Fu (Cmp’16), Lead Software Developer, Rigers Rukaj (Sc’17), Chief Technology Officer, and Nichola Trinh (Sc’17), Chief Business Development Officer, were overjoyed to win the pitch competition. While they savoured the moment with friends and the other QICSI participants, they had already started looking ahead.

“This (win) is fantastic, but we have to keep working,” Mr. Sriubiskis says. “We’re heading to clients’ mines and worksites in September, and we are developing new connections with companies. We are also looking at developing different extensions for our technology as well.”

Three other companies received awards following the pitch competition. The judges awarded $20,000 in seed-funding to both NorthSprout – which developed a gel-based germination medium to allow seeds to grow strong and healthy faster and with less water – and Tandem Therapy – a software platform to support the relationship between therapists and their patients. Paperweight Technologies, which is improving the home printing experience, also won $10,000 in seed-funding.  

QICSI, a 17-week paid internship where students collaborate to launch their own ventures, has existed for five years. Greg Bavington, Executive Director of QIC, says the venture pitches keep getting stronger each year.

“Every year we refine the program to better meet the needs of the students,” Mr. Bavington explains. “And as awareness grows of the Summer Initiative, our flagship program, and our other offerings, we continue to attract high-achieving students and direct them to programs that best fit their needs and interests.”

Visit the QIC website to learn more about its programs. 

Campus life 'allowed me to claim my history'

Alumna Carol Ann Budd’s undergraduate years prepared her for career success – and helped her connect with her Aboriginal culture. 

Fresh off vacation time at her cottage in Biscotasing, northeastern Ontario, Carol Ann Budd (Sc’89) is keen to go down to the shore of Lake Ontario. When she was a student, studying engineering chemistry, she loved to venture just off campus for dips in the cool water.

“I love it down here – the wind, the waves, the rocks,” she says, walking along the shore in Breakwater Park.

The connection to nature is important to Carol Ann – from the Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation, she grew up in Levack, Ont., a small community near Sudbury. Rooted to her surroundings and her family, she says she probably would never have left the area had her brother Raymond Hatfield (Law’84) not encouraged her to continue her education.

From Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation, Carol Ann Budd (Sc'89) says she loved venturing down to the shore of Lake Ontario when she was an engineering student. (University Communications)

“He went to Queen’s and studied business and law, and wanted me to consider going back to school,” says Carol Ann, who had dropped out of Grade 13 and was not sure what she wanted to do. In the end, she decided to go east and do a pre-science year at the University of Ottawa.

“It was a big culture shock for me, coming from a very small community to Ottawa and to a program that was almost all international students,” she says. “My world was very small in Levack and Ottawa opened that up.”

Carol Ann says, interestingly, it was in that city and in Kingston, at Queen’s later on, where she ended up connecting more fully with her Indigenous heritage. She remembers her grandmother making Indigenous crafts – moccasins and beadwork – but says a lot of the ceremonies and rituals unique to her culture went underground because of the residential school system and the consequent shame people felt about being Aboriginal.

“It was more something to hide. We tried not to point it out,” she says. “When I got to Ottawa, I saw my first pow wow and I thought it was amazing – people were celebrating Indigenous culture. At Queen’s, at Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, I went to my first Full Moon Ceremony and hand-drumming events. It was so enriching. It allowed me to claim my history and be proud of it.”

Aboriginal awareness and engagement on campus

Now a community member of Queen’s Aboriginal Council and an engaged engineering alumna, working with Aboriginal Access to Engineering, Carol Ann is impressed with how the university has acknowledged and included Aboriginal culture in its administrative planning and educational programming. She says that while there was always an openness at Queen’s that she didn’t feel elsewhere, it was still clear that a lot of work needed to be done around awareness of Indigenous issues and the need to support Aboriginal initiatives.

“I am so pleased with the progress over the years. Things have really changed on campus, and it’s really clear how a lot of small things add up to big changes in the culture,” she says.

In particular, Carol Ann highlights Principal Daniel Woolf’s leadership, along with Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration) Caroline Davis’ experience with Aboriginal issues as a former public servant, as important factors in how things have shifted on campus. Aboriginal Council is now a more focused entity, and Four Directions, with Janice Hill as Director, is able to offer more to Aboriginal students in the way of guidance and support.

Raising children and a supportive Queen’s community

During her undergraduate years, Carol Ann was very thankful for all the support she received to complete her degree – especially since an unexpected twist sent her life in a different direction for several years.

“I went home to Biscotasing over Christmas in third year,” she explains, pausing before saying, “And I fell in love, and ended up staying and having a baby.”

It was a happy time and the couple had another daughter shortly after. “But we were struggling financially,” says Carol Ann. “I thought it was a bit crazy – here I was with three-quarters of an engineering degree and I couldn’t buy a loaf of bread.”

Carol Ann received congratulatory notes and gifts after the births of her daughters from Queen’s professors, including James McCowan and Don Heyding. She says it was that contact that spurred her to return, and complete her degree.

“People were so supportive and helpful. It kept me going,” says Carol Ann, who had two more children later on. “Here I was on campus, carting two little kids around with me much of the time, but I never felt out of place. I felt welcome and people did whatever they could to help, whether it was finding daycare or teaching me how to use a computer.”

Carol Ann received an honours degree and went on to a successful career in engineering, working at DuPont and INVISTA as a research scientist, and later, in the automotive industry. She now works in a different field, as a financial consultant at Investors Group, after the collapse of the auto industry sent her searching for something different.

In her current consulting work, Carol Ann maintains strong links to local Aboriginal communities and organizations, and hopes to build on her efforts to offer support through financial planning advice.

“There is lots to contribute in this area, and it’s something I love doing – working with clients having unique situations, and applying my problem-solving skills to help them achieve their goals. I find it very rewarding.”


Exploring the promise of the quantum realm

[Rob Knobel]
Queen’s engineering physics professor Robert Knobel and his team at the Kingston Nano-Fabrication Laboratory are developing practical technologies on a tiny scale that could profoundly impact all our lives. (Supplied Photo) 

Rob Knobel is probing the ultimate limits of nanomechanical systems to develop and build tiny vapour sensors, which could be used as airport security tools to prevent terrorism or drug smuggling.

He and his students are using highly specialized equipment in the $5-million Kingston Nano Fabrication Laboratory (KNFL), which opened a year ago in Innovation Park, to fabricate nanosensors made from graphene, a form of carbon a single atom thick.

“Graphene is the strongest, lightest material yet discovered, and it has remarkable electrical and mechanical properties. We’re developing graphene chemical sensors that can detect vapours in parts per billion or trillion concentration. These could potentially be used for detecting explosives or biological agents,” says Dr. Knobel, an associate professor, the Chair of Engineering Physics and a Queen's Engineering graduate himself.

In his cutting-edge research, Dr. Knobel runs experiments in which small vibrating elements fabricated at the KNFL are cooled down to temperatures near absolute zero. These nanomechanical systems – moving devices with dimensions of a few nanometres, only a few atoms thick – vibrate under the influence of vanishingly small forces, and measuring their motion presents both scientific and engineering challenges. One purpose of these cryogenic experiments is to understand and measure how the properties and behaviour of these human-made nanostructures change in the transition from the macro world of classical physics to the quantum mechanics world on an atomic scale.

“Putting and measuring a nanomechanical system in the quantum world is important, fascinating and challenging science in its own right,” he says.

But Dr. Knobel’s fundamental research in the quantum realm also leads to the translation of this knowledge into promising real-world applications at room temperature. As he and his team push to develop superior nanoelectrical and nanomechanical devices with the extreme sensitivity needed to measure quantum effects, they are building better sensors with many possible practical applications of value to industry. These innovative nano-devices could be used for advanced mass spectrometry, more precise analysis of materials’ properties, biosensors to detect proteins in the blood, or extremely high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to probe single molecules a few nanometres wide.

Dr. Knobel’s research on the quantum behaviour of nanoscale devices is opening up new possibilities for quantum computing, a proposed way to rapidly speed up computing, and for quantum communications.

“Quantum communications is a way to create perfectly secure communications that no one could eavesdrop on,” he says.

He has also built vibrating crystal beams that will respond to incredibly small forces at frequencies up to the microwave range, which could be used as filters to enable cell networks to handle many more phone calls.

The KNFL facility, a partnership between Queen’s and CMC Microsystems, is an open facility for researchers and companies that want to make, characterize and test devices and materials with small dimensions from nanometre to millimetre. The new lab (funded through the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, CMC Microsystems and Queen’s) has been a catalyst for Dr. Knobel to launch collaborations with materials and chemical companies and other small and large industrial firms to test and advance these innovative technologies for broader practical uses.

“We’re excited about the industry collaborations, and these are of great benefit to graduate students. This facility allows us to envision projects that were out of reach before and bring our research on quantum effects in nanomechanical systems closer to the real world and commercialization,” he says.

This article was first published in The Complete Engineer, the magazine for the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. 


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