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Engineering and Applied Science

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. 

Seeking control

[Martin Guay]
Dr. Martin Guay and colleagues showed in a recent research paper how an innovative distributed control technique can be used to optimize the use of high-altitude balloons for Google's Project Loon. (Supplied Photo)

Google’s Project Loon aims to provide internet access to the entire globe using a network of high-altitude balloons. Less than half the world’s population and fewer than 30 per cent of people in Africa and Asia have internet access today.

Martin Guay (Chemical Engineering) and colleagues showed in a recent research paper how an innovative distributed control technique – distributed extremum seeking control (ESC) – can be used to solve the balloon problem without requiring complex wind models or large amounts of computing power. Dr. Guay’s simulation study, involving 1,200 balloons, illustrates how distributed ESC can determine the optimal configuration for balloons floating on changing, non-linear wind currents to provide adequate internet coverage for all users at the lowest cost.

“We’re pushing the boundaries of this control technique. It’s a very practical tool, which can be used to solve large-scale operating problems in any type of industry in a simple way. Every company I talk to will listen because it does exactly what they are looking for, real-time optimization in a model-free way,” he says.

Dr. Guay works with large companies such as Mitsubishi Electric, United Technologies, Johnson Controls and Praxair to continually improve, refine and apply his control method to optimize in real time power consumption, manufacturing productivity and chemical processes – and ultimately, profitability – across a wide range of industries. With Mitsubishi Electric, for example, he has applied the technique and its algorithms to optimize energy performance in heating and cooling buildings.

“These techniques allow you to minimize a building’s total power consumption by manipulating the energy-management control system to give you the best performance,” he says. “A small change in power consumption can result in a lot of cost savings.”

Consider a large grocery store with multiple heating and cooling systems, lots of open space with doors opening and closing, and varying numbers of people shopping. The store conditions are constantly changing and very complicated to model in a realistic way. The control problem is to maintain a constant store temperature with the least power consumption.

“This technique allows you to find extra degrees of freedom to adjust the compressor speed or fan speed, for example, to changing conditions in real time to minimize power consumption while maintaining a constant temperature,” Dr. Guay says. “It’s an adaptable tool that could easily be used to retrofit the energy systems in office, retail, industrial or apartment buildings.”

His innovative and influential contributions in the areas of process control engineering and real-time decision-making support have been recognized with the Premier’s Research Excellence Award, the Queen’s Chancellor’s Research Award and the Syncrude Canada Innovation Award. He also received the Golden Apple Award for his teaching from Queen’s Engineering undergrads. His past work with Suncor Energy, Syncrude Canada and Royal Dutch Shell in the Alberta oil sands to help optimize plant productivity and performance under changing daily operating and market conditions takes on greater urgency and relevance in today’s world of low oil prices.

Dr. Guay sees exciting opportunities as well to develop real-time optimization tools in multiple areas. Such tools could be used in drug delivery in medicine to develop tailored individual treatments.

“Every individual responds differently to medications,” he says. “We’d like to work with pharmaceutical companies to develop drug delivery systems that could find the optimal dose from measurements of blood sugar, blood pressure or cholesterol from the patient in real time.”

ESC is also ideal for the development of cyber-secure control systems.

“The model-free aspect of the technique can minimize the complexity of control systems and reduce their vulnerability to cyber-attacks,” Dr. Guay says.

This article was first published on the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science website.

Adversity no barrier to success

Queen’s electrical and computer engineering (ECE) student Emily Heffernan has a lot going on.

[Emily Heffernan]
A student in electrical and computer engineering (ECE) at Queen's, Emily Heffernan has earned Google Lime and Hydro One scholarships. (Supplied photo)

She’s deep into her undergraduate studies, spent last summer working in biomedical computing at the Laboratory for Percutaneous Surgery (Perk Lab) and has an internship this summer with Hydro One. She’s also been named Regional Executive Officer for North America of Robogals, the popular international student organization that holds robotics and computing workshops designed specifically to encourage girls and young women to pursue engineering in academy and industry.

She’s bright, industrious and community minded but she’s been waylaid a time or two along her path so far.

“Two weeks before I was scheduled to start at Queen’s in 2013, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease,” she says.

Crohn’s is a chronic autoimmune disease that principally affects the large intestine. It’s painful, often embarrassing and can even become life threatening if left unchecked. There’s no sure cure and people living with it have to make big lifestyle changes. It’s manageable but always lurking, always threatening to flare up.

“Obviously it came with lots of challenges: figuring everything out and being in pain a lot of the time,” Ms. Heffernan says. “Crohn’s is also hard because it’s an invisible disease. People don’t necessarily know you have it so it can be hard for them to understand.”

Still, she managed to complete her first-year courses and progress through second year. Then, during a routine checkup, doctors noticed she had a heart murmur.

“My mom has one, so I wasn’t concerned at first,” Ms. Heffernan says. “But after I went for some tests, I was referred to a cardiologist and then to a surgeon. I had mitral valve regurgitation.”

The mitral valve separates the left atrium from the left ventricle of the heart. A leaky one can cause fatigue and shortness of breath but, more dangerously, it can lead to high blood pressure in the veins leading from the lungs to the heart. It’s a condition that can cause heart failure if left untreated and the only way to repair it is with open heart surgery. The recovery set Heffernan back at least a semester.

“It’s probably something I had for years and years and they just never caught it,” she says. “Now, since the surgery, I’m back to running and doing yoga and all that kind of stuff.”

Her perseverance, hard work and academic talent have served Ms. Heffernan well this year. She was one of only 12 Google Lime Scholars selected from North America. It’s one of the highest honours Google bestows on undergraduate students and comes with $5,000, a summer retreat to Google headquarters in California and a chance at a Google internship. She also earned one of only 10 Hydro One Women in Engineering Scholarships. That one is also $5,000 and, for Ms. Heffernan, comes with a summer internship at the utility giant in Toronto.

She isn’t quite sure what she wants to do after her undergrad but thinks graduate school will likely be part of the plan when it comes together.

“One thing I’ve learned from these experiences is that there are always obstacles and barriers in the way of what I’m trying to do,” she says. “It might take a bit of time. I might have to take a detour to get where I want to go but I’ll get there eventually.”

To fellow students who are living with disabilities or facing health issues at Queen’s, Heffernan has some advice.

“It can be really overwhelming and it’s hard to feel understood,” she says. “But it’s really important to take advantage of the resources available. Admitting that you need help can be one of the hardest things to do but it’s important to understand that it’s okay to ask for it. If it’s going to help you to get where you want to go, it’s important to do that.”

Building rockets, boats, and futures

Justin Gordanier engages Aboriginal youth in hands-on STEM activities in new Access to Engineering role.

Justin Gordanier can easily pinpoint the best part of his job.

He started as Aboriginal community engagement coordinator in the Aboriginal Access to Engineering (AAE) program this past spring, and so far he’s already spent many days out in communities working with young children to boost their interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM fields).

“I love to see the students who typically don’t do well in school take the lead when given the chance to do hands-on activities, like making boats out of recyclable materials,” says Mr. Gordanier (B.Ed.’14), who in addition to his Queen’s Education degree, holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Brock University.

Justin Gordanier joined Melanie Howard in the Aboriginal Access to Engineering office this past spring.

“All of a sudden, you see these kids’ confidence soar and they begin to help the others who aren’t as good at the hands-on work. They get to see each others’ strengths and work together. It’s nice to see that shift.”

Mr. Gordanier works alongside AAE Director Melanie Howard and together they’ve developed an outreach program to engage Aboriginal students ages 6-13 in communities throughout Ontario and Quebec. Travelling many days a month, Mr. Gordanier is visiting First Nation day camps throughout the summer, working with the children on science and engineering activities. He spends a few hours at each of the camps every week. Throughout the school year, Mr. Gordanier will be working in First Nation schools and with teachers to help them develop long-term plans to integrate more hands-on STEM learning opportunities in their classrooms.

Queen’s Aboriginal Access to Engineering 
Unique in Eastern Canada, this program aims to increase the number of Aboriginal engineers across the country. It has a dual focus – it offers on-campus support to current Aboriginal students and aims to foster future development of younger generations, by providing resources for students at the elementary and secondary levels to encourage them to stay in school and keep studying math and science. Learn more on the website.

“The activities I do with the kids are fun but educational, and the response so far has been great. They look forward to what’s coming the next week, especially when it’s building rockets or something like that,” he says. “And it’s all collaborative group work, so they are learning to work together, as well as life skills such as patience and perseverance.”

Mr. Gordanier’s work is part of AAE’s broader plan to increase engagement and interest among Aboriginal youth in the STEM fields. They want to get into schools early and build long-term, sustained relationships with both students and educators. “It is well-known that Aboriginal people are underrepresented in post-secondary and this program aims to help change that,” he says.

With his science and education degrees, as well as his Mohawk ancestry, Mr. Gordanier is well-suited for the position. He grew up in Deseronto, Ont., close to the Tyendinaga community, but he says it wasn’t until university that he became really interested in his culture.

“When I went to Brock, this large, diverse community, I saw people from so many different cultures, and it sparked my interest in my own culture and history. During the summer, I worked at a daycare at Tyendinaga, and while I had always wanted to go to medical school, I realized I loved working with kids and that made me go into teaching.”

While supply teaching at Quinte Mohawk School, he met Ms. Howard, who was working on other outreach activities with the community through Queen’s AAE. She told him about the new position in her office, and Mr. Gordanier quickly applied.

“It’s an exciting and rewarding job that allows me to use all of the skills I’ve developed over the years,” he says. “I love watching the kids’ eyes light up while doing the activities I’ve set out for them. We don’t know for sure how it will impact or change their lives, but you can see the excitement and how much they enjoy it.”


Bigger-picture training for industry leaders

New online, interdisciplinary master’s program offers energy and minerals/mining professionals a chance to zoom out, gain new knowledge for complex workplace.

A new interdisciplinary master’s program at Queen’s wants to take professionals already working in the energy and minerals/mining sectors and zoom them out to see the bigger picture.

“The working environment for those in oil and gas, and minerals and mining, has increased in complexity, and leaders in those fields need to have a solid understanding earlier in their careers of all the interconnections playing out,” says Ione Taylor, Executive Director of the program.

The Queen's Master of Earth and Energy Resources Leadership provides professionals with a flexible, mostly online format to allow them to keep working while they complete the degree.

The Master of Earth and Energy Resources Leadership, which is accepting students for the January 2017 start, is an 80 per cent online, 20 per cent residential program that allows professionals to keep working as they complete the degree.

“This is a very exciting program that integrates many different components, from examining the resource life cycle, with its fundamental earth science and engineering aspects, to the economic and business side, and the legal, policy, regulatory and ethical considerations of working in these industries,” says Jean Hutchinson, Professor and Department Head for Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering.

An important facet of the program is its broad range of faculty members and instructors. The program draws from the Faculty of Law, Smith School of Business, Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering, Political Science, and Economics, as well as external industry leaders.

“Many people working in these fields recognize that having an undergraduate degree is not enough going into the future – they need more sophisticated analytical skills, to deal with a changing environment that demands they have an understanding of human rights and environmental issues, on top of earth systems science and business knowledge,” says Dr. Taylor, who came to Queen’s from the petroleum industry and the U.S. Geological Survey to lead, and teach in, the program. “This program will help shape the next generation of leadership in these fields – people who will help Canada and the world move forward in a sustainable way.”

Students can study in the program on a part-time basis and will complete the master’s in 20 months, ideally.

“This program sets a new standard for course design at the graduate level and exemplifies Queen’s mission to provide innovative, interdisciplinary programs that offer students flexibility and both on-campus and online components,” says Jill Scott, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning). “The Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and its staff have been integral to this program’s launch and in making it a dynamic and fluid learning experience for students.”

The CTL worked with faculty and program staff to take input from an extensive external market survey and shape it into an innovative curriculum, which effectively addresses the skill and competency development needs identified in the survey as priorities for the program. 

In addition, Continuing and Distance Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Science provided instructional designers and developers, who are experts at online and blended delivery programs, to guide faculty in creating the online format for the courses offered in the program.  

For more information, visit the program website or email Dr. Taylor.

Powered by collaboration

Queen’s researcher Jon Pharoah teams up with Mercedes-Benz to solve fuel cell challenges.

When Mercedes-Benz was looking for help to improve its fuel cell manufacturing process, the company turned to Jon Pharoah, an engineering professor at Queen’s with more than 20 years of research experience in this field.

Queen's researcher Jon Pharoah has partnered with Mercedes-Benz to help improve their fuel cell manufacturing process.

“For decades we’ve been researching these devices – how to make them better, how to make them more robust, less costly – and now, there’s a whole new slew of problems when it comes to mass manufacturing,” says Dr. Pharoah, who served as director of the former Queen’s-RMC Fuel Cell Research Centre (FCRC). “When manufacturing fuel cells on a commercial scale, we need to worry about using all the material so that nothing is wasted, that the devices are built to the right tolerances and that they’re made as inexpensive as possible.”

Dr. Pharoah and his team were approached by Mercedes-Benz to help solve an issue faced during mass production of fuel cells. The polymeric material that composes the core of the cell requires water to function, which it draws from the air. When the relative humidity changes, the material can shrink or expand – causing serious quality control issues in a manufacturing setting. Similar to wood used in construction or flooring, the material must be allowed to acclimate before manufacturing. As all of the fuel cell components must be stored and manufactured in a clean room, the manufacturer was looking for ways to shorten the acclimation time and reduce the volume of inventory necessary.

Queen's graduate student Philippe Coté works on fuel cell material at the Mercedes-Benz manufacturing centre in British Columbia. Mr. Coté was one of two graduate students from Queen's to work at the facility under a Mitacs Accelerate grant. Photos courtesy Thomas Maassen and Vincent Nguyen, Mercedes-Benz Canada Inc., Fuel Cell Division 

In a series of experiments, Dr. Pharoah and his team tested means of speeding up the acclimatization process, controlling for a wide range of factors. His team has already sent two mechanical engineering master’s students to the manufacturing facility in British Columbia to test the methods on the polymeric material on a larger scale. These on-site projects were funded though the Accelerate program offered by a Mitacs, a national, not-for-profit organization that supports applied and industrial research by providing funding for research internship programs with private sector organizations across the country.

Dr. Pharoah says the collaboration with Mercedes-Benz presented some interesting challenges and required the researchers to look at issues they had not considered in the past.

“We have really thought about the devices, but more from the perspective of making the best possible widget and not the widget that’s easiest to manufacture. It’s a new focus area and there are many manufacturing issues we need to tackle,” he says. “Ultimately, this is the way we’re going to have clean vehicles. This is an incredibly important area for combatting climate change and it’s nice to be working with a company that’s trying to get these out the door and into the hands of consumers.”

Dr. Pharoah and his team continue to refine their acclimation technique, with a new method showing promise in the manufacturing environment. The lab recently sent another student to the manufacturing centre on a Mitacs Accelerate internship to test the polymeric material being used in actual fuel cells.

“Queen’s is delighted to be working with Mercedes-Benz, and to provide our expertise in fuel cell research to solve pressing issues that stand in the way of commercializing this technology,” says Dr. Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “By improving how Mercedes-Benz manufactures fuel cells for its vehicles, Dr. Pharoah and his team are helping take a crucial step towards a more environmentally friendly future.”

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


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