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In-depth innovation tour

  • Mayor Bryan Paterson and Principal Daniel Woolf speak with Shahram Yousefi, co-founder of Canarmony and the acting head of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
    Mayor Bryan Paterson and Principal Daniel Woolf speak with Shahram Yousefi, co-founder of Canarmony and the acting head of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
  • The tour visited the offices of Spectra Plasmonics - an innovative forensics company founded during the 2017 Dunin-Deshpande Queen's Innovation Centre Summer Initiative.
    The tour visited the offices of Spectra Plasmonics - an innovative forensics company founded during the 2017 Dunin-Deshpande Queen's Innovation Centre Summer Initiative.
  • Mayor Bryan Paterson and Principal Daniel Woolf meet with Shyra Barberstock, a Queen's master's candidate and co-founder of Okwaho Equal Source. Okwaho, an Indigenous social enterprise, has become a highly sought-after global leader and change agent in Indigenous-inspired social finance, social enterprise, social innovation, and social procurement for the Canadian and Australian public and private sectors.
    Mayor Bryan Paterson and Principal Daniel Woolf meet with Shyra Barberstock, a Queen's master's candidate and co-founder of Okwaho Equal Source. Okwaho, an Indigenous social enterprise, has become a highly sought-after global leader and change agent in Indigenous-inspired social finance, social enterprise, social innovation, and social procurement for the Canadian and Australian public and private sectors.

On Thursday, Aug. 31, Principal Daniel Woolf welcomed Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson to Innovation Park to meet with companies and teams at the forefront of Kingston's innovation ecosystem. Joined by representatives of the Office of Partnerships and Innovation and staff from the City of Kingston, the tour visited the offices of several leading edge companies, including Canarmony, Limestone Analytics, Okwaho Equal Source. A testament to the strength of Queen's committment to fostering innovation, all of the companies toured have a Queen's connection - founded by, or working in close partnership with, Queen's students, researchers and faculty.

This was the second Queen's stop on the Mayor's Innovation Tour. In early August, Mayor Paterson visited the main Queen's campus to learn more about innovative research, as well as to meet with participants in the Dunin-Deshpande Queen's Innovation Centre Summer Initiative.

Innovative research project at the BISC combines art and science

Herstmonceux Castle is more than just a campus – it is a living piece of history. The campus, which Queen’s operates as the Bader International Study Centre (BISC), is a Bronze Age castle which has been continuously inhabited for over 600 years. This history provides a unique opportunity for Queen’s University and University of Waterloo researchers to study the way people lived hundreds of years ago – yet, up until a few years ago, the site had only received sporadic research attention.

The Herstmonceux Project is an archaeological effort which aims to increase our understanding of climate change by examining how changes in temperature and weather conditions have impacted the castle’s site since its founding.

“Since we received our initial Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant, we have spent four years digging up the past and, along the way, this has provided excellent opportunities for students to work hands-on with a unique archaeological site,” says Steven Bednarski, University of Waterloo professor and medieval scholar. “There have been dozens of research trips to the site which have helped these students practice their research skills and will hopefully one day enable them to contribute to future climate change solutions.”

Queen’s has made a number of contributions to the project, including the assistance of two Queen’s Undergraduate Summer Student Research Fellowship recipients each year. This fellowship provides an opportunity for any continuing undergraduate students at Queen’s to develop their research skills under the guidance of a faculty researcher. Up to two of the fellowships offered each year take place at the BISC. This year, Abby Berry (Artsci’18) did ‘double duty’ while working for the Herstmonceux Project, says Dr. Bednarski. Part of Ms. Berry’s role this summer has been to digitize and catalogue the project’s archives – a task that aligned with her Queen’s education and personal interests.

Queen's University study Abby Berry leads a project presentation at the Bader International Study Centre. (Supplied photo)

“In my first two years at Queen's, I constantly found myself searching for intersections between my major in art history and my minor in mathematics,” says Ms. Berry. “It wasn't until my third year that I learned that there was a discipline called digital humanities that merges both science and art. I was interested in the Herstmonceux Project because it allowed me to explore both sides of my degree. There is an endless amount of research that can be performed when you ask yourself what computer programming can do for the arts and what the arts can do for computer programming.”

The opportunity to work on the research project has been a positive experience for Ms. Berry and she says, after graduation, she plans on continuing her research in the digital humanities.

“I'm really interested in how my computer programming background can be used to enhance our understanding of medieval art and architecture,” she adds. “I want to continue working on research projects that allow art to be accessible, not only to the top one percent, but to the general public – this can be achieved through 3D printing, high-resolution images, or computer models.”

Some of uWaterloo Professor Steven Bednarski's students work on a dig site at the Bader International Study Centre. (Supplied photo)

In addition to the undergraduate student researchers, the Herstmonceux Project researchers are provided access to the campus grounds, they stay at the BISC during their visits, and the archaeological finds are physically stored and digitally catalogued at the castle. Queen’s graduate researchers, at the masters and doctoral levels, have also worked at Herstmonceux to oversee undergraduate students, and to conduct their own original research. Meanwhile, in Kingston, project collaborators in Queen’s Art History and Art Conservation department, including faculty member Amandina Anastassiades and now-retired faculty member Krysia Spirydowicz, worked with their own master's candidates to preserve and study the most fragile artifacts. These MA candidates produced reports and studies on the materials recovered at the castle, and several of them delivered a scholarly paper at an October 2016 conference in Waterloo.

The years of research work at the BISC recently led to a major award for Dr. Bednarski. He received a 2017 D2L Innovation in Teaching and Learning Award from the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, in part because of the Herstmonceux Project and for a digital research lab he has established at the University of Waterloo connected to the project. Dr. Bednarski credits the support of his research team and the project partners – including Queen’s University, the BISC, the University of Waterloo, and St. Jerome’s University (which is federated within University of Waterloo), and SSHRC – for the success of The Herstmonceux Project, and says he accepted the award on behalf of all involved.

To learn more about the project, visit www.medieval-environment.com

Discussing Canada’s energy future

  • James Meadowcroft of Carleton University fields a question from Queen's University's John Pharaoh (Mechanical and Materials Engineering) during his presentation on Wednesday, Aug. 23.
    James Meadowcroft of Carleton University fields a question from Queen's University's John Pharaoh during his presentation on Wednesday, Aug. 23.
  • Queen's University's Warren Mabee (Geography and Planning,School of Policy Studies), top right, leads a discussion during the workshop on the role of nuclear and renewables in Canada’s energy future.
    Queen's University's Warren Mabee (Geography and Planning,School of Policy Studies), top right, leads a discussion during the workshop on the role of nuclear and renewables in Canada’s energy future.
  • Donald Maracle, Chief  of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, makes a presentation during the energy workshop hosted at Robert Sutherland Hall on Wednesday, Aug. 23.
    Donald Maracle, Chief of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, makes a presentation during the energy workshop hosted at Robert Sutherland Hall on Wednesday, Aug. 23.
  • Workshop attendees take part in a group discussion during a workshop on the role of nuclear and renewables in Canada’s energy future hosted at Queen's.
    Workshop attendees take part in a group discussion during a workshop on the role of nuclear and renewables in Canada’s energy future hosted at Queen's.

A critical dialogue on the role of nuclear and renewables in Canada’s energy future drew more than 60 research, industry, government and community leaders to Queen’s University on Wednesday, Aug. 23.

Hosted in collaboration with Natural Resources Canada, the workshop was part of a broad, national engagement on Canada’s long-term energy future that will look at the challenges of supporting a competitive, affordable and low-carbon future for Canadians.

Philip Jennings, Associate Deputy Minister, Natural Resources Canada, was in attendance, along with a number of Queen’s administrators.  Presenters included Queen’s researchers Mark Daymond, Stephen Harrison and Praveen Jain as well as Chief Donald Maracle of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte.

New dean to focus on equity, research, and student experience

Barbara Crow was hired in July to become the Dean, Arts and Science. Dr. Crow joins Queen’s from York University in Toronto where she was most recently the Dean, Graduate Studies. The Gazette caught up with Dean Crow to find out how the first few months have been, and learn more about this new member of the Queen’s community.

Barbara Crow, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science, arrives at Queen's from York University where she most recently held the position of Dean, Graduate Studies. (University Communications)

How has the transition been for you?

"One of the wonderful things about starting at this time of year is that it is a bit quieter. So, while faculty are doing their research and the students are working, I have been able to meet the senior leaders and the department heads. Everybody has been very welcoming and has come to the table with their ideas and concerns about how to strengthen and reinforce the values of the Faculty of Arts & Science. It has been great to get access to their perspective. I value working with people who tell me what they think.

I also met with the Arts & Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) and the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) and have been incredibly impressed with their commitment to the student experience. I look forward to continuing a positive working relationship with ASUS and SGPS.

The campus is beautiful, and I have been trying every day to walk through a new building. I have a sense of the different kind of community here, one I am looking forward to working with.

I am also really enjoying the change to my quality of life here. I am walking to work and I have, literally, twice skipped home because I am so thrilled to be there in 10 minutes."

 

What attracted you to Queen’s University?

"It has such a fantastic student reputation – bar none. Our undergraduates benefit from excellent undergraduate teaching and we have many services. I said during my hiring I am not going to be able to help you with retention – you have got that all figured out – but I can make contributions to help strengthen research and graduate education.

I am also really excited that Queen’s is taking a leadership role in wellness through the creation of the new Innovation and Wellness Centre – this is an important initiative for students, for staff, and for faculty."

 

What do you uniquely bring to the role of Dean of Arts and Science?

"I love my work. I love universities. I believe publicly funded postsecondary institutions can be fundamental part of strong communities, vibrant cultures, through the important analytic and critical thinking skills we teach. When you look at the data around people who have been to university, you see that on average, they have higher incomes, they are healthier, they are happier, and they contribute more to citizenship issues. We need to remind ourselves of this – we have to remember many of the other elements we get from a university education."

 

For those who haven’t met you yet, what should they know about you?

"I am a really firm believer in professional development and giving colleagues – students, staff, and faculty – tools to make informed decisions about what we want to achieve in the coming years. I am compelled by evidence supported with data. I try to make decisions based on what the research tells us and I think that is important for us as a university.

On a more personal note, I have a son attending Concordia University. My partner and I met on Canada World Youth and is a faculty member in the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design at York University. I have been a vegetarian for over 30 years. I also began taking piano lessons as an adult, and I do this to remind myself of what it is like to be a student. It is a humbling experience to remember what it’s like not to understand things and to be reminded how much work it takes to do something well."

 

What are your priorities for the year ahead?

"I would like the graduate student experience to have the same reputation as the undergraduate student experience. We have a fantastic Dean of Graduate Studies here who has been a leader in Canada and I look forward to working with her supporting the graduate student experience.

In light of the exciting Nobel news in Physics, I am really keen to support our research strengths and to provide infrastructure for all of our colleagues to do well in research across the Arts and Science.

I have come from one of the most diverse universities in Canada, and I think it will be important to take up issues in equity and diversity. I also think the Truth and Reconciliation Task Force report has called for some important changes to the way we do things that will enhance indigeneity at Queen’s.

Those are all really important to me and will drive many of the decisions we will make."

Researchers revolutionize cardiac procedure

Queen’s doctors first in Canada to successfully complete operation to treat patients who suffer from common heart condition.

Queen’s University researchers Gianluigi Bisleri (Surgery) and Benedict Glover (Medicine) became the first doctors in Canada to compete a hybrid cardiac ablation procedure. The procedure, which was completed at the Kingston Health Science Centre, is a treatment for patients who suffer from the heart condition atrial fibrillation, an irregular and often rapid heart rate.

The new procedure will help patients heal faster, stop or reduce their use of medication, as well as reduce the number of future hospital visits that they require.

“No other centre or clinician has ever performed this hybrid procedure (combining a closed-chest surgical ablation with a transcatheter mapping) in Canada,” explains Dr. Bisleri. “Furthermore, the use of the Ensite Precision cardiac mapping system makes this procedure even more unique, since maybe only other one centre in the United States may have done this procedure so far.”

Ensite Precision technology provides highly detailed models and maps of the heart: Dr. Glover was the first cardiologist in North America to utilize this technology in late 2016.

"Patients have historically relied on medication along with traditional cardiac ablation procedures to help restore normal heart rhythms. During a traditional ablation procedure, physicians create scars inside the heart which prevent abnormal electrical signals from moving through the heart tissue. This traditional approach is typically performed either by inserting long, flexible tubes with wires into the heart through the patient’s groin or by using more invasive surgical approaches that often require opening the chest and stopping the heart," says Dr. Glover.

With the new procedure, a cardiologist uses digital technology to map the inside of the heart while the surgeon performs ablation on the outside of the heart using another specialized device. This requires only three keyhole incisions to navigate to the heart, removing the need to open a patient’s chest.

“So far, we have performed two cases and we are planning to continue performing two cases per month during the early stages of this newly developed program. We obviously have plans to further expand our volumes in the near future, since a larger majority of patients could benefit from this innovative strategy,” says Dr. Bisleri. “The outcomes have been excellent to date.Both patients underwent the hybrid procedure successfully and without perioperative complications, with a restoration of normal sinus rhythm at almost two months of follow-up.”

According to Dr. Bisleri, this procedure will also help reduce wait times, especially for patients who have received unsuccessful treatments so far.

“We are committed to further expand our understanding of the mechanisms of atrial fibrillation and the effects of ablation on it. We will also analyze the mid-long term outcomes of this patient population, as we envision this procedure has the potential not only to benefit the single patient but the healthcare system overall by reducing the need for repeated hospitalization or the likelihood to develop heart failure in the long term.”

Building research leaders

Queen’s researchers receive more than $1.8 million in research infrastructure funding from Canadian Foundation for Innovation.

Ten Queen’s University researchers have received more than $1.8 million in combined funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund. The fund supports researchers by providing the foundational research infrastructure required to undertake leading-edge research. The investment will allow for advanced research in a variety of fields – from cancer research to new materials for use within nuclear reactors.

“The investment announced today from the John R. Evans Leaders Fund is crucial to ensuring Queen’s researchers have the infrastructure necessary to remain on the leading edge of investigation,” says Dr. John Fisher, Queen’s Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “This funding will allow our researchers to train qualified personnel, collaborate with colleagues across Canada and around the world, and make important new developments in their fields.”

The following Queen’s researchers have received funding:

Janet Dancey (Canadian Cancer Trials Group) has received $197,065 to support the acquisition of a digital histology slide scanner. The scanner will allow CCTG to share digitized scans of slides prepared from tumour specimens to allow expert pathologists across Canada to contribute their expertise in diagnosis and classification of tumours, as well as to detect and quantify new biomarkers that could lead to improved treatments. (Principal users David LeBrun, Lois Shepherd)

Peter Davies (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) has received $100,192 to allow his laboratory to purchase an advanced chromatography apparatus that can identify and separate proteins based on a variety of factors – such as size and shape. His research aims to better understand large and elaborate proteins to find new approaches to combatting diseases, by developing targeted treatments to replace antibiotics which fungi and bacteria have become resistant to. (Principal user John Allingham)

Birgit Frauscher’s (Medicine) research focuses on non-invasive EEG markers to identify the effected areas of the brain during an episode of epilepsy. She has received $139,914 to evaluate the role of sleep for novel non-invasive EEG biomarkers, in hopes of improving the ability to diagnosis epilepsy and plot a course of treatment.

Susan Lord (Film and Media) has received $400,000 to preserve and remediate a diverse collection of audio-visual products created by Indigenous peoples, women and local Kingston artists. Her work focuses on ensuring these archives – consisting of works created by groups whose media histories are often marginalized – are preserved and made available for students, researchers and the public at large, and ensuring that these work are maintained to facilitate discussion of cultural heritage. (Principal users Dylan Robinson, Rosaleen Hill)

Lois Mulligan’s (Cancer Research Institute) research is focused on uncovering signals that contribute to the spread of cancer with the aim of developing new treatments to counteract these signals. To support this research, she has received $124,040 to fund the purchase of new imaging technology that will allow her to track cancer cell motility and tumor growth in real time. (Principal users Andrew Craig, Peter Greer)

Diane Orihel (Environmental Studies) has received $167,602 to support the creation of an outdoor research facility to simulate aquatic pollution in model ecosystems. Through this model, Dr. Orihel will be able to understand more thoroughly the impact of pollutants on aquatic ecosystems and drinking water. Through this research, Dr. Orihel and her team will also play a role in developing solutions to these problems.

Michael Rainbow’s (Mechanical and Materials Engineering) research analyses how variations in our musculoskeletal systems – joint angles, bone shape and ligament stiffness – can lead to increased or decreased risk of injury. He has received $400,000 to support the development of a high-tech lab that will allow him and his team to make detailed measurements of the musculoskeletal system during high-demand movement activities, in order to better understand the factors at play in human motion.

David Rival (Mechanical and Materials Engineering) has received $76,520 to support the development of the Hemodynamics and Energy Mobility (HEMo) Laboratory. The proposed facility, unique in Canada, will use optical and acoustic imaging tools at a variety of scales to provide temporal and special tracking of various types of flow. The findings from this lab will have implications in a wide variety of fields – from biomedical device development (such as artificial heart valves) to renewable energy.

Graeme Smith (Obstetrics and Gynaecology/Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) has received $63,540 to support his research into the role that issues in the development of small blood vessels in mothers and their children and the role they play in future development of heart disease, stroke and angina. Previous research has found a correlation between pre-eclampsia (a kind of high blood pressure that occurs during pregnancy) and underlying risk for future heart problems. Dr. Smith hopes to gain further insight into the linkages, as well as develop new screening methods to both prevent disease and improve pregnancy outcomes. (Principal user Amer Johri)

Zhongwen Yao’s (Mechanical and Materials Engineering) research focuses on the development of structural materials for nuclear power applications. He has received a $167,400 grant to support the development and testing of new nuclear cladding materials – which make up the outer layer of the fuel rods, standing between the coolant and the nuclear fuel – for use in nuclear power generation. The funding will support the development of a state-of-the-art fuel cladding research facility at Queen’s.

For more information on the supported projects, or to learn more about the John R. Evans Leaders fund, please visit the website.

Hands-on with innovation at Queen's

  • Mayor Bryan Paterson speaks with a QICSI student team regarding their start-up, during his tour of innovative research and development groups at Queen's.
    Mayor Bryan Paterson speaks with a QICSI student team regarding their start-up, during his tour of innovative research and development groups at Queen's.
  • Mayor Paterson tries out BitDrone programmable matter at the Human Media Lab, as HML director, Roel Vertegaal (Computing) looks on.
    Mayor Paterson tries out BitDrone programmable matter at the Human Media Lab, as HML director, Roel Vertegaal (Computing) looks on.
  • Mayor Paterson tries out the ReFlex bendable smartphone.
    Mayor Paterson tries out the ReFlex bendable smartphone.
  • Andras Lasso, Associate Director of the Perk Lab, demonstrates innovative new surgical equipment that improves recovery and prognosis for patients undergoing surgery for breast cancer.
    Andras Lasso, Associate Director of the Perk Lab, demonstrates innovative new surgical equipment that improves recovery and prognosis for patients undergoing surgery for breast cancer.
  • Mayor Patterson tries out another Perk Lab innovation, which utilizes virtual reality to assist in neurosurgery.
    Mayor Patterson tries out another Perk Lab innovation, which utilizes virtual reality to assist in neurosurgery.

On Thursday, August 10, Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson took part in a tour of campus to learn more about the innovative research and entrepreneurship activities taking place at Queen's.

The tour commenced with a visit to participating teams in the Dunin-Deshpande Queen's Innovation Centre Summer Initiative, where Mayor Paterson met with students and learned about the problems their new companies aimed to address, as well as the challenges and opportunities they've experienced.

Next, the tour visited the Human Media Lab, where lab director Roel Vertegaal demonstrated many of the lab's leading-edge creations, including a bendable smartphone and "programmable matter".

Finally, the tour visited the Perk Lab, where lab director Gabor Fitchinger (Computing) and his students demonstrated new computer-assisted surgical tools and medical education techniques.

Spring/Summer 2017 edition of (e)AFFECT Magazine

(e)AFFECT Spring/Summer 2017

The Spring/Summer 2017 edition of (e)AFFECT Magazine, Queen's University's research magazine, is now available. Watch for copies on campus, or visit the Office of the Vice-Principal (Research) website to download a copy or view past issues.

In this edition:

  • Art of Research: The Power of a Picture: The results of the second annual Art of Research photo contest.
  • Small but Mighty: Professor Stephen Hughes explains the strange behaviour of photons at the nano scale. Did you know you can slow light down to a near standstill?
  • Equality and Voice:  Dr. Heather Aldersey discusses his research in community-based rehabilitation, and how she is working with communities across Africa and southern Asia to build research capacity and guide local research into topics that are most beneficial to people with disabilities and their families.
  • Rediscovering Kingston's Skeletons: Undergraduate Summer Student Research Fellowship recipient Ronen Goldfarb and his supervisor Dr. Laura Murray look into the history of the Swamp Ward and Inner Harbour neighbourhoods.
  • The 2016 recipients of the Prizes for Excellence in Research.

...and many more exciting updates about the leading research being done at Queen's. 

In addition, (e)AFFECT has launched a readership survey. We encourage all members of the Queen's community to participate to help us continue to improve. Take the survey.

Learn more about (e)AFFECT and access the magazine online at www.queensu.ca/vpr/eaffect.

World-class research facility receives funding

SNOLAB receives provincial funding worth $28.8 million.

Today, at Science North, Reza Moridi, Minister of Research, Innovation and Science, announced $28.8 million in provincial funding over the next five years to support the operation of the Queen’s-affiliated, SNOLAB, a world-class international facility for deep underground science. The laboratory is located two kilometres underground in the Vale Creighton mine in Sudbury.

"Provincial government and Queen's University representatives announce funding for SNOLAB"
John Fisher, Interim VP (Research), Minister Reza Moridi and SNOLAB director Nigel Smith (Physics) explored the underground laboratory prior to the funding announcement.

“SNOLAB is a world-renowned underground laboratory specializing in neutrino and dark matter physics, and our government is proud to continue supporting this important research,” says Minister Moridi. “Through investments in facilities like SNOLAB, Ontario is paving the way for future discoveries that can add to our understanding of the universe, as well as strengthening our province's competitive edge."

Born out of the Queen’s-led Sudbury Neutrino Observatory – for which Queen’s Professor Arthur McDonald was named the co-recipient of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics – SNOLAB is one of only a handful of underground laboratories worldwide capable of supporting the current and future generations of subatomic and astroparticle physics experiments, seeking to unlock the mysteries of the universe.

The work conducted as part of the SNO collaboration and subsequently at SNOLAB has led to groundbreaking results cementing Canada’s, and Queen’s, reputation as a world leader in the field.  Building on this history of success, Queen’s is home to Gilles Gerbier, the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Particle Astrophysics. SNOLAB continues to attract top-flight scientific collaborations, including the Canadian Particle Astrophysics Research Centre (CPARC).

"SNOLAB neutrino detector"
A researcher works deep underground in Sudbury.

"The provincial support for operations is crucial to Ontario's leadership in high impact fundamental research, the long-term competitiveness of Canada’s research facilities and affiliated universities such as Queen’s,” says John Fisher, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “The work happening at SNOLAB has, and will continue to have, a real and substantial impact on how we detect and understand the fundamental components of our universe, with a remarkable potential for wide spread impact.”

The funds will be used to employ the 96 staff at SNOLAB and support the operations and maintenance of our world-leading facilities, allowing Canadian researchers and their international partners to undertake world-class research into astroparticle physics, nuclear and particle physics, astronomy, genomics and mining innovation.

“SNOLAB is really delighted to be the recipient of continued operational funding from the Ontario Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science,” says Nigel Smith (Physics), SNOLAB director. “Coupled with support from the federal government and in-kind support from Vale, our mining hosts, the $28.8 million award from the ministry will allow continued operations at SNOLAB over the next five years. This will allow us to attract and support world-leading experiments and researchers to Northern Ontario and maintain Canadian leadership within the global deep underground research community."

For more information on SNOLAB visit the website.

About SNOLAB

SNOLAB is an underground science laboratory specializing in neutrino and dark matter physics. Located two kilometres below the surface in the Vale Creighton Mine located near Sudbury Ontario Canada, SNOLAB is an expansion of the existing facilities constructed for the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) solar neutrino experiment. SNOLAB’s member institutions include Queen’s University, Carleton University, Laurentian University, Université de Montréal and the University of Alberta. Researchers at these institutions are active participants in the SNOLAB research program.

Queen’s student second Canadian to receive a Link Foundation Fellowship

"Queen’s PhD student Matthew Holden sits in front of a microscope at the Laboratory for Percutaneous Surgery"
Queen’s PhD student Matthew Holden has won a Link Foundation Fellowship in Modeling, Simulation, and Training. (Supplied photo)

Queen’s PhD student Matthew Holden has won a Link Foundation Fellowship in Modeling, Simulation, and Training – making Mr. Holden the second ever Canadian recipient of a Link Foundation Fellowship.

Mr. Holden studies in Queen’s School of Computing and his interdisciplinary research was recognized as a perfect fit in the context of the Link Foundation’s mission to support promising, innovative, and well-designed projects in the founders’ fields of interests.

“I am honoured to become a fellow of the Link Foundation and I am looking forward to dedicating myself fully to this research,” says Mr. Holden.

Established in 1953 by Edwin Link, inventor of the flight simulator, and his wife Marion, the Link Foundation offers awards in three major areas – energy, simulation, and ocean engineering and instrumentation research – to support doctoral students who demonstrate leadership and excellence in their respective fields. Fellowships are only available to students enrolled at U.S. or Canadian universities.

“Matthew Holden is an exemplary student and well-deserving of the recognition of the Link Foundation. His research in modeling, simulation, and training has proven to be world-class with this award,” says Gabor Fichtinger, Professor in the School of Computing with cross-appointments in Surgery, Mechanical and Materials Engineering, and Electrical and Computer Engineering.

As part of the Laboratory for Percutaneous Surgery (The Perk Lab), Mr. Holden is doing research within an interdisciplinary environment, at the intersection between certain scholarships, such as computing, education, and medicine. He’s focusing on ways to assess medical trainees’ competence and to provide them with automated feedback as part of simulation-based training for ultrasound-guided interventions. His work is timely considering the recent move at Queen's to a competency-based medical education model (CBME) across all 29 medical residency programs, as opposed to the traditional time-based model.

The time-based model assumes that a trainee practises procedures for a fixed amount of time. “This framework implies that the trainee is told, for example, ‘Practice this for one week,’ and at the end of the week, the trainee is considered competent. However, in real life, things are not so simple,” Mr. Holden says. “A competency-based model means that you have to practise the procedure until you have reached both a cognitive and technical competence benchmark.”

How should the competency of the trainees be assessed to let them progress to real patient encounters?

“This is the core question of my research,” says Mr. Holden. “In theory, we can have an expert who stands over your shoulder and watches what you are doing. Unfortunately, it is not feasible for many reasons. Alternatively, there is an option to automate the process of assessment. We can use recent medical imaging and tracking technologies to help assess these trainees automatically and relieve the burden on the experts.”

Those technologies can also be used to guide trainees through the procedure and provide them with objective feedback after the training is over. “The system will tell them, for example, ‘You scored well on this, and you can perform better by taking these steps.’ We also will use a monitor or a holographic display to visualize the anatomy and show trainees what is going on under the skin.”

Some of the technologies developed in The Perk Lab have already been adopted at the Clinical Simulation Centre at Queen’s. However, getting the training system integrated into the actual training setting may be challenging due to the guidelines associated with medical training.

“There are already a lot of frameworks and guidelines about how medical personnel should be trained and the competencies they should achieve. Researchers in the field need to think about that when designing training systems.”

Mr. Holden credits his colleagues for his success, speaking gratefully about the supportive and encouraging atmosphere in The Perk Lab. “Computers are nice because they behave predictably. You tell them to do something, and they do something,” he says, smiling. “But the key is that we can work together in the lab. We have a great team with diverse skills and act collaboratively.”

Mr. Holden prefers to use ultrasound as a big imaging modality for many reasons. “While operating with ultrasound you can act in real time, see images immediately, and guide some medical instruments like a needle to a particular target. Ultrasound is not harmful to a patient and not expensive. Yet, I am trying not to be short-sighted. Perhaps in 10 years there will be another imaging modelling that will be even better than ultrasound. New applications are always developing, and researchers in the field will always have new things to train people for.”

More information on the Link Foundation Fellowship is available on the foundation’s website.

This story was adapted from a story by Natalia Mukhina, School of Graduate Studies.

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