Defining Research Moments of 2015
Reflecting on 2015 in the news shows that research was a big part of the year. Stories about climate change, CRISPR (clustered regularly-interspaced short palindromic repeats) and gene editing, and Pluto were making headlines around the world. 2015 was a monumental year for research at Queen’s University. Looking back, we have selected a few defining Queen’s research moments of 2015 that will continue to shape the research enterprise in the coming years.
All Things Physics
Without doubt, the work of Dr. Art McDonald and his SNOLAB collaborators, describing the fundamental properties of neutrinos, propelled Canada and Queen’s into the limelight with both a Nobel Prize and Breakthrough Prize. SNO+ and DEAP continue building on a legacy of outstanding researchers and collaborative partnerships.
Astronomers Drs. Judith Irwin and Theresa Wiegert were lead authors on a study that revealed unique properties of spiral galaxies and the occurrence of halos (Astronomical Journal). PhD candidate Matt Shultz worked to debunk the theory behind massive stars (Canadian Astronomical Society Conference). And, Dr. Martin Duncan and his team described in Nature (534; issue 7565; published online August 2015) a new scientific model that solves how gas giant planets formed in the early solar system.
Furthermore, Dr. Paul Webster, a PhD graduate in engineering physics and the recipient of the 2012 Martin Walmsley Fellowship, continues to grow Laser Depth Dynamics in Kingston as a leading centre for developing and building technologies globally for industrial laser drilling and welding depth.
2015 was a groundbreaking and monumental year for physics research at Queen’s and a true testament to the internationally-leading, cutting-edge research that is happening right on our campus.
Queen’s National Scholars
Faculty renewal is important to maintaining and sustaining the research enterprise. Our Queen’s National Scholars program attracts outstanding junior and mid-career professors to Queen’s and represents a diverse range of scholars, researchers and artists to inspire our students and contribute to our research prominence. In September 2015, Queen’s announced the appointment of two new Queen’s National Scholars:
- Dr. Keren Zaiontz, Queen’s National Scholar in Creative Industries in the Global City
- Dr. Qingling Duan, Queen’s National Scholar in Bioinformatics
We are, or will shortly be, drinking at the firehose of data. Managing and analyzing large data sets presents opportunities and challenges. Digital infrastructure, in its broadest sense, will be at the forefront of our planning and resource requirements in all areas of academic endeavour. Data repositories and open access dominate the discussions and policy changes underway on our campuses.
In 2015, we showcased research on big data in the 7th issue of (e)AFFECT (PDF) and in May, Queen’s held Data Day, an annual event where researchers and service providers share their expertise and experiences working with diverse data sets.
Humanities Research: Demonstrating our Strength
Our humanities research pushes boundaries and is recognized nationally and internationally. In 2015, we hosted an international Matariki Humanities Colloquium celebrating “Religion across the Humanities” and the digital humanities was, and remains, a hot topic across campus. We also were fortunate to receive momentous research-enhancing gifts with the establishment of the Shulich-Woolf Rare Book Collection in the Queen’s Archives, and, of course, Alfred and Isabel Bader’s donation of a third and even more important Rembrandt, making the Agnes one of the most important university-based research galleries. Several of our scholars were recognized for their research contributions: congratulations to Dr. Armand Garnet Ruffo (English) for his book Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing into Thunderbird being shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award (English Language-Non-Fiction), to Daniel David Moses (Drama) for receiving the Ontario Arts Council Aboriginal Arts Award, and to Marjan Mozetich (Music) for being one of five Queen’s faculty members elected to Fellowship in the Royal Society of Canada.
The Queen's University Biological Station (QUBS) is one of the premier scientific field stations in Canada. Astride the Frontenac axis and amidst the lakes of the Rideau Canal, it boasts beauty and wealth of research opportunity, both nationally and internationally. For almost 70 years, researchers and students have gathered at QUBS to conduct leading-edge research and participate in courses spanning ecology, evolution, conservation, geography, and environmental science. More recently, its international collaboration, with China in particular, has garnered great attention.
With a world focus and growing urgency on issues related to climate change, QUBS and its affiliated researchers can expect to be front and centre in 2016.
Watching the Watchers: Surveillance
Dr. David Lyon (Sociology) is recognized internationally as a leading scholar of surveillance practices and what it means to have our personal data collected and processed by organizations. Lyon leads the Surveillance Studies Centre at Queen’s and is credited for pioneering the vibrant field of “Surveillance Studies,” now a global interdisciplinary intellectual and political endeavour drawing critical attention to the widespread implications of surveillance technologies.
2015 was a bumper year for Lyon and the Centre. In September, it was announced that Lyon was awarded $2.5 million from SSHRC for his research into the vulnerabilities generated by big data surveillance. Subsequently, in November, Lyon was awarded the 2015 SSHRC Impact: Insight Award, indicative of the impact of his research nationally and internationally.
PechaKucha Research Showcase and Writing Retreat
With an eye to developing and deepening Queen’s faculty engagement, events were hosted by the OVPR to bring together a community to share their scholarship, tell stories, seek connections for inspiration, and inspire others. The PechaKucha Research Showcase celebrated the diversity of research represented in the social sciences, humanities and creative arts community at Queen’s, and offered a venue for allowing individuals to think differently about their own research. The Writing Retreat provided a full day of panel sessions and presentations, mixed with long blocks of uninterrupted writing time, to help fuel creativity and inspiration for writing.
Building Community Partnerships and Innovation
The city of Kingston, along with its universities and colleges, industry, and others that connect the research ecosystem in the region are building upon a strong foundation of knowledge and expertise and a growing culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. Queen’s and the City have been working collaboratively and have been engaged in a number of activities to build and drive this ecosystem. Our key priorities include:
- Creating environments that foster entrepreneurs and startups
- Celebrating our local businesses and entrepreneurs and working with KEDCO to create a brand and communication strategy that reflects this. (See Innovation Kingston)
- Developing a strategy to collaboratively advance the Innovation Park concept
Genome & Frontiers
In 2015, our researchers tackled some major environmental issues. For example, Dr. Virginia Walker, along with colleagues in Biology and across Canada, started work on a multidisciplinary, $5.6 million Genome Canada project entitled “Towards a Sustainable Fishery for Nunavummuit” – a fishing plan for one of the last unexplored fisheries in North America.
On January 8, 2016, it was announced that Dr. Gregory Jerkiewicz (Chemistry) would be the lead investigator of a large team of researchers at Queen’s and across Canada receiving a prestigious NSERC Discovery Frontiers grant that will help develop a new clean energy technology using catalysts made of nickel “foam.” The research includes work on a new generation of membranes – a “high tech version of food wrap” – that can be used with alkaline solutions used to break down water into hydrogen and oxygen gas to add to the arsenal of clean energy technologies in support of climate change objectives.
Celebrating Student Research
Queen’s research is enhanced through the creative and scholarly work of its students, both undergraduate and graduate. Through transformational experiences in programs such as Inquiry@Queen’s, the Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowship program, and the 3 Minute Thesis competition, we continue to be inspired by their research strengths and productivity.