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Fellowships Profile New Generation of Indigenous Scholars

Wednesday February 7, 2018
By Phil Gaudreau, Senior Communications Officer

The Faculty of Arts and Science has launched a Pre-Doctoral Fellowship program to recognize outstanding scholarship among Indigenous PhD candidates.

A new program aims to bring some of Canada’s most promising Indigenous doctoral candidates to Queen’s for a year to further their learning, and allow Queen’s to learn from them.

A prestigious Pre-Doctoral Fellowship program, one of the first of its kind in Canada, has been created as a way of recognizing up and coming Indigenous scholars and enhancing their academic profile. The Faculty of Arts and Science is offering four spaces in this Fellowship program, which provides the recipients with a $34,000 annual stipend, teaching wages, and funds for research and conferences.

“We are proud of our continuing dedication to life-long learning and reconciliation efforts, and of the many academic and personal successes of our Indigenous students, faculty, staff and alumni,” says Lynda Jessup, Associate Dean (Graduate Studies and Research) with the Faculty of Arts and Science. “After working with Erin Sutherland (PhD’16), an Indigenous student who had received a pre-doctoral fellowship at another university, I was inspired to develop this program as a way of supporting culturally relevant learning opportunities both for Queen’s and for Indigenous students.”

To be eligible, students must have Indigenous heritage, must be enrolled in a doctorate program at another Canadian university, and must relocate to Kingston for the year. During the year, the PhD candidate would teach a course within the Faculty of Arts and Science, which would help Indigenize some of Queen’s curriculum, and they would engage with local Indigenous peoples and communities.

The candidates would also have the chance to broaden their scholarly network by working with Queen’s faculty members and researchers, thereby improving their career opportunities. Most importantly, the Fellowship would support the successful completion of their doctoral studies.

“The pre-doctoral fellowship I received gave me time, space, and support to finish my dissertation, and it gave me a new community to share my ideas with, to learn from, to be with,” says Dr. Sutherland. “The community helped me to develop ideas which ended up being central to my dissertation. Specifically, my time spent with community – both at the University and outside of it – supported my learning and discussion of Indigenous methodologies. Most importantly, it better prepared me to deal with change and how to work in and adapt to a new academic and community environment.”

Applications are being accepted to this pilot program until Sunday, Apr. 1. A webinar is planned for Thursday, Feb. 15 to share more information about the program with potential applicants. For more information on this new program, visit the Faculty of Arts and Science’s website.


This article was originally published in the Queen’s Gazette. Reposted with Permission.

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Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

Natalia Mukhina

Recently, Shamik Sen, a graduate student in Neuroscience, returned from Tanzania, where he was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. He reached the summit, which is at 5,895 meters above sea level, to raise funds for mental illness stigma awareness. Prior to this courageous adventure, Sen had created a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to support Addiction and Mental Health Services Kingston (AMHS-KFLA).

“I’ve partnered with AMHS-KFLA for my thesis research on mental illness recovery with Dr. Roumen Milev and Dr. Heather Stuart, who also is the Bell Canada Research Chair on Mental Health. I wanted to raise funds to improve the quality and quantity of stigma-related workshops offered by AMHS-KFLA in the community for people living with mental illness.”

Sen has been engrossed in mental health research since he began studying life sciences at Queen’s. “I have always been interested in the brain. There is still so much about the brain that we really don’t know! Neuroscience is an challenging, yet exciting and rapidly evolving field. Yet, regarding mental health particularly, there was very little in my curriculum that covered the individual’s psychological well-being. I was intrigued and perplexed at why something that affects all of us receives less attention than it deserves.”

Thinking back on his collaboration with AMHS-KFLA, Sen recalls the tremendous response from the people with mental health issues who attended the workshops and educational programs, which made him feel empowered and motivated. Sen explains that there is public stigma concerning mental health, and individuals who are suffering internalize this stigma and public attitude, which eventually becomes debilitating. The more efforts we put into overcoming both public and self-stigma, the easier the path to recovery for people with mental illnesses.

Why do people donate to support Sen’s climbing expeditions? I asked Sen this question to learn, in his opinion, what feelings this initiative evokes in members of the public. “Let me provide a personal example,” responds Sen after a pause. “After I launched the campaign, a person reached out to me and shared a story that happened with their family member with a mental illness. This individual did not receive sufficient care because of the stigma within the family. The person who had reached me felt deeply frustrated: ‘I saw that this happened first-hand, but I did nothing out of fear of judgement.’ I think the same feelings are common amongst many of us. We’ve seen something happen, but we’ve turned a blind eye, and we’ve become a part of that stigmatization without even realizing.”

“I’d like to believe that the majority of support I’ve received is because the donors, probably, have looked at my initiative and had a bit of self-reflection on people who are close to them.”

Sen’s current research is looking at how stigma affects recovery in patients with mental illnesses, specifically mood disorders. “Sometimes a patient goes to psychiatrist who - as a trained medical professional - has learned a lot of things. What frequently happens next? The psychiatrists try to fit the patient into the things they’ve learned like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. The most challenging thing for me is to be able to shut my mind off and start listening to people. I must listen to the greatest extent I can. This is the trickiest part in my field.”

In the future, Sen sees himself as a part of the healthcare reform movement. He argues that many people talk about making changes in healthcare, but the term “changes” is still very loosely defined. What are these changes? How and why should they be made? Sen is going to become familiar with the healthcare industry to learn how to make a tangible change in terms of healthcare reform.

“How can we address the changes in healthcare efficiently? We need to have more crosstalk between medical professionals, patients, and industry in order to come up with a unified solution. I’ve done some training within the scientific research, and I have patient experience, but I need to obtain the business vision to make an impact on healthcare. This is my short-term plan.”

Let’s imagine now that we are nearby Mount Kilimanjaro, where Sen has undertaken his climbing expedition. Sen states that it was more challenging mentally than physically. What did he learn about himself after coming down from the mountain?

“The last day before reaching the summit, our group got up before midnight. We all had 3-4 hours of sleep because you were anxious about how this all would be. And we reached the summit at 7:45 am climbing during 8 hours in the -15 Celsius condition, heavy winds, unforgiving pain, and no light. All we could see were stars and our boots. We had no concept of how far the summit was and what time it was. I could control just one foot in front of the other. When I finally reached the summit, it blew my mind that I could accomplish that by simply keeping one foot in front of the other.”

“I wish I could tell everybody, ‘Hey, if you are persistently keeping doing what you love and excited about, you will get to the summit. As for me, I hope to continue putting one foot in front of the other as long as I can to achieve my goals. One of them is to eliminate mental health stigma.”

Donate at www.gofundme.com/climb-for-mental-health-stigma.

Brainy International Research Collaboration Receives Renewed Funding

Tuesday January 30, 2018
By Phil Gaudreau, Senior Communications Officer

The German Research Foundation has funded “The Brain in Action” for another four and a half years.

An international research collaboration uniting two German universities and three Canadian universities, including Queen’s, will continue its important work studying how perception and action interact and how they are processed by the human brain.

Renewed funding from the German Research Foundation means the International Research Training Group "The Brain in Action" project will carry on with its work for another four and a half years. Funding from the foundation was set to end in April 2018.

The main goal of this research training group is to deepen our understanding of the neural systems and processes that underlie perception and action in everyday living – for instance, how the brain processes the sensory and motor signals involved in reaching for a cup of coffee and the feeling involved in touching it.

At Queen’s, the project unites faculty members Gunnar Blohm and Doug Munoz of the Biomedical and Molecular Sciences department with Nikolaus Troje of the Psychology department. The three are currently supervising seven Queen’s PhD candidates, and co-supervising several German doctoral students at the Philipps-Universität Marburg and Justus Liebig Universität Giessen. York and Western Universities are the other two Canadian institutions involved in the research group.

“We are grateful for the renewed funding, which confirms the value of our work and in the relationships being formed between our students, institutions, and countries” says Dr. Blohm. “Merging the distinct academic cultures of the two countries has been a valuable learning and networking experience for our students. I am sure that many collaborative initiatives will continue to happen long after they graduate.”

The two German universities boast 25 PhD candidates and 12 faculty members working on the project. As part of their studies, the students spend several months learning in Canada.

“I really appreciate the welcoming and helping Canadian culture. My colleagues at work and my housemates have helped me to feel comfortable in the first weeks,” says Christoph Lenk, one of the German students currently studying in Canada. “My master’s studies in biomechanics, motor control, motion analysis, and perception led to an interest in perception in virtual reality. I am glad that I can exchange experiences with other young researchers in Canada and in Germany on this field of research.”

The aim of research training groups such as this one is to prepare PhD candidates for careers outside academia by bolstering their transferrable skills. So far, many of the graduates have gone on to work in the science or high tech fields. Parisa Abedi Khoozani, an international Queen’s PhD candidate who is working on the project, is hoping to teach science in Canada once she graduates.

“I am currently in Germany on my second visit as part of this research group, working with another collaborator who is also researching computer neuroscience,” says Ms. Khoozani. “The exposure to different fields and different areas of research has been interesting and beneficial. This opportunity has been as much about the learning as it has been about forming connections, and I hope to continue collaborating with my German colleagues in the future.”

In addition to the German Research Foundation funding, the “Brain in Action” research training group is supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) CREATE grant.

Learn more about this international research training group on the School of Graduate Studies’ website.


This article was originally published in the Queen’s Gazette. Reposted with Permission.

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Queen’s Supported Startup Goes International

Thursday January 18, 2018
By Phil Gaudreau, Senior Communications Officer

Laser Depth Dynamics, founded by Paul Webster (Sc'06, PhD'13) and Roger Bowes (Sc’92) in 2012, has been acquired by a leading developer of high-performance fibre lasers and amplifiers.

Welding is an important manufacturing process across many sectors of today’s global economy – from automotive, to aerospace, medical, and consumer goods. When working on products like cars or pacemakers, where lives could be on the line, it’s important that every component is built as intended. This can be a challenge when spending an extra second per part makes a difference to the bottom line.

Enter Paul Webster (Sc'06, PhD'13) and Roger Bowes (Sc’92). In 2012, the pair worked with Queen’s to found Laser Depth Dynamics (LDD) and commercialize a technology Dr. Webster co-developed with associate professor James Fraser, who teaches physics. The technology, called inline coherent imaging (ICI), allows for direct measurement of weld penetration depth for laser welding. This is done using a near-infrared measurement beam to ensure high quality in real-time.

“The story of our company is one of bringing the right elements together to create success,” says Dr. Webster, LDD’s chief technology officer and co-founder. “We combined the support of a leading university with strong industry connections and the right intellectual property policies and technology transfer capabilities to create an impactful product which reduces waste for companies and improves product quality for consumers.”

Recently, the Kingston-based company was purchased by IPG Photonics Corporation, the world leader in high-performance fibre lasers and amplifiers. The company aims to incorporate LDD’s technology into its laser welding solutions to drive adoption of this advanced technology throughout manufacturing of metal parts. Becoming part of a bigger, international organization will mean even more global exposure for LDD’s products.

“LDD’s weld monitoring systems and accessories significantly enhance IPG’s portfolio of industry-leading beam delivery products and laser welding solutions,” said Felix Stukalin, IPG’s senior vice president of North American operations. “LDD’s ability to monitor weld quality in real time and ensure process consistency is increasingly important within automated production environments.”

Laser Depth Dynamics was initially formed with support from Dr. Webster’s thesis supervisor, Dr. Fraser; the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy; and PARTEQ Innovations, the university’s technology transfer organization that is now part of the Queen’s Office of Partnerships and Innovation. IPG Photonics was also involved from the early days, supplying equipment for the research and in helping LDD find early market potential.

John Fisher, Interim Vice-Principal (Research) says success stories like Laser Depth Dynamics demonstrate the value of the research that is conducted at Queen’s.

“This is an example of a research idea, identified and advanced by a student and professor, funded by research grants, and, with support from the university’s technology transfer team, was patented, spun-off as a business, and was successfully commercialized,” says Dr. Fisher. “This story showcases the innovation ecosystem at work here at Queen’s, the important role our Office of Partnerships and Innovation plays in fostering economic growth, and how critical the support of the Ontario government is for our innovation programs. We congratulate the Laser Depth Dynamics team on this exciting news as they become part of a global leader in its field.”

With the purchase, Laser Depth Dynamics will become IPG Photonics (Canada), and will remain in its existing Kingston office location on Railway Street. About half of its employees are Queen’s graduates, and Dr. Webster suggests they may add more Queen’s talent in the future.

IPG Photonics is a global company and the leading developer and manufacturer of high-performance fiber lasers and amplifiers for diverse applications in numerous markets. To learn more about IPG’s purchase of LDD, visit www.ipgphotonics.com.


This article was originally published in the Queen’s Gazette. Reposted with Permission.

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Climb for Mental Health

December 11, 2017 – Queen’s University graduate student Shamik Sen (Neuroscience) is climbing a mountain this week to raise awareness and funds for the issue of mental health stigma. Sen left Kingston on December 10 to travel to Tanzania, where he will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.  Sen has created a GoFundMe campaign for his climb, with funds raised to support anti-stigma education at Addiction and Mental Health Services, KFLA (AMHS-KFLA)

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Congratulations Colette Steer!

Today we congratulate Colette Steer, a recipient of a Special Recognition Award for Queen’s Staff.  Colette joined the School of Graduate Studies in 2007 and her limitless positive energy, excellent organizational skills, and genuine care for everyone she works with have had a significant impact on Graduate Studies at Queen’s. 

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Award winning research on Grad Chat

Last week Chemistry PhD student Caitlin Miron was awared the Mitacs PhD Award for Outstanding Innovation for her work in biochemistry. She broke new ground by discovering a DNA binder that can essentially ‘switch off’ cancer cells and prevent them from spreading. Listen to her interview with CJ the DJ on Grad Chat and find out more about her research.

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