Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Learn how Queen's is planning for our safe return to campus.

Confronting COVID-19

Recruiting the Class of 2024

Undergraduate Admissions and Recruitment is busy making offers to the next class of first-year students.

Aerial photo of Queen's campus.
Queen's campus in the summer.

As Queen’s students are completing the academic year, the university is busy reaching out to potential students that will be part of the Class of 2024. The Undergraduate Admissions and Recruitment (UAR) office is currently assessing over 45,000 applications for the next undergraduate class and is working towards having all admissions decisions completed by the middle of May.

“As always, students across the country are showing a strong interest in coming to Queen’s, and we continue to process offers of admission. Undergraduate Admissions and Recruitment is moving ahead and we are on pace to admit an exceptionally strong class. Thanks to our admission staff who are working remotely and the strong collaboration with our partners across campus, we have been able to adapt quickly to this changing situation and stay on track with our admission plan,” says Chris Coupland, Executive Director (Acting), UAR.

Many aspects of the recruitment process remain the same, but staff have noticed a heightened interest in their webinars and in prospective students wanting to have video chats with recruiters. These interactions are taking the place of larger in-person recruitment events that typically happen each year, such as March Break Open House and receptions that the university hosts across the country.

Helping prospective students during COVID-19

Given the unprecedented circumstances of this application cycle, UAR is working closely with colleagues at universities across Ontario to help prospective students. Queen’s and other higher-education institutions in the province want to ensure that students are not unduly burdened by the application process due to COVID-19. They are collaborating to develop a consistent approach that provides flexibility for students in submitting documents and completing all aspects of the admission process.

As UAR recruits the next members of the Tricolour community, they acknowledge that many prospective students have questions about the 2020-21 academic year.  

“Usually when we work with prospective students, we’re able to give them a clear sense of what their first year on campus will look like. We know students and families have a lot of questions right now. While there is some uncertainty, we can assure them that Queen’s is committed to offering our incoming class an excellent experience. We’re helping prospective students navigate the uncertainty by keeping them updated and letting them know we’re here to help,” says Coupland.

For more information about how UAR is currently operating, visit the UAR COVID-19 FAQs webpage.

Racing for air

More Confronting COVID-19 Stories

Multi-disciplinary team designs and builds life-sustaining ventilator in only 14 days.

The team's device is comprised of more common or easily-sourced components.
The team's device is comprised of more common or easily-sourced components.

Any other time, having two weeks to design and prototype a respiratory ventilator that can outmatch those created by hundreds of international teams would be a daunting task. These days, however, the stakes are much, much higher than bragging rights.

A multi-disciplinary team comprised of Queen’s University faculty and students, as well as health professionals from Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC), entered the Code Life Ventilator Challenge earlier this month. Together, they are hoping to be among the top three groups whose designs could go into production and soon start saving lives threatened by COVID-19. With the challenge about to close, the Kingston-based team worked steadily through the weekend to finalize their functioning ventilator model.

“In people infected with COVID-19, parts of the lungs fill with fluid, which prevents oxygen from passing into the blood, and causes the lungs to fatigue and stiffen,” says Ramiro Arellano, Head of Queen’s Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, and team member responsible for ensuring the device will provide the life-sustaining respiratory support patients require. “As an analogy, imagine how your legs would feel walking on pavement compared to walking in knee-deep mud; eventually your muscles tire and fail. For the lungs, a ventilator takes over the work so muscles can rest, and the body can better fight infection.”

Dr. Arellano says the brilliance of their team’s design is its use of items readily available in the community in combination with items that are easily sourced or 3-D printed.

In pairing two continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, commonly used to treat conditions like sleep apnea, the team was able to harness the air pressure required to provide a patient with the correct amount of oxygen. Since CPAP machines provide constant airflow to users, they next had to innovate a way for the device to provide a steady, on-and-off supply of air more akin to the natural tempo of breathing. Combining a small computing device, a series of tubes linked to the CPAP devices, and mechanical arms that compress the tubes intermittently, the team was able to simulate the proper timing to provide regular spurts of oxygen.

The Queen's/KHSC team's ventilator design.
The team's ventilator design combines machines typically used to treat sleep apnea with a computerized control centre that governs airflow.

“Our ventilator design goal was to make the production of the device as simple and versatile as possible,” says Reza Najjari, a postdoctoral fellow in mechanical and materials engineering whose expertise in fluid dynamics has him overseeing that the device will deliver the precise volume of air to a patient. “I think the simplicity and modular features of our device give it the potential to help a lot of people, as it provides the production flexibility that local producers need to manufacture them rapidly with the materials they have on hand.”

Drs. Najjari and Arellano feel that the team’s cross-disciplinary approach makes their Code Life Ventilator Challenge submission highly competitive, while recognizing there may be strong competition from across the globe. They are focused on creating an effective, life-saving device with an open-source design that can be used by anyone around the world.

“Our ventilator design would not have been achievable without the wide-ranging expertise and collaboration of our team of researchers at Queen’s,” says Dr. Najjari. “We had specialists in fluid and solid mechanics, biomechanics, electrical engineering, computer science, and health sciences; all who showed the utmost dedication to creating this important device.”

Dr. Arellano took it further, comparing the team’s complement of experts to an ensemble of musicians.

“In many ways, the team is built like an orchestra,” he says. “Each person plays a unique instrument and the amalgamation and organization of each unique sound produces music that would be impossible otherwise.”

Contest finalists will be announced soon. Watch the Code Life Ventilator Challenge website for the list of winners to appear. In the meantime, read about another ventilator design project being led by Queen's Nobel Laureate Art McDonald.

See the world from home

Experience art from around the globe through online collections and exhibitions with #AGNESFromHome.

Leiden, Netherlands
Leiden, Netherlands (Photo: Jose Zuniga via Unsplash)

If you are itching to take a trip, there may be no better time to do so than right now. No need to worry about COVID-19 or going against our efforts to physically distance – you can explore the cultural richness of Europe, Africa, and Canada’s far north from the comfort of your living room with #AGNESFromHome.

“There are few things capable of expanding our horizons in the ways that art can,” says Alicia Boutilier, Interim Director of Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queen’s University. “Artists energize our imaginations and illuminate our individual experiences and our shared histories. As we maintain physical distancing, we hope you can find a connection to people, past and present, through our online collections and exhibitions.”

Leiden, Netherlands

Setting foot in Leiden is said to be like stepping into the 17th century. Heralded as the “city of discoveries”, the university town has been a science powerhouse for centuries — cultivating any number of groundbreaking researchers — but it is perhaps most notable as the birthplace of legendary painter, Rembrandt van Rijn.

As part of Agnes’ Leiden circa 1630: Rembrandt Emerges exhibition you can take in the vibrancy of the Baroque master’s hometown in this short documentary, and get an up-close look at some of his most memorable works. Visit an interactive map of 17th-century Leiden for a look at the city’s incredible landmarks, and to see where the artist honed his craft and helped nurture the talents of countless pupils.

Afterward, take a deep dive into the free, fully-illustrated digital catalogue (in both English and French) detailing the early careers of Rembrandt and his peers, highlighting the exhibition’s included works, and offering broader context to Leiden’s historical and cultural profile at the time.

These online assets were produced as part of Leiden circa 1630: Rembrandt Emerges, a touring exhibition which debuted at Queen’s University’s Agnes Etherington Art Centre in August 2019 to commemorate the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death. Experience many of the pieces included in the exhibit online by visiting The Bader Collection.


African Ivory exhibit brochure cover
Ivory figure created by a Lega artist from the region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The world’s second-largest continent boasts rich cultural diversity and an abundance of natural wonder.

As part of #AGNESFromHome, you can learn about the long-running exhibition The Art of African Ivory, which explores how African communities have used ivory to teach morality, convey social standing, heal wounds, safeguard communities, and in commerce.

The use of ivory does carry baggage however, so be prepared to spend some time at the intersection of art preservation and animal conservation. Art curators across the world have the dual responsibility of protecting ‘cultural ivory’ works, while also combating the pursuit of contraband ivory. Past Director of the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African Art, Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, spoke at Queen’s on the matter last fall—discussing historical African ivory art and wildlife conservation in her lecture Displaying Historical Ivory in Museums: Let’s Talk about the Elephant in the Room.

The Art of African Ivory exhibition features a number of pieces from the Agnes’ Justin and Elisabeth Lang Collection of African Art—one of the most comprehensive collections of its kind in Canada, with over 500 works created by primarily west and central African artists. You can view much of the African historical art collection online.

Baffin Island, Canada

Celebration and Drum Dancing from Picturing Arctic Modernity: North Baffin Drawings from 1964

The most memorable elements of any journey are the people we meet along the way.

With the Picturing Arctic Modernity: North Baffin Drawings from 1964 exhibition’s online interactive experience, we are introduced to Terry Ryan, an artist and arts advisor who encouraged and collected drawings by Indigenous people in the North Baffin region over three months in 1964. Traveling to three communities that had no formalized art programs—Clyde River (Kanngiqtugaapik), Pond Inlet (Mittimatalik), and Arctic Bay (Ikpiarjuk)—Ryan would distribute paper and pencils to local people at the start of his trips and purchase finished drawings on his way home. Together, the collection of drawings depicts profound perspectives of daily life, history, and memory during a time of profound social change for Inuit communities.

You can now reveal the stories behind the drawings with #AGNESFromHome. A selection of illustrations spanning Inuit identity, land, and history, can be viewed online. Each drawing is accompanied by special video interviews with the artists’ descendants and friends, who provide an intimate connection to the people, events, and themes of the era, while underscoring the importance of cultural heritage to communities today.

To learn more about contemporary and historical media created by Inuit, First Nations, and Métis artists from Turtle Island and across the world, visit the Agnes’ Indigenous Art Collection.

Planning for our future

More Confronting COVID-19 Stories

Principal strikes new COVID-19 steering committee to plan for 2020/21 academic year.

The COVID-19 outbreak continues to pose unprecedented challenges for universities across the world, and the Queen’s community is no exception. Most students, faculty, and staff are learning and working remotely to aid public health efforts, and it is unclear how long the situation could last. In readying to weather this uncertainty, Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane has struck a COVID-19 response steering committee that will focus on planning for the upcoming 2020-21 academic year, ensuring that Queen’s continues to fulfill its academic mission for faculty and students. 

“With the current public health crisis posed by COVID-19 we must not only respond to immediate needs, but must also prepare for what may lie ahead to ensure we can face future challenges and, more importantly, emerge from them as a stronger institution,” says Principal Deane. “Over the coming weeks, the steering committee will identify and analyze a range of potential scenarios, providing crucial insights to Queen’s senior leadership as we navigate what lies ahead and look beyond it to the future of the institution.”

The steering committee will be responsible for oversight and direction of seven sub-groups tasked with developing forward-looking recommendations for key areas of university operations. These areas range from academic regulations to research impacts, and from enrolment to remote delivery. The small, agile teams will include representatives from faculties and shared services.  Some groups will also seek input from students. They will meet regularly throughout April to craft strategic recommendations for the Senior Leadership Team and Principal for review in early May.

“The university must plan for a variety of possibilities over the coming months that will directly affect how we conduct ourselves,” says Principal Deane. “Exceptional times call for exceptional solutions, and I am optimistic for our future having seen both the resilience and the creativity of our campus community in confronting COVID-19. I know the steering committee will bring this same ingenuity to the planning ahead.”

Allergy season concerns during the pandemic

More Confronting COVID-19 Stories

Queen's University allergy researcher Anne Ellis explains the best way to deal with springtime allergies.

A man wipes his nose with a tissue
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, allergy sufferers have some new concerns to deal with. (Unsplash / Brittany Collette)

It’s spring and that means allergy season is on the way. But this year it will be arriving in the midst of a global pandemic and with this comes a host of new concerns to contemplate. The Queen’s Gazette spoke with Dr. Anne Ellis (Medicine), a Canadian-leading expert in allergies.


How is COVID-19 making this year more challenging for allergy suffers?
A: Reduced access to primary care will be an issue for patients who suffer from seasonal allergies. Fortunately, most if not all allergy practices have converted to telemedicine and/or virtual care so people can still get in touch with their treating allergist at this time, and pharmacies remain open.

How are seasonal allergy symptoms similar and different to COVID-19?

A: Seasonal allergies (also known as hay fever) present with symptoms of sneezing, runny nose, nasal itch, and nasal congestion, along with associated eye symptoms like itchy/watery or red/burning eyes.  Occasionally people will develop cough, especially if they also have asthma, due to post-nasal drip.

COVID-19, while it can present with cough and other respiratory symptoms, is also characterized by fever, sore throat, and, as new studies show in 40 to 50 per cent of cases, gastrointestinal symptoms (GI) like diarrhea. Seasonal allergies will not cause a fever and while itchy throat may be present, it will not be accompanied by a sore throat. GI symptoms would be extremely atypical.

Q: Are there any allergy medications that people should avoid taking that may lower their immune system?
A: It is important for all patients to continue to take all of their prescribed medications. While medication does have the word “steroid” in the name, the doses used to treat asthma or allergic rhinitis are not immunosuppressive, and stopping them (especially asthma inhalers) can lead to a worsening of underlying conditions, and may lead to an asthma attack that necessitates a trip to the hospital.

If you have been prescribed an inhaled corticosteroid or are receiving chronic low dose prednisone for asthma, the risk of stopping these drugs far outweighs any potential benefits.

Q: Will allergy season be worse or better because there are few people out and about? Could people with allergies actually benefit by staying at home?
A: We anticipate no changes to the pollen season itself so some people may experience more allergy symptoms this year if they are enjoying the sunshine while physical distancing more than they would normally at this time of year (e.g. office workers who are typically indoors much of the time). Continue to do things like keep windows closed and, when it gets warm enough, turn on air conditioning to minimize the pollen burden in your home.

Q: Any other thoughts or comments?
A: Practicing social/physical distancing, strict adherence to hand hygiene procedures, and staying home as much as possible are still your best defense against COVID-19, regardless of whether you have allergies, asthma, or both. Symptoms of allergies may make it hard to not touch your face, so your rigorous attention to hand washing is essential at this time.

Music played from coronavirus isolation shows how the arts connect us

Professional and amateur musicians-in-isolation offer community expressions of human spirit through social media.

Steve Martin plays the banjo
Two Steve Martin banjo video tweets have been viewed more than 10 million times since March 21, 2020. Here, stills from the ‘Banjo Calm’ video. (@SteveMartinToGo/Twitter)

Many musicians are reaching out from isolation on balconies, in condos or the outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Italian tenor Maurizio Marchini sings “Nessun dorma” from his balcony while the police in Mallorca, Spain play music, dance and sing in the streets and people watch from balconies. Many people are posting #songsofcomfort.

American actor, comedian and musician Steve Martin’s March 21 viral Banjo Balm tweet (at the time of this writing, about 9.8 million views) followed by March 27 “Banjo Calm” (one million views) are two videos that bear witness to the ways we rely on the arts within social media to build connections and create community in times of isolation.

Music educators, community music facilitators and ethnomusicologists value the power of music to build community. These three fields coincide when they examine the notion of music for all that transforms societies and people. They identify humans’ basic drive towards “making things special,” as explained by Ellen Dissanayake, an affiliate professor of music education at University of Washington School of Music.

Our communities make the music we need when we need to do so. We mark significant events, both traumatic and joyful, with the arts.

Banjo Balm

For years, Martin’s comedy hijinks included his banjo; the public increasingly became aware of how talented he is as a musician.

Martin’s album The Crow: New Songs For The Five-String Banjo won best Bluegrass Album at the 2009 Grammy awards; he also received awards for 2001 Best Country Instrumental Performance and the 2013 Best American Roots Song. He is now as respected as a musician as he is as a comedian and actor.

Martin’s stand-up comedy and early film roles were zany. His movie characters gradually transitioned into ones who were a little odd but wise. This shift in his acting roles parallels his rise as a prominent figure in roots and bluegrass music.

Space and place influence music

Musician David Byrne describes ways space and place have always influenced music. From operatic stages and philharmonic concert halls to punk rock concerts at CBGB in New York, composers and musicians write and play for spatial and acoustic qualities of specific venues. What works in an outside amphitheatre may well fail at Carnegie Hall.

Martin presents us a talented musician who becomes our beloved great uncle in the “Banjo Balm” viral clip. We see him alone, as many of us are — or at least feel — in social isolation, but he does not appear lonely. He stands outdoors, relaxed, just as many of us wish we could be today.

He smiles gently at us with compassion. Thus, Martin transforms his outdoor space into an intimate venue that millions share in mostly indoor settings. We feel he’s come to visit us at home and we’ve welcomed our buddy inside. We are all family in this context, isolating apart together.

Banjo ‘ill-suited’ for conveying sadness

Michael Schutz, associate professor of music cognition/percussion at McMaster University, explores composers’ cues for musical emotion and concludes that “the challenges in producing low pitched, slow moving melodies” on the banjo make the instrument “ill-suited for conveying sadness.” Martin himself has made the same point in his stand-up comedy.

Martin’s “Banjo Balm” overcomes this tendency with rich, warm tone and a slow tempo. The major sounding melody descends with each phrase, suggesting repose, up until the final coda where it leaps and ascends, offering us some optimism. We tend to hear music in a major keys as happy or light, while minor keys tend to suggest sadness or darkness. This music calms us; we feel lifted from melancholy.

However the high lonesome sound associated with bluegrass music returns in “Banjo Calm.” It begins in a minor mode, a darker but still warm tone, and slowish tempo. At 50 seconds in, Martin fills in the spaces between the warm, slow and melodic notes with traditional clawhammer — fast, high pitch fill — that identifies the cheerfulness of bluegrass, even in sad songs.

Martin developed “Banjo Calm” into a more finished, more professional, more bluegrass piece. Personally, we feel more calm after “Banjo Balm.”

Music for community

Martin’s ever-changing social and cultural capital provides traction for both video tweets. His musicality and star power alone made “Banjo Balm” viral, however, this social media phenomenon occurs with so much music in so many places around the world.

Canadian fiddler Ashley MacIsaac says musicians make music because “we have no choice — that’s just what we are, we’re artists.” Through these YouTube and Twitter experiences, both professional and amateur musicians-in-isolation engage community expression and audiences appreciate their demonstration of solidarity.

This phenomenon transcends individual performances in any one genre, and functions as community building, or at least community expressions of human spirit. We see professionals performing, community singalongs and Canadian rockers Arkells offering free, online music lessons. Then, there are countless artists performing online from their homes.

Amateurs too are performing for their communities, including doctors at the Mayo Clinic, children and grandmothers.

Let’s all join in this community apart together!The Conversation


Roberta Lamb, Professor emeritus, Dan School of Drama and Music and Faculty of Education, and Robbie MacKay, Lecturer in Musicology, Dan School of Drama and Music.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Generosity flourishes at the BISC

More Confronting COVID-19 Stories

Over 2,000 tulips from Queen’s campus in England have been donated to lift some spirits.

  • Tulips at the Bader International Study Centre (BISC) were gathered into more than 300 bouquets that were donated to frontline health care workers in the United Kingdom as well as vulnerable members of the local community.
    Tulips at the Bader International Study Centre (BISC) were gathered into more than 300 bouquets that were donated to frontline health care workers in the United Kingdom as well as vulnerable members of the local community. (Photo by Julie Ryan)
  • Staff members and volunteers collected tulips from the gardens of the Bader International Study Centre. The flowers were part of care packages for healthcare workers.
    Staff members and volunteers collected tulips from the gardens of the Bader International Study Centre. The flowers were part of care packages for healthcare workers. (Photo by Julie Ryan)
  • Staff members and volunteers collected tulips from the gardens of the BISC. The flowers were included in care packages for healthcare workers.
    Staff members and volunteers collected tulips from the gardens of the BISC. The flowers were included in care packages for healthcare workers. (Photo by Julie Ryan)
  • Volunteers help collect tulips from the gardens of the Bader International Study Centre at Herstmonceux Castle.
    Volunteers help collect tulips from the gardens of the Bader International Study Centre at Herstmonceux Castle. (Photo by Julie Ryan)

Spring is usually a time when the Bader International Study Centre (BISC) is bustling with students and visitors taking in the beauty of Herstmonceux Castle and its grounds, including the breathtaking gardens. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has closed the property to the public so no one has been able to view the thousands of flowers that recently bloomed after being planted in the fall.

But the BISC turned this into an opportunity to show support for those most affected by the pandemic. Staff members at the BISC cut over 2,000 tulips and gathered them into more than 300 bouquets that were donated to frontline health care workers in the United Kingdom as well as vulnerable members of the local community.

“It seemed like the most fitting choice to give our tulips to the health care workers who are doing so much to keep everyone safe right now and the people who are a part of groups vulnerable to the virus. We wanted our community to know we’re thinking of them during this stressful time,” says Hugh Horton, Vice-Provost and Executive Director of the BISC.

BISC on the BBC

Just before the flowers were cut and shared, the BBC arrived to take some shots of the scenery to share with people at a safe distance. Recently, the network produced a segment featuring Guy Lucas, Gardens and Grounds Manager at Herstmonceux Castle, who is the only person still working regularly on site. Mixing aerial drone footage and close-up shots of flowers, the BBC captured the quiet magic of Queen’s empty English campus at a time of year when it is usually buzzing with activity.

“Everyone has put in so much work and so much time and so much energy to create something for people. The whole idea of these gardens is for people to appreciate and to love them. And there’s no one there to love them other than me,” Lucas told the BBC. He added that he’ll be planting again soon and hopes that people will be able to come see the next bloom in the garden.

To learn more about the BISC and take a virtual tour of the campus, visit their website.

Staying safe in the new digital world

More Confronting COVID-19 Stories

Queen’s University researcher Mohammad Zulkernine says education is the key to security.

A boy plays on a Nintendo Switch
With schools closed children are open to more digital distractions. However, this makes the population more vulnerable to being hacked and having their personal information compromised. (Unsplash / Kelly Sikkema)

With a large percentage of the population in isolation in an effort to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, attention has turned to technology. Those working from home are relying on digital tools now more than ever to collaborative with colleagues and keep in touch with family and friends. Importantly, children and young people are also using technology to keep up with their schoolwork and connect with friends.

This current trend makes the population vulnerable to being hacked and having their personal information compromised. Queen’s University researcher and Canada Research Chair in Software Reliability and Security Mohammad Zulkernine has ideas on how to keep us safe.

“Parents need to set boundaries on internet use and how much time young people should spend online playing games,” says Dr. Zulkernine. “It’s definitely going to be hard to do in this current environment but it’s critical. I also think the schools should be educating their students about internet security as they switched to an online learning model.”

Though there are several products on the market designed to help parents monitor internet use and increase internet security in the home and they can work but are not 100 per cent secure, says Dr. Zulkernine. He adds that parents should check the security and privacy settings of the apps that children as most use default settings that provide little protection.

But there is another course of action parents should consider before making the investment in any monitoring tools.

“Children are definitely savvier now than they used to be, but parents still play an important role in educating them. Hackers are working harder than us and the objectives of those criminals remains the same. We need to catch up to them and protect ourselves.”

Dr. Zulkernine, whose current research focuses on building reliable and secure software systems for cloud, connected vehicles, mobile operating systems, and internet of things, says parents also should have full access to their children’s devices and keep an eye on the time they spend online – either for learning, social time, or gaming.

 “Now is the perfect time to sit down with our children and teach them about the dangers and pitfalls of playing or working online. Parents also need to set a good example and become computer literate themselves. They need to understand the online world,” says Dr. Zulkernine. “I advocate educating children starting at a very young age and then trusting they will take those lessons and apply them.”

Easy-to-build ventilators

A team of Canadian physicists, led by Queen’s Nobel Laureate Art McDonald, is part of an international effort to design a ventilator to help in the treatment of COVID-19.

Arthur McDonald
Nobel Laureate Art McDonald and other Queen’s physics researchers are working as part of an international team developing a ventilator that can be certified and manufactured with off-the-shelf parts. (University Communications)

A team of Canadian physicists, including Nobel Laureate Art McDonald and other Queen’s physics researchers, are part of an international team working to develop a robust, easy-to-manufacture ventilator that can be certified and manufactured with off-the-shelf parts from established supply chains.

Nobel Prize
Queen’s Professor Emeritus, Dr. Art McDonald was co-recipient of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery that neutrinos, essential building blocks of the Universe, have mass. He is partnering with the nation’s leading particle and nuclear physics laboratories, SNOLAB, TRIUMF and Canadian National Laboratories, to lead the Canadian arm of the Mechanical Ventilator Milano project.

The ventilator design leverages the collaborators’ collective expertise in the design of gas-handling and electronic control systems used in the search for dark matter, the mysterious substance which makes up more than 80 per cent of the universe. The original design and prototypes were led by Dr. Cristiano Galbiati, a Princeton professor and collaborator on Italy’s DarkSide (Global Argon Dark Matter Collaboration) experiment in response to that country’s desperate need for ventilators.

Now a multi-national project, the Mechanical Ventilator Milano collaboration aims to design, develop, build and certify a simple mechanical ventilator system that provides a controlled supply of oxygen and air to COVID-19-stricken patients.  Importantly, the mechanical, control, and display systems are constructed from readily available parts, aiding rapid manufacture that can be adopted in different countries.

“The goal is to develop a ventilator model to meet current needs that can be constructed quickly and reliably in Canada and in other countries,” says Dr. Art McDonald, Professor Emeritus (Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy) at Queen’s University and 2015 Nobel Laureate. “This project is an example of how we can harness the capacity and talent of the Canadian nuclear and particle physics community at SNOLAB, TRIUMF, and the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories to help combat COVID-19 with our international partners.”

With Dr. McDonald, the Canadian partners, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, SNOLAB and TRIUMF, have joined an international group of researchers from Italy, the EU and US, working: to develop a common international standard for the machine, modify the design in collaboration with medical clinicians, test the viability of the device in medical environments, secure certifications through national health agencies, and partner with governments and manufacturers to support mass production.

Today, in his daily media briefing, the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, highlighted the project as one of the key examples of how Canadian researchers are working together to provide effective and creative solutions to supply shortages in the COVID-19 pandemic.  The project was also recently highlighted in a Globe and Mail article, Nobel Laureate leads push for simple made-in-Canada ventilator.

The project continues to evolve. The Gazette will continue to follow this project and keep the Queen’s community updated on progress and further developments. Please visit the Mechanical Ventilator Milano website for more information.

Ventilator design
The Mechanical Ventilator Milano collaboration aims to design, develop, build and certify a simple mechanical ventilator system that provides a controlled supply of oxygen and air to COVID-19 patients.


Queen’s experts rise to the challenge

More Confronting COVID-19 Stories

How the university's researchers are sharing their expertise to help us understand and cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Empty interview room with microphones
Queen's researchers are sharing their expertise during the COVID-19 pandemic, offering commentary and analysis. (Unsplash / Austin Distel)

As the world grapples with the uncertainties surrounding a global pandemic, we seek to understand more about the virus, its spread, and social and economic impacts. We also search for strategies for how we, as individuals and communities, can cope and be resilient in these challenging times.

However, as the coronavirus pandemic intensifies, so does exposure to a virulent combination of misinformation, disinformation, and amateur analysis. In this time of crisis, fact-based and research-informed commentary is necessary, highlighting the critical contribution that researchers and academics can make to informing the conversation

Since the coronavirus pandemic became an increasingly global concern in January, Queen’s researchers across disciplines have been active in offering commentary and analysis on COVID-19-related issues –  from understanding symptoms and spread of the virus to the impact the pandemic is having on Canadian oil prices and the global economy.

“At Queen’s, we have a wealth of leading research expertise that can be applied to how we understand the coronavirus and evaluate impacts of the crisis economically, socially, and politically,” says Michael Fraser, Vice-Principal (University Relations). “Key to our research promotion strategy and integral to our media relations approach during this time is to help our researchers share their expertise through the national and international media.”

Mobilizing research: Confronting COVID-19

As part of the Confronting COVID-19 series in the Gazette, as well as in an effort to build prominence for our researchers as media experts, the university’s Integrated Communications team is working daily across our research community to develop COVID-19-related stories.

The team also shares with media a growing list of Queen’s experts who are ready to comment on COVID-19 related issues.  Many of these experts have been featured at the local, national and international level, reaching millions through traditional and social platforms.

Highlights in the last few weeks include: Sharry Aiken (Law) commenting in the National Post on how Immigration slowdown could add to the economy's woes as coronavirus pressures mount, Duncan Hunter (Public Health Sciences) reflecting in the Globe and Mail on how Canadian governments have employed an earlier and more coordinated response to COVID-19 compared to the U.S., and Anne Ellis (Medicine) speaking to CTV News about why having asthma under control helps people  handle COVID-19.

Leading The Conversation

The Conversation logoQueen’s researchers are also taking advantage of the university’s relationship with The Conversation, to provide expert commentary on the crisis. This news platform, which has 10 international editions, including Canada, sources content from the academic research community and delivers it directly to the public and media through Creative Commons Licensing. The Conversation is currently seeing unprecedented engagement with their sites and content.

As a founding member of The Conversation Canada, the Queen’s research community has embraced the platform as a unique tool for sharing their research expertise and engaging with the media, producing more than 225 articles with 3.5 million reads over the last two years.

Recently, Roberta Lamb (Education and Music) and Robbie MacKay (Dan School of Drama and Music) provided an analysis of how music played and shared during isolation demonstrates how the arts connect us and builds community.  In his 7 tips we can learn from hockey, Stephen Archer (Medicine) outlined how lessons learned from Canada’s favourite game can offer wisdom during the pandemic.

PhD candidate Korey Pasch (Political Studies) looked at how coronavirus is fueling mistrust, fear, and racism, similar to experiences with other diseases, such as Ebola and SARS viruses. The Canada Research Chair in Economy and Environment, Kyla Tienhaara (School of Environmental Studies) provided commentary on the need for governments to consider a full green stimulus to combating the ecological crisis that is pending.

Call-to-action for researchers

“Canadians and global citizens are looking for answers and advice that is fact-based and that they can trust,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “This is where the Queen’s research community can take a leadership role. Across disciplines, we have research expertise that can be mobilized and applied.”

The University Relations team is looking for research experts who can help us to understand the virus, its spread and its variable impacts. If you are interested in becoming a media expert or in writing for The Conversation Canada, please contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives at knoxm@queensu.ca or Anne Craig, Media Relations Officer, at anne.craig@queensu.ca.


Subscribe to RSS - Confronting COVID-19