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Confronting COVID-19

Modelling the spread of COVID-19

Queen’s professor Troy Day is helping Ontario develop models to predict the future of the virus in the province.

As Ontario works to contain the spread of COVID-19, the provincial government is drawing on the expertise of researchers from its universities. Troy Day, Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Queen’s, has been chosen to serve on the Provincial COVID-19 Modelling Consensus Table.

On Monday, Ontario released new models projecting the future spread of the virus in the province. The Gazette connected with Dr. Day to learn about his role at the table that generates these models and also to hear his thoughts about the state of the pandemic in Ontario.

Describe the Provincial COVID-19 Modelling Consensus Table and how it is contributing to the province’s efforts to contain this coronavirus crisis.

Day: The Table is composed of people with expertise in a variety of areas including public health, epidemiology, infectious disease biology, data sciences, and mathematics and statistics. One of its main goals is to use mathematical models to rapidly address questions about the likely consequences of different public health interventions in the control of COVID-19. The Table is chaired by Dr. Adalsteinn Brown of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health (who you have likely heard in Monday’s media conference giving updates and projections on the status of COVID-19 in Ontario) and by Dr. Kumar Murty of the Field’s Institute.

What is your role at this table and what types of insight do you bring as an applied mathematician who focuses on mathematical biology?

Day: Much of the research that my group does centres on developing mathematical theory for the epidemiological and evolutionary dynamics of infectious diseases. I am one of several people on the Table that conducts this type of research and together our goal is to draw on several mathematical results and models (both from our own work and that of others) to form a consensus opinion about the likely future dynamics of COVID-19.

The Province just released updated models of the spread of the virus. What do you think the most significant findings in these models are? Are there any surprises in the data?

Day: Perhaps the most important message from Monday’s briefing is that the physical distancing measures are working. Spread within the community at large is decreasing, although we are probably only now cresting the peak of the first wave of infections. So, these measures will need to be maintained for some time still. More surprising to me at least is the importance of long-term care homes and other congregate settings in disease spread. Roughly one half of the deaths in Ontario are people living in these settings and it is obviously difficult to enact physical distancing measures to control the spread in these places.

Confronting COVID-19 Read more articles in this series

What do you think people in Ontario should prepare for as we look ahead? How long might we need to continue embracing physical distancing or other preventative measures?

Day: It is difficult at this stage to be very specific about how much longer physical distancing will need to be in place. However, since we are just now reaching the peak it will be important to maintain these measures so that we come down the other side of the wave. If we relax these measures too soon we risk losing all the ground that has been gained during the past month and having things get out of control.

For more information on the latest models from the province, see the Government of Ontario's website.

Living with a physical disability during the pandemic

Queen’s University researchers working to support people living with physical disabilities.

Exercise during isolation is important for people living with physical disabilities. (Supplied Photos)

Academic lead for the Canadian Disability Policy Alliance and Queen’s researcher Mary Ann McColl (School of Rehabilitation Therapy, Public Health Sciences) says people with disabilities face unique challenges  based on the current circumstances imposed by COVID-19. 

These include: 

  • Depending on a personal support worker to come every day to perform intimate care duties, such as toileting and personal hygiene 
  • Needing expendable supplies such as surgical gloves, antiseptic wipes or catheters, to perform hygiene routines 
  • Being afraid to leave the house at the best of times, never mind now when a life-threatening virus is afoot 

“These are just a few of the scenarios that confront people with a variety of different types of disabilities in the current crisis,” says Dr. McColl. “Not only are people with disabilities particularly vulnerable during times of instability such as this, but difficult times can also substantially add to their challenges.” 

Exercise at home

Something critical that could add to their independence and well-being at home is exercise. As part of the advice on how to properly self-isolate, public health authorities have also been prescribing people a round of daily fitness whenever possible. However, there is one segment of the population that is not being properly addressed, according to Queen’s University researchers Amy Latimer-Cheung and Jennifer Tomasone (Kinesiology and Health Studies) 

The research duo, along with Kathleen Martin Ginis (University of British Columbia) have launched a free, evidence-informed, telephone-based physical activity coaching service for Canadians with a physical disability. 

Run by the Canadian Disability Participation Project (CDPP), Get In Motion provides Canadians with a physical disability an opportunity to speak with a Physical Activity Coach (PAC) who provides support to start or maintain an at-home physical activity program. Physical disabilities supported by Get in Motion include spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, stroke, cerebral palsy, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, post-polio syndrome, or an amputation. 

Support for staying healthy

“Canadians with a physical disability are high risk group for COVID-19,” says Dr. Tomasone (Kinesiology and Health Studies). “Self-isolation is critical to the well-being of individuals with a physical disability. With social distancing restrictions, being active is proving difficult for all Canadians, especially individuals with a physical disability.” 

Dr. Tomasone, a leading researcher with CDPP, says the coaches will assess what their clients currently have available in their home and work with them to set goals and create a plan. 

“A challenge for persons with a physical disability is often not knowing where to start or not realizing they have the tools right in their home to stay active,” she adds. “It’s also a great way to a create social connection among Canadians who are self-isolating.” 

Strength and endurance

Building and maintaining strength and endurance helps with everything from getting into and out of bed, cooking, cleaning, preparing for work and maintaining good hygiene. Physical activity coaching may be especially helpful for coming up with creative solutions to stay active for people with a physical disability whose in-home care worker is unable to meet clients in their home. 

Confronting COVID-19 Read more articles in this series

“Twenty per cent of the population is living with a disability, many of whom do not have a partner, spouse, or children for support,” says Dr. Latimer-Cheung, leading researcher with CDPP. “This means they are home and completely on their own. We need to place an emphasis on the health of persons with a physical disability as they are a high-risk group for contracting COVID-19 and other chronic conditions.” 

However, people with disabilities can teach us a great deal about adaptability, resourcefulness, ingenuity, and interdependence.  People with disabilities often act as a bell-weather group, facing difficult circumstances before the general population does.  As such, they can provide an opportunity to help policy makers and service providers to anticipate future needs. 

To sign up for Get in Motion, visit the website or email CDPPprojects@queensu.ca

Fostering community remotely

The Student Experience Office is helping students stay connected to Queen’s wherever they are.

pet stress relief sessions
The Student Experience Office has set up online pet stress relief sessions which also allow students a chance to share their experiences studying from home and to feel linked with the Queen’s community.

Queen’s University is well known for a strong sense of community shared among students. Even during COVID-19, the university is finding new ways to bring students together, no matter where they are in the world.

The Student Experience Office (SEO) – a unit in Student Affairs – is helping lead this effort by coordinating many innovative remote activities on several different digital platforms.

Confronting COVID-19 Read more articles in this series

“The heart of Queen’s is academics, but the student experience is also shaped by our lively campus community and when students connect with each other. Our team is working hard to help students remain connected to the Tricolour community even if they’re not able to be together on campus,” says Meg Ferriman, Director, Student Life.

Virtual community and stress relief

During these uncertain times, the SEO has created various opportunities for students to take a break and calm any anxieties they might be feeling. Their virtual pet stress relief sessions over Zoom have been especially popular. During these group calls, students have been on camera with their pets to spread some happiness with their peers. These Zoom sessions have also given them the chance to share their experiences studying from home and to feel linked with the Queen’s community.

Many other remote activities hosted by SEO also focus on fostering a greater sense of connection by promoting some fun and a bit of friendly competition. The Friday afternoon trivia challenges on Instagram Live bring many students together and they will soon have the opportunity to take part in a game on TikTok, where they can make a short video and challenge other people from Queen’s to recreate it.

SEO is currently planning for its summer activities. Keep up to date with their future events by following them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Helping local organizations navigate economic hardship

Smith School of Business partners with City of Kingston to support area businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Downtown Kingston
The Kingston Region Business Support Network is set to provide local organizations with assistance to navigate economic challenges posed by COVID-19.

Smith School of Business at Queen’s University is joining forces with the City of Kingston and Kingston Economic Development to provide student and faculty resources to help local businesses, not-for-profits, and social enterprises navigate and survive the impact of COVID-19.

“Our local businesses and not-for-profits are integral to the character of Kingston and the truth is they are struggling right now,” says Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson. “They need every resource we can muster as a community, and so I’m very proud to see this program come together and so quickly. I believe this will serve as an incredible resource for our community.”

Under the banner of the Kingston Region Business Support Network, the effort offers free services, including student time and skills, and community classroom learning sessions with faculty on topics designed for local business needs.

“We are grateful to be a part of the Kingston community and are ready to help local organizations as they cope with the extraordinary impact of COVID-19,” says Brenda Brouwer, Dean, Smith School of Business. “These are our neighbours, friends, employers of our students, and the businesses, stores, and services we rely on day-to-day. We want to contribute what we can to help them through this difficult time.”

Tapping into Student Resources

Through a matching platform, interested businesses can tap into the time, expertise, and skills of Smith students, which can range from research, strategic planning, and digital development, to sales, marketing, design thinking, and applying for grants. Once registered, businesses are contacted by a student consultant to confirm specific needs and to match with appropriate resources.

Participating students come from across Smith’s programs, from undergraduate to professional masters and graduate level research programs, and bring a diverse range of skills and experience suited to assisting businesses small and large. Each student consultant is supported by a Smith faculty member.

Confronting COVID-19 Read more articles in this series

“Kingston is tremendously blessed to have the wealth of talent and expertise within our post-secondary institutions at Queen’s and St. Lawrence College,” says Donna Gillespie, Chief Executive Officer, Kingston Economic Development. “During these incredibly challenging business times, leveraging these assets and supporting our business community together is paramount to address immediate needs and how we, as a community can support and prepare businesses for the path to recovery.”

Community classrooms with experts

As part of Kingston Region Business Support Effort, Smith School of Business faculty and instructors will also host free webinars designed specifically for regional businesses to help tackle their day-to-day challenges.

The initial online Community Classroom Learning Sessions will take place on April 22 and April 29. Peter Gallant, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Strategy, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship will lead the first webinar entitled Cashflow During Coronavirus: Strategy and Tactics for Business Survival and Recovery in the Age of COVID-19. The second, entitled Anticipating the New Normal: Critical Changes to Plan Today will be led by Ken Wong, Associate Professor and Distinguished Professor of Marketing.

Registration for these sessions and information about future sessions can be found on the website. Planned topics will include negotiation with banks and creditors, and innovating and pivoting.

“The efforts being made by people and organizations across the Kingston region to respond to the challenges brought on by COVID-19 are inspiring,” says Patrick Deane, Queen’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “I am especially proud of our faculty, staff, and students who have been engaged on healthcare’s front lines, assisting local businesses, and contributing crucial research and development expertise to help our community through this difficult period.” 

Lending a helping hand

An interdisciplinary team of Queen’s researchers and industry partners have mobilized to formulate hand sanitizer for Kingston hospitals

Graduate student tests a sample of hand sanitizer
Department of Chemistry graduate student Hailey Poole takes samples from a prototype batch of sanitizer.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to worldwide shortages of personal protective equipment and, very early on, products like hand sanitizer. This has a great impact on hospitals where these products are critical to limiting the spread of the virus, especially for frontline health care workers and patients.

A team of Queen’s researchers from the Departments of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering along with GreenCentre Canada have partnered with Kingston Health Sciences Centre and Tri-Art Manufacturing (Kingston) to develop hand sanitizer. Having just received Health Canada approval, the team will use three sites (two at the university and one at GreenCentre Canada) to make 300 litres of product per week to help meet the needs of Kingston hospitals.

“Our health care professionals have enough to worry about at the moment and should not have to be concerned about rationing hand sanitizer as we try to ‘flatten the curve,’” says Richard Oleschuk, Head, Department of Chemistry. “We know that we are not going to be in the long-term business of supplying hand sanitizer, as eventually supply will be brought online to meet demand. However, we felt that our interdisciplinary team had the skill set and infrastructure to make a difference in the short term.”

The World Health Organization has approved two formulation recipes (ethanol and isopropanol) for sanitizer. To create the isopropanol recipe the team is producing, large amounts of isopropanol (commonly known as rubbing alcohol) needs to be mixed with smaller amounts of water, hydrogen peroxide, and glycerin, in exactly the right proportions. The mix then needs to sit for 72 hours so that it can sterilize its own container.

While production of hand sanitizer is not a complicated process, it involves the use of chemicals that can be hazardous if not handled correctly. To make the isopropanol sanitizer, the team at Queen’s needed to develop a process that ensured quality control of the product, but still maintained social distancing rules at each of the three sites. They developed a “buddy system,” in which a second individual acts to monitor each and every chemical addition/volume added to the mix, so that the integrity of each batch is maintained.

“At this unprecedented time, it is important that the university and Kingston community work together to ensure our citizens remain healthy and safe,” says Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “I am proud of our researchers and our community partners for both their resourcefulness and initiative undertaking this project.”

Confronting COVID-19 Read more articles in this series

The team’s protocol was developed in collaboration with Queen’s Environmental Health and Safety, who are also essential in transporting the raw materials and finished sanitizer to and from the formulation sites. A training video was also created, so that the students, faculty and staff involved in formulations could learn the same formulation process.

“I applaud the innovation and creativity of our researchers and industry partners in addressing these critical shortages,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research).  “This project shows the strength of the Queen’s research community in mobilizing their expertise and resources to deal with pressing global challenges.”

While the team hopes not to be in the hand sanitizer business for long, they are thankful for the opportunity to be able to support the needs of Kingston hospitals and for the contributions of the Queen’s faculties and Physical Plant Services in this effort.

A team effort for dissertation defence

A student in the Department of History was one of the first ever at Queen's to defend her dissertation remotely.

Photo of Sanober Umar after successfully defending her dissertation over a video conference on Microsoft Teams
Sanober Umar after successfully defending her dissertation over a video conference on Microsoft Teams.

Queen’s has had graduate degree programs since 1889, but is still having new firsts in its approach to graduate education. Over the past few weeks, the university has held its first remote defences of theses and dissertations. One of these defences was for Sanober Umar, who on April 6 became the first PhD candidate in the Queen’s Department of History to defend her dissertation using Microsoft Teams.

Nine people joined the video conference, including Umar, her committee members, a facilitator, and a staff member from IT Services for support. Most were in Kingston, but one person joined from New York City and another from Halifax.

"Even though it was a momentous occasion, I felt surprisingly calm going into my defence. Mainly because I received so much support from Barrington Walker and Saadia Toor, my supervisors; Adnan Hussain, Graduate Chair in the Department of History; and Betsy Donald, Associate Dean in the School of Graduate Studies. Because of their help, I was able to focus on preparing and didn't have to worry about whether the new situation would affect my defence," says Umar. "The advisors at the Ban Righ Centre, who have provided me with so much support throughout my time at Queen's, also helped to keep me calm in the days before the exam."

A successful remote defence

Shortly after learning that classes were transitioning to remote delivery, Umar says she was contacted by Hussain, who let her and the other graduate students in the department know that there were plans in the works for holding defences and exams remotely. The School of Graduate Studies (SGS) also reached out with the same message. “I never had to worry if my defence or degree would be delayed,” Umar says.

Making sure no technical glitches got in the way, David Smith, a staff member in IT Services at Queen’s, stayed on the video call for the duration. All the committee members were also eager to make sure that the defence could focus on Umar’s dissertation rather than whether everyone’s technology was working properly. So they all agreed to join the virtual meeting half an hour early to sort out any potential issues.

Typically, successful defences end with a celebration of the accomplishments of the student. While there could be no in-person gathering, the facilitator of the defence did bring out balloons and a congratulations sign to recognize Umar’s achievement. As her dissertation studies global Islamophobia in the second half of the twentieth century, Umar appreciated having this light-hearted note after discussing such a serious topic for three hours.

Best practices for remote thesis examinations

As Queen’s continues to practice physical distancing, it will rely on this remote format for administering graduate exams and defences. And SGS is providing support and guidance for all students and departments. It has put together a guide to best practices for remote exams which were followed during Umar’s defence, helping to ensure it went off without a hitch.

“Queen’s is one of the first schools in Canada to compile best practices for remote thesis examinations. And we have already seen many departments put them to use as they hold their first-ever remote defences,” says Betsy Donald, Associate Dean, School of Graduate Studies. “I served as the facilitator for Umar’s defence, and it was a pleasure to see her thrive in the remote setting.”

To read the SGS best practices guide for remote thesis examinations, see their website.

Connecting in a time of physical distancing

Office of Advancement hosts a town hall featuring Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane and Special Advisor to the Principal on Planning and Preparation for COVID-19 David Walker.

The Office of Advancement at Queen’s University hosted a special online town hall on Wednesday afternoon, featuring Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane and David Walker (Meds’71), Special Advisor to the Principal on Planning and Preparation for COVID-19.

The town hall, moderated by Vice-Principal (Advancement) Karen Bertrand (Artsci’94), reached out to Queen’s alumni, offering them the opportunity to question the university administration on the ongoing response to the pandemic as well as the direction moving ahead. More than 250 people participated in the live town hall.

Following brief introductory remarks, Vice-Principal Bertrand opened the floor to questions, some sent in advance and others sent through the Zoom platform. Queries ranged from the university’s expectations and plans for the 2020-21 academic year to how Queen’s is cooperating with postsecondary institutions around the province and across the country. Other questions dealt with the financial implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as whether or not Queen’s will be able to maintain its traditions and community spirit.

“This online town hall was a great opportunity to connect with alumni, who are such an important part of the Queen’s community, during a time of physical distancing,” says Vice-Principal Bertrand. “Principal Deane and Dr. Walker provided a valuable update on the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and how Queen’s is playing an important role at the local, provincial and national levels.”

Principal Deane explained that he has been particularly impressed by how quickly collaborations have formed with community partners and fellow postsecondary institutions, adding that he will work toward maintaining these connections once we move into the post-pandemic phase.

“In the months before the coronavirus hit we’ve had some extremely positive discussions on campus about the role of Queen’s in our community, and one of the things that I would say about the crisis is that it has deepened those connections,” says Principal Deane. “It’s important for us to think about where we will be when we come out of the other end of this crisis and I hope that what we remember is how important it is to maintain all of those positive connections between the university, the city, social agencies, everybody who is interested in making the quality of life in Kingston as good as it can be.”

Having chaired Ontario’s Expert Panel on SARS and Infectious Disease Control in 2003, Dr. Walker was asked to compare the two outbreaks. He pointed to the university’s steps to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Queen’s administration quickly worked to depopulate the campus in response to the spread of the coronavirus and continues to help frontline healthcare workers through donations of personal protection equipment (PPE) and providing living space at the Donald Gordon Centre, Dr. Walker pointed out.

Visit the Queen’s Alumni website for more articles highlighting how Queen’s alumni are contributing to the effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

Making the most of the summer

Queen’s online course offerings are proving to be very popular with students facing summers disrupted by COVID-19.

Photo of a person using a laptop.
Faculties at Queen's are seeing an increased demand for their popular online summer courses.

COVID-19 has abruptly changed summer plans for many students across Queen’s, as many employment and internship opportunities have been put on hold. To help students make the most of this unexpected gap, the university is ready to connect students with a host of popular online courses and programs around campus.

Arts and Science Online (ASO) has the largest enrolment out of the units offering online degree credit courses at Queen’s. It’s aiming to become even more accessible to students through measures like increasing enrolment caps for popular classes, extending the application deadline and start date for summer courses, and by expediting the application process for prospective students and visiting students from other universities, such as allowing them to submit unofficial transcripts to support their applications. To support the larger class sizes this summer, ASO will also be hiring an additional 40 graduate students as teaching assistants.

“From last year, there is already a 25 per cent increase in course enrolments in Arts and Science Online. We understand that many students suddenly need to find new plans for their summer, and we are working hard to make accommodations while maintaining the high level of education that we are known for. Whether students are looking to earn credits toward their degree or explore an interest, ASO has something for them,” says Bev King, Assistant Dean (Teaching and Learning), Faculty of Arts and Science.

Arts and Science Online has a long track record of offering innovative online education. Students in ASO can take courses in a wide variety of disciplines, including art history, drama, astronomy, computing, and psychology. Courses in ASO are taught by Queen’s faculty members who often teach in-person courses on similar topics. Their courses are open to Queen’s on-campus and distance students, and students from other higher-education institutions who apply.

Launching careers remotely

The Smith School of Business has also been making their programs more accessible for students facing a summer of physical distancing. Notably, they have adjusted their popular Graduate Diploma in Business (GDB) program so that it is now delivered remotely.

The GDB course is designed for recent graduates from any discipline and gives them a chance to build business skills that can help launch their careers. Credits earned in the program can also be transferred to a Smith MBA program, and completion of the program could qualify students for entry into other Master’s programs at Smith. Throughout the program, students also work with dedicated career coaches who provide mentorship and build important professional skills, such as communication, resiliency, and emotional intelligence.

“This is the seventh year for Smith’s Graduate Diploma in Business. In four intensive months over the summer, students gain a deeper confidence in all areas of business through ten masters level courses plus professional coaching, communications skills, training in high performance teams, career planning, and more so they stand out as a great job candidate,” said Jim Hamilton, Distinguished Faculty Fellow of Sales Management, and Director Graduate Diploma in Business at Smith. “We are excited this summer to deliver the program fully remotely using our teaching studio technology and virtual support. It will be a completely immersive and engaging experience that a student can do from anywhere.”

Health Sciences online

Like ASO, the online Bachelor of Health Sciences (BHSc) program is already seeing growing demand for its courses this summer. Compared to 2019, enrolments are already up 71 per cent. Queen’s undergraduates are driving most of this increase, but there are also many students from other institutions requesting to enroll.

To accommodate more students, the BHSc is adding more courses. Originally, the program planned to offer 18 courses, which was already an increase over the 15 offered in 2019. But now they will be adding 3 to 5 more courses on top of the 18. The preferences of students are being considered as the BHSc plans for this expansion. They have asked for feedback from students about which courses they are most interested in taking, and they have received over 100 responses so far.

“Seven years ago, the Faculty of Health Sciences made significant investments to develop state-of-the-art, fully online courses that would become the foundation of the Bachelor of Health Sciences program. The result is that we can now offer a diverse array of courses online, enabling us to respond to the student demand because of this COVID-19 pandemic. We are very pleased to be able to help the students out,” says Michael Adams, Director, Bachelor of Health Sciences.

The BHSc is designed for undergraduates who are interested in pursuing the health professions, and it offers online courses on a wide range of topics, including infectious diseases, pharmacology, physiology, and global health. This academic year, it launched an on-campus version of the program, which received over 4,000 applications for its first cohort.

Queen’s Faculty of Law

Having seen several years of steady growth for the Certificate in Law, the law school is continuing to see increases in enrolment in both individual courses and the Certificate program itself as the summer nears. Queen’s students represent about 60% of students in the program, but off-campus students, both undergraduates and lifelong learners, are a growing cohort for the program. Law 201, Introduction to Canadian Law, is a perennially popular course, but speciality courses such as Aboriginal Law and Intellectual Property are rapidly accruing interest and enrolments as May nears. 

“We have increased our caps for most courses, hiring more teaching assistants from our Juris Doctor and graduate students,” says Hugo Choquette, Academic Director of the Certificate in Law program. “We are continuing to invest in course renewals and improvements for the courses, and the quality of the courses are reflected in their growth both on- and off-campus. We’ve also extended our program enrolment deadline for Queen’s students by a week, to April 27, to accommodate this higher level interest.”

The Faculty’s online Graduate Diploma in Legal Services Management is also seeing growing interest among legal professionals with a series of courses to train legal professionals in business skills ranging from financial literacy to project management. One of its summer courses, LSM 840 – Working With Teams and Managing People – has proven especially relevant in the current context.

“The COVID-19 epidemic has, among other things, highlighted how important leadership and management skills are to weathering a crisis,” says Shai Dubey, Academic Director of the Graduate Diploma in Legal Services Management. “We’re reaching out to small and mid-sized law firms with a series of tools, created by the course developers, to help them with remote team management and mentoring, and seeing a strong positive response and interest in this course, as well as the other courses in the program.”

Exploring online programs

For more information about Arts and Science Online, visit the ASO website.  Learn more about the Graduate Diploma in Business on the program’s website, or find out about other programs that Smith delivers remotely on the school’s website. The website for the BHSc has information about both the online and on-campus versions of the program. 

If you are interested in summer online courses in other academic areas, see the website of the relevant faculty or school to learn more about their programs.

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.

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