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International connections flow from research

[Queen's in the World]
Queen's in the World

Throughout his three-decade academic career, Andrew Pollard (Mechanical and Materials Engineering) has worked to establish networks that support international collaborations. Those efforts and his research contributions in the field of fluid dynamics have earned him a fellowship in the American Physical Society.

“The fluid dynamics research community in Canada is small. I have long held the view that reaching out to others around the world is the best way to keep the community and my research vibrant,” says Dr. Pollard, Queen’s Research Chair in Fluid Dynamics and Multi-scale Phenomena.

[Andrew Pollard]
Andrew Pollard (Mechanical and Materials Engineering) has received a fellowship from the American Physical Society. 

To foster those international collaborations, Dr. Pollard has hosted international conferences at Queen’s and elsewhere and visited laboratories around the world during his sabbaticals. He has also reached out to colleagues at other universities, which resulted in annual meetings of fluid dynamics researchers.

Making international connections offers additional benefits beyond advancing his research, according to Dr. Pollard.

“Our students get to see their work is just as good if not better than their peers around the world,” he explains. “And I have found that our graduate students go on to work at other universities often based on the contacts they have made while conducting research here at Queen’s.”

Dr. Pollard’s international work dates back to his graduate school days when he embarked on a PhD in England. During his doctoral work, he used both computers and experiments to understand turbulence and fluid mechanics problems. This synergistic approach has been a hallmark of Dr. Pollard’s research career ever since, which the American Physical Society fellowship celebrates.

“I take two approaches to the subject matter. As an engineer, I am focused on the application side, and I have been recognized as a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers for that work,” he says. “It’s really icing on the cake to receive the fellowship from the American Physical Society honoring my theoretical research into the intricacies of the flow physics of fluid dynamics and especially turbulence.”

Dr. Pollard accepted the fellowship at the annual meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics on Nov. 23 in San Francisco. 

Queen's announces joint program with Tongji University


Queen's in the World

Queen’s University today announced the creation of a “two-plus-two” degree program, in partnership with China’s Tongji University.

The program will see Tongji students study for two years at its College of Environmental Science and Engineering in Shanghai, before coming to Kingston for two years of study in Queen’s School of Environmental Studies. Graduates will earn a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental science from Queen’s.

“This two-plus-two program will provide an exceptional international experience that will enrich the education of participating students as well as their classmates at Queen’s,” says Alan Harrison, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic). “It is a partnership that builds upon existing collaborations in environmental science between our two universities, as well as Queen’s longstanding ties in China.”

Wu Jiang, Vice-President (Academic) at Tongji University, and Alan Harrison, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) at Queen's University, greet each other during the signing ceremony in Shanghai for the new two-plus-two degree program in Environmental Science. 

Queen’s officials, including Provost Harrison, Susan Mumm, Dean of Arts and Science, and Kathy O’Brien, Associate Vice-Principal (International), were in Shanghai this week when the agreement was officially signed at Tongji.

“Queen’s comprehensive international plan identifies China as one of our priority regions for developing academic and research partnerships, as well as student recruitment,” says Ms. O’Brien. “This program will further co-operation between our two institutions and will strengthen the understanding of environmental expertise in both countries.”

The two-plus-two program is the next step in a series of collaborations between Queen’s and Tongji, which also includes a joint field course in Aquatic Biodiversity and Environmental Assessment, as well as the Sino-Canada Network for the Environment and Sustainable Development, a joint research initiative focusing on topics such as low-impact urban development, aquatic ecosystem remediation, and the monitoring of environmental change using remote sensing and geographic information systems technology.

Brian Cumming, the director of Queen’s School of Environmental Studies and the Queen’s co-ordinator of the new 2+2 program, says that participating students will be able to apply their international experience to environmental problems.

“Environmental issues can have both local and global dimensions, and are often impacted by cultural and social circumstances,” says Dr. Cumming. “This program will be an excellent way for Chinese and Canadian students to learn from each other and we look forward to welcoming the first group of students from Tongji.”

The program is expected to draw roughly 15 students to Queen’s annually.  The first contingent of Tongji students will arrive in the fall of 2015.

Expanding the university’s international reach is a strategic priority for Queen’s and a key driver in its strategic framework. China is central to Queen’s international plan, and a senior delegation from the university is currently touring China to meet with partner institutions, alumni and prospective students. Queen’s also recently launched a Chinese webpage to strengthen the university’s connections with prospective Chinese students and their parents.

Students forced from 'comfort zone' during international program

Queen's in the World

International visitors were on hand as Queen’s students attended a “graduation” ceremony to celebrate their completion of the Cross Cultural College certificate program, a partnership with Japan’s Kwansei Gakuin University (KGU).

Representatives from the CCC program, including Takamichi Mito, Chief Academic Director of the Cross-Cultural College and professor in KGU’s School of Law and Politics, visited Queen’s to present certificates to students who completed the program.

Professor Takamichi Mito, Chief Academic Director, Cross-Cultural College (left) and Kathy O’Brien, Queen’s Associate Vice-Principal (International) presented the CCC certificates to Queen’s students (l-r) Catherine Wright, Maya Molander and Dana Fallis.

“KGU is one of Queen’s longest standing international partners and its CCC certificate program is an excellent way for Canadian and Japanese students to work together and gain important cross-cultural experience,” says Kathy O’Brien, Associate Vice-Principal (International). “We were delighted to welcome Professor Mito and his colleagues to celebrate the accomplishments of our students, who are better prepared for success in international contexts thanks to their experiences in the program.”

Catherine Wright (ArtSci’14) was among the three students present at the ceremony, each of whom spoke about the transformative value of the program.

“I participated in the global career seminar and it provided me with opportunities and experiences I may never have been afforded otherwise. I learned about many differences between Canadian and Japanese business culture,” says Ms. Wright. “I felt that the program challenged me to get outside of my comfort zone and ultimately challenged me to grow both personally and professionally.”

Queen’s students participating in the CCC certificate program take courses related to multicultural studies and international relations, and participate in a Japan-based summer program or global career seminar. Mount Allison University and the University of Toronto are the two other Canadian partners in the program, which is supported by the Japanese Ministry of Education.

Learn more about the Cross Cultural College

Lifting language learning

Queen's in the World

Hannah Liu was working on coursework for her PhD in Business Economics when she realized she needed help. Having moved to Kingston from China, she was confident in the quality of her research project but felt she needed to develop her academic communication skills in English. To get the help she needed, she turned to Student Academic Success Services (SASS). 

“Two of the things I had the most trouble with were the pronunciation of certain sounds and presentation skills,” says Ms. Liu (PhD ’17). “Within a few minutes of meeting with an advisor from SASS, I identified my issues and ways I could improve them.”

Donna Katinas (l) has been working with Hannah Liu to develop her English academic skills. 

Comprised of the Writing Centre and Learning Strategies units, SASS offers support to students looking to improve their skills in critical thinking, writing, and learning.

Ms. Liu initially began working on her writing skills with Donna Katinas, the Writing Centre’s ESL program coordinator. The two began meeting regularly and expanded the focus of the sessions to address presentation skills. “She’s helped me get used to Canadian culture as well,” Ms. Liu says. “Donna’s been a really great support to me and I’m really thankful I get to work with her.”

Ms. Katinas offers many services in addition to the one-on-one appointments Ms. Liu accessed including workshops and learning tutorials. While the majority of the students she works with are international, Ms. Katinas welcomes any student whose first language is not English. Appointments can focus on assignment-specific challenges, like writing a strong conclusion for an essay, or cover more general topics, like grammar or punctuation.

“I’ve found that the best way to help students improve is to have them practice a concept and give them direct feedback on it right away,” Ms. Katinas says. “Many of the students who see me want help with their pronunciation and presentation skills too, which I’m always happy to do.”

A new Writing and Learning Lab scheduled to launch in Stauffer Library in the winter term will enhance Ms. Katinas’ ability to help all students. The lab, a joint effort between SASS and the Queen’s Learning Commons, will be equipped with audio and presentation equipment and will be used as a space for students to work on their writing and learning skills.

“Students we work with have indicated they need a space where they can write together, or check in with someone while working. Many of them find it useful to ask a quick question while they write,” Ms. Katinas says. “It’s great that we are expanding to better serve students.”

More information about Student Academic Success Services can be found on their website

Diving deep to uncover history of rocks

[Noel James]
Noel James teaching carbonate sedimentology in Bermuda.


[Queen's in the World
Queen's in the World

As a PhD student, Noel James (Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering) saw a research opportunity to examine relatively young rocks, especially reef rocks, on and around the island of Barbados.

There was only one problem: he lacked a key skill required to understand reef rocks.

“I had never been a diver before. Literally, I learned to dive so I could work on my PhD in a semi-intelligent way,” he says.

Dr. James was hooked on scuba diving right away, which has allowed him to conduct extensive research on coral reefs, shallow seafloors and open shelves, the birthplace of many ancient limestones. From his original marine work in the Caribbean, Dr. James expanded his scope to innovative research on carbonate sedimentary rocks in the High Arctic, the Rocky Mountains, deserts in the Middle East and Australia’s Red Centre.

His contributions to the field earned him the Sorby Medal, the highest award of the International Association of Sedimentologists. The organization has only awarded the medal eight times over the past 40 years.

“It was a shock when I found out I’d won. I looked back at the previous medalists and they were my heroes. I thought, ‘what am I doing with this group of people?’” he says. “The other awards I have received have been profound but this one really affected me quite deeply because it’s worldwide.”

Dr. James, member of the Order of Canada, shares a connection with previous Sorby medalist Bob Ginsburg. After finishing his PhD, Dr. James worked with Dr. Ginsburg to establish a laboratory at the University of Miami. Their research focused on comparing ancient carbonate rocks such as limestone to modern seafloor sediments formed by the shells of dead calcareous organisms often using research submersibles to probe the deep zones of reef growth.

Dr. James carried on that style of research when he returned to Canada, examining rocks in locations across Canada while continuing his work on the modern seafloor. His passion for field work spills over into his teaching, where he infuses his undergraduate and graduate courses with his experiences. In addition he currently takes exceptional students to the Bermuda Institute for Ocean Sciences each year to let them experience first-hand the complexities of reef growth.

“In a course like Geological Evolution of North America, I can tell the students what I found working in the Arctic on 3-billion-year-old rocks. I can use my own pictures and illustrations,” he says. “It’s nice to see them perk up when you are talking about what you have done. I hope in the back of their minds they are thinking, ‘maybe I can do that, too.’

Dr. James accepted the Sorby Medal at the 19th International Sedimentological Congress in Geneva.

Helsinki visiting professorship will help further study

Susanne Soederberg (Global Development Studies and Political Studies) has been appointed to a prestigious visiting professorship at the University of Helsinki. The value of the award is $190,000.

[Susanne Soederberg]
Susanne Soederberg (Photo by Bernard Clark)

Through the Jane and Aatos Erkko Visiting Professor at the Collegium for Advanced Studies, set for the 2015-2016 academic year, Dr. Soederberg will be conducting research on a new project focused on shelter finance and housing rights for slum dwellers around the world.

Dr. Soederberg says the position will allow her to “research in an interdisciplinary and international environment with emerging and established scholars from both Europe and in the Global South.”

In her study, Governing Shelter Finance for Slum Dwellers: A Comparative Study of Mexico City, Manila, and Mumbai, Dr. Soederberg will initiate the first comparative study of shelter finance in three of the world’s largest slums: Cuidad Nezahualcóytl in Mexico City, the Tondo District in Manila, and Dharavi in Mumbai.

“One billion people – a number still rising – live in slums. Notwithstanding its status as a basic human right, most slum dwellers lack safe and secure shelter,” Dr. Soederberg says. “The United Nations has responded by endorsing Goal 7, Target 11 of its Millennium Development Goals (MDG 7) to ensure the adequate housing of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.”

However, she points out, demand for affordable housing continues to rise unabated while funds from governments and public donors have been insufficient. At the same time the various forms of shelter financing – such as commercialized mortgages, shelter microfinance, and community investment funds – have barely been explored.

“With only several years remaining to meet the 2020 MDG-7, it is crucial that scholars, practitioners, and policymakers possess a more complete knowledge base about the present scale, scope, and future sustainability of shelter finance as well as the power dynamics involved in its governance,” she says. “To this end, the core questions driving the project are: who benefits from shelter finance, and why? And, how have different forms of governance influenced which slum dwellers are able to gain access to certain types of shelter financing and which are excluded?”

The significance of the appointment is recognized by her Queen’s colleagues as well.

“What a great opportunity for Dr. Soederberg,” says Marc Epprecht, Professor and Head of Department, Global Development Studies. “Though we will miss her here in DEVS, where she is not only a great scholar but a well-loved teacher, we are proud of her achievements and of the nature of her research – making a difference to the lives of people in some of the most stressed communities in the world.”

The Collegium for Advanced Studies is an independent institute within the University of Helsinki. The Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation, which finances the Visiting Professorship, was established in 2002 to support high-level international research, arts and culture.

Queen's launches Chinese webpage

Queen's in the World

Queen’s University has launched a new Chinese language webpage in order to better connect with prospective students and their families.  The webpage provides information about studying at Queen’s, the admission process, the university’s China Liaison Office, and about the City of Kingston.

“Queen’s is working to attract more international students as part of its commitment to enhancing its international prominence and providing a globally relevant learning experience,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “China is a longstanding and highly-valued international partner for Queen’s and is the university’s largest source of international students. This new webpage provides another way for prospective students and others in China to connect with the university.”

Queen's new Chinese language webpage will help connect with prospective students and their families.

The webpage is the result of a pilot project aimed at making information about Queen’s accessible to prospective international students and their families in their native language. It is one part of Queen’s increasing international recruitment activities.

“As we expand our recruitment activities internationally, it will become increasingly important to have information about Queen’s available in languages other than English, especially for the families of prospective students,” says Kathy O’Brien, Associate Vice-Principal (International). “Chinese was a natural choice for this pilot project, given Queen’s high level of activity in China. Many people deserve thanks for bringing this webpage to fruition, especially Sunny Wang and Zhiyao Zhang in the Queen’s China Liaison Office.”

Expanding the university’s international reach is a strategic priority for Queen’s and a key driver in its strategic framework. Queen’s renewed international recruitment efforts are already showing results, with international students making up five per cent of this year’s incoming class.

Visit Queen’s new Chinese language website

More about the Queen’s China Liaison Office

Building bridges with music

While he may be a household name in Cuba, singer-songwriter Carlos Varela may not be as familiar to Canadians. But when he takes to the stage at the Isabel on Oct. 30 that could change. Mr. Varela, who has shared stages with artists like Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt, has been described as “one of Cuba’s most talented and emblematic artists of his generation. He received an honorary degree from Queen’s University in June 2014.

Carlos Varela will be performing at the Isabel on Oct. 30. (Photo Supplied)

“He represents the generation who inherited – but didn’t build – the Cuban revolution,” explains Karen Dubinsky, a professor in the Departments of History and Global Development Studies, who helped organize the concert. “He has been able to express the sense of dissatisfaction and frustration of an entire generation, but he has done it with poetry and metaphor.”

Born in Havana in 1963, Varela taught himself to play guitar at age 15. After attending university, he joined the politically infused Nueva Trova music movement and began performing in theatres and small venues throughout Cuba. In 1989, he gave a legendary concert at the renowned Chaplin Theatre where he debuted his first album. Soon after, he became the first artist of his generation to sell out the 5,000-seat Karl Marx Theatre for three consecutive nights.He now has nine albums under his belt.

“Varela is a spokesperson for bridging conflict, both on and off the island (of Cuba), which is considerable,” says Dr. Dubinsky. “For a long time, Cubans living off the island were seen as cowards and traitors. Nobody thinks like that anymore. And Varela is in a remarkable position of being just as popular off the island as he is in his home country. He illustrates how you can bridge gaps with music in a way that you can’t by just giving speeches.”

Mr. Varela, who lives in Havana, is also the subject of a new book. The English edition of My Havana: The Musical City of Carlos Varela will launch in conjunction with Varela’s performances in Kingston and Toronto. The anthology was edited by Maria Caridad Cumana, Xenia Reloba and by Dr. Dubinsky, and is published by University of Toronto Press. It includes contributions from Cuban and U.S. music scholars, and musician Jackson Browne, among others.  

Carlos Varela performs at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts on Thursday, Oct. 30. He will be accompanied by jazz pianist Aldo López Gavilán, and by bassist Julio Cesar El Checo. All songs will be performed in Spanish, but English translation will be provided.  Advanced tickets are $15 for general admission $10 for students.

More information is available on the Isabel’s website

Supporting the ‘chance of a lifetime’

[Robyn Finley]
 Robyn Finley (Artsci’15) was able to complete an internship at UNAIDS in Geneva, Switzerland thanks to the support of the Principal’s Student Initiatives Fund. (University Communications)
Queen's in the World

Robyn Finley (Artsci’15) had the “chance of a lifetime” when she was offered an internship this past summer at UNAIDS, the umbrella organization at the United Nations that coordinates worldwide efforts to combat HIV/AIDS.

The problem was that it was an unpaid internship.

And it was in Geneva, Switzerland, one of the most expensive places in the world to live.

Fortunately, the Global Development Studies student was able to find the support that would make the dream a reality.

Ms. Finley found out about the Principal’s Student Initiatives Fund, through the Office of the Principal, applied and received a grant that would help see her through.

While she felt good about receiving the support from her school, she also says she learned more than she could have expected through the internship. She’s now looking to share what she has learned with her classmates and the greater Queen’s community.

The road to the internship had its beginnings in a pair of classes she took last year – Cross-Cultural Research Methods (DEVS 300) and AIDS, Power and Poverty (DEVS 320).

Ms. Finley says she became fascinated with what she was learning in the AIDS course and wanted to apply what she was learning to a project in Research Methods.

“The disease is an epidemic but there is so much more to it than, say, malaria where it is a cause-and-effect kind of medical problem. There are so many social determinants that factor into the HIV epidemic,” she says. “It’ s social, it’s political, it’s groundbreaking and revolutionary in a lot of ways because it makes people question gender, sexuality, identity and all these things, and I think it has moved a lot of discourse forward.”

Ms. Finley looked at different treatment plans in Africa and how the disease is being tackled and settled on a project in Malawi that focused on pregnant women. The difference with this program was that the women take one pill a day rather than the standard treatment of a cocktail of medications taken on a timed basis throughout the day, something Ms. Finley says fits modern Western society much better than it does African.

However, in her research she found a gap within the program as pregnant women were not being given a choice to start the one pill a day regimen. There was no other option. The project was framed as being beneficial to babies as it reduced the risk of vertically acquiring HIV, but in so doing, limited mothers’ autonomy to choose the treatment plan that was right for them.

Wanting to be sure, she contacted the gender team at UNAIDS. The reply she received was that this was exactly the type of issue the team is trying to tackle. They also asked her to send them her project when it was complete.

So she got down to work.

“The project was the hardest thing I’ve ever done for school. I looked at the computer for four full days on the last draft alone,” she says. “It was intense.”

UNAIDS then invited her to apply for the internship, which she did in January. The she waited… and waited a bit more.

“At the beginning of April, classes are done, I’m getting ready for exams and I was eating breakfast one morning when I got an email from the UN asking me to move to Geneva three weeks later and start this internship at UNAIDS with the gender team,” Ms. Finley recalls.

What followed was a whirlwind. She had to cancel her summer job, find a place to live in a city she had never visited and somehow find the funds that would allow her to pursue her dream and be able to return to school for her final year.

However, she had the backing of the Global Development Studies program and the Office of the Principal.

As a result, she gained a learning experience she couldn’t have imagined. On her first day she was responsible for crafting the gender and equality team’s press release regarding the mass kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls by extremists.

While she considered a UN job to be the Holy Grail in Global Development Studies, it is far from glorious. There are long hours of basic grunt work, the issues on which your work, but over which you have no control, can consume you, there’s a high divorce rate among employees and the pursuit of a work-life balance is never-ending.

The Principal’s Student Initiatives Fund supports student participation in projects devoted to the principles of personal growth and/or community service. Projects should provide educational opportunities such as participation in competitions, symposia, conferences, festivals and community development projects. For more information contact Christine Berga.

Imagining the PhD of the future

Rachel Spronken-Smith, Dean, Graduate Research School, University of Otago, New Zealand, visited Queen’s University this week. Otago and Queen’s are members of the Matariki Network of Universities, an international group that focuses on advancing partnerships in research and undergraduate teaching. While at Queen’s, Dr. Spronken-Smith delivered a lecture on graduate education, “The PhD: Is it Out of Alignment?” Communications Officer Andrew Stokes spoke with Dr. Spronken-Smith about her lecture and Queen’s-Otago ties.

Andrew Stokes: What was the impetus for your trip to Queen’s?

Rachel Spronken-Smith: So far, much of the interaction between Matariki Network schools has had to do with research and undergraduate teaching. I’ve been visiting a number of Matariki members to develop the ties for greater graduate collaboration and sharing of best practices. One of the projects I’ve worked on in the past is the re-evaluating of degree outcomes at the undergraduate level. I want to ask the same question and share ideas about study done at the graduate level.

Dr. Spronken-Smith is Dean, Graduate Research School at New Zealand's University of Otago.

AS: The lecture you presented on Monday asked those sorts of questions. Can you tell me about what you presented?

RSS: When we think about the outcomes we expect from our doctoral students, it’s a very broad list that includes skills relating to communication, teamwork, critical thinking, ethics and problem solving, to name just a few. Despite these many expectations, we teach them in a very narrow way: usually a supervised research project. We assess them in a narrow way as well: a written thesis and in some countries an oral defence as well. For these expected skills, we have no measures to know whether we’re succeeding in developing them.

AS: How can the PhD be adapted to be more effective?

RSS: We have to recognize that people with PhDs go onto a far broader range of careers than just academia, and so in an ideal world we would tailor each PhD to the particular interests and goals of an individual. That could involve them taking a broader array of courses, doing supplementary workshops or perhaps taking part in an internship as part of their program of study. If someone is doing a PhD in health sciences but hopes to work for a business one day, then it would help to give them opportunities to learn financial management and entrepreneurship skills. Of course, those are substantial changes so it may be wishful thinking at the moment.

AS: Have you made any smaller, incremental changes at Otago?

RSS: PhD students at Otago meet regularly with supervisors to report on their research progress. For the more formal progress meetings, we’re incorporating conversations about career planning. We encourage students to consider their path after and take stock of what skills they need to cultivate to get there. When we took the idea to Otago’s department heads, we were met with enthusiasm about the change.

AS: Do you think in the future the PhD will be oriented more towards professional skill development as opposed to in-depth research on a narrow topic?

RSS: I think it will turn in that direction. Of course, students develop a lot of skills during a research project as well, though they may not always realize it. Students can struggle with knowing what they want to do at the end of their PhD and that’s often because they’re not aware of the opportunities and careers available to them. We need to link graduate students with potential employers and career advisors, people who have an understanding of the jobs available to someone with their particular training. 


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