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SNOLAB director reappointed to second term

By Andrew Carroll, Gazette editor

Nigel Smith (Physics) has been reappointed to a second term as the director of SNOLAB, the deep underground science laboratory specializing in neutrino and dark matter physics.

The SNOLAB facility is an expansion of the successful Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) experiment.

The facility is operated by the SNOLAB Institute whose member institutions are Queen’s University, Carleton University, Laurentian University, University of Alberta and Université de Montréal. It is located two km below the surface in the Vale Creighton Mine near Sudbury, Ont.

Nigel Smith (Physics) has been reappointed as director of SNOLAB for a second term.

 First appointed in 2009, Dr. Smith says that the second term will allow him to see some results from the major projects currently underway.

“The detectors that we are building take many years to design, construct and operate so a five-year term is enough to get things moving but not really enough to deliver the science from these large-scale experiments,” says Dr. Smith. “What I am looking forward to in the second term is having these projects, which we are now constructing, take data and complete the analysis to get the science out."

“It’s the science that drives everybody here. It’s the rationale for operating this facility,” he adds.

According to Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research), Dr. Smith has definitely earned his reappointment.

“SNOLAB is internationally-renowned for its research and discoveries, and directing such a sophisticated and complex research site takes a great level of expertise,” he says. “Nigel has done an outstanding job in his role as director of SNOLAB, and I look forward to seeing its accomplishments continue in Nigel’s second term.”

Under his leadership, SNOLAB has seen an increase in partnerships with other innovation centres across the country while also expanding the areas of study.

“We actually have quite a broad program of science here so the large-scale experiments that we’re building at the moment are augmented by smaller-scale projects, some of which have a sufficiently short life-cycle that we have seen results over the last five years,” says Dr. Smith.

During the next term his aim is to make SNOLAB the “partner of choice” for underground physics projects, providing world-class infrastructure and delivering world-leading science.

NSERC funding supports grad student exchange

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

An international research program that includes three Queen’s professors recently received $1.65 million from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) through its Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) grants program.

Nikolaus Troje (Psychology), Doug Munoz and Gunnar Blohm (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) are members of The Brain in Action research group headed by Doug Crawford from York University. The funding will support trans-Atlantic supervision and exchanges of graduate students and research fellows as well as non-academic collaborations and internships.

Niko Troje is part of an international research team working with graduate students.

“The principal investigators are mentors for the graduate students in the program,” explains Dr. Troje. “All of the funding goes to the graduate students to provide them with unique research opportunities working with some of the top experts in the world.”

The Brain in Action program allows graduate students to study the connection between perception and action and to apply these findings to real world settings. For example, some students are studying how eye movement and vision work while walking outdoors.

Internships will allow students to apply their knowledge of vision and eye-hand co-ordination in areas including advertising and smart phone design.

The Brain in Action team includes 11 researchers at Queen’s, York and Western University and 11 primary investigators from Justus-Liebig-Universitat Giessen and Philipps-Universitat Marburg in Germany.

Queen's attracts more international students

By Craig Leroux, Senior Communications Officer

With a 79 per cent increase in the number of international students accepting Queen’s offer of admission this year, the university is on track for Principal Woolf’s goal of increasing the proportion of international undergraduate degree students to 10 per cent. 281 international students, or 6.3 per cent of the incoming class, will begin their Queen’s degrees in September.

International students who arrived at Queen's this January participated in an orientation session hosted by the Queen's University International Centre.

“This is excellent news as we continue to ramp up our international recruitment efforts to meet the objectives we set in the strategic framework,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “When students come to Queen’s from around the world it helps make the university a place to develop global perspectives, and it establishes networks that will be of benefit to all our students. In the longer run, many of these students will return to their home countries and help build our reputation internationally.”

As part of its growing international recruitment efforts, Queen’s recently hired Sunny Wang as a recruitment officer in the Queen’s China Liaison Office in Shanghai, increased its outreach to international guidance counsellors, and joined CALDO, a consortium of leading Canadian research universities focused on recruitment in Latin America.

“Queen’s is well respected within Canada for its exceptional student learning experience and supportive campus community,” says Principal Woolf. “It is those same attributes that will make us a university of choice for talented international students.”

Queen’s offers extensive support for international students through the Queen’s University International Centre and programs like QBridge, offered by the School of English, which delivers academic English language training to international students before they begin their studies at Queen’s.

He's a man in motion

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Twenty years of research into how the human brain processes visual information has earned Nikolaus Troje (Psychology, Biology, School of Computing) the Humboldt Research Award, an honour established by the German government to recognize a lifetime of achievement.

 “I feel very honoured having received a lifetime recognition award without having a single grey hair yet,” says Dr. Troje, who was nominated for the award by colleague Karl Gegenfurtner from the University of Giessen.

Using the sensors shown below, Nikolaus Troje uses motion capture technology to study how people move.

Dr. Troje operates the Biomotion Lab at Queen’s, studying visual perception and cognition using motion capture technology. The goal of his research is to answer questions concerning social recognition including processing visual information contained in the way people walk and move, specifically the subtle nuances that signal emotions and personality.

Dr. Troje started his career working on visual systems of insects, and later on face recognition in humans. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, he met Queen’s professor Barrie Frost during a conference in Germany who invited him to come to Queen’s and study visual recognition in pigeons. He spent two years in Kingston before moving back to Germany where he founded the Biomotion Lab at Ruhr University. In 2003, Dr. Troje accepted the position of Canada Research Chair in Vision and Behavioural Sciences at Queen’s where he continues his research today.

The motion sensors used in his research.

“Understanding how our visual system obtains information about other people from the way they move is just one example of the amazing ability of our perceptual systems to turn neuronal activity in response to external energies into the objects and events that form our perception of the outside world,” he says.

Dr. Troje is now preparing for a one year sabbatical in Germany where he will spend time at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tübingen and at the JustusLiebig University in Giessen.

U.S. Consul General praises international exchanges

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

Jim Dickmeyer, the Consul General of the United States responsible for Ontario, recently visited Kingston. Mr. Dickmeyer has served in six countries during his 29 years of diplomatic service. He most recently taught national defense studies as a faculty member at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.

During his two days in the Limestone City, he met with Principal Daniel Woolf, toured Innovation Park and visited the Royal Military College of Canada. Following the tour of three companies at Innovation Park, he discussed his visit and the importance of academic exchanges between Canada and the U.S. with Senior Communications Officer Mark Kerr.

MK: What is the purpose of your visit to Queen’s and Innovation Park?

JD: I have been in my position for two years, and I hadn’t visited Kingston yet. I wanted to come to here and visit Queen’s and the Royal Military College.

When we were planning the trip, we saw some material on Innovation Park and thought, ‘we definitely have to go there.’ There is so much going on between the United States and Canada in this area of scientific inquiry and then movement into commercialization. This is just a wonderful visit for us.

[Jim Dickmeyer with Medizone staff]U.S. Consul General Jim Dickmeyer visits Medizone International Inc. laboratory located at Innovation Park. Senior technician Dylan Simpson (centre) and microbiologist Paolo Uy explain one of theiir experiments to Mr. Dickmeyer.

MK: What has stood out during your visit to Queen’s?

JD: At Innovation Park, I was struck by the research going on in laboratories. I am fascinated by the amazing pace of innovation and how quickly they (the researchers) expect to have commercial products that are going to change our lives. I have been to other innovation parks in Ontario and the U.S. and this kind of work fascinates me. Watching scientists at work in a creative environment that allows them access to other tools they need to eventually commercialize these products is always interesting.

I have a number of friends who have attended Queen’s. Through them, I have developed an admiration for the university and the fact that it’s a little bit smaller (than other Ontario universities) and maintains a community feel. They have also told me about how many opportunities there are for leadership experiences outside the classroom at Queen’s. Queen’s is also attractive being situated in this just very beautiful city.

One of the things I talked about with Principal Woolf was trying to increase the number of students who are interested in coming up to Queen’s from the U.S. I think it would be a great opportunity for people from my country to come to such a great university.

MK: Why are academic exchanges important?

JD: When we talk about academic exchanges, I often think at the faculty level, which is hugely important and goes on a lot. The even more important exchanges that I want to work on and increase are at the student level. When you study in another country for a semester or a year, you get a different view of life. Your vision is expanded. We think of ourselves – between the U.S. and Canada – with so many similarities, but we are distinct cultures with distinct histories and traditions. A U.S. student coming up to Canada can learn so much about how to understand a different culture, how to listen and absorb more. The Fulbright Program is very vibrant, but given the numbers we would really like to see, it can’t address all of that. So we have to figure out different ways to do that.

I think it would be a great opportunity for people from my country to come to such a great university.

U.S. Consul General Jim Dickmeyer

MK: President Barack Obama has pledged his commitment to innovation. Are there things America can learn from Ontario?

JD: Ontario is very far advanced in its own focus on innovation. Clearly, you see that in the innovation that goes on in the education system in Ontario from primary schools up to the university system. I suspect there’s much we can learn from Ontario. And I think a lot of it’s going on in terms of exchanges of experience.

One of the areas that I think Ontario is particularly strong and where we might be able to find some models that would be useful for us at the state level is how much the province invests in these processes. Our states do to some degree, but a lot of time we leave that more to the federal side and that often misses certain needs of specific states.

The interview was condensed and edited for clarity.

Asia-Pacific diplomats visit Queen's

 By Andrew Stokes, Communications Officer

High-ranking officials to Canada from the Asia-Pacific region gathered at Queen’s on June 24 for the annual Ambassador’s Forum.

The event, organized by Hok-Lin Leung, former director of Queen’s School of Urban and Regional Planning, brings together the ambassadors to promote international dialogue, co-operation and action.

“The Ambassador’s Forum was started as a non-official space for diplomats to meet one another and listen to informed Canadians,” says Dr. Leung. “The forum is unique in the world, and it’s great for Queen’s. It gives us a chance to internationalize right here on campus.”

After lunch at Summerhill, the diplomats listened to a presentation by Don Raymond, former chief investment strategist of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and a member of the Queen’s Board of Trustees. Mr. Raymond talked about international investment strategies for global investors.

Since the Ambassador’s Forum was established in 2003, Queen’s has welcomed representatives from countries such as Japan, South Korea, Australia and Myanmar listening to presentations by Canadian academics, politicians and labour union leaders. Previous presentations have covered topics such as Canada-U.S. relations, the Canadian identity, and the process of a federal election.

“It’s important that these officials get a neutral venue to interact with each other,” says Dr. Leung. “There’s a lot of potential to build international relationships.”

Baroque expert elected to Institut de France

By Andrew Carroll, Gazette editor

Gauvin Bailey (Art History) has been appointed to the prestigious Institut de France.

Dr. Bailey, the Alfred and Isabel Bader Chair in Southern Baroque Art, was elected last month as a “correspondant-étranger” (foreign correspondent) of the Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres (Humanities) of the Institut de France, one of the most-respected and oldest learned institutions in the world having been founded in 1663.

The Institut de France only maintains 50 French and 50 foreign correspondents at any one time, putting Dr. Bailey in exclusive company.

“This is a tremendous honour, not only for Dr. Bailey but for Queen’s as well,” says Principal Daniel Woolf. “The Académie des inscriptions is among the world's oldest and most exclusive learned societies; for Dr. Bailey to be elected as a foreign correspondent is a strong recognition of the quality of our faculty here at Queen’s.”

Gauvin Bailey (Art History) has been elected to the Institut de France as a foreign correspondent.

Dr. Bailey is one of only six North American foreign correspondents.

“This is a huge and unexpected honour for me, particularly at this time in my career when I am working increasingly on French art and culture and its dissemination throughout the Americas,” Dr. Bailey says. “The Institut de France itself dates from the period I am working on and some of the architects and writers I have studied were members in their day.

“For me it is also a thrill for a more basic reason: its home, the former Collège des Quatre-Nations (built 1668-88) across from the Louvre, is one of my favourite Baroque buildings in Paris, but I have never been allowed inside because you have to be a member. Next time I go to Paris that will be my first stop.”

Dr. Bailey says he believes that his election is due in large part to his recent research into the migration of Baroque art and architecture through France into the Americas. While there has been extensive study into the flow of Baroque art forms through the Spanish and Portuguese New World empires, Dr. Bailey says that France’s role has largely been overlooked.

Dr. Bailey’s book on the subject The Spiritual Rococo: Décor and Divinity from the Salons of Paris to the Missions of Patagonia (Ashgate Press, 2014) will be released in September, which will be his seventh book published to date.

Dr. Bailey was named to the Royal Society of Canada in November, one of seven Queen’s professors to receive the honour in 2013. He took up his current position at Queen’s in 2011.


Tackling inequality in Tanzania

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

She might work at Queen’s, but Karen Yeates’ heart is in Tanzania. She is using mobile phone technology to improve health care and save the lives of women and children living in the African country.

“I started volunteering in Tanzania in 2006 and found that women are often forgotten in countries like this,” says Dr. Yeates, co-director of the Queen’s School of Medicine’s Office of Global Health. “I wanted to help make a difference. The inequality in health care made me angry. It’s not rocket science but we still can’t figure it out.”

Karen Yeates meets with workers at a medical clinic in Tanzania to explain the bed nets program.

Dr. Yeates’ first research project in Tanzania was implementing a cost-effective method of screening for cervical cancer using a cellphone. The Kilimanjaro Cervical Screening Project was funded by Grand Challenges Canada as part of the Rising Stars in Global Health program.

With that project wrapping up in July, Dr. Yeates is working with the Ontario-based Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) to distribute insecticidal treated bed nets to pregnant women and determine why only 70 per cent of women are putting the nets on their beds. Pregnant women and children under the age of five are at the most risk of dying from malaria in developing countries.

“When the pregnant woman receives the voucher number for her bed net, her mobile number is recorded and entered into a server that will track the redemption of the net voucher and will also send her text messages to remind her to redeem the voucher and pick up her net if she hasn't done so,” explains Dr. Yeates. “She will also get health promotion messages to encourage her to use the net properly, on her bed where she and her children sleep.”

Seven million bed nets have been distributed in Tanzania through this e-voucher program.

Karen Yeates (l) says the nurses in the clinics are critical for the success of the e-health programs.

Researchers can also track where the bed net vouchers are being redeemed and can match that against malaria hot spots. A second Grand Challenge Canada grant and MEDA funding will help move this phase of the research project forward.

“Cellphones are ubiquitous in countries like Tanzania, they live their lives through their cellphones,” says Dr. Yeates. “It only made sense to use the technology to improve health care. People in Tanzania don’t have paper medical records but we can work toward those records being stored right on their phones. There is so much more we can do.”

Dr. Yeates' work in Africa continues. She is also studying the rapidly rising rates of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure. She and colleagues will use the same mobile phone technology in a clinical trial to distribute subsidized blood pressure medications to those who cannot afford them. The patients will also receive text messages about their blood pressure and how to improve the disease to prevent long term complications such as stroke, heart and kidney disease.

Kingston lauded as 'intelligent community'

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Nominated alongside six other world-leading communities, Kingston had a strong showing at the recent Intelligent Community Forum held in New York City. After placing in the top seven out of over 400 applicants, the Limestone City competed for the title of Intelligent Community of the Year against Columbus, Ohio, Arlington County, Virginia, Hsinchu City, Taiwan, New Taipei City, Taiwan, Toronto and Winnipeg.

Innovation drivers such as the High Performance Computing Virtual Laboratory, Innovation Park at Queen’s, GreenCentre Canada and the leadership of the city in launching Sustainable Kingston were all featured in the application.

“Queen’s and Kingston both benefit tremendously from one another, and that relationship is reflected in the Intelligent Community application,” says Principal Daniel Woolf. “To see Kingston do so well and be recognized on the world stage is extremely gratifying for everyone involved.”

Nominated communities were judged according to their potential in the broadband economy, considering categories such as digital inclusion, knowledge workforce and innovation. This year’s theme, Community as Canvas, placed special focus on the communities’ cultural output.

The city was also cited for its high number of green- and clean-tech businesses, several of which have developed from Queen’s research. The organization also recognized Kingston’s reliable Internet infrastructure and strong local culture.

“I’m very pleased Kingston made it to the Top seven out of more than 400 applicants,” says Kingston Mayor Mark Gerretsen. “Making it this far in the competition speaks volumes about quality of life in the city. Our commitment to technology also makes us an attractive place to do business.”

Although Kingston didn’t finish in the top spot – that honour went to Toronto – the experience provided a valuable opportunity to showcase Queen’s and Kingston to the world.

“The summit was a great opportunity to network and share ideas with the other nominees as well as past winners,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research), who was in New York City representing Queen's and also participating in a panel on brain drain. “We connected to people with excellent global perspectives on innovation and Kingston and Queen’s will be able to benefit from these success stories. Placing in the top seven was a positive experience for Queen’s – and for Kingston.”

The title is awarded by the Intelligent Community Forum, a New York-based think tank that studies the economic and social development of modern communities. 

Physicist sifts through sandy shrapnel

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Once the site of the Second World War’s bloodiest battles, the beaches of Normandy are now a mecca of sunbathing and swimming. Lurking in the sand, though, is a time capsule of those battles.

Kevin Robbie (Physics) is examining the shrapnel-containing sand on the Normandy beaches by using microscopic imaging to take photographs that are both scientific and artistic. He is working with professional photographer Donald Weber, in a project that combines landscape photography of the beaches with Dr. Robbie’s microscopic photographs of the sand.

Optical microscope image of several pieces of steel shrapnel, showing rust (orange), and salt (white) on the surface.

“Several aspects inspired me to work on this project: the historical importance of the D-Day invasion as a geopolitical event, the artistic juxtaposition of the peaceful appearance of the beaches in the landscape photography with the rough and violent-seeming appearance of the microscopic photographs of the shrapnel grains in the sand,” says Dr. Robbie.

“The shrapnel and sand provides an environmental commentary about the inconspicuous evidence that man-made products of war will remain in these sands for centuries, and the remarkable fact that solidified bubbles of molten iron form nearly-identical spherical particles in the explosions of both artillery shells and meteorites.”

Kevin Robbie

Among the ordinary grains of sand, Dr. Robbie found rounded spheres of iron (called microspherules)   no larger than a period on a printed page. Although these microspherules are sometimes produced from meteorites exploding in the upper atmosphere, they can also occur with bomb and artillery explosions.

The next phase of Dr. Robbie’s research will be a more thorough analysis of the microspherules he observed – quantifying the number of particles per kilogram of sand and distinguishing man-made vs. meteorite origin conclusively.

“In my work, I’m always looking at small things that I don’t see other than through the electron microscope so it’s neat for me to see a piece of history,” says Dr. Robbie. “The remnants of this battle over 60 years ago are still sitting around in the sand.”

The research was published in Canadian Geographic Compass blog.


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