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Research Prominence

Engineering Faculty launches new site

With an array of videos featuring work done at their many research centres and facilities, the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science’s new website is answering a question at the forefront of student minds. WhyGradStudies? aims to provide prospective graduate students with the information they need to make an informed decision about pursuing their graduate studies at Queen’s.

WhyGradStudies? provides information to prospective students about graduate study at Queen's.

“Our goal is to encourage prospective students to think about engineering graduate studies at Queen’s,” says Brian Surgenor, Vice-Dean (Research and Graduate Studies) in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. “ Whether it’s an MEng to further career goals, or an MASc to explore an interest in research, or a PhD to pursue the highest degree in the profession, we want them to see that we have the programs, the facilities and the faculty that can fulfill their needs, whatever they may be. “

The site interviews students working towards their master’s and doctoral degrees and has them speak about the importance of their work and their time at Queen’s. Among its other features are videos, created by the faculty’s media squad, about the benefits of living in Kingston and a search tool to find supervisors in particular areas of research interest. The site’s launch is part of an overall recruitment campaign, with print advertising in student newspapers, search engine optimization and direct online advertising.  

“Graduate school is great because you’re allowed to explore the topics that really interested you during your undergraduate,” says Joanne Hui, a PhD candidate in Electrical Engineering, in one of the site’s videos. “It gives you the skills to write technical papers that can get published in journals, attend international conferences to expand your horizons and your networks.”

Funding promotes research excellence

Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced $1.5 billion in new funding to promote excellence within the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities. The Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) will position Canada’s post-secondary institutions to compete with the best research universities in the world for leading scholars and students, and will generate breakthrough discoveries.

“This commitment by the Prime Minister and the Government of Canada to support globally competitive research excellence with an investment of $1.5 billion over 10 years demonstrates that they recognize that Canada can compete with the best in the world,” says Daniel Woolf, Vice-Chair of The U15 and Principal and Vice-chancellor, Queen’s University. “It’s now up to us to make sure that we make the most of it. Together with CFREF and other established funds and programs that support research excellence, we will strengthen and advance our standing as a world leader in science, technology and innovation.”

In 2013, The U15 proposed that the government of Canada invest in the creation of a new fund to bolster Canada’s research strength and promote global research excellence.

“Since its announcement in Budget 2014, The U15 has been looking forward to the official launch of CFREF as a significant commitment by Canada to support globally competitive research excellence,” says Feridun Hamdullahpur, chair of The U15 and president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo. “This Fund will allow successful institutions to better compete on the international stage in established areas of research strength as well as new and emerging areas that will support Canada’s scientific standing and long-term economic advantage.”

A health-care champion

Queen’s assistant professor Karen Hall Barber (Family Medicine) and physician lead of the department’s multidisciplinary Queen’s Family Health Team (QFHT) recently received an honour from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for her dedication to health care quality and safety.

Karen Hall Barber was recently honoured for her dedication to health care quality and safety.

Dr. Hall Barber landed on the Honour Roll – Individual Champion – in the 2014 Minister’s Medal Honouring Excellence in Health Quality and Safety program.

“It is very humbling to receive this honour, especially having been nominated by my peers whom I hold in such high regard,” she says. “Working with this terrific team is such an inspirational journey. The group comprises incredibly dedicated, creative and indefatigable individuals utterly committed to fostering a health care learning environment that delivers collaborative, high-calibre and patient-centred primary care.”

The award honours those who drive change in the province’s health-care systems and promote higher-quality care delivery that places patients at the centre of their circle of care. One of Dr. Hall Barber’s greatest contributions to the QFHT is establishing collaboration as a core principle of improving care. She was instrumental in developing partnerships outside of the family health team, helping to co-chair a committee of local primary care leaders that was committed to working together to address quality issues, as well as developing shared projects with local hospital partners and KFL&A Public Health.

“Dr. Hall Barber, who has developed a unique quality-improvement plan that has received widespread attention, is a key leader in our department. Her leadership, which motivates everyone to contribute, has brought tangible results in our clinical operation,” says Glenn Brown, Head, Department of Family Medicine. “Her approach has driven a high level of excellence in all aspects of our department's clinical care, and this has been accomplished in a scholarly manner and has been widely shared across Ontario.”

Researcher honoured with international fellowship

[Randy Ellis]
Dr. Randy Ellis holds the Queen's Research Chair in Computer-Assisted Surgery and recently received a lifetime achievement award for his work.

For his significant contributions to the development of computer-assisted surgical technology, Randy Ellis from the Queen’s School of Computing has been named the 2015 Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

The IEEE Grade of Fellow is the highest grade of membership in the institute and is recognized as a prestigious honour and important career achievement. Dr. Ellis joins four other current researchers from Queen’s in receiving this honour. The IEEE currently has 400,000 members across 160 countries and is a leading authority on fields ranging from aerospace systems, computers and telecommunications to biomedical engineering, electric power and consumer electronics.

“I’m honoured to have been elected as a fellow of the IEEE and to join world-class researchers in my field ,” says Dr. Ellis, who is also appointed as a professor in the departments of Biomedical And Molecular Sciences, Mechanical and Materials Engineering, and Surgery. “I’m looking forward to continuing my research and I hope to be able to expand and pioneer new techniques in the field of computer-assisted surgery.”

As a result of Dr. Ellis’ research, a ground-breaking surgery took place at Kingston General Hospital (KGH) in 1997 when the world’s first total knee replacement with computer-assisted guidance was performed.

More recently, Dr Ellis, who also holds the Queen’s Research Chair in Computer-Assisted Surgery, received the Maurice E. Müller Award – a lifetime achievement award from the International Society for Computer Assisted Orthopaedic Surgery.

“On behalf of the School of Computing, I’d like to extend my congratulations to Dr. Ellis on this distinct honour,” says Selim Akl, Director, Queen’s School of Computing. “Computing and the field of computer-assisted surgery are lucky to have a researcher who is ready to push the boundaries and pioneer so many significant advances.”

Dr. Ellis joined Queen’s shortly after obtaining his PhD in robotics in 1987 and took the lead in developing a computer-assisted surgical suite at KGH, which is now recognized as one of the world’s leading facilities for imaged-guided orthopedic research.

For more information on the IEEE or the IEEE Fellow Program, please visit www.ieee.org.

Principal’s Advisory Committee – Vice-Principal (Research)

Steven Liss’ term as Vice-Principal (Research) will end on Aug. 31, 2015. Dr. Liss has indicated that he would consider a further term as vice-principal should it be the wish of the university community. Principal Daniel Woolf is pleased to announce the membership of the committee that he has asked to advise him on the reappointment of Dr. Liss as vice-principal (research).

Members are:

  • Irène Bujara, University Advisor on Equity
  • Diane Davies, University Research Services
  • Roger Deeley, Queen’s Cancer Research Institute
  • Stephen Elliott, Dean, Faculty of Education
  • Michael Greenspan, Head, Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Dinah Jansen, Vice-President (Graduate), SGPS
  • Warren Mabee, Geography/School of Policy Studies
  • Patrick Martin, School of Computing
  • David Pattenden, Board of Trustees
  • Allison Williams, President, AMS
  • Rosie LaLande, Executive Assistant to the Principal (recording secretary)
  • Daniel Woolf, Principal (chair)

Members of the university community are invited to submit their views on this reappointment and on the present state and future prospects of the Office of the Vice-Principal (Research) to the principal via Rosie LaLande. Respondents are asked to state whether or not they wish to have their letters shown, in confidence, to members of the advisory committee. Letters should be submitted by Dec. 12, 2014.

Using social media to improve foot care

Kevin Woo Footcare
Dr. Kevin Woo’s team, which includes Idevania Costa, left, a PhD candidate, and Lucy Mgonja, an MSc candidate, right, are using social media with the hope of improving foot care among diabetics. (Supplied photo)

It was seeing the Canadian Association of Wound Care’s support groups for patients with diabetes that inspired the idea for Kevin Woo’s Online Foot Care research project.

“The program was for patients based in Ontario. The geography of diabetes is such that many patients live in isolated parts of Canada, and I saw a potential to build a support program that would be accessible to all through a social media platform,” says Dr. Woo, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing.

With diabetes on the rise, Dr. Woo is interested in one of the disease’s major complications: foot issues. Nerve damage resulting from diabetes leaves patients with no sensation in their feet, making them increasingly susceptible to injury, ulcers and even amputation.

“Education about foot care is extremely important for these patients; it can prevent further complication,” explains Dr. Woo.

What he has found so far, however, is that traditional education efforts have been ineffective, resulting in minimal changes to patient behaviour. The solution that he envisions is to capitalize on social media.

A recipient of the Early Research Award from the Ministry of Research and Innovation, Dr. Woo and his research team will develop an online platform, which will function as a virtual support group. The program will engage patients who have had success with self-management to be peer counsellors who can offer education and support to other patients in a safe, supervised online setting.

With an aim to build a sense of empowerment and decrease depression, Dr. Woo’s research team will monitor the use of the online community, and measure the impact of the program through changes to patient behaviour.

“The delivery of health care through an online platform is a completely new concept,” says Dr. Woo. “Our goal is to have patients develop their own short-term and long-term goals, to learn tangible skills for self-management, and to be motivated to follow through.”

Principal Woolf signs international research statement

  • [group]
    Several groups representing universities from around the world gathered in the Netherlands to sign an agreement promoting social sciences and humanities research.
  • [signing]
    The document, which recognizes the fundamental role social sciences and humanities research play in the global community, is officially signed.
  • [group photo]
    Representatives of the various networks of research-intensive universities gather for a photo following the official signing.

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

Daniel Woolf, Queen's Principal and Vice-Chancellor, recently signed a statement on behalf of the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities that promotes research in social sciences and humanities.

“Promoting research in the social sciences and humanities is a crucial step in developing solutions to problems facing not only Canada, but the world at large,” says Principal Woolf, who also serves as the vice-chair of U15, a group of 15 Canadian universities that aims to bolster research in Canada. “The social sciences and humanities contribute to better cross-cultural understanding, whether this be through history, law, economics, literature, sociology or any other related discipline.

The U15 along with the League of European Research Universities, the Association of American Universities, the Association of East Asian Research Universities, the Group of Eight (Australia), the RU11 Japan, the Russell Group (UK) have all committed themselves to championing the fundamental role that social sciences and humanities research plays in the global community.

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. 

Reducing the risk of Alzheimer's disease

Queen’s University researcher Christopher Bowie (Psychology) is one of the lead investigators of a new $10 million project funded by the Chagnon Family and Ontario Brain Institute to prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease. Co-led by his colleagues Drs. Benoit Mulsant and Tarek Rajji at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, where Dr. Bowie has a research appointment, the study is the largest ever funded focusing on Alzheimer’s disease.

The research team will study whether combining brain stimulation treatments delays or prevents the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Bowie is combining his cognitive remediation treatment with a process to stimulate the firing of neurons in the prefrontal cortex called transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS).

Queen's researcher Christopher Bowie is working on a method to prevent Alzheimer's Disease.

“This type of remediation enhances the area of the brain responsible for planning, organization and multi-tasking,” says Dr. Bowie. “Right now there is no effective treatments to slow down or prevent Alzheimer’s disease, which is often associated with early deterioration of function in the temporal lobes. Our novel approach is to enhance the connectivity in frontal lobes to improve their functioning. We think this will compensate for deterioration in other brain regions and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Two groups of people known to be at high risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease will be included in the study: 250 older adults with clinical depression who have been successfully treated with antidepressants, and 125 people with mild cognitive impairment.

The treatments currently available for Alzheimer’s dementia are usually initiated when the patient is diagnosed, at which point the brain is already damaged. By using tDCS to enhance the effects of cognitive remediation, the goal is to improve cognition and then prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s dementia by stimulating neurons in the regions of the brain critical for critical executive functioning skills such as problem solving.

“The project, which has initial funding for five years, will be a success if we can demonstrate a reduction in the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease or stop cognitive decline in people who do develop Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. Bowie. “With a diverse team of experts studying genetic, blood-based, and other biomarkers, the study will also provide a wealth of data about risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.”

For more information on the study, read the announcement on the CAMH website.

Commemoration versus contagion

PhD candidate in the Department of History, Matthew Barrett will present his research on the attitudes of the Canadian public towards suicides in the military over the past 100 years. 

In May 1918, Lt.-Col. Sam Sharpe jumped to his death from a window in a Montreal hospital after serving eleven months on the Western Front during the First World War. His death was treated as a combat fatality and the Toronto Globe noted that it was as if he had died on the “field of honour.”

Matthew Barrett, a PhD candidate in the Department of History at Queen’s, notes that had Lt.-Col. Sharpe’s death taken place today, he likely wouldn’t have been included in the casualties number as his death took place in Canada, away from the front.

This observation, amongst others, is discussed in a paper that Mr. Barrett and his supervisor Allan English will present at the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research Forum next week.

Lt. -Col. Sam Sharpe
 Lt.-Col. Sam Sharpe

“There are two main perspectives when it comes to how suicide in the military is treated. The first is one discussed by Sen. Roméo Dallaire: if we do not appropriately commemorate the individuals who take their own lives in the military then the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health will continue to exist,” says Mr. Barrett. “Another view is one expressed by Gen. Tom Lawson, Chief of the Defence Staff, who disagrees and says that if Canada acknowledges suicides as casualties of an entire mission then it may add honour to the act of suicide and cause a contagion effect.”

Mr. Barrett hopes his research on the attitudes of the Canadian public towards suicides in the military over the past 100 years will assist stakeholders in prioritizing their de-stigmatization efforts, as military suicides outnumber combat deaths during the recent Canadian mission in Afghanistan.

“The recent experience of Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan has placed greater focus on issues of mental health in the military. This emphasis on mental health care reflects the public’s focus on the Canadian soldier as a heroic national symbol,” says Mr. Barrett. “When Maj. Michelle Mendes took her own life in Afghanistan in 2009 officials did not make a clear distinction between death by suicide and killed in action. Her body was repatriated to Canada along the Highway of Heroes.”

Maj. Michelle Mendes
Maj. Michelle Mendes

It’s possible that a commemoration approach to military suicides might risk the start of a contagion effect, but it’s also vital to recognize that focusing solely on this idea of contagion and copycat suicides excludes an opportunity for commemoration, notes Mr. Barrett.

“A long-held view about military suicide in Canada is one that stigmatizes the act of suicide, but not necessarily the victims,” says Mr. Barrett. “Ideally, this research may help inform stakeholders of the type of stigma reduction strategies needed.”

Mr. Barrett and Dr. English’s paper, “Absolutely incapable of ‘Carrying on’ – Attitudes of the Canadian Public towards Suicides in the Canadian Military - 1914-2014” will be presented at the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research Forum 2014 next week in Toronto.

For more information on Forum 2014, follow this link.


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