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Bullying expert honoured for changing lives

A Canadian leader in bullying prevention, Queen’s University researcher Wendy Craig was honoured Monday with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s Partnership Award. One of five SSHRC Impact Awards, the honour recognizes a SSHRC‑funded formal partnership for its outstanding achievement in advancing research.

Communications Officer Anne Craig sat down with Dr. Craig to talk about her work and what the award means to her.

Anne Craig: Why did you choose this field of research?

Wendy Craig: I fell into what I do by accident. During my PhD I was involved in a study with Debra Pepler where we were looking at aggressive children’s interactions on the playground. When we filmed them to find out what was happening on the playground, we saw that the playground was really aggressive. In that initial study, through naturalist observation, we found that children were bullying each other once every seven and a half minutes and they were aggressive towards each other once every two minutes. That study really defined and launched my career.  It ignited a strong interest in conducting applied research to understand how to support children and youth to develop optimally and have safe, healthy and respectful relationships. 

By working as a researcher and getting that research into the hands of practitioners and people who work with children, I can be more effective in having a larger impact on the health and well-being of Canadian children and youth.

AC: What is the current focus of your work?

WC: In addition to my work as a professor and researcher, I am the scientific co-director of PREVNet along with Dr. Pepler at York University.  PREVNet is comprised of more than 125 researchers across the country and 63 national organizations that work with children and youth. Its goal is to provide practitioners with the scientific information that they need to be more effective in their practice. We also want practitioners to identify the burning questions we should tackle as researchers. My work has become about knowledge mobilization and bridging the gap between science, practice and policy through the process of bringing researchers and organizations together to co-create research, resources and tools.

AC: Why is your work important?

WC: I believe that this work is important because it has to do with the health and well-being of children and youth. We recently finished a study for the Public Health Agency of Canada where we found that high-quality relationships with parents, peers, teachers, adults at school and the community positively impact physical and mental health outcomes, as well as academic and social ones. The concern Dr. Pepler and I had when we did that study was fewer children in Canada are reporting having high-quality relationships with parents, teachers, schools, and in the neighborhood. Bullying is a relationship problem and is related to long-term negative effects.  We have learned that children don’t grow out of bullying; it’s a problem that grows more significant as they get older. Part of what we do is look at how we minimize that long-term impact through prevention and intervention.

AC: What does the Partnership Award mean for you and your career?

WE: The award really recognizes the work of the network. This work could not be as effective without all members of the network contributing their unique skills, expertise, resources, dedication and time. Over time, through the generous funding of SSHRC through the National Centres of Excellence program, we have built a network that has a common vision, and is based on the foundation of trusting relationships. This award celebrates the incredible accomplishments that happen when outstanding organizations, researchers and students come together to co-create projects that are driven by science and meet the needs of our partners. Relationships matter to create an effective network that has conducted more than 200 projects in the last seven years. Creating PREVNet was a dream and we are excited we are now having an impact and making a difference in the lives of Canadian youth.

AC: What is your focus for the future?

WE: There is much work to do in Canada to improve children and youth development.  We rank 25 out of 28 on relationships. Given that healthy development depends on healthy relationships, we need to engage and support adults in all the places that children and youth live, learn, work and play.  We will work with our partners to continue to co-create research projects, and develop evidence-based education and training, assessment and evaluation tools, prevention and intervention strategies, and enhanced policy.  Through PREVNet we are leading the world in an unprecedented manner in creating a social-cultural change in reducing bullying through promoting relationships. 

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.

Incubating and accelerating successes

Queen’s University has been awarded $1.4M in funding from the Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program (CAIP) to strengthen the innovation ecosystem in Eastern Ontario.  This award is part of a larger award that is also funding co-applicants Invest Ottawa and Wesley Clover International.  The Queen’s allocation will enable Innovation Park and PARTEQ Innovations to deliver a variety of virtual and physical incubation services and acceleration programs to high potential startups and emerging SMEs in Kingston and other areas of Eastern Ontario.

Present for the presentation were (l to r): Paul Vickers, Vice President, Finance and Administration, PARTEQ Innovations,Bruce Lazenby, President and CEO, Invest Ottawa,Royal Galipeau, Member of Parliament, Ottawa-Orleans, Honourable Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology), Sir Terry Matthews, Chairman, Wesley-Clover and Bogdan Ciobanu, Vice-President, National Research Council of Canada (NRC) 

“We are delighted to be working with regional partners, Invest Ottawa and Wesley Clover, and local partner Launch Lab, to deliver an integrated Eastern Ontario Business Accelerator,” says Dr. Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “By combining and leveraging the strengths of the partners, this collaboration will expand programs and services available to high potential startups and SMEs in the region.”

The Honourable Royal Galipeau, MP for Ottawa-Orléans, announced the five year funding award in Ottawa on October 31.  Mr. Galipeau was joined by The Honourable Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology), National Research Council of Canada (NRC) Vice President, Bogdan Ciobanu, Invest Ottawa President and CEO, Bruce Lazenby, Wesley Clover Founder and Chairman, Sir Terrence Matthews, and, representing Queen’s University, PARTEQ Innovations Vice-President Finance & Administration, Paul Vickers.

 “The strength of the collaboration is in the diversity of partners and services and the broad coverage the partners are able to provide across Eastern Ontario”, says Janice Mady, Director of Industry Partnerships & Innovation Park. 

“We look forward to working closely with this unique group of collaborators to support the goal of strengthening the Eastern Ontario innovation ecosystem,” says PARTEQ President and CEO, Jim Banting.

CAIP will provide five years of funding to 15 outstanding accelerators and incubators in Canada that meet strict eligibility and selection criteria.  The contributions, which require 1:1 matching funds from eligible sources, support incremental activities that expand the overall service offerings to early-stage firms and entrepreneurs, and promote a higher output of SMEs that are investment-ready and able to develop into sustainable, high-growth businesses.

To read the official CAIP announcement, visit the website.

Bullying expert earns top honour

A Canadian leader in bullying prevention, Queen’s University researcher Wendy Craig was honoured today with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s Partnership Award. The Partnership Award is one of five Impact Awards SSHRC presents annually to the top researchers in the country.

The Partnership Award recognizes a SSHRC‑funded formal partnerships for its outstanding achievement in advancing research, research training or knowledge mobilization, or developing a new partnership approach to research and/or related activities.

Wendy Craig has earned one of SSHRC's top awards.

Along with working as a researcher at Queen’s, Dr. Craig is the co-scientific director of the Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network (PREVNet).

“The award really recognizes the work of the network, which is co-led by Debra Pepler at York University,” says Dr. Craig. “I think the award is significant because it celebrates the great things that happen when outstanding organizations, researchers and students come together. Creating PREVNet was a dream and I am excited we are now having an impact and making a difference in the lives of Canadian youth.”

With the funding from the Impact Award, Dr. Craig says they will continue to engage in knowledge mobilization efforts with the PREVNet partners.  The team plans to focus on working with PREVNet's youth to develop tools to address cyberbullying.

"Through PREVNet, Dr. Craig has developed a unique partnership model along with effective knowledge-mobilization tools and bullying prevention resources that have a demonstrated influence both within and beyond the academic community,” says Dr. Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research).  “This national honour from SSHRC is indicative of the impact of PREVNet in addressing one of the biggest challenges facing today's children and youth in Canada and around the world.”

To read the full story, visit the SSHRC website.

An elite opportunity

Queen’s University professor Jean Côté is joining an elite group of international researchers and members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) this week to discuss training and development in youth sport.

The handpicked group of 16 researchers, along with members of the IOC, will evaluate the current science and practices related to developing young athletes. From that discussion, the group will draft recommendations and guidelines to ensure young athletes progress in a healthy manner.

Jean Côté is off to Switerland to work with the IOC.

Dr. Côté will present to the group his research on effective coaching.

“I will argue that we need to relax the structure of youth sports in general – youth organized sport is over-coached and over-structured.  The achievement of long-term participation, elite performance, and personal development through sport are objectives that are compatible and do not require specialized programs and complex structures” he says.

One of the biggest challenges at the conference, Dr. Côté anticipates, will be reaching a consensus decision with such a wide range of expertise in the same room. The participants are presenting on a variety of topics including athlete development frameworks, talent identification, scheduling and overload, injury prevention and eating disorders. By April 2015, the group must have a consensus paper on youth athlete development ready for publication in the IOC-supported injury prevention and health protection edition of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

“There are going to be a lot of conflicting ideas presented at the conference, but we have to focus on our goal of youth development and work past that,” says Dr. Côté. “It’s exciting to be associated with this level of research and it also shows the IOC cares about the development of youth. We are looking at the whole child and that is a very healthy approach.”

The conference takes place from Nov. 5-7 at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Nobel laureate explores connection between arts and science

Roald Hoffmann, Nobel Prize laureate and Frank H. T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters, Emeritus at Cornell University, delivered this year’s Alfred Bader Lecture on Oct. 30. Communications Officer Andrew Stokes spoke with Dr. Hoffmann about his lecture and lengthy career in the arts and sciences.

Andrew Stokes: Can you tell me a bit about the topic of your lecture?

Roald Hoffmann: The lecture was about the commonalities between the arts and sciences. English chemist and novelist CP Snow argued in the 1950s that there were two distinct cultures between artists and scientists and that the two were incapable of really communicating with each other. With that in mind I looked at examples from chemistry, poetry and painting to note the deep similarities they have.

Along with winning the 1981 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, Dr. Roald Hoffmann has written poetry, plays and philosophy.

AS: Why did you pick this topic for the lecture?

RH: This topic is important to me as both an artist and a chemist, because I’m interested in the interface between the two. The arts penetrate to important questions that aren’t necessarily scientific but that nonetheless trouble us all. I picked this topic especially because of its connection to Alfred and Isabel Bader. I’ve known the Baders for nearly 40 years and I’m a great admirer of Alfred – this lecture is really for the two of them who are strong believers in the importance of both arts and science.

AS: Have the two of you worked together in chemistry?

RH: When we first met one another years ago, we took an instant liking to each other. We’ve never worked together professionally, but our shared love of paintings, music and chemistry has led to a long friendship between us. We’re also both European immigrants; Alfred came shortly before World War Two, while I’m a childhood survivor of the Holocaust and came to America in 1949.

AS: You’ve had a prodigious career in chemistry, but can you tell me about your work in the creative arts?

RH: Around midlife I started writing creatively. I began writing poetry, and now have four books of poetry in English and one in Spanish and Russian. I’ve also written essays, short fiction, philosophy and have now started writing plays. My creative writing allows me to express myself in a way that I otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to do.

AS: How did a career in science affect your creative work?

RH: It’s had a very strong effect on my creative work. I write on some of the traditional topics, like nature, relationships and love, but I try to make use of the language of science. It isn’t easy, but I try. One of the plays I’ve written is about the discovery of oxygen and what it means to be a scientist. My work in the arts has affected my science too. When I write a chemistry paper, I try to bring an artistic sensibility to it. I’ve never tried opening a paper with a poem because I don’t think it would get past the gatekeepers, but stylistically I’ve tried to bring about a greater humanization of science writing. I think it’s worked well in that my papers are viewed by people as being a more complete image of the thing they discuss.

The Bader lecture, organized by Dr. Victor Snieckus and the Office of Advancement, is delivered in honour of Alfred Bader’s contributions to Queen’s University and the field of chemistry.

Fun and games make for better learners

Four minutes of physical activity can improve behaviour in the classroom for primary school students, according to new research by Brendon Gurd.

A brief, high-intensity interval exercise, or a “FUNterval,” for Grade 2 and Grade 4 students reduced off-task behaviours like fidgeting or inattentiveness in the classroom.

“While 20 minutes of daily physical activity (DPA) is required in Ontario primary schools, there is a need for innovative and accessible ways for teachers to meet this requirement,” says Dr. Gurd, lead researcher and professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies. “Given the time crunch associated with the current school curriculum we thought that very brief physical activity breaks might be an interesting way to approach DPA.  We were particularly interested in what effects a brief exercise bout might have in the classroom setting.”

For the study, students were taught a class and were then given an active break, where they would perform a FUNterval, or a non-active break where they would learn about different aspects of healthy living on alternating days for three weeks. After each break, classroom observers recorded instances of off-task behaviour.  When a four minute FUNterval was completed during a break from class, there was less off-task behaviour observed in the 50 minutes following the break than if students completed a non-active break.

Working with Dr. Gurd, master’s student Jasmine Ma created the series of four-minute activities that students could complete in small spaces with no equipment.

FUNtervals involved actively acting out tasks like “making s’mores” where students would lunge to “collect firewood,” “start the fire” by crouching and exploding into a star jump and squatting and jumping to “roast the marshmallows” to make the S’more. Each activity moves through a 20-second storyline of quick, enthusiastic movements followed by 10 seconds of rest for eight intervals.

For more information on FUNtervals, follow this link. This research was published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism

Queen's holds position in Maclean's ranking

Queen’s maintained its fourth-place position within the medical-doctoral category in this year’s Maclean’s university ranking, a spot it has held since 2011.

While holding its overall position, Queen’s moved up in terms of sponsored research income. The university earned $240,789 per full time faculty member, which boosted its standing to fifth position among medical-doctoral universities, up from ninth last year.

“Queen’s continues to be recognized as one of Canada’s leading universities,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “Although we are compared with much larger universities, Queen’s continues to punch above its weight when it comes to research, while at the same time delivering a transformative learning experience for our students. It is this strength as a balanced academy that sets Queen’s apart in Canada.”

McGill, the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia made up the ranking’s top three medical-doctoral universities, all of which are significantly larger than Queen’s. The institutions have two to three times the faculty complement and enrolments ranging from 31,000 to 75,000 students. Queen’s has roughly 21,000 full time students.

Queen’s also moved up to fifth position nationally on the “highest quality” indicator in Maclean’s reputational survey of guidance counsellors, university officials, CEOs and recruiters, while holding its eighth-place position in the survey’s “most innovative” and “leaders of tomorrow” categories.

Although we are compared with much larger universities, Queen’s continues to punch above its weight when it comes to research, while at the same time delivering a transformative learning experience for our students. It is this strength as a balanced academy that sets Queen’s apart in Canada.

- Principal Daniel Woolf

Queen’s continues to lead the country for the highest student retention rate from first to second year, as well as for the proportion of students who graduate within seven years. The university is second in the medical-doctoral category for the proportion of its operating budget that goes towards scholarships and bursaries for students, while its students and faculty members are third and second respectively for the number of national awards they have won.

“Choosing to be a balanced academy and striving to excel equally at teaching and research is not an easy path for a university,” says Principal Woolf. “Queen’s continued success is due to the hard work and commitment of our exceptional staff, faculty, students and alumni.”

While Queen’s slipped this year in terms of its student/faculty ratio, average class sizes at Queen’s were changed only slightly from the previous year, with the average first- and second-year class size dropping to 82.3 from 84.6. Third- and fourth-year class sizes averaged 23.3, compared to 22.5 in the previous year.

The Maclean’s annual university rankings place universities into one of three categories (medical- doctoral, comprehensive and primarily undergraduate) to recognize differences in research funding, diversity of offerings and depth of graduate and professional programs. The rankings assess institutions based on a number of performance indicators related to faculty, students, resources, the library and reputation.

Read more about the Maclean's rankings

Off into dream land

Canadian sleep researcher and clinical psychologist Judith Davidson (Psychology) has taken a method for treating insomnia and introduced it into primary care. The treatment takes a drug-free approach to a condition that reduces quality of life and can cause mental and physical health issues.

“I am introducing this insomnia treatment program to family doctors and other primary care providers because people need access to this treatment right away,” says Dr. Davidson, who works with the Kingston Family Health Team. “With people suffering from chronic insomnia, pharmaceuticals don’t work in the long term.”

Queen's professor Judith Davidson has won a Bright Lights Award.

Despite being considered the preferred treatment for chronic insomnia, cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is rarely available in Canada. It is a therapy that health-care professionals can learn, and 90 per cent of the first 58 patients in Dr. Davidson’s program no longer reported insomnia after 5 weeks.

“Getting a good night’s sleep doesn’t just relieve stress and make us more productive; it may help prevent medical and mental conditions that can result from long-term insomnia,” explains Dr. Davidson, who recently released a book titled Sink Into Sleep.

Dr. Davidson adds that while more and more practitioners are interested in learning CBT-I, there is still a perception that insomnia is not as important as other sleep disorders and other health conditions. “We hear a lot about sleep apnea, and treatment for that is covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan. While it’s also a serious problem, more attention needs to be paid to insomnia, which is the most common sleep disorder, affecting 15 per cent of the population."

For her work in bringing insomnia treatment to primary care, Dr. Davidson was recently honoured by the Association of Family Health Teams of Ontario with a Bright Lights Award for Clinical Innovations in Comprehensive Primary Care. The Bright Lights Awards recognize 12 individuals or groups for their efforts to improve the patient experience and health outcomes, and reduce health-care costs.

Along with Dr. Davidson, the Queen’s Family Health Team also earned the Accountability and Governance for Patient-Centred Care Bright Lights Award for the unique make up of its board of directors. Community members occupy a majority of the seats on the board, which ensures the patients’ voices are heard.

Resveratrol could reverse benefits of being active

Supplementing your exercise routine with resveratrol may not enhance the effects of physical activity, says Queen's researcher Brendon Gurd.

Contrary to popular belief, use of the supplement resveratrol (RSV) may not actually enhance the effects of high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

Many news outlets and health blogs have long recommended RSV as a complement to exercise and to enhance performance. However, results from a study by Queen’s researcher Brendon Gurd suggest that RSV may actually impede the body’s response to training.

“The easiest way to experience the benefits of physical activity is to be physically active,” says Dr. Gurd, a professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies. “The efficacy of RSV at improving metabolic and cardiovascular functions is not as profound as was once thought.”

Resveratrol occurs naturally in the skin of red grapes and has long been associated with the health benefits connected to a Mediterranean-style diet. Recently, it’s become possible to purchase RSV supplements, which are often marketed as “exercise mimics.”

Sixteen participants who engaged in less than three hours of aerobic exercise per week at the time of enrolment were asked to perform HIIT three times per week for four weeks. During this time, participants were administered daily doses of either RSV or a placebo.

Results after the four-week study showed that RSV supplementation may actually oppose the effects of exercise alone. In fact, the placebo group showed an increase in some of the benefits associated with physical activity as opposed to the group taking RSV whose physical fitness didn’t improve.

“The results we saw suggest that concurrent exercise training and RSV supplementation may alter the body’s normal training response induced by low-volume HIIT,” says Dr. Gurd. “The data set we recorded during this study clearly demonstrates that RSV supplementation doesn’t augment training, but may impair the affect it has on the body.”

Results observed by the team question the ability of RSV to act as an exercise-enhancing supplement and highlight the need for further research. This research was published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.

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