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    Research Prominence

    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.

    Curriculum conversations

    Christopher DeLuca and Theodore Christou attend the launch of their new curriculum research group.

    The Faculty of Education at Queen’s has launched a new research group for focused studies in curriculum.

    The Curriculum Inquiry Research Group (CInRG) expands upon the topic of Curriculum Theorizing – a new PhD field at the Faculty of Education that involves asking questions about teaching and learning across contexts while considering social, historical and contextual facets of curriculum spaces.

    Faculty members Christopher DeLuca and Theodore Christou lead CInRG. The pair also serve as the Editors for the Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies (JCACS) – a Queen’s-based journal that supports and brings together the diverse scholarship of academics involved in curriculum nationally and internationally.

    “We want students to see themselves as a community of emerging scholars with responsibilities for each other’s development and with a commitment to the collective learning of the group,” says Dr. Christou.

    CInRG was officially launched in late-September and included an event with a lecture from curriculum theorist Dr. Nicholas Ng-A-Fook, who presented work that was recently published in the Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies entitled, "Provoking the very 'Idea' of Canadian Curriculum Studies as a Counterpointed Composition."

    “We understand the value of having a community of scholars to support graduate students and faculty members working in a field that is characterized by diverse methodological and disciplinary area,” says Dr. DeLuca. “We’re looking forward to giving back and fostering that community at Queen’s through the study of curriculum.”

    The next step for Drs. Christou and DeLuca is to launch a new interface and website for CInRG to increase readership and further support the curriculum theorizing community at both national and international levels.

    Follow these links for more information on CInRG and JCACS.


    Sexually transmitted infections and monogamy

    A unique mathematical study out of Queen’s University has shown individuals are more likely to enter into a monogamous relationship when the result of infection from a sexually transmitted infection (STI) is death as opposed to sterility.

    David McLeod

    The mathematical study conducted by PhD candidate David McLeod (Mathematics and Statistics) represents the first time a mathematical analysis has been used to determine how STIs might influence monogamy’s evolution.

    “Imagine an invisible STI that causes sterility,” explains Mr. McLeod. “You might pair up with a partner with this disease without knowing it, only to find out that the two of you can't produce offspring. You might not catch the STI yourself, but your genes are still out of the gene pool. In this situation, being monogamous disadvantages even healthy individuals.

    For the other side of the coin, Mr. McLeod modeled STIs causing death.

    “Now imagine an STI that causes death. You might hook up with a partner carrying this STI, but the disease will soon carry your mate away. The partnership may have produced few to no offspring, but you are now free. If you didn't catch the disease yourself, you can go find another partner and try again. A monogamous relationship might protect you if you happen to choose an uninfected partner, but even if you're unlucky, you're only out of the game for a short period.”

    Mr. McLeod’s researched was recently published in the Proceedings of The Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

    Sharing Indigenous knowledge

    A group of students, faculty, staff and administrators are working to open up greater discussion about Indigenous issues on campus. The Kahswentha Indigenous Knowledge Initiative (KIKI) is a campus group who lead teach-ins, retreats and other events to improve knowledge of Aboriginal peoples. Started in 2013 after a recommendation from the Queen’s Aboriginal Council, KIKI exists to promote awareness about Aboriginal peoples, cultures, worldviews and histories. 

    The Kahswentha Indigenous Knowledge Initiative hosts teach-ins, retreats and campus events to improve knowledge of Aboriginal peoples.

    “We’re working towards greater inclusion of Indigenous knowledges on campus,” says Jennifer Hardwick (PhD ’14), who is active in KIKI. “We want to foster dialogue that may not happen in the classroom and create opportunities for community building.”

    Taking its name and inspiration from the Two-Row Wampum (also called Kahswentha), a 17th-century agreement between Haudenosaunee and Dutch peoples based on peace, friendship and mutual respect, KIKI brings together individuals – both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal – who are passionate about issues surrounding Indigenous knowledge.

    Busy since its inception, the group has hosted a number of teach-ins on subjects such as language, education and history. Their next event – a retreat called “Belonging to the Land” – will focus on sustainable land utilization. Hosted at the Elbow Lake Conservation Centre Oct. 25-26, the retreat will have a number of workshops and panels by elders, knowledge keepers, academics and community members covering food sovereignty, the re-indigenization of agriculture, Indigenous-settler solidarity and other related subjects.

    “This retreat is open to all people who are interested and want to learn more about issues regarding respectful land usage,” says Gillian MacDonald (Artsci'16), one of the retreat’s organizers. “We’re excited about the quality of the events we have planned and the calibre of those presenting.”

    KIKI partners with Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre (FDASC) for much of their programming and share resources to plan events. For Janice Hill, Director, FDASC, the need for KIKI is clear.

    “It’s hard for people to work together if they don’t understand one another and there are a lot of stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding Aboriginal peoples,” she says. “To see beyond, to our truth, we need to share our stories. Increasing education and awareness makes it possible for us to work together in a more equitable way.”

    More information about KIKI and the Belonging to Land Retreat can be found on the group’s Facebook page.

    Research income, intensity on the rise

    Queen’s sponsored research income grew to nearly $190 million in the 2013 fiscal year, up from $168 million in the previous year. This growth saw Queen’s national rank for research income move up one spot to 11th, according to recently released figures from RE$EARCH Infosource, a research and development intelligence company.

    Queen’s also moved up in terms of research intensity, which measures research income per full time faculty member. The university placed sixth in Canada, up from 10th in the previous year.

    “Queen’s takes great pride in the exceptional work of its researchers and, for a mid-sized institution, we perform remarkably well relative to our Canadian peers,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “Maintaining excellence as a research intensive university and delivering a transformational student learning experience is not easy, but it is the core of our vision as a balanced academy.”

    RE$EARCH Infosource also released its “research universities of the year” ranking, which uses measures of research inputs, outputs and impact. While Queen’s overall score in the 2014 ranking increased slightly, the university moved to 12th position from 11th in 2013. The change is due to the addition of an institution not included in the previous year, the Institut national de la recherche scientifique.

    "Queen’s continues to punch above its weight when it comes to research, and our faculty members are recognized both nationally and internationally for their important contributions."

    - Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research)

    “Queen’s continues to punch above its weight when it comes to research, and our faculty members are recognized both nationally and internationally for their important contributions,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “The university is working to attract additional research funding in line with the Strategic Framework and the Strategic Research Plan, and we are seeing the results of those efforts.”

    Queen’s currently has 45 Canada Research Chairs and recently announced astrophysicist Gilles Gerbier as its first Canada Excellence Research Chair. Nine Queen’s faculty members were elected as fellows of the Royal Society of Canada this year, a record number for the university, and three faculty members were named to the society’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.

    View the full 2014 data from RE$EARCH Infosource.

    Four new Canada Research Chairs for Queen's

    Canada Research Chairs. Top row from left to right: Mark Daymond, Christopher Booth, Dylan Robinson. Bottom row from left to right: Jeffrey Masuda, David Murakami Wood, Tucker Carrington.

    Four outstanding Queen’s professors have been named Canada Research Chairs, and two current Queen’s chairholders have had their positions renewed.

    The Canada Research Chairs program invests approximately $265 million per year to make Canada one of the world’s top countries in research and development. Chairholders are leading researchers in their areas and improve Canada’s depth of knowledge in the natural sciences, health sciences, humanities, and social sciences.

    “Queen’s success in earning four new Canada Research Chairs and two renewals is indicative of our leadership in the research behind some of the most pressing matters in the world today,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “We’re very proud and fortunate to be able to support some of the world’s most accomplished and promising researchers.”

    The university’s new chair recipients are Christopher Booth, Mark Daymond, Jeffrey Masuda and Dylan Robinson. Tucker Carrington and David Murakami Wood have had their appointments renewed.

    Christopher Booth (Oncology) has been named the Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Population Cancer Care. Dr. Booth is a medical oncologist with Kingston General Hospital, a clinician-scientist at the Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario and an associate professor at Queen’s. The focus of Dr. Booth’s research program is to evaluate the effectiveness of new therapies in the general population and the quality of care delivered to patients in routine clinical practice.

    “Being awarded the Canada Research Chair in Population Cancer Care is a tremendous honour and will make a major contribution to our research program,” says Dr. Booth. “I am fortunate at Queen’s to work within the Division of Cancer Care and Epidemiology, which is a world-class research unit dedicated to the study of cancer care and outcomes in the ‘real world.’”

    Mark Daymond (Mechanical and Materials Engineering) has been named the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Mechanics of Materials. Dr. Daymond’s internationally recognized research focuses on the microscale interactions of collections of crystals or grains that compose many practical engineering materials and the processes that occur in these materials when they undergo changes in stress or temperature. His goal is to improve both component lifetime and performance.

    Jeffrey Masuda (School of Kinesiology and Health Studies) has been named the Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Environmental Health Equity. Dr. Masuda is a health geographer and specialist in participatory research in environmental health and in equity-focused knowledge translation.

    “The Canada Research Chair program provides me with an amazing opportunity to increase the visibility of pressing environmental health inequities that Canadians face. As a Tier 2 Chair, my research program will be significantly accelerated,” says Dr. Masuda. “My aim in the next five years is to leverage the power of community-based research to uncover new pathways toward healthier environments for all Canadians, regardless of who they are or where they live.”

    Dylan Robinson (Indigenous Studies) has been named the Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Arts. Dr. Robinson’s current research on Indigenous art in public spaces focuses on three areas: sound art, social arts practices and artworks that use Indigenous languages. He is currently completing a book titled Songs Taken for Wonders: The Politics of Indigenous Art Music that examines the roles First Peoples play as performers, composers and artistic collaborators in the creation of art music in North America.

    "I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to help develop Indigenous studies at Queen's in my new role as Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Arts. There is much exciting synergy between the kinds of interdisciplinary work happening across a number of programs at Queen's and my own work as a scholar and artist,” says Dr. Robinson. “I am greatly looking forward to working with the academic and Aboriginal communities to find ways to further expand the support for Indigenous arts research and artistic practice."

    Tucker Carrington (Chemistry) has been named the returning Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Computational Quantum Dynamics. Dr. Carrington’s research focuses on understanding the motion of atoms. This includes the development and application of new methods of computing rate constants, vibrational and rotational-vibrational spectra, and photodissociation cross sections.

    “I am pleased that the CRC was renewed and look forward to continuing to work with talented and hard-working students and postdocs at Queen's and contributing to the community of scholars at  the university,” says Dr. Carrington.

    David Murakami Wood (Sociology) has been named the returning Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Surveillance Studies. Dr. Murakami Wood is spending the next five years working on a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Grant-funded critical study on surveillance and ”smart city” initiatives in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

    For more information on Canada Research Chairs, follow this link.

    The Canada Research Chairs (CRC) program has stood at the centre of a national strategy to make Canada one of the world’s top countries in research and development since 2000. The CRC program invests approximately $265 million per year to attract and retain some of the world’s most accomplished and promising minds. Canadian universities both nominate Canada Research Chairs and administer their funds. For each Tier 1 chair, the university receives $200,000 annually for seven years and for each Tier 2 chair, the university receives $100,000 annually for five years.

    Queen’s distinguishes itself as one of the leading research-intensive institutions within Canada. The mission is to advance research excellence, leadership and innovation, as well as enhance Queen’s impact at a national and international level. Through undertaking leading-edge research, Queen’s is addressing many of the world’s greatest challenges, and developing innovative ideas and technological advances brought about by discoveries in science, engineering and health. 


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