Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Learn how Queen's is planning for our safe return to campus.

Research Prominence

Nobel Trio at virtual TEDxSaclay event

On June 24th, 9:30-10:30 AM EST, Queen’s Professor Emeritus and 2015 Nobel Laureate Dr. Art McDonald will participate in a virtual TEDx event featuring two other Nobel Prize-winning physicists, Dr. Donna Strickland (University of Waterloo) and Dr. Gérard Mourou (École Polytechnique). The "Nobel Trio" event will examine the interplay of physics with universal questions and challenges surrounding global sustainability and the environment.

The event is part of an upcoming TEDxSaclay (France) conference themed "Terre, notre vaisseau" or "Earth, our ship," which is being organized in part by Queen’s Professor and Canada Excellence Research Chair in Astroparticle Physics, Gilles Gerbier. Dr. Gerbier, a French citizen, hopes the event will strengthen international bonds between researchers and institutions through shared understandings of the global issues we can address together.

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane will provide opening remarks for the Nobel Trio panel, along with Sylvie Retailleau, President of Université Paris-Saclay. Principal Deane will speak to the role universities play in steering and supporting Earth, through the social impact of research and education.

The Nobel Trio panel is co-sponsored by Queen’s Vice-Provost (International), the Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astrophysics Research Institute, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy. Tickets for both the Nobel Trio event and the full TEDxSaclay conference are available for free to members of the Queen’s community. For more information on how to access tickets, please contact communications@mcdonaldinstitute.ca.

New mDETECT blood test helps with earlier cancer detection and better treatment

Queen’s researcher Christopher Mueller has developed a breast cancer detection test that provides real time response to chemotherapy and early detection of relapse.

[Photo of Lauren Michelberger processing a blood sample from the lung cancer mDETECT project, PIPEN]
Lauren Michelberger, fourth-year thesis student in biochemistry, processing a blood sample from the lung cancer mDETECT project, PIPEN. (Supplied photo.)

Last year the Canadian Cancer Society reported that breast cancer was the leading cancer diagnosis for women and the second most prevalent type of cancer diagnosis across the country. While new cases were still in the tens of thousands, the report indicated some positive progress with new diagnoses trending downward and the survival rate of breast cancer significantly increasing over the past few decades. A critical factor in continuing this momentum to beat cancer is early detection and treatment.

[Photo of Dr. Christopher Mueller]
Dr. Christopher Mueller (Queen's Cancer Research Institute).

A team of researchers at Queen’s University, led by Dr. Christopher Mueller (Queen’s Cancer Research Institute), have developed a new detection and characterization method based on the presence of circulating tumour DNA in the blood called mDETECT (methylation DETEction of Circulating Tumour DNA). Using a liquid biopsy (a blood test), the team has developed a method that is a more sensitive means of detecting and monitoring the presence of cancer. This innovation was recently published in Nature Precision Oncology based on their study examining women with metastatic breast cancer, specifically Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) who are undergoing active therapy for their disease.

"TNBC makes up about 20 per cent of all breast cancers and it is often more aggressive than other types of breast cancer, and it is the type of cancer that women who are carriers of the BRCA1 mutation tend to develop, so that is why we decided to start with this type of cancer," says Dr. Mueller. "What is great about this study is that we had a lot of collaboration both locally and with the Curie Institute in France."

The project began while Dr. Mueller was on sabbatical in 2014 and 2016 at the Curie Institute in France with its Circulating Biomarkers group. Following funding from the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute, Dr. Mueller was able to begin development of the mDETECT test at Queen’s while using patient blood samples from the Curie Institute. Many of these samples had been previously analyzed by other tests, providing a database for Dr. Mueller and his team to compare the performance of mDETECT to previous mutation-based assays. Kingston was also the location of his control group for the study. Funding from Breast Cancer Action Kingston allowed for the recruitment of 100 local women, who did not have cancer, to donate their blood and help determine the validity and usefulness of the test.

"As advocates for a group of breast cancer patients and survivors, Breast Cancer Action Kingston (BCAK) is proud to have been an essential part of this research," says Lynne Funnell, President of BCAK. "We welcome any and all research that leads to the early detection and subsequent early treatment of breast cancer."

The mDETECT test allows for real time monitoring of a patient’s response to chemotherapy to optimize the treatment. It also supports the early detection of relapse as the success of therapy is much higher if the disease is caught earlier. For patients with TNBC, which is often resistant to specific chemotherapeutic agents, this test can determine if the treatment is working much faster and more sensitively than conventional methods ensuring the best treatment is being given.

"If the signal in women without cancer is low enough, this test could be used for earlier detection of cancer, potentially replacing screening mammography," says Dr. Mueller.

The impact of this innovation could be game-changing in cancer diagnostics. Dr. Mueller and his team have already developed eight mDETECT tests for different cancers, including uveal melanoma, prostate, pancreatic, and lung, the most prevalent cancer diagnosis in 2020. His students are also helping to advance the research, with fourth-year undergraduate and graduate students using the mDETECT development in their own research projects. Dr. Mueller hopes to expand his research to the list of frequent and lethal cancers and to include all types of breast cancer, as well as make the test even more sensitive allowing for earlier detection.

Through Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation (QPI), Dr. Mueller is working to license this healthcare innovation so it can be put into practice, with its added benefit as an economical alternative to current methods. There are several large corporate players in this field, with the largest company, GRAIL, attracting over $2 billion in funding.

For more information, read Dr. Mueller’s article "A DNA Methylation Based Liquid Biopsy for Triple Negative Breast Cancer" in Nature Precision Oncology and his contribution to Behind the Paper from the Nature Portfolio Cancer Community.

Hurricane damage harms the most vulnerable, reveals inequality and social divides

A neighbourhood in Bekasi, Indonesia is inundated as a result of a typhoon. (Adobe Stock) 

When President Donald Trump travelled to Puerto Rico in October 2017, shortly after Hurricane Maria hit the U.S. territory, he downplayed the hurricane’s devastation. But his denials over the number of deaths only drew attention to the extent of the disaster — and the social inequalities that contributed to the catastrophe.

Most of the burden had fallen to the poorest and most vulnerable families. The Puerto Rican government estimated 400,000 houses — one-third of all occupied homes on the island — were damaged by the storm.

About 55 per cent of the island’s structures are built informally, without licensed contractors or permitting. Many poor communities are located in high-risk flood zones where land is affordable. In addition, areas of lowest socio-economic status experienced the highest rates of the estimated 2,975 excess hurricane-related deaths.

My own research into what influenced the impacts of Hurricane Maria shows that social factors, such as race, gender, income and education levels, played a larger role in determining residential damage than the physical impacts of the storm (strong winds, floods and landslides). This means that social and economic issues that arose long before the storm’s landfall were among the top predictors of damage — and can be addressed to limit the extent of future disasters.

Social trends in disasters

Nearly 16 years ago, Hurricane Katrina starkly exposed how disasters affect some groups unfairly. Images of African American New Orleans residents forced onto rooftops due to flooding, and suffering under inhuman conditions in the Louisiana Superdome, sparked a cultural debate about systemic racism and its role in public health and so-called natural disasters.

Katrina shed light on the uncomfortable realities that Black people already understood. Long-standing racism had clearly contributed to the storm’s damage.

We have learned from past disasters that the dominant social challenges include socio-economic status, race, gender and class, among more complex factors like health-care quality, the ability to prepare and having access to transportation.

Nevertheless, social challenges continue to influence physical risk in every catastrophic event. This includes wildfires, heat waves, floods, tsunamis and earthquakes. Even pandemics target vulnerable communities.

Vulnerable populations not only suffer intense damage, like property loss, they are also less likely to fully recover before the next disaster. In 2020, Puerto Rico experienced a series of major earthquakes, damaging some homes that still had blue tarps covering their roofs from Hurricane Maria. This feedback further amplifies inequality over time.

Missing the mark

In the chaos following a disaster, aid resources are often directed towards areas that experienced the most intense damage, but these often neglect the social context that contributed to the outcome.

In some cases, recovery policies systematically exclude vulnerable groups. Renters, multi-family households and racial and ethnic communities face barriers to aid following disasters.

For example, the Federal Emergency Management Agency found most of the applications it received from people in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria were ineligible. This is largely because the applicants were unable to prove that they owned their homes. For some, the documents had been lost or destroyed by the storm itself. For others, family homes were passed down through generations without legal documentation because of expensive fees.

Future warming trends may fuel stronger storms reaching new areas and may double hurricane-related losses every 10 years. This cycle needs to be disrupted. Governments and aid agencies need to consider race and class in their policies to ensure nondiscriminatory recovery.

Disrupting the pattern

While society cannot control natural events, economic and political decisions lay the foundation for the outcomes. These decisions can increase a community’s risk or promote resiliency and equity.

Investing in infrastructure, like levees, can lower disaster risk. However, if an extreme event exceeds the capacity of these structures, the resulting damage can in fact be much greater. In part, this is because built infrastructure encourages development in otherwise risky areas.

Smart policy decisions that bridge wealth gaps can indirectly lower disaster recovery costs. Communities should be directly involved in developing plans to improve resilience, as these policies are more likely to succeed.

Investments in affordable housing, libraries, green spaces and schools and the creation of job opportunities promotes social mobility. As a result, more families can afford home repairs, insurance, evacuation costs and may even be able to move to less hazardous areas.

When a powerful hurricane makes landfall near a populated coastal area, it’s the decisions made by people that ultimately determine what is damaged and who dies. Hurricanes Maria and Katrina were not entirely preventable, but neither were they unexpected. Acknowledging the socially rooted realities of these events offers an opportunity to correct our current course.The Conversation


Laura Szczyrba, PhD Student, Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering, Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

Supporting big research ideas

The Government of Canada announces support for Queen's researchers through the federal funding agencies and the Canada Research Chair program.

Over 125 Queen’s researchers across disciplines have received support that will advance discovery, innovation, and collaboration in their research programs. Today, The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry (ISED), announced a bundled research announcement under the theme "Supporting BIG ideas!", meant to continue the Government’s historic investments in support of a strong and vibrant world-leading research ecosystem.

The bundled announcement includes funding from a variety of programs under the umbrellas of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the Canada Research Chairs program. More than $635 million is being invested in scholars across Canada through new grants or grant extensions.

"We are proud to continue investing in, and celebrating, the creativity and innovation that are at the heart of Canada’s research ecosystem," says Minister Champagne. "It is inspiring to see the ingenuity and dedication Canadian researchers embrace in exploring big ideas that will fuel the discoveries and innovations of tomorrow to make our world a better place and create prosperity for Canadians."

The funding will advance the research continuum from fundamental to applied scholarship at Queen’s. In addition to pandemic-related projects, these investments will support emerging and ongoing research in areas of critical importance, such as precision medicine, military family health, particle physics, climate change, citizenship and social justice, chronic pain, and gender, race, and inclusive policies. For more information on each of the funding programs and the Queen’s recipients please see below:

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

The goal of SSHRC’s Insight program is to build knowledge and understanding about people, societies, and the world by supporting research excellence in all subject areas eligible for SSHRC funding. Insight grants provide stable support for long-term research initiatives, while the Insight Development grants support research in its initial stages. The grants enable the development of research questions, as well as experimentation with new methods, theoretical approaches, and/or ideas.

Partnership Development grants provide support for new and existing formal partnerships over four to seven years to advance research, research training, and/or knowledge mobilization in the social sciences and humanities. Partnership funding is intended for formal partnerships between postsecondary institutions and/or organizations of various types.

SSHRC Partnership Development Grants 2020

Principal Investigator Affiliation Project Title
Heather Aldersey School of Rehabilitation Therapy Redefining the social contract: Rebalancing formal and natural support for people with disabilities and their families
Heidi Cramm

School of Rehabilitation Therapy; Psychiatry

Families matter: A partnership of partners to study, serve, and support the families of military, Veterans, and public safety personnel

SSHRC Insight Grants 2020

Principal Investigator Affiliation Project Title
Elizabeth Brulé Gender Studies Decolonizing the academy: Indigenizing the university seven generations in the future
Rosa Bruno-Jofré Education; History Giving the past a new meaning to re-imagine the future in education
Pierre Chaigneau Smith School of Business Too many rewards? Performance shares and the optimal structure of executive pay
Amanda-Mae Cooper Education Social science research funding agencies' support and promotion of knowledge mobilization and research impact: Learning from high impact case studies of collaborative research networks
Theresa Claire Davies Mechanical and Materials Engineering A Delphi Study to advance research on accessibility standards for augmentative and alternative communication
Anthony Goerzen Smith School of Business Improving global value chain governance
Kerah Gordon-Solmon Philosophy Duties, constraints, prerogatives, and permissions: Or, how to defend lesser-evil options
Oded Haklai Political Studies Population settlements and territorial control
Fiona Kay Sociology Paralegals and access to justice: Regulation, job rewards, and legal services during COVID-19 pandemic
Benjamin Kutsyuruba Education Understanding the well-being capacity of pre-service teachers
Susan Lord Film and Media; Art History; Gender Studies; Cultural Studies Under the shadow of empire: Minor archives and radical media distribution in the Americas
David McDonald Global Development Studies; Geography and Planning; School of Environmental Studies Public Banks + Public Water
Nicole Myers Sociology Risky decisions: Professional judgement, public safety and the bail decision
Steven Salterio Smith School of Business Understanding the extant and nature of replication research in social sciences: The case of accounting research
Marcus Taylor Global Development Studies; Sociology; School of Environmental Studies Can climate-resilient crops transform smallholder agriculture? A comparative sociological analysis
Veikko Thiele Smith School of Business; Economics Scale-up Ecosystems: Theory and Empirical Evidence
Grégoire Webber Law; Philosophy Recovering the good in law

Canada Research Chairs

Part of a national strategy to attract and retain leading and promising minds, the Canada Research Chairs program aims to make Canada one of the world's top countries in research and development. The program invests approximately $265 million per year to attract and retain some of the world's most accomplished and promising researchers. Queen’s is currently home to 51 Canada Research Chairs across a variety of disciplines.

Canada Research Chair (CRC) Renewals

Name Affiliation Status Research Area
Heather Castleden Geography and Planning; Gender Studies Tier 2 - CRC in Reconciling Relations for Health, Environments, and Communities Applying Indigenous and Western knowledge systems to research involving social and environmental justice and health equity: this research aims to create healthier relationships between Indigenous peoples and Settler (non-Indigenous) Canadians by advancing recognition, responsibility, and reconciliation in community-driven and participatory ways.
Philip Jessop Chemistry Tier 1 - CRC in Green Chemistry Using carbon dioxide as a “trigger” for “switchable materials” able to change from one form to another: this research will make industry safer and more environmentally-benign through the reuse of waste carbon dioxide gas.
Mark Ormiston Biomedical and Molecular Sciences; Medicine; Surgery Tier 2 - CRC in Regenerative Cardiovascular Medicine The study of Natural Killer (NK) cells in the development of diseases such as pulmonary arterial hypertension: this research could lead to the creation of new immune-based treatments that could reverse changes made in a person’s lungs.

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council

The Discovery program supports ongoing research with long-term goals. These multi-year grants recognize the creativity and innovation that are at the heart of all research advances. Discovery program grants are considered “grants in aid” of research, as they provide long-term operating funds and can facilitate access to funding from other programs, but are not meant to support the full costs of a research program.

Notably, Cathy Crudden (Chemistry), Canada Research Chair in Metal Organic Chemistry, received the largest Discovery grant in Canada (valued at $605k over five years)  for her project Nanoclusters, nanoparticles, and surfaces: Bridging the gap between homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis. 

NSERC Discovery Program Grants 2020/2021

Principal Investigator Affiliation Project Title
Furkan Alaca School of Computing Securing user authentication in emerging threat landscapes
Brian Amsden Chemical Engineering Aliphatic polycarbonates: Building blocks for new biodegradable biomaterials
Levente Balogh Mechanical and Materials Engineering Structure-property relations of materials having complex microstructures generated by radiation damage and additive manufacturing
Sameh Basta Biomedical and Molecular Sciences M2a macrophage activation and the regulation of immune functions
Albrecht Birk Mechanical and Materials Engineering Safe transport and storage of pressure liquefied hazardous materials
Amanda Bongers Chemistry Cognition in chemistry: Exploring how the brain encodes and manipulates scientific models
Joseph Bramante Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy Astroparticle theory for dark sectors
Chantelle Capicciotti Chemistry; Biomedical and Molecular Sciences Chemical biology tools for probing and discovering glycan-protein interactions
Pascale Champagne Civil Engineering; Chemical Engineering Photosynthetically-enhanced eco-engineered treatment systems
Che Colpitts Biomedical and Molecular Sciences Membrane rearrangement by positive-sense RNA viruses: Molecular mechanisms and cellular responses
Cathleen Crudden Chemistry

Nanoclusters, nanoparticles, and surfaces: Bridging the gap between homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis

Critical replacement of super critical fluid HPLC for chiral separations

Variable temperature UV/Vis spectrophotometer for study of NHC-stabilized gold nanoclusters

Michael Cunningham Chemical Engineering; Chemistry Replacing traditional surfactants in the preparation of polymer nanoparticles
Mark Daymond Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy; Mechanical and Materials Engineering

Effect of local microstructure on cracking of materials for next generation reactors

Characterising irradiation induced damage and phase changes

Kevin Deluzio Mechanical and Materials Engineering Tools for the biomechanical analysis of human movement
George diCenzo Biology Gene networks of Sinorhizobium meliloti
Marc Dignam Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy Nonlinear and quantum optics in two-dimensional materials and nanophotonic systems
Steven Honghui Ding School of Computing Assistant professor
Juergen Dingel School of Computing Model-driven engineering for distributed, reliable, adaptive, web-based software
Cao Thang Dinh Chemical Engineering Electrode engineering for carbon dioxide electroreduction to fuels and chemicals
Paul Duchesne Chemistry Earth-abundant heterogeneous catalysts for the synthesis of renewable fuels
Christopher Eckert Biology Ecology & evolution of species range limits
Dixia Fan Mechanical and Materials Engineering Physics-informed (and -informative) reinforcement learning and bio-inspired design of a smart morphing flapping wing for dual aerial/aquatic-propulsion and maneuvering
Laura Fissel Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy Understanding the role of magnetic fields in star and planet formation using stratospheric balloon-borne polarimeters
Luis Flores Psychology Brain function and real-world choice and effectiveness of intrapersonal and social forms of emotion regulation
Georgia Fotopoulous Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering Fusion of heterogeneous geosensing observations for enhanced site characterization
Jason Gallivan Psychology; Biomedical and Molecular Sciences Human functional neuroimaging stimulus presentation and data collection system for studies of action, perception and decision-making
Jun Gao Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy Surfaces and interfaces of luminescent polymer mixed ionic/electronic conductors
Charlotte Gibson Robert M. Buchan Department of Mining

Surface analysis for the concentration and extraction of metals using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy

Concentrating minerals critical to energy storage applications from Canadian hard rock deposits

Guillaume Giroux Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy NEWS-G search for light dark matter with spherical proportional counters
Sidney Givigi School of Computing Safe adaptive social cyber physical systems
Farnaz Heidar-Zadeh Chemistry Theoretical chemical design with machine learning: Model development and applications
Tom Hollenstein Psychology Integrated psychophysiology and observational system for synchronous measurement and analysis
Neil Hoult Civil Engineering Reimagined environmentally-friendly (RE-Design) of reinforced concrete infrastructure
Graeme Howe Chemistry Tracing enzyme mechanisms across evolution to elucidate the origins of enzymatic catalysis
Stephen Hughes Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy Dissipative mode theories and reservoir engineering in quantum nanophotonics
Robin Hutchinson Chemical Engineering Measurement and modeling of polymerization kinetics for process and product development
Judith Irwin Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy From galaxy to intergalactic medium -- the magnetic connection in the age of the square kilometre array
Shideh Kabiri Ameri Abootorabi Electrical and Computer Engineering High performance visually imperceptible on-skin sensors and electronics based on nanomaterials
Frederick Kan Biomedical and Molecular Sciences Oviductal regulation of gamete interaction and reproductive function
Sadan Kelebek Robert M. Buchan Department of Mining Investigations on the separation of metal-bearing values from secondary sources in the production of value-added products
Il Yong Kim Mechanical and Materials Engineering System, layout, and topology optimization for automotive and aerospace design
Marianna Kontopoulou Chemical Engineering Environmentally friendly and scalable processes for the production of graphene and applications in advanced functional materials and technologies
Ehssan Koupaie Chemical Engineering Techniques for enhanced anaerobic digestion and bioenergy and conversion of pulp and paper sludge
Valerie Kuhlmeier Psychology Cognitive origins of ownership concepts
Yanzhe Lei Smith School of Business Real-time dynamic optimization for omnichannel retailers
Guang Li Smith School of Business Revenue management and policy design in the presence of customer multi-item shopping behavior
Qingguo Li Mechanical and Materials Engineering Biomechanical energy harvesting: Optimization, control and biomechanics
Hok Kan Ling Mathematics and Statistics Shape-constrained inference: Testing and estimation for incomplete survival data
Alexander Little Biology Mechanisms and costs of adaptive plasticity in a starlet anemone (Nematostella Vectensis) model
Christopher Lohans Biomedical and Molecular Sciences Mechanistic enzymology of beta-lactam antibiotic resistance mechanisms and target proteins
Alan Lomax Medicine; Biomedical and Molecular Sciences Analysis of the vagal afferent innervation of the mouse colon
Stephen Lougheed Biology

Digital PCR infrastructure to enhance research and HQP training in biology

High performance computing infrastructure for evolutionary biology, spatial ecology, and conservation biology

Giusy Mazzone Mathematics and Statistics Partially dissipative systems with applications to fluid-solid interaction problems
Kim McAuley Chemical Engineering Combining fundamental models with data
Chris McGlory School of Kinesiology and Health Studies Mechanisms underlying the regulation of human skeletal muscle protein turnover by omega-3 fatty acids
Jordan Morelli Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy Applied magnetics - nuclear fusion
Michele Morningstar Psychology Development of neural and cognitive processing of peers' nonverbal cues in adolescence
Parvin Mousavi School of Computing Learning algorithms for predictive modeling in biomedical computing: Methods and applications
Christian Muise School of Computing Advanced techniques for action model solicitation, verification, and induction
Kevin Mumford Civil Engineering Contaminant transport and remediation in dynamic gas-and-groundwater systems
Ram Murty Mathematics and Statistics Zeta functions and probability theory
Sara Nabil School of Computing

Advanced techniques for everyday embodied interaction

E-textiles digital design and fabrication

Guy Narbonne Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering When life got big - Ediacaran evolution in a period of profound global change
Jianbing Ni Electrical and Computer Engineering Secure and privacy-preserving edge caching in next-generation mobile networks
Jean-Michel Nunzi Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy; Chemistry Life-mimetic nano-photonics
Gema Olivo Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering Mineral resources in basins: Base metal ore systems and footprint
Mary Olmstead Psychology Immune-reward interactions: Contributions of the endocannabinoid system
Christopher Omelon Geography and Planning Impacts of talik microbial geochemistry on a changing permafrost landscape
Diane Orihel Biology; School of Environmental Studies A new ecological framework for adverse outcomes of contaminants on ecosystems: Microplastics as a case study
Patrick Oosthuizen Mechanical and Materials Engineering Numerical and experimental studies of steady and unsteady natural and mixed convective heat transfer from horizontal and inclined surfaces of complex shape
Anna Panchenko Biomedical and Molecular Sciences; Pathology and Molecular Medicine; School of Computing Deciphering the mechanisms of modulation of DNA accessibility in chromatin: Discovery of novel pioneer transcription factors
Sarah Jane Payne Civil Engineering Elucidating drinking water quality deterioration in premise plumbing
David Reed Medicine Inhibition of visceral sensation by cannabinoids in the gastrointestinal tract
David Rival Mechanical and Materials Engineering High-speed, plane-wave ultrasound imaging for Lagrangian particle tracking
Matthew Robertson Mechanical and Materials Novel robot actuators leveraging the molecular mechanics and topology of biological muscle
Nir Rotenberg Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy

Frontiers of nonlinear quantum optics: From fundamentals to technology

Ultra-coherent lasers for the exploration of quantum photonic nonlinearities

Karen Rudie Electrical and Computer Engineering Keeping secrets: Realizing the potential of decentralized discrete-event systems
Sarah Sadavoy Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy The role of magnetic fields in forming stars, disks, and planets
Yuksel Asli Sari Robert M. Buchan Department of Mining Innovative dynamic short-term, medium-term and long-term mine planning strategies incorporating new automation and data analytics technologies
Jessica Selinger School of Kinesiology and Health Studies; Mechanical and Materials Engineering A lower-limb exoskeleton system for investigating the neuromechanical control of human locomotion and designing assistive robotic aids
Bhavin Shastri Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy Neurophotonic-electronic brain-machine interface system
Zhe She Chemistry Probing molecular interactions of soft surfaces by scanning probe microscopy
Amber Simpson School of Computing; Biomedical and Molecular Sciences Integrated computational modeling of multi-scale biomedical data
Gregory Smith Mathematics and Statistics Combination algebraic geometry
Yanglei Song Mathematics and Statistics Sequential decision making under uncertainty: Fundamental limits and applications
Sameh Sorour School of Computing Enabling intelligence on multi-access edge networks with heterogeneous resources
Christopher Spencer Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering Constraining the interplay of geodynamics with the biosphere and atmosphere across the Archean-Proterozoic boundary
Patrick Stroman Biomedical and Molecular Sciences Functional MRI investigation of spinal cord resting-state networks and their physiological relevance
Myron Szewczuk Biomedical and Molecular Sciences Nobel biased G-protein coupled receptor-signalling paradigm regulating growth factor and pathogen-sensing receptors
William Take Civil Engineering Landslide triggering, mobility, and monitoring in a changing climate
David Thomson Mathematics and Statistics Statistical spectrum estimation and solar gravity modes
Aaron Vincent Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy Discovering the dark sector with astroparticle phenomenology
Bas Vriens Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering Sustainable mine waste management: From microscale hydrogeochemical processes to macroscale prediction models
Jeffrey Wammes Psychology Mechanisms underlying learning-related representational reorganization
Robert Way Geography and Planning Susceptibility of peatland permafrost in coastal Labrador to future environmental change
Peng Wang Chemistry; Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy Discovery and development of crystalline radiation detection materials
Joshua Woods Civil Engineering

System-level multi-element analysis of structures using hybrid-simulation (SMASH) lab

High-performance structural systems for seismic protection and resilience of built infrastructure

Gang Wu Chemistry Development of new 17O NMR spectroscopic techniques for studying biological systems
Sarah Yakimowski Biology The evolution of herbicide resistance
Laurence Yang Chemical Engineering Learning models of metabolism and gene expression from biological big data
Scott Yam Electrical and Computer Engineering Intelligent fiber sensors via digital signal processing and machine learning
Mohammad Zulkernine School of Computing Building and monitoring security in emerging softwarized systems

For more information on the Government of Canada’s Support BIG Ideas announcement, please visit the website.

Celebrating Queen’s spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation

Queen’s receives the Deshpande Symposium Award for The Entrepreneurial University for its curriculum innovation and student engagement.

Every Spring, the Deshpande Foundation hosts the Deshpande Symposium on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education, which brings together academics, policy planners, practitioners, business incubators, and foundations to discuss best practices in integrating entrepreneurship throughout their college and university communities.

At this year’s virtual gathering, Queen’s University received the Deshpande Symposium Award for The Entrepreneurial University. This award celebrates an institution that demonstrates excellence in entrepreneurship-related curriculum innovation and student engagement.

"Entrepreneurship has become an important means by which we fulfill our obligations of positive societal impact, to the regional community in which it is embedded, and in global society," says Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor.

Queen’s was unanimously voted as the 2021 recipient of this honour for fostering a culture of innovation throughout its many curricular and extra-curricular offerings.

Curricular Offerings in Entrepreneurship and Innovation

The university’s academic and curricular programs of study make entrepreneurship and innovation a priority at all levels. Undergraduate and graduate students across Queen’s are exposed to entrepreneurship and related topics in a broad range of sectors across disciplines. Some courses engage students in team-based venture projects in for-profits contexts, while others, like the Arts and Science "Dean’s Changemaker" courses ASCX200/300, give them opportunities to identify and pursue entrepreneurial solutions to pressing societal problems. The Dean’s Changemaker program supported 12 students in its pilot run and is expected to grow to 50 students per year.

Curricular delivery prioritizes interdisciplinarity. The Certificate in Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Creativity (CEIC), offered by the Dan School of Drama and Music, is taught not only by faculty from the Dan School but also from the Smith School of Business and the faculties of Arts and Science and Engineering and Applied Science. These pan-university partnerships persist even at senior levels of education and training. The blended format Master of Management of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (MMIE), for example, is a joint collaboration between Business and Engineering and offers networking opportunities with other programs across campus. Since its inception five years ago, 420 students representing 25 countries globally have completed the program, which now accepts 114 students/cohort. MMIE participants have created 89 start-ups and scale-ups, collectively raising $750,000 and employing 112 people. By placing a strong emphasis on interdisciplinarity, Queen’s has been able to increase each individual unit’s capacity for providing immersive programming, thereby fostering development of entrepreneurial mindsets.

[Photo of the QICSI 2019 cohort at Mitchell Hall]
The 2019 Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative (QICSI) cohort at Mitchell Hall.

Co- and Extra-Curricular Offerings in Entrepreneurship and Innovation

The university also offers numerous co- and extra-curricular opportunities in entrepreneurship and innovation, many of which are provided and/or coordinated through the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC) and Queen’s University’s Partnerships and Innovation (QPI). DDQIC was founded in 2012, following a significant gift jointly provided by distinguished alumni Andrew Dunin, Sc ’83, MBA ‘87, and his wife Anne Dunin, ArtSci ‘83, and Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande, PhD ‘79, and his wife Jaishree Deshpande. 

DDQIC collaborates with schools and faculties, assisting in the development and delivery of many co-curricular programs across campus. The centre runs the Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative (QICSI), a 16-week full-time program in which participants complete a two-week boot camp and receive seed capital to found and build ventures. Since 2012, DDQIC has mentored 460 changemakers in QICSI and helped students launch and grow 200 ventures, 50% of which are still in operation, including Mosaic Manufacturing, CleanSlate UV, and RockMass Technologies. The part-time DDQIC QyourVenture program operates year-long and supports early stage start-ups by providing foundation and mentorship. Furthermore, DDQIC prioritizes innovators and leaders from underrepresented groups through its Konnect program for women entrepreneurs and the Jim Leech MasterCard Foundation Fellowship for young African entrepreneurs. 

QPI supports programming through workshops targeting thematic areas and groups (e.g. health, research-based graduate students) and in sector-targeted and IP/commercialization-advising roles. It provides an accelerator facility for growing ventures, complementing DDQIC’s QICSI, and offers linkages to other ecosystems, notably the Kingston-Syracuse Pathway in Health Innovation, Invest Ottawa, the Toronto-based Technology Innovation Accelerator Program, and L-Spark. Since 2014, QPI has supported 300 entrepreneurs and 150 ventures.

Student engagement extends beyond Queen’s as DDQIC, QPI, and their partner organizations deliver entrepreneurship-geared educational outreach programs, providing translational career and leadership skills to high school students in the Kingston area and globally.

The university received the award as part of a ceremony on June 10, 2021.  

Training Canada’s future health data workforce

With $1.6 million in funding, NSERC’s CREATE program is supporting the implementation of an experiential graduate training and research program in medical informatics at Queen’s.

[Photo of Parvin Mousavi]
Dr. Parvin Mousavi (Computing) is the Director of Queen's new CREATE Training Program in Medical Informatics.

Queen’s researcher Parvin Mousavi (Computing) and her co-investigators have been awarded $1.6 million in funding over six years as part of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s (NSERC) Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) program. The fund supports the training and mentoring of students and post-doctoral fellows in developing academic and industry skills in areas such as research, communications, and collaboration. The objective is to encourage collaborative and integrative approaches to addressing Canada’s research priorities while also fostering job readiness skills for trainees across sectors.

Leaders in their fields
This unique CREATE program is led by 11 leading research experts in computing, machine learning, medical and imaging informatics, data analytics, software systems, and surgery. In addition to Dr. Mousavi, they include Drs. Randy Ellis, Gabor Fichtinger, Ting Hu, John Rudan, Amber Simpson, David Pichora, Yuan Tian, Boris Zevin, and investigators at Western University, Drs. Aaron Fenster and Sarah Mattonen.

Dr. Mousavi’s CREATE grant will support a training program in medical informatics, preparing Canada’s workforce to handle the health data of tomorrow. Since 2017 at least 86 per cent of family physicians in Canada use Electronic Medical Records, generating vast digital health data at an exponential rate. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated on a global scale the significance of digital health data and its interpretation to decision-making at all levels of healthcare. In fact, the pandemic has led to an acceleration on the part of the federal and provincial governments in Canada to invest in digital-first health strategies and high-performance computing platforms. The CREATE program will aim to further leverage data-driven decision-making in current and future public health responses.

Canada is not alone in the rapid accumulation of digital health data. By 2050, the global markets for artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare and medical informatics are forecasted to grow to a combined $134 billion. Just to meet Canada’s immediate needs, the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) predicts at least 120,000 skilled workers in computational sciences will be required by 2023 to support the health and biotechnology sector alone. Currently, most graduate computer science programs in Canada follow a course+thesis model where there is limited access to training and field experience in machine learning for healthcare informatics. With Dr. Mousavi’s leadership, Queen’s will be home to a unique CREATE program providing comprehensive training in medical informatics, experiential learning, and skills development to prepare students for careers in this rapidly developing sector. 

"We aim to solidify Canada’s competitive advantage in the global space through concerted efforts to train computer scientists with specialized multi-disciplinary experience in medical informatics and digital health, and engage diverse groups and experiences in our training," says Dr. Mousavi. "Our aim is to not just train students for jobs immediately after graduation but prepare them for success throughout their careers."

Dr. Mousavi and her co-investigators have collaboratively developed the NSERC CREATE training program in consultation with key industry and government stakeholders to augment the course+thesis model with opportunities for experiential learning, practicums, mentorship, and competency-based training to help students gain these critically needed skillsets. During the program, students will have training opportunities with extensive real-world clinical data through partnerships with the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the Ontario Health Data Platform, and the Canadian Cancer Trials Group at Queen’s. The program also leverages partnerships with Western University and Kingston Health Sciences Centre, and collaborations with industry and academia including the Vector Institute alongside Queen’s-based research infrastructure and expertise at the Centre for Advanced Computing, the Human Mobility Research Centre, and KGH Research Institute.

The NSERC CREATE grant is just the beginning, with Dr. Mousavi and her co-investigators already planning for long-term sustainability of the program. Through the advancement of partnerships, establishment of courses and micro-credentials, and development of research projects and funding, they aim to continue the comprehensive training program following the grant and help build a hub of excellence in healthcare informatics and data analysis at Queen’s.

"Congratulations to Dr. Mousavi and her co-investigators on securing this competitive funding that advances connections between research and training opportunities," says Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice-Principal (Research). "The program builds on an area of institutional interdisciplinary strength and will help position Canada to leverage heath data in decision- and policy-making."

For more information on projects and recruitment, visit the program website or email infoMedICREATE@cs.queensu.ca.

For more information on the CREATE program and training opportunities, visit the NSERC website

Bilingualism and diversity: The Supreme Court can – and should – have both

The Conversation: Pitting the representation of historically marginalized groups on the Supreme Court against another constitutionally protected minority – Canada's francophones – is a misguided race to the bottom.

Supreme Court of Canada seen at night.
The Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa at night. (Unsplash/Tom Carnegie)

After 17 years on the bench, Justice Rosalie Abella is set to retire from the Supreme Court of Canada in July. As is always the case when a Supreme Court judge leaves, Abella’s retirement is spurring some speculation about her replacement.

Many Canadians have expressed their wish for the highest court in the land to become more representative of Canada’s ethnic diversity, with the eventual appointment of a justice who identifies as Black, Indigenous or a person of colour (BIPOC).

At the same time, the government of Canada is rolling out a new official language policy aimed at shoring up French in federal institutions, including at the Supreme Court.

Yet some have argued that the proposed amendments to the Official Languages Act would impede the important goal of making Canada’s top court more diverse.

In our view, this characterization of the proposed language reforms is unfounded.

No interpreters

Justice Rosalie Abella
Justice Rosalie Abella (Photo by Supreme Court of Canada)

First, the changes to the act are focused on the constitutional language rights of litigants, not on judges’ linguistic qualifications. They would ensure that all Canadians can be heard and understood by the Supreme Court in the official language of their choice, without the use of an interpreter, as is already the case in every other federal court.

The Supreme Court was shielded from this requirement in 1988 by a special exemption in Sec. 16 of the Official Languages Act — always intended to be temporary — “until we reach a more developed stage of bilingualism across the country,” as former justice minister Ray Hnatyshyn said at the time. Times have changed and, as the most recent appointments to the court show, there is no shortage of qualified bilingual jurists in Canada.

If the Official Languages Act is amended, the judges assigned to a given case would have to comprehend the litigants without the aid of an interpreter. This isn’t necessarily a bilingualism requirement. Instead, it means that the judges assigned to a specific case must be competent in both official languages.

The nine-member Supreme Court, in fact, regularly forms benches of seven or even five judges for a variety of reasons, like when judges are on sick leave or elect to recuse themselves.

Ideally, every litigant whose case ends up in the Supreme Court should have the benefit of having it considered by all nine judges. In practice, however, a full bench is currently not guaranteed, nor would it be required by the proposed amendment to the Official Languages Act.

Second, claiming that bilingualism is a barrier for BIPOC candidates to Canada’s top court is a gross misrepresentation of minorities in Canada and of their language skills. The federal public service is instructive in this respect.

In the past four years, 28 per cent of the new positions created with bilingual or French-only requirements have been filled by racialized candidates. That surpasses the national proportion, which, in the last census in 2016, stood at 22.3 per cent of the total population.

Francophones are diverse

The reality is that French-speaking Canadians are just as racially diverse as English speakers, and that’s not only true in Montréal. Alberta, for example, has one of the fastest-growing French-speaking populations in Canada.

Alberta and British Columbia also have wildly popular French immersion programs, and many of these students are from immigrant families. Clearly, bilingualism is no longer a barrier for Westerners.

When we talk about bilingualism at the Supreme Court, we are talking about knowledge of French. The court has never had a unilingual francophone judge and it is safe to assume the government won’t appoint one in 2021, no matter the ethnicity or the strength of the candidate.

It is sometimes argued that only the best and most qualified judges should be appointed to the Supreme Court and that bilingualism requirements shrink the pool of qualified candidates.

In our view, this argument is bogus. Official bilingualism is already provided for by the Constitution, and the Supreme Court exemption in the Official Languages Act is no longer legitimate. Canadians should have the right to be heard at the highest court in the land — directly, without the filter of simultaneous interpretation — in the official language of their choice.

Bilingualism is a requisite

Supreme Court justices should not only be able to understand proceedings in both languages, but they should also be able to interpret the French and English versions of our Constitution and laws, which have equal legal standing. Side-by-side interpretations of both versions often help clarify the legislative intent.

Judges must also be able to read the evidentiary record of the cases they decide. These crucial documents — trial transcripts, affidavits, exhibits, expert reports — are often not translated but filed in the language they were produced. Arguably, unilingual judges cannot rely on their bilingual law clerks or judicial colleagues to interpret these documents without sacrificing their own independence.

How can a judge be expected to rule on a case when they can’t understand the evidence? Quite simply, French-English bilingualism is not a luxury at the Supreme Court of Canada — it’s a professional requisite.

The government is proposing to increase access to French-language education across Canada. This will do a great deal to increase the number of bilingual Canadians who, if they wish, can aspire to reach the highest echelons of the federal judiciary.

Bigger barriers than bilingualism

But there are more significant barriers to the Supreme Court of Canada than bilingualism.

For many racialized Canadians and Indigenous people, the rising cost of legal education in Canada is prohibitive. Law schools must ensure that a greater diversity of Canadians can access their ranks.

Another barrier is the Canadian legal profession itself. It continues to struggle with its own history of systemic racism and sexism, with damaging subsequent effects on the judiciary.

Pitting the representation of historically marginalized groups on the Supreme Court against another constitutionally protected minority — Canada’s francophones — is a misguided race to the bottom. The right way forward is to make a historically exclusive profession more accessible to everyone.

_______________________________________________________The Conversation

François Larocque, Professor, Research Chair in Language Rights, Faculty of Law, Common Law Section | Professeur, Chaire de recherche Droits et enjeux linguistiques, Faculté de droit, Section de common law, L’Université d’Ottawa/University of Ottawa and Stéphanie Chouinard, Professeure de science politique, Queen's University, Ontario

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

Junos 50th anniversary: How we remember these award-winning hit singles

The Conversation: Known variously in Juno history as 'Best Single,' or 'Best-Selling Single,' and now 'Single of the Year' this award always garners attention. Reflections on select singles since 1979.

Artist Alanis Morissette receives her lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Music Hall of Fame during the 2015 Juno Awards. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Cancon music aficionados are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Canada’s Juno Awards. Known variously in Juno history as “Best Single,” “Best Selling Single,” and now “Single of the Year,” this award always garners attention.

The Junos and sometimes controversial Canadian content regulations came into being at around the same time to promote Canadian culture to Canadians. Whatever the award’s name, the winning song emphasizes Canada’s place on pop music’s world stage. Reflections on these songs, both personal and historical, make the music even more compelling. Here’s a look at earlier years.

‘Can’t Feel my Face,’ The Weeknd (2016)

If someone announced that they can’t feel their face when they’re with you, you would obviously think something was very wrong; you may even want to offer assistance to alleviate their discomfort. But not the female interlocuter in The Weeknd’s song “I Can’t Feel My Face.”

Instead, the song goes, “She told me, ‘Don’t worry about it/She told me/Don’t worry no more.’” The Weeknd exploits both the drama of the claim and the felt sense of human pity it evokes in the titular refrain, to which he quickly adds “but I love it, but I love it, oh.”

Some admirers think the song is about The Weeknd’s use of drugs, perhaps cocaine, which is personified as female. Others believe the song is an ironic ode to The Weeknd’s love interest at the time, model Bella Hadid.

The Weeknd sings in front of a crowd.
The Weeknd performs during the 2015 Juno Awards in Hamilton. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Both interpretations can be simultaneously true; that is the very point and power of lyrical expression. The song is dark. Yet it makes us dance. It confesses a public taboo. Still, we bop.

Great lyricists, like The Weeknd, take our social privacies, place them on poetic display and elevate them so that listeners share, even if unwittingly, an emotional response. So as much as the song is a catchy dance hit, it is an opportunity for cultural reflection on what makes us tick, on why, as humans, we are often addicted to experiences and people who are otherwise bad for us.

Vershawn Ashanti Young, University of Waterloo

'Dangerous,’ Kardinal Offishall (2009)

Kardinal Offishall, in a suit and pink shirt, poses on the red carpet.
Kardinal Offishall arrives on the red carpet for the 31st Genie Awards in Ottawa in 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

Leading up to his 2009 Junos Best Single of the Year, Kardinal Offishall was already a legendary rapper and expert MC in Canada. Yet “Dangerous” was his introduction to the rest of the world. He became the first Canadian rapper to appear on the U.S. Hot 100 Billboard chart, peaking at No. 5 in May 2008.

The song is a classic radio hit in both arrangement and composition. At the same time, it’s a distinctive Toronto anthem. It fits into a larger legacy of Black Canadian youth music — part of what scholar Rinaldo Walcott argues is Caribbean pop culture in Canada as a site for identity-making and space-taking.

Offishall is a long-time ambassador for the AfroCaribbean diaspora in Canada. In “Dangerous,” Jamaican patois gets mixed in with classic rap topics (“When she on the dance floor, gyal dem irate.”)

In this way, “Dangerous” represents a specific kind of belonging to Black Canadian culture that scholar Murray Forman notes is long-rooted in AfroCaribbean traditions.

“Dangerous” was a cultural moment for Canadian hip hop due to its commercial success, but also its representation of the AfroCaribbean diaspora in Canada that’s used hip hop as a way to fit into, rebel from and, as scholar Mark V. Campbell notes, challenge perceptions of Canadian identity.

Tamar Faber, York University

‘Bobcaygeon,’ The Tragically Hip (2000)

Gord Downie, The Tragically Hip’s leader and lyricist, built the “Single of the Year” in 2000 on the contrast between Toronto and rural Bobcaygeon, a name that is probably indebted both to French and Indigenous sources.

The narrator tells a story of having spent the evening with his lover, where they enjoyed “the wine” and “the Willie Nelson,” a reference that conjures both the famous American singer and his decades-long crusade to have marijuana legalized.

In some concerts, Downie described “Bobcaygeon” as a “song about a gay cop.”

Verses one, two, five and six all open with a line that ends “your house this morning,” emphasizing the centrality of the lover’s home. Driving “back to town” in the morning sends the narrator “back to bed.” The quadruple rhyme — “Hang,” “sang,” “rang,” and “twang” — drives the song to its crescendo.

Members of The Tragically Hip, including Gord Downie in a toque and sunglasses, pose for photographers on the red carpet
Members of The Tragically Hip, including Gord Downie in a toque and sunglasses, pose for photographers on the red carpet as they arrive at the Juno awards in Winnipeg in 2005. (CP PHOTO/Marianne Helm)

There are troubling hints of violence turned against others and the self, with reference to “that riot,” an “Aryan twang” and thoughts of “maybe quitting … leaving it behind” — possibly implying quitting work drudgery or something significantly darker.

The song has become “woven into the fabric of the Canadian imagination by The Tragically Hip,” as journalist Adrian Lee observes. Yet as Downie makes clear, it could have been “any small town really.”

The song is a multi-levelled meditation on the interplay of personal intimacy, beauty, violence and despair — themes that Canadians must urgently grapple with at the centre of their colonial mythology.

Robert Morrison, Queen’s University

‘You Oughta Know,’ Alanis Morrisette (1996)

Despite sweeping success at the 1996 Junos, more than 33 million sales worldwide and the reinvention in 2019 as part of an award-winning Broadway musical, Alanis Morrisette’s “You Oughta Know” is sometimes regarded simply as the angst-ridden ravings of an angry young woman, spurned by a lover and hysterical. But as musicologist Karen Fournier emphasizes, for Morrisette, “the personal is political.” The singer unapologetically bares her soul in “You Oughta Know” — an action that challenges gendered norms and presumes a right to speak and be heard.

Writer Marisa Crawford notes that Morissette’s music emerged in the wake of Anita Hill’s testimony to the U.S. Congress and legislative changes that supported victims of sexual harassment. In the recent musical, the plot directly confronts sexual violence and the #MeToo Movement.

Rebecca Draisey-Collishaw, Queen’s University

‘Never Surrender,’ Corey Hart (1985)

In the summer of 1985, if you were listening to the radio or watching MuchMusic, you inevitably heard or saw Corey Hart singing his hit “Never Surrender.” They are the same words that resonated not long ago in Nehiyaw text-based artist Joi T. Arcand’s art work, in which she takes Hart’s “Never Surrender” lyrics and translates them into Cree syllabics to honour her own heritage, solidarity-building among Indigenous communities and to acknowledge that Indigenous Peoples are still here on Turtle Island.

“Never Surrender.” These are the words that Indigenous people still voice today in fighting oppression and to press governments to provide what ordinary Canadians take for granted, like clean water, health care and access to education.

In 1985, when the song was released after some 150 years of disempowerment and genocidal tactics like residential schools and the Pass System, Indigenous peoples finally had their constitutional rights confirmed just three years earlier, in 1982.

But what did these rights mean for a people still attending residential schools, still living in abject poverty? What did it mean if the legal system still held to the fiction of Terra Nullius, Christopher Columbus and the Doctrine of Discovery?

There is an irony here. This is a celebrated song by a white, male Canadian singer whose moody music video suggests it is centred in his limited and privileged perspective on teenage angst. Yet, through an Indigenous lens, the lyric “And if your path won’t lead you home/ You can never surrender” is given the weight of history.

Armand Garnet Ruffo, Queen’s University

‘Rise Up,’ Parachute Club (1984)

In the final months of 1980, two events marked a new era in North America’s economic and cultural zeitgeist — Ronald Reagan’s election as president of the United States and, within weeks, John Lennon’s assassination. The ideals of the 1960s were officially dead. A new neo-liberal agenda — favouring individualism, competition, and, ultimately, massive inequality — was taking hold and by 1983, arms control and escalating international conflicts were also on the minds of many. Even music had lost its teeth: punk was waning, video gaming’s popularity was up and record sales were down, prompting music critic Anthony De Curtis to conclude that, “It hardly seemed as if music mattered at all.”

A black and white photo of people in the 1980s including a woman in a white suit and short hair holding a Juno statue.
Members of the Parachute Club, including singer Lorraine Segato (second left), celebrate after winning Juno awards for single of the year and most promising band at the Juno Awards in Toronto in 1984. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/CP)

But music did matter, and, in 1983, the Parachute Club’s release of “Rise Up” proved just that. Part of the song’s initial and enduring success is, of course, its infectious melody with its influences of Caribbean reggae and soca (the first Canadian pop hit to do so). The all-important lyrics were specific enough to inspire feminism (“woman’s time has come”), peace and queer rights (“freedom to love who we please”) but broad enough to rouse all who listened.

First performed at the 1983 Pride Parade, the song reflected a new hope in the era of the newly signed Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and, unsurprisingly, went on to become a queer anthem. In the Canadian video, the band, with a parade of youth, unabashedly and proudly danced through the streets of Toronto. In the face of personal adversity and international uncertainty, “Rise Up” helped many of us feel like we were visible, hopeful, and for a moment, free.

Kip Pegley, Queen’s University

‘Hot Child in the City,’ Nick Gilder (1979)

Single cover of man with long hair.
‘Hot Child in the City’ single, by Nick Glider. (Chrysalis)

In 1979, “Hot Child in the City” marked the second Best Selling Single Juno for Nick Gilder. His band, Sweeney Todd, scored the award two years earlier with “Roxy Roller.” The week “Hot Child” hit the top of the Billboard charts was a big one for Canada as Anne Murray’s “You Needed Me,” was No. 2. Gilder’s international success led him to write songs for artists that included Joe Cocker and Pat Benatar.

Gilder’s music and live performance place him in the realm of glam rock. Glam’s harder-edged sound and gender-bending associations are a precursor to punk, and many of its catchiest songs dealt with counter culture and the dark side of street life.

Energetic, infectious, though seemingly insubstantial songs by David Bowie and Gary Glitter of this era belie themes of heavy drug use and sexualized violence. Musically and thematically, “Hot Child in the City” bears some similarity to live versions of “Sweet Jane” by Lou Reed, one of the grittiest writers, in his glam days.

Listeners have missed it for years, but Gilder discussed the song’s darkness and the leering narrator voice of “Hot Child” with Rolling Stone. His lyrics are critical of the street scene and the predators who drive it, starkly contrasting the bouncy, catchy pop music that accompanies them.

Robbie MacKay, Queen’s UniversityThe Conversation


Robbie MacKay, Lecturer in Musicology, Dan School of Drama & Music, Queen's University, Ontario; Armand Garnet Ruffo, Professor in English, Cross-appointed with Languages, Literatures and Cultures, Queen's University, Ontario; Kip Pegley, Professor of Music, Queen's University, Ontario; Rebecca Draisey-Collishaw, Postdoctoral fellow, Dan School of Music, Queen's University, Ontario; Robert Morrison, Queen's National Scholar, Queen's University, Ontario; Tamar Faber, PhD Candidate, Communication and Culture, York University, Canada, and Vershawn Ashanti Young, Professor, Departments of English Langauge and Literature & Communication Arts, University of Waterloo

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

How to respond to the moral distress of the COVID-19 pandemic

The Conversation: To live well through and beyond the pandemic, we need to recognize the moral distress experienced by people, and especially health-care workers.

A health care worker sits on the floor and holds her head
Health-care professions like nursing are at risk of experiencing a post-pandemic exodus of workers due to burnout and moral distress. (Shutterstock)

The stories we hear and tell help us make meaning of our lives in the world. We communicate our thoughts and feelings, share knowledge and begin dialogue about things that matter.

Moral distress occurs when our core values are threatened or compromised, when we know what ethical action is called for and feel powerless to take it. As a nurse and an ethicist and spiritual care provider, we have witnessed the symptoms of moral distress in our clinical, administrative and academic work.

The ConversationIn health care, moral distress can be caused by external pressures such as policy guidelines or limited resources or internal factors such as self-doubt or fear of conflict. When we compromise our core values, we may feel shame, guilt or isolation. And when moral distress is unresolved, health-care workers can experience depression and other mental and spiritual health struggles.

The experience of moral distress among health-care providers has received much attention during the pandemic. In particular, the nursing profession anticipates high rates of post-pandemic exodus, almost certainly driven to a substantial degree by accumulated and unresolved moral distress.

Our work examines stories that look at what it means to live well through the COVID-19 pandemic, a grander story that is unprecedented in our lifetimes.

Moral distress stories

Early in the pandemic, the promise of returning to normal was tied to the development of a vaccine. At that time, there was little conversation about the challenges of vaccinating enough people to ensure herd immunity. Nor was there conversation about access, equity and staging of vaccination rollout.

Drawing from our own experience and research, we found that questions about the socio-political context of vaccination programs are rampant and complex. The following examples — developed from our experience and research findings — demonstrate how these challenges manifest in daily life.

Lin and her partner received early vaccination due to her partner’s chronic medical condition. As his primary care giver, Lin “jumped the queue” and got an early vaccine. She knows someone with diabetes who has not had their first dose and who lives in the hot spot of Peel Region, just east of Toronto. Was it right that Lin got hers before them?

Lin highly values her family. However, by using her privileged knowledge of the health care system to “jump the vaccine queue,” Lin fears that she compromised her value of caring for all people, especially those who are marginalized. As a result, she feels shame.

Sam followed the directive that the “first vaccine is the best vaccine.” They got the AstraZeneca vaccine. And now, months later, as they watched several provinces withdraw the vaccine for use as a first dose, Sam wonders: “What will happen next? Did I do the right thing or did I not take adequate responsibility for my health? Will my second dose be a different kind of vaccine? What are the risks? And what will happen to all that unused vaccine?”

Sam values informed consent and individual responsibility, and has feelings of regret over blindly accepting the first vaccine. Their confidence in science is dwindling. Sam feels powerlessness.

an illustration of a standing man with a wiry shadow attached to him
Feelings of being overwhelmed and experiencing frustration and helplessness can cause moral distress in health-care workers and others. (Shutterstock)

Both Sam and Lin question their core value of global social justice as they watch Canada backing away from the AstraZeneca vaccine in favour of other options.

To live well through this pandemic, we need to understand three things about experiences of moral distress:

1. Moral distress can affect everyone

Events and circumstances during this pandemic have routinely stretched and challenged core values. Not only are people experiencing the mental distress of living in a pandemic, but these feelings are often being compounded by the violation of people’s core values.

When people feel shame, they feel too embarrassed to tell anyone what they fear they have done. So they become increasingly isolated — on top of pandemic isolation. They feel they have damaged the core of their being.

To live well through this pandemic, we need to recognize that feelings of moral uncertainty and distress are normal and real.

2. Moral distress can produce both negative and positive outcomes

Unresolved moral distress can be debilitating. Paradoxically, it can help us to develop moral resiliency — the ability to maintain one’s moral integrity in trying situations, which requires experiences of moral adversity. When we practise standing up for what we believe, we can become better able to stand strong in the future. We can also become clearer about what our core values are such as family, caring, social justice, health or relationships.

The relationships that we find in community can help us to explore how to process moral uncertainty.

To live well through this pandemic we need to have our moral stories witnessed and normalized.

3. Moral distress can prompt self-reflection

Good things can come from moral adversity. Education about ethics is crucial including learning about core values and finding words to express core values. Studies show that understanding the language around ethics may be a significant factor in helping people resolve moral distress.

Take time to explore your core values. To live well through the pandemic is to know that our choices aren’t ideal and our knowledge is not complete.

We must look beyond ourselves to understand the values of others and the reality we face together.The Conversation


Deborah Tregunno, Associate Professor, School of Nursing, Queen's University, Ontario and Tracy J. Trothen, Professor of Ethics, School of Religion and School of Rehabilitation Therapy, Queen's University, Ontario

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

Funding new frontiers in research

The New Frontiers in Research Fund supports six innovative and interdisciplinary projects at Queen’s.

Six research projects at Queen’s have received funding from the New Frontiers in Research Fund’s (NFRF) 2020 Exploration competition, a program that encourages scholars to take risks, and that fosters discoveries and innovations that could have significant impacts on our world.

Queen’s researchers will receive $1.5 million ($250,000 per project) from the fund to advance interdisciplinary projects with multiple partners and collaborators. Nationally, the NFRF competition will provide $14.5 million in grants to researchers across Canada, funding 117 projects.

The Exploration competition results will support a wide range of research projects at the university, from creating interactive museum artifacts using digital fabrication methods to breakthroughs in brain injury therapy. Listed below are the funded projects:

  • With growing demand for cost-efficient and environmentally-friendly energy sources, nuclear energy may be a viable option to power both remote and on-grid communities. Small modular reactors (SMR) are scaled-down, flexible models of traditional nuclear plants, and many models rely on molten salts to transport thermal energy created by nuclear fission. However, materials performance in molten salt environments is poorly studied. Mark Daymond (Mechanical and Materials Engineering), Suraj Persaud (Mechanical and Materials Engineering), and collaborators will lead experiments evaluating materials in molten salts in the presence of radiation, a breakthrough for implementation of SMR technology globally.
  • Debate rages as Kingston struggles with the legacy of its most famous former resident, Sir John A. Macdonald, and his actions against Indigenous peoples whose lands and children were taken. Like communities worldwide, the city is at a historic juncture confronting cultural narratives of racism and dispossession. An interdisciplinary team led by Christine Sypnowich (Philosophy) will examine Kingston as a case study to address the social exclusion and historical trauma inherent in current understandings of heritage. Uniting conceptual investigation, health care practice, and cultural resurgence, the team of Indigenous and settler scholars will consider how community-based art practices can contribute to an inclusive heritage and help enable restorative healing for Indigenous and racialized people.
  • Pharmaceuticals have become contaminants of emerging concern through increased presence in the environment through wastewater, causing great risk to ecosystems and human health. A contributor to this issue is wastewater treatment facilities that are unable to eliminate pharmaceutical ingredients and excreted drug metabolites through their operating systems. Bas Vriens (Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering) and Martin Petkovich (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) aim to develop new technology that will act as a 'mega-liver', filtering out harmful pharmaceuticals in wastewater treatment facilities in a cost-efficient way to help ensure good health for our communities and environment.
  • R. David Andrew (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) is investigating the molecular mechanisms that lead to electrical failure and constriction of blood vessels, a process called spreading depolarization, caused by brain injury. By identifying these mechanisms, the research collaborators will challenge previous knowledge about brain injury therapy and treatments, and propose a method that may prevent loss of brain cells by blocking spreading depolarization, effectively reducing brain damage.
  • COVID-19 restrictions have brought about innovative ways to engage in cultural experiences virtually. Leveraging digital fabrication methods, such as 3-D scanning and printing, e-textiles and laser cutting, Sara Nabil (School of Computing) and collaborators will demonstrate how human-computer interaction can expand and enrich interactions with museum collections. The team will develop digital fabrication methods that resemble, complement, or augment traditional art. This breakthrough will make the museum experience more widely available to people with disabilities, those living in remote communities, those impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns and more.
  • Tumours that arise throughout the body called neuroendocrine neoplasms (NENs) cause metastatic disease in up to 50 per cent of patients, giving those diagnosed months to years to survive. However, the molecular basis of highly variable clinical outcomes is poorly understood. Neil Renwick (Pathology and Molecular Medicine), Kathrin Tyryshkin (School of Computing) and collaborators have proposed a radical new way to investigate NENs. The researchers propose using graph neural network models, typically used in computer science, to investigate the gene networks that drive or mediate tumor aggressiveness. The understanding of these molecular social networks may improve accurate knowledge of tumour behaviour and even treatment response, improving NEN clinical outcomes.

The NFRF’s Exploration competition supports research that defies current paradigms, bridges disciplines, or tackles fundamental problems from new perspectives. A key principle of this stream is the recognition that exploring new directions in research carries risk but that these risks are worthwhile, given their potential for significant impact.

“With the support of the NFRF, Queen’s researchers are bringing new ideas and methodologies to critical issues from wastewater treatment to rethinking cultural narratives,” say Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice-Principal (Research). “The potential impact and application of this work will be enhanced and advanced through collaborations that cross disciplinary boundaries.”

The NFRF is an initiative created by the Canada Research Coordinating Committee. It is managed by a tri-agency program on behalf of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. To find out more, visit the website.


Subscribe to RSS - Research Prominence