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William Leggett receives prestigious lifetime achievement award

Dr. William Leggett.

William Leggett, professor emeritus in the Department of Biology and Queen's 17th principal, has received the H. Ahlstrom Lifetime Achievement Award from the Early Life History Section of the American Fisheries Society for his contributions to the fields of larval fish ecology.

The American Fisheries Society is the biggest association of professional aquatic ecologists in the world, with over 9,000 members worldwide.

"œIt feels good to be singled out by such large group of people who I respect so highly," says Dr. Leggett. "œI didn'™t expect to receive this award so it'™s a big honour and thrill to get it."

Dr. Leggett'™s research focuses on the dynamics of fish populations and his work as a biologist and a leader in education has been recognized nationally and internationally. A membership in the Order of Canada, a fellowship from the Royal Society of Canada, and the Award of Excellence in Fisheries Education are just some of the awards he has received for outstanding contributions to graduate education and marine science.

The Early Life History Section of the American Fisheries Society recognized Dr. Leggett'™s "œexceptional contributions to the understanding of early life history of fishes that has inspired the careers of a number of fisheries scientists worldwide and has led to major progress in fish ecology and studies of recruitment dynamics."

The award was recently presented in Quebec City at the 38th annual Larval Fish Conference held in conjunction with the 144th annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society.


COVID-19 leaves youth forced out of foster care even more vulnerable

A homeless youth holds their head while sitting on the ground.
Once they turn 18, youth in foster care are required to fend for themselves. This includes finding shelter and services. (Shutterstock)

During the pandemic, Canadians have been asked to stay home to stay safe, yet thousands of youth are facing homelessness. Each year in Ontario, 800-1,000 youth age out of the child welfare system.

For most of these young people, turning 18 coincides with an abrupt withdrawal of their social supports as they simultaneously have to secure affordable housing, manage finances and finish high school.

Youth exiting the child welfare system are significantly less prepared to face these challenges than their peers, and many fare poorly. In Ontario, 58 per cent of these youth experience homelessness, 46 per cent report coming into conflict with the law and only 44 per cent of youth exiting the system graduate from high school.

In the early months of the pandemic, the Ontario Children’s Advancement Coalition (OCAC) and allied partners lobbied the Ontario government to stop the practice requiring youth to leave their care placements when they turn 18. In June 2020, the Ontario government placed a moratorium on this policy until March 31, 2021. Yet the pandemic continues and the clock is running out.

We research policy and work with youth and adults who are ensnared in the Canadian criminal justice system — many of whom have had contact with the child welfare system.

Challenging conditions in state care

Children who are deemed by child protective services (CPS) as experiencing abuse or neglect may be removed from their caregivers and placed under the guardianship of the state. Based on 2011 census data, there are 11,375 children in the child welfare system in Ontario. Black and Indigenous children are highly represented, with Indigenous children comprising 30 per cent of kids in care in Ontario.

Many children and youth under state guardianship report moving among multiple homes and sometimes cities. Youth reported to us that they can count on having at least one move for every year that they’re in the child welfare system, and some move multiple times in a year. Frequent moves can disrupt education, resulting in low rates of high school completion. Youth who don’t complete high school face challenges and are more likely to experience poverty and rely on government assistance.

This instability can create low levels of attachment, trust and relationship-building. Many youth contend with mental-health challenges, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, that have an impact on their mental, emotional, social, spiritual, physical and occupational wellness and development. It’s unsurprising that many youth describe feeling vulnerable and angry in these circumstances. Often youth are labelled oppositional and criminalized due to the way they behave, but this is in response to trauma and their circumstances.

From a youth we interviewed:

“[Being in the child welfare system] really changed my character. It really just changed who I was as a person.… I’ve been in [at least] 20 different places and you know, it’s just so much [stuff]. And that’s the thing. Like all this stuff, people don’t realize … for somebody like me, I’ve been so thrown around, like [basically] tossed around, like here, there, everywhere.”

Emerging adulthood

When youth under guardianship of the state turn 18, they are required to leave their foster care or group home placements. Some young people may continue to receive financial support after they turn 18 through the Continued Care and Support for Youth (CCYS) program. This financial support stops abruptly when they turn 21.

Psychologist Jeffrey Arnette’s theory of emerging adulthood recognizes a period of prolonged transition between late adolescence and fully independent adulthood. Emerging adulthood helps to explain shifting societal trends in recent decades.

Many emerging adults rely on their families for financial, housing and social support longer than in the past, often well into their 20s. More young people seek post-secondary education, face higher rates of unemployment and rising housing costs, and marry and have children at a later age, on average.

Despite these broader societal trends, currently youth in the child welfare system are required to leave their placements when they turn 18. While other young adults are able to gradually transition to independent adulthood, young people leaving care are abruptly forced into adulthood.

When asked how prepared they were for “independence,” one young person shared: “We all got like a Tupperware container, or a tub full of pots and pans and dishes and stuff like that. But yeah, there wasn’t really any preparation.”

Another added: “I just had to learn how to be a human on my own. Like, I had to learn everything that like a mom or like a parent or guardian is supposed to teach a kid from young.”

After the moratorium

Once the moratorium lifts on March 31, 2021, there will be a flood of young people leaving their homes and heading into a decimated housing and employment market.

Heather O'Keefe, executive director at StepStones for Youth, says:

“The devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have created further vulnerability for youth from the child welfare system with the lack of safe housing options, the loss of jobs, the inability to make rental payments and purchase essential items, and increased isolation and seclusion. The toll on the mental health of these youth has been exacerbated with the closure of libraries and schools, reduced services for people living in poverty, fewer opportunities to meet with counsellors and psychotherapists in person, and increased anxiety and suicide ideation.”

Our work with these young people underscores that the moratorium should be extended indefinitely. Rather than maintaining arbitrary age cut-offs for support, the provincial government should implement a readiness model.

This approach would work with every young person from the minute they enter the child welfare system to encourage better outcomes once they decide they are ready to be fully independent rather than being forced to leave care once they turn 18.

Youth leaving state guardianship have always been vulnerable. And with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, youth aging out of care will be in a much more vulnerable position, with potentially more severe impacts.

Cheyanne Ratnam co-authored this article. Cheyanne is the co-founder and executive lead of the OCAC, and an expert in the area of child welfare, homelessness and interconnected systems. Cheyanne also grew up in the child welfare system, experienced youth homelessness and was briefly engaged with the youth justice system.The Conversation


Marsha Rampersaud, PhD Candidate, Sociology, Queen's University and Linda Mussell, PhD Candidate, Political Studies, 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.

Exploring the future of Blackness

CBC's 21 Black Futures features film by Queen’s assistant professor that imagines a future in which calling the police is not the only option in an emergency.

The Witness Shift film team: Actor Uche Ama, playwright Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, and director Sarah Waisvisz
Queen's assistant professor Sarah Waisvisz directs actor Uche Ama in film adaptation of Donna-Michelle St. Bernard's play Witness Shift for CBC and Obsidian Theatre's 21 Black Futures. (Supplied photo).

Over the past year, shocking killings by law enforcement and waves of activism sparked a mainstream discussion about ‘defunding the police’. At its core, the concept asks us to imagine if calling the police weren’t the only option during a crisis – an idea explored in a new short film called Witness Shift, directed by Queen’s assistant professor Sarah Waisvisz for Obsidian Theatre and CBC’s 21 Black Futures.

The 21 Black Futures is a theatre-film anthology project that united 21 Black directors with 21 Black playwrights, and 21 Black actors to create 21 monodramas exploring the question: What is the future of Blackness?

“This project was so life-giving,” says Dr. Waisvisz, whose scholarly work has explored Afro-Caribbean traditions, community, ritual, and storytelling. “I can’t tell you how amazing it was to work on something in the company of so many Black and BIPOC creators all committed to the same vision of honouring and uplifting the Black-Canadian experience.”

Her film, written by acclaimed Canadian playwright Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, stars Uche Ama as a senior emergency services dispatcher – called a Witness – as they train a new recruit on how to respond to emergency calls. Ama’s character fields calls from people experiencing a range of problems – anything from a request for protection to a lost dog or mental health distress – dispatching social workers, therapists, activists, or community supports as each situation demands.

“Isn’t there another way to serve and protect our communities so we can meet the needs of the most vulnerable?” reads Dr. Waisvisz’s director’s note on the CBC website. “This play offers us a model to explore the steps we need to take to transform our society so each of us can truly be seen in our full humanity.”

Dr. Waisvisz also directed the entire film via video call – an experience akin to her new role as a faculty member of the Dan School of Drama and Music.

“I am thrilled to be part of a dynamic department and to teach inspiring students, but of course being a pandemic-year new faculty member means my life is all Zoom, all the time,” says Dr. Waisvisz, who joined Queen’s in July 2020. “I am amazed though by how much intimacy is nevertheless possible through video call if trust is built and nurtured – whether it be with actors or students. It’s not simple, but I’m so glad to be able to create meaningful work and engage meaningfully with my students even from afar.”

In addition to her position at Queen’s, Dr. Waisvisz is an accomplished playwright and performer. She continues to tour her solo show Monstrous about mixed-race identity, and her play Heartlines, about fighting white-supremacy and fascism, opened at Ottawa’s Undercurrents Festival to sold-out audiences.

You can view Dr. Waisvisz’s film Witness Shift on CBC Gem as well as the entire 21 Black Futures project.

Creativity in the online classroom

Classics professor Barbara Reeves holds excavating tools as she sits on an orange Kubota tractor.
In her first-year archaeology class, Barbara Reeves (Classics) has travelled all over Kingston filming herself talking about archaeological methods and procedures in interesting locations. (Supplied photo)

With the ongoing pandemic, professors and instructors in the Faculty of Arts and Science have had to rethink the ways they connect with students. Several courses have been adapted to the new world of online learning including redesigning the use of textbooks, using Zoom technology for performances, and exploring archaeology virtually.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the landscape of education across the country,” says Barbara Crow, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Science. “Not only have many of us learned new technologies and pedagogies, it has also been challenging for faculty with uneven access to WIFI, parenting with small children, parents in long term care and the longer hours to learn. They have also found new and innovative ways of delivering their courses and course materials. I continue to be amazed by the energy, enthusiasm, and creativity of our teaching and instructional design teams, and I am always pleased to hear and share their stories”

What follows is just five stories that show how our educators are enriching the student experience in unique and creative ways:

Barbara Reeves (Classics) brought a unique teaching twist to her first-year archaeology class. She travelled all over Kingston filming herself talking about archaeological methods and procedures in interesting locations.

One week she introduced excavation tools while standing in front of a fake ruin in a friend’s backyard. Another week Dr. Reeves discussed survey techniques next to an abandoned railway track in farmer’s field. In other weeks she filmed in city parks, in front of construction sites, and on Queen’s campus. In each case she sought out an interesting location to support the learning of that week’s material.

“Both the students and I really enjoyed the result and I think such videos will now be part of my teaching even when we return to the classrooms,” says Dr. Reeves. “I feel there is too much focus on the problems and difficulties with remote teaching so I’m hoping we can counter that with some good news stories such as my own.” 

The Dan School of Drama and Music commissioned librettist Donna-Michelle St. Bernard and composer Afarin Mansouri to write a mini Zoom opera specifically for students in Colleen Renihan’s Music Theatre Ensemble. These students are experimenting with ways to capture online, aspects of community, co-presence, and immediacy that are valued in live music theatre. 

"This is an incredibly difficult time for performing artists but rather than simply press pause and wait for some semblance of normalcy to return, my students and I are leveraging the possibilities of the digital space to re-imagine our preoccupations with liveness, co-presence, and immediacy,” says Dr. Renihan. “Guided by these industry professionals, we are discovering what remote collaboration and performance can look like for music theatre in this new space."

The Department of Psychology recently redesigned PSYC100 with the aim of bringing contemporary and rigorous insights to students in such a way that promotes access. As part of this redesign, PSYC100 now uses a free Open Access textbook, with chapters written by leading experts across the world.

The course instructor, Meghan Norris, along with her undergraduate and a number of graduate teaching assistants, create rapport through weekly booster videos designed to address common facts from the course discussion board in the previous week. PSYC100 also uses informal check-ins through onQ to see how students are doing, and to look for ways to tweak the course to meet the needs of students studying all over the world.

Isabelle St-Amand (French Studies) is currently developing a course for the French for Professionals Certificate, titled Indigenous Arts and Contexts. This ASO online course is intended for distance students who are professionals working in relation to Indigenous arts and contexts (artistic and cultural organizations, education, government). It is designed to provide learners with the oral and written skills necessary to accurately understand and effectively engage with Indigenous arts and contexts in the workplace.

“The innovative aspect is how the course offers students multiple encounters with Indigenous artists who produce work in French, in an Indigenous language, or in translation, and with the diversity of course format (video recordings, film previews, short texts, interviews, etc.),” says Dr. St-Amand. “The course was developed with great care to maintain connections I have developed over the years with artists and organizations from the Indigenous arts community, to showcase and to reflect their work and vision. It could be described in some ways as an effort to Indigenize the French language for students studying it as a second or third language.”

In the Dan School of Drama and Music John Burge used Feedback Fruits Video for asynchronous preparation of a fall-term course on Mahler Symphonies, in which the class prepared ahead by watching videos that he had annotated with commentary and questions. Dr. Burge noted that because Feedback Fruits is available in onQ, it was an easy matter to select YouTube videos for this purpose. Additionally, any marks generated from the activity were connected directly to the onQ grade book and it was simply a one-click process to publish the grades.

“Mahler Symphonies are between 60-90 minutes long and with so many great performances of these works on YouTube, it was easy to feature a different orchestra and conductor for each Mahler Symphony,” says Dr. Burge. “The annotated videos included multiple choice questions drawn from that week’s assigned reading or by asking comparative questions with earlier symphonies. You could easily use Feedback Fruits Videos to increase student attention to any course’s video content and I will certainly be using it again in the future.”

This article was first published by the Faculty of Arts and Science. If you have an example of innovative and creative teaching techniques within the Faculty of Arts and Science, email anne.craig@queensu.ca for inclusion in the Faculty of Arts and Science’s monthly feature.

Partnering with industry to advance technological innovation

Over $6 million has been awarded to Queen’s researchers through NSERC’s Alliance grants to collaborate with industry partners in areas such as computing, wireless communications, and nuclear power.

The Government of Canada recently announced its investment of $118 million in funding through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) inaugural Alliance grants program. More than $6 million was secured by 12 Queen’s researchers, with four projects awarded more than $1 million each. Of the 20 projects that received more than $1 million, Queen’s and the University of Calgary tied for attracting the largest individual investments.

The Alliance grants program was established in 2019 to provide resources to support greater collaboration in research and development between researchers and partner organizations in the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors. The goal is to develop collaborative teams with different skills and perspectives to generate new knowledge in the natural sciences and engineering and accelerate the real-world application of research results.

“My congratulations to our researchers and industry partners on their extraordinary success in the new Alliance program,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice Principal (Research). “Through their work, we will advance knowledge in fields critical to the prosperity and economic growth of Canadians.”

The four Queen’s projects that received more than $1 million in funding are:

Edge Computing

[Group photo with a large cheque]
Researchers Hossam Hassanein and Sameh Sorour (Computing) with partners from Kings Distributed Systems, including President Dan Desjardins (PhD'15). 

Queen’s researcher Hossam Hassanein, Director of the School of Computing, has received $1.2 million to develop “A Framework for Democratized Edge Computing and Intelligence” with industry partner and Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation collaborator, Kings Distributed Systems (KDS). Edge computing is a distributed, open IT architecture that has significant impact on user quality of service and will likely be a necessary component of all digital business by as early as 2022. This project will focus on creating distributed edge computing clusters that will make this technology accessible to all, reduce existing monopoly power of cloud service providers and network operators, and open an entirely new market for Canadian businesses and governments. Working with KDS, Dr. Hassanein also intends to train more than 20 highly qualified personnel to further advance edge computing technologies and applications.

[Photo of Praveen Jain in the ePower centre]
Praveen Jain, Canada Research Chair in Power Electronics

Renewable Nano Power Grid

A team of researchers led by Praveen Jain with Majid Pahlevani and Suzan Eren at the Queen’s Centre for Energy and Power Electronics Research (ePOWER) received $1.2 million in funding to partner with Cistel Technology and EION Wireless to develop a “Renewable Nano Power Grid for Wireless Communications.” Modern communications networks employ wireless towers at remote locations where grid power may not be available. Dr. Jain and his team are venturing into the next-generation renewable nano energy grid that will provide “five nines” availability required in the communications networks.

Nuclear Energy

Queen’s researcher Suraj Persaud, UNENE Research Chair in Corrosion Control and Materials Performance, secured funding for two projects related to nuclear energy. The first is a partnership with Bruce Power, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, Ontario Power Generation, and UNENE, with $1.4 million in support, to investigate “Corrosion Control and Materials Performance in Nuclear Power Systems.” In collaboration with the University of Toronto, Dr. Persaud will investigate metallic corrosion, in particular the combined effect of irradiation and corrosion on material performance in nuclear power plants and small modular reactors. Application of innovative microscopy methods will be a key component to identify the effects of stress and corrosion on materials degradation at the nanoscale. The team will leverage state-of-art research infrastructure, such as the proton accelerator and microscopy facilities, available at the Ontario Centre for Characterization of Advanced Materials (OCCAM) in Toronto and the Reactor Materials Testing Laboratory (RMTL) at Queen’s.

[Photo of Suraj Persaud]
Suraj Persaud, UNENE Research Chair in Corrosion Control and Materials Performance

Dr. Persaud’s second project applies the same focus on nanoscale corrosion and materials degradation to the safe disposal of nuclear waste, an often-cited drawback of nuclear energy. With $1.03 million in funding, Dr. Persaud has partnered with the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) to collaborate on the “Advanced Characterization and Modelling of Degradation in Nuclear Waste Canister Materials” with an interdisciplinary scientific approach and a diverse team of senior and early-stage researchers. NWMO is the organization mandated to develop a plan for disposal of spent fuel, which is currently focused on design and commission of the deep geological repository (DGR) where spent nuclear fuel is stored in a multi-barrier system. Dr. Persaud and his team will work with NWMO scientists to employ novel microscopy, experimental and modelling methods, and state-of-the-art facilities to study micro-to-atomic scale interactions and the performance of materials proposed for DGR application with the ultimate goal of ensuring Canada’s safe and responsible disposal of nuclear waste.

Nine other projects were funded through the program, including:

Researcher Partner(s) Project Title Amount
Kevin Mumford (Civil Engineering) McMillan-McGee Enhanced in situ thermal treatment of soil and groundwater: high temperature treatment and combined remedies $320,000
Mark Daymond, Canada Research Chair in Nuclear Materials and Mechanics of Materials  Kinectrics Mechanistic understanding of hydrided region overload cracking $292,000
Yan-Fei Liu (Electrical and Computer Engineering)  GaNPower International, Magna International Technology development for high efficiency high power density EV DC – DC converter $259,190
Victoria Friesen (Biology) African Lion Safari, Wildlife Preservation Canada Population management and recovery of the endangered loggerhead shrike $118,632
Carlos Saavedra (Electrical and Computer Engineering) Guildline Instruments Broadband gallium nitride power amplifier for microwave calibration instrumentation $111,000
Laurent Karim Béland (Mechanical and Materials Engineering) Canadian Nuclear Laboratories Development of artificial neural networks to analyze micrographs of zirconium-based alloys and hydrides for nuclear power applications $90,000
Aristides Docoslis (Chemical Engineering) Correctional Service of Canada, Spectra Plasmonics A portable illicit drug detection device for Correctional Service Canada $60,000
Kimberley Mcauley (Chemical Engineering) National Research Council of Canada, Natural Resources Canada Variability and uncertainty analysis of wood waste as a feedstock for gasification $40,000
Julian Ortiz (Mining; Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering) ArcelorMittal Mining Canada G.P. Geometallurgical modeling of mining complexes: testing causal hypothesis to improve plant performance $40,000

For more information about the Alliance program, visit the NSERC website.

Balancing vaccine hope with pandemic reality

Dr. Bonnie Henry discusses the current state of the pandemic at this year’s Duncan G. Sinclair Lectureship.

The COVID-19 vaccines are allowing people to start imagining the end of the pandemic, but at the same time daily life continues to be disrupted and people around the world remain at risk of the virus. Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer for British Columbia, discussed the complexities of this current situation on Feb. 10 in her talk “Balancing vaccine hope with pandemic reality,” which was this year’s Duncan G. Sinclair Lectureship in Health Services and Policy Research. The Sinclair Lectureship is co-presented by the Queen’s School of Policy Studies (SPS) and the Health Services and Policy Research Institute at Queen’s.

“The vaccine is our light on the horizon, but we are still in a long and dark tunnel. And this will be the hardest time. It will take the greatest toll on us now, personally and professionally. We must look to our own personal resilience, our psychological stamina, and how we can support each other to get through this phase,” said Dr. Henry in her presentation.

Dr. Henry touched on many different aspects of the pandemic in her lecture, including how life has changed, the lessons that have been learned, and the ways people have responded. She also discussed the ways in which COVID-19 has highlighted the inter-connectedness of the world, as well as its inequities.

“I have said many times that we’re all in the same storm globally, but we are not all in the same boat. We have seen that over and over again. Whether it’s racialized people, Indigenous peoples, certain countries and communities around the planet have been disadvantaged more than others,” said Dr. Henry.

After her lecture, Dr. Henry took questions from a virtual audience that tuned in via Zoom from across Canada. The Q&A portion of the event was moderated by Dr. Kieran Moore, Medical Officer of Health (Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox, and Addington Health Unit) and Professor, Family and Emergency Medicine, at Queen’s. Dr. David Walker, Special Advisor to the Principal on COVID-19 and Professor of Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine, and Policy Studies at Queen’s, introduced Dr. Henry at the beginning of the lecture.

“It was an honour for Queen’s to present Dr. Henry’s thought-provoking lecture. The Duncan G. Sinclair Lectureship is always a highlight for the university, as it brings leaders in health policy to share their insights on the most pressing issues of the day with our community,” says Warren Mabee, Director, Queen’s School of Policy Studies.

The lectureship is named in honour of Duncan G. Sinclair, who held multiple decanal and vice-principal roles at Queen’s before retiring in 1996. Learn more about Dr. Sinclair and the Duncan G. Sinclair Lectureship in Health Services and Policy Research on the SPS website.

Watch Dr. Henry’s lecture on the SPS YouTube channel.

Share your passion for International Day of Women and Girls in Science

On Feb. 11, Queen’s will recognize the United Nations’ International Day of Women and Girls in Science by encouraging the campus community to share their passion for STEM by sharing their research contributions on Twitter and tagging @queensuResearch.

This year marks the sixth anniversary of the international recognition day, which promotes full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls. According to UNESCO’s Science Report, only 33 per cent of researchers globally are women. International Day of Women and Girls in Science is meant to celebrate and inspire present and future women in STEM disciplines.

Share your content and follow @queensuResearch as we retweet and highlight some of our Queen’s researchers and their contributions to groundbreaking STEM research.

[International Day of Women and Girls in Science]

Computers powered by light and brain networks

Researcher Bhavin Shastri believes neuromorphic photonics could solve complex computer optimization challenges and advance machine-learning applications.

In a new study published in Nature Photonics, lead author Bhavin Shastri (Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy) worked alongside an international team to examine how neuromorphic photonics, a field that uses light (instead of electronics) and neural “brain-like” networks, could improve the speed and efficiency of computing systems.    

The von Neumann bottleneck

Modern-day computers are designed using von Neumann architecture in which the fast processor is physically separated from the slower data and program memories. This arrangement allows for easy reprogramming but limits computer speeds and wastes power and energy as information must be continuously transferred between memory and processor, a concept known as the “von Neumann bottleneck.”

To explore how to address the von Neumann bottleneck, Dr. Shastri and colleagues looked to the field of neuromorphic photonics computing, which leverages the strengths of optical physics and neural networks, inspired by the human brain. Here, signal transmission and processing are powered by light energy (photons) instead of electronics (electrons), allowing for higher bandwidths and lower energy losses.

[Photo of photonic lights]

Neural networks

Unlike computers that process digital information sequentially, neural networks in our brains are highly interconnected, distributed, parallel, and well-suited to processing analogue information. The neural “brain-like” networks that inspire photonics allow for: 1) massive interconnection (photons of different wavelengths or “colours” do not interact); 2) parallelization (all wavelengths can co-exist in a single waveguide); and 3) analogue information can be encoded in the phase or intensity of light.

Shastri and collaborators believe that neuromorphic photonic processors have the potential to solve complex computing optimization problems and further develop artificial intelligence algorithms and machine-learning applications.

“Neuromorphic photonic computing has the potential to revolutionize the speed, energy efficiency, and throughput of modern computing,” says Dr. Shastri. “It’s a very exciting development and it is our hope that this study will help demystify an emerging area that could enable fundamental breakthroughs in fields of computer engineering and physics.”

The research was published in Nature Photonics on Jan. 29, 2021.

Queer support launched at Queen’s

Queen’s University and the Faculty of Arts and Science has officially announced the formation of a new Employee Resource Group (ERG) designed to create a more inclusive and supportive workplace for LGTBQ2S+ employees.

The Queen’s University Association for Queer Employees (QUAQE) was recently approved for funding as an ERG by the Office of the Provost. 

The Queen’s University Association for Queer Employees (QUAQE) was recently approved for funding as an ERG by the Office of the Provost. These ERGs help create an inclusive workplace by giving equity-seeking groups a formal structure to support their unique needs. Teri Shearer, Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion), in partnership with Human Resources (HR) and the Human Rights and Equity Office (HREO), provides support for ERGs working to build and support communities for equity-seeking groups on campus.

QUAQE was first created around 2005 when the local queer community organization (KLGBTA) had recently dissolved and employees at Queen’s were looking for an opportunity to create a safe space for queer staff and faculty to come together, advocate, socialize, and support one another.

“When I started at Queen’s in 2017 ERGs were just starting to become big in the corporate sector, and Queen’s was the first to have an ERG in the postsecondary sector with Queen’s Women’s Network,” says Sarah Bunting, QUAQE organizing committee member and Academic Advisor and Assistant Academic Consideration Coordinator within the Faculty of Arts and Science.  “This ERG is important in many ways. First, it will rejuvenate the queer community at Queen’s. Because being queer is oftentimes invisible, we commonly share spaces with other queer people without realizing it. This is why the social aspect is so important. It is important for us to connect with each other as a community and build visibility so we know who we can reach out to for support and who our allies on campus are.”

She further explained that: “Another key reason this group is important is to develop opportunities for professional development, educational seminars, etc., that are targeted directly at the needs of our community. Bringing our voices together can help us build some of these resources, as well as use our collective voice to ask for resources required from Queen’s as an institution.”

QUAQE will provide a number of vital services on campus including:

  • Supplying information and resources for LGBTQ2S+ employees of Queen’s at varying career and queer stages (new employees, newly queer/coming out employees, long-term employees, past employees). 
  • Developing a community from which to organize and advocate.
  • Building a robust social and supportive community for queer employees at Queen’s which will act as a recruitment and retention strategy. 
  • Partnering with other ERG’s through mentorship activities for career advancement, networking, and community supports (recognizing our intersectionality as employees).
  • Provide professional development support to LGTBQ2S+ employees through guest speakers, networking, and skills.

With the annual general meeting of QUAQE set for April 15th at 3pm, the executive committee already has several planned activities for the coming year including social opportunities within COVID-19 guidelines, educational opportunities, mentorship, and advocacy.

“Being part of QUAQE has been a real lifeline throughout the pandemic, with regular happy hours, physically-distanced hikes, and community resources,” says Mark Richardson, Education and Outreach Officer, McDonald Institute and a member of QUAQE’s organizing committee. “I highly recommend any queer employee to join, to be part of this community, to get involved, and have access to the various resources that are shared across the ERG.”

QUAQE draws participation from staff, student employees, and faculty members from a variety of faculties, schools, and research centres across campus. The newly-formed group is also looking for volunteers to join the organizing committee.

“The formation of QUAQE has been an exciting process,” says Alexandra Pedersen, Faculty of Arts and Science Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Indigeneity Implementation Committee. “Not only have we strengthened connections across campus amongst queer employees, but we've also built relationships to collaborate with other ERG's for mutual opportunities.”

For information on how to join the new QUAQE ERG, please contact them at quaqe@queensu.ca.

The Employee Resource Groups initiative was developed as a way to promote the career development of equity-seeking groups on campus. The first group, Queen’s Women’s Network – previously known as Young Women at Queen’s – was launched in 2015 and continues to play an important role at the university. A second group – Women in Science Queen’s (WiSQ) – was formed in 2019.

Student summer research opportunities open to undergraduates

The Vice-Principal (Research) portfolio is seeking applicants for the Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowships (USSRF) program. This annual summer program offers opportunities for students to engage with research-based learning and develop their research and presentation skills.

USSRF primarily focuses on the promotion of research in the field of social sciences, humanities, and/or creative arts. This year, the program is offering a minimum of 21 fellowships at a value of $6,000 each.

To be eligible, student participants must be currently enrolled in a bachelor’s degree at the undergraduate level and must have completed a full year of studying at Queen’s. Additionally, students must be returning for undergraduate studies following the completion of the fellowship. Before the commencement of the research project, both the student and their faculty supervisor must submit all required documentation, including a completed application form from both parties. Working with a faculty supervisor at the undergraduate level is a unique aspect of the USSRF program, providing a window into the research process for students considering graduate studies.

Program applications are available on the Vice-Principal (Research) website and must be submitted by Monday, March 1, 2021. For more information on past USSRF projects, see The Gazette coverage of the 2020 participants for summaries and presentation recordings.


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