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    LIVES LIVED: Intellectually challenging and a force of nature

    Ron Weisman obtained his PhD from Michigan State University in 1964 and was hired as Assistant Professor of Psychology at Queen’s University in that same year. Ron was promoted to Associate Professor in 1970, Professor in 1977, cross appointed to the Department of Biology in 1993, and finally promoted to Professor Emeritus in 2000.

    In sum, Ron was a professor at Queen’s for over 50 years.

    Ron Weisman

    He is well known for his numerous significant contributions to our understanding of animal learning, cognition, and behaviour. Maybe more important, but not so easily tallied with facts and numbers, are the more qualitative and impactful contributions that Ron made to the research areas in which he was so totally and passionately invested during his long and productive career but that escape the accountant’s ledger.

    Of these less quantifiable, but absolutely important contributions, one cannot hope to produce a comprehensive report here. And Ron himself would not want such a thing. “Too many words that no one is likely to read or care about” would probably be his quip in response to such an idea.

    No, the manner in which Ron operated and conducted himself is best described using the words of those who have commented about his influence in the days since his passing. Strong themes like “force of nature,” “intellectually challenging,” “passionate,” “inspiring,” are a constant in Ron’s colleagues’ narratives shared in conversations, social media, and emails.

    Never one to back down from a challenge, Ron reinvented his research career from the ground up when he realized an opportunity to pursue new more challenging but meaningful problems. This categorical change came when Ron was at a point in his career in which most people would be happy to simply maintain the currently successful status quo until retirement.

    Not Ron. Instead, and in spite of, or perhaps, because of, the fear of the unknown, Ron forged a second, even more well-known career for himself, combining research in learning, cognition, ethology, and neuroscience in a manner not often done, certainly not with the same effect. While on this new path, Ron continued to make significant contributions to the scientific literature and to the field through the founding of the Comparative Cognition Society, and their flagship online and open access journal, Comparative Cognition & Behavior Reviews.

    Perhaps Ron’s most enduring legacy will be of the contributions that he made to the mentorship and encouragement of young scientists. Many successful scientists owe their “academic legs” to Ron’s strong and generous support and wisdom. Ron posed challenging questions and championed points of view that were sometimes controversial and always aimed at pushing back the darkness to, as Ron put it, “explain nature.”

    Ron always managed to be engaging, encouraging, and able to coax the absolute best out of everyone who was willing to meet his enthusiasm and level of commitment to science. Ron’s enthusiasm, wit, candor, compassion, and his huge smile will be sorely missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him. What a guy.

    Christopher B. Sturdy and Marcia L. Spetch are professors with the Department of Psychology at the University of Alberta, co-editors of Comparative Cognition & Behaviour Reviews and colleagues of Dr. Weisman’s.

    Majors Night a major success

    • Arts and Science Majors Night
      Hundreds of first-year students filled Grant Hall on Thursday evening for the first Arts and Science Majors Night.
    • Arts and Science Majors Night
      Students looking to declare a major were able to ask questions and learn about each program in the Faculty of Arts and Science.
    • Arts and Science Majors Night
      Hundreds of first-year students filled Grant Hall on Thursday evening for the first Arts and Science Majors Night.
    • Arts and Science Majors Night
      Each Departmental Student Council was represented by students who have already gone through the process of selecting a major.
    • Arts and Science Majors Night
      Students who have already gone through the process of selecting a major were available to talk about their experiences.

    Hundreds of first-year students who have yet to declare a major crowded into Grant Hall on Thursday evening for the first Arts and Science Majors Night.

    Students were able to meet and ask questions of students who have already gone through the process, with booths being set up by each Departmental Student Council (DSC).

    Attendees were able to compare the different programs they are considering and explore if they line up with their interests and future goals.

    Queen’s also recently created “major maps” for all 44 of its undergraduate programs. The maps provide advice on academics, extracurricular activities, networking, international opportunities and career development, providing support before, during and after students earn their degree.

    Students can access print versions of the maps through their faculty or department advisers. Career Services has also posted the maps online in web and accessible formats.

    The Faculty of Arts and Science also has information that can be found online and posted a new video to help student in the process of choosing a major.

    Majors Night is a partnership between Career Services in the Division of Student Affairs, the Faculty of Arts and Science, the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS), and the Arts and Science Departmental Student Councils.

    Conference pays homage to Queen’s legend

    There’s often an urge to exaggerate the accomplishments of our forebears, embellishing their successes and abilities to the point where they become more legend than reality.

    For a person like George Whalley though, overstating the volume and breadth of his achievements is nearly impossible. He was a war hero who took part in the sinking of the Bismarck during the Second World War, an inventor of a naval navigation beacon, helped found the Kingston Symphony, was head of the Queen’s English Department for two terms and wrote multiple books of poetry and literary criticism. It’s a long list, but still doesn’t record all his accomplishments.   

    George Whalley
    The life and career of George Whalley will be the focus of a three-day conference  being hosted at Queen’s by the Department of English Language and Literature from July 24-26. (Portrait by Elizabeth Tatchell Harrison)

    To celebrate the centenary of Whalley’s birth, a three-day conference is being hosted at Queen’s by the Department of English Language and Literature from July 24-26. Rather than a strictly academic conference, the event will be just as multi-faceted as Whalley’s life. Its first day will focus on Romanticism and Aesthetics, Whalley’s primary academic focuses, the second will focus on the man himself and his legacy, and the third day will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Canadian Writer’s Conference, which was held in 1955 at Queen’s. 

    “One conference on one subject wouldn’t be enough to cover everything that Whalley achieved and what he meant to Queen’s,” says Shelley King, head of the English Department. “The scope of his intellectual endeavors was something that resonated not just with other academics, but the broader public as well. A recognized man of letters, he was a public intellectual in the 1960s when higher education was starting to expand and there was extraordinary popular support for university work.”

    Open to a wide audience of academics, writers and interested members of the Kingston community, the conference will have heavyweights of Canadian literature as well. Famed Canadian author and Queen’s grad Michael Ondaatje (MA’67) will be present as well as Giller Prize-winner Elizabeth Hay. Ondaatje studied at Queen’s while Whalley was a professor and Hay was inspired by Whalley’s work on John Hornby during the writing of Late Nights on Air. Both authors will be presenting on the conference’s second day.

    Though the conference is being hosted at Queen’s, much of its organization has been handled by Michael DiSanto, associate professor and head of the Department of English and Film at Algoma University. Dr. DiSanto has for some years now been working with Whalley’s poetry and essays, is writing a biography of Whalley’s astonishing life and wishes the work of this prominent Canadian was better known.

    “Seemingly everything he chose to do, he did very, very well,” Dr. DiSanto says. “He was an exceptionally thoughtful and accomplished Canadian, and I see him as part of a trio that includes Northrop Frye and George Grant.”

    Along with the conference’s presentations will be a number of social events. A chamber music performance will be held at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts on the evening of July 25 and a dinner will be held at the HMCS Cataraqui where Whalley was commanding officer in the early 1950s.

    More information about the conference can be found at GeorgeWhalley.ca.

    Book takes flight with awards

    [Bob Montgomerie]
    Bob Montgomerie (Biology) holds up a copy of Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology Since Darwin, the book he co-authored with Tim Birkhead of the University of Sheffield and Jo Wimpenny. The book has recently won a number of awards. (University Communications)

    Much like the plumage of the Bird of Paradise on its cover, a recently-published book on ornithology, co-written by Queen’s University’s Bob Montgomerie (Biology), is garnering a lot of attention. Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology Since Darwin is earning rave reviews and a slew of awards for its depth, reach and readability.

    The book recently was named the best book in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology category of the American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE) and was listed by CHOICE, a magazine of the American Library Association, as one of the Outstanding Academic Titles of 2014.

    This is no mere “bird book.” Ten Thousand Birds is an in-depth scholarly look at the major scientific advances in ornithology since the time of Charles Darwin.

    The project was started by Tim Birkhead, a zoology professor at the University of Sheffield and a long-time colleague and friend of Dr. Montgomerie. Birkhead had earlier published a book called Wisdom of Birds, looking at the entire history of ornithology, but in the new book wanted to focus on the 20th century, something he had little space for in Wisdom. He knew it would be a tough task so he turned to his friend at Queen’s, who would also bring a North American perspective to the work.

    The initial plan was for Dr. Montgomerie to research, edit and supplement what Dr. Birkhead’s initial drafts, as they had done in other collaborations. They also enlisted the help of Jo Wimpenny, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Sheffield at the time to do some of the background research and interviews. But it soon became apparent that the task of writing was too much for one person. A point of pride for the authors is that no one, not even close colleagues, has been able to tell who wrote what chapter. “The writing was very much a totally cooperative effort,” says Dr. Montgomerie.

    Overall, the project took five years, including a sabbatical year for Montgomerie in 2009. The most difficult part was choosing what to include and what to omit, he says, adding that the team easily had enough material to write 10 volumes. But a multi-volume work wasn’t the goal, and even the most flexible publisher has limits.

    So they whittled their initial 30 chapter plan down to 11, making some tough choices. One obvious chapter that was let go was on birdsong. But as Dr. Montgomerie points out some excellent books had just been published on that topic and they figured they couldn’t improve on those. It was better to stay focused on other areas.

    In the end, research and fact checking took up the most time. Thankfully though, the internet proved to be a timesaver, especially the Biodiversity Heritage Library, a consortium of university and academic libraries that are scanning rare books and historic studies onto the web.

    Without the internet, Dr. Montgomerie estimates Ten Thousand Birds would have been a 30-year project, at least.

    For example, Dr. Montgomerie needed to check a book on avian anatomy written by a German scientist in 1878. He did an online search and quickly found what he needed in about 10 minutes. Until very recently, he figures, the search would have taken a month and at significant cost, including traveling to the library and getting the excerpt translated.

    Other times, he says, he would be looking for rare publication and, after not being able to locate it online, would put the search aside for a while. A month or two later, another search would prove fruitful. There is just that much old material being scanned and made available online.

    At the heart of the book, are the men and women involved in pushing ornithology forward since the time of Darwin. This, perhaps, is why the book is getting the most attention from readers.

    Limited in what they could include in the book, Dr. Montgomerie says they chose to write mainly about people and their discoveries. Some people were obvious, because they are such big names, but they also chose people who were interesting that nobody knows about.

    An example is Hilda Cinat-Thompson, who, living in Latvia in 1927, did a “fabulous study” on mate choice, half a century before it became an important area of study.

    “We’re pretty sure few people had ever heard of her. We couldn’t find out anything about her either but we thought this is the kind of thing we wanted to put in this book that would make people go, ‘Oh wow, I didn’t know about that,’” says Dr. Montgomerie. “We wanted to include a bunch of people who made really great contributions that nobody had heard of. That’s what makes a book like this both interesting and academically useful.”

    Making their mark on the big screen

    Hopeless Romantic screens on opening night at the KCFF.

    When she got an email letting her know that her film, Hopeless Romantic, would be screened as part of the 15th annual Kingston Canadian Film Festival (KCFF), Mickayla Pike, Artsci’16, felt one thing: shock. Ms. Pike, a third-year student in the stage and screen program, and her team of six created their five-minute short in 72 hours as part of the university’s Focus Film Festival. Though the film won a slew of awards, Ms. Pike says she had no idea that the organizers had submitted to the KCFF for consideration.

    “The whole thing has been a bit of a whirlwind,” says Ms. Pike of her directorial debut. Hopeless Romantic tells the story of a young woman who spends her time watching romantic comedies, and then reenacting famous scenes in a bid to attract men. In one example, she reenacts a scene from Titantic at the front of the Wolfe Island ferry. Ms. Pike says she is thrilled that the film will be making its debut at the KCFF just ahead of the festival’s opening night feature.

    “We are grateful just to have been included in the festival,” says Ms. Pike on behalf of her team. “We are surprised and happy, and just plan to live in the moment!”

    Jargon tells the story of a man with Asperger’s syndrome. 

    Jonathan Vamos, Artsci’15, feels just as thrilled to be making his debut at the KCFF with Jargon, a short film about an painter who has autism and who lives with his sister. “It means a lot,” says the fourth-year film major, explaining that while he has traditionally worked in the role of cinematographer on film projects, he stepped into the role as director for Jargon, which was also created as part of the Focus Film Festival. Mr. Vamos wrote the script during a third-year scriptwriting class. It is loosely based on his own relationship with his brother, who has Asperger’s syndrome.

    While he says he has always loved film, Mr. Vamos wasn’t convinced he would make it the focus of his Queen’s education until he took a course with Robert Hyland at the Bader International Study Centre at Herstmonceux Castle as a first-year student. “Dr. Hyland was so passionate,” Mr. Vamos recalls. “I decided that was what I wanted to study.”

    Though Mr. Vamos says he is equally interested in writing and cinematography, he says he hasn’t entirely dismissed the possibility of doing more directing. “Making Jargon was a real learning experience,” he laughs. “When we finished, my first thought was ‘I am never doing that again’ because it was so stressful. But my friends said I was a great director. I’m on the fence about what I will do next.” 

    The Plan screens on Feb. 27 as part of the KCFF’s Local Shorts program. 

    Stephen Trivieri, Artsci’16, and Jordan Masterson, Artsci’16, had their sights clearly set on participating in the KCFF. Three weeks before the final submission deadline, Mr. Trivieri approached Mr. Masterson about the possibility of collaborating on a dedicated project for the festival.

    “I had this idea for a fun, flashy, Ocean’s Eleven-style film, but something that was serious in the way that it was made,” says Mr. Trivieri, explaining that he also wanted to create something that the student community would be able to relate to. The third-year film students quickly agreed on creating a short comedy about a man trying to retrieve a pair of boxer shorts from a woman’s house after a one-night affair. “As we started to film, people were getting more and more into it,” he recalls. “After the first day of shooting, I knew we had something good.”

    In a week and a half, Mr. Trivieri says they moved their film, The Plan, from rough idea to finished film. “It blew us away,” he says of the extracurricular experience that allowed him and his team to work with a great number of motivated students from a number of disciplines.

    “I think it shows that there are lots of likeminded people at Queen’s and lots that have aspirations that go beyond the textbook,” says Mr. Trivieri, who has since founded Breathe Entertainment and has plans to keep the creative momentum rolling with new projects. “All you need is a little bit of fire to get everything started.”

    The 15th annual Kingston Canadian Film Festival runs from Feb. 26 until March 1 at venues around Kingston. For more information, visit the festival’s website.




    Making a 'major' decision

    [Choosing a Major]
    Students at Queen's University have a number of resources to help them choose a major, including the first Arts and Science Majors Night this Thursday at Grant Hall.

    For university students, choosing a major can be a pressure-filled undertaking, but at Queen’s there is support available.

    To help with the decision-making process, Queen’s is hosting its first Arts and Science Majors Night this Thursday at Grant Hall from 5-8 pm, where students can ask questions and learn about each program in the Faculty of Arts and Science.

    “Choosing a program is a key decision for students, and it is important to offer them as much information as we can, so they can make an informed choice,” says Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Ann Tierney. “We have been working to integrate academic and career advising, and this new event is aimed at facilitating access to advice from peers and professional staff about all of the options available and where they can lead.”

    Each Departmental Student Council (DSC) will have a booth, where students who have already gone through the process of selecting a major will be available to talk about their experiences in that major.  DSC reps will be in attendance from all Arts and Science programs as well as the Faculty of Education.

    Attendees will be able to compare the different programs they are considering and explore if they line up with their interests and future goals.

    “Plan selection is both exciting and a little nerve-wrecking. Students often think of it as choosing what you want to do for the rest of your life – now," says Gordon Smith, Vice-Dean,  Faculty of Arts and Science. "We see it more about choosing a great plan for the next three years. We want to make sure students find the best fit for them, both for now and for the long-term. Through our advisors, our events and the many on-campus resources, we hope students know that we are here to help them along their way."

    Advisors from Academic Advising, Career Services and Peer Academic Support Service (PASS) will also be available to answer specific questions about choosing a program and where to find career resources at Queen’s.

    Majors Night is a partnership between Career Services in the Division of Student Affairs, the Faculty of Arts and Science, the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS), and the Arts and Science Departmental Student Councils.

    Queen’s also recently created “major maps” for all 44 of its undergraduate programs, making it the first university in Canada to do so.

    The maps provide advice on academics, extracurricular activities, networking, international opportunities and career development, providing support before, during and after students earn their degree.

    Students can access print versions of the maps through their faculty or department advisers. Career Services has also posted the maps online in web and accessible formats.

    The Faculty of Arts and Science also has information that can be found online and posted a new video to help student in the process of choosing a major.

    A glimpse of the world

    • QUIC Photo Contest Overall Winner
      Overeall Winner: Pause, Surabaya, Indonesia - Fenton Isaacs (Artsci’17)
    • QUIC Photo Contest - Home Away From Home
      Home Away From Home: Golden Rays from Home, Montreal - Werdah Iqbal (Artsci’15)
    • QUIC Photo Contest - People and Culture
      People and Culture: Early Rider, East Sussex, England - Mitchell Gleason (Artsic’17)
    • QUIC Photo Contest - Landscape and Nature
      Landscape and Nature: The Fog in the Fairytale, Venice, Italy - Erin Colwell (Artsci’15)
    • QUIC Photo Contest - Critical Global Issues
      Critical Global Issues: Street Dogs Puppy Love, Ghana - Kelsey Ross (Artsci’15)

    There is beauty to be found all around the world — from grand buildings and cities to hidden treasures and everyday life.

    A panel of judges has selected the winners of the seventh annual Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC) Photo Contest in the categories of People and Culture, Landscape and Nature, Home Away From Home and Critical Global Issues, as well as a grand prize winner.

    Sharing international experiences with others is an important step in the building of understanding, appreciation and enjoyment across cultures.

    This year’s grand prize winner Pause was taken by Fenton Isaacs (Artsci’17).

    Other category winners include:

    • Home Away From Home: Werdah Iqbal (Artsci'15)
    • People and Culture: Mitchel Gleason (Artsci'17)
    • Landscape and Nature: Erin Colwell (Artsci'15)
    • Critical Global Issues: Kelsey Ross (Artsci'15)

    Photos from the contest will be exhibited March 3-4 from 4-6 pm at QUIC, located in the John Deutsch University Centre. There will be a  second exhibit of selected photos (RETROSPECT ’09 -’15) at the Pump House Steam Museum in downtown Kingston from April 1-25. Admission is free with Queen’s ID.

    Voting for the People's Choice Award - including continues until Friday, Feb. 27 at 4 pm. You can cast your vote by following this link.

    A new way to pay GRAs

    Current and former graduate students who received payments as Graduate Research Assistants (GRAs) between 2008 and 2012 could be receiving a tax refund from the Canada Revenue Agency in the next few months.

    Effective January 1, 2013, Queen’s has changed the way it pays GRAs, who are typically graduate students who take on research positions that support their studies and provide financial compensation.

    Historically, the support GRAs received for their studies was taxed as income from employment and a T4 was issued at tax time.

    The university’s decision to change its tax treatment of payments to GRAs was made to reflect the fact that GRA positions are essentially research fellowships, funded directly from research grants awarded to the faculty members who recruit and supervise graduate students.

    The change in tax treatment, which is in accordance with the Canada Revenue Agency’s guidelines, makes most GRAs eligible for T4A income (fellowship income) instead of T4 income (employment income).

    The change, which aligns Queen’s with practices at other universities, also benefits graduate students by reducing income tax payments and increasing take-home pay. It may make some students eligible for a retroactive tax refund for the 2008-2012 period.

    The change does not apply to a GRA if the graduate student held or holds the GRA for financial gain and also was or is performing work not directly related to his or her studies. Such students continue to be classified as employees receiving T4 income. If a graduate student simultaneously holds a GRA directly supporting his/her studies as a trainee and is also a research assistant whose work is not related directly to his/her studies, the student will receive a T4A for income received as a research fellowship, as well as a T4 for the income received as an employee.

    Where applicable, the Canada Revenue Agency has agreed to issue retroactive refunds automatically to affected students and alumni and there is no need for anyone to re-file a tax return.

    Questions should be directed by email to GRAT4A@queensu.ca

    Internship program connects Canada and China

    Representatives from Queen’s, partner organizations and the Chinese embassy recently gathered at the Donald Gordon Conference Centre to celebrate the six officials from the Chinese Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR) who completed a six-month internship program.

    Li Xu, China Projects Coordinator in the School of Urban and Regional Planning (SURP), Professor John Meligrana, SURP, Professor Emeritus Hok-Lin Leung, SURP, Cynthia Fekken,  Associate Vice-Principal (Research), Mao Zhongying, Science and Technology Counsellor at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Canada. Front row are interns Yu Haitao, Luo Jia, Zhao Daoya, Wang Dejie, Niu Chunnying, and Gao Yongbao.

    The annual program, a partnership between Queen’s and the MLR, sees a group of staff from the ministry spend between three and six months in a Canadian public or private organization, working as an intern in the field of land and resource management.

    “Queen’s University is proud of its collaborative role in supporting the academic component of the internship program, which enables an exchange of ideas and practices, and shared learning between interns and their host organizations,” says Cynthia Fekken, Associate Vice-Principal (Research), who was on hand to present certificates of completion to the interns.

    The partnership has been in place since 1995, an initiative of Hok-Lin Leung, professor emeritus and former director of the School of Urban and Regional Planning. Queen’s and the Chinese Ministry of Land and Resources recently extended this partnership with the signing of a memorandum of understanding last summer.

    The Queen’s-MLR partnership also includes an internship for Queen’s student in China and a program that sees up to 50 MLR staff members and mining professionals attend a three-week training program run jointly by the Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering and the Robert M. Buchan Department of Mining.

    The partnership between Queen’s and the MLR is one of many that the university has developed with partners in China. Highlights include a recently established Master of Finance program with Renmin University, a semester abroad program with Fudan University, as well as a 2+2 degree program and environment research network with Tongji University. China is a priority region in Queen’s efforts to enhance its international reach.

    Project grants promote partnerships

    Two Queen’s researchers have received Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Strategic Project Grants.

    Cathleen Crudden (Chemistry, $596,870) and her team are working on the production of hydrogen from water using solar energy. James Fraser (Physics, $408,914) and his team are improving the 3D laser manufacturing process.

    Both hydrogen and oxygen need to be generated in water-splitting approaches for the generation of hydrogen fuel in the automotive industry. Dr. Crudden’s team including J. Hugh Horton (Chemistry), Pierre Kennepohl (University of British Columbia), Heinz-Bernhard Kraatz (University of Toronto) and Martin Albrecht (UCD Ireland) is designing a supported catalyst, a substance that causes or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected, to help complete the cycle for hydrogen generation.

    “The development of viable catalysts for production of hydrogen from water using solar energy is the holy grail of energy research, and when accomplished, will revolutionize the way we generate energy, and virtually eliminate pollution from the transportation sector,” says Dr. Crudden.

    Dr. Fraser is working in the field of 3D laser writing. The process scans an intense focused laser beam over a material (such as metal powder) to create a 3D metal component layer by layer directly from a computer drawing. Dr. Fraser is trying to improve this often imperfect technique.

    “This type of manufacturing builds a part up layer by layer and is generally slow,” says Dr. Fraser. “If there is a defect in an early layer, for example an air gap, this might not be detected until the part was completed. The challenge is that there is a lot going on in the laser melting process –hundreds of watts of laser light, glowing liquid steel, occasional sparks and powder being ejected— so it is challenging to see with micron precision.”

    To combat this problem, Dr. Fraser’s team will create and use a coherent imaging technique that views the sample through the same lens that the processing laser uses and can measure the location and changes to the surface of the part. This will reduce the component processing time. The funding also allows the training of nine researchers and students in a key field in Canadian manufacturing.

    For more information on the Strategic Project Grants visit the NSERC website.


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