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Arts and Science

Funding supports research and innovation

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Fifty-eight Queen’s researchers have been awarded a total of $11.7 million in research grants from Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) for 2014. The funding will help advance research projects in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“Support from NSERC and other partners is vital to facilitating new discoveries and innovations at Queen’s,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “In a competitive funding environment, the fact that so many of our faculty members, graduate students and post-doctoral researchers have received these awards is a testament to the high quality of research happening on campus.”

Fifty-eight Queen's researchers have earned NSERC funding.

Receiving a sizeable portion of the funding is Mark Boulay (Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy) who is being granted $836,000 over two years for his dark matter search experiment located underground at the SNOLAB in Sudbury.

Along with the research funding announcements, Queen’s researchers Christopher Eckert (Biology), Noel James (Geological Sciences), Kurtis Kyser (Geological Sciences), Yan-Fei Liu (Electrical and Computer Engineering) and Roel Vertegaal (School of Computing) were selected for a Discovery Accelerator Supplement designed to provide additional resources to accelerate progress and maximize the impact of superior research programs.

The supplements are valued at $120,000 over three years.

These grants are awarded to researchers whose projects explore high-risk, novel or potentially transformative lines of inquiry, and are likely to contribute to groundbreaking advances.

The final NSERC announcement is the Postgraduate Scholarships – Doctoral and the Canada Graduate Scholarships – Doctoral along with the Postdoctoral Fellowships. The Postdoctoral Fellowships Program provides support to a core of the most promising researchers at a pivotal time in their careers while the scholarships provide funding to the researchers of tomorrow. Twenty-three of these were awarded to Queen’s for projects in a variety of disciplines.

Visit the NSERC website for more information.

High demand for Queen's programs outpaces Ontario university trend

By Communications Staff,

The number of students choosing Queen’s University is outpacing the provincial trend, reflecting strong demand for Queen’s undergraduate education and quality programs.

According to data recently released by the Ontario University Application Centre, the number of confirmations—students who have accepted Queen’s offer of admission—is up 11 per cent for the 2014 academic year. That compares to an overall decline of 1.3 per cent across Ontario universities. Queen’s continues to have one of Canada’s highest entering averages at 88.4 per cent.

“Top students choose Queen’s not only because of its world-class academic programs, but also because we offer a welcoming community where faculty and staff do everything they can to ensure our students succeed,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “Thanks are due to our recruitment staff, faculty and alumni who talked to prospective students about our outstanding living and learning environment and the benefits of a Queen’s education.”

Queen’s is highly regarded for its student learning experience, performing very well in the National Survey of Student Engagement’s (NSSE) key benchmarks, including enriching educational experience and level of academic challenge. 86 per cent of senior-year Queen’s students surveyed by NSSE report their entire educational experience as “excellent” or “good”, which puts Queen’s among the top institutions in Ontario.

“Queen’s offers a unique value proposition to prospective students,” says Alan Harrison, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic). “We have all of the benefits of a mid-sized, residential university focused on an exceptional undergraduate education, within the context of a research-intensive institution where innovation happens on a daily basis.”

The growing interest in Queen’s extends beyond Canada’s borders, with international students expected to make up 6.3 per cent of the 2014 incoming class.

He's a man in motion

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Twenty years of research into how the human brain processes visual information has earned Nikolaus Troje (Psychology, Biology, School of Computing) the Humboldt Research Award, an honour established by the German government to recognize a lifetime of achievement.

 “I feel very honoured having received a lifetime recognition award without having a single grey hair yet,” says Dr. Troje, who was nominated for the award by colleague Karl Gegenfurtner from the University of Giessen.

Using the sensors shown below, Nikolaus Troje uses motion capture technology to study how people move.

Dr. Troje operates the Biomotion Lab at Queen’s, studying visual perception and cognition using motion capture technology. The goal of his research is to answer questions concerning social recognition including processing visual information contained in the way people walk and move, specifically the subtle nuances that signal emotions and personality.

Dr. Troje started his career working on visual systems of insects, and later on face recognition in humans. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, he met Queen’s professor Barrie Frost during a conference in Germany who invited him to come to Queen’s and study visual recognition in pigeons. He spent two years in Kingston before moving back to Germany where he founded the Biomotion Lab at Ruhr University. In 2003, Dr. Troje accepted the position of Canada Research Chair in Vision and Behavioural Sciences at Queen’s where he continues his research today.

The motion sensors used in his research.

“Understanding how our visual system obtains information about other people from the way they move is just one example of the amazing ability of our perceptual systems to turn neuronal activity in response to external energies into the objects and events that form our perception of the outside world,” he says.

Dr. Troje is now preparing for a one year sabbatical in Germany where he will spend time at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tübingen and at the JustusLiebig University in Giessen.

New Queen's National Scholars announced

By Craig Leroux, Senior Communications Officer

Heather Aldersey and Norman Vorano have been appointed as the newest Queen’s National Scholars (QNS).

“The QNS program is a signature piece in the university’s commitment to ongoing faculty renewal, designed to attract early- or mid-career faculty who demonstrate exceptional promise as researchers and teachers,” says Principal Daniel Woolf. “Both Drs. Aldersey and Vorano are exceptional individuals who will bring compelling, interdisciplinary research programs to Queen’s in support of two growing fields.”

Heather Aldersey, Queen's National Scholar in international community-based rehabilitation. (Photo supplied)

Dr. Aldersey has been appointed Queen’s National Scholar in international community-based rehabilitation and will join the School of Rehabilitation Therapy. She brings significant international research and field experience, having undertaken extensive study of disability and support in African contexts. She holds an interdisciplinary PhD from the University of Kansas and is currently a post-doctoral researcher at McGill’s Douglas Mental Health University Institute, where she is studying the experience of recovery from severe mental illness among Montreal’s culturally diverse populations.

Dr. Vorano has been appointed Queen’s National Scholar in Indigenous visual and material cultures of the Americas and will join both the Department of Art and the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. He earned a PhD from the University of Rochester’s program in visual and cultural studies and brings an impressive track record of fieldwork, research, teaching and curatorial work with a focus on Inuit art. He is currently curator of contemporary Inuit art at the Canadian Museum of History (formerly the Canadian Museum of Civilization) where he has led major research projects resulting in scholarly publications, exhibits and public programing.

Norman Vorano, Queen’s National Scholar in Indigenous visual and material cultures of the Americas. (Photo supplied)

The QNS program was first established in 1985, with the objective to “enrich teaching and research in newly developing fields of knowledge as well as traditional disciplines.” Since then, over 100 QNS appointments have been made in a wide variety of disciplines, and the appellation of Queen’s National Scholar has become synonymous with academic excellence.

The 2014-15 round of the QNS program is now open for initial expressions of interest, which can be submitted by academic units no later than Nov. 3. More information on making submissions, including the expression of interest template, is available on the Office of the Provost’s website.

Doors open QUBS

By Communications Staff

The Queen’s University Biological Station invited the Queen’s and local community to tour some of its facilities during its annual open house on June 22. The public had the chance to view displays of ongoing research projects and get up close and personal with several animal species including turtles, snakes and frogs. As a way of recognizing their generosity, Queen’s Office of Advancement invited Campus Community Appeal donors to enjoy a private lunch and lecture by QUBS Director Stephen Lougheed before the open house.

QUBS, which will celebrate its 70th anniversary next year, is centred on the shores of Lake Opinicon approximately 50 km north of Kingston. The facility spans more than 3,200 hectares with habitats ranging from abandoned farmland to mature second-growth forest. QUBS provides opportunities for teaching and research in biology and related sciences. It also plays an active stewardship role, using best management practices to conserve local terrestrial and aquatic environments and biodiversity in the area.
 

Baroque expert elected to Institut de France

By Andrew Carroll, Gazette editor

Gauvin Bailey (Art History) has been appointed to the prestigious Institut de France.

Dr. Bailey, the Alfred and Isabel Bader Chair in Southern Baroque Art, was elected last month as a “correspondant-étranger” (foreign correspondent) of the Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres (Humanities) of the Institut de France, one of the most-respected and oldest learned institutions in the world having been founded in 1663.

The Institut de France only maintains 50 French and 50 foreign correspondents at any one time, putting Dr. Bailey in exclusive company.

“This is a tremendous honour, not only for Dr. Bailey but for Queen’s as well,” says Principal Daniel Woolf. “The Académie des inscriptions is among the world's oldest and most exclusive learned societies; for Dr. Bailey to be elected as a foreign correspondent is a strong recognition of the quality of our faculty here at Queen’s.”

Gauvin Bailey (Art History) has been elected to the Institut de France as a foreign correspondent.

Dr. Bailey is one of only six North American foreign correspondents.

“This is a huge and unexpected honour for me, particularly at this time in my career when I am working increasingly on French art and culture and its dissemination throughout the Americas,” Dr. Bailey says. “The Institut de France itself dates from the period I am working on and some of the architects and writers I have studied were members in their day.

“For me it is also a thrill for a more basic reason: its home, the former Collège des Quatre-Nations (built 1668-88) across from the Louvre, is one of my favourite Baroque buildings in Paris, but I have never been allowed inside because you have to be a member. Next time I go to Paris that will be my first stop.”

Dr. Bailey says he believes that his election is due in large part to his recent research into the migration of Baroque art and architecture through France into the Americas. While there has been extensive study into the flow of Baroque art forms through the Spanish and Portuguese New World empires, Dr. Bailey says that France’s role has largely been overlooked.

Dr. Bailey’s book on the subject The Spiritual Rococo: Décor and Divinity from the Salons of Paris to the Missions of Patagonia (Ashgate Press, 2014) will be released in September, which will be his seventh book published to date.

Dr. Bailey was named to the Royal Society of Canada in November, one of seven Queen’s professors to receive the honour in 2013. He took up his current position at Queen’s in 2011.

 

Student game runs on empathy

By Andrew Stokes, Communications Officer

Co-operation is key in a new video game made by Taylor Anderson (Cmp’15).

“There are too many games where you act as some lone wolf tough guy, and the whole thing functions as a big power fantasy,” says Mr. Anderson. “Most of those games revolve around violence, and even those that claim to be co-operative, Call of Duty for example, have people acting alone to try to get the highest score. The fact that they’re playing on a team is an afterthought. Because of this, I thought it would be interesting to have two players trying to help each other out, a game where you need empathy to win.”

Cascata is a colourful game where players race to keep one another safe to get points. The longer you survive the more hazards that fall, and the more co-operation you need with your partner. To get a higher score, players can share their stored lives with one another and activate an ability called “team-up” that has both players trying to control the same character at the same time. Success requires a constant stream of communication and a willingness to make sacrifices for your teammate.

The game is the latest creation from Fourth Floor Games, a startup company that Mr. Anderson runs with Colin Zarzour (Artsci’15), who composes the games’ music and offers design feedback. When they first started making games in 2011, Mr. Anderson was writing characters and stories for their games, but when their programmer left, he starting learning to code.

“We’re a small operation, so we’re limited to making simple games,” he says. “When games are simple, you’re forced to have really unique mechanics that set you apart from the rest.” Besides Cascata, Fourth Floor has made a two player adaptation of the arcade classic Snake, a game where the player tries to protect a blood cell from invading viruses, and a number of others.

Hoping for a career in games design, Mr. Anderson is making a portfolio to demonstrate what he can do. “I’m trying out all sorts of ideas to develop my skills and see what stands out.”

Cascata runs on both Windows and Mac Systems, and can be purchased online.
 

 

Building materials may impact Arctic tundra

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Virginia Walker (Biology) and her research team have revealed how common additives in building materials (nanoparticles) could possibly disrupt populations of microorganisms found in Arctic soils.

These commonly used building materials include paint that’s resistant to mold and mildew, insulating materials, longer lasting concrete and windows that reduce heat loss. The addition of these nanoparticles to the soil can affect seasonal change in fungi and bacteria.

Virginia Walker removes soil samples from the Arctic tundra.

“Through this research we have seen that four different measures of soil analysis point to the same result: the addition of nanosilver interferes with normal seasonal change in the Arctic tundra,” says Dr. Walker.

Dr. Walker travelled to the Tundra Research Station in Daring Lake, Northwest Territories with Queen’s researcher Paul Grogan to collect soil samples for the research. Nanoparticles were then added to the soils in her Queen’s lab and the temperature was altered over a period of three months in order to mimic a change in seasons from winter (-20 C) to summer (15 C) in the Arctic.

The contribution of research and development expertise from the biological instrument company Qubit Systems, located in Kingston, allowed the monitoring of soil respiration during these temperature shifts.

Once the summer conditions were over, the researchers examined the biochemical properties of the organisms, including DNA sequences. What the researchers found was significant.

Bacteria were generally more susceptible than fungi to the engineered nanoparticles, and the population of some beneficial plant-associating bacteria suffered. In contrast, some fungi were quite resistant to

Virgina Walker

nanosilver, including those known for their antioxidant properties. Such information can help the scientific community understand how nanoparticles impact living organisms.

“Having visited the Arctic, I knew the vast, stark beauty of the landscape and it became important to try to protect it,” says Dr. Walker. “We already know that traces of flame retardants have found their way to the Arctic. This research is critical to the Arctic ecosystem.”

Joining Dr. Walker on the research team were Niraj Kumar (Queen’s), Vishal Shah (Dowling College) and Gerry Palmer (Qubit Systems).

These findings were published in the most recent issue of PLOS One.

'Living with joy in a tragic world'

By Rosie Hales, Communications Officer

Julie Salverson has always been attracted to catastrophic events.

This interest in catastrophe, coupled with her passion for music, has led her to pen Shelter – an opera about a nuclear family that goes adrift – which opened this week in Toronto.

“Writer Joseph Campbell says to ‘follow your bliss,’ and while most people go after love or fulfillment, I’m drawn to tragedy and the fault lines in the psyche of a culture, the secrets that fester in families, leak quietly into communities and eventually – sometimes – explode. Such is the story of Shelter – a tale of living with joy in a tragic world,” says Dr. Salverson, an associate professor in the Department of Drama.

Accompanying the opera are free events before each performance that allow the audience to participate in discussions related to topics in Shelter.

“The symposium allows the opera to speak more explicitly and asks people to consider the times we live in by asking questions such as: what’s the role of science, how do we keep our families and our communities safe, how do we become good citizens?” says Dr. Salverson. “It’s also a chance for the audience to become more directly involved in the discussions surrounding the opera.”

Shelter is Dr. Salverson’s first full length opera. In 2002, she entered the Tapestry New Opera’s composer and librettist laboratory where she met composer Juliet Palmer, who was just as interested as Dr. Salverson in the idea of catastrophe.

Dr. Salverson and Ms. Palmer researched atomic bombs intensively and ended up writing Over the Japanese Sea – a 15-minute opera piece for the opening of Tapestry’s new studio theatre that focuses heavily on the effects of an atomic bomb.

“The response to Over the Japanese Sea was very encouraging,” says Dr. Salverson. “Instead of sitting back immobilized by the idea of the bomb, audience members chatted about their connections to the atomic story: a cousin who was an engineer, a neighbour who worked in a physics lab.”

The audience’s engaging reaction to the atomic story was exactly what Dr. Salverson and Ms. Palmer were looking for and they began creating and rehearsing for Shelter.

From punch cards to the cloud, School of Computing marks 45 years

By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

While technology has evolved dramatically since the School of Computing was founded in 1969, there has been one constant over those 45 years, according to Director Selim Akl.

Queen’s School of Computing professor Parvin Mousavi and PhD candidate Andrew Dickinson evaluate a newly developed system for augmenting ultrasound-guided prostate biopsy.

“We have gone from punch cards during my graduate student days to CD ROMS and USB sticks. Now we are living in the cloud,” he says. “One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the quality of our students. Our undergraduate and graduate students really are scholars and we’re proud of them.”

The School of Computing will celebrate 45 years of excellence in education, research and service by welcoming back alumni and opening the doors to its laboratories this weekend. Even though its golden anniversary is just a few short years away, the school felt it was important to mark the 45th anniversary.

“It’s a critical juncture for us, a time when we expect our enrolment at the undergraduate level to grow,” he says. “The anniversary is a chance to celebrate our accomplishments and the renewal taking place within the school.”

The School of Computing has grown to keep pace with the burgeoning field of computing science. When Dr. Akl arrived at Queen’s more than 30 years ago, there were six professors occupying half a floor in Goodwin Hall. Now, close to 30 professors work on four floors in Goodwin Hall and five different locations on campus.

I challenge anybody to find an aspect of society or life that is not touched by computers. That’s why the field is so exciting.

Selim Akl, Director, Queen's School of Computing

The School of Computing boasts the largest full-time graduate program at Queen’s, with an average of 150 full-time master’s and PhD students pursuing their degrees. “They are driving our research machine with their cutting edge work,” says Dr. Akl.

That research spans a broad range of topics, with many of the school’s 22 laboratories collaborating with departments across Queen’s, as well as other universities and industry partners. Dr. Akl says the nature of computing science encourages the school to work with many different partners.

“I challenge anybody to find an aspect of society or life that is not touched by computers. That’s why the field is so exciting,” he says. “It’s also exciting to do research in a field that’s moving so fast. Our faculty and graduate students are creating new things and they can see the result of their work. They get that instant gratification.”

With the field changing so quickly, Dr. Akl hesitates to predict how the School of Computing will look when it celebrates its 50th anniversary. However, he believes the school will do a lot more groundbreaking work in theoretical computer science, communications, cloud computing and human computer interaction. He also expects Queen’s researchers to remain leaders in the fields of software design, digital game development, knowledge discovery and computer-assisted health care.

There are several events planned for the anniversary including tours of various laboratories that are open to the general public. Visit the School of Computing website to learn more about all of the events.
 

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