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Start-ups awarded seed funding in Kingston’s biggest pitch competition

Seven teams win big in annual Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre's summer pitch competition.

  • Backr, the team named by judges to take home the grand prize of $30,000, delivering their winning pitch.
    Backr, the team named by judges to take home the grand prize of $30,000, deliver their winning pitch.
  • Nina Tangri, Member of Provincial Parliament and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation, and Trade (Economic Development), sharing remarks during the opening of the competition.
    Nina Tangri, Member of Provincial Parliament and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation, and Trade (Economic Development), shares remarks during the opening of the competition.
  • Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson makes opening remarks at the 2019 Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition.
    Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson makes opening remarks at the 2019 Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition.
  • Fourteen teams pitched their ventures to a panel of judges over the course of the competition.
    Fourteen teams pitched their ventures to a panel of judges over the course of the competition at Mitchell Hall.
  • Lifted took home $10,000 after winning over the audience with their pitch. They were voted crowd favourite and were recognized with the Wisdom of the Market Award.
    Lifted took home $10,000 after winning over the audience with their pitch. They were voted crowd favourite and were recognized with the Wisdom of the Market Award.
  • Following each pitch, the panel of judges asked questions of the competitors to further explore each team's proposal.
    Following each pitch, the panel of judges asked questions of the competitors to further explore each team's proposal.
  • Cromble was among the seven winning teams that competed in front of the large audience at Mitchell Hall, the new facility that houses the Dunin-Deshpande Queen's Innovation Centre.
    Cromble was among the seven winning teams that competed in front of the large audience at Mitchell Hall, the new facility that houses the Dunin-Deshpande Queen's Innovation Centre.

After weeks of preparation, teams of emerging entrepreneurs stood before a panel of esteemed judges at the 2019 Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition and made their case as to why their start-up businesses are ready to take the next big step.

Fourteen teams, all but one of which was comprised of students from Queen’s University, took part in the competition, each vying for a piece of $100,000 of total seed funding available to be won. The annual contest is the largest of its kind in Kingston, and past Queen’s winners have included ClimaCube (2018) and SpectraPlasmonics – who have gone on to compete internationally.

“I want to congratulate this year’s teams on their outstanding pitches, and commend their determination and drive to become Kingston’s next generation of innovators,” says Greg Bavington, Executive Director of the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC). “We know that access to seed capital is so important for fledgling companies, and that a vote of confidence from our judging panel can go a long way toward growing opportunities. We continue to be excited and proud to host this thrilling competition every summer.”

Teams had only a few minutes to make their business’ case for support, after which the judges asked a series of questions of each group about anything from product development to corporate strategy and financing. Sitting on the judging panel this year were Raj Melville, Executive Director of the Deshpande Foundation; Benjamin Barrows, Founder and CEO of technology and data firm Cabot 7; Allison Turner, co-founder and Director of Product Development at PnuVax; David Lloyd, CEO of Post Beyond; and Shelby Yee, CEO of RockMass Technologies, the grand-prize winning company for the 2016 Summer Pitch Competition.

“The Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition has made tremendous progress over the years both in the quality and breadth of solutions pitched as well as the general interest from a worldwide audience, thanks in large part to the efforts of the DDQIC Staff,” says Melville. “The teams have worked really hard and it showed in the polished presentations that highlighted key business opportunities and issues facing them. We congratulate the teams and look forward to seeing them succeed and grow.”

Following the judges’ deliberations, seven teams walked away with seed funding, with Backr securing the largest sum — $30,000 — to support their online tool to help online content creators better engage their fans.

“We are thankful to the DDQIC for supporting entrepreneurship in the Queen's and Kingston community. It was our privilege to pitch alongside so many terrific teams,” says Duncan Cameron-Steinke, on behalf of the Backr team. “For our company, we can now apply the funds towards accelerating our product development and arrive sooner to market. This is just the beginning for us and we are thankful to the judges who believed in our team and in our vision.”

Cameron-Steinke, a recent graduate of engineering physics, is one of 45 Queen’s students who competed on teams this year, from across multiple disciplines, including Business, Engineering and Applied Science, Arts and Science, and Graduate Studies. Other competitors included entrepreneurs from the Kingston region and from the Royal Military College of Canada.

The competition was held in the atrium of Queen’s University’s recently-opened Mitchell Hall — the new home of the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre. Queen’s Interim Provost and Vice-Principal Tom Harris, Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson and MPP Nina Tangri, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation, and Trade (Economic Development), delivered remarks to open the day’s events.

“Businesses are the backbone of Ontario’s economy,” says MPP Tangri to the competing teams in her opening remarks. “All of you have come here today with innovation, and whether your venture aims to impact your local community, address social issues, support other business and people, or make advancements in science and technology, you should all be proud of the work you have done to be here today.”

To learn more about the competition, visit the 2019 Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition website.

2019 DDQIC Summer Pitch Competition Results:

Backr - $30,000
Backr created a tool that promotes fan engagement while creating revenue for online creators. The group works alongside creators' existing social platforms and reward fans for every act of engagement, motivating them to do more.

HeroHub - $15,000
HeroHub is an online platform that creates a greater social impact by connecting local charities and non-profits to individuals or businesses seeking volunteer opportunities, charity events, and to donate new or gently-used items.

Cromble - $15,000
Cromble works to divert 100 per cent of wasted spent grain — a byproduct of beer brewing — and use it in creating a wide range of products, including health foods.

Red Gold of Afghanistan - $10,000
This team is helping female farmers in Afghanistan achieve financial independence by building their capacity in saffron cultivation and connecting them to global markets.

Research Stream - $5,000
Research Stream is a digital platform that connects researchers and participants for human subject research.

Big Spoon Lil’ Spoon (BSLS) - $5,000
BSLS is a social venture that provides healthy living programs and life skills workshops to people with disabilities and their siblings. BSLS’s goal is to help teach participants of all ages learn to be self-sufficient and lead a happy and healthy lifestyle.

Lifted - $10,000 (Wisdom of the Market Award)
This team, selected as a winner by audience vote, created a bra company that strives to redesign the lingerie industry to be more diverse and inclusive.

Aging with pets is a matter of health and wellness

​Governments must think about older people's relationships with pets when they're planning both aging-in-place strategies and disaster management.

[Man with two dogs in a car]
People’s relationships with their pets impact wellness and health in perhaps surprising ways. (Photo by Tim Mossholder / Unsplash)

Is home somewhere that you feel comfortable? Is it filled with memories of beloved friends and family — some of whom may be furry animals?

Researchers analyzed data from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging, a national study of adult development and aging which recruited more than 50,000 Canadians between the ages of 45 and 85. They found that over one-third of older Canadians are choosing to age with pets and that, for some people, living with pets can increase life satisfaction.

My research focuses on social justice and aging, with a special interest in the human-animal bond. I recently collaborated on a report for the federal government on seniors, aging in place and community.

When I researched community supports in Canada for this report, I discovered there is no government funding to help older adults care for pets.

This is unfortunate because the relationship between humans and non-human companions has become increasingly important to Canadians. While people and their pets may seem like a frivolous concern, people’s relationships with their pets impact wellness and health in perhaps surprising ways.

Helping people in financial need to pay for their pets is fiscally responsible, since maintaining the human-animal bond could in the long term reduce health-care costs.

Aging in place with pets

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines aging in place as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age, income or ability level.

Aging in place is associated with decreased depressionmaintaining personal identity, staying connected with communityfriends and family as well as avoiding the emotional and physical pain associated with leaving a familiar place.

For many older adults pets are considered to be family members. Interactions with pets are not only important in terms of companionship, they are also associated with better health. For example, a study of people in Germany and Australia found that people who continuously own a pet are healthiest, visiting the doctor less often than non-pet owners. Researchers have linked the human-animal bond to reduced cardiovascular disease risklowered blood pressure and lower cholesterol.

Research also suggests people with pets are also less lonely, have stronger support networks and are often more involved in community activities.

But many older adults do not have adequate retirement income, and in such cases caring for pets can become too expensive to manage.

Given the many quality-of-life and health-related benefits of pet ownership, developing community support programs dedicated to keeping pets and older adults together are expected to result in savings to health-care systems and social programs.

For many older adults, pets are considered to be family members. (Photo by Steffen Kastner / Unsplash)

Climate change dangers

Another concern regarding aging in place with pets is the potential impact of climate change — and how this may impact health.

Since climate change is predicted to result in more heatwaves, hot summers, droughts and flooding there is the need to develop community support initiatives to prevent heat-related deaths among older adultsOlder adults’ vulnerability to extreme heat is well documented, and is increased for those who have more than one illness as well as for those who are socially isolated.

Many older adults may opt to stay in a hot home with their pet, rather than going to a cooling centre without their companion animal, particularly if they foresee no options for the animal’s care. By providing access to air conditioners, which low-income older adults can’t afford on their own, older adults’ heat-related suffering could be alleviated without concerns about abandoning their pet.

Plans to help older adults faced with climate-related danger should also consider that some people have chosen not evacuate severe weather situations when they are unable to bring their pets. Compliance with evacuation orders might increase if government programs were implemented to provide vaccinations for pets and to evacuate older adults with their pets so that they can go to emergency shelters together.

In the United States there have been changes to disaster planning and disaster preparation exercises to respond to the rescue and care of companion animals. Ensuring pets are evacuated and reunited with their humans can be a positive influence on mental health after disasters.

Integrating new initiatives within existing community supports to help older adults care for the animals that share their lives would be a win-win, promoting wellness and potentially reducing health expenditures over the longer term.


L.F. Carver, is an assistant professor with the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies and an associated faculty member with the Surveillance Studies Centre at 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.

Chinese delegates and scholars visit Queen’s for collaborative research and training

A series of summer meetings, workshops, and study opportunities strengthen knowledge-sharing relationship.

Officials and scholars from China made Kingston their summer destination of choice this July – with a number of international training and partnership events taking place on the Queen’s campus.

Representatives of China’s Ministry of Natural Resources attended a training program from July 7-20, organized by the Queen’s School of Urban and Regional Planning. A delegation from Shanghai’s Municipal Government Foreign Affairs Office met with Queen’s faculty and staff to discuss their continued collaboration, and the Queen’s Department of Biology welcomed researchers from Shanghai’s Tongji University to the Queen’s University Biological Station (QUBS) for their annual environment and sustainability workshop.

“Queen’s is working to strengthen existing partnerships with China and to develop new opportunities with leading universities,” says Sandra den Otter, Associate Vice-Principal (Research & International). “The recent visits, programs, and workshops highlight the importance of collaborative research and training in several key areas, including the environment and public policy.”

Members of Shanghai's Foreign Affairs Office visiting Queen's.
Members of Shanghai's Municipal Government Foreign Affairs Office visiting Queen's.

Since 1995, Queen’s School of Urban and Rural Planning (SURP) has been hosting two yearly training programs for members of China’s Ministry of Natural Resources (formerly the Ministry of Land and Resources). One program sees up to 50 Chinese delegates partake in a two- or three-week training with presentations from SURP, Canadian federal and provincial representatives, and private sector speakers.

The second program sees five to eight young members of the ministry complete a five-month internship program administered by Queen’s. After an on-campus orientation, SURP places each intern with partner organizations in government, and the non-profit and private sectors, to facilitate the sharing and exchange of knowledge, ideas, and practices. This program is supported by Natural Resources Canada; Ontario’s Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, Ministry of Natural Resources, and Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing; and the municipalities of Kingston and Hastings.

From July 16-17, the Queen’s Office of the Associate Vice-Principal (International) hosted a delegation from Shanghai’s Foreign Affairs Office, and discussed an ongoing relationship between the group and the School of Graduate Studies (SGS). Since 2001, Shanghai has sent staff to partake in 12-month Master’s Degree programs at Queen’s, within the Department of Political Studies and School of Policy Studies. The delegation and Queen’s groups expressed to continue this relationship and also discussed possible collaborations on professional short-term training in the future.

Participants attend the Sino-Canada Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development workshop
Participants attend the 5th annual Sino-Canada Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development workshop at Queen's.

Between July 18-20, scholars from Tongji University visited Queen’s Department of Biology for the 5th Sino-Canada Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development workshop. Twenty Chinese participants, including scholars, post-doctoral students, PhD candidates and Master's candidates from Tongji; World Wildlife Fund representatives from their Shanghai programs office; Queen’s; and St. Lawrence River Institute. Among topics covered by the group was ongoing research comparing the Yangtze River and St. Lawrence River waterways and ecosystem health, as well as bilateral education and student exchange possibilities.

These recent research and training programs build on Queen’s well-established engagement with China. 

Queen’s was the first Canadian university to open an office in China (2007) and the Queen’s China Liaison Office continues to work closely with Queen’s faculty and staff to support current and new activities.

Learn more about Queen’s University’s research, learning, and other collaborations with China.

Investing in cutting-edge tools and infrastructure for research

The Canada Foundation for Innovation’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund awards $2.65 million to advance research projects at Queen’s.

Sixteen researchers at Queen’s University have secured $2.65 million in funding in the latest round of the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF). At an event at the University of Alberta, the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, announced over $61 million in funding for state-of-the-art research labs and equipment nationwide.

The John R. Evans Leaders Fund helps exceptional researchers at universities across the country conduct leading-edge research by giving them the tools and equipment they need to become leaders in their fields.

The Queen’s funded projects will support the acquisition of infrastructure and development of tools that will advance research in myriad areas – from enhanced treatment for brain tumours to the seismic behaviour of concrete slabs to advancing the search for the elusive dark matter.

“Thanks to the support and critical investment of CFI, Queen’s researchers will have the tools and infrastructure they need to further their work in areas that have a direct impact on how we live and understand the world around us," says Kent Novakowski, Acting Vice-Principal (Research). “We look forward to seeing these projects progress.”

The successful researchers include:

  • Fady Abdelaal (Civil Engineering) - $200,000
  • Muhammad Alam (Electrical and Computer Engineering) - $125,000
  • Ryan Alkins (Surgery) - $150,000
  • Levente Balogh (Mechanical and Materials Engineering) - $200,000
  • Chantelle Capicciotti (Chemistry, Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, and Surgery) - $150,000
  • Aikaterini Genikomsou (Civil Engineering) - $150,000
  • Guillaume Giroux (Physics) - $200,000
  • Anna Harrison (Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering) - $150,000
  • Felicia Maria Magpantay (Mathematics and Statistics) - $150,000
  • Suraj Persaud (Mechanical and Materials Engineering) - $125,000
  • Heidi-Lynn Ploeg (Mechanical and Materials Engineering) - $200,000
  • Jessica Selinger (Kinesiology and Health Studies) - $150,000
  • Laura Thompson (Geography and Planning) - $100,000
  • Anita Tusche (Economics) - $100,000
  • Sari van Anders (Psychology) - $250,000
  • Peng Wang (Chemistry) - $200,000

“Ask any researcher in Canada, and they will tell you that you can’t do the best science if you don’t have the best tools,” says Minister Duncan. “I am thrilled to announce funding for the infrastructure needs of Canadian researchers. Their ground-breaking contributions to science and research have an enormous impact on the breakthroughs that help make our visions for a better future of Canada a reality.”

For more information on the program and for a full list of funded projects, visit the John R. Evans Leaders Fund website.

School of Computing set to celebrate 50th anniversary

  • Class of 1985 gathers on the steps of Goodwin Hall
    In what has become a School of Computing tradition the graduating Class of 1985 gathers on the steps of Goodwin Hall for a photo. (Supplied Photo)
  • School of Computing Class of 2015
    A full 30 years later, the Class of 2015 get together with staff and faculty for their graduating photo at Goodwin Hall. (Supplied Photo)
  • Big computers for School of Computing
    In this clip from a Faculty of Arts and Science newletter, a state-of the-art IBM System/360 Model 50 is shown. (Supplied Photo)
  • Creative Computing Showcase 2019
    A School of Computing student tries out a virtual reality setup during the 2019 Creative Computing Showcase held at the Biosciences Complex. (Photo by Doug Martin)

The School of Computing is marking 50 years at Queen’s University with a series of events, starting with the 50th anniversary celebration Aug. 16-18.

In preparing for the events, organizing committee members Wendy Powley and Sara Perosa sifted through the school’s photo archives. Often they found familiar faces looking back at them, many who still work here, teaching, doing research or keeping the school running. This continuity is a stark contrast to the world of computing which has seen massive changes over the past five decades – from machines that filled entire rooms to the ubiquity of handheld devices.

The result of that stability, however, has been a sense of community within the school, explains Powley, an assistant professor at the School of Computing.

“There are a lot of people who have spent their entire careers here in the School of Computing. That speaks to what a great environment we have in the school. It helps that Kingston is a great place to live as well,” she says. “Our sense of community is something we foster with our students. Queen’s, in general, has a great sense of community, but within the school we are family."

For Perosa, a School of Computing alumna and recent arrival as the Marketing and Communications Coordinator, exploring the history of the school and its people was a welcome exercise.

It was really good to see the sense of community here,” she says. “Everybody looked comfortable, like they were amongst friends.”

On Aug. 16-18, alumni, university administrators, current students and faculty and staff from the past and present are taking part in the 50th anniversary festivities to celebrate not only the past but to welcome the many new faculty and staff to the school as it embarks on what is certain to be an exciting second half-century.

The golden celebration begins on Friday, kicked off by a reception at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre and a euchre tournament.  Friday afternoon euchre at the Grad Club has been a long-standing tradition at the school.

Saturday features a full day of events including brunch, a mix-and-mingle at the Grad Club, and the 50th Anniversary Cocktail Reception and Banquet at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, starting at 6 pm.

Sunday is open for attendees to explore the university and Kingston.

Already there are more than 100 registrations and there is room for more. To register go to the Queen’s Alumni website.

Several events are planned for the academic year, including a speaker series. The first event features Eli Blevis, the School of Computing’s first PhD student who is now Professor of Informatics in Human-Computer Interaction Design at Indiana University. Plans are also in the works for Homecoming while the anniversary will be incorporated into orientation for this year’s incoming students.

Find out more about the School of Computing.

Mathematics is about wonder, creativity and fun

THE CONVERSATION: High school math curriculum should emphasize collaborative creativity and learning to work with complex systems.

[Alice in Wonderland Rabbit]
Why don’t students say math is imaginative? The 1865 children’s book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, sprung from a mathematician’s imagination and continues to inspire exploration and fun. 

Alice in Wonderland enthusiasts recently celebrated the story’s anniversary with creative events like playing with puzzles and time — and future Alice exhibits are in the works. The original 1865 children’s book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, sprung from a mathematician’s imagination, continues to inspire exploration and fun.

But is a connection between math and creativity captured in schools? Much discussion across the western world from both experts and the public has emphasized the need to revitalize high school mathematics: critics say the experience is boring or not meaningful to most students. Experts concerned with the public interest and decision-making say students need skills in critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration.

Mathematicians, philosophers and educators are also concerned with the excitement and energy of creative expression, with invention, with wonder and even with what might be called the romance of learning.

Mathematics has all the attributes of the paragraph above, and so it seems to me that what’s missing from high school math is mathematics itself.

I am now working with colleagues at Queen’s University and the University of Ottawa to develop RabbitMath, a senior level high-school math curriculum designed to enable students to work together creatively with a high level of personal engagement. My preparation for this has been 40 years of working with teachers in high-school classrooms.

In partnership with grades 11 and 12 math teachers, we will be piloting this curriculum over the next few years.

[Peter Taylor in class]
Professor Peter Taylor, right, interacts with students in a Lisgar Collegiate Institute Grade 11 math classroom in Ottawa. (Photo by Ann Arden, provided by Peter Taylor)

Mathematical novels

When students study literature, drama or the creative arts in high school, the curriculum centres on what can be called sophisticated works of art, created in response to life’s struggles and triumphs.

But currently in school mathematics, this is rarely the case: students are not connected to the larger imaginative projects through which professional mathematicians confront the world’s problems or explore the world’s mysteries.

Mathematician Jo Boaler from the Stanford Graduate School of Education says that a “wide gulf between real mathematics and school mathematics is at the heart of the math problems we face in school education.”

Of the subject of mathematics, Boaler notes that:

“Students will typically say it is a subject of calculations, procedures, or rules. But when we ask mathematicians what math is, they will say it is the study of patterns that is an aesthetic, creative, and beautiful subject. Why are these descriptions so different?”

She points out the same gulf isn’t seen if people ask students and English-literature professors what literature is about.

In the process of constructing the RabbitMath curriculum, problems or activities are included when team members find them engaging and a challenge to their intellect and imagination. Following the analogy with literature, we call the models we are working with mathematical novels.

For example, one project invites students to work with ocean tides. It would hard to find a dramatic cycle as majestic as the effect of that sublime distant moon on the powerful tidal action in the Bay of Fundy.

Student engagement

In the 1970s, the extraordinary mathematician and computer scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Seymour Papert, noticed that in art class, students, just as mature artists, are involved in personally meaningful work. Papert’s objective was to be able to say the same of a mathematics student.

I had a parallel experience in 2013 when I was the internal reviewer for the Drama program at Queen’s. I marvelled at students’ creative passion as they prepared to stage a performance. And they weren’t all actors: they were singers, musicians, writers, composers, directors and technicians.

In Papert’s curriculum model, students with diverse abilities and interests work together on projects, whereby they collaborate on problems, strategies and outcomes.

As a pioneering computer scientist, Papert understood that students could directly access the processes of design and construction through digital technology. Papert used his computer system LOGO for this technical interface. LOGO was limited in its scope, but Papert’s idea was way ahead of its time.

Students in the RabbitMath classroom will work together using the programming language Python to construct diagrams and animations to better understand their experiments with springs and tires, mirrors and music. They will produce videos that can explain to their classmates the workings of a sophisticated structure.

Today, technology, the internet, computer algebra systems and mathematical programming provide possibilities for immediate engagement in processes of design and construction — exactly what Papert wanted. The platform for RabbitMath is the Jupyter Notebook, a direct descendant of LOGO.

RabbitMath focuses on the analysis of complex structures. Students studying the curriculum will be involved presenting mathematical ‘stories.’ (RabbitMath image by Skyepaphora), 

Technical skill

For too many years, real progress in school mathematics education has been hamstrung by a ridiculous confrontation between so-called “traditional” and “discovery” math. The former is concerned with technical facility and the latter is about skills of inquiry and investigation.

There is no conflict between the two; in fact they support each other rather well. Every sophisticated human endeavour, from conducting a symphony orchestra to putting a satellite into orbit, understands the complementary nature of technical facility and creative investigation.

Stanford University Graduate School of Education mathematician Keith Devlin advises parents to ensure their child has mastery of what he calls number sense, “fluidity and flexibility with numbers, a sense of what numbers mean, and an ability to use mental mathematics to negotiate the world and make comparisons.” But for students embarking on careers in science, technology or engineering, that is not enough, he says. They need a deep understanding of both those procedures and the concepts they rely on — the capacity to analyze and work with complex systems.

A high-school math class is a rich ecosystem of differing abilities, capacities, objectives and temperaments.

The educator’s goal must be to enable a diverse mix of students to work together in a math class as creatively and intensely as students in the drama program, or to bring the same personal passion as they might to writing fiction.The Conversation


Peter Taylor, is a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at 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.

A potential cure for sleeplessness

New research shows chronic insomnia can be treated effectively without medication.

[judith davidson]
Queen's University researcher Judith Davidson.

New research from Queen’s University’s Judith Davidson (Psychology) has shown insomnia can be treated effectively at the family doctor’s office without the use of drugs.

The research, published in the British Journal of General Practice, confirmed Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) is effective in improving self-reported sleep, with improvements generally lasting up to 12 months after treatment.

The researchers, based at Queen’s University, in Psychology and the Centre for Studies in Primary Care, conducted a systematic review of studies in which patients were provided with CBT-I through their family doctor’s office. The team analyzed 13 studies involving 1,594 patients and found that between four and six sessions of CBT-I produced medium to large beneficial effects on time to sleep onset and wakefulness during the night. Patients felt much more content with their sleep after receiving the treatment.

GPs were directly involved in administering the CBT-I in a minority of the studies, but most CBT-I was provided by nurses, nurse practitioners, mental health workers and psychologists. The researchers say that CBT-I works effectively in primary care and seems well-suited for multidisciplinary general practice.

“There is now a way for general practitioners (GPs) to help insomnia sufferers without prescribing drugs,” says Dr. Davidson. “Widespread studies have established that CBT-I works well to get patients sleeping well again and as a treatment it is both effective and lasting.”

Chronic insomnia, in which individuals have difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep at least three nights a week for three months or more, affects about 10 to 15 percent of adults. The condition is linked to health problems including depression, difficulties in functioning, and large reductions in work productivity.

“There is a very effective treatment that doesn’t involve medication that should be available through your primary care service. If it’s not, it should be,” says Dr. Davidson.

Queen's experts ensure past won't stay buried

Students work to catalogue grave markers in hidden Kingston cemetery.

Queen's Masters student Paulina Marczak working to map the Lower Burial Ground.
Queen's Masters student Paulina Marczak working to map the Lower Burial Ground beneath St. Paul's Anglican Church in Kingston.

For more than a century, a burial ground beneath a church in downtown Kingston has remained hidden. Some of the city’s earliest citizens – including prominent residents, sailors, Black slaves brought here by the Loyalists, and American prisoners of the War of 1812 – are interred there; their identities slowly fading from the pages of history.

Experts from Queen’s University are among those now working to inventory and preserve the grave markers concealed in the Lower Burial Ground underneath a hall at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, on the corner of Kingston’s Queen and Montreal streets.

Panorama of Lower Burial Ground site.
Panoramic photograph of the Lower Burial Ground site.

“It’s probably safe to say that most people in Kingston are not even aware this site exists,” says Sue Bazely, Queen’s PhD candidate and the project’s co-coordinator. “Many may also be surprised to know about some of the renowned people buried there, including Molly Brant and her daughters.”

Molly Brant was instrumental in bringing together Mohawk and Iroquois nations to fight against the Americans during the American Revolution.

Grave marker fragments at the Lower Burial Ground site.
Grave marker fragments at the Lower Burial Ground site.

Bazely is working together with the Lower Burial Ground Restoration Society, historical and cemetery experts, parish and local volunteers, and an interdisciplinary group of Queen’s graduate, undergraduate students, and faculty to record and categorize the site’s gravestones, many of which are significantly damaged or worn. Using traditional archaeological methods, photography, and Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) – a surveying method that uses lasers to make digital, 3D representations of targeted objects – the team will scan the stones’ inscriptions so their information can be pieced back together, read, and recorded.

“This project will not only restore respect and dignity to one of the oldest Anglican cemeteries in Ontario,” says Bazely. “We’re striving toward making this underground portion of the site accessible to the public; not physically, but virtually through a digital medium, so those buried there can be recognized and remembered.”

Queen's Geography & Planning grad students Mark Ouseley and Nic England mapping gravestones.
Queen's Geography & Planning grad students Mark Ouseley and Nic England mapping gravestones.

Students and faculty from a number of Queen’s departments are involved in the project, including Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering, Geography and Planning, Classics, History, and Art History.

“Many Queen’s student volunteers involved in the project were so eager to seize such a hands-on learning opportunity,” says Bazely. “Field work can be incredibly valuable to a student’s overall studies, and this project in particular allows us to make a meaningful contribution right here in the community.”

The project runs from June to August 2019, and is supported in part by the City of Kingston Heritage Fund. Other restoration and presentation efforts received support from the City of Kingston Heritage Fund, the Kingston Association of Museums, Art Galleries, and Historic Sites, the Community Foundation for Kingston and Area, and the United Way for Kingston Frontenac, Lennox, and Addington.

Visit the Lower Burial Ground Restoration Project website to learn more.

Working towards equity

Women in Science Queen’s (WiSQ) is the second Employee Resource Group at Queen's University.

[Women in Science Queen's team]
The organizational team for Women in Science Queen's, includes, from left: Tiziana Cotechini, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Science; Kimberly Dunham-Snary, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Medicine;  Elahe Alizadeh, scientist at Queen’s Cardiopulmonary Unit (QCPU); Patricia Lima, adjunct assistant professor at QCPU; and Caroline F. Pukall, professor, Department of Psychology and Biomedical and Molecular Sciences.

Women in Science Queen’s (WiSQ), Queen’s University’s second Employee Resource Group, recently wrapped up a successful first series of events, including hosting meetings to discuss issues of equity, career development, and work-life balance.

The group is the brainchild of Patricia Lima, adjunct assistant professor in the Queen’s Cardiopulmonary Unit (QCPU), who was looking to help other women as they explore and build upon their careers at Queen’s while at the same time helping foster equity within science.

Initially uncertain of the response she would receive, Dr. Lima, says the support she has received throughout the process – from her supervisor Dr. Stephen Archer to the Human Rights and Equity Office – has been extremely encouraging.

Driven to help others, Dr. Lima, who also happens to be a volunteer firefighter, set up the group to help women in various stages of their science careers at Queen’s feel empowered while also connecting them with available resources.

“The idea was to have a discussion group where we would meet on a monthly basis with the objective of motivating, encouraging, and supporting women in science or research-related careers at Queen’s,” she says. “What I had in my mind was, first, it had to be an open environment; second, although it is a women’s group, everybody should feel welcome, friendly; and third is that it should be a mentored environment.”

Other goals include promoting discussions about gender bias in science; incentivizing the active participation and leadership of women; and establishing a visible, equitable, diverse and inclusive community promoting the development and retention of women across all scientific disciplines.

“The collaborative approach that has been taken in creating WiSQ is very encouraging and their initial success shows what can happen when someone or a team takes the initiative to make a difference at the university,” says Teri Shearer, Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion). “Through the support of ERGs Queen’s continues to build a campus that embraces diversity and empower all members of our community to thrive.”

Previous to her arrival at Queen’s, Dr. Lima had participated in a similar group as a post-doc at University of Ottawa. She found that the support came at an important time in her career and she wanted to bring that opportunity to others at Queen’s.

Her chance to make a difference arrived during a performance review at QCPU with Dr. Archer.

“During the performance review, Dr. Archer asked what I thought could make the work environment better. When he asked that I could not resist,” Dr. Lima recalls. “I explained the idea and I said that I was willing to step up to lead this. He loved the idea and green-lighted it.”

As a follow-up, Dr. Lima then met with Equity Advisor Heidi Penning who provided direction on how to get the ERG up and running as well as some further encouragement.

“That changed a lot of things inside me,” Dr. Lima says. “I left her office and, I know that this is just a small group, but I had the feeling that I could change the world.”

Over the next month Dr. Lima focused on recruiting an organizational team with a range backgrounds and skills, including staff, students and faculty members, to ensure a diversity of viewpoints and experiences.

Currently, the WiSQ team includes: Dr. Kimberly Dunham-Snary, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Medicine; Dr. Tiziana Cotechini, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Science; Dr. Elahe Alizadeh, scientist at QCPU, Whitney Montgomery, operations manager at the QCPU; and faculty advisor Dr. Caroline F. Pukall, a professor at the Department of Psychology and Biomedical and Molecular Sciences).

“WiSQ would not be here if we did not have this great group of committed and motivating women,” Dr. Lima says.

A series of five meetings, featuring guest speakers or discussion groups, were held over the winter term and another five are set for the fall term.

At the midway point, Dr. Lima is encouraged by the response.

“I really do think it is helping. It is reaching more people than I expected,” she says. “It’s independent of gender. We don’t have only women attending. What I hoped would happen with the group is happening. You have students, you have staff, you have faculty members in the same room discussing life matters, discussing how to become better, how to be more competitive, how to deal with transition situations, how to promote retention of women at Queen’s. I think that is pretty special, to be able to put those people together.”

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.

Contact WiSQ by email to learn more about the group or to become a member.

Political Studies doctoral candidate receives Trudeau Scholarship

Linda Mussell's research involves intersectional policy analysis of intergenerational incarceration and the legacies of colonialism.

Linda Mussell, Trudeau Scholarship recipient
Linda Mussell, a doctoral candidate in Political Studies, was recently announced as one of 20 recipients of the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation Scholarship. 

Linda Mussell, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Studies, was recently announced as a recipient of a Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholarship.

A total of 20 of the prestigious, three-year scholarships were awarded to emerging scholars interested in playing a leadership role within their communities and helping to inspire positive change.

For Mussell, whose research involves intersectional policy analysis of intergenerational incarceration and the legacies of colonialism, receiving the Trudeau Scholarship is an affirmation of the importance of her research and provides valuable momentum as she pursues her doctorate at Queen’s.

“It is a huge honor to have my work acknowledged this way and to be part of a cohort of such accomplished and creative people, leaders really, from across Canada,” says Mussell, who is supervised by Margaret Little (Political Studies). “I also feel really energized and excited to move forward with my work, especially now that I’ve received this distinction.”

Mussell’s doctoral work builds upon her experiences and research in the justice system, having volunteered as a literacy tutor and then becoming involved with the Elizabeth Fry Society. Through her volunteer work she developed a passion for assisting people within the justice system and breaking the cycle of incarceration. Her master’s work focused on policy interventions to support children who have parents or family members in prison and she continues to volunteer with multiple justice-focused organizations and is involved in student-led initiatives and various related committees.

“The Trudeau award is a recognition of the concerted efforts many of Queen’s graduate students, such as Linda Mussell, make to promote positive social-change,” says Fahim Quadir, Vice Provost and Dean, School of Graduate Studies. “Apart from undertaking innovative research projects, many of our graduate students work with communities to provide leadership in such areas as economic development, social justice and environmental sustainability.”

The Trudeau Scholarship will provide Mussell the opportunity to reconnect and expand upon her prior areas of research and bring it to the next level.

“I really want to amplify the voices of people who have this as a lived experience, to return to the places where I’ve been researching, to develop better ways to communicate my research within the involved communities, and also to leverage it in policy circles,” she says. “My goal is to really take the next three years to bridge work in the community and academia, and then to communicate it effectively in the policy-making sphere.”

The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation’s scholarship program provides three years of support for “courageous, bold, original thinkers who seek unconventional experiences beyond the halls of academia.”

More information about the program and the 2019-21 scholars is available on the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation website.


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