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Drama professor earns provincial arts award

Daniel David Moses is being recognized as one of Ontario’s key figures in Aboriginal arts and as an advocate for Aboriginal culture.

Daniel David Moses is the 2014 recipient of the Ontario Arts Council Aboriginal Arts Award. (Supplied Photo) 

The associate professor in the Department of Drama at Queen’s University recently received the Ontario Arts Council Aboriginal Arts Award for his work as a poet, playwright and essayist.

Mr. Moses, a Delaware who hails from the Six Nations of the Grand River, arrived at Queen’s in 2003 as a Queen’s National Scholar. Adding to the significance of the award, he says, is that the jury was composed of fellow Aboriginal artists from a broad spectrum of art forms.

“Often an artist spends their time in their room, working away just making things,” he says. “You don’t necessarily know if the audience is there, but this is evidence of it.”

Created in 2012, the $10,000 award celebrates the work of Aboriginal artists and arts leaders who have made significant contributions to the arts in Ontario.

Mr. Moses credits his time at Queen’s for helping him get to where he is today in an arts career that has spanned more than 30 years.

“It’s been a wonderful supportive time for me,” he says. “It’s allowed me to clearly think about the art forms I work in and find ways of communicating the ideas I have about them – poetry, plays and essays.”

In selecting him, the jury noted that Mr. Moses is: “one of the key figures of Aboriginal theatre, both artistically and academically, and is developing an essential Indigenous archive. He is committed to telling the stories that created this country and is an advocate for Aboriginal culture.”

Mr. Moses is also co-editor of An Anthology of Canadian Native Literature in English, a founding text for the study of Canadian Indigenous literature, the fourth and 20thanniversary edition of which was published in 2013.

Among his 13 published plays are Coyote City, a 1991 Governor General’s Literary Award nominee, The Indian Medicine Shows, the 1996 James Buller Memorial Award winner, and Almighty Voice and His Wife, which in January and February 2012 completed a national Canadian tour. His most recent poetry collections are River Range and A Small Essay on the Largeness of Light and Other Poems.

Queen’s awarded $14 million in research funding

A majority of the 79 NSERC grants span five years, facilitating more in-depth inquiries by Queen’s researchers.

Queen’s University researchers recently received more than $14 million in funding through a number of Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) programs.

The funding for various individual and group projects and infrastructure will serve to advance research in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. A majority of the grants span five years, giving researchers flexibility to explore different avenues of research.

“Funding from NSERC and other partners is extremely important to our researchers and to Queen’s, which prides itself on being a first-class research institution,” says Dr. Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “The fact that so many of our faculty members, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows from a wide range of faculties received these awards is a testament to the high quality of researchers we have on our campus.”

Fifty-nine researchers received a total of $11.6 million in NSERC Discovery Grants. More notably, Mark Chen (Physics) was awarded $1. 25 million to help complete and commission the SNO+ laboratory in Sudbury, Ontario.

Five Queen’s researchers earned Discovery Accelerator Supplements totaling $120,000 over three years. The list of recipients includes Juergen Dingel (School of Computing), Stephen Hughes (Physics), Scott Lamoureux (Geography), Steven Smith (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) and William Andrew Take (Civil Engineering). They research an interesting range of topics including embedded software, permafrost, nanomachines and the impact of climate change on soil slopes.

The NSERC announcement also includes funding for doctoral and post-doctoral students varying between two and three years. Fifteen students were awarded funding totalling $1.86 million in a wide range of disciplines including geography, biology, chemistry, computing, engineering and neuroscience.

For more information visit the website.

Flipped classroom 'liberating' for professor

In Brenda Ravenscroft’s “flipped classroom,” students worked communally in small clusters to analyze a difficult musical score. They discussed, made calculations, and worked together in order to understand the underlying organization of the piece.

“The flipped model challenges the traditional uses of classroom time,” says Dr. Ravenscroft, Professor in the School of Music as well as Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning) in the Faculty of Arts and Science. “The idea is to take the content transmission outside of class and use classroom time more effectively, as a space where students analyze and synthesize information, problem-solve, and make discoveries.”

In MUSC 446, students used interactive touchscreens in an Ellis Hall classroom to dissect complex musical scores.

That element of discovery is key, says Dr. Ravenscroft, who redesigned and taught her class, MUSC 446, this past year. In the flipped classroom, instructors move aside – using their role to facilitate learning through listening, prompting and asking guiding questions – so students can experience those “aha!” moments while sifting and comparing, and collaborating with others.

Instead of listening to lectures, class time is meant for going deeper into the work and dealing with any problems that may have arisen for students in their preparatory work of readings and online research.

To make this process of discovery work well in MUSC 446: Advanced Analysis, Dr. Ravenscroft purposefully chose complex music by a contemporary composer – the late Elliott Carter, an American. Dr. Ravenscroft is an expert in Mr. Carter’s music, but she chose pieces that she hadn’t explored – in fact, no one had looked at this music, she says, because it was so new.

“I wanted to be learning alongside the students. I didn’t want to have all the answers,” she says. “There is more risk involved with this approach for instructors, since we generally want to know the answers and have them ready, but I found it exciting, and liberating.”

•    •    •

Dr. Ravenscroft had been thinking of redesigning this class – a very technical course in which students examine the organizational structure of Carter’s work, focusing on pitch, rhythm and text setting – for many years. As associate dean of teaching and learning in Arts and Science, she’s had the opportunity to investigate many different teaching and learning practices, as well as to learn effective, evidence-based practices from other faculty members who are innovating in their classes. And after years of not teaching (because of her senior administrative duties), she was keen to apply the ideas she’d been exploring.

Student feedback on Dr. Ravenscroft’s MUSC 446

“Dr. Ravenscroft did a brilliant job of opening my mind to a new way of thinking. I am happy to say that no matter what industry/field I eventually choose my career in, what I've learned in this class will always be relevant to me.”

"I like the blended learning style in that it allowed more class time to work with our groups and ask questions instead of just being lectured at."

"The group work aspect was very interesting and well implemented — it really allowed for the learning to be student-oriented as we learned through actually doing the work."

“The teaching and learning research shows that students learn well in groups. That was certainly the case in my class,” Dr. Ravenscroft explains. “Students thrived. They were excited to come to class, and sometimes brought visitors to show them what we were doing. And the quality of the work they produced proved to me that this is an effective method. There was a greater depth of analytical insight than I’d seen in previous courses, and all of their final essays were very well written and researched.”

The course itself required a great deal of preparation, and Dr. Ravenscroft took care in creating a very thorough course website through Moodle that outlines week-to-week what is expected of students and what they’ll be learning. Also on that page are details on the numerous assessments (quizzes, assignments, in-class tests, and final essay), along with the course syllabus and ongoing messages from Dr. Ravenscroft. Students also completed peer evaluations at the mid- and end-points of the course – and many commented that this process gave them time to reflect on how they worked in their groups, and what they could improve.

The class was held in one of the Ellis Hall active learning classrooms, which gave students an interactive space for exploring in groups. They used the large touchscreens to engage with the musical scores – annotating with different-coloured pens and making notes in margins.

Dr. Ravenscroft also designed a “health break” into each three-hour class. Every week, one group would bring in a snack and orchestrate a movement session (YouTube videos on the touchscreens were very popular), with Dr. Ravenscroft starting things off the first week.

“I am not opposed to having fun in class,” says Dr. Ravenscroft. “The experience is definitely less formal, but it was enjoyable. And it’s well known that an inclusive and interactive class climate has a positive effect on learning.

“It enabled me to interact with students on a more human scale. Many things came up in conversation that wouldn’t have otherwise, such as using music theory after graduation. And it was clear that many of the skills the students were building in class – the group interactions, in particular – would transfer out of class, into playing with an orchestra but also beyond musical contexts, to any workplace environment where teamwork is important.”

•    •    •

Many Queen’s instructors are experimenting with the flipped classroom and other blended learning models. In the Faculty of Arts and Science, the Blended Learning Project includes 15 high-enrolment first- and second-year courses in a wide range of subjects. These courses all flip the structure to deliver content through online materials and focus class time on engaging students through active learning and group work.

“The results of the research we are doing for the project show this model is very effective,” says Dr. Ravenscroft. “Student engagement scores have increased significantly.”

Supports for teaching and learning

Dr. Ravenscroft gave a presentation about her experience with the flipped classroom at the recent Showcase of Teaching and Learning, an annual event that gives Queen’s educators the chance to share their innovative and new teaching practices.

“The flipped classroom is one of the active learning models that the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) helps promote and develop alongside Queen’s professors and instructors,” says Peter Wolf, Associate Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) and Director of the CTL. “At the CTL, we have educational developers and numerous resources available to guide professors through the process of redesigning a course and we encourage them to come to us with any ideas or questions.”


International collaboration heats up antifreeze research

High up on the sixth floor of Botterell Hall, a glass flask is spinning in a bath of thick green liquid. Inside the flask is Professor Peter Davies’ (Biochemistry & Biology) attempt to solve one of nature’s riddles: how can plants, fish and insects live in sub-zero temperatures without freezing?

Peter Davies (left) is working with Craig Marshall from the University of Otago, New Zealand to improve the production of natural antifreeze proteins. 

He’s made some promising strides recently, and he chalks it up to the help he’s had from overseas. Dr. Davies has been working with a colleague at the University of Otago in New Zealand, and recently travelled there to collaborate on research. Together, he and Dr. Craig Marshall have been studying antifreeze proteins, which occur naturally in certain organisms that live in freezing climates. It’s thought that by binding to the surface of ice crystals, these proteins lower their freezing point, effectively staving off the formation of ice.

After working for months at Otago, Dr. Davies returned to Queen’s to continue the project. Dr. Marshall joined him shortly thereafter and they’re continuing their work together.

“The exchange has been enormously beneficial and has given me access to equipment and experts I wouldn’t have had otherwise,” says Dr. Davies. “It’s allowed Dr. Marshall and me to start work, and then continue it back here at Queen’s.”

Though both professors knew one another’s work and had met at conferences, it was their universities’ membership with the Matariki Network of Universities (MNU) that brought them together. Queen’s and the University of Otago are two founding members of the MNU, an international group of leading research-intensive universities that promotes exchanges and collaborations between member institutions. That shared membership has now helped them collaborate on their research on antifreeze proteins.

Drs. Davies and Marshall are hoping to find a way to collect and purify antifreeze proteins in greater amounts, which stands as one of the material’s biggest challenges.

“Before we’re able to effectively use these proteins, we need to develop a better supply,” says Dr. Davies.

If the production process is improved upon, the proteins could be used from agriculture to ice cream making, though one of the more promising uses is improving organ transplantation. Keeping a transplanted kidney cool enough to prevent damage, but not so cold as to form ice, could increase the supply of much-needed donations. Coating a kidney with an antifreeze protein solution could make the process safer and more reliable. 

To tackle this problem, Dr. Davies has a glass flask spinning in a bath of thick green liquid, purifying the proteins inside. It’s a difficult problem, but he has help from around the world.  

The Matariki Network of Universities seeks to build upon the collective strengths of its member institutions to develop and promote international excellence in research and education. Matariki member institutions conduct transformative research across a broad subject base in the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. They promote a combination of academic learning and personal growth through extracurricular activities in diverse scholarly communities so as to develop rounded citizens of the world and leaders of the future.

Professor fêted for career exploring Canadian identity

Historical geographer and Professor Emeritus Brian Osborne has spent his life studying “place” and the “layers” of human presence that tell the story of people. He is fascinated by what connects people to the land, particularly at the local level, and he has published extensively on Kingston’s history and explored in depth the question of Canadian national identity.

[Brian Osborne]
Brian Osborne, seen here with former RCGS president Gisèle Jacob after receiving the Camsell Medal for his volunteer work with the organization in 2007, was recently awarded the RCGS’ Massey Medal, which recognizes outstanding career accomplishments in the exploration, development or description of the geography of Canada. (Supplied Photo)

Dr. Osborne recently added a “layer” to his own history with a Massey Medal from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS). The award recognizes outstanding career accomplishments in the exploration, development or description of the geography of Canada.

“The society is very much concerned with the question of ‘what is Canada’ and its national identity, and it operates at the cutting edge of my work,” says Dr. Osborne, who was has been a Fellow of the RCGS since 1988 and was vice-president between 1998 and 2004. “I’m really proud to be a member of the Society, and the award of the Massey Medal is quite an honour.”

Dr. Osborne, who grew up in Wales, began teaching at Queen’s in 1967, and has since inspired generations of students in the field of geography. He’s been awarded numerous scholarly and professional honours, including the 2007 RCGS Camsell Medal for volunteer work and Queen Elizabeth II Gold and Diamond Jubilee Medals in 2002 and 2012. He has been very active in provincial and community organizations, serving as president of both the Ontario Historical Society and the Kingston Historical Society. Dr. Osborne has also been a consultant for the National Capital Commission, Heritage Canada, Parks Canada, Canada Post and the National Film Board.

RCGS Awards Committee chair Helen Kerfoot highlighted Dr. Osborne’s scholarship in Aboriginal history, settlement history, cultural landscapes, and the development of a Canadian sense of place. She also noted that the Queen’s professor was involved with the inclusion of Fort Henry and the Martello tower fortifications in Kingston as part of the Rideau Canal’s 2007 designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Dr. Osborne says the ongoing question of what it means to be Canadian has always captivated him, and he continues to explore the concept of how people identify with where they live at the local and national levels.

“I think of myself as a local scholar, and Kingston’s history has engaged me for some time. I’m currently working on the preface to a commemorative volume on Barriefield – the stories, memories and people and leading figures who have contributed to its becoming a distinctive “place” in history. I like to think of documenting and interpreting its historical geography as layers of the human record on the land. Through those layers run rich vertical themes – generational knowledge, traditions, experiences, storytelling, folklore – all communicated through time into the present. That is how I reconstruct the essence of places. ”

Disraeli Project draws to a close

The Disraeli Project, which produces scholarly editions of former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli’s correspondence, will close in November 2015.

“Over the past several years, we examined different options and pursued a variety of funding sources in an effort to extend the Disraeli Project,” says Susan Mumm, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Science. “Despite everyone’s best efforts, we couldn’t find a solution that would support the long-term financial viability of the project. The Faculty of Arts and Science thanks the scholars, groups and individuals who contributed to the project over the past 40 years.”

The Disraeli Project was supported by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, both of which expired in 2014. The Office of Advancement and the Office of the Principal made a concerted effort to increase philanthropic support for the Disraeli Project. However, external funding did not reach a sufficient level to extend the project.

Queen’s remains steadfast in its pursuit of high-quality research in diverse fields. As part of its ongoing commitment to the evolving field of humanities research, Queen’s will participate in a conference on digital publishing in the humanities in conjunction with other members of the Matariki Network of Universities.

Questions about the closure of the Disraeli Project can be directed to the Faculty of Arts and Science at deanartsci@queensu.ca.

PhD student earns prestigious Trudeau scholarship

Bailey Gerrits is working to rid the world of gender-based violence.

Queen’s University doctoral student Bailey Gerrits is one of 16 students across Canada to earn a Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation scholarship. The unique award has been presented annually since 2001 to the most talented doctoral students in Canada and abroad.

Bailey Gerrits has earned a Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation scholarship.

Ms. Gerrits (Political Studies) is examining how news coverage of domestic violence within Canada may promote the idea that domestic violence is un-Canadian. Her research is motivated by the desire to create a future free of gender-based violence.

“The award is a huge confidence boost in my research and it really motivates me to continue my work,” says Ms. Gerrits. “The fact that I know people have to live in these conditions also motivates me to continue.”

Along with her academic work, Ms. Gerrits volunteers for various organizations that focus on ending sexualized violence and other human rights violations against women and men, including Kingston Interval House and Sexual Assault Centre Kingston.

“The extracurricular work keeps me grounded and in touch with the people I’m doing this research for,” she adds.

Queen’s alumna Jennifer Jones, who is currently pursuing her PhD in geography at the University of Guelph, has also been named one of this year’s Trudeau scholarship recipients. She completed her undergraduate degree at Queen’s in geography and women’s studies.

Ms. Jones has lived and worked in the Yukon for 20 years, focusing on community development and fostering trust between Indigenous people, government and developers with a focus on the mining industry.

The foundation awards students working in four areas of research: human rights and dignity, responsible citizenship, Canada’s role in the world and people and their natural environment.

For more information on the scholarships, visit the website.

Queen's helps organize first Great Lakes Water Festival

  • [Great Lakes Water Fesitval]
    Grade 4 students from schools in the Kingston area learn about water conservation and stewardship with the help of Queen's students at the Great Lakes Water Festival.
  • [Great Lakes Water Fesitval]
    Grade 4 students from schools in the Kingston area learn about water conservation and stewardship with the help of Queen's students at the Great Lakes Water Festival.
  • [Great Lakes Water Fesitval]
    Grade 4 students from schools in the Kingston area learn about water conservation and stewardship with the help of Queen's staff and faculty at the Great Lakes Water Festival.

Elementary school students from across the Kingston area gathered at Lake Ontario Park on Thursday, June 4, for a day of fun and information on a broad range of topics involving water at the first Great Lakes Water Festival.

Through interactive and hands-on activities, students learned about water conservation and protection, water health and safety, water science and technology as well as water and society . 

Queen’s University helped organize the event along with KFL&A Public Health, Utilities Kingston, Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority, Limestone District School Board, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, Ontario Provincial Police, Sustainable Kingston and the Katarokwi Indigenous Grandmothers Council.

Queen's student the People's Choice at national 3MT

Cara (Chenman) Yin has given Queen’s University its first award at the national level of the Three Minute Thesis (3MT).

[Cara (Chenman) Yin]
Queen's University's Cara (Chenman) Yin has won the People's Choice Award at the national competition of the Three Minute Thesis (3MT).

Ms. Yin, a master’s student in physics, captured the People's Choice Award for her presentation “Seeing the world at the tip of a laser beam,” which encapsulates her ongoing research into using lasers to cut bone and improve outcomes in brain surgery. Voting for the award was conducted online.

Making the win all the more impressive is that Ms. Yin is an international student, who, when she first arrived in Kingston for her undergraduate studies, spoke very little English.

In the 3MT, competitors have just three minutes and one static slide to convey their research to the judges and audience.

Having advanced through the preliminary and final rounds at Queen’s, as well as the provincials, before reaching the national competition, Ms. Yin says she entered the 3MT as a fun challenge for herself. Although she says she was nervous to begin with, she gained strength and refined her presentation with each round.

“By the time of the Queen's finals, I was more confident about what I had to say in that three minutes. And I am very lucky to have family, friends and the Queen's physics department to cheer me on which really calmed me,” she says. “For the Ontario final, I really wanted to do well because I am not just representing myself but also Queen's. Queen's School of Graduate Studies helped me prep for the provincial competition which was extremely valuable.”

Judging for the national competition was based on videos of the presentations at the provincial competition.

Her accomplishment is also being lauded by the university.

“We are delighted that Cara has been recognized with the People’s Choice Award in the Canadian Three Minute Thesis competition. She represented Queen’s University brilliantly with her clear, informative and engaging presentation that landed her the majority of the more than 2,000 votes submitted from across the country,” says Brenda Brouwer, Vice-Provost and Dean, School of Graduate Studies. “ In three minutes Cara has educated many people about how lasers may be used as a neurosurgical tool with the potential to improve outcomes and she has provided a glimpse into the incredible research that our graduate students are doing.”  

Ms. Yin is grateful for the support she received from the Queen’s community and beyond.

“Winning the national People's Choice Award was a nice surprise. I should thank those who used social media like Facebook and Twitter to spread the word,” she says. “I am very grateful for the whole 3MT experience and highly encourage other graduate students to participate in future years.” 

First place went to Elizabeth Watt, a physics and astronomy student from University of Calgary, while second went to Rebecca (Delong) Dielschneider who is studying immunology at the University of Manitoba.

The announcement of the results and videos of all 11 presentations can be viewed at the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies website.

Queen’s researcher named great Canadian explorer

John Smol honoured by Royal Canadian Geographical Society.

John Smol has spent over 30 years researching and exploring the circumpolar Arctic. He has given lectures on all seven continents. He has advanced climate research and influenced policies in many countries around the world.

John Smol has been named one of Canada's top 100 explorers.

In recognition, the Queen’s University professor and Canada Research Chair has been named one of Canada’s greatest explorers by the Fellows of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. The list of 100 “trailblazers” includes Roberta Bondar, James Cameron, Chris Hadfield and Elon Musk. The fellows were looking for Canadians who have contributed world and national firsts, and those who have made significant and lasting impacts in their field of study.

“I’ve been to a lot of weird places,” says Dr. Smol, with a laugh. “So I guess you can consider me an explorer of sorts. I’ve worked on almost every major Arctic island and landscape, and I commute regularly to China and South America and elsewhere. In 2013-14, I travelled to six continents in less than a year. I’ve been to places where I’m pretty sure I was the first person to walk on the land! My lab is global.”

Dr. Smol is known around the globe for his pioneering work in paleolimnology, the study of lake sediment to track environmental and ecological change. In large part, he travels to attend conferences and events, often invited as the keynote speaker. Dr. Smol regularly uses these opportunities to advance his research projects by meeting with other researchers and students in the various international venues.

“I’m quite proud of what I’ve done with my lab group. We’re working to sort out global problems, and I believe our approaches have influenced policy in different countries and we’ve opened people’s eyes to what is wrong with the world,” he says

Learn more about the Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s list of greatest explorers.


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