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Advanced dark matter experiment coming to SNOLAB

By Communications Staff

A major dark matter project is making SNOLAB, located near Sudbury, its new home.

The underground science facility has been chosen to host the Super Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (SuperCDMS), an international, multimillion-dollar dark matter experiment currently based in Minnesota.

  The Super Cryogenic Dark Matter Search is an international, multimillion dollar dark matter experiment currently based in Minnesota with plans to progress the project by building a more sensitive detector at SNOLAB.

The SuperCDMS experiment was selected by U.S. funding agencies as one of its major second-generation dark matter projects, with support going toward expanding the science by building a more sensitive detector at SNOLAB.

Utilizing state-of-the-art cryogenic germanium detectors, the collaboration is searching for dark matter particles, also known as weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs). The discovery of these particles could resolve the dark matter problem, revolutionizing particle physics and cosmology. The use of the underground facility at SNOLAB reduces interference of known background particles.

“SNOLAB is really excited to hear the news that SuperCDMS-SNOLAB has been selected as one of the U.S. second generation direct dark matter search projects, and will be heading to SNOLAB for its next phase of operations,” says Nigel Smith (Physics), director of SNOLAB. “As a leading experiment in the field of dark matter searches, the combination of improved detector technologies and the facilities at SNOLAB will allow SuperCDMS to improve its sensitivity to WIMP dark matter interactions even further, and hopefully detect these elusive particles.”

The facility is operated by the SNOLAB Institute whose member institutions are Queen’s University, Carleton University, Laurentian University, University of Alberta and Université de Montréal. It is located two km below the surface in the Vale Creighton Mine near Sudbury, Ont.


 

Controversial Facebook study reviewed by Queen's ethicist

Dr. Udo Schuklenk. Photo by University Communications.

By Rosie Hales, Communications Officer

Writing on behalf of 27 ethicists from across North America, Queen’s philosopher Udo Schuklenk and a team of five co-authors have written a commentary for the journal Nature on a controversial Facebook study.

The study manipulated the news feeds of 310,000 Facebook users to feature more content that was deemed either positive or negative by automated software. The results of this study showed that users who were exposed to less positive content very slightly decreased their own use of positive words and increased their use of negative words.

Dr. Schuklenk’s team believes the study did not violate anyone’s privacy and Facebook’s attempt to improve the user experience is consistent with its relationship with its consumers, despite many users’ concerns that Facebook “purposefully messed with people’s minds.”

“This group of influential bioethicists came together to defend sound and important research against charges by colleagues that something terribly unethical happened when researchers investigated what happens to our mood when the social networking site changes the news it delivers to us in our individual news feeds,” says Dr. Schuklenk, a professor in the Department of Philosophy at Queen’s and Ontario Research Chair in Bioethics.

The co-authors concluded that while the experiment was controversial, it was not a breach of ethics or law.

“The study involved no violation of privacy or pursuit of ends inconsistent with Facebook’s relationship with its users. Facebook simply altered its standard practice to detect how emotional content affects users in a way that was not known in advance to increase risk to anyone in the study,” says Dr. Schuklenk. “Permitting Facebook and other companies to mine our data and study our behaviour for personal profit, but penalizing it for making its data available for others to see and to learn from, makes no-one better off.”

Read the full commentary online or view a full list of authors and signatories

'Theatrical conscience' of the Isabel

The concert hall of the Isabel Bader Centre for Performing Arts awaits the grand opening set for September. University Communications/Greg Black

This article is printed in the July edition of the Gazette, which is now available. Copies are avaialble at newsstands around campus. It is the first of a series featuring some of the people and firms behind the planning, design and construction of the Isabel Bader Centre for Performing Arts.

By Andrew Carroll, Gazette editor

It’s a jewel along the shores of Lake Ontario, and David H. Rosenburg knows it.

As the Isabel Bader Centre for Performing Arts nears completion, the vision of what the facility can be is taking full form. While work continues inside, the Isabel’s exterior offers a breathtaking glimpse of the near future.

When Mr. Rosenburg, theatre consultant and managing principal of Theatre Projects, speaks about the Isabel, his excitement is clear.

“I’m very excited about it. Of all the projects I have worked on, it is one of my favourite sites,” Mr. Rosenburg says. “You can’t ask for a better site than on the shore of Lake Ontario.”

But his excitement isn’t strictly about the location of the project; it’s also about its potential for education and performance. He also sees The Isabel as a catalyst for the arts community at Queen’s as well as Kingston.

David Rosenburg of Theatre Projects. Supplied photo

That’s a view that is based on a decades-long connection with the area. While Theatre Projects is based in Connecticut, Mr. Rosenburg and his family have been coming to the Kingston area for around 25 years. He feels the timing for such an education and performing arts facility is just right.

“Having a new building like this is like waking up in the morning and stretching. For the university, it’s going to be like ‘Wow, we can actually stretch here. We can reach our arms out and actually do something we weren’t able to do previously,’” he says. “It’s not unusual for a building like this to open and to have the arts community come rushing in and say ‘let’s find all sorts of ways to use this.’”

Rosenburg and his team have been involved in the project from the beginning stages. As he explains, theatre consultants are one side of the design triangle, along with architects, Snohetta and N45, and acoustician Joe Solway of Arup.

“There is a creative tension between theatre consultant, acoustician and architect that ultimately makes for a better end product for the university” he says. “With these three disciplines striving to get the best outcome possible, it pushes each of us to think outside the box and find innovative solutions.”

As for the role of a theatre consultant, Mr. Rosenburg explains they act as the conduit between those who work in the performance world and those who work in the construction world. The staff of Theatre Projects all come from theatre backgrounds and work with architects, engineers and clients to ensure all the performance requirements end up in the final design.

“We think of ourselves as the theatrical conscience of the project, constantly maintaining diligence over the functionality of the end product so that the building works the day it opens,” he says.

In the case of the Isabel, Mr. Rosenburg says Queen’s knew they wanted a concert hall and that the School of Music, the Department of Drama, the Department of Film and Media, and the Visual Art – Bachelor of Fine Art Program were coming together to create much-needed space. Theatre Projects then took those requirements and turned that information into a vision, determining things such as how big the lobby would be and the size of the bar, the number of dressing rooms, restrooms and the layout for the performing spaces.

“We know what typically goes into a concert hall and we can say, based on seat count, here is what you require, then we actually get into shaping the room with the knowledge of what they want – seats, types of productions, etc. – and then provide the architects a sketch of what is needed,” Mr. Rosenburg says.

“We’re giving them the basis of a starting point so that it works from a sightline standpoint, from a theatrical, rigging and lighting standpoint and that it is as functional as it possibly could be and that it meets the goals of what the end-user is trying to accomplish.”

 andrew.carroll@queensu.ca

A new view of the world

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

New research out of Queen’s University has shed light on how exercise and relaxation activities like yoga can positively impact people with social anxiety disorders.

Adam Heenan, a Ph.D. candidate in the Clinical Psychology, has found that exercise and relaxation activities literally change the way people perceive the world, altering their perception so that they view the environment in a less threatening, less negative way. For people with mood and anxiety disorders, this is an important breakthrough.

An example of a point-light display.

For his research, Mr. Heenan used point-light displays, a depiction of a human that is comprised of a series of dots representing the major joints. Human point-light displays are depth-ambiguous and because of this, an observer looking at the display could see it as either facing towards them or facing away. Researchers have found people who are socially anxious perceive these figures as facing towards them (i.e., the more threatening way) more often.

“We wanted to examine whether people would perceive their environment as less threatening after engaging in physical exercise or after doing a relaxation technique that is similar to the breathing exercises in yoga (called progressive muscle relaxation),” Mr. Heenan explains. “We found that people who either walked or jogged on a treadmill for 10 minutes perceived these ambiguous figures as facing towards them (the observer) less often than those who simply stood on the treadmill. The same was true when people performed progressive muscle relaxation.”

Visit the BioMotion lab website to take the test.

This is important because anxious people display a bias to focus on more threatening things in their environment. In fact, some researchers think that this is how these disorders are perpetuated: People who are anxious focus on anxiety-inducing things and thus become more anxious, in a continuous cycle.

“This is a big development because it helps to explain why exercising and relaxation techniques have been successful in treating mood and anxiety disorders in the past,” says Mr. Heenan, who worked with supervisor Nikolaus Troje (Psychology) on the research.

This new research was published in PLOS one, an international, peer-reviewed publication featuring primary research from all scientific disciplines.

Surgical success story

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Once the stuff of science fiction movies, computer assisted surgery is now commonplace in operating theatres around the world. One of the leaders in the field, Queen’s University professor Randy Ellis was recently honoured with Maurice E. Müller Award, a lifetime achievement award from the International Society for Computer Assisted Orthopaedic Surgery.

For the past 19 years, Dr. Ellis (School of Computing, Surgery and Mechanical and Materials Engineering) has dedicated his career to computer assisted surgery and helping surgeons successfully complete difficult surgeries.

Randy Ellis demonstrates how computer assisted surgery works.

“Contributing to society is important,” says Dr. Ellis, who started his career in the field of robotics and now works out of the Queen’s Human Mobility Research Centre, “and this award is recognition from my peers for a successful career.”

In 1994, Dr. Ellis went to Italy to study surgery and a year later he joined forces with Queen’s professor John Rudan (Surgery) to develop software to perform the first computer assisted orthopedic surgery.

“Using computer assisted surgery, surgeons can accurately predict the result of the surgery. The technology also makes a difficult surgery possible, which increases the chances of a successful surgery,” he says.

Dr. Ellis is continuing his research into learning how joints move to create even more accurate computer programs for surgery. Currently, he is focusing on poorly healed fractures and early onset arthritis.

“I am revisiting how the human hip moves,” he explains. “I’m fascinated with the human hip because it’s vastly underappreciated. I want to maximize the potential of the hip and help people suffering from arthritis.”

For information about the award visit the website.

SNOLAB director reappointed to second term

By Andrew Carroll, Gazette editor

Nigel Smith (Physics) has been reappointed to a second term as the director of SNOLAB, the deep underground science laboratory specializing in neutrino and dark matter physics.

The SNOLAB facility is an expansion of the successful Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) experiment.

The facility is operated by the SNOLAB Institute whose member institutions are Queen’s University, Carleton University, Laurentian University, University of Alberta and Université de Montréal. It is located two km below the surface in the Vale Creighton Mine near Sudbury, Ont.

Nigel Smith (Physics) has been reappointed as director of SNOLAB for a second term.

 First appointed in 2009, Dr. Smith says that the second term will allow him to see some results from the major projects currently underway.

“The detectors that we are building take many years to design, construct and operate so a five-year term is enough to get things moving but not really enough to deliver the science from these large-scale experiments,” says Dr. Smith. “What I am looking forward to in the second term is having these projects, which we are now constructing, take data and complete the analysis to get the science out."

“It’s the science that drives everybody here. It’s the rationale for operating this facility,” he adds.

According to Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research), Dr. Smith has definitely earned his reappointment.

“SNOLAB is internationally-renowned for its research and discoveries, and directing such a sophisticated and complex research site takes a great level of expertise,” he says. “Nigel has done an outstanding job in his role as director of SNOLAB, and I look forward to seeing its accomplishments continue in Nigel’s second term.”

Under his leadership, SNOLAB has seen an increase in partnerships with other innovation centres across the country while also expanding the areas of study.

“We actually have quite a broad program of science here so the large-scale experiments that we’re building at the moment are augmented by smaller-scale projects, some of which have a sufficiently short life-cycle that we have seen results over the last five years,” says Dr. Smith.

During the next term his aim is to make SNOLAB the “partner of choice” for underground physics projects, providing world-class infrastructure and delivering world-leading science.

Legacy of trailblazing professor lives on in bursary

Jeanna Faul, Office of Advancement, and Teresa Alm, Associate University Registrar, accept a cheque for $50,000 from Marilyn Wilson and Danna Dobson, representatives of the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) Kingston Club. Supplied photo

This article is printed in the July edition of the Gazette, which is now available. You can get your copy at newsstands around campus.

By Alec Ross

Not many people know this, but a direct connection exists between a certain asteroid, a crater on Venus and Queen’s University. That connection is Dr. Allie Vibert Douglas, one of the world’s first female astrophysicists and Queen’s Dean of Women for 20 years.

Vibert Douglas died in 1988 at the age of 93. A year later, to acknowledge her many contributions to science and Queen’s, the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) Kingston Club established a scholarship in her name. Since then, through a variety of activities the club’s membership has worked steadily to raise funds for an endowment.

That persistence came to fruition on May 14, when at their annual dinner the club members presented the hard-earned cheque that finally pushed them past their $50,000 target.

The endowment will support the CFUW Kingston Club A. Vibert Douglas Award, which was created in memory of Vibert Douglas and Caroline Mitchell, an outstanding Kingston businesswoman who was one Ontario’s top amateur golfers and a longtime member of the CFUW Kingston Club. Mitchell died in 1978.

The original Vibert Douglas scholarship and a bursary honoring Mitchell existed as separate awards given out by the Office of the University Registrar (Student Awards) until July 2011, when they were combined in a single award.

Marilyn Wilson, chair of the scholarship trust for the Kingston club, says creating the endowment was a practical decision. The club's 50-odd members had been supporting the two awards through their own fundraising efforts, but as many club members were getting older, Wilson says, “We felt we should make a permanent mark and have a permanent endowment.”

Born in Montreal in 1894 and orphaned while young, Allie Vibert and her brother George were raised by their maternal grandmother, whose surname, Douglas, Allie would later adopt. When George enlisted in the army in 1914 the family moved to England. During the First World War, Allie served as a statistician at the British War Office, and for her work she was named a Member of the British Empire – at age 23. She spent her university years at McGill and Cambridge, where she studied under the renowned astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington. After the war she returned to McGill, earned her PhD in 1926 and taught at university for 13 years. She accepted a position as Queen’s Dean of Women in 1939 and remained in the post until 1959, acting as a strong advocate and role model for acceptance of women in professional courses. After her retirement she taught astronomy for six more years in the physics department.

In 1947 Vibert Douglas was elected president of the International Federation of University Women, the first and only Canadian to occupy the post. She was elected president of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada that same year – becoming its first female president – and helped to establish the society’s Kingston chapter.

The International Astronomical Union named an asteroid and a Venusian crater after Vibert Douglas in 1988.

The CFUW Kingston Club A. Vibert Douglas Award is given to a Bachelor of Science student who demonstrates both financial need and academic achievement. First preference is given to students in third or fourth year of a physics program, and second preference is given to female students.

 

Three economists recognized by national journals

Dunning Hall houses the Department of Economics at Queen's.

By Rosie Hales, Communications Officer

Three members of the Queen’s Department of Economics have been selected for prestigious best article awards by Canadian Public Policy and the Canadian Journal of Economics.

Graduate student Michael Kottelenberg and Professor Steven Lehrer were selected for the John Vanderkamp Prize for the best article in Canadian Public Policy.

Mr. Kottelenberg and Dr. Lehrer won the prize for their article “New Evidence on the Impacts of Access to and Attending Universal Child-Care in Canada.”

“Steven and I were both excited to receive recognition for our contribution to the debate surrounding the provision of universal child care. This paper is one of a series of papers exploring the channels through which large scale subsidization of child care affects developmental outcomes in children,” says Mr. Kottelenberg. “We are hopeful that our work will provide helpful insight into an important policy debate occurring both in Canada and elsewhere in the world.”

Ian Keay, associate professor and chair of undergraduate studies in the economics department, received the Harry Johnson Prize for the best article in the Canadian Journal of Economics. His paper was titled “Trade policy and industrial development: iron and steel in a small open economy.”

The trio received their awards at the 48th annual Conference of the Canadian Economics Association (CEA), held recently at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

Painting under pressure

By Andrew Stokes, Communications Officer

Twelve painters will enter the studio, but only one will emerge as Kingston’s champion.

The regional final of Art Battle, a live painting competition that sees artists vie for audience votes, will take place on July 5. The previous four Art Battle competitions have featured Queen’s students and staff, and this year is no different.


Ania Ochocinski poses with her winning painting at February's Art Battle. (Photo Supplied) 

Ania Ochocinski (ConEd’14), a staff member at the Queen’s Learning Commons, is one of 12 finalists competing on Saturday. She advanced to the regional round after winning the monthly competition in February.

Just as with other Art Battles, Ms. Ochocinski was given brushes, acrylic paint and 20 minutes to create a masterpiece. With her canvas set among a circle of others, she painted as the audience slowly swirled around the easels.

“It’s exciting for the audience to see the creative process as it happens because they’re the ones voting — they have the final say,” she says. “Art Battle is part performance, part finished product, so their perception can be impacted by how you paint.”

The performance aspect is what makes live painting so interesting for Ms. Ochocinski. “There’s an adrenaline rush to it, which makes for a much different experience than painting alone,” she says. “Unlike a medium like singing where you can stand in front of a crowd and really pour your heart out, paintings are typically considered as a static, finished product. Art Battle lets you see the passion and the process behind the piece. You get to put your energy on display.”

While relatively new to Kingston, Art Battle was started in Toronto five years ago. Following its success there, it spread out to other cities, reaching the West Coast in 2012.

The winner of Saturday’s competition will get to compete at the national level later this month at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto against 20 other artists from across the country. A share of Art Battle’s proceeds go to the Sick Kids Foundation.

More information about this Saturday’s show can be found on the Art Battle Kingston website.

Alumnus to lead Canadian research organization

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Queen’s alumnus Mario Pinto has been named the new president of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

“I really wanted to do something for Canada. I want Canada to occupy a more prominent place on the world research stage,” says Dr. Pinto (Artsci’75, PhD’80).

Mario Pinto is the new head of NSERC.

A Toronto native, Dr. Pinto has strong ties to Kingston. Along with earning two degrees at Queen’s, he met his wife Linda (Artsci’75, MSc’78) while registering at the Jock Harty Arena in 1971 and, as a graduate student, helped establish the Grad Club as a meeting and socialization space.

After receiving his PhD, Dr. Pinto did his postdoctoral work at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France and the National Research Council Canada in Ottawa before moving to Simon Fraser University (SFU) in 1983. He started his academic career as an assistant professor then became the Chair of Chemistry for five years before becoming Vice-President, Research, a position he held for 10 years.

With a busy career at SFU, Dr. Pinto says the decision to become the NSERC president wasn’t taken lightly. The presidency is a five-year term and Dr. Pinto has goals and objectives he wants to reach during that time.

“I want to ensure that our researchers are better supported to make a greater scholarly impact. It’s time to stand back and ask how we can be more efficient and more effective in supporting the entire ecosystem from ideas to innovation.”

“On behalf of everyone here at Queen’s, I’d like to congratulate Dr. Pinto on his new role with NSERC,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “The council will surely benefit from his leadership and expertise in research administration, and I look forward to working with him in his new capacity.”

The appointment comes into effect this fall.

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