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Commemoration versus contagion

PhD candidate in the Department of History, Matthew Barrett will present his research on the attitudes of the Canadian public towards suicides in the military over the past 100 years. 

In May 1918, Lt.-Col. Sam Sharpe jumped to his death from a window in a Montreal hospital after serving eleven months on the Western Front during the First World War. His death was treated as a combat fatality and the Toronto Globe noted that it was as if he had died on the “field of honour.”

Matthew Barrett, a PhD candidate in the Department of History at Queen’s, notes that had Lt.-Col. Sharpe’s death taken place today, he likely wouldn’t have been included in the casualties number as his death took place in Canada, away from the front.

This observation, amongst others, is discussed in a paper that Mr. Barrett and his supervisor Allan English will present at the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research Forum next week.

Lt. -Col. Sam Sharpe
 Lt.-Col. Sam Sharpe

“There are two main perspectives when it comes to how suicide in the military is treated. The first is one discussed by Sen. Roméo Dallaire: if we do not appropriately commemorate the individuals who take their own lives in the military then the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health will continue to exist,” says Mr. Barrett. “Another view is one expressed by Gen. Tom Lawson, Chief of the Defence Staff, who disagrees and says that if Canada acknowledges suicides as casualties of an entire mission then it may add honour to the act of suicide and cause a contagion effect.”

Mr. Barrett hopes his research on the attitudes of the Canadian public towards suicides in the military over the past 100 years will assist stakeholders in prioritizing their de-stigmatization efforts, as military suicides outnumber combat deaths during the recent Canadian mission in Afghanistan.

“The recent experience of Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan has placed greater focus on issues of mental health in the military. This emphasis on mental health care reflects the public’s focus on the Canadian soldier as a heroic national symbol,” says Mr. Barrett. “When Maj. Michelle Mendes took her own life in Afghanistan in 2009 officials did not make a clear distinction between death by suicide and killed in action. Her body was repatriated to Canada along the Highway of Heroes.”

Maj. Michelle Mendes
Maj. Michelle Mendes

It’s possible that a commemoration approach to military suicides might risk the start of a contagion effect, but it’s also vital to recognize that focusing solely on this idea of contagion and copycat suicides excludes an opportunity for commemoration, notes Mr. Barrett.

“A long-held view about military suicide in Canada is one that stigmatizes the act of suicide, but not necessarily the victims,” says Mr. Barrett. “Ideally, this research may help inform stakeholders of the type of stigma reduction strategies needed.”

Mr. Barrett and Dr. English’s paper, “Absolutely incapable of ‘Carrying on’ – Attitudes of the Canadian Public towards Suicides in the Canadian Military - 1914-2014” will be presented at the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research Forum 2014 next week in Toronto.

For more information on Forum 2014, follow this link.

A gut reaction

Queen’s University biologist Virginia Walker and Queen’s SARC Awarded Postdoctoral Fellow Pranab Das have shown nanosilver, which is often added to water purification units, can upset your gut. The discovery is important as people are being exposed to nanoparticles every day.

Nanosilver is also used in biomedical applications, toys, sunscreen, cosmetics, clothing and other items.

Virginia Walker (l) and Pranab Das have shown nanosilver could be causing issues with your gut.

“We were surprised to see significant upset of the human gut community at the lowest concentration of nanosilver in this study,” says Dr. Das. “To our knowledge, this is the first time anyone has looked at this. It is important as we are more and more exposed to nanoparticles in our everyday lives through different routes such as inhalation, direct contact or ingestion.”

To conduct the research, Drs. Walker and Das utilized another Queen’s discovery, rePOOPulate, created by Elaine Petrof (Medicine). rePOOPulate is a synthetic stool substitute, which Dr. Petrof designed to treat C. difficile infections. In this instance, rather than being used as therapy, the synthetic stool was used to examine the impact of nanoparticles on the human gut.

The research showed that the addition of nanosilver reduced metabolic activity in the synthetic stool sample, perturbed fatty acids and significantly changed the population of bacteria. This information can help lead to an understanding of how nanoparticles could impact our “gut ecosystem.”

“There is no doubt that the nanosilver shifted the bacterial community, but the impact of nanosilver ingestion on our long-term health is currently unknown,” Dr. Walker says. “This is another area of research we need to explore.”

The findings by Drs. Das and Walker, Julie AK McDonald (Kingston General Hospital), Dr. Petrof (KGH)  and Emma Allen-Vercoe (University of Guelph) were published in the Journal of Nanomedicine and Nanotechnology.

'Aquatic osteoporosis' jellifying lakes

A handful of Holopedium capsules which are replacing the water flea Daphnia due to declining calcium levels in many lakes.

A plague of “aquatic osteoporosis” is spreading throughout many North American soft-water lakes due to declining calcium levels in the water and hindering the survival of some organisms, says new research from Queen’s University.

Researchers from Queen’s, working with colleagues from York University and the University of Cambridge, as well as other collaborators, have identified a biological shift in many temperate, soft-water lakes in response to declining calcium levels after prolonged periods of acid rain and timber harvesting. The reduced calcium availability is hindering the survival of aquatic organisms with high calcium requirements and promoting the growth of nutrient-poor, jelly-clad animals.

In the study, researchers looked at the microscopic organisms (~1 mm) Daphnia and Holopedium – the latter whose size is greatly increased by its jelly capsule.

“Calcium is an essential nutrient for many lake-dwelling organisms, but concentrations have fallen so low in many lakes that keystone species can no longer survive,” says Adam Jeziorski, one of the lead authors of the study and a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Biology at Queen’s.

The research team found that when calcium levels are low, the water flea Daphnia, which has high calcium requirements, becomes less abundant.  Importantly, this keystone species is being replaced by its jelly-clad competitor, Holopedium.

“Conditions now favour animals better adapted to lower calcium levels, and these changes can have significant ecological and environmental repercussions,” says Dr. Jeziorski.

[Holopedium]
A close-up image of a Holopedium, whose size is greatly increased by its jelly capsule.

Tiny fossils from lake sediments were studied to determine the pre-impact conditions of the lakes as the calcium decline began before monitoring programs were in place. Using this technique, the team was able to examine the environmental trends from the past approximately 150 years.

“Lake sediments act like a history book of past changes in a lake, recording what happened before the problem was identified,” says John Smol (Biology), Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change. “Jelly-clad invertebrates have been increasing in an alarming number of lakes. This is likely a long-term effect of acid rain on forest soils, logging and forest regrowth.”

The increase in jelly-clad invertebrates can have important implications for lake biology, altering food webs, but can also clog water intakes.

“Many lakes we investigated have passed critical thresholds,” says Dr. Smol. “We have been reduced to the role of spectator as these changes continue to unfold. Once again we see there are many unexpected consequences of our actions, most of which are negative.”

This research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.

The study is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B and a number of high-resolution images of the organisms and techniques used in this study can be found on the Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Laboratory website.

Impressive incunabula

Queen’s Library has mounted Incunabula: An Exhibit of 15th Century Printing. The exhibit features material from the Library collection and two works owned by Principal Daniel Woolf, whose research interests include the global history of historical writing. Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer, sat down with Principal Woolf to discuss his incunabula and the other books in his collection. 

  • [Incunabula]
    Featured in the exhibit is a leaf from the Nuremberg Chronicle printed by Hartmann Schedel in 1493, on loan from the private collection of Principal Daniel Woolf.
  • [Incunabula]
    Students, staff and faculty attended the opening of Incunabula: An Exhibit of 15th Century Printing, on Monday, Nov.10.
  • [Incunabula]
    Some of the pieces in the exhibit feature "marginalia," or notes from readers found in the margins of the texts.
  • [Incunabula]
    Incunabula: An Exhibit of 15th Century Printing is on display at the W.D. Jordan Special Collections and Music Library through Dec. 1.

MK: What is the significance of the works you have loaned to the Library for the exhibit?

DW: One of them is a whole book, a chronicle that came out in 1481 of which the Library in fact owns a slightly earlier edition printed elsewhere. It’s interesting to compare the two. The other is a leaf from the famous Nuremberg Chronicle that came out in 1493.

The full book, which is missing one or two leaves, was written by Carthusian monk Werner Rolevinck. It’s distinctive as being only the second book since printing was invented to be written by a then-living author. Up to that point, the first books printed were the classics and works such as the Bible.

The Nuremberg Chronicle was the giant history of the world published in 1493 by Hartmann Schedel. That’s not the book’s actual title, but it was called that because Schedel was based in Nuremberg.

MK: Your rare book collection includes many titles besides the incunabula. Can you tell me more about your collection and how you acquire the books?

DW: I have a fair number of books from the 16th century and a lot from the 17th and 18th centuries. Occasionally I stray over into the 19th century.

When I first started out, I was going into antiquarian books shops. That is a relatively slow process if you are looking for particular titles. Over the last few years, it has become much easier to buy unusual books through vendor sites like abebooks.com. But now I am increasingly going directly to individual booksellers who are now well aware of my interests. If they get something interesting, they will dangle it in front of me.

MK: Do you collect rare books as a hobby or for research purposes?

DW: Both. There is a theme to the works I collect. They are all works of history or antiquarian scholarship or antiquarian topography written between the 16th to 18th centuries. I will have at one point used other copies of almost all of them in my research over the last 30 years.

MK: Are there any good stories behind some of the books you own?

DW: Some of them have had very interesting “provenance” in past ownership. One is a copy of an early 17th century printing of an Elizabethan English translation of an early 16th century history of Italy by Francesco Guicciardini. The book itself is a very interesting and important work and it’s a nice early edition. But what gives it added value is the book plate, which indicates it belonged to Victorian poet Matthew Arnold.

Others are interesting because they have all sorts of notes. I have one book in which somebody has interleaved the actual book with lots of other leaves, on which they have added their own notes or “grangerizing” interesting things they found relevant to the book. That process, known as “extra-illustrating,” was very popular in the 18th century.

MK: Why should people visit the exhibit at the Library?

DW: The exhibit is fabulous because these aren’t just old books. They’re among the rarest in the world and they appeared right at the dawn of printing. Just consider how many people have owned those books in their 500 year history. When some of these were printed, Columbus had not yet sailed. They are here now and they will be here 200 or 300 years from now — they are survivors.

Considering it was a new technology, the quality of the printing and the paper was remarkable. The quality of the printing is so much superior to most later printing. If you have seen some 19th century books in the Library, often the pages are not in good shape because they were printed on pulp paper that was treated with an acid, which has made the pages brittle over time. Most of these incunabula were printed on a paper based on rags. It’s much tougher. The books are beautiful works of art.

Incunabula: An Exhibit of 15th Century Printing continues at the W.D. Jordan Special Collections and Music Library (Douglas Library) through Dec. 1.

A Union of researcher and artist

A Queen’s graduate student will “exhibit” her research on Nov. 14 in a space usually reserved for sculptures and paintings.

The Union Gallery has invited Carina Magazzeni (MA’16) to discuss the way her research relates to the artworks currently on display at the gallery. The artist will also attend and talk about his work at the same time.

[Jude Griebel, Stepping Out]
Carina Magazzeni (MA'16) will discuss the connections between her research and the work of artist Jude Griebel, including his piece "Stepping Out" (above) that is currently on display at the Union Gallery.

Jocelyn Purdie, the director of the Union Gallery, says Visual Bites in Context was born out of a desire to open up new avenues of interdisciplinary programming at the gallery.

“Visual Bites in Context is a new and exciting way to discover the research taking place within the Queen’s community,” she says. “We hope the event sparks some interesting discussion around the connections between artists and researchers in different disciplines and facilitates a deeper understanding of their work.”

Ms. Magazzeni, a master’s candidate in the cultural studies program, will talk about how her research connects with Jude Griebel’s sculptures, which fuse human anatomy with allegorical counterparts. Ms. Magazzeni’s research focuses on the visual consumption of the non-human animal body through the art of taxidermy, and the changes in perception of those works after they’re removed from a natural history museum setting and placed within an art gallery.

“When I heard about the event, I thought it was a great way to present my research in an intellectual space without the pressure of a large conference,” Ms. Magazzeni says. “I also liked the idea of connecting with people across disciplines, especially artists. It’s been great bouncing ideas off of Jude.”

Visual Bites in Context will take place on Friday, Nov. 14 at 4 pm, followed by the closing reception of the current exhibitions from 5-7 pm. Located on the ground floor of Stauffer Library, Union Gallery is a space where exciting visual art fresh from the artist’s studio challenges and surprises visitors. Exhibitions and events bring together students, faculty, staff and community members to meet the artists and chat among friends about the work on display. 

Jaime Angelopoulos and Derrick Piens who are featured in the other exhibition at the gallery, will give a talk on Thursday as part the fine art program’s 2014-15 Visiting Artist Lecture Series. The Toronto-based artists will present their lecture at 2:30 pm at the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies (28 Division St.), room 100.

Diving deep to uncover history of rocks

[Noel James]
Noel James teaching carbonate sedimentology in Bermuda.

 

[Queen's in the World
Queen's in the World

As a PhD student, Noel James (Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering) saw a research opportunity to examine relatively young rocks, especially reef rocks, on and around the island of Barbados.

There was only one problem: he lacked a key skill required to understand reef rocks.

“I had never been a diver before. Literally, I learned to dive so I could work on my PhD in a semi-intelligent way,” he says.

Dr. James was hooked on scuba diving right away, which has allowed him to conduct extensive research on coral reefs, shallow seafloors and open shelves, the birthplace of many ancient limestones. From his original marine work in the Caribbean, Dr. James expanded his scope to innovative research on carbonate sedimentary rocks in the High Arctic, the Rocky Mountains, deserts in the Middle East and Australia’s Red Centre.

His contributions to the field earned him the Sorby Medal, the highest award of the International Association of Sedimentologists. The organization has only awarded the medal eight times over the past 40 years.

“It was a shock when I found out I’d won. I looked back at the previous medalists and they were my heroes. I thought, ‘what am I doing with this group of people?’” he says. “The other awards I have received have been profound but this one really affected me quite deeply because it’s worldwide.”

Dr. James, member of the Order of Canada, shares a connection with previous Sorby medalist Bob Ginsburg. After finishing his PhD, Dr. James worked with Dr. Ginsburg to establish a laboratory at the University of Miami. Their research focused on comparing ancient carbonate rocks such as limestone to modern seafloor sediments formed by the shells of dead calcareous organisms often using research submersibles to probe the deep zones of reef growth.

Dr. James carried on that style of research when he returned to Canada, examining rocks in locations across Canada while continuing his work on the modern seafloor. His passion for field work spills over into his teaching, where he infuses his undergraduate and graduate courses with his experiences. In addition he currently takes exceptional students to the Bermuda Institute for Ocean Sciences each year to let them experience first-hand the complexities of reef growth.

“In a course like Geological Evolution of North America, I can tell the students what I found working in the Arctic on 3-billion-year-old rocks. I can use my own pictures and illustrations,” he says. “It’s nice to see them perk up when you are talking about what you have done. I hope in the back of their minds they are thinking, ‘maybe I can do that, too.’

Dr. James accepted the Sorby Medal at the 19th International Sedimentological Congress in Geneva.

Gift helps build connections, passion with natural world

[QUBS Donation]
A $1 million gift from Jessie Deslauriers, Artsci’87, Artsci’91, is resulting in the construction of a new research and teaching facility at Queen’s University Biological Station. (Supplied photo)

Jessie Deslauriers’ “favourite place in the world” is the Queen’s University Biological Station (QUBS). She’s honouring the place where she spent so much time while earning her biology degrees with a $1 million gift to build a new research and teaching facility.

The building, which will open officially next spring, has a library named in honour of Ms. Deslauriers’ father, noted journalist Jack Hambleton, four laboratory classrooms and a herbarium.

“QUBS is so important for research and learning, especially now as field stations across the country are much diminished,” says Ms. Deslauriers, Artsci'87, Artsci'91.

Now retired, the Kingston resident earned her degrees by taking one course a year while working full-time as an administrator in a number of Queen’s departments. She also sat on University Council for eight years.

Ms. Deslauriers’ love for biology stretches back to her youth when she roamed through Toronto’s green spaces rescuing injured birds and baby bats.

Her father indulged her enthusiasm for all things wild and natural because he too had a love for nature, as well as being a well-known author and newspaper reporter. The first editions of his published works, which include topics on Ontario hunting and fishing, will have found a home in the Jack Hambleton Library, a key feature of the new facility.

At QUBS, Ms. Deslauriers found her family. Long-time QUBS director Raleigh Robertson (now retired), QUBS manager Frank Phelan, and past assistant manager Floyd Connor became her “brothers.” A cabin in which she stayed while doing her field research, fondly referred to as Bunkie One, became her home away from home.

“Those guys always accommodated me even when my job got in the way of my studies. They found ways to let me continue my research,” she says.

Stephen Lougheed, the current director of QUBS, cannot say enough about Ms. Deslauriers’ generous spirit and what it will do for the station.

“A gift of this magnitude will enrich the lives of hundreds and hundreds of students for years to come. It will help them gain insights into and passion for the natural world,” he says.

In practical terms, Dr. Lougheed sees the new facility as a “capacity building enterprise” that will greatly enhance teaching and research for undergraduate and graduate students, not just from Queen’s but from around the world.

The library, with a view of Lake Opinicon, will be a beautiful and calming space, where researchers can congregate and students will write their papers and theses. The 144,000-specimen herbarium will foster new research in plant ecology and conservation including work on invasive species. The four new laboratories will allow for multiple research groups and classes to work simultaneously.

Dr. Lougheed believes Ms. Deslauriers' gift speaks powerfully to connections people have with QUBS. As one of the premier scientific field stations in Canada, thousands of students have studied and explored the Lake Opinicon area for almost 70 years. They’ve conducted research and participated in courses spanning ecology, evolution, conservation, geography and environmental science. Ms. Deslauriers is creating a lasting legacy for this remarkable place that continues to inspire students seeking to understand the natural world.

Researchers working towards a cure

Four Queen’s University professors have received funding from the Cancer Research Society to continue their research into treatments for cancer. Lois Mulligan, Bruce Elliott, Peter Greer (Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine) and Madhuri Koti (Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) each received a $120,000 grant.

“Queen’s University has extensive expertise in fields of cancer research and treatment, both fundamental and clinical,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “The investment being made is a testament to the strength of our researchers and potential to make a significant difference to a very important health issue. I look forward to watching the progress of these four remarkable researchers unfold with the support of the Cancer Research Society.”

Working in the Queen's Cancer Research Institute, researchers study cancer cells under a microscope.

The specific projects are as follows:

Dr. Koti is working to identify mechanisms in the immune system within the cancerous tumour that might contribute to individual differences in response to chemotherapy. This research will allow a personalized treatment approach for patients living with ovarian cancer.

Dr. Mulligan is focusing on a molecule called RET that helps convey signals to cells allowing them to grow or move. In a growing number of cancers, RET has been shown to help the cancerous tumour grow and spread to other sites. Her research will explore the roles of RET, which will provide tools to understand the system and combat human cancer.

Dr. Greer is studying Arpin, a recently discovered protein that plays a role in the spread of cancer. His research looks at how the disruption of Arpin in breast cancer cells blocks their ability to spread from the breast to other organs such as the liver and lungs. He is working to prove the theory that Arpin inhibition could help prevent the spread of breast cancer.

Dr. Elliott and his team are working to understand the mechanisms of cancer metastasis to the lymph nodes, a key indicator of a poor outcome in cancer patients. He is developing a model to image this metastasis process in real time to provide better understanding of the process. This information will move us a step closer to testing therapies that can prevent early cancer spread to the lymphatic system.

Queen’s distinguishes itself as one of the leading research-intensive institutions in Canada. The mission is to advance research excellence, leadership and innovation, as well as enhance Queen’s impact at a national and international level. Through undertaking leading-edge research, Queen’s is addressing many of the world’s greatest challenges, and developing innovative ideas and technological advances brought about by discoveries in a variety of disciplines.

Bullying expert honoured for changing lives

A Canadian leader in bullying prevention, Queen’s University researcher Wendy Craig was honoured Monday with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s Partnership Award. One of five SSHRC Impact Awards, the honour recognizes a SSHRC‑funded formal partnership for its outstanding achievement in advancing research.

Communications Officer Anne Craig sat down with Dr. Craig to talk about her work and what the award means to her.

Anne Craig: Why did you choose this field of research?

Wendy Craig: I fell into what I do by accident. During my PhD I was involved in a study with Debra Pepler where we were looking at aggressive children’s interactions on the playground. When we filmed them to find out what was happening on the playground, we saw that the playground was really aggressive. In that initial study, through naturalist observation, we found that children were bullying each other once every seven and a half minutes and they were aggressive towards each other once every two minutes. That study really defined and launched my career.  It ignited a strong interest in conducting applied research to understand how to support children and youth to develop optimally and have safe, healthy and respectful relationships. 

By working as a researcher and getting that research into the hands of practitioners and people who work with children, I can be more effective in having a larger impact on the health and well-being of Canadian children and youth.

AC: What is the current focus of your work?

WC: In addition to my work as a professor and researcher, I am the scientific co-director of PREVNet along with Dr. Pepler at York University.  PREVNet is comprised of more than 125 researchers across the country and 63 national organizations that work with children and youth. Its goal is to provide practitioners with the scientific information that they need to be more effective in their practice. We also want practitioners to identify the burning questions we should tackle as researchers. My work has become about knowledge mobilization and bridging the gap between science, practice and policy through the process of bringing researchers and organizations together to co-create research, resources and tools.

AC: Why is your work important?

WC: I believe that this work is important because it has to do with the health and well-being of children and youth. We recently finished a study for the Public Health Agency of Canada where we found that high-quality relationships with parents, peers, teachers, adults at school and the community positively impact physical and mental health outcomes, as well as academic and social ones. The concern Dr. Pepler and I had when we did that study was fewer children in Canada are reporting having high-quality relationships with parents, teachers, schools, and in the neighborhood. Bullying is a relationship problem and is related to long-term negative effects.  We have learned that children don’t grow out of bullying; it’s a problem that grows more significant as they get older. Part of what we do is look at how we minimize that long-term impact through prevention and intervention.

AC: What does the Partnership Award mean for you and your career?

WE: The award really recognizes the work of the network. This work could not be as effective without all members of the network contributing their unique skills, expertise, resources, dedication and time. Over time, through the generous funding of SSHRC through the National Centres of Excellence program, we have built a network that has a common vision, and is based on the foundation of trusting relationships. This award celebrates the incredible accomplishments that happen when outstanding organizations, researchers and students come together to co-create projects that are driven by science and meet the needs of our partners. Relationships matter to create an effective network that has conducted more than 200 projects in the last seven years. Creating PREVNet was a dream and we are excited we are now having an impact and making a difference in the lives of Canadian youth.

AC: What is your focus for the future?

WE: There is much work to do in Canada to improve children and youth development.  We rank 25 out of 28 on relationships. Given that healthy development depends on healthy relationships, we need to engage and support adults in all the places that children and youth live, learn, work and play.  We will work with our partners to continue to co-create research projects, and develop evidence-based education and training, assessment and evaluation tools, prevention and intervention strategies, and enhanced policy.  Through PREVNet we are leading the world in an unprecedented manner in creating a social-cultural change in reducing bullying through promoting relationships. 

Art, anxiety and 'Awakening'

Exploring Anxiety through Art 

When Athena Mitsilios (Artsci ’17) was asked to make a clay sculpture on the theme of anxiety for her art class ARTF 227 she knew exactly where to start.

Student Jessica Peterson's scultpure of a knotted stomach.

“I knew I wanted to look at social anxiety,” she explains. “I wanted people to know more about what it feels like.”

First she carefully crafted an alien’s head, adding big, bulging eyes she then covered in tinfoil.

“When you have anxiety you feel like everyone is staring at you,” says Ms. Mitsilios, explaining that her alien has a small mouth to suggest the feeling of not being able to breathe. 

Part of the assignment, set out by associate professor Kathleen Sellars, however, included building in a sound component, which Ms. Mitsilios did by recording the sound of laboured breathing and a voice repeating “stop staring, stop staring” in increasingly panicked tones. The sounds for each of the exhibition’s 12 sculptures, which are embedded with mini-speakers, are only audible by plugging a cell phone, iPod or tablet.

“We haven’t really had a chance to do a sound component with an art piece before,” says Jess Peterson (Artsci’17), who also created a piece for the exhibition. “It was interesting. Each sculpture is totally different when you hear the sound component.” 

Ms. Peterson interpreted the theme by creating an organic-looking pink stomach which she encircled with string.

“I was thinking about the physical symptoms of anxiety,” she says. “This is a stomach completely tied up in knots.”

Radha Chaddah: “Awakening”

Alumna Radha Chaddah (Artsci’ 92) grew up torn between art and science.

“My family was always split,” she explains. “One side was in the arts, the other was in the sciences.”

"Flame", from Chaddah's Awakenings
Alumna Radha Chaddah's photography straddles art and science.

By growing stem cells and photographing them using laser light, Ms. Chaddah has drawn a careful path down the middle, creating ephemeral two-dimensional works that look both organically abstract and carefully considered.

“I always knew I wanted to bring the two together and somehow make art about science, among other things,” she explains.

Ms. Chaddah opted to start her education in the arts, which is why she pursued a double major in film and art history at Queen’s. Later, she rounded out her education with an undergraduate degree in biology, eventually choosing to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Toronto some years later. That’s where, working at a neurobiology lab, she found herself drawn to a stem cell project. Disinclined to experiment on animals, she began growing cells in petri dishes, learning a technique called immunohistochemistry. 

“The technique is used to prove the identity of a cell,” Ms. Chaddah explains. “I recognized doing my research that certain antibodies created beautiful images.”

While images cell images are typically reproduced in scientific journals in low resolutions at the size of an inch square, Ms. Chaddah’s high-resolution technique allows her to enlarge images to 40” x 60”. While each image can take up to 30 minutes to shoot, the results are arresting.

For Ms. Chaddah these works are more than just interesting images. She uses her work to ask questions about the world.

“They’re really about where we’re going, and how we are merging all these scientific discoveries as we move towards a place that is interesting and scary, all at the same time,” she says.

While she may have picked up the techniques in graduate school, Ms. Chaddah is quick to credit her Queen’s education for giving her the skills to think critically. She also names a former film professor, Derek Redmond, for teaching her to appreciate light and colour when creating an artistic work.

“His words have stuck with me since then,” she says. “I have become obsessed with light.”

“Awakening” by Radha Chaddah and the anxiety sculptures created by the students from ARTF 227 are on-view at the Art and Media Lab at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts until Nov. 13, 2014.

For more information visit the Isabel’s website.

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