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Ahmed Hassan receives E.W.R. Steacie award

Professor in the School of Computing is one of only 10 Queen's faculty members to be honoured with this prestigious fellowship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

[Ahmed Hassan with Minister Kirsty Duncan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau]
Ahmed Hassan (School of Computing), back row centre, stands between Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities Kirsty Duncan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, along with other recipients of the 2018 E.W.R Steacie Memorial Fellowship, following a meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy the Prime Minister's Office/Adam Scotti)

Canadian leader in software engineering, Queen’s University professor Ahmed Hassan was honored with the 2018 E.W.R Steacie Memorial Fellowship. He is only the 10th Queen’s faculty member to receive this prestigious honour, since the award’s creation in 1965.

The award is presented annually to up to six researchers nationwide by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to enhance the career development of outstanding faculty members who have earned a strong international reputation for their original research. Fellows receive a research grant of $250,000 over two years and are relieved of teaching and administrative duties during this period.

The Gazette recently interviewed Dr. Hassan, who holds the NSERC/BlackBerry Industrial Research Chair in Software Engineering and the Canada Research Chair in Software Analytics at the School of Computing, about this prestigious research award.

What does the E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship mean to you and your research?

Before I talk about what it means, let me briefly tell you about what I do. My research uses machine learning and data analytics to dig into the rich, yet rarely explored, stores of information associated with software systems. We analyze not only the computer code of these systems, but every piece of information gathered during their development and operation: design notes, prior code changes, user reviews, debugging histories, online discussions, and logs. By mining through these rich yet rarely-leveraged information sources, we can intelligently guide and support the evolution of these complex systems. For example, we can figure out that a system is not performing as expected even though no one ever documented the expected behaviour, or truly knows it (such is the case for most complex large-scale systems nowadays). We can also foretell future troubles long before they impact users. This line of work is called Mining Software Repositories (MSR), a field of research that I co-founded around 15 years ago.

[Ahmed Hassan]
Ahmed Hassan always tells his students to never underestimate their ability to change the world. (Photo courtesy NSERC)

The Steacie Fellowship is a huge honour and an incredible acknowledgment of not only my team’s work but also of the whole MSR field. Each year NSERC awards six Steacie Fellowships across all science and engineering fields nationwide. In the past 50-plus years, only 13 computing researchers ever received this great honour. Hence, the fellowship is a great recognition of the impact of our work and the importance of the MSR field on software systems and society in general. The award is also a huge vote of confidence for other Canadian researchers in the MSR field, given Canada’s commanding position in this field.

I am very grateful for the wonderful support from everyone at the School of Computing and many others throughout Queen’s. It feels great to have Queen’s at the podium.

As one of the top software engineering researchers in Canada, what is your most important contribution so far and what was its impact?

Research results in any engineering discipline are best judged by their impact on practice, a good amount of my team’s innovations are already adopted in practice and are in use on a daily basis. However, over the years I have come to the realization that people are really what shapes a field more than our greatest ideas. I am very grateful to the continuous support and hard work of my team.  

The work I am most proud of is growing and nurturing a very vibrant and top-notch team of international leaders. Over the years, I strived to ensure the diversity of my team, the Software Analysis and Intelligence Lab (SAIL), with members coming from all over the world – Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Iran, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United States, just to name a few. It is truly an amazing experience seeing such diverse backgrounds working together and exceling on the world stage.

Today, many of them are leaders at very successful companies in Canada, including IBM, BlackBerry, and Amazon. Being a professor, myself, I am particularly proud of the ones who became professors. Seventeen of my prior lab members are now tenured or tenure-track professors at research-intensive universities on every continent except South America. To put things in perspective, over the past five years, half of all new software engineering faculty positions in Canada (eight out of 16) and Australia (three out of six) are from SAIL at Queen’s. These researchers continue to have a strong and demonstrable impact on software research and practice worldwide through their own trainees and by serving important leadership roles in some of computing’s top conferences and journals.

What goals are you setting for yourself in regards to research?

My goals remain the same – doing top research with a strong and measurable impact on practice. That said, the Steacie Fellowship gives me the freedom to think of the next big step and to take much higher risks than I would usually take so we can ensure that Canada maintains its leadership in software engineering research and practice worldwide.

What advice do you have for students starting their careers in computer science?

Never underestimate your ability to change the world. Computing is a young and very welcoming field. Your chances of meeting and interacting with the researchers from your textbooks are high, and these people are friendly, supportive, and quite often willing to take great chances and risks on you. I co-founded MSR as a PhD student and I became Canada’s youngest Industrial Research Chair with support from NSERC and BlackBerry, thanks to people who are willing to take big risks on a younger me.

Anyone can produce world-leading research as long as they are committed and are not afraid to tackle the hard problems. Canada is a software engineering powerhouse and a leader in computing. We are shaping and enabling many of today’s innovations (from deep learning to mobile email). There are many amazing opportunities and tons of hard problems waiting for you, so come join us as we shape the future of our world.

Queen’s professor honoured for three pillars of academia

John Smol earns award for his passion for teaching and dedication to his students.

Queen’s University professor John Smol has earned some of the highest research honours in Canada and internationally, but the Lee Lorch Award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) might be one of the most significant based on what it represents to him – acknowledgment of his work as a teacher and a mentor to students, as well as the public-at-large.

The CAUT reserves the annual Lee Lorch Award for members whose teaching, research, and service have contributed significantly to the lives of students, to their institution, to their field of study, and to the community.

“Frankly, it feels odd to receive a reward for doing something that I love,” says Dr. Smol, a professor in the Department of Biology and the Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change. “I have always believed that it is a privilege to be a professor. I love universities because they are keepers and interpreters of our past collective knowledge. I love universities because they are also the place where we create new knowledge; knowledge that can be used to make our lives better.”

Dr. Smol’s research focuses on Arctic and alpine ecosystems, water pollution, and climate change and he is the founder and co-director of the Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Laboratory (PEARL) based at Queen’s.

Winning the Lee Lorch award brings Dr. Smol’s teaching and mentoring award total to 13 – something he’s incredibly proud of.

“A large part of our jobs as professors is to take our knowledge creation and communicate the products of that knowledge,” he says. “Academic institutions remind me about how important it is for our society to have well-informed, articulate, socially active, and especially thoughtful graduates to meet the challenges ahead. This is partly what we do – or at least try to do – in universities.  Namely, mentoring graduates who are ready to tackle the problems that the world has created.”

Brian Cumming, Head of the Department of Biology and former student of Dr. Smol, nominated him for the award.

“The Department of Biology is extremely proud that Dr. Smol will be the recipient of the 2018 CAUT Lee Lorch Award,” says Dr. Cumming. “It recognizes his extraordinary contributions to all aspects of being a professor including: being a leading researcher; teacher and communicator; and his administrative responsibilities. He is especially engaged in explaining how science works, and the contributions that science can make to public policy and decision making, and why we all need to communicate the significance of our findings.”

Dr. Smol received his award on Saturday, April 18 in Ottawa.

Queen's Remembers Nobel plinth now installed

A plinth commemorating the Nobel Prize-winning neutrino discoveries of the team at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) scientific collaboration has been installed between Ontario and Grant Halls.

[Nobel Plinth]A plinth commemorating the Nobel Prize-winning neutrino discoveries of the team at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) scientific collaboration led by Dr. Art McDonald, Gordon and Patricia Gray Chair in Particle Astrophysics Emeritus in the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy at Queen’s, has been installed between Ontario and Grant Halls.

The plinth was recently unveiled at a special event held at the Agnes, but at the time it could not be permanently installed due to the weather. To learn more about the Nobel plinth, please see this Gazette article.

The plinth is a part of the Queen's Remembers series. Previous Queen’s Remembers plinths have recognized the traditional inhabitants of the Kingston area—the Anishinaabe and the Haudenosaunee peoples—and the 5th Field Company, a group of soldiers primarily comprised of Queen’s students and faculty who served and gave their lives in both World Wars. To learn more about the Queen’s Remembers initiative, visit the Queen’s Encyclopedia.

An (un)titled exhibition

  • Leigha Stiles, student co-chair of the Bachelor of Fine Arts graduating show (Un)titled.
    Leigha Stiles, student co-chair of the Bachelor of Fine Arts graduating show (Un)titled, created wearable sculptures for her exhibition (un)wavering.
  • Alyssa Dantes, (un)censored
    Alyssa Dantes, (un)censored
  • Carrie Emblem, (un)bounded
    Carrie Emblem, (un)bounded
  • Jordan Thompson, (un)alien
    Jordan Thompson, (un)alien
  • Victoria Kim, (un)bearable
    Victoria Kim, (un)bearable
  • Eliane Findley, (un)breakable
    Eliane Findley, (un)breakable

Ontario Hall is filled with the artwork of the Bachelor of Fine Art (BFA) program graduating class, transforming the stalwart century-old building into an art gallery for a week.

A total of 19 graduating students have staged their pieces throughout the building for (un)titled., with each having their own exhibition space. The pieces range from large canvas paintings to small sculptures to multimedia installations filling an entire room.

For the artists it is an opportunity to stage their own exhibition, bringing together the experiences they have gathered over their years at Queen’s, says Leigha Stiles one of the student co-chairs of the event.

“There’s a sense of pride in our program and what we’ve accomplished this year, and for all four years I have been here,” she says, standing amongst her wearable sculptures. “It’s very exciting but also sad in a way since (our time at Queen’s and in the program) is ending.”

Each student's exhibition displays a research-based body of work that they have devoted an entire academic year to, points out Alejandro Arauz, Lecturer and exhibition liaison for the BFA program.

“If you look at the individual works there is an interesting array of relevant, present and past issues that are elaborated upon through visual art,” he says, adding that he is impressed by the students’ overall efforts in coming together to prepare for the show as well as the high standard in their individual practices. “The works that they make contribute to various discourses and human understanding. It’s like a thesis paper except here it’s a visual thesis contribution.”

Further information and images of the artwork are available at the exhibition website.

More information about the program is available at the Fine Art (Visual Art) Program website.

Honorary degrees for spring ceremonies

The presentation of honorary degrees is one of the many traditions of convocation. This spring, seven recipients will be honored during the ceremonies. All recipients were selected by Queen’s community members for their contributions to the local community, Canadian society, or the world.

The honorary degree recipients this year include:

Phil Gold, Doctor of Science DSc

[Phil Gold]
Phil Gold

Ceremony 2: Thursday, May 24 at 2:30 pm

Phil Gold is the Executive Director of the Clinical Research Centre of the McGill University Health Centre at the Montreal General Hospital (MGH) and the Douglas G. Cameron Professor of Medicine and Professor of Physiology and Oncology at McGill University. He has served as the Inaugural Director of the Goodman Cancer Centre, Chairman of the Department of Medicine at McGill, and Physician-in-Chief at the MGH.

Dr. Gold’s early research led to the discovery and definition of the Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CEA), and the subsequent CEA blood test. In 2006, the Phil Gold Chair in Medicine was inaugurated at McGill University. Dr. Gold was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 2010, and also received the Life Time Achievement Award from McGill University and the inaugural McGill University Faculty of Medicine Global Achievement Award in 2011.

Dr. Gold has received national and international recognition throughout his career, including the Gairdner Foundation Annual International Award (1978), Medizinische Hochschule, Germany (1978), the Johann-Georg-Zimmerman Prize for Cancer Research (1978), the Isaak Walton Killam Award in Medicine of the Canada Council (1985), the National Cancer Institute of Canada R.M. Taylor Medal (1992), the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Medal (2002), and many other accolades, including honorary degrees from a number of universities.

Isabel Bassett, Doctor of Laws LLD

[Isabel Bassett]
Isabel Bassett

Ceremony 5: Friday, May 25 at 4 pm.

Professionally, Isabel Bassett was Chair and CEO of TVOntario, MPP and Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation for the Ontario Government, and host and producer of award winning documentaries on CFTO TV, which focused on social issues such as sexual abuse, mental health, and teen gangs.

Now retired, Ms. Bassett is a facilitator using her know-how and connections to work for gender parity. She advocates to get young people more involved in politics and for more diversity on boards and in senior management positions. She is now adding her voice in support of the McMichael Gallery to awaken the public to Canada's little known treasure house of Canadian Art.

Indira Samarasekera, Doctor of Science DSc

[Indira Samarasekera]
Indira Samarasekera

Ceremony 12: Thursday, May 31 at 4 pm

Indira Samarasekera served as the twelfth President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Alberta from 2005 to 2015. She also served as Vice-President (Research) at the University of British Columbia from 2000 to 2005. She is currently a Senior Advisor for Bennett Jones LLP and serves on the Board of Directors of the Bank of Nova Scotia, Magna International, and TransCanada. Dr. Samarasekera was appointed by the Prime Minister to serve as a Federal Member to the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments until 2017.

Dr. Samarasekera is internationally recognized as one of Canada’s leading metallurgical engineers for her ground-breaking work on process engineering of materials, especially steel processing. Dr. Samarasekera was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2002 for outstanding contributions to steel process engineering. In 2014, she was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in the US, the profession’s highest honour.

As a Hays Fulbright Scholar, she earned an MSc from the University of California in 1976 and a PhD in metallurgical engineering from the University of British Columbia in 1980. She has received honorary degrees from the Universities of British Columbia, Toronto, Waterloo, Montreal, and from Western University in Canada, as well as Queen’s University in Belfast, Ireland.

Valerie Tarasuk, Doctor of Science DSc

[Valerie Tarasuk]
Valerie Tarasuk

Ceremony 13: Friday, June 1 at 10 am

Valerie Tarasuk is a professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Tarasuk’s research includes Canadian food policy and population-level dietary assessment, but much of her career has focused on income-related problems of food access in Canada. She played a pivotal role in the implementation of food insecurity monitoring in Canada and has helped spearhead efforts to use monitoring data to inform programming and policy decisions. Dr. Tarasuk has led PROOF, an interdisciplinary research program investigating household insecurity in Canada, since 2011. In 2017, Dr. Tarasuk was honored by the Canadian Nutrition Society with the Earle Willard McHenry Award for Distinguished Service in Nutrition.

John Baird, Doctor of Law LLD

[John Baird]
John Baird

Ceremony 14: Friday, June 1 at 2:30 pm

John Baird served as a senior cabinet minister in the Government of Canada. Mr. Baird spent three terms as a Member of Parliament and four years as Minister of Foreign Affairs. He also served as President of the Treasury Board, Minister of the Environment, Minister of Transport and Infrastructure, and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. In 2010, he was selected by MPs from all parties as Parliamentarian of the Year. He is currently a Senior Business Advisor with Bennett Jones LLP.

An instrumental figure in bilateral trade and investment relationships, Mr. Baird has played a leading role in the Canada-China dialogue and worked to build ties with Southeast Asian nations.

Mr. Baird holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Political Studies from Queen’s. He volunteers his time with Community Living Ontario, the Prince's Charities, and is a board member of the Friends of Israel Initiative.

Hugh Segal, Doctor of Law LLD

[Hugh Segal]
Hugh Segal

Ceremony 15: Monday, June 4 at 10 am

Now the fifth elected Principal of Massey College and a strategic advisor at the law firm of Aird and Berlis, LLP, Hugh Segal has spent his career in such public service roles as the Associate Cabinet Secretary (Federal-Provincial Affairs) in Ontario and the Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister.  In Ontario, he was involved in the negotiations to patriate the Canadian constitution and create the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Mr. Segal chaired the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Special Senate Committee on Anti-Terrorism between 2005 and 2014.  He served as Canada's Special Envoy to the Commonwealth and a member of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group on reform and modernization, human rights, and rule of law.

A former President of the Institute for Research on Public Policy in Montreal, a Senior Fellow of the Canadian Institute of Global Affairs, and a Distinguished Fellow of the Munk School of Global Affairs, the Queen's School of Policy Studies, and the Smith School of Business at Queen's, Mr. Segal holds honorary doctorates from the Royal Military College of Canada and the University of Ottawa.

Douglas Cardinal, Doctor of Law LLD

[Douglas Cardinal]
Douglas Cardinal

Ceremony 21: Wednesday, June 6 at 2:30 pm

Originally from Calgary, Alberta, Douglas Cardinal's architectural studies at The University of British Columbia took him to Austin, Texas, where he achieved his architectural degree and found his passion for human rights initiatives. Mr. Cardinal has become a forerunner of philosophies of sustainability, green buildings, and ecologically designed community planning.

Mr. Cardinal has received many national and international awards, including 20 Honorary Doctorates, Gold Medals of Architecture in Canada and Russia, and an award from the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for best sustainable village. He was also titled an Officer of the Order of Canada, one of the most prestigious awards that can be given to a Canadian, and he was awarded the declaration of “World Master of Contemporary Architecture” by the International Association of Architects.

Policy Studies Implementation and Transition Working Group holds first meetings

The Policy Studies Implementation and Transition Working Group has begun to meet in early April and will meet weekly over the coming months.

This working group was created following a recommendation of the Principal’s Commission on the future of Public Policy at Queen’s University, which submitted its final report, An Ambitious Vision for Public Policy at Queen’sin February.

This report outlines the need for a ‘next generation’ of university-based public policy research and education with a focus on education, inter-disciplinary collaboration, and incorporating public policy as a pan-university priority.

The working group, which includes representatives from across the university, is tasked with considering each of the recommendations in the Principal’s Commission report, consulting with stakeholders, working out the specifics of the future and function of the group, and assisting with the transition and implementation of change. 

The members of the working group hope to have a preliminary report ready before the summer. 

Learn more about the report, Principal’s Commission, and working group on the Principal’s website.

Members of the Working Group include:

Barbara Crow (Co-Chair) Dean, Faculty of Arts and Science
David Walker (Co-Chair) Interim Executive Director, School of Policy Studies
Jacquie Jamieson (Secretary) Executive Assistant to the Dean, Faculty of Arts and Science
Keith Banting Queen's Research Chair in Public Policy; Fellow, Royal Society of Canada (RSC)
Pascale Champagne Professor, Canada Research Chair in Bioresources Engineering, Director of Beaty Water Research Center
Peter Chin Associate Dean, Undergraduate Studies, Faculty of Education
David Detomasi Associate Professor, Distinguished Faculty Fellow of International Business, Smith School of Business
Carly Ellis Master of Public Administration Student
Lynn Freeman Associate Director, Administration and Finance, School of Policy Studies
Michael Green Head Family Medicine, Head CHSPR
Anne Johnson Assistant Professor, Robert M. Buchan Department of Mining
Warren Mabee Associate Professor of Geography; Canada Research Chair in Renewable Energy Development and Implementation; Director, Queen's Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy (QIEEP)
Grégoire Webber Canada Research Chair in Public Law and Philosophy of Law
Awet Weldemichael Associate Professor and Queen's National Scholar, Department of History
Benoit-Antoine Bacon (Ex-Officio) Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic)
Kathy O'Brien (Ex-Officio) Associate Vice-Principal (International)

Remembering the neutrino

Nobel Prize-winning science was celebrated at a special event. 

  • [Photo of John Fisher, Daniel Woolf, George Ewan, Art McDonald, and Jan Allen]
    VIPs pose with the Nobel medal display at the Agnes. L-R: Marc Dignam, Head of the Physics Department; John Fisher, Interim VP (Research); Daniel Woolf, Principal; George Ewan, Professor Emeritus; Art McDonald, Nobel laureate; and Jan Allen, Director of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. (Photo by Bernard Clark)
  • [Nobel Medal Replica]
    A replica of the Nobel Prize medal won by Art McDonald is now permanently on display at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. (Photo by Bernard Clark)
  • [Past and present Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) employees and their family members]
    Proving that research is a team effort, past and present Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) employees and their family members gather around the plinth. (University Communications)
  • [Janet McDonald and other attendees]
    Janet McDonald (foreground), wife of Art McDonald, and other spectators flip through the plinth's pages. (University Communications)
  • [George Ewan, Art McDonald, and Daniel Woolf]
    George Ewan, Art McDonald, and Daniel Woolf pose with chocolates resembling the three 'flavours' of neutrinos. (University Communications)

On Monday, representatives from across the Queen’s community gathered to celebrate two new installations that will commemorate the Nobel Prize-winning research discoveries of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) scientific collaboration led by Dr. Art McDonald, Gordon and Patricia Gray Chair in Particle Astrophysics Emeritus in the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy at Queen’s.

Dr. McDonald was the co-recipient of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of neutrino oscillations, a phenomenon which proved that neutrinos have mass. He shared the prize with Takaaki Kajita of the University of Tokyo, whose research made similar detections possible.

Neutrinos, which are sometimes referred to as the ‘building blocks of the universe’, are tiny subatomic particles with almost no mass and no charge. The SNO Collaboration’s discovery increased human understanding of these particles, which ultimately helps scientists understand how stars, galaxies, and the universe itself has evolved since the Big Bang.

To celebrate the discovery, the university has unveiled a monument between Ontario Hall and Grant Hall to share the fascinating story of the neutrino breakthrough with visitors to campus. This plinth is part of the Queen’s Remembers series, an initiative that commemorates those who have made significant and noteworthy contributions to Queen's University.

“Queen’s University has been wonderfully supportive of the SNO research work and continues to support strongly the ongoing work at the SNOLAB underground laboratory,” says Dr. McDonald. “Those of us who have worked on SNO are very appreciative of this commemoration of the important contributions of many Queen’s students, post-doctoral fellows, staff, and faculty that led to this scientific success.”

Additionally, a replica of Dr. McDonald’s Nobel Prize medal will be permanently displayed at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. The display will be located in a busy hallway between the gallery and Etherington House, and will include details about the experiment.

“The research conducted by the incredible team at SNO, under the leadership of Dr. Art McDonald, has an impact that goes far beyond Queen’s University,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “The vision of those who started the collaboration, including Dr. George Ewan, Professor Emeritus of the Physics Department at Queen’s, and the late Dr. Herb Chen, and the dedication of all who have worked on it since, have helped Canada become a leader in the field of particle astrophysics. We are delighted to recognize and celebrate their achievement with these two inspirational displays.”

Previous Queen’s Remembers plinths have recognized the traditional inhabitants of the Kingston area—the Anishinaabe and the Haudenosaunee peoples—and the 5th Field Company, a group of soldiers primarily comprised of Queen’s students and faculty who served and gave their lives in both World Wars. To learn more about the Queen’s Remembers initiative, visit the Queen’s Encyclopedia.

New lecture series honours chemistry professor

Queen's alumnus and Nobel Laureate Sir Fraser Stoddart delivers inaugural Walter A. Szarek Lecture.

  • [Mario Pinto, Walter Szarek, Sir Fraser Stoddart]
    The inaugural Walter A. Szarek Lecture was delivered by Sir Fraser Stoddart at Queen's on Friday, April 13. From left, Mario Pinto, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Dr. Szarek, and Sir Fraser.
  • [Sir Fraser Stoddart, Walter Szarek]
    Nobel Laureate Sir Fraser Stoddart speaks with Walter Szarek after delivering the inaugural Walter A. Szarek Lecture in Chernoff Hall.
  • [A member of the crowd raises his hand]
    A member of the crowd raises his hand to ask a question of Nobel Laureate Sir Fraser Stoddart as he delivers the inaugural Walter A. Szarek Lecture.
  • Nobel Laureate Sir Fraser Stoddart speaks with Cathleen Crudden (Chemistry)
    Nobel Laureate Sir Fraser Stoddart speaks with Cathleen Crudden (Chemistry) during a reception held at Chernoff Hall following the Walter A. Szarek Lecture.

Sir Fraser Stoddart, the 2016 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, delivered the inaugural Walter A. Szarek Lecture on Friday, April 13, honouring a researcher he considers one of the most significant influences in his career.

From 1967 to 1970, Sir Fraser, who received the Nobel Prize for his work in the design and synthesis of molecular machines, was a postdoctoral fellow in the Queen’s Department of Chemistry, working in the research group led by J.K. Jones. However, with Dr. Jones working abroad, Sir Fraser was effectively supervised by Dr. Szarek.

It was Dr. Szarek who directed Sir Fraser’s research interests from carbohydrate chemistry to the then brand-new area of macrocycle synthesis and chemistry.

“It is a moment full of nostalgia,” Sir Fraser said. “The period of post-doctoral work was one of the sweetest and most significant parts of my academic career. The fact that my journey started here at Queen’s with Walter has stood me in good stead as I have moved around, from country to country, and from lab to lab.”

During his time at Queen’s, Dr. Walter Szarek has been a professor, supervisor, mentor, and friend to many. On the occasion of his 80th birthday, the Department of Chemistry honoured his many contributions with the announcement of a new lecture series in his name. Mario Pinto, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), introduced the distinguished speaker. A Queen’s alumnus, Dr. Pinto also studied chemistry at Queen’s as an undergraduate and later completed his PhD under the supervision of Dr. Szarek.

Dr. Szarek’s research lies at the interface of chemistry and medicine, with a particular focus on drug discovery and development. He played a leading role in the establishment of Neurochem (now Bellus Health, Inc.) and successful drug candidates such as KIACTA for the treatment of Amyloid A Amyloidosis, Alzhemed for the treatment of Alzheimer's Disease, and the nutraceutical VIVIMIND for the protection of memory function. Each of these drug candidates were synthesized in the Szarek Laboratory at Queen’s.

Dr. Pinto highlighted the important role a supervisor plays for graduate students, pointing to his personal experience with Dr. Szarek as a perfect example.

“Graduate work is life-changing. It’s important to remember that a PhD is a Doctor of Philosophy, not a Doctor of Chemistry. The lessons you learn teach you to how to approach life and how to learn,” he said. "That time of my life was made even more special and transformative because I had Walter as my mentor.”

When asked what advice they would pass on to current students, the distinguished chemists emphasized the importance of mentorship.

“Mentorship is the most important part of a professor’s activities,” Sir Fraser commented. “I get asked all the time: What is my legacy? It is not my research. I will be remembered by my students and by my extended family of scientists that started here at Queen’s with Walter and that has grown over the past half-century.”

Dr. Szarek was admittedly “overwhelmed” by the opportunity to be reunited with Sir Fraser and Dr. Pinto and grateful for their return to the university to present the inaugural lecture.

“They are world-renowned scientists – a Nobel Prize winner and the president of NSERC,” he said. “This is a fantastic moment for our department and for Queen’s.”

Engaging the community in inclusivity

The 2017-18 budget allocated $1 million for diversity and inclusivity initiatives, including support for ideas from the community.

[The QBAS conference team]
The Queen's Black Academic Society (QBAS) conference team. From left to right: Dayna Richards (Artsci '19), Kianah Lecuyer (Artsci '19), Maclite Tesfaye (Artsci '19), Sydney Williams (Artsci '18), and Brandon Tyrell (Artsci '19). (Photo by Zoe Walwyn)

When the Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion (PICRDI) issued its final report last year, the university was given dozens of recommendations to respond to – creating new positions, updating policies, and funding initiatives.

To help meet some of the needs, the university set aside $1 million per year over three years dedicated specifically to diversity and inclusivity initiatives. The funding has primarily been used to pay for a number of big-picture priorities, but some was put aside to support community initiatives – mainly to bring in speakers and host events.

“A more diverse campus community enhances our academic mission, our student experience, and our research,” says Teri Shearer, Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion). “These initiatives have offered many opportunities to share diverse perspectives and ideas across the university over the past year, and I thank all of the organizers who are helping us build a more inclusive community.”

[Photo from Mus[interpreted] art collection]
Additional funding for the Journal of Critical Race Inquiry has allowed them to purchase art like this image, from the “Truth & Dare Project” by Zahra Agjee, to enhance the journal’s presentation. (Supplied Photo)

A total of six initiatives were funded, resulting in dozens of high profile speakers visiting campus and some enhancements to a key diversity publication produced at Queen’s.

The Journal of Critical Race Inquiry, a publication based in Queen’s Gender Studies department, received some additional funding to help with the journal’s long-term planning and allowed them to make some investments to enhance the journal’s presentation – for instance, the February edition featured an art piece from the (Mus)interpreted project. Providing more funding for the journal was a recommendation of the PICRDI report.

In the academic year ahead, Samantha King, Head of the Department of Gender Studies, says the journal is planning an international symposium and special issue on ‘Decolonial Sex and Love’.

The Studies in National and International Development (SNID) speaker series was another initiative which received support. In addition to featuring 12 Queen’s academics, SNID 2017-18 co-chair Karen Dubinsky says the funding they received helped them bring in 12 up-and-coming speakers.

Upcoming Events
SNID: Regulating Romance: Hindus, Muslims and Proscribed Pleasures in Modern India – Thurs, Apr 19, 5 – 6:30 pm, Mackintosh-Corry Hall Room D214

Muslim Societies, Global Perspectives: The Medieval Mediterranean: Interconnected Histories – Sat, Apr 28, 9 am – 5 pm, Watson Hall Room 217

“Some of the highlights of this year’s series were Tanya Talaga, author of Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Deaths and Hard Truths in a Northern City; and Robin Maynard, author of Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present,” says Dr. Dubinsky, who is a Professor in Global Development Studies and History. “Both of these authors came to Queen’s at the beginning their book tours, and these titles have since become celebrated across Canada.”

Other groups across the institution and the Kingston community joined in with the Provost’s Office to help fund some of these programs. For example, the Faculty of Arts & Science partnered with the Provost’s Office to help fund the Muslim Societies-Global Perspectives initiative, which hosted a series of events looking at the legacy of Kingston resident and Syrian immigrant George Masoud, the 2017 Québec mosque massacre, and medieval Jerusalem.

[Adnan Husain, Ariel Salzmann, Gord Dueck]
Adnan Husain, Ariel Salzmann, and Gord Dueck of the History Department pose with a poster from their event about the life of George Masoud. (University Communications)

The support also resulted in some brand new projects, such as the Future of Black Scholarship Conference organized by the Queen’s Black Academic Society. More than 90 students, faculty, and alumni attended, and organizers say they hope to build on that with a second conference in 2019. Various community and corporate sponsors supplemented the Provost’s Office sponsorship.

Dr. Shearer says the Provost’s Office will seek to raise awareness of the opportunity to apply for funding in the year ahead. Her office is currently drafting terms of reference for the application process, which will be unveiled this fall.

Reports will be issued in the near future which detail the university’s overall progress in meeting the PICRDI recommendations since the report was issued last year. You can find links to all the mid-term updates on the Deputy Provost’s webpage.

Dreams of reconciliation

Among the Principal’s Dream Courses funded last year, two courses were specifically focused on sharing Indigenous knowledge.

For one group of students, their semester-long dive into Indigenous culture is nearing an end – while another class gets set to begin its journey this summer.

[Lee Maracle]
Lee Maracle, an early Indigenous feminist, activist, and writer, speaks to the ENGL218 class. (University Communications)

Heather Macfarlane, Assistant Adjunct Professor in the Department of English, has just recently completed the first offering of ENGL218: Introduction to Indigenous Literature in Canada. The course examined Indigenous novels, traditional stories, poetry, short stories and plays from various time periods, written by Métis, Inuit and First Nations authors.

“My goal was to provide the students with insight into Indigenous cultures that they might not otherwise have,” she says. “Students love to have answers but I wanted to open things up for them, and show them how much there was to learn about Indigenous Peoples in Canada. I want to get them asking questions, with the goal that they ended up with more questions than when they started.”

Texts for ENGL218 – Introduction to Indigenous Literature
● Dimaline, Cherie. The Marrow Thieves.
● Halfe, Louise. Burning in this Midnight Dream.
● Maracle, Lee. Sojourner’s Truth and Other Stories.
● Moses, Daniel David. Almighty Voice and his Wife.
● Robertson, David Alexander. Betty: the Helen Betty Osborne Story.
● Ruffo, Armand Garnet. Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing into Thunderbird.
● Van Camp, Richard. The Lesser Blessed.

In addition to reading the stories, the class of 54 students also welcomed a number of the authors to campus for weekly guest lectures. To engage them in these talks, Dr. Macfarlane had the class conduct traditional greetings, introduce the authors, and prepare thoughtful questions in advance.

The speakers included Onangaate, a knowledge keeper from the Kingston Indigenous community; Lee Maracle, an early Indigenous feminist, activist, and writer; and two authors from Queen’s including Daniel David Moses of the Drama department and Armand Ruffo of the English department. The final speaker was Louise Halfe, who shared poems about her experiences as a student at a residential school.

Of particular interest to the students was Cherie Dimaline, winner of the 2017 Governor General's Award for English-language children's literature. Ms. Dimaline was the author of dystopian post-apocalyptic book The Marrow Thieves.

Dr. Macfarlane’s course will be offered again this fall, potentially with changes to the author lineup. The talks are being video recorded, and Dr. Macfarlane hopes to use the recordings with future offerings of the course if it becomes a permanent addition to the department’s course lineup.

“I am thankful for the Principal’s Dream Course funding, as I would not have been able to bring the authors in otherwise,” she says. “I am hopeful the fall intake will be even more popular than this term’s offering.”

[Students walk along a rocky trail]
Indigenous community members lead students on a nature walk. (Supplied Photo)

In June, another Dream Course will get underway as Heather Castleden begins her first offering of GPHY309: Indigenous Perspectives on the Environment and Health. This field school is an opportunity to meet with Indigenous peoples to learn directly from them about their interconnected relationships with the land, environmental management, and human health.

“This is based on a field school I used to offer at Dalhousie University, and builds on many of the same relationships I developed when I was working out in Mi’kma’ki (Nova Scotia),” says Dr. Castleden, who is the Canada Research Chair in Reconciling Relations for Health, Environments, and Communities. “There seems to be a lot of excitement from the students - that Queen’s is finally offering something like this.”

As part of the three-week course, students will spend two weeks in Mi’kma’ki meeting with members of several Mi'kmaw First Nations.

[Google Maps screenshot of the students' route through Nova Scotia]
Dr. Castleden's students will be on the road for 14 hours as they meet with Indigenous communities across Nova Scotia. (Google Maps)

Their travels will take them to, for example, Pictou Landing, an Indigenous community that has been heavily affected by a local pulp and paper mill; to Unama’ki (Cape Breton), where they will learn about two-eyed seeing from the Elder who originated the principle. of embracing the best of both Indigenous and Western knowledge systems.They will meet with other Indigenous knowledge-holders that apply this principle to interpreting the local archaeological history and geological formations.

If time permits, they’ll also participate in a cultural camp in Bear River on the western side of Nova Scotia.

Along the way, they will connect with the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs, visit the site of a centralized residential school, go eel fishing at night (if the weather cooperates), and participate in land-based learning activities. The students have also been invited to a pow wow. The focus is on experiential learning with many in-person meetings and engaging in ceremony when invited to do so by Mi’kmaw hosts.

“This field school is meant to challenge the students emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually,” says Dr. Castleden. “When they get back to Kingston, the students will each have the opportunity to reflect on their experience by preparing short video stories, which will be showcased at a special open event on June 15.”

When the course is offered for a second time next year, Dr. Castleden says she may take the field school out to the west coast where she has other established relationships instead – though she is also keen to eventually develop local relationships so students can experience something similar in southeastern Ontario.

[Principal's Dream Course logo]
The logo for the Principal's Dream Courses program. (Supplied Photo)

Each year, the Principal’s Office funds a number of courses through the Principal’s Dream Course program. Interested faculty should submit proposals tied to key themes, such as sustainability, Indigenous knowledge, and diversity and inclusion, and successful proposals are granted up to $15,000 in one-time funding to offer the course for at least two iterations.

The Principal’s Dream Course program is administered by the Centre for Teaching and Learning – learn more about it on the CTL’s website. The 2018/19 recipients will be announced in the near future.


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