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Arts and Science

International collaboration heats up antifreeze research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Professor fêted for career exploring Canadian identity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disraeli Project draws to a close

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

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

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

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

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

PhD student earns prestigious Trudeau scholarship

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

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

Bailey Gerrits has earned a Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation scholarship.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information on the scholarships, visit the website.

Queen's helps organize first Great Lakes Water Festival

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her accomplishment is also being lauded by the university.

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

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

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

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

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

Queen’s researcher named great Canadian explorer

John Smol honoured by Royal Canadian Geographical Society.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waste not, want not

New production from Chipped Off Performance Collective examines our wasteful world.

When Dan Vena arrived at Queen’s University to start his master's in gender studies, he was surprised to find the queer theatre scene in Kingston was seriously lacking. He teamed up with Queen’s drama professor and theatre artist Kim Renders, and fellow master's student Robin McDonald and formed Chipped Off Performance Collective to address the void.

Presenting wasteAWAY at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts are (l to r): Dan Vena, Robin McDonald and Professor Kim Renders.

Now, three years later, Mr. Vena and Chipped Off are presenting their third show, simply titled wasteAWAY, at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts.

“When I moved here, I wanted to create something like Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (the Toronto-based queer theatre group) here in Kingston,” explains Mr. Vena. “We are committed to presenting work that speaks to the needs and concerns of marginalized or underrepresented communities in Kingston.”

Running from June 4 to 6, wasteAWAY brings together a collection of talented artists, presenters and performers to weave together a story about waste. The show is designed to make the audience think more seriously about their relationship with waste.  It was when Queen’s environmental studies professor Myra Hird invited Ms. Renders to participate in genera Research Group (gRG), a transdisciplinary research group focused on waste, that the idea for wasteAWAY was born.

 “We have focused for the past three years on shows that are provocative and intense, shows that challenge the audience,” says Mr. Vena, “and this year’s show is no different. All the artists are given an equal opportunity to present their message.”

The show starts at 8 pm each evening, and admission is $10 or pay what you can, with tickets available at the door. In keeping with Chipped Off’s focus on accessible theatre, wasteAWAY is being presented at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, a fully accessible venue, and an ASL-English interpreter will be available upon request.

For more information on Chipped Off Performance Collective visit the Facebook page.

A family and Queen's tradition

[Dolan Family Convocation]
Mariah Beahen, seen here with her mother Karen Dolan, will be wearing a gown that dates back to 1903 and a hood that was first worn in 1897 when she graduates from Queen's University on June 8. They are two of 14 members of the Dolan family who have graduated from Queen's. (Supplied Photo)

When Mariah Beahen stands on the stage of Grant Hall on June 8, it will be a moment of accomplishment steeped in family tradition.

As she receives her Bachelor of Arts degree, the Kingston resident will be wearing regalia that have been in her family for more than a century.

Her hood was first worn by her great-grandfather’s brother, John Henry Dolan, when he graduated from Queen’s in 1897. Her great-grandfather, George Robert Dolan, wore it the following year.

Similarly, her gown was first worn by John Henry’s wife, Laura Nugent, when she graduated from Queen’s in 1903.

That’s 118 years of family tradition over four generations.

It’s a deep connection that will only add to the life moment for Ms. Beahen.

“Even though it may not appear that I stand out, I think internally I will feel that I am standing out in that gown,” she says.

All told, Ms. Beahen will be the 14th member of the Dolan family to graduate from the university, almost all of whom have donned the family regalia.

Perhaps not surprisingly, both hood and gown are in excellent condition, cared for as a family heirloom.

“The gown is in incredible shape,” says Karen Dolan (BFA’78, BEd’79), Mariah’s mother and a Queen’s graduate herself. “It’s unbelievable.”

The significance of the event and the continuation of family tradition are not lost on Ms. Beahen. She has been amazed by the response.

“It’s pretty amazing since every person that I share the story with sinks it in for me more because everyone is just ‘Wow, that’s just incredible,’” she says. “I’m really glad I have the opportunity to do this.”

It will also be a big moment for her 92-year-old grandmother, Lois Dolan, who has taken care of the gown and hood in recent decades. Just getting the items ready has made her so happy, Ms. Beahen says. She has even stitched in the names of the graduates, including Ms. Beahen.

Karen Dolan turned down her chance to wear the gown when she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Art in 1978. It’s something she now regrets but is happy that her daughter has made a different decision.

“I was given the chance to wear something that has been in my family since 1897 and I said no,” she says. “Luckily, Mariah said yes.”

The Dolan family’s connection to Queen’s is strong and 10 of the graduates have been women. The vast majority have also gone on to become teachers.

Another key family connection to Queen’s University is the Dolan Scholarship, created in 1992 with a donation of $1.5 million from the estate of Kathleen (Kay) Dolan (BA’24, MA’25), which provides selected students $3,000 a year for three years.

Research partnership expands Queen’s links with Japan

[Daniel Woolf in Nagoya]
Daniel Woolf, Principal of Queen's University, third from left, helps cut the ribbon to open the new building for the Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules (ITbM). (Supplied Photo)

A Queen’s University delegation participated this week in the opening of a new laboratory building at Japan’s Nagoya University – a facility that will help support Professor Cathleen Crudden’s (Chemistry) international research program and strengthen ties between the two universities.

Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, and Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research), are currently travelling in Singapore and Japan to strengthen ties and build collaborations with partner universities in those countries. Along with Professor Crudden, they were on hand to help inaugurate the building at the Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules (ITbM). Professor Crudden has operated a research lab at the ITbM since 2013, when she was appointed as a visiting research professor.

[Cathleen Crudden]
Professor Cathleen Crudden

“Ground-breaking research is increasingly being conducted across borders, and the ITbM is an excellent example of a research centre that is creating opportunities for both international and interdisciplinary collaboration,” says Principal Woolf. “Not only does the facility allow Professor Crudden to expand her research beyond her lab at Queen’s, it also provides opportunities for graduate students working with her in Kingston to gain an international research experience.”

The ITbM is an interdisciplinary laboratory that hosts a number of Japanese and international research teams focused on developing innovative new molecules that can be applied in a range of fields, from agriculture to medicine.

“The ITbM is an exceptional facility where leading researchers are making important discoveries at the intersection of biology and chemistry,” says Vice-Principal Liss. “Queen’s is proud to have Professor Crudden contributing to the institute’s innovative work.”

Professor Crudden is particularly excited about the ITbM’s “mix-lab” philosophy, where researchers from different fields are able to accelerate their advances by working together, often through informal daily discussions.

“One of the most interesting things is that the lab will have integrated chemistry and biology work areas. The desks of chemists and biologists will be side-by-side,” says Professor Crudden. “I hope it will lead to some excellent collaborations.”

The new facility will help Professor Crudden advance her work on a number of new research projects, such as the creation of a synthetic thyroid hormone that could prove beneficial to the agricultural sector and the creation of nanoclusters, which will allow for better medical imaging. It will also provide international research opportunities for students from her lab at Queen’s to participate in the work at the ITbM.

Professor Crudden has been an active researcher at Queen’s since 2002, when she joined the university’s faculty as a Queen’s National Scholar. She is recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including a 2015 Killam Research Fellowship from the Canada Council for the Arts.

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