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    Communicating research beyond the academy

    In-person workshops with The Conversation Canada will help Queen’s researchers reach bigger audiences with their expertise.

    [graphic image] Queen's University & The Conversation workshops

    Researchers are experts in their fields and understand how society can make use of their expertise to support critical thinking and daily decision-making related to a range of topics – from climate change, health, politics, and technology, to the economy, and many other topics. But communicating evidence-based knowledge has its challenges: what platform to use? Which aspects of the research are the most interesting to the public? How to address complex issues in a language everyone can understand?

    In two workshops hosted by University Relations, the editorial team of The Conversation Canada will walk researchers through these and other questions. The in-person, hands-on workshops will feature what makes a good article, how to explain your research effectively, and how to work with The Conversation to boost research promotion across mediums.

    The workshops will be held on Thursday, Oct. 5 at Mitchell Hall (see sidebar to learn more). Faculty members, post-docs, and graduate students are welcome to participate. Seats are limited, so register early to save your spot. Refreshments will be provided.

    The Conversation and Queen’s

    The Conversation, an online news platform created in Australia in 2011, pairs academic experts with experienced journalists to write informed content that can be shared and repurposed by media outlets worldwide. Following its success in Australia, regional editions began appearing worldwide and, in 2017, The Conversation Canada launched with support from some of the country’s top universities, including Queen’s, and Canada’s research funding agencies.

    As a founding member of The Conversation Canada, the Queen’s research community has embraced the platform as a unique tool for sharing their research expertise and engaging with the media. More than 291 Queen’s researchers have published 480 articles that have garnered over 9.8 million views via The Conversation Canada’s website. Through the platform’s Creative Commons Licensing and newswire access, hundreds of major media outlets, including The National Post, CNN, TIME, The Washington Post, The Weather Network, Today’s Parent, and Scientific American, have republished these pieces.

    From cryptocurrencies to how eating rhythms impact our mental health, Queen’s researchers have written on a variety of timely and timeless topics. Some of our most-read articles looked at the physical symptoms caused by pandemic stress, the drama of Haitian children abandoned by UN fathers, the extinction of a bird species, the rising popularity of spirituality without religion, and the negative effects of salting icy roads on aquatic ecosystems.

    The Conversation Canada and Queen’s University Workshops

    Thursday, October 5

    Session 1:
    10:00 to 11:30 AM (Click to register.)

    Session 2:
    2:00 to 3:30 PM (Click to register.)

    Rose Innovation Hub Space
    Mitchell Hall

    For any questions, contact:

    "The Conversation is a highly effective tool for knowledge mobilization,” says Michael Fraser, Vice-Principal, (University Relations). “Through our ongoing relationship with the platform, we are building the profile and impact of our research community, helping to build connections between academic expertise and the wider world."

    The Workshops: How to Write for The Conversation

    The workshops will be led by Scott White, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of The Conversation Canada, and Lisa Varano, Deputy Editor of The Conversation Canada. The in-person program will highlight the changing media landscape, the role of The Conversation and researchers as credible news sources, and how to craft the perfect pitch. Participants will develop pitch ideas and can receive real-time editorial feedback.

    Breaking down walls for a net-zero future

    Queen’s researcher Cao Thang Dinh has won the Falling Walls Science Breakthrough of the Year, Engineering and Technology category.

    Queen's researchers are looking at how to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into chemicals that can be used across industries.
    Dr. Cao Thang Dinh and his PhD student, Cornelius Obasanjo, have been researching how to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into chemicals that can be used across industries.

    On November 9, 1989, the demolition of the Berlin Wall was both literal and symbolic, as it marked the falling of concrete and imagined barriers. Twenty years later, inspired by these events, a not-for-profit organization was founded in Berlin, Germany to connect stakeholders in the areas of science, business, politics, and arts to break down the invisible borders that still separate science and society. Each November since then, The Falling Walls Foundation brings together international experts and leaders to share big ideas that can tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges.

    Did you know? The Falling Walls Foundation has a Canadian hub, hosted by McGill University. Members of the Queen’s communications teams in University Relations and the Research portfolio sit on the Canada hub advisory committee, which looks for opportunities to connect science engagers across Canada with the tools and resources they need to promote their work.

    The annual summit combines keynotes, discussions, and pitches on research and science engagement, culminating in the Falling Walls Breakthrough Day, when invited speakers share the stage with the Falling Walls Science Breakthrough of the Year winners in six categories. Laureates of the Breakthrough of the Year prizes are selected from a pool of over 1,000 nominations of researchers worldwide. In 2023, Queen’s professor Cao Thang Dinh (Chemical Engineering) is the winner of the Engineering and Technology category.

    Dr. Cao Thang Dinh
    Dr. Cao Thang Dinh

    Since joining Queen’s in 2019, building on his doctoral and post-doctoral research, Dr. Dinh has been investigating how to use carbon dioxide – one of the world’s main pollutants – to generate sustainable fuels and chemicals. Dr. Dinh’s work has been published in top scientific journals, including Nature and Science.

    During the event in November, Dr. Dinh will present his innovative methods to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into methane, methanol and ethanol, all of which can be used as fuels, and polymers that can be used to create plastics, nylon, silicone, and other materials.

    Although carbon conversion isn’t a novel idea, existing technology struggles with low efficiency because capturing and converting carbon are very energy-consuming processes. Dr. Dinh and team successfully built an integrated system that can tackle both at the same time, while using less energy. They are currently working with industry partners to scale up the new technology.

    “This will be a great opportunity for me to speak to a non-academic audience about the importance of carbon dioxide capture and conversion technologies,” says Dr. Dinh. “This is a pressing topic in the context of a worldwide movement to decarbonize our economy and try to achieve a net-zero future.”

    The Falling Walls Science Summit 2023 will take place from November 7 to 9 as part of Berlin Science Week. To learn more about the event and The Falling Walls Foundation, visit the website.

    Building our research communities

    Queen’s enhances undergraduate student funding to bolster inquiry-based learning across disciplines

    Students gather for the USSRF and USRA recipient BBQ.
    Queen's hosted the USSRF and USRA recipient BBQ at the Biosciences complex, on August 31.

    In an effort to increase research opportunities for students at all levels, Queen’s is nurturing a new generation of scholars through the Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowships (USSRF) and Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA). The two programs have recently expanded to showcase all disciplines, providing rich learning experiences that shape future research leaders and innovators.

    Placing a greater emphasis on research as part of the undergraduate experience through “research and teaching integration”, is one of the pillars of the Queen’s Strategy. The USSRF and USRA programs cultivate an environment where undergraduate students learn with purpose, intertwining education, research, and guidance from supervisors and graduate students.

    “We believe that the research experience is an integral part of the learning experience,” says Nancy Ross, Vice-Principal (Research). “By embedding research into the fabric of our institution at all levels, we equip students to confront society’s pressing challenges with passion, curiosity, and ingenuity.”

    Investing in early-career researchers

    Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowships (USSRF)

    The USSRF program connects students with faculty, fostering collaborative engagement and supervisor mentorship in research-based projects during the summer period. This year, the initiative was expanded to encompass a diverse range of research disciplines, resulting in an increased number of Queen’s undergraduate recipients – from 21 individuals in 2022 to a cohort of 101 in 2023, with 97 on campus and four students at Bader College. This expansion signifies a substantial advancement in both program participation and support across faculties.

    The USSRF program also underwent another significant transformation by elevating the value of the fellowships. The students selected for the program on the Kingston campus benefited from funding of $9,800 throughout the 16-week fellowship period. The Bader College fellowships were valued at $5,300 each, and covered return travel, along with room and board provisions during their eight-week engagement. The increased funding meant students could take a deeper dive into research, including conducting field work and hiring research assistants.

    The Queen's Inquiry Journal has published a special issue highlighting the collection of projects worked on by 2023 recipients. Read more about some of the research at Undergraduate Research Abstracts: USSRF and USRA Programs.

    Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA)

    Canada’s research granting agencies, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), have collaborated to administer the USRA program, in a bid to collectively champion high-quality research in diverse fields, encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration, and the cultivation of multifaceted skill sets. In 2023, 77 Queen’s students received USRAs.

    Similar to the USSRF, the USRA program values diversity and inclusivity as crucial components of a thriving research environment. Presently, USRAs are designed to create a funding platform that promotes equitable research opportunities for Black-identifying students across Canada’s research landscape.

    Celebrating Undergraduate Research

    Principal Patrick Deane congratulated the group of recipients and their supervisors at the August 31 BBQ.
    Principal Patrick Deane addresses the group, congratulating students on their research achievements.

    Recently, the recipients of both programs and their faculty supervisors were celebrated at a BBQ hosted by Principal Patrick Deane, Nancy Ross (Vice-Principal, Research), and Stephanie Simpson (Vice-Principal, Culture, Equity, and Inclusion) held at the Biosciences complex. The Queen’s Gazette spoke to a few students about their research projects:

    An Ethical Analysis of the Use of AI Text Generators in Universities
    Nicholas Abernethy, Philosophy, USSRF recipient

    In an era marked by unprecedented advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), academia finds itself grappling with new ethical dilemmas around large language models (LLMs), such as ChatGPT. Nicholas Abernethy, a 4th-year undergraduate student, was interested in dissecting the moral, practical, and philosophical dimensions of this contentious debate.

    His project focuses on the intersection of technology and academic writing. Under the supervision of Dr. Udo Schüklenk (Philosophy), Abernethy’s research delves into the ethical labyrinth of AI coauthorship, navigating through the intricacies of plagiarism, accountability, and the very nature of authorship. At the heart of the research lies an analysis of whether academic journals should embrace the involvement of LLMs as coauthors in articles.

    “I’m interested in learning how the power of LLMs can be responsibly harnessed for the benefit of both research and researchers,” says Abernethy. “In many ways, the debate over LLM coauthorship centers on how we understand ourselves: What is it about humans that makes us deserve authorship? In what ways are we special? These questions have important implications far beyond LLM coauthorship.”

    He believes that in order to leverage LLMs, journals must adhere to specific guidelines, guidelines for which he has a proposed framework. As academia continues to evolve in the face of technological advancement, Abernethy’s work offers a critical vantage point for introspection and dialogue, reminding us that the fusion of human intellect and AI carries profound implications for the future of scholarship.

    Natural Language Processing of Radiology Reports:
    Predicting Metastatic Progression from Text Data

    Lola Assad, School of Computing, USRA recipient

    Fusing technology and medical science, Lola Assad has been working in the Simpson Lab on a project that marries cutting-edge AI techniques with oncology research.

    Using AI and natural language processing (NLP), the project investigates the power of NLPs to comprehend and extract valuable insights from textual data. At its core, the model is used to unravel intricate information about tumors embedded within radiology reports, ultimately predicting the progression of metastatic cancer.

    “The study of biomedical computing has provided me with the means of exercising my skills in problem-solving, and efficiently designing solutions,” says Assad. “I’ve been able to learn so much from my supervisor Dr. Amber Simpson, and my colleagues in the lab. I’ve gained knowledge on subjects I didn't know existed, developed my AI-building skills, and have opened my eyes to the wide range of subjects in the field.”

    Assad’s work highlights the potential for technology to reshape the future of healthcare, a future where AI augments medical expertise to revolutionize cancer care and diagnostics.

    Modulation of Mitochondrial Fission During Herpesvirus Infection
    Kyla Gibson, Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, USRA recipient

    Kyla Gibson’s research lies at the crossroads of virology, immunology, and public health. Under the guidance of Dr. Bruce Banfield (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences), Gibson is working to shed light on the complex interplay between viruses and host cells, specifically the role of a virus protein, pUL16, in regulating mitochondrial ATP production during herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection. A focal point of her research has been the enigmatic dynamin-related protein 1 (DRP1), a key player in mitochondrial fission and a potential linchpin in the virus-host interaction, as it drives enzymatic reactions essential for virus replication.

    Gibson’s interest in this research area was ignited in the fall term of her second year at Queen’s, when during a course on Foundations of Entrepreneurship, she researched preventative healthcare strategies for the HIV crisis in Indigenous communities. This inspired her to pursue research addressing and dismantling healthcare inequalities, particularly concerning sexually transmitted infections.

    “I am interested in pursuing research to help diminish cultural and ethnic disparities in science,” says Gibson. “Being a Black woman in science and a Queen’s Commitment Scholar, has encouraged me to oppose the longstanding systemic injustices in research, healthcare and medicine.”

    The USRA provided Gibson with the ability to meet and collaborate with Masters and PhD students, in addition to her supervisor. Being able to problem solve with other early career researchers created a “different teams – one goal” atmosphere, one which she feels has greatly benefited her. Knowledge sharing has also been critical in helping Gibson navigate potential post-undergraduate educational pathways. 

    To learn more about these undergraduate research programs, visit the Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowships and Undergraduate Student Research Awards websites.

    Bolstering support for research focused on big ideas

    The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council has announced $14.3M in funding to Queen's researchers to advance their innovative STEM and health research projects.

    [Queen's Art of Research Photo: "Colourful Cells" by Nathalia Yun Kim
    Queen's Art of Research Photo: "Colourful Cells" by Nathalia Yun Kim – This image depicts bladder tissue with Hunner lesion, an inflammatory disease. The image was acquired using imaging mass cytometry, a technology that allows the visual and computational analysis of the spatial distribution of dozens of protein markers on thousands of colourful cells within the tissue.

    Pursuing transformational research can be a long road. To make an impact on addressing major social issues or work towards ground-breaking discoveries researchers need sustained support to fully realize their projects.

    Today, the Honourable Randy Boissonnault, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Official Languages announced $11.8M in funding for Queen’s from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s (NSERC) Discovery and Research Tools and Instruments (RTI) programs. Intended to support ongoing research with long-term goals, the Discovery programs provides multi-year grants that support operating funds and facilitate access to funding from other programs. The RTI grants program supports the purchase of critical research equipment necessary to pursue breakthrough research. The NSERC announcement is part of a larger $960M suite of funding announced by the federal government.

    "Our government is funding the top-tier researchers and scientists whose work makes Canada a world leader in research and innovation," says the Honourable Randy Boissonnault, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Official Languages. "These projects – from reimagining teacher education with Indigenous wisdom traditions to creating equity in mental health care to researching the impacts of space radiation and weather on Earth’s climate – will help transform today’s ideas into tomorrow’s solutions. This is why Canada is an innovation leader." 

    In total, 43 Queen’s researchers are recipients of Discovery and RTI program grants as part of today’s announcement. Additionally, in recognition of the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic presented to advancing research, Minister Boissonnault announced a 1-year extension of existing NSERC funds. At Queen’s, 57 researchers will be receiving an additional $2.5M to support their active projects. 

    The Discovery-funded Queen’s projects:

    Subatomic Physics Discovery Grant

    Mark Chen (Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy): SNO+ Scintillator Phase and Tellurium Operations (2023-2025) – $2,960,000

    Discovery Grant


    Robert Colautti (Biology): The Genetic Basis of Rapid Evolution and Constraints on the Spread of an Invasive Plant – $195,000

    Biomedical and Molecular Sciences

    Faith Brennan (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences): Microglia-Astrocyte Cross-Talk in the Central Nervous System – $177,500

    Sarah Dick (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences): Investigating the Mechanisms of Cardiac Macrophage Self-Renewal – $212,500

    Katrina Gee (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences): Deciphering the Molecular Mechanisms of IL-27-Mediated Innate Anti-Viral Immune Responses – $225,000

    Neil Magoski (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences): Plasticity of Electrical Transmission Regulates Synchronous Activity in Neurons that Control Reproduction – $260,000

    Chemical Engineering

    Kevin De France (Chemical Engineering): Functional Materials from Cellulose and Protein – $172,500

    Paul Hungler (Chemical Engineering): Development of Adaptive Mixed Reality Simulation for Training and Education Using Multimodal Machine Learning – $192,500


    Philip Jessop (Chemistry): Chemical Applications of Carbon Dioxide with Water and Amines – $415,000

    Lucia Lee (Chemistry): Functional Structures Based on Main-group Supramolecular Interactions – $152,500

    Nicholas Mosey (Chemistry): Materials for Energy Applications via Advanced Chemical Simulations – $260,000

    Kevin Stamplecoskie (Chemistry): Tailoring the Excited State Properties of Metal Clusters for Photonics Applications – $195,000

    Civil Engineering

    Leon Boegman (Civil Engineering): Physical-Biogeochemical Flux Paths in Lakes and Coastal Oceans – $105,000

    Amir Fam (Civil Engineering): Fundamentals of Laboratory-Based Rolling Versus Pulsating Loading Fatigue of Bridges Built with High Performance Materials – $295,000

    Jason Olsthoorn (Civil Engineering): Quantifying the Impact of Climate Change on Mixing in Lakes – $162,500

    Xiaying Xin (Civil Engineering): Development of Nanobubble-Enhanced Visible-Light-Driven Photocatalytic Water Disinfection Systems – $185,000


    Hesham Elsawy (Computing): Towards Diverse, Intelligent, and Perceptive 6G Network Architecture: Theoretical Foundations and Optimization Schemes – $172,500

    Nick Graham (Computing): Fostering Collaboration through Digital Games – $260,000

    Ting Hu (Computing): Interpretable and Explainable Learning with Evolutionary Computing – $205,000

    David Skillicorn (Computing): Data Analytics in Adversarial Settings – $180,000

    Electrical and Computer Engineering

    Melissa Greeff (Electrical and Computer Engineering): Toward Resilient Multi-Robot Collaboration in Emergencies – $167,500

    Ning Lu (Electrical and Computer Engineering): Constrained Online Learning for Wireless Computing Networks – $250,000

    Joshua Marshall (Electrical and Computer Engineering): Mobile-Robot Navigation, Control, And Mapping in Spatiotemporal Worlds – $210,000

    Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering

    Daniel Layton-Matthews (Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering): Application of Non-Traditional Isotopes at Higher Spatial Resolution to Element Cycling in Mineral Deposits – $175,000

    David McLagan (Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering): Seeing the Forest from The Trees: Understanding Pollutant Biogeochemical Cycling Between Vegetation and Air, Fire, Soil, and Water – $187,500

    Kinesiology and Health Studies

    Brendon Gurd (Kinesiology and Health Studies): Mechanisms Controlling Mitochondrial Biogenesis in Human Skeletal Muscle – $220,000

    Mathematics and Statistics

    Maria Teresa Chiri (Mathematics and Statistics): Evolution Problems for Moving Sets – $162,500

    Felicia Magpantay (Mathematics and Statistics): Transient Dynamics in Deterministic and Stochastic Systems from Eco-Epidemiology – $195,000

    James A. Mingo (Mathematics and Statistics): Random Matrices and Higher Order Freeness – $185,000

    Mechanical and Materials Engineering

    Jackson Crane (Mechanical and Materials Engineering): Detonation Chemistry and Propagation Dynamics: Experiments and Models for Next-Generation Engines – $197,500

    Claire Davies (Mechanical and Materials Engineering): Participation Requires Communication:  Developing Accessible Communication Devices – $250,000

    Yong Jun Lai (Mechanical and Materials Engineering): Development of Ultrasensitive Biosensors for Rapid Pathogen Detection – $210,000

    David Rival (Mechanical and Materials Engineering): In Situ Lagrangian Measurements – $250,000

    Robert M. Buchan Department of Mining

    Julian Ortiz (Robert M. Buchan Department of Mining): Towards Geometallurgical Digital Twins: Stochastic Models for Risk Management of Mining Systems – $210,000


    David Hauser (Psychology): How Do Vaccine Resistors Recruit Evidence to Support their Beliefs and Meta-Beliefs? – $202,500

    Jonathan Smallwood (Psychology): States of Mind and Brain – Understanding the Neural Basis Behind Different Thought Patterns – $295,000

    Sari van Anders (Psychology): Social Neuroendocrinology and the Evolution of Diversity in Human Intimacy – $350,000

    Public Health Sciences

    Wei Tu (Public Health): Statistical Learning and Inference for Sparse and Heterogeneous Functional and Longitudinal Data – $147,500

    Smith School of Business

    Vedat Verter (Smith School of Business): Predictive and Prescriptive Analytics for Delivery of Mental Health Care – $210,000

    Research Tools and Instruments Grant

    John Allingham (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences): Protein Structure Determination Facility Upgrade – $85,434

    Chantelle Capicciotti (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences): A Benchtop SPR Instrument for High-Throughput Interrogation of Protein-Ligand Interactions – $136,528

    Aris Docoslis (Chemical Engineering): A Raman Spectroscopy System for (Bio)Chemical Analyses and Materials Characterization – $149,500

    Christian Muise (Computing): Customizable Platform for Autonomous Agriculture Research – $146,183

    Nir Rotenberg (Physics, Engineering Psychics, and Astronomy): Tunable Pulse-Shapers for the Exploration of Dynamic Photon-Photon Interactions – $149,936

    To learn more about this round of Discovery Grants, visit the NSERC website. You can also read about Queen’s success in recent SSHRC Partnership and Insight and CFI JELF grants competitions in the Queen's Gazette.

    Investing in research infrastructure

    The Canada Foundation for Innovation has announced $2M in funding to equip Queen's researchers with leading-edge labs and equipment.

    [Queen's Art of Research Photo: "Perfusion of Light" by Raymond Sturgeon]
    Queen's Art of Research Photo: "Perfusion of Light" by Raymond Sturgeon (PhD, Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) – This perfusion array allows quick changing of solutions.

    Ground-breaking STEM research is fueled by talented teams leveraging state-of-the-art infrastructure. Labs, equipment, and facilities are all necessary tools to support research innovation and help to maintain Canada’s competitiveness on the global stage.

    Today, the Honourable Randy Boissonnault, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Official Languages announced more than $2M in funding for Queen’s from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF). The support will equip Queen’s researchers with the infrastructure they need to advance STEM innovations – from a seismic monitoring system to informatics for cancer biomarkers. The CFI announcement is part of a larger $960M suite of funding announced by the federal government.

    "Congratulations to these talented recipients from all across the country who are doing the groundbreaking work that will contribute not only to Canada’s health and well-being but also to the world’s," says the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. "Through this funding, the Government of Canada is investing in the next generation of researchers and inspiring them to continue to think outside the box and tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow."

    The John R. Evans Leaders Fund helps Canadian universities recruit and retain outstanding researchers, acquire the tools that enable their innovative work, and offer them research support in combination with partner organizations. Recipients are recognized as innovative leaders or have demonstrated the potential for excellence in their fields. In total, 396 projects at 56 institutions received $113M.

    The JELF-funded Queen’s projects:

    Faith Brennan (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences): Harnessing Macrophage Biology to Control Neuroinflammation – $150,000

    Sebastien Talbot (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences): Neuro-immunity in Cancer and Allergy – $250,000

    Rachel Baker (Chemical Engineering): Exploring the Landscape of Electrochemical Reactions and Improving Process Sustainability through Paired Synthesis – $125,000

    Lucia Lee (Chemistry): Functional Structures Based on Main-group Supramolecular Interactions – $125,000

    Joshua Woods (Civil Engineering): Systems for Seismic Protection and Resilience of Mass Timber Structures – $125,000

    Burton Ma (Computing): Seeing the Invisible: A Precision Medicine Informatics for Cancer Biomarkers Anchored in Time and Space – $75,001   

    Suzan Eren (Electrical and Computer Engineering): Fast-charging Infrastructure for Electric Vehicles – $97,536

    Ryan Grant (Electrical and Computer Engineering): Smart Networks for Scientific Computing – $152,000

    Melissa Greeff (Electrical and Computer Engineering): Resilient Agile Aerial Autonomy – $125,000

    Matthew Pan (Electrical and Computer Engineering): Facilitating Bidirectional Communication for Fast and Flexible HumanRobot Collaboration – $152,000

    Jennifer Day (Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering): Thermo-Hydro-Mechanical Coupled Rock Performance: Transforming Design of Geological Storage and Resource Developments – $200,000

    Hom Nath Gharti (Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering): Geophysical Monitoring and Modelling of the Subsurface of Urban Environments and Large Infrastructures – $100,000

    David McLagan (Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering; Environmental Studies): FEWA Contaminant Biogeochemistry Lab: Holistic Assays of Hg Biogeochemical Cycling in Forest Ecosystems – $120,000

    Jackson Crane (Mechanical and Materials Engineering): Controlling Detonation Instabilities: Experiments and Models to Enable Next-generation Engines – $80,000

    Laura Fissel (Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy): Building a Stratospheric Balloon-borne Instrumentation Laboratory – $75,001

    Abbas Taheri (Robert M. Buchan Department of Mining): Time-dependent Rock and Joint Behaviour in Deep Underground Environments – $175,600

    Teresa Purzner (Surgery): Identifying Predictors of Recurrence and Developing Novel Therapies for Patients with Brain Tumours – $100,000

    To learn more about this round of JELF recipients, visit the CFI website. You can also read about Queen’s success in recent SSHRC Partnership and Insight and NSERC Discovery grants competitions in the Queen's Gazette.  

    A monumental investment

    The federal government has announced close to $1B in funding to advance breakthrough research and innovation in Canada.

    [Aerial photo of Queen's campus]

    Today, the Honourable Randy Boissonnault, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Official Languages announced $960M in funding through Canada’s Tri-Agencies and the Canada Foundation for Innovation to support research across its lifecycle.

    The funding was announced on behalf of the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry and the Honourable Mark Holland, Minister of Health, and ranges from efforts to bolster support of bolstering student research to securing vital equipment to promoting early career researchers and world-leading experts. 

    At Queen’s, $23.9M has been awarded to researchers across disciplines – advancing research from neutrino detection and climate action to ensuring equal access in sport for Canadians with disabilities.

    "This bundle announcement highlights the strengths and breadth of research at Queen’s and its wide implications for Canadians – from ensuring equal access to persons with disabilities to understanding the mechanisms of rare disease to developing novel water disinfection systems," says Nancy Ross, Vice-Principal (Research). "Our partners in government and the tri-agencies are critical in advancing this research and providing training opportunities for researchers and students at all levels. We thank them for this support and encourage even more investment moving forward."

    Learn more about the funded projects and initiatives at Queen’s in the articles below:

    Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council – Partnership

    Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council – Insight

    Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council – Discovery

    Canada Foundation for Innovation – John R. Evans Leaders Fund

    Queen's and Kinectrics partner to explore nuclear energy innovation

    The new agreement seeks to drive technological advancements in the sector.

    Queen's University and Kinectrics Inc. sign a MoU to advance research in the nuclear sector.
    Queen's has a history of partnership with Kinectrics. From left: Jim Banting (Assistant Vice-Principal, Partnerships and Innovation), Mark Daymond (Professor in Mechanical and Materials Engineering and the Canada Research Chair in Mechanics of Materials), Nancy Ross (Vice-Principal Research), David Harris (President and CEO, Kinectrics), and Sriram Suryanarayan (Director of Innovation, Kinectrics).
    Photo credit: Tony Mendis, Kinectrics.

    Queen’s and nuclear industry leader Kinectrics Inc. have entered a five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed at exploring and pursuing collaborative opportunities in research, development, education, recruitment, and training within the nuclear energy sector. The agreement, signed by Vice-Principal (Research) Nancy Ross and Kinectrics’ President and CEO David Harris on August 10, brings together joint expertise and experience in the space to foster growth of the nuclear industry in Canada.

    “Partnerships are a priority at Queen’s, and we have a history of collaboration with Kinectrics, engaging in various research projects and training opportunities,” says Nancy Ross. “This relationship will be further strengthened through the MoU, allowing us to work towards shared goals in helping to shape the role of nuclear power in Canada’s energy transition.”

    The agreement builds on Queen’s internationally recognized research program in nuclear materials and nuclear materials testing, leveraging the university’s Reactor Materials Testing Laboratory (RMTL). Within the RMTL, researchers are examining material interactions within nuclear reactors and assessing the lifespans of these critical pieces of energy infrastructure.

    The MoU also marks a significant milestone in Kinectric’s efforts to strengthen ties with Canadian universities and build the presence of nuclear in the national energy mix.

    “We are excited to embark on this new partnership with Queen’s that will focus on developing technological innovations and new talents to support sustainably powering a clean energy future,” says David Harris.

    Through the MoU, Queen's and Kinectrics will identify opportunities for research partnership, student learning, and talent development, with the aim of facilitating the seamless transfer of cutting-edge research and technological breakthroughs from academic labs to real-world applications. These opportunities may involve joint training and teaching, student exchanges, co-ops, internships, scholarships, and site visits.

    “This is an important time for the Canadian nuclear industry and Ontario,” says Mark Daymond, Queen’s professor in Mechanical and Materials Engineering and the Canada Research Chair in Mechanics of Materials. “We need to rapidly increase our low-carbon electricity production to de-carbonize our economy, transport grid, and industry. Nuclear will play a major role in enabling this de-carbonization, along with renewables and energy storage. This MoU represents the beginning of a new chapter, and I look forward to seeing where it will take us.”

    To learn more about this partnership, visit the Kinectrics website.

    Building talent pathways for Canada’s net-zero future

    A new partnership project will prepare Queen’s students to become tomorrow’s climate leaders.

    Queen's has launched an innovative project designed to help undergraduate students gain the necessary skills, knowledge, and networks to become future leaders in Canada's shift towards a net-zero economy.

    In partnership with the Business + Higher Education Roundtable (BHER), and with support from the Government of Canada, the university has created the Queen’s Venture Creation, Experiential Learning, and Net-Zero Training (QVENT) project. Led by the Experiential Learning Team within the Smith School of Business, this cross-institutional initiative will support the development of a ‘green talent’ pipeline, providing hands-on educational opportunities to students who aspire to contribute to the country’s sustainable transition.

    “Queen’s remains committed to achieving a positive impact both on a local level and on the global stage,” says Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Teri Shearer. “This important project will equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to become champions of the climate transition and enhance ongoing efforts at Queen’s to address the world’s most pressing challenges.”

    Through the term of the project, Queen's anticipates providing close to 2,000 students with experiential learning opportunities focused on net-zero and sustainability issues.

    “The QVENT project is an extremely exciting initiative for Queen's students,” says Siena Margorian, Co-President of student group Queen’s Backing Action on the Climate Crisis. “In order to tackle the climate crisis, we need our future leaders to be knowledgeable about environmental sustainability and the solutions we need to implement to reach an equitable and green future. These kinds of programs prepare students to enter the workforce with the skills and experience to incorporate sustainability in their future careers.”

    Four program streams for sustainable leadership development

    The QVENT project includes four distinct program streams that involve several faculties and units — including Engineering, Smith School of Business, Arts and Science, Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre, and more — offering work-integrated learning experiences.

    Additionally, the City of Kingston and Kingston Economic Development Corporation will support various streams of the project and help connect students with their networks.

    “We are excited to support Queen's University in their initiative to develop a green talent pipeline,” says Donna Gillespie, Chief Executive Officer, Kingston Economic Development Corporation. “This innovative project aligns perfectly with our city’s commitment to sustainability and positions Kingston as a leader in the transition to a net-zero economy by connecting students with opportunities and providing them with the skills and experiences needed to tackle environmental challenges.”

    The first stream, Course-embedded green industry projects, incorporates net-zero and sustainability focused projects, case studies, and learning challenges into class curriculums.

    Stream two establishes a new Certificate in Leading Sustainable Change Towards a Net-Zero Economy, designed by Queen’s faculty and industry practitioners to equip students with the awareness, capabilities, and confidence to tackle issues related to Canada’s climate transition. The certificate program is to be delivered through the Smith Centre for Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Social Impact, and will include immersive workshops.

    A third stream focuses on net-zero venture creation, affording students opportunities to build businesses focused on environmental sustainability and a green economy. Participants in this net-zero focused incubator program will have the chance to pitch their businesses at the end of the program for seed funding.

    The final stream seeks to provide at least 100 internships in the net-zero space for Queen’s students to gain on-the-job experience.

    “BHER is committed to creating accessible and inclusive pathways to green jobs through work-integrated learning,” says Andrew Bieler, Director of Partnerships & Experiential Learning, BHER. “We’re impressed by the level of cross institutional collaboration and interdisciplinarity in the QVENT project and can’t wait to see how students and employers make use of the opportunities.”

    Community involvement

    Community and corporate partners are invited to get involved in several of the project streams. Organizations can contact the QVENT project team if interested in offering a course-embedded green industry project, hiring a net-zero student intern, or supporting the delivery of a workshop.

    “We're appreciative of this partnership that will help propel Kingston forward as a city leading the way on climate action,” says Mayor Bryan Paterson. “We're making big strides with sustainable projects, policies and programs, and tapping into local talent through QVENT will provide immense benefits to our city and beyond as we transition to a more sustainable future.”

    Read the BHER partnership announcement and learn more about the QVENT project.

    Scientists crack the code of what causes diamonds to erupt

    Queen’s researcher Christopher Spencer is part of an international team working on research that will revolutionize future diamond discoveries.

    [Heavy machinery operating within a major diamond mine in South Africa. Photo by Dr Tom Gernon, University of Southampton]
    Heavy machinery operating within a major diamond mine in South Africa. [Photo by Dr. Tom Gernon, University of Southampton]

    A recent discovery by a team of international researchers has identified the breakup of tectonic plates as the main driving force behind the generation and eruption of diamond-rich magmas from deep inside the Earth. Their findings could shape the future of the diamond exploration industry, informing where diamonds are most likely to be found.

    Diamonds, which form under great pressures at depth, are hundreds of millions, or even billions, of years old. They are typically found in a type of volcanic rock known as kimberlite. Kimberlites are found in the oldest, thickest, strongest parts of continents – most notably in South Africa, home to the diamond rush of the late 19th century. But how and why they got to Earth’s surface has, until now, remained a mystery.

    Christopher Spencer (Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering) collaborated with researchers from the University of Southampton, the University of Birmingham, the University of Potsdam, Portland State University, Macquarie University, the University of Leeds, and the University of Florence to examine the effects of global tectonic forces on these volcanic eruptions spanning the last billion years. Their findings were published in the journal Nature.

    [Diamond ore rock (kimberlite) showing dark crystals (olivine) and fragments of rock that were formed during explosive volcanic eruptions. Photo by Dr Tom Gernon, University of Southampton]
    Diamond ore rock (kimberlite) showing dark crystals (olivine) and fragments of rock that were formed during explosive volcanic eruptions. [Photo by Dr. Tom Gernon, University of Southampton] 

    "The pattern of diamond eruptions is cyclical, mimicking the rhythm of the supercontinents, which assemble and break up in a repeated pattern over time," says Dr. Tom Gernon, Associate Professor of Earth Science and Principal Research Fellow at the University of Southampton, and lead author of the study. "But previously we didn’t know what process causes diamonds to suddenly erupt, having spent millions – or billions – of years stashed away 150 kilometres beneath the Earth’s surface."

    To address this question, the team used statistical analysis, including machine learning, to forensically examine the link between continental breakup and kimberlite volcanism. The results showed the eruptions of most kimberlite volcanoes occurred 20 to 30 million years after the tectonic breakup of Earth’s continents.

    "Using geospatial analysis, we found that kimberlite eruptions tend to gradually migrate from the continental edges to the interiors over time at rates that are consistent across the continents," said Dr. Thea Hincks, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Southampton. 

    Geological processes

    [A 'mantle nodule', a fragment of rock that was ripped from the base of the continental plate during these energetic eruptions. The photograph was taken under a microscope and measures about 4cm across. Photo by Dr Tom Gernon, University of Southampton]
    A 'mantle nodule', a fragment of rock that was ripped from the base of the continental plate during these energetic eruptions. The photograph was taken under a microscope and measures about 4 cm across. [Photo by Dr. Tom Gernon, University of Southampton]

    This discovery prompted the scientists to explore what geological process could drive this pattern. They found that the Earth’s mantle – the convecting layer between the crust and core – is disrupted by rifting (or stretching) of the crust, even thousands of kilometres away. The result is a domino effect can explain how continental breakup leads to formation of kimberlite magma. During rifting, a small patch of the continental root is disrupted and sinks into the mantle below, triggering a chain of similar flow patterns beneath the nearby continent. 

    “The confluence of numerous lines of evidence from paleogeography, geodynamic simulations, and isotope geochemistry of kimberlites require a dramatic rethinking of the previous paradigm and the newly presented model satisfies all the evidence,” said Dr. Spencer, Associate Professor at Queen’s, and study co-author.

    The team’s research could be used to identify the possible locations and timings of past volcanic eruptions tied to this process, offering valuable insights that could enable the discovery of diamond deposits in the future.

    Dr. Gernon said the study also sheds light on how processes deep within the Earth control those at the surface. "Breakup not only reorganizes the mantle but may also profoundly impact Earth's surface environment and climate, so diamonds might be just a part of the story."

    Diamond in its host rock (kimberlite). Photo by Dr Richard Brown, University of Durham
    Diamond in its host rock (kimberlite). [Photo by Dr. Richard Brown, University of Durham]

    A version of this article originally appeared on the University of Southampton website.

    Vice-Principal Research announces results of Postdoctoral Fellowship program

    Queen’s is welcoming six new postdoctoral fellows through the Vice-Principal Research Postdoctoral Fund, which aims to attract outstanding early-career scholars and foster greater recognition of trainees as research leaders of the future. The program provides fellows with two years of salary support, valued at $50,000 each year.

    Meet the new fellows:

    • Abdul Ali Bangash will work with Bram Adams (School of Computing) on a project looking to build an energy-efficient recommendation system for Edge-AI deployment strategies.
    • Stuart Wilson will join Jean Côté and Luc Martin (School of Kinesiology and Health Studies) in investigating the quality of youth sport programs by examining the social interactions of parents, coaches, and athletes. The project will also look at how youth athlete “peer groups” interact and affect moral behaviours with teammates during sport seasons.
    • Xiaomei Li will work with Tom Hollenstein (Psychology) to advance a research program examining emotion-related family resilience processes and adolescent adjustment during COVID-19.
    • Harshita Yalamarty, working with Sailaja Krishnamurti (Gender Studies), will study caste in Canadian Legal Discourses, focusing on caste identities, practices, and discrimination within human rights and immigration law.
    • Emilie El Khoury will join Stéfanie von Hlatky (Political Studies) to research the impacts of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, including their tactics consequences on local populations, especially women.
    • Dan Armstrong will work with Stephen Scott (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) on two biomechanics studies focusing on the muscular and neural mechanisms
      through which the human body responds to perturbations.

    Visit the Vice-Principal Research website to learn more about the program.


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