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Engineering and Applied Science

Mapping the connection gaps

[Team K-Connect]
A team of Queen's students – Xavier McMaster-Hubner (Computer Science), Sam Alton (ECEi), Erik Koning (ECE), Raed Fayad (ECEi), and Nathaniel Pauzé (ECE) – recently earned a top prize at the Mayor’s Innovation Challenge in Kingston.

Weak or unreliable wireless data connectivity is an ongoing frustration for consumers and businesses in Eastern Ontario. Imagine yourself committing to a multi-year wireless service contract only to discover that coverage is unreliable at home or at work, the areas where you spend most of your time. Regulators also need to know for sure where service gaps most need to be filled so they can prioritize new locations for cell tower permits.

A team of Queen’s students has come up with a novel way for consumers and regulators to more easily understand where there are gaps in wireless connectivity.  

Raed Fayad (Electrical and Computer Engineering – Innovation Stream), Sam Alton (Electrical and Computer Engineering – Innovation Stream), Nathaniel Pauzé (Electrical and Computer Engineering), and Xavier McMaster-Hubner (Computer Science) developed a proof-of-concept system to measure varying cellular data signal strength across Kingston and to display those data on a visual heat map. Users would be able to view the heat map online to see how reliable their cellular signal would be depending on where they are in the city.

The group came together as team K-Connect at the QHacks hackathon at Queen’s in early February.

“We used the Post-it note brainstorming method we learned in our APSC 200 Engineering Design and Practice course for our idea generation phase at QHacks,” says Pauzé. “One of our strongest ideas involved collecting Wi-Fi signal strength data inside the new Mitchell Hall building to find the best location to work on our project. We decided to scale-up our idea by collecting cell signal strength across campus. We moved forward with this project choice because we saw the usefulness of the data our product would collect.”

The idea earned the team one of two spots in the City of Kingston Mayor’s Innovation Challenge pitch competition a week later. They presented to a panel of municipal and academic leaders at Kingston City Hall, earning a top prize in that competition. (The other winner was Blackrose Technology led by Erik Koning (Electrical and Computer Engineering), who proposed using drones to monitor environmental threats or to help in search-and-rescue). Each team earned $4,000 in seed funding for their ventures and admission to the 2019 QICSI start-up accelerator program.

“Two members of our group are considering enrolling in the QICSI program,” says McMaster-Hubner. “We have options to further develop K-Connect, but our current situation for the summer makes it very difficult to try and prepare or do anything until we are back together as a group.”

This article was first published on the website of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.

Celebrating 125 years of engineering excellence

  • he Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science honoured 125 alumni for their life and career achievements
    During the special event on March 29, the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science honoured 125 alumni for their life and career achievements, highlighting the diverse ways that Queen’s engineers demonstrate leadership through contributions to society.
  • Queen's University celebrates the 125th anniversary of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science
    Queen's celebrated the 125th anniversary of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science with a special event at the Four Points Sheraton. From left: Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Tom Harris; Chancellor Jim Leech; Vice-Principal (Advancement) Karen Bertrand; Principal and Vice-Chancellor Daniel Woolf; Vice-Principal (Research) Kimberly Woodhouse; and Dean Kevin Deluzio.
  • Dean Kevin Deluzio and Nancy (Moffat) Scarth
    Dean Kevin Deluzio speaks with Nancy (Moffat) Scarth (Sc'49), the first woman engineering graduate to complete all four years at Queen's.

The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science at Queen’s University celebrated 125 years of engineering excellence on Friday, March 29, with a special event honouring 125 alumni for their life and career achievements.

The event, the first of its kind for engineering alumni, highlighted the diverse ways that Queen’s engineers demonstrate leadership through contributions to society.

“Last fall, we put out a call to ask who is engineering a better world,” Dean Kevin Deluzio (Sc’88) said at the event. “We were overwhelmed by the nominations. Tonight, we celebrate your success as engineers, scientists, business leaders, doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs. And we take some pride in the role that Queen’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science had in your formation.” 

Award recipients included Mac Evans (Sc’64, LLD’14 Law), the former president of the Canadian Space Agency, and Mary Ann Turcke (Sc’88, MBA’97), the COO of the National Football League. Veena Rawat (PhD’73), the first Canadian woman PhD student in electrical engineering, was recognized, as was Erum Afsar (Sc’95), named a Top 40 under 40 by Avenue magazine for her work leading transformative transportation projects and supporting artisans in India and Pakistan.

Jennifer Buechel (Sc’92, Artsci’97) was recognized for her work developing and launching novel drug therapies and the world’s first early detection blood test for cancer. Kevin Doucette (Sc’02) has combined his background in engineering and music composition to create an artificially intelligent musician, work that has attracted the computer science division at MIT.

Over 275 people attended the gala, which also included student leadership awards, as well as project displays and opportunities for students and alumni to connect. Award winners included six Order of Canada recipients and 15 Canadian Academy of Engineering Fellows. One award winner expressed that she was “so inspired by my fellow award recipients and gratified to see the tradition of excellence in engineering embodied in the talented students we chatted with over the course of the weekend.”

The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science has grown and changed significantly from its beginnings at Queen’s as the School of Mining and Agriculture in 1893. One of the top engineering schools in the country, the faculty offers 10 dynamic engineering programs, and recently introduced Ingenuity Labs, a new interdisciplinary engineering research initiative focused on the design and use of intelligent systems and robotic machines. Last year, over 6,300 students applied for 730 first-year positions.

The faculty also offers a number of outreach programs, such as the Aboriginal Access to Engineering program, which has engaged over 20,000 Indigenous youth, and the Tech ‘n Tinker trailer, a mobile makerspace that travels to schools and events in the region to provide experiential learning for elementary students.

During the event, Dean Deluzio noted that many alumni have said how much their time at Queen’s has shaped who they’ve become, both personally and professionally.

“Our program engenders teamwork and strong bonds among classmates,” he said. “Our network of Queen’s engineers supports students on campus, but also in life and work long after graduation. You are  exceptional role models for our next generations of leaders and groundbreakers, and we thank you for engineering a better world.”


Grand opening packs Mitchell Hall

Donors honoured at ribbon-cutting celebration for campus’ new centre of innovation, wellness, teaching, and research.

  • Fisheye view of the stage and audience at the Mitchell Hall opening ceremony.
    Fisheye view of the stage and audience at the Mitchell Hall opening ceremony. (Photo by: Garrett Elliott)
  • Robot "Husky" leads the procession into the opening ceremony.
    Robot "Ibex" leads the procession into the opening ceremony. (Photo by: Garrett Elliott)
  • Michael Doxtater, Queen's National Scholar in Indigenous Studies: Land- and Language-Based Pedagogies and Practices offers a traditional Mohawk welcoming.
    Michael Doxtater, Queen's National Scholar in Indigenous Studies: Land- and Language-Based Pedagogies and Practices offers a traditional Mohawk welcoming.
  • Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands, Mark Gerretsen, addresses the audience.
    Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands, Mark Gerretsen, addresses the audience. (Photo by: Garrett Elliott)
  • Kingston Mayor, Bryan Paterson, addresses the audience.
    Kingston Mayor, Bryan Paterson, addresses the audience. (Photo by: Garrett Elliott)
  • Ontario's Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, addresses the audience.
    Ontario's Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, addresses the audience. (Photo by: Garrett Elliott)
  • Lead donor, Bruce Mitchell, shares remarks at the Mitchell Hall opening ceremony.
    Lead donor, Bruce Mitchell, shares remarks at the Mitchell Hall opening ceremony. (Photo by: Garrett Elliott)
  • Lead donor, Bruce Mitchell; Queen's Principal and Vice-Chancellor Daniel Woolf; University Rector Alexandra da Silva; and robot "Ibex" launch the official opening streamers and banners.
    Lead donor, Bruce Mitchell, Queen's Principal and Vice-Chancellor Daniel Woolf, and robot "Ibex" launch the official opening streamers and banners. (Photo by: Garrett Elliott)
  • Streamers unfurl above the audience, marking the official opening of Mitchell Hall.
    Streamers unfurl above the audience, marking the official opening of Mitchell Hall. (Photo by: Garrett Elliott)
  • The Four Directions Women Singers perform at the Mitchell Hall opening ceremony.
    The Four Directions Women Singers perform at the Mitchell Hall opening ceremony.

Roaring applause and celebratory streamers filled the grand central atrium at Mitchell Hall this past weekend, marking the official opening of Queen’s University’s newest building. With a little help from a robot named Ibex, Principal and Vice-Chancellor Daniel Woolf and lead donor Bruce Mitchell made the announcement to an audience of several hundred guests – including donors, government officials, and members of the campus community.

“This building, now Mitchell Hall, is all about new approaches and creativity,” says Mitchell, who, alongside other donors, supported the building’s construction with a combined $50 million. “To the students who will study here: I challenge you to use this facility to stretch your minds, discover, innovate, explore, take risks. Use it to make the very most of your experience at Queen’s and to launch yourself toward becoming the leaders of tomorrow.”

The Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada’s Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund also provided a combined $21.8 million to support the project. Kingston and the Islands Member of Parliament, Mark Gerretsen, and Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, shared remarks during the ceremony. Earlier in the week, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains, joined Principal Woolf and members of Queen’s University’s senior administration on a tour of the facility.

“Modern learning spaces are a critical part in supporting skills development to prepare students for the jobs of today and tomorrow,” says Minister Bains. “Earlier this week, I saw first-hand how our government’s investment in Mitchell Hall at Queen’s University is helping students from all programs to advance the next generation of leading-edge engineering research in Canada.”

The Chair of the Queen's Board of Trustees, Don Raymond, as well as Chancellor Jim Leech, Dean of Engineering and Applied Science Kevin Deluzio; and Rector Alexandra da Silva also spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, March 30. Guests then toured Mitchell Hall for a glimpse at many of the spaces and services that have been welcoming students over the past few months during the phased launch of the building, as well as spaces debuting over the next few months.

“On behalf of Queen’s University, I want to express my deepest gratitude to our donors and to the governments of Ontario and Canada for supporting the creation of this wonderful, new facility,” says Tom Harris, Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic). “The facilities and associated programming will have a profound and meaningful impact on the entrepreneurial, professional, educational, and research pursuits of our students, as well as on their overall health and well-being. Mitchell Hall truly strengthens our campus community.”

The building, located on the former site of the Physical Education Centre (PEC) at the corner of Union and Division streets in Kingston, hosts a wide variety of centres and services, as well as lounge, study, and co-working spaces. The Queen’s community is encouraged to visit Mitchell Hall, and explore everything it has to offer.

“Mitchell Hall brings students together in ways that are organic and community-building,” says Rector da Silva. “Under one roof we now have students innovating, accessing crucial resources, connecting with their cultural and religious identities, participating in athletics, and so much more. This is part of what the Queen's experience is about – students sharing spaces in which they can learn and grow together.”

Minister Bains tours Mitchell Hall ahead of opening

  • Navdeep Bains meets SpectraPlasmonics
    Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains and Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen speaks with two members of Spectra Plasmonics.
  • Navdeep Bains at Beaty Water Research Centre
    Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains, and Principal Daniel Woolf listen to Pascale Champagne, Director of the Beaty Water Research Centre.
  • Navdeep Bains, Kevin Deluzio, Kimberly Woodhouse
    Vice-Principal (Research) Kimberly Woodhouse and Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science Kevin Deluzio speak with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains during his tour of Mitchell Hall.
  • Navdeep Bains and students
    Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains stops for a photo with a pair of Queen's students during his tour of Mitchell Hall.
  • Navdeep Bains and tour group
    From left: Vice-Principal (University Relations) Michael Fraser; Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Ann Tierney; Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen; Principal and Vice-Chancellor Daniel Woolf; Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains; Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science Kevin Deluzio; and Vice-Principal (Research) Kimberly Woodhouse.

Principal Daniel Woolf welcomed Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains and Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen for a tour of the newly-renovated Mitchell Hall, on Thursday March 28.

Joined by Ann Tierney, Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs, Kim Woodhouse, Vice-Principal (Research), Michael Fraser, Vice-Principal (University Relations), and Kevin Deluzio Dean, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, the tour included stops at the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre, the Côté Sharp Student Wellness Centre, and the facility’s Technology-Enabled Active Learning Spaces.

Minister Bains also visited the Beaty Water Research Centre, touring the lab spaces alongside director Pascale Champagne and some of her students. The tour wrapped up with a brief visit to the future home of Ingenuity Labs.

The construction of Mitchell Hall was supported in part by an investment from the Government of Canada under the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund (PSI-SIF). Queen’s will host the grand opening of Mitchell Hall on Saturday, March 30.

Putting a focus on water-related issues

Water-related issues are increasingly becoming a driving force for economic growth, social well-being, and a healthy population in Canada and around the world. This critical interest is reflected in the diversity of water-related research and education initiatives at the Beaty Water Research Centre (BWRC), which recently moved into its state-of-the-art research facilities in Mitchell Hall, the result of a generous gift from geologist and entrepreneur Ross J. Beaty.

The BWRC encourages collaborative interdisciplinary research, education and outreach, spanning traditional water-related disciplines, as well as non-traditional and emerging disciplines. Recent highlights include new research funding and the launch of the BWRC’s first on-line interdisciplinary graduate program in Water and Human Health (WHH GDip)

[Pascale Champagne]
Pascale Champagne (Civil Engineering), director of the Beaty Water Research Centre, and her master’s student Nicole Woodcock, recently received research funding from the NSERC Engage and the Ontario Centre of Excellence Voucher for Innovation and Productivity I (VIP I) programs. (University Communications)

Collaborative research to prevent tailing mine failures

BWRC Director Pascale Champagne (Civil Engineering) and her master’s student Nicole Woodcock recently received research funding from the National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Engage program ($20,000), and the Ontario Centre of Excellence Voucher for Innovation and Productivity I (VIP I) program ($25,000), to assess the feasibility of using microbially-induced calcite precipitation (MICP) to improve the deposit performance of tailings.

[BWRC]“This research is crucial given that tailing dam failures risk human life, destroy property and communities, contaminate rivers, fisheries and drinking water,” Dr. Champagne says. “Earlier this year hundreds lost their lives in the tailings dam collapse in Brazil which was just one of many major tailings dam disaster in the last decade.”

Tailings are by-products from mining operations. Mine tailing particulates easily diffuse into the surrounding environment, leaching acidic drainage and heavy metals to surface and groundwater. Without treatment these tailings can take several hundred years to consolidate due to their poor water-releasing properties, and, in some cases failure to consolidate has led to catastrophic disasters.

[Nicole Woodcock]
Nicole Woodcock

“Recent studies suggest biologically-catalyzed reactions can be used to increase the geotechnical strength of soft soils,” Woodcock says. “The application of this process to tailings has the potential to remediate and reduce the risk of tailing dam failures.”    

“The Beaty Water Research Centre encourages partnerships with industrial and non-industrial partners to tackle import issues,” adds Jyoti Kotecha, Associate Director Research & Business Development for BWRC. “Our state-of-the-art facilities in Mitchell Hall allow us to increase the scale of our research activities. We are looking forward to working with BGC Engineering Inc. on this important research.”

BGC Engineering Inc. is a private, employee-owned Canadian company with expertise in mine waste engineering and mine closure planning and design.

Preparing the future workforce

With support from the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the BWRC is launching a new online, interdisciplinary graduate diploma program in Water and Human Health (WHH GDip), in May 2019.

“The Water and Human Health program will provide enhanced training for students from different disciplines and highlights a cross disciplinary approach to issues related to water and health,” says Dr. Champagne. “The program is the first of its kind in Canada, and positions Queen’s as a leader in interdisciplinary graduate education.”

The WHH GDip program can be completed on a full-time basis in four months through four online courses. Upon successful completion participants will receive a graduate diploma from Queen’s, giving them a competitive edge in their future careers. The diploma, although a standalone offering, can also be applied to course-work required for a course-based or research master’s program offered in a number of departments and faculties at Queen’s.

“This program will offer in-depth knowledge related to the chemical, biological and physical components of water, while also capturing global environment policy implications, to provide participants of the program a better understanding of the impacts of water on public health,” says Dr. Hall, Associate Director of Education & Outreach for BWRC. “The WHH GDip program is the first of several interdisciplinary graduate diploma programs that BWRC will be launching over the next five years.”

Find out more about the Beaty Water Research Centre.

[Water and Human Health]


Mitchell Hall to mark opening with official celebration

Queen’s community to gather for unveiling of new centre of innovation and wellness.

Exterior view of Mitchell Hall at dusk.
Queen's University is set to celebrate the opening of Mitchell Hall - the campus's new centre for innovation and wellness. (University Communications)

With only days until its grand opening ceremony, Queen’s University’s new hub of innovation and student wellness is already bustling with activity. Over the last few months, spaces inside Mitchell Hall have been welcoming students, faculty, and staff, and have quickly become central to daily campus life.

Home to expanded engineering and research facilities, collaborative and experiential learning spaces, and a wide spectrum of student services, Mitchell Hall was designed to build community and foster the important relationships that connect mental health, physical well-being, academic, and personal success.

“It has been truly exciting to witness Mitchell Hall take shape over the past few years,” says Tom Harris, Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic), “but the greatest pleasure yet has been seeing its spaces come alive as our community begins to explore and utilize the building’s full potential.”

On Saturday, March 30, members of the Queen's and Kingston communities will gather in Mitchell Hall’s grand, sunlit central atrium, alongside donors and government officials for the facility’s official ribbon-cutting event at 11 am. Representatives of the university and the students, provincial and local governments will make remarks at the ceremony, as will Bruce Mitchell (Sc’68) – the lead patron who will speak on behalf of all donors to the project.

“On behalf of Queen’s I want to express the utmost gratitude to the donors whose support made Mitchell Hall possible,” says Dr. Harris. “We look forward to celebrating their contributions with them and their families, and showcasing to our guests and visitors all of the elements the facility has to offer.”

The building, located on the former site of the Physical Education Centre at the corner of Union and Division streets, was made possible by $50 million in philanthropic support and a combined $21.8 million from the Government of Canada’s Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund and from the Government of Ontario.

Behind its original limestone façade, Mitchell Hall’s new facilities house a wide variety of centres and services in bright, contemporary spaces – many of which took up occupancy and opened for use during a phased launch that began in November 2018. Among the first student services to invite guests in were the Gregory David and Neil Rossy Health Promotion Hub, Faith and Spiritual Life, and Student Community Relations, all of which opened in December 2018. Three gymnasiums also opened, as did new examination facilities, which hosted the writing of nearly 65,000 fall term exams. Doors also opened to Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science technology-enabled active learning classrooms.

December also brought the opening of the Queen’s University International Centre, which moved to Mitchell Hall after 50 years of operation in the John Deutsch University Centre. Queen’s is currently home to approximately 3,500 international students who, together with the entire campus community, can now make use of the space to meet, work, relax, and seek out academic opportunities and support.

The Rose Innovation Hub made its January debut at the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre’s (DDQIC) “Ignition Week” – a five-day exploration of all things entrepreneurship and innovation for students. Showcased during the celebration were the DDQIC’s offices, a large, modern event commons, a suite of co-working spaces for early-stage innovators, the LinQLab workshop space with modern multimedia capabilities, and the SparQ Studios makerspace – equipped with 3D scanners, 3D printers, laser cutting, wood and metal working, and more. The High Performance Varsity Training Centre and new athletic space also opened for student-athletes in January 2019.

Following the grand opening ceremony, guests will tour these spaces, as well as the newly debuted Beaty Water Research Centre, and spaces opening later this year, including the Côté Sharp Student Wellness Centre and Ingenuity Labs – a new institute focused on the design and use of intelligent systems and robotic machines to enhance human productivity, creativity, safety, and quality of life.

A livestream will be available online and on Facebook Live starting at 10:55 am EST on March 30, 2019.

The Conversation: Hurricanes to deliver a bigger punch to coasts


[Hurricane Idai flooding]
Flood waters cover large tracts of land in Mozambique after cyclone Idai made landfall. Rapidly rising floodwaters have cut off thousands of families from aid organizations. (World Food Programme)

When tropical cyclone Idai made landfall near Beira, Mozambique on March 14, a spokesperson for the UN World Meteorological Organization called it possibly the the worst weather-related disaster to hit the southern hemisphere.

This massive and horrifying storm caused catastrophic flooding and widespread destruction of buildings and roads in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi feared the death toll might rise to more than 1,000 people.

Cyclones, also known as hurricanes or typhoons, are intense wind storms that can take thousands of lives and cause billions of dollars in damage. They generate large ocean waves and raise water levels by creating a storm surge. The combined effects cause coastal erosion, flooding and damage to anything in its path.

Although other storms have hit this African coast in the past, the storm track for cyclone Idai is fairly rare. Warmer-than-usual sea-surface temperatures were directly linked to the unusually high number of five storms near Madagascar and Mozambique in 2000, including tropical cyclone Eline. Warmer ocean temperatures could also be behind the intensity of cyclone Idai, as the temperature of the Indian Ocean is 2 C to 3 C above the long-term average.

Climate change and ocean warming may be linked to the increasing intensity of storms making landfall and to the development of strong hurricanes reaching places not affected in recent history. These regions may not be prepared with the coastal infrastructure to withstand the extreme forces of these storms.

The role of climate change

Scientists are working to improve their forecasts for hurricane winds and waves, and research on ocean and atmosphere interactions is boosting our understanding of the relationship between climate and the formation of hurricanes. Still, there is considerable uncertainty in predicting trends in extreme weather conditions 100 years into the future. Some computer simulations suggest possible changes in these storms due to climate change.

[Hurricane Idai]
Tropical cyclone Idai rapidly strengthened to a category 3 storm in the warm waters between Mozambique and Madagascar. (NOAA)

For example, scientists have computed detailed simulations of hurricane-type storms for future climate-warming scenarios and revealed that in some cases the hurricane season could be longer. The intensity of storms could also increase so that there are more major hurricanes (categories 4 and 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale) with winds reaching speeds greater than 209 km/h.

Since these storms are fuelled by ocean heat, warmer ocean conditions will influence their intensity and longevity. This may enable them to travel further over ocean water at higher latitudes, and further across the continent after they make landfall.

With global sea level rise expected to continue to accelerate through the 21st century, the impacts of coastal flooding from tropical cyclones is also expected to worsen.

Atlantic hurricanes

On the Atlantic coast of North America, the hurricane season starts in June and runs to November. We have very recent reminders that these storms can be catastrophic. Hurricane Maria, which struck Puerto Rico in 2017, caused infrastructure damage of US$90 billion and may have killed more than 4,600 people.

Urban areas can take weeks or months to recover from the flooding caused by the storm surge, which can be compounded by heavy rainfall. When the category 4 hurricane Harvey hit Houston in 2017, it caused US$125 billion in damage, mostly due to flooding in the metropolitan area.

Hurricanes that reach places that historically have not been affected have major and long-lasting impacts. An example is hurricane Sandy in 2012, the largest storm on record in the Atlantic Ocean. This storm made a westward turn that is very different from typical tropical hurricane tracks.

Its waves and storm surge pounded the coasts of New Jersey and New York, with a huge impact washing over coastal dunes, eroding beaches and causing flooding in New York City.

It also had a major economic impact, costing US$71 billion with long-term effects on the coastal environment and lasting socioeconomic impacts in a densely populated area.

Damage to coasts

Hurricanes can cause severe erosion and breach islands, creating new pathways for water flow between the ocean and back-barrier estuaries. As these storms impact land, they can also create a dangerous multi-hazard environment of fast-moving air, water and debris.

[Hurricane Irma]
Hurricane Isabel made landfall on North Carolina’s Outer Banks on Sept. 18, 2003. Its effects were felt as far as western New England and into the eastern Great Lakes. (NASA)

Urban coastal areas are under a major threat, since coastal structures may not have been designed for the waves and surges that these storms generate. Hurricane Katrina, the mega-disaster that took more than 1,200 lives and cost US$161 billion in 2005, taught engineers the hard way that hurricanes can cause unanticipated loads on bridges, buildings and coastal structures.

The amount of damage a hurricane creates depends on the intensity and characteristics of the storm, combined with the physical and social setting of the coastal area that it hits. Cities face a high risk of hurricane-related disasters, since they contain higher populations and more infrastructure. This can lead to widespread and catastrophic impacts, such as the massive storm surge and flooding generated by typhoon Haiyan, which lead to more than 6,000 deaths in the Philippines in 2013.

Future Impacts

Regardless of changes to the climatic conditions that cause hurricanes to form and intensify, the fact is that these storms already occur frequently. Each year, 80 to 100 tropical storms occur globally. Of these, 40 to 50 are hurricanes, with 10 to 15 classified as major hurricanes.

Climate change projections suggest the number of intense hurricanes will rise. Ocean warming will enable these storms to travel further, and we may see greater hurricane impacts on coasts in the future.

This could include more storm strikes to northern coasts in places like Atlantic Canada, where hurricane Juan made landfall in 2003.

We may also see more hurricanes reaching large inland lakes such as the Great Lakes, affecting major cities like Toronto and Chicago. Rare events, such as hurricane Ophelia that hit Ireland in 2017, may become more common.

When we build houses, roads and bridges and increase population density in low-lying coastal areas, we walk a fine line if these coastal regions are not prepared for the ferocity of extreme storms in the future.The Conversation


Ryan P. Mulligan, is an associate professor in Civil Engineering at Queen's.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.  

Building research infrastructure

Queen’s University researchers have secured more than $1 million in research infrastructure funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund.

“Through this support, researchers will be able to build the foundational research infrastructure required to conduct cutting-edge research, and contribute to important new developments in their fields,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice-Principal (Research).

 A total of nine Queen’s researchers will receive the federal funding in a variety of fields, from the ongoing search for dark matter to investigating stem cells, to probing the transition from suicide ideation to attempts to establishing a mobile-inclusive music theatre makerspace.

The following Queen’s researchers have received funding:

Sheela Abraham (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) has received $162,500 to further the study of cancer stem cells in relation to chronic myeloid leukaemia using systems biology. With the funding, she plans to investigate cell signaling events outside cells controlled by extracellular vesicles and look into if these extracellular vesicles may be key controllers in the aging of stem cells and how this could lead to cancer. Dr. Abraham will also investigate the possibility of using extracellular vesicles as biomarkers for chronic myeloid leukaemia, which would help doctors detect the disease more efficiently, and improve patient treatment and survival.

Joseph Bramante (Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy) has received $49,970 to better determine dark matter’s origin, character, and connection to known physics. Novel new physics search techniques are being developed alongside identified techniques, including using thermal emission of neutron stars as a signature of dark matter, searches for multiply interacting massive particles at underground laboratories, the abundance of elements like gold in dwarf galaxy as a tracer of so-called “asymmetric” dark matter, and charting dark matter’s interaction with neutrinos.

Julia Brook and Colleen Renihan (Dan School of Drama and Music) has received $40,800 to create a music theatre makerspace in order to examine the development and implementation of music theatre activities with underserved populations, such as students in rural and on-reserve communities as well as seniors and adults with cognitive exceptionalities. Participants will work with facilitators to develop music theatre activities using acoustic and digital music tools as well as custom made sets and costumes from the makerspace.

Kenneth Clark (Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy) has received $189,951 to develop a scintillating bubble chamber to support the ongoing search for dark matter. Direct detection involves the interaction of dark matter in a purpose-built detector such as that used by the PICO collaboration. This group has produced world-leading results for a spin-dependent interaction of dark matter with the backgrounds being the largest issue. The scintillating bubble chamber would identify these backgrounds, leveraging the current efforts for a significant improvement in the dark-matter hunt.

Vahid Fallah (Mechanical and Materials Engineering) has received $125,000 to support research into improving the process of selective laser melting, also called metal 3D printing. In this research program, the selective laser melting processing of reactive/sensitive metals will be optimized for more stability and a less reactive build environment. The former will be achieved by optimizing the laser optics assembly, and the latter will be realized by strictly controlling the build atmosphere through an innovative build enclosure design.

Madhuri Koti (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) has received $150,000 to support her research program’s goals of identify tumour-specific genetic features that specifically associate with the anti-tumour immune responses and whether these could aid in decision making for combination immunodulatory treatment; design optimal combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy approaches for use with immune stimulating drugs; and  develop markers of chemotherapy-specific host immune alterations for future design of biomarker guided clinical trials to improve patient outcomes.
Bhavin Shastri (Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy) has received $132,500 to establish a facility with an experimental test and measurement platform and an optical probe station to demonstrate photonic integrated circuits for neuromorphic computing. Photonic neuromorphic processors have the potential to outperform microelectronics in energy efficiency and computational speeds by seven- and four-orders of magnitude, respectively.

Jeremy Stewart (Psychology) has received $100,000 to support research into identifying factors that predict the transition from suicide ideation to attempts. This transition is a pivotal target for suicide prevention, but little is known about which youth will make this shift and what processes are involved.  The research will employ electrophysiology, laboratory-based behavioural observation, and real-time, daily Smartphone-based assessments to gain novel insights into the processes involved.

Aaron Vincent (Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy) has received $50,000 for his research into developing novel ways to search for and detect dark matter, using its effect on stars such as the sun, and how to use neutrinos as probes of new physics beyond the Standard Model. This research relies on computer simulations of particle physics and astronomical systems such as stars, clusters, and the cosmos, as well as statistical methods aimed at exploring the many possible models of new physics to compare them with data from dozens of different experiments conducted in underground laboratories, ground-based observatories, and in space.

For more information on the supported projects, or to learn more about the John R. Evans Leaders fund, visit innovation.ca.

Find out more about research at Queen’s.

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Partnership provides interns real-world experience

[Beaty Water Research Centre interns]
The Beaty Water Research Centre collaborated with community research partners Loyalist Township and Quinte Conservation to secure funding to support three internships, which were co-funded by the MITACS Career Connect initiative and these community partners. The interns were, from left, Michael Pope, Lauren Halliwell, and Olivia Hughes. (Supplied Photo)

The Beaty Water Research Centre (BWRC) encourages collaborative interdisciplinary research, education, and outreach, spanning traditional water-related disciplines, as well as non-traditional and emerging disciplines. 

[Beaty Water Research Centre]
Beaty Water Research Centre

“One of the goals of the BWRC is to support students so they have the opportunity to succeed not only in the pursuit of their research and education while they are students at Queen’s, but also to prepare them to lead successful careers in their chosen STEM field,” says Pascale Champagne, Director of BWRC.

As part of this strategic goal, this year the centre collaborated with community research partners Loyalist Township and Quinte Conservation to secure funding to support three internships, which were co-funded by the MITACS Career Connect initiative and these community partners.

The internships provide a unique opportunity for recent Queen’s STEM graduates to gain valuable research and development experience, allowing them to apply their education to tackle real world issues related to water management and treatment optimization of interest to BWRC community partners. 

This year’s interns included Olivia Hughes, a chemical engineering graduate, Michael Pope, a graduate of the Masters of Science program in geography and planning, and Lauren Halliwell, a graduate in environmental science.

Hughes is currently working with Loyalist Township on a project related to the review of water treatment processes and optimization.  

“I’m fortunate to work on a project that positively impacts so many people, and to be supported by both BWRC and utilities staff at Loyalist,” she says. “It’s exciting to work with operators that have years of accumulated experience and to find ways to help them do an even better job at providing an essential resource for our everyday lives.”

Pope is working with Quinte Conservation on a hydrologic computer model to predict flood and drought conditions in the Salmon River, which is allowing him to expand his knowledge of natural waterways and engage community partners.

“This internship has allowed me to apply theoretical concepts to provide practical solutions to issues that are important local residence,” he says.

Halliwell is working on water quality analysis and the development of a master watershed plan for Quinte Conservation.

“This experience has awakened my interest and appreciation for watershed quality. I am very grateful to learn invaluable communication skills collaborating with the Quinte Conservation staff, my supervisors at the BWRC and the local community,” she says. “This internship has exercised my creativity throughout the responsibilities of managing a project that really makes a difference in the local community and the environment.”

Jyoti Kotecha, BWRC Associate Director, Research & Business Development, says that, “throughout the internship the BWRC provides guidance that supports the interns to develop not only their research and development skill, but to also develop workplace skills such as project management and business communication skills.”   

Each intern works directly with the community organization, and receives technical support from Geof Hall, Associate Director, BWRC Education & Outreach.

Student outreach draws women to STEM

Queen’s Engineering student volunteers participate in a wide range of community outreach and partnership initiatives throughout the year. 

[Robogals outreach with young girls]
Robogals Operations Manager, Heather Litwiller (Sc’18), works with outreach program participants on programming EV3 Robots.(Supplied Photo)

The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science (FEAS) dedicates significant resources to initiatives designed specifically to meet and engage community, industry, and alumni partners.

But not every community outreach initiative from Queen’s Engineering is driven by the faculty.

Many initiatives, under the umbrella of the Engineering Society of Queen’s University (EngSoc), have deep community, industry, and alumni connections. These are projects conceived, planned, and executed almost entirely by volunteer students.

One issue on which engineering students are working to affect positive change in the wider world is the gender imbalance in STEM fields, particularly in engineering. There are more students and faculty who are women in Queen’s Engineering than ever before and more are coming every year. Still, only a little more than 30 per cent of first-year students are women, and women account for only about 13 per cent of licensed engineers in Canada. It’s a complicated issue but getting girls and young women interested in STEM fields early is one of the keys to moving those numbers closer to parity.

Queen’s Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) is a student club that, among other things, runs youth outreach programs on campus and in primary and secondary schools around Kingston. The club’s activities are specifically designed to get girls interested in STEM before they start making decisions about what to do after high school. It’s all about making opportunities for young people to see women as role models, not only for girls, but for boys, teachers, faculty, and for one another.

Queen’s WiSE Coordinator Kenzie Spence (Sc’20), and Queen’s WiSE President Beatrice Kaiser (Sc’18) are two of the more than 100 Queen’s WiSE volunteers. (University Communications)

“We received an email from a parent whose child attended one of our school outreach programs,” says Queen’s WiSE President, Beatrice Kaiser (Sc’18). “Her daughter decided after our program that she wants to become a scientist. That’s impactful on me. It’s just so exciting when you hear kids say, ‘I want to be an engineer. I want to be scientist.’”

The Queen’s chapter of Robogals is another growing student outreach program. It’s one of more than 30 Robogals chapters around the world that aim to inspire young women into STEM fields through exposure to robotics. Here at Queen’s, Robogals hosts a series of fun workshops in which local kids learn some robotics basics, just as first-year Queen’s Engineering students do, with Lego EV3 robots. Some of the workshops are all-girls but many are co-educational.

“I was lucky that my parents encouraged me to pursue STEM early on,” says Queen’s Robogals Operations Manager, Heather Litwiller (Sc’18). “But when I was in high school one of the reasons girls chose not to go into computing or physics was because they’re kind of isolating, solitary pursuits. You have to work on them by sitting at a desk by yourself. I love Robogals because it’s social. We give groups of girls robots and laptops and they’re chatting, laughing, working together. STEM becomes a way for them to make friends while at the same time seeing future career options.”

Both WiSE and Robogals liaise regularly with STEM education professionals in FEAS’ full-time youth outreach operation, Connections.

“There’s a lot of new collaboration with Queen’s Engineering Outreach Lead, Scott Compeau,” Kaiser says. “We share school contacts, support, equipment, and information, and we work together to ensure our programs don’t overlap to the point of redundancy.”

In the end, the students of WiSE and Robogals are working to tear down barriers to entry in STEM fields, not to create new ones or to foment division. Perhaps the best outcome will be that gender becomes irrelevant to academic or aspirational potential in STEM.

“Our main mission is to get more women involved in STEM,” says Queen’s Robogals President, Madeline MacLean (Sc’18). “We don’t exclude boys. We have guys on our executive every year and it’s important for guys to be welcome here. It’s almost a solidarity thing.

This article was first published on the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science website


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