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    Engineering and Applied Science

    Supporting the next generation of leading researchers

    Eight Queen’s students and researchers have been recognized nationally with Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships and Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships.

    [Photo collage - clockwise: Fateme Babaha, Mackenzie Collins, Jessica Hallenbeck, Joshua Kofsky, Sandra Smeltzer, Jodi-Mae John, Michael P.A. Murphy, Chloe Halpenny.]
    Clockwise: Fateme Babaha, Mackenzie Collins, Jessica Hallenbeck, Joshua Kofsky, Sandra Smeltzer, Jodi-Mae John, Michael P.A. Murphy, Chloe Halpenny.

    Canada’s top funding agencies have announced the recipients of the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships and the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships, two of the most prestigious national awards for doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows. Eight Queen’s students and fellows are among this year’s recipients recognized for their exceptional research achievements and leadership skills.

    "The Government of Canada continues to make record investments in science and research because we know it’s key to creating a more equitable future for all," says the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. "This year’s recipients of the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships and Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships represent the highest calibre of researchers in the health sciences, natural sciences and engineering, and social sciences and humanities. They will bring new voices and new insights to help ensure that cutting-edge discoveries continue to propel Canada as a global leader."

    Jointly funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), these awards recognize students who have demonstrated exceptional scholarly achievement and leadership in their research fields. This year, more than 200 students and fellows across Canada will be receiving an investment of $34.7 million in funding over three years to support their top-tier research.

    "Queen’s is honoured to host this year’s Vanier and Banting scholars, students whose academic excellence and leadership have been recognized at a national level," says Fahim Quadir, Vice-Provost and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs. "We are tremendously proud of these individuals, who embody Queen’s aim to foster a culture of bold knowledge production and reflective new thinking and learning in pursuit of a better future."

    Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships

    The Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships program provides $140,000 of funding over two years to the very best postdoctoral applicants, both nationally and internationally, who will positively contribute to Canada’s economic, social, and research-based growth. Queen’s recipients include:

    Jessica Hallenbeck (Cultural Studies) – Flow: Film as a method for decolonial digital publishing

    Michael P.A. Murphy (Political Studies) – Active teaching, assessment, and evaluation in political science

    Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships

    The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships program provides $150,000 of funding over three years to doctoral students who demonstrate leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement in graduate studies in the social sciences and humanities, natural sciences, and/or engineering and health. Queen’s recipients include:


    Fateme Babaha (Pathology and Molecular Medicine) – Evaluation of a novel native enhancer element from the factor 8 locus to improve adeno-associated virus (AAV) delivered FVIII transgene expression


    Sandra Smeltzer (Chemical Engineering) – Polymeric materials as a replacement for toxic surfactants in waterborne coating production

    Mackenzie Collins (Collaborative Biomedical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering) – Developing a prototype of an eye-gaze based system for emotion identification in children with cerebral palsy

    Joshua Kofsky (Chemistry) – Synthesis of complex O-glycans for probing glycan-protein binding interactions


    Jodi-Mae John (Geography and Planning) – Exploring Kanyen'keha:ka (Mohawk) values and relationship building with healthcare providers in Kenhte:ke (Tyendinaga)

    Chloe Halpenny (Kinesiology and Health Studies) – She works hard for the money: A critical feminist analysis of social assistance in Ontario

    For more information on this year’s recipients, visit the Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada website.

    Engineering solutions for a sustainable future

    Kerry Rowe has been awarded the inaugural NSERC Donna Strickland Prize for Societal Impact for his research improving the design of waste containment facilities worldwide.

    [Photo of Dr. Kerry Rowe]
    Dr. Kerry Rowe, Canada Research Chair in Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering, in his lab in Ellis Hall where his team tests the integrity of different types of landfill liners using environmental simulations.

    Landfills are likely not the first thing that comes to mind when asked what type of municipal infrastructure is most important. Yet, a contamination disaster quickly alerts us to how devastating landfill leakages can be for a community’s supply of groundwater and the surrounding environment.

    Devoting his life’s work to the prevention and remediation of groundwater and surface water contamination disasters, Queen’s researcher Dr. Kerry Rowe (Civil Engineering) has pioneered the field of geoenvironmental engineering and transformed landfill barrier systems around the world. Today, he was awarded the inaugural NSERC Donna Strickland Prize for Societal Impact of Natural Sciences and Engineering Research, which recognizes outstanding research that has led to exceptional benefits for Canadian society, the environment, and the economy. Named after the 2018 Canadian Nobel Laureate in Physics, the award also comes with a $250,000 grant to support the recipient’s continued research and knowledge dissemination.

    Dr. Rowe’s work has impacted regulations, contaminant remediation, design, and the construction practice of landfills across three continents. His research focuses on the measures in place in waste disposal sites to ensure environmental protection, recognizing that some can, and will, fail at some time. By introducing innovations in the design of covers, fluid collection and liners, as well as improvements in regulatory and safety procedures, Dr. Rowe has guided the safe development of waste containment sites around the world.

    "By putting the innovative systems in place to prevent waste contamination, Dr. Rowe’s research has had a profound impact on the health and wellbeing of millions of people worldwide," says Nancy Ross, Vice-Principal (Research). "Congratulations to Dr. Rowe on receiving this prestigious national honour."

    In an interview with the Queen’s Gazette, Dr. Rowe reflects on milestones, what the award means to him, and the future of the field.

    How does it feel to be the first recipient of the NSERC Donna Strickland Prize?

    It is great to see that there is now an award for the social impact of natural science and engineering research, and of course, I am delighted to be the first winner. To me, it's recognition of the critical role played by the research of civil engineers and, in this case more specifically, the sub-discipline of geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineers. The application of their work to both improving and protecting lives can sometimes fly under the radar. So, beyond the recognition of the specific work undertaken by my team of collaborators and students, it's great to see this recognition of our profession.

    Your research has been a driving force in the implementation of life-saving improvements and safety standards around the world. Looking back on your career, what has been your process in achieving this?

    As in all research, my work begins by identifying an important problem, finding a solution, and publishing the results. However, as I look back over the past 40 years, the major challenge in establishing a new sub-discipline and having an impact on society has been influencing regulations and practitioners in both the adoption of new methods of design and construction, and avoiding practices that save money in the short-term, but ultimately lead to future problems and substantial financial and social costs. One key element of that process has been the training of highly qualified personnel (HQP) and having them also carry the message to industry and regulatory authorities. Today, many of my former HQP are industry leaders.

    You’ve stated that "working with nature rather than fighting nature and making nature work for us instead of against us" has been a key component to your research. How do you think this approach has guided your discoveries and identified opportunities for innovation?

    There are many aspects to how nature influences geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineering. Examples include water that will always find a path of least resistance, bacteria that have been around since the dawn of life and are amazingly adaptable, and processes like diffusion which are often thought to be too slow to be of consequence but turn out to be major players in managing environmental issues.

    In the early days of thoughtful landfill design (1980s-1990s), sand was used to drain the contaminated fluid, called leachate, generated by the waste itself and the percolation of water through the waste. This would make sense had leachate simply been water, since water drains easily through coarse sand. However, it was soon found that the sand was being cemented together and substantially lost its ability to collect leachate. This is because leachate is mostly water but also contains bacteria, dissolved chemicals like calcium and this combination produces calcium carbonate which blocks water passageways through the sand. Using coarse gravel, instead of sand, was the first step in reducing the problem, but the bacteria were still the enemy and given time would clog the gravel.

    The more effective approach we adopted involved placing a layer above the drainage layer where the same bacteria cleaned up the leachate, reducing the potential for clogging in the drainage layer while locking up contaminates like heavy metals and still allowing adequate drainage. Thus, the bacteria ceased to be our bio-enemy and became a bio-friend.

    [Photo of Dr. Rowe's team working on installing a liner at the Queen's University Environmental Liner Test Site in Godfrey, Ontario]
    Dr. Rowe's team works on installing a liner at the Queen's University Environmental Liner Test Site in Godfrey, Ontario.

    What do you think will be the next obstacle in maintaining the safety and success of our landfills?

    For landfills, the major challenge of the next decade, or more, will be managing perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These are human-made chemicals that have become ubiquitous in our daily lives over the last 60 years and are in numerous items, from food packaging to beauty products, to carpets and numerous other products, that find a way into landfills and result in concentrations in leachate at levels 100 to 1000 times what is considered acceptable in drinking water. They are sometimes called “forever chemicals” since they do not readily breakdown in a landfill.

    There are numerous implications both for existing and future landfills, such as how they affect the service life of the engineered system. Looking beyond landfills, the movement to green energy has many unintended consequences that have not received adequate consideration. Along with climate change and its implications for all forms of waste management, these challenges will keep us busy for the next decade or more.

    You’ve been recognized during your career with 130 awards and honours, including being made an Officer of the Order of Canada and a Fellow of the Royal Society (UK). You’ve also trained 157 graduate students. What advice do you give your students looking to make an impact with their research?

    My advice is to focus their research on solving important questions that address problems that are now, or in the future, likely to impact society. This does not mean solving today's problem tomorrow. My key contributions have each taken a couple of decades to do the fundamental research behind the practical solution to a problem that impacts society. My point here is that there is too much tendency to want immediate results. Breaking new ground in research always requires patience.

    [Photo of Dr. Kerry Rowe along with graduate students Jiying Fan and Farhana Jabin in his lab in Ellis Hall.]
    Dr. Kerry Rowe with graduate students Farhana Jabin and Jiying Fan in his lab in Ellis Hall.

    To learn more about the Donna Strickland Prize and other named NSERC prizes, visit the NSERC website.

    Building on a history of excellence

    Queen’s researchers have been recipients of some of NSERC’s most prestigious awards and distinctions. Their achievements have also been inspiration for others. In 2020, the E.W.R Steacie Memorial Fellowships established to support early-stage researchers was renamed to honour Queen’s Nobel Laureate Arthur McDonald. From outstanding contributions to science communication, to building multi-disciplinary teams to draw on their combined knowledge, and receiving the highest value funding grants, Queen’s researchers are tackling some of the world’s most significant and urgent challenges.

    Learn more about these accomplishments below:

    Discovery Grant

    Awarded to innovative and bold research projects with the potential to create big impacts and to fund projects with long-term goals and support researchers with flexibility to explore multiple avenues in their field of study

    2021 Highest Value: Dr. Cathleen Crudden

    Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering

    Recognizes outstanding Canadian teams of researchers from different disciplines who came together to engage in research drawing on their combined knowledge and skills, and produced a record of excellence achievements in the natural sciences and engineering

    2019: Drs. Pascale Champagne, Michael Cunningham, Philip Jessop, Warren Mabee

    2013: Drs. John Smol and Jules Blais (University of Ottawa)

    Awards for Science Promotion

    Honour individuals and groups who make an outstanding contribution to the promotion of science in Canada through activities encouraging popular interest in science or developing science abilities

    2019: Dr. Lynda Colgan

    Arthur B. McDonald Fellowships

    Awarded annually to recognize early-stage academic researchers in the natural sciences and engineering and to enhance their research capacity so that they can become leaders in and inspire others (Previously known as the E.W.R. Steacie Memoral Fellowships)

    2018: Dr. Ahmed Hassan

    2008: Dr. Troy Day

    2003: Dr. Zongchao Jia

    NSERC John C. Polanyi Award

    Given to an individual or team whose research, conducted in Canada, has led to a recent outstanding advance in any NSERC-supported field of the natural sciences or engineering

    2008: Dr. Philip Jessop

    Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering

    Awarded annually to an individual whose body of work, conducted in Canada in the natural sciences for engineering, has demonstrated persistent excellence and influence

    2004: Dr. John Smol

    2003: Dr. Arthur McDonald, Nobel Prize Laureate in Physics

    Participate in Science Rendezvous Kingston 2023

    Each year, the Queen’s research community comes together to provide Kingstonians with a day of interactive and family-friendly science activities. As one of the longest-running and most successful outreach events in Canada, Science Rendezvous Kingston provides an opportunity for our faculty, students, and staff to give back to the community while exercising their ability to communicate with the public. The Vice-Principal (Research) Portfolio is now calling out for researchers or groups interested in having a booth in Science Rendezvous Kingston 2023. The event will be hosted on May 13 at the Leon’s Centre.

    During the annual event, thousands of visitors have first-hand opportunities to engage with scientists: asking questions, doing experiments, exploring artefacts, and using equipment. All activities are free, thus providing quality exhibits to families for whom costly museums, zoos, nature and environmental programs, and other science-rich experiential opportunities are out of reach.

    From virtual tours of SNOLAB to birding guides, activity booklets, instructional guides, book recommendations and teaching modules, Science Rendezvous Kingston strives to educate, engage, and inspire learners of all ages to become aware of and trust science as well as the people behind it. After a virtual edition in 2021 and a hybrid one in 2022, the initiative is ready to go back to a full in-person event, while maintaining a website with educational resources available year-round.

    Science Rendezvous Kingston is part of Science Odyssey, a national campaign created by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to celebrate Canadian achievements in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.

    Welcoming new and exciting experiences

    A limited number of booths are available for 2023. Individuals, labs and departments at Queen’s who would like to be a part of this exciting and impactful public education event are welcome to complete the application form by December 1, 2022 at 4:30 p.m.

    Applicants are reminded that the event is family focused. While there is no fee for a booth, it is the responsibility of the booth coordinator to ensure that there are sufficient consumable materials and volunteers for the full day of activities.

    Successful applicants will be advised of their place in the program by January 13, 2023.

    Any questions, contact Lynda Colgan, Coordinator, Science Rendezvous Kingston and Executive Director, Science Rendezvous at Lynda.Colgan@queensu.ca

    Using carbon dioxide to build a green future

    Chemical engineering researcher Cao Thang Dinh is attempting to turn one of the world’s worst pollutants into sustainable fuels and chemicals.

    Aerial photography of passing vehicles on highway leading to Toronto.
    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. (Unsplash/ Matthew Henry)

    Carbon dioxide (CO2) is critical to how we live our lives, but it is also one of the world’s main pollutants. For decades, both researchers and climate activists have been warning about the damage it can cause to the planet.

    Sustainability plans and goals often focus on reducing CO2 emissions, which is crucial to avoid a climate catastrophe. A different and complementary approach is also on the horizon: to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into useful and sustainable products.

    Assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, Cao Thang Dinh has developed technology to capture and convert CO2 into valuable chemicals and fuels using renewable energy. He recently spoke to the Gazette about his current research projects and his plans to create solutions advancing a greener future.

    What are your overall research goals?

    My lab’s current focus is carbon dioxide conversion technology, which has multiple advantages and the potential to solve some key world problems.

    Worldwide, we emit around 40 million tons of CO2 every year, and one of our biggest challenges is how to reduce CO2 levels in the air. We are working on a technology that will enable us to do exactly that. Our first goal is to convert carbon dioxide into chemicals like methane, methanol and ethanol that can be used as fuels.

    Dr. Cao Thang Dinh
    Dr. Cao Thang Dinh

    A second goal is to develop technology to use carbon dioxide as a precursor to produce other chemicals, like polymers – big molecules that we use to produce plastics, nylon, silicone, and other materials. We currently make polymers from fossil fuel precursors. If we can use CO2, we can make these materials more sustainable.

    Lastly, an important aspect of our research is that we are looking for ways to convert electricity and green energy sources, like wind or solar energy, into liquid fuel that can be easily stored with current infrastructures. This would solve another huge challenge.

    What are the main challenges in developing new carbon dioxide conversion technology?

    Improving efficiency is one of them. We produce CO2 every time we burn fuels, and CO2 is a very stable molecule. To convert it into something new, we need energy: producing one liter of fuel from CO2 requires a lot of electricity, so high energy efficiency is a critical requirement.

    The other challenge is how to control the conversion of CO2 into the desired molecules. Carbon dioxide can be converted into many different molecules in a single process. This is great opportunity to produce a variety of products. However, we need to make sure we are being selective on what we are producing – otherwise, we will have to spend a lot of energy purifying the final product.

    How is the technology you are proposing different from existing technologies?

    There are research groups working on technology to capture carbon dioxide from the air or from power plant exhausts. And there’s technology for CO2 conversion. But what we are trying to achieve is to combine both processes in the same system to significantly reduce the amount of energy needed for CO2 capture and conversion.

    We’ve built an integrated system capable of capturing and converting carbon dioxide, with higher energy efficiency. We are also working on solutions to improve selectivity in the CO2 conversion to various products.

    When can we expect this new technology to be available?

    That will depend on the kind of molecules we are hoping to produce from CO2. For simpler molecules, like carbon monoxide or formic acid, the technology is already advanced and there are some startups working on making this technology available, although it is still an expensive technology. I would say in the next three to five years we will see the scale-up of products using this technology.

    For more complex products, it can take longer.

    We want to use this technology to produce fuels like ethanol or a precursor to make plastics like polyethylene. As an example, it could be used to produce plastic bottles, which is a huge market. However, the technology to make these is not yet advanced.

    Are there other areas where your work have potential impact?

    Yes. We can apply the same principles we use in carbon dioxide conversion to other molecules. We have a project with an industrial partner where we convert the oxygen in the air into hydrogen peroxide and then incorporate it into a wastewater treatment system. We are also exploring how to produce different chemicals for agricultural purposes. One project we are working on is to convert CO2 and nitrogen from the air to produce urea – a widely used fertilizer.

    What excites you most about the possibility of this technology?

    Imagine that we can produce fuels, materials, and fertilizers in a sustainable and distributed way from solar, wind, air, and water, which are available almost everywhere. This would provide access to clean energy, water, and food to everyone – a truly sustainable world.

    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 know how society could make use of their expertise to support critical thinking and daily decision making related to a range of topics – from climate change, health, politics, 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. 20 at Mitchell Hall (see sidebar to learn more). Faculty members, post-docs, and graduate students are welcome to participate. In the afternoon session, there will be a focus on how to promote research in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Seats are limited to 40 participants in each session. 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. Almost 270 Queen’s researchers have published 425 articles that have garnered over 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, Oct. 20

    Session 1:
    10 to 11:30 a.m. (Click to register.)

    Session 2 (STEM research):
    2 to 3:30 p.m. (Click to register.)

    Rose Innovation Hub Space,
    Mitchell Hall

    For any questions, contact researchcommunications@queensu.ca

    The Conversation is a powerful tool for community engagement, bolstering the efforts of our researchers to share their expertise and build profile,” says Michael Fraser, Vice-Principal (University Relations). “We have seen participation from every faculty, and Queen’s continues to show leadership in contributing to the platform among Canadian peers.”

    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 Nehal El-Hadi, the Science + Technology 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.

    Climate change means Atlantic Canada will see more frequent storms

    Hurricanes don’t usually maintain high wind speeds as they make their way toward Atlantic Canada. But ocean warming may be linked to the increasing intensity of storms like Fiona.

    Atlantic Canada has been left reeling from the impacts of one of the largest and most dangerous ocean storms to ever hit the region. Hurricane Fiona made landfall as a powerful post-tropical storm on Saturday along the eastern shore of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador, delivering heavy rainfall, damaging winds and massive waves.

    The storm surge — a rise in seawater level — resulted in power outages, flooded roads, and in southwest Newfoundland, homes were washed away. The southwest coast of Newfoundland was hit particularly hard by extreme waves and storm surge, which were highest on the eastern side of the storm track.

    The huge storm had a very low atmospheric pressure (931.6 mb) — which is the lowest ever recorded for a tropical storm that made landfall in Canada. Low pressure weather systems are associated with strong winds and heavy rains.

    Offshore, the wave heights exceeded eight to 10 metres on the Scotian Shelf and reached 17 metres at the Banqureau Banks wave buoy.

    Past storms

    Historically, the Saxby Gale of 1869 was a massive storm that caused significant flooding in Nova Scotia. Other more recent storms, such as Hurricane Juan in 2003 and Hurricane Dorian in 2019 had big impacts, but they also weakened in storm intensity just before making landfall in Nova Scotia.

    Hurricanes with the size and strength of Fiona do not usually maintain their high wind speeds this far north. This makes Hurricane Fiona a pivotal event in the Canadian coastal ocean, as it raises the question of when this will happen again.

    How did Fiona get into Canadian water with such size and intensity? This is related to its heat source: the ocean. Ocean warming may be linked to the increasing intensity of storms making landfall and to the development of strong hurricanes.

    So climate change leads to warmer ocean water at higher latitudes. A warmer future increases the probability that more intense storms will reach Canadian coasts.

    Types of impact

    Depending on the size and strength of the hurricane, where it makes landfall and the shape of the coast that it strikes, the impacts can be very different.

    In addition to large waves and storm surges, hurricanes also bring heavy precipitation that floods the land surface and can affect coastal groundwater systems.

    These storms drive strong currents that can erode sediments and change the shape and forms of coasts. They can also affect water quality by suspending and spreading contaminants in harbours.

    Hurricanes the size of Fiona may not occur again soon — or, a similarly intense storm could strike Atlantic Canada again within the next few years. We are making progress with recent improvements to hurricane forecasting and real-time coastal modelling.

    Being able to predict the size, frequency and impact of storms helps inform warnings, decisions, responses and policies. These predictions are essential for being ready to face the next big storm event when it happens.The Conversation


    Ryan P. Mulligan, Professor of Civil Engineering and Director of the Beaty Water Research Centre, Queen's University.

    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, Director, Thought Leadership and Strategic Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

    Funding to enable innovative research

    Queen’s researchers will receive close to $700,000 in funding as part of a $64 million announcement to support research infrastructure.

    The Government of Canada, through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), has announced $64 million in funding to support research infrastructure through the John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF). Five projects at Queen’s will receive close to $700,000 to advance innovative research projects that will have an impact on human health, communications technologies, and renewable materials.

    "Canada is world-renowned for our state-of-the-art institutions and talented researchers pushing the boundaries of knowledge," says The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. "Through this Fund, our government is strengthening our leadership and competitive advantage by supporting Canadians to pursue discoveries, overcome challenges and innovate to make a more prosperous, equitable, and sustainable future for all."

    The JELF helps universities more competitively recruit and retain outstanding researchers by providing funds needed to acquire the labs, equipment, and facilities.

    "Cutting-edge research requires the right infrastructure and tools," says Nancy Ross, Vice-Principal (Research). "Thanks to the CFI, researchers at Queen’s can acquire the resources they need to accelerate their programs and fuel discovery and innovation that will have an impact on Canadians."

    Learn more about the Queen’s projects:

    Fernanda De Felice (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences; Psychiatry)

    [Photo of Dr. Fernanda de Felice]Dr. De Felice’s project "Testing the potential of extracellular vesicles to deliver therapeutics and to develop biomarkers in Alzheimer’s disease" will help address an urgent need to develop inexpensive, non-invasive diagnostics and efficient treatments to help Canada’s aging population, who are experiencing an increase in Alzheimer’s disease. Her team will investigate the role of irisin, a novel hormone boosted by physical exercise, in memory processes and if increasing it can reproduce or even boost the beneficial actions of exercise in memory. Dr. De Felice also aims to investigate vesicles, cells that originate in the brain and are carried into the body’s circulation, and to develop a simple approach for identifying if they are carrying disease biomarkers.

    Vera Vine (Psychology)

    [Photo of Dr. Vera Vine]Dr. Vine’s project "Interoception as a mechanism of adolescents’ emotional development" will help address the urgent need to discover the risk mechanisms that drive the co-occurrence of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts among adolescents. Adolescence is a period of rapid emotional change when individuals often have a hard time figuring out what they feel while they are still developing emotion awareness. Dr. Vine’s team will test a promising theory that adolescents develop emotion awareness by having a strong connection between body and mind, or interoception. Her project will examine how interoception helps adolescents develop emotion awareness and how this process is affected by social environments. It will also teach us more about where emotions come from and ultimately lead to better public programs to protect youth from adversity and promote mental health.

    Kevin De France (Chemical Engineering)

    [Photo of Dr. Kevin De France]Dr. De France’s project "Development of sustainable cellulose- and protein-based building blocks for the fabrication of functional materials" will explore alternatives that could replace traditional plastic-based products. Plastics are generally produced from non-renewable petroleum-based sources, which lead to increased levels of waste and environmental pollution in their production and decomposition. His team will investigate the structure-property-function relationships between the natural building blocks of cellulose and protein, both abundant raw materials, and the materials fabricated from them. The successful completion of Dr. De France’s project will result in the promotion of clean technology for various applications in fields spanning countless sectors that impact everyday life.

    Alexander Tait (Electrical and Computer Engineering)

    [Photo of Dr. Alexander Tait]Dr. Tait’s project "Quantum internet to the home with cryogenic silicon photonics" will develop key building blocks from entangled photo light sources and single-photon detectors needed to access the more secure quantum internets. Quantum communication technologies promise a high value but also a high price point. Global investments in quantum technologies tend to focus on its applications and cyber security features for corporate and government networks, yet the general population would also benefit as our personal and financial data increasingly moves to the internet. A significant barrier for regular consumers to access these networks is the cost of needed hardware. Dr. Tait’s team will develop single-photon technologies that can be manufactured in existing silicon foundries, as opposed to using specialized semiconductor platforms. This innovation will make quantum internet products more accessible and affordable while presenting commercialization and export opportunities for Canada.

    Sunita Mathur (Rehabilitation Therapy)

    [Photo of Dr. Sunita Mathur]Dr. Mathur’s project "Detecting and mitigating sarcopenia in chronic disease" will help combat a debilitating disease increasingly affecting Canada’s aging population that causes muscle wasting and muscle weakness. Her team will focus on developing new ways to detect sarcopenia and test novel exercise programs to mitigate the disease through utilizing lab-based measurements and clinical setting methods for both in-person and virtual care. Dr. Mathur intends to establish a Muscle Imaging and Performance Lab at Queen’s that will lead the study of sarcopenia globally and advance the evidence for virtual care to make a direct impact on the healthcare of Canadians.


    To learn more about the Canada Foundation for Innovation and other funded projects, please visit their website.

    Science exposed

    Four Queen’s graduate students are finalists in NSERC’s national research photo competition.

    How does science look like? Researchers across Canada are showcasing their work in compelling images that provide the public with a new perspective on what goes on inside labs or in field research.

    Featuring science across all fields, the Science Exposed contest is organized annually by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). In 2022, four Queen’s students are among the finalists, with their images selected for public voting.

    “Researchers are being more frequently asked to share their work with the public, and images are an effective, relatable way to share scientific knowledge; they can convey emotion, beauty, and even surprise, while also fostering curiosity,” says the contest webpage.

    Public voting is open until September 18 and the image voted as people’s choice will receive a $2,000 award. A jury will also select three winners for prizes of $2,000 each.

    Learn more about the images shortlisted from Queen’s:

    Blue-green algal blooms

    Malignant brushstrokes (Haolun Tian, PhD student, Biology)

    Human activity drives the intensity and frequency of blue-green algal blooms, which threaten aquatic biodiversity and the drinking water supply of millions. The transient and rapid emergence of these blooms into our lakes in late summer makes them difficult to monitor on short notice, particularly in smaller waterbodies. This drone image, taken from 100 m above the ground, shows my collaborators collecting water samples from an algal bloom in Dog Lake, a waterbody on the historic Rideau Canal system. The beautiful paint-like whorls seen from above hide a fetid and noxious “pea soup” that will eventually suffocate fish and other aquatic life when it decomposes in the fall. Using a combination of drone and environmental DNA monitoring, we are able to quickly assess the scale, movement and composition of a small bloom at the fraction of the price of satellite imaging or toxin assessment.

    Metalens, an array of nanostructure optical elements

    Fabricated nanostructures of a metalens (Masoud Pahlevaninezhad, PhD student, Electrical and Computer Engineering)

    Metalens, an array of nanostructure optical elements, is a promising technology that could revolutionize optics by replacing conventional bulky lenses. By adjusting the shape, size and position of nanostructures, metalens can be used for complex imaging settings where conventional lenses fail to provide high-quality focusing. Our group, in collaboration with Harvard University, designed a metalens to incorporate into an endoscopic setting for live tissue imaging of internal organs. One-to-one comparisons of tissue images from both metalens and conventional lenses show metalens’ ability to capture images with noticeably higher resolution and more issue details. This research will ultimately enable a more sophisticated assessment of pathological changes, which could otherwise be easily overlooked by conventional lenses, at early stages of diseases like cancer.

    Magnesium sulfate salt crystals

    Microfluidically generated salt crystal (Phillip Hillen, MSc student, Chemistry)

    Microfluidics is the study and manipulation of fluids at a microliter scale. Droplets can be manipulated using a surface with different wetting characteristics. We generated magnesium sulfate salt crystals by evaporating a droplet of salt water on a microfluidically modified surface, and this image shows a perfectly circular salt crystal, five hundred microns in diameter. While the image is coloured as a result of quality enhancements, salt crystals aren’t colourful.

    Aletsch Glacier

    Deep blue ICE (Wai Yin Cheung, PhD student, Geography)

    Since 2016, Queen’s annually organizes The Art of Research, a photo contest to showcase the work done by faculty, students, staff, and alumni. The competition is aimed at providing a creative and accessible method of sharing the ground-breaking research being done by current and past Queen’s community members and celebrating the global and social impact of this work. Click to learn more.

    While working as a glaciological student on Aletsch Glacier, the longest glacier in Europe, I simply enjoyed the freedom of being by myself without the limitations of physical time. I’m amazed by the power of the vast ice field, as it grinds rock off of mountains, erasing the surface of the earth. This experience has taught me to be as firm and as brave as crystal blue ice for any future challenges I may face.

    To see other finalist images and cast your vote, visit the Science Exposed webpage.

    Seven Queen’s researchers elected to the Royal Society of Canada

    New fellows are recognized for their outstanding research and scholarly contributions.

    Each year, the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) awards field-leading Canadian researchers across the arts and humanities, social sciences, and sciences with one of the most prestigious academic honours in the country: the RSC fellowship. Seven Queen’s researchers have been elected fellows of the RSC’s distinguished 2022 cohort. Their research spans multiple disciplines – from political philosophy and computer-assisted medicine to the influence of policy making on social inequalities.

    As Canada’s national academy, the role of the RSC is to promote research and learning, recognize academic and artistic excellence, and to advise government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on matters of importance to Canadians. Fellows are selected through a rigorous application and peer-review evaluation process. The honour recognizes the impact and influence of the recipients’ research on their fields and on global citizens.

    “To have seven RSC fellows inducted in one year is an exceptional achievement for Queen’s and its research community,” says Nancy Ross, Vice-Principal (Research). “It’s also impressive to see the range of fields and cross-disciplinary research represented in our new fellows, who are well-deserving of this prestigious honour.”

    Learn more about Queen’s 2022 RSC fellows:

     Virginia Walker (Biology and School of Environmental Studies) investigates stress genes and the molecular basis of resistance. She uses the principles of genetics, molecular biology, chemistry, and engineering to answer questions central to understanding how humans adapt to environmental stress, creating foundational research for the next generation.




    Gabor Fichtinger Gabor Fichtinger (Computing) has been working in the field of computer-assisted medical interventions and surgery for nearly three decades, and is the Canada Research Chair in Computer-Integrated Surgery at Queen’s. His novel research about image-guided robotics and real-time surgical navigation has paved the way for several modern diagnostic and therapeutic techniques. Dr. Fichtinger is recognized as a pioneer of his field, and a provider of free open-source research software resources that are used globally.



    Guojun Liu Guojun Liu (Chemistry), the Canada Research Chair in Materials Science at Queen’s, is widely acknowledged as a world leader in his field. He has led the development of nano- and micro- structured materials. Through this research, he has made critical fundamental and applied scientific contributions, including the development of nanoscale coatings that can be used to improve handheld electronic devices and functional textiles.



    Susanne Soederberg Susanne Soederberg (Global Development Studies) is internationally recognized for her trailblazing research on how policymaking influences social inequalities at overlapping scales from local to global. With a focus on producing societal knowledge based on principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion, she has become one of the most influential political economists studying contemporary capitalism across the global North/South divide.



    ​Ian Moore Ian Moore (Civil Engineering) uses a combination of numerical and physical modelling to advance fundamental understandings of strength and other performance limits of the buried pipes used for municipal water supply, sewers, and highway construction. His research is transforming soil-pipe interaction theory and practice, and is used in many North American and international design codes and guidelines.




    Christine Sypnowich Christine Sypnowich (Philosophy) draws on law, politics, urban planning, and local history to consider the centrality of human flourishing in our conception of equality, and the role of place and heritage in the remedy of disadvantage. A significant theme of her path-breaking research is that political philosophy should not just illuminate questions of justice, but also enhance self-understanding and further human wellbeing.




    Stephen Scott Stephen Scott (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) is a world leader in the computational, neural, mechanical and behavioural aspects of voluntary motor control. Dr. Scott is most recognized for his invention of Kinarm, an interactive robotic technology that provides unprecedented experimental control over arm motor function. Furthering our understanding of the link between cortical circuits and limb biomechanics, Kinarm robots are used widely to quantify brain function



    New faculty inducted to RSC College

    The RSC is also welcoming today 54 new members of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists, including Julia Christensen. Moving from Memorial University, she joined Queen's Department of Geography and Planning in the summer.

    Julia Christensen Dr. Christensen is an expert in housing, home and health in the circumpolar North. Her scholarship aims to understand the northern housing crisis and dismantle it through community-led solutions. Her collaborations with Indigenous and regional governments have informed a series of policy initiatives that respond to the unique cultures and contexts of northern communities.

    The College is formed by mid-career leaders who provide the RSC with a multigenerational capacity to help Canada and the world address major challenges and seize new opportunities.

    Since 1964, Queen’s has seen 118 of its faculty members elected as fellows of the RSC and 16 as members of the College of New Artists, Scholars, and Scientists. For more information, visit the Royal Society of Canada website.

    Queen’s hosts three EDIIA camps

    Three new Queen’s camps aimed at fostering diversity within health sciences and engineering welcomed students to campus.

    Health Science’s Outreach and Summer Program, Connections Engineering Outreach’s Black Youth in STEM program, and the All-Girls Queen’s Summer Engineering Academy (QSEA) took place at Queen’s University the week of Aug. 2-5.

    Health Science’s Outreach and Summer Program

    Health Science's Outreach and Summer Program

    A new program, the Queen’s Health Sciences Outreach and Summer Program provides mentorship and educational opportunities to local high school students who self-identify as low socio-economic status, racialized, 2SLGBTQIA+, immigrant, refugee, persons living with disabilities, or first-generation Canadians. This inaugural program offered mentorship and workshops throughout the year for Grade 9-12 students and culminated in a week-long immersive summer program on campus. All of the mentors in the program are current Queen’s Health Sciences students.

    The 17 mentees, from five high schools in Kingston, got a taste of life as a student in health sciences through hands-on workshops, lectures, lab visits, simulation activities, and Standard First Aid with CPR-C training.

    “The Queen’s Health Sciences Outreach and Summer Program supports local youth from equity-deserving communities who may not otherwise pursue a career in health sciences,” says Ryan Truong, QHS Outreach & Summer Program Coordinator. “This project builds students’ resilience, confidence, and awareness of educational opportunities – encouraging diversity within the classroom and the workforce in the long term.”

    Connections Engineering Outreach’s Black Youth in STEM program

    Connections Engineering Outreach's Black Youth in STEM program

    The Black Youth in STEM (BYiS) summer program, part of Connections Engineering Outreach, is also an inaugural initiative. This summer program built off the Queen’s Black Youth in STEM virtual club, which began during the pandemic.

    Grade 7-11 students from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) participated in the two-part BYiS program. The first part of the BYiS summer initiative took place in July, in collaboration with the Durham Catholic District School Board and Ontario Tech University to offer a specialized STEM camp for Black youth. Three Queen’s engineering Black graduate students designed and delivered STEM workshops to the middle school and high school students over a four-day period. For part two of the BYiS summer initiative, 47 Black students in Grade 7-11 from across the GTA were invited to stay on Queen’s University campus for three days. At Queen’s, they had the opportunity to learn more about engineering disciplines and life as a Queen’s student.

    “From observation and feedback from parents and community partners, our camp has been an extremely positive experience for the students, which has raised their awareness and understanding of engineering and the engineering design process. The Black Youth in STEM program is positively changing lives and this camp has taken our program one step closer in fulfilling our mandate of increasing the number of Black Scientists and engineers in Canada,” said Cressana Williams-Massey, Black Youth in STEM Lead at Queen’s University.

    All-Girls Queen’s Summer Engineering Academy (QSEA)

    All-Girls Queen's Summer Engineering Academy

    This year, Connections Engineering Outreach also offered a new stream of summer courses for girls in Grade 1-8, as part of QSEA. These all-girls courses are in support of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science’s Chair for Women in Engineering strategic objectives, with the STEM content being designed and taught by an all-female staff and creating a positive female space.

    One of the all-girls QSEA courses was the Taste of Engineering, a three-day overnight program on Queen’s University campus for girls in Grade 7 and 8. A total of 26 girls from across Ontario came to Queen’s Aug. 3-5 to participate in this program.

    “This week we were able to connect with 26 girls and immerse them into a taste of engineering. Building bridges, designing arduino-based prosthetic hands, programming self-driving robots, and using acids and bases to explore medical applications were some of the highlights this week,” said Lindsay Jones, Engineering Outreach Coordinator.

    These three new programs demonstrate Queen’s commitment to diversity and inspiring future leaders in STEM. Queen’s Engineering and Health Sciences look forward to welcoming back a new cohort of students next summer.


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