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Engineering and Applied Science

Celebrating the Class of 2021

Queen’s congratulates graduates on success in the face of unprecedented challenges.

Another academic year at Queen’s is now complete and more than 5,800 students have a big reason to celebrate, now that they have officially graduated. To help mark these achievements, the university is sharing a video message to offer congratulations to graduates and highlight their achievements and perseverance in the face of challenges posed by COVID-19.

“These have been unprecedented times, and very difficult times in which to bring an end to your course of study,” says Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, in his remarks. “That you’ve done so in such circumstances is remarkable, and therefore all the more admirable and deserving of our congratulations.”

With strict public health measures still in place in Ontario, on-site convocation events have had to be postponed, with plans to offer in-person ceremonies later once guidelines permit. As vaccination programs continue across the country, and return to campus planning well underway, Queen’s is hopeful that ceremonies missed in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic can be held.

“I’m so honoured to be able to offer you my most sincere congratulations on the completion of your degree at Queen’s,” says Kanonhsyonne Janice Hill, Associate Vice-Principal (Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation), who joined Principal Deane in the video. “It’s been a very challenging year, but you persevered and succeeded. You should be very proud of yourself for doing so.”

While opportunities to host future in-person ceremonies are explored, graduates can expect to receive their diplomas by mail in the coming weeks, and the names of conferred degree recipients are being shared online by the Office of the University Registrar marking their official graduation. Several faculties and schools are planning virtual events or gestures of recognition in the near term.

“I’m so pleased to celebrate the successful conclusion to your studies and recognize your earned degree, diploma or certificate,” Chancellor Jim Leech says, making the final congratulatory remarks in the video.  “You should be proud of your accomplishment and that you are now a full-fledged Queen’s alum.”

For more information on Spring 2021 graduation, please visit the office of the University Registrar's website.

Funding new frontiers in research

The New Frontiers in Research Fund supports six innovative and interdisciplinary projects at Queen’s.

Six research projects at Queen’s have received funding from the New Frontiers in Research Fund’s (NFRF) 2020 Exploration competition, a program that encourages scholars to take risks, and that fosters discoveries and innovations that could have significant impacts on our world.

Queen’s researchers will receive $1.5 million ($250,000 per project) from the fund to advance interdisciplinary projects with multiple partners and collaborators. Nationally, the NFRF competition will provide $14.5 million in grants to researchers across Canada, funding 117 projects.

The Exploration competition results will support a wide range of research projects at the university, from creating interactive museum artifacts using digital fabrication methods to breakthroughs in brain injury therapy. Listed below are the funded projects:

  • With growing demand for cost-efficient and environmentally-friendly energy sources, nuclear energy may be a viable option to power both remote and on-grid communities. Small modular reactors (SMR) are scaled-down, flexible models of traditional nuclear plants, and many models rely on molten salts to transport thermal energy created by nuclear fission. However, materials performance in molten salt environments is poorly studied. Mark Daymond (Mechanical and Materials Engineering), Suraj Persaud (Mechanical and Materials Engineering), and collaborators will lead experiments evaluating materials in molten salts in the presence of radiation, a breakthrough for implementation of SMR technology globally.
     
  • Debate rages as Kingston struggles with the legacy of its most famous former resident, Sir John A. Macdonald, and his actions against Indigenous peoples whose lands and children were taken. Like communities worldwide, the city is at a historic juncture confronting cultural narratives of racism and dispossession. An interdisciplinary team led by Christine Sypnowich (Philosophy) will examine Kingston as a case study to address the social exclusion and historical trauma inherent in current understandings of heritage. Uniting conceptual investigation, health care practice, and cultural resurgence, the team of Indigenous and settler scholars will consider how community-based art practices can contribute to an inclusive heritage and help enable restorative healing for Indigenous and racialized people.
     
  • Pharmaceuticals have become contaminants of emerging concern through increased presence in the environment through wastewater, causing great risk to ecosystems and human health. A contributor to this issue is wastewater treatment facilities that are unable to eliminate pharmaceutical ingredients and excreted drug metabolites through their operating systems. Bas Vriens (Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering) and Martin Petkovich (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) aim to develop new technology that will act as a 'mega-liver', filtering out harmful pharmaceuticals in wastewater treatment facilities in a cost-efficient way to help ensure good health for our communities and environment.
     
  • R. David Andrew (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) is investigating the molecular mechanisms that lead to electrical failure and constriction of blood vessels, a process called spreading depolarization, caused by brain injury. By identifying these mechanisms, the research collaborators will challenge previous knowledge about brain injury therapy and treatments, and propose a method that may prevent loss of brain cells by blocking spreading depolarization, effectively reducing brain damage.
     
  • COVID-19 restrictions have brought about innovative ways to engage in cultural experiences virtually. Leveraging digital fabrication methods, such as 3-D scanning and printing, e-textiles and laser cutting, Sara Nabil (School of Computing) and collaborators will demonstrate how human-computer interaction can expand and enrich interactions with museum collections. The team will develop digital fabrication methods that resemble, complement, or augment traditional art. This breakthrough will make the museum experience more widely available to people with disabilities, those living in remote communities, those impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns and more.
     
  • Tumours that arise throughout the body called neuroendocrine neoplasms (NENs) cause metastatic disease in up to 50 per cent of patients, giving those diagnosed months to years to survive. However, the molecular basis of highly variable clinical outcomes is poorly understood. Neil Renwick (Pathology and Molecular Medicine), Kathrin Tyryshkin (School of Computing) and collaborators have proposed a radical new way to investigate NENs. The researchers propose using graph neural network models, typically used in computer science, to investigate the gene networks that drive or mediate tumor aggressiveness. The understanding of these molecular social networks may improve accurate knowledge of tumour behaviour and even treatment response, improving NEN clinical outcomes.

The NFRF’s Exploration competition supports research that defies current paradigms, bridges disciplines, or tackles fundamental problems from new perspectives. A key principle of this stream is the recognition that exploring new directions in research carries risk but that these risks are worthwhile, given their potential for significant impact.

“With the support of the NFRF, Queen’s researchers are bringing new ideas and methodologies to critical issues from wastewater treatment to rethinking cultural narratives,” say Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice-Principal (Research). “The potential impact and application of this work will be enhanced and advanced through collaborations that cross disciplinary boundaries.”

The NFRF is an initiative created by the Canada Research Coordinating Committee. It is managed by a tri-agency program on behalf of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. To find out more, visit the website.

Innovating to improve virtual teaching and learning

Queen’s is receiving funding from the Government of Ontario for the creation of digital educational material for students in many different areas of the university.

As the past academic year has shown, digital innovations in teaching and learning can have a powerful effect on both students and instructors. Queen’s will now be developing 32 projects to improve online education at the university thanks to over $2 million in funding from the Government of Ontario's Virtual Learning Strategy (VLS) initiative, which is supported by eCampusOntario.

“Queen’s success in securing Virtual Learning Strategy funding shows the dedication of our faculty and staff to pursuing innovative methods to enhance teaching and learning, especially as the pandemic has forced us to adapt to virtual models of course delivery,” says Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) John Pierce. “Even once it is safe to return to in-person instruction, the new materials created by this funding will support the teaching and learning environment at Queen’s for years to come.”

The VLS funding enables Queen’s to produce a variety of new online educational resources, including full courses and training modules, that will benefit students at many levels and in many different areas of the university. The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science (FEAS), the Faculty of Arts and Science (FAS), the Faculty of Health Sciences, the Faculty of Education, the School of Graduate Studies, and the Regional Assessment and Resource Centre all submitted successful projects.

The digital educational material will teach students about a wide array of topics, including robotics, artificial intelligence, race and migration in Canada, and sustainability.

The funded projects will also support several areas of focus across the university, including equity, diversity, inclusion, and Indigenization (EDII). One project, “Modular Supports for Underrepresented Individuals to Access Internships and Work Integrated Learning,” will create modules that can be strategically integrated into relevant programs across Ontario to improve equitable access and inclusivity. The project is a joint initiative from FEAS, FAS, Career Services, the Human Rights and Equity office, and external collaborators.

The Provincial Virtual Learning Strategy

The VLS initiative was announced in December 2020 as a $50 million investment by the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities intended to drive growth and advancement in virtual learning across the province’s post-secondary institutions.

eCampusOntario is a provincially-funded non-profit organization that leads a consortium of the province’s 48 publicly-funded colleges, universities, and Indigenous institutes to develop and test online learning tools to advance the use of education technology and digital learning environments.

Learn more about the VLS on the eCampusOntario website.

Powerful recognition for research

Queen’s researcher Praveen Jain receives the prestigious IEEE Medal in Power Engineering – the highest international award in the field of electrical power.

Praveen Jain, Canada Research Chair in Power Electronics and Director of the Queen’s Centre for Energy and Power Electronics Research (ePOWER), has been awarded the 2021 IEEE Medal in Power Engineering for contributions to the theory and practice of high-frequency power-conversion systems. He is only the third Canadian to receive this medal in the history of the IEEE.

[Photo of Praveen Jain and his IEEE medal]
Dr. Praveen Jain (Electrical and Computer Engineering)

IEEE medals are the highest honours given by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the world’s largest association of technical professionals. The IEEE Medal in Power Engineering recognizes researchers who have made outstanding contributions to the technology associated with the generation, transmission, distribution, application, and utilization of electric power for the betterment of society. It is given to one out of approximately 50,000 IEEE members working in research related to electrical power every year.  

"This medal symbolizes 40 years of my life’s work in the practical applications of power engineering," says Dr. Jain. "I am indebted to Queen’s University for providing me a world class platform to realize my dream. I dedicate this medal to my students and collaborators who have contributed enormously to my success."

Since coming to Queen’s in 2001, Jain has helped transform the way society understands electrical energy, advocating for its sustainable generation, distribution, and utilization and contributing to innovations in applications for space, telecommunications, computer, induction melting, and renewable energy industries. One of the first researchers to solve long-standing problems in induction melting power supply systems, Jain proposed inverter circuit configurations now applied worldwide by the induction heating industry. Jain’s new class of AC-to-DC converter topologies provided a breakthrough in the design of compact, lightweight, and efficient power supplies for high-frequency power distribution systems in space applications. He also led the development of constant frequency resonant converter topologies for high-density power supplies for telecommunications.

Jain’s innovative digital control techniques have also revolutionized the design of power converters in computer applications. The patented technology, adopted by most chip manufacturers, has been incorporated in the development of digital power controllers with ultra-fast dynamic response for computer microprocessors. Jain also developed new power converter topologies and control techniques for photovoltaic microinverters. Currently, he is leading a team of researchers from Queen’s, York University, Western University, and the University of Ottawa in the development of a prototype smart microgrid platform that will help meet greenhouse gas emission goals and other industry standards.

In his career so far, Dr. Jain has secured over $35 million in external research funding and his work has resulted in over 600 publications and over 100 patents. He has earned numerous awards and honours, including being named a Fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada, the Canadian Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society of Canada, and the IEEE. He has also founded two companies, CHiL Semiconductor designing digital power control chips, and Sparq Systems developing solar microinverters.  

"For decades, Dr. Jain has worked to help industries around the world understand and meet their power needs in more cost-effective, environmentally friendly ways," says Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice-Principal (Research). "My sincere congratulations to him on this prestigious career honour."

Dr. Jain received the IEEE Medal in Power Engineering during a virtual award ceremony on May 13. For more information on the medal, visit the website.

Queen’s Engineering hosts recruitment event through Minecraft

Queen’s Engineering has reinvented the school tour – in the world’s most popular virtual environment.

On April 21, almost 100 prospective Queen’s Engineering students took to the virtual campus – and experienced Queen’s in a whole new way. They toured the campus, hunted for eggs, and joined a lively Q&A with the Dean – on a dedicated Minecraft server that faithfully replicates the campus itself.

“It was an eye-opening experience,” says Kevin Deluzio, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. “The Minecraft version of Queen’s campus is astonishingly well built – you see the campus in a whole new way. COVID-19 can cancel our traditional tours, but it can’t stop Queen’s Engineers from innovating.” 

While the dean was a celebrated guest at the event, the real star was arguably the campus itself. After a year of work, and thousands of person hours, the finished product is a Minecraft rendition of the Queen’s Campus.

“Students and even some alumni have really put their passion behind building parts of campus, often places special to them, and continue to build as part of the community.”  says Alex McKinnon, co-president of QUCraft, the Queen’s Minecraft team. “Campus building exteriors are almost completely finished; we’re now approaching completion on the interiors of about 20 per cent of the campus, with more being built out every day. Especially during a pandemic year, helping re-create the campus online has been a way for us to stay connected with it, and to each other.”

With live chat hosted via the voice platform Discord, the Minecraft campus served as a proxy for the real thing. The Queen’s Engineering event began with a campus tour, with one of Queen’s regular campus tour guides taking students to key locations.

“The one key difference was teleporting,” says Shannon Chessman, a tour guide with Queen’s Department of Student Affairs. “It saves a lot of time when you can pop from one site of the campus to the other instantaneously.”

Students created a virtual Queen's University through Minecraft.
Students walked – and flew – around the Queen's campus, seeing Minecraft versions of landmarks like Grant Hall.

The abbreviated tour covered key campus locations and features, including residences, the campus’ Athletics & Recreation Centre, the library, John Deutsch University Centre (JDUC), and of course Beamish-Munro Hall, the hub of the engineering faculty.

Then the egg hunt began: while Queen’s Engineering students talked about the faculty and answered questions on Discord, visitors were free to roam the campus in Minecraft, looking for brightly-coloured eggs, with the top “hunter” winning a Queen’s gift package.

“We really wanted to give students a chance to explore the Queen’s campus, and explore this amazingly rendered version of the real-world Queen’s experience,” says Kendy Sandy, event coordinator at the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. “Being able to have a real conversation with prospective students on Discord, while they could explore and discover the campus at the same time, was a real treat.”

As students explored – and sought eggs – Dean Deluzio took to the virtual stage, answering questions students had submitted on Discord and some of the big questions about engineering school – ranging from what a typical day is like to the kinds of careers engineers can expect following graduation.

“I’m always impressed with the kinds of thoughtful questions our prospective students ask,” says Dean Deluzio. “Even though we can’t meet in person, seeing people – or their avatars – in Minecraft, and talk to them on Discord, was a really valuable experience.”

At the end of the day, the blend of innovation and technology was ultimately secondary to the feeling of community the event engendered.

Prospective students tour a virtual Queen's campus through Minecraft.
About 100 students visited Queen's, as built by the students of the QUCraft club, exploring the campus outdoors as well as interior spaces like Ban Righ Hall.

“I’m proud to be dean of the greatest community in Canada,” Dean Deluzio says. “To the best of my knowledge, this recruitment event is a first in the nation, if not the world, and it’s been an entirely community effort. It’s community that created a virtual Queen’s campus; the QUCraft team has done some astonishing work on an amazing platform.

“Interacting with people in Minecraft, and talking to them on Discord, brought us to ‘campus’ in an amazing way. We could share what the Queen’s community is like with some talented young minds from around the world. Physical or virtual, that’s what our recruitment events are all about.”

Transforming the global academy

Principal Patrick Deane on how the SDGs are helping break down silos, provoke dialogue, and unite us all in a common global purpose.

[Photo of Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane]
Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Queen's University

As a member of the international group tasked with updating the Magna Charta Universitatum – the declaration of university freedoms and principles that was first signed in Bologna in 1988 – I am struck by the extent to which the intervening three decades have altered the global consensus about the nature and function of universities. Where the original document spoke eloquently to the fundamental values of the academy, the new Magna Charta Universitatum 2020 reaffirms those values but also expands upon their social function and utility. I would summarise the shift this way: we have moved from an understanding of universities as defined primarily by their ability to transcend historical contingency to a more complicated view, which asserts that timeless principles such as academic freedom and institutional autonomy are the platform from which the academy must engage with history.

If the situation in Europe and around the world in 1988 made it important to speak up for the freedoms without which teaching and research would be impoverished, by 2020 it had become equally important to speak of the responsibilities incumbent on institutions by virtue of the privileges accorded to them. The reality of rapid climate change has brought urgency and authority to this new view of universities, as have parallel trends in the social, cultural, and political climate, and “education for sustainable development” has emerged as the increasingly dominant model for global higher education – one which fuses the concerns of environment, society, and economy.  

Recent columns in Times Higher Education have admirably described the diverse ways in which the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been intrinsic to this reorientation of the global academy: as a rallying point for students and staff, as an accountability framework, and as a global language for political action, for example. Here at Queen’s University, the SDGs have been an important frame for our current planning process, and in all of those ways have influenced the manner in which we understand and wish to articulate our mission.

At one point in the process, an influential and valued friend of the university expressed some irritation to me about the way in which the SDGs had come to dominate and disrupt the university’s normally untroubled and inwardly-focused dialogue with itself about mission and values. “And in any case,” came the throwaway dismissal, “there’s nothing original or new about aligning with the SDGs.” Of course, that is true in 2021, but is it relevant? If a university is able to maximise its global impact, does the inherent originality or novelty of its planning parameters matter? In such exchanges – still occurring, I’m certain, on campuses everywhere – we can see that the changing consensus about which I wrote at the start is not yet complete.

It seems to me, in fact, that much of the value of the SDGs as an organising framework for universities resides in their not being proprietary or “original” to one institution, or to an exclusive group of institutions. It has often been pointed out that they now provide a shared language which helps universities in diverse geographical, political, and socio-economic locations understand and build upon the commonality of their work in both teaching and research. Adoption of the SDGs, however variously that is done from institution to institution, is turning the “global academy” from a rhetorical to a real construct, and I can’t imagine why it would be in the interests of any university to hold itself aloof from that transformation. Having watched our planning process unfold at Queen’s over the last two years, I can confirm that what the SDGs do at the global level, they do also at the level of the individual institution, providing a common language that provokes and sustains dialogue – not only between disciplines, but between the academic and non-academic parts of the operation.

I want to end by commenting on the excitement generated when siloes are broken open and when people and units understand how they are united with others in a common purpose and in service to the greater good. To cultivate that understanding has been the primary objective of planning at Queen’s for the last two years, and preparing our first submission to the Impact Rankings has been an intrinsic part of that process of learning and self-discovery. Naturally, we are delighted and excited by where we find ourselves in the rankings, but we are energised in a more profound way by the knowledge of what synergies and collaborations exist or appear possible both within our university and in the global academy.

The first 16 SDGs point to the areas in which we want to have impact. The 17th tells us what the whole project is really all about: acting in community for the communal good.

This op-ed was originally published in the Times Higher Education supplement.  

Queen’s community comes together to illustrate social impact

THE Impact Rankings submission measures the university’s overall contribution to global sustainability.

[Graphic image with a "Q" of the Queen's community]

Times Higher Education (THE), the organization best known for its World University Rankings, sees universities as representing the greatest hope of solving the most urgent global challenges. In 2019, they moved to create the Impact Rankings – an inclusive evaluation of post-secondary institutions’ commitments to positive social and economic impact measured against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This year, out of more than 1,200 participating institutions worldwide, Queen’s placed first in Canada and fifth globally in the 2021 Impact Rankings. It is the first time Queen’s has participated in this ranking exercise, and our performance is a result of the campus community’s united effort to create a comprehensive submission package for Impact Rankings adjudicators.

THE Impact Rankings

While many traditional ranking processes are designed with research-intensive universities in mind, the Impact Rankings are open to any institution teaching at the undergraduate or post-graduate level. Using the SDGs as a means of gauging a university’s performance, THE developed a methodology involving 105 metrics and 220 measurements, carefully calibrated to provide comprehensive and balanced comparisons between institutions across four broad areas: research, stewardship, outreach, and teaching.

“The Impact Rankings are unlike any other ranking. They offer a global platform to acknowledge and celebrate the partnerships integral to advancing international initiatives, developing the leaders of tomorrow, and working towards an inclusive, diverse, and sustainable future,” says Michael Fraser, Vice-Principal (University Relations) and co-chair of the Queen’s Impact Rankings Steering Committee. “On behalf of the Steering Committee, thank you to the community for your support and collaboration in advancing this initiative.”

In their submissions, universities must demonstrate progress toward meeting at least three SDGs, as well as toward SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals. THE evaluates each institution’s submission, drawing on the quantitative and qualitative data provided, as well as bibliometric research datasets provided by Elsevier, a data and analytics company.

The Queen’s Submission – A Community Effort

“Participating in the Impact Rankings requires self-reflection. We are asked to contemplate our current impact and think about what we want to achieve for the future,” says Sandra den Otter, Vice-Provost (International) and co-chair of the Queen's Impact Rankings Steering Committee. “These results testify to the work we have done together. I hope this is a moment for recognizing the progress we have made, and to furthering our aspirations as a university and as members of a global community committed to change.”

To lead its submission process, Queen’s established a Steering Committee, Project Team, and Working Group, comprised of leadership, staff, and faculty from across the university. This team set about gathering over 600 unique pieces of evidence, representing the efforts of over 70 departments and portfolios. Queen’s chose to submit evidence in support of all 17 SDGs – a decision that led to top-100 rankings in 14 of 17 SDGs, including top-10 in three categories (Zero Hunger, Sustainable Cities, and Life on Land) and being ranked first – globally – for SDG 1: No Poverty and SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. 

Metrics and measurements were unique for each SDG, with each goal requiring a specific combination of quantitative and qualitative data. The quantitative evidence integrated research bibliometric data and key words that measured number of publications, co-authors, and field-weighted citations. Other quantitative measurements looked at water consumption per capita, energy and food waste measurements, university expenditure on arts and culture, the number of first-generation university students, and number of employees from equity-seeking groups.

Qualitative evidence spanned institutional policies and individual courses, to the missions of research centres and institutes, community volunteer initiatives, and strategic plans, all demonstrating how we are advancing the SDGs. Metrics often required evidence of local, national, and global-reaching initiatives to illustrate full impact.

More than 400 internal links pointing to Queen’s websites were supplied as publicly accessible evidence of Queen’s research, outreach, teaching, and stewardship efforts. Additionally, nearly 100 external links were included in the submission, each reflecting the university’s extensive partnerships: internally with student-led clubs, locally with Sustainable Kingston and United Way KFL&A, nationally with the Government of Canada, and globally with the Matariki Network of Universities.

Learn more about Queen’s performance in the Times Higher Education 2021 Impact Rankings.

Science Rendezvous Kingston – At home

Science Rendezvous Kingston has gone virtual this year, inspiring STEM curiosity and discovery from the nature around us to the far-reaches of outer space.

[Promotion graphic - Science Rendezvous Kingston May 1 - 16, 2021 - Virtual Expo @STEMYGK]

Science Rendezvous Kingston is celebrating a milestone anniversary this year and marking it with the largest event to date.

For nine years, Science Rendezvous Kingston has been an exceedingly popular community event, drawing about 17,000 people from across the region to engage with local STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) experts and Queen’s researchers. While the 2020 event was cancelled due to COVID-19, organizers set their sights on developing the first virtual Science Rendezvous Kingston to mark its return. The enthusiastic response from the STEM community and Queen’s researchers has turned the 10th anniversary event into the largest program offering yet, with live virtual activities from May 1-16, 2021.

“We are very proud of the Science Rendezvous Kingston virtual venue and are excited to know that our activities will have a wider reach than ever because there are no geographical limitations to participation,” says co-coordinator Lynda Colgan (Education). “We expect to have visitors from around the city, province, country, and world joining us — learning and loving it!”

Inspired by the theme of “STEAM Green,” integrating science, technology, engineering, arts, and math with stewardship for the flora, fauna and water systems of our planet, this family-friendly event will combine online experiences with outdoor and “kitchen-table” activities for at-home learning. All programs will be housed on the Science Rendezvous Kingston website where visitors will find both a huge selection of content and special events rolled out during the two-week period. Some of the programs available will be a virtual tour through the Museum of Nature’s Canadian Wildlife Photography of the Year exhibit, demonstrations from Queen’s researchers, STEM@Home learning activities, and the Exploratorium, an online STEM gaming environment designed to take users out of this world. Some additional activities added throughout the event will be videos featuring women STEM innovators and influencers, and STEM challenges, such as the Canada-wide Science Chase scavenger hunt and the Million Tree Project.

Organizers have also planned virtual live Q&A sessions meant to further Science Rendezvous Kingston’s mission to inspire curiosity in STEM among students and provide opportunities for them to engage with researchers as role models. Queen’s researchers participating in the live sessions include John Smol, Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change, and Connor Stone, PhD candidate in astrophysics and co-coordinator of the Queen’s Observatory. Keynotes will also be delivered by James Raffan, famous Canadian explorer, Jasveen Brar, conservationist and STEM literacy advocate, and Lindsey Carmichael, award-winning author and Faculty of Education’s Science Literacy Week Author-in-Residence.

Science Rendezvous Kingston is part of NSERC’s Science Odyssey’s national program, supporting free science outreach events across the country. Kingston’s last event in 2019 was honoured with the national STEAM Big! Award and co-coordinator Dr. Colgan was awarded the 2020 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Science Promotion Award, in part, for Science Rendezvous Kingston’s success in promoting STEM among the community.

To learn more about the schedule of events and how to participate, visit the Science Rendezvous Kingston website.

Showcasing undergraduate research

Inquiry@Queen’s, Canada’s longest-running multidisciplinary undergraduate conference, offers students the chance to present, discuss, and analyze their research projects.

[I@Q Inquiry@Queen's - Make an Impact]

For undergraduate students, research can be an exciting opportunity to explore a new area of interest and expand their resume for post-graduate studies or employment. Recently, students had the chance to showcase their research skills and projects at Inquiry@Queen’s, the longest-running multidisciplinary undergraduate conference in Canada. For 15 years, Inquiry@Queen's has encouraged undergraduates across disciplines to present and share their research with the wider community. It has also been an opportunity to foster interdisciplinary discussions, build presentation skills, and bring students together from not only Queen’s but other universities for an enriching co-curricular initiative.

Conference co-chairs, Vicki Remenda, Professor of Geological Sciences & Geological Engineering and Cory Laverty, Research Librarian, see the motivation behind a conference for undergraduates as a natural extension of Queen’s research mission.

The main goal of the conference is to give students a chance to share their interests and passions in a public forum and bring their learning to an audience of peers and supporters, Dr. Remenda says. It’s a natural extension of a university that prides itself on the quality of undergraduate education and its scholarship and research.

The co-chairs believe that a focus on curiosity based-learning and research at all levels is key to addressing global issues and societal challenges.

Inquiry can be viewed as an inclusive approach to learning when it opens the door to individual interests, experiences, and backgrounds, Dr. Laverty says. Students are interrogating issues that are currently under scrutiny in Canada and around the world, including a focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion that crosses all disciplines.

CFRC's The Scoop

Participant Hailey Scott, presenter of Psychological Trauma’s in Participatory Theatre, joined CFRC radio station on March 29 to discuss her experience at the conference and her research project. Listen here.

This year’s conference featured 10 interdisciplinary sessions covering topics from health to community and reducing inequality. Held virtually for the first time due to COVID-19, the conference spanned two days in March and featured both paper and poster presentations via Zoom to an audience of 220 attendees. A new feature of this year’s conference was the opportunity for top-scored presenters to be featured as part of a podcast series, The Scoop, hosted by CFRC Queen’s campus radio station.

Other Queen’s collaborations came from staff and faculty across the university through facilitation, session moderation, and research sponsorship. Jennifer Kennedy, Professor of Art History & Art Conservation, delivered the keynote presentation titled Past Pedagogies and the Post-Pandemic Future: What Can We Learn from Learning this Year?, and Principal Patrick Deane offered closing remarks that reflected on how inquiry sparks our inner passions and can lead to a lifetime of learning.

With the success of this year’s online format, in addition to in-person presentations, a virtual component may be incorporated in future conferences to expand reach and participation and to be more inclusive of international viewers, students from other universities, and family members watching from afar.

Dr. Remenda and Dr. Laverty believe that Inquiry@Queen’s remains one of the most important undergraduate conferences because of the spotlight it places on research within the community.

Profiling undergraduate research is crucial for a 21st-century education where knowledge is constantly changing, and critical thinking skills are needed to assess currency, relevance, authority, and purpose, she says.

To learn more about this year’s conference and other Inquiry initiatives, visit the Inquiry@Queen’s website.

Designing Canada’s neurotech future

Join Queen’s researchers and representatives from industry, government, and NGOs as they collaborate to solve the technological, ethical, legal, and policy issues of the latest tech focused on our brains, neurotechnology.

[Photo of a MRI of a brain by Donald Brien]
Art of Research 2020 Winner: "The Wiring of the Brain" by Donald Brien (Centre for Neuroscience Studies)

As new technologies develop, designing them for human benefit can be a complex challenge. Neurotechnology, considered any tool used to measure, intervene on, or artificially stimulate brain function, is an emerging technology with extensive potential societal impact. It has already demonstrated advanced applications to help those with neurological disorders, while also attracting the eyes of Silicon Valley and those with interests in its surveillance and personal augmentation potential. However, getting the human benefit right requires collaboration between different disciplines, beyond computing and AI, to fully grasp the social, ethical, and legal impact this technology can have on our lives.

Researchers across faculties at Queen’s are bringing this conversation to the forefront with A Neurotech Future: Ethical, Legal and Policy Issues, an open online workshop on Thursday, April 22. It is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to explore the Future Challenge area “Humanity+,” “balancing risks and benefits in the emerging surveillance society.” Queen's experts from the Centre for Neuroscience Studies, Surveillance Studies Centre, and Faculties of Law and Engineering and Applied Science with representatives from government, industry, and NGOs and co-sponsorship from the Ontario Brain Institute and the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre, will mobilize their thought leadership with tech innovators and policymakers building and defining this new industry in Canada. Collaborations and learnings from the workshop will lead to a policy report on neurotech and surveillance and outcomes will be presented to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy, and Ethics.

Susan Boehnke (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, Centre for Neuroscience Studies) is the Lead Organizer of the event. Working with David Lyon (Surveillance Studies Centre) and Martha Bailey (Law), she explains why this was the right time for Queen’s researchers to facilitate this discussion.

“As neurotechnology becomes increasingly applied to novel use scenarios, it is imperative that we develop laws and policies to protect privacy, to guard against misuse of technologies for surveillance, and ensure that the benefits of a neurotech future are distributed in an equitable and democratic way,” says Dr. Boehnke. “Queen’s University is uniquely positioned to engage in cross-disciplinary research and to develop the innovative training programs that will support the growth of this industry and position Canada as a leader. Researchers at Queen’s are already exploring the scientific, technical, legal, ethical, and policy issues related to the use of neurotechnologies. Our hope is that this conference will act as a catalyst to facilitate more cross-disciplinary collaboration.”

In working through the now and future societal implications of neurotechnology, students have an important role in this workshop and its outcomes. Graduate students from the Centre for Neuroscience Studies and the Surveillance Studies Centre will collaborate with students from Merlin Neurotech (a chapter of NeuroTechX) and the Neuroscience and Policy Society in a working group to support interdisciplinary collaboration. Their contributions will help inform a new curriculum for a graduate-level course in Neuroethics open to students across the university. Insights from the workshop may also inform the development of a unique certificate or post-graduate diploma in neurotech, guided by neuroethics, and geared to business, computer science, and engineering students without a neuroscience background eager to enter the industry.

Highlights from the public workshop will include a morning keynote on the Canadian Brain Research Strategy from Judy Illes, Canada Research Chair in Neuroethics at the University of British Columbia and Director of Neuroethics Canada. An afternoon keynote will be delivered by John Weigelt, National Technology Officer at Microsoft, on lessons from responsible AI informing successful collaborations in policy and regulation. Panels will focus on current and future innovations in neurotech, surveillance and data privacy, and implications for the legal system, as well as perspectives from industry and government.

The Thursday, April 22 event is free and open to the public with registration and full schedule available on Eventbrite. Those interested in the working group sessions on Friday, April 23 are encouraged to contact the organizers.

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