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    New program equips leaders to tackle global challenges

    Queen’s launches first-in-Canada Advanced Leadership for Social Impact Fellowship.

    [Drone photo of campus]

    Queen’s has launched a new program to enable executives and professionals from a variety of sectors to better understand and address complex social and global challenges. The Advanced Leadership for Social Impact (ALSI) Fellowship is a first-in-Canada program that provides the tools, knowledge, and networks participants need to tackle the root causes of social problems – from housing affordability to climate change.

    “To confront the significant social issues of our day, we need people with a deep understanding and appreciation of the complexities of how to make real impact,” says Jim Leech, former president and CEO of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, former Chair of the Mastercard Foundation, and Chancellor Emeritus of Queen’s University. “Through the Advanced Leadership for Social Impact Fellowship we have the opportunity to foster a community of leaders, from all walks of life, able to drive meaningful solutions for people and the planet.”

    Closing a gap

    Social issues are complex and must be viewed from multiple perspectives to achieve meaningful outcomes. Leaders must also be equipped with various approaches to initiate or measure progress on impact-driven solutions. The fellowship responds to a gap in the higher education landscape.

    The one-year, hybrid program draws from field-leading Queen’s research and industry experts, including environmental biologists, chemical engineers, and international business lawyers. It also applies a human-centric approach to investigate all dimensions of social issues, meaning that stakeholders are involved at all levels of decision-making and can move quickly from theory to practice and project application.

    “The Advanced Leadership for Social Impact Fellowship doesn’t look at social problems in isolation or from one perspective,” says Jean-Baptiste Litrico, Director of the Centre for Social Impact at Queen’s and the program’s co-director. “The program is grounded in the belief that real issues are systemic and require a multidimensional leadership approach to inspire tangible solutions.”

    [Photo of people walking on Queen's campus]
    ALSI Fellowship participants will engage in four on-campus residency sessions as part of the one-year hybrid program.

    Commitment to social impact

    The fellowship builds on Queen’s reputation as a leader in advancing sustainability and social impact. For two years in a row, the university has ranked top-10 globally in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, which measure the institution’s contributions to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.  

    In addition to being a Canadian-first, the ALSI program marks a milestone as the first cross-faculty delivered professional program. While co-led by faculty from the Smith School of Business and the Faculty of Education, it draws in individuals from the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, the Faculty of Law, and the Faculty of Arts and Science, reflecting the cross-campus commitment to driving social change.

    “At Queen’s, we empower our community to advance social impact through research, teaching, and outreach activities,” says Ted Christou, Associate Dean in the Faculty of Education and co-director of the program. “We can broaden this reach to likeminded leaders through a transformative curriculum focused on a diversity of perspectives and team-based solutions.”

    Transformative leadership

    In October 2022, the ALSI Fellowship will welcome its first cohort with an initial intake representing a variety of careers and backgrounds. Designed to accommodate those working full-time or with other commitments, the program will combine on-campus residential sessions with online synchronous learning, and a team-based culminating project.

    The one-year program includes over 130 hours of curriculum that are divided into three themed semesters: discovery, design, and delivery. Each focuses on a core mindset required to understand drivers of problems and move from theory to practice.

    Participants will also network with faculty, mentors, and peers, learning from leading experts in the field with both academic and applied experience.

    The Advanced Leadership for Social Impact Fellowship is currently recruiting participants for 2022-2023. For more information on the program, visit the website.

    Queen’s welcomes back summer camps

    Over 3,000 youth will attend Queen’s camps over the next two months.

    Three QCamps students participating in different sports

    The scenic Queen’s campus is once again a bustling centre of daily activity as children of all ages participate in the popular Queen’s summer camps.

    During the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Queen’s camps transitioned to online camps or offered free virtual programming to keep youth engaged. Queen’s University is excited to once again be back in person for its summer camp offerings.

    Summer camp season kicked off on July 4, with 10 Queen’s camps offering in-person programs — from science to drama, art to eco-adventures, and from math to sports. Together, Queen’s Camps annually welcome over 3,000 youth through the camps and employ more than 100 post-secondary students. These camps are run by both on-campus student groups and the university itself.

    “Science Quest has been running since 1988. This is our first year back since the pandemic, and we're very happy to be returning to in-person activities,” says Emily Lind, head director of Science Quest. “Kinder and junior campers are having a great time learning about science through activities like building an elastic-powered car or a balloon-powered rocket. Senior campers can choose from robotics, computing or science/engineering camps. We also have girls-only programming, and are offering the Tyendinaga Bus Program.”

    What’s New?

    Along with the return of in-person Queen’s camps, there are some exciting new programs being offered.

    The Queen's Summer Engineering Academy (QSEA) is offering a QSEA Girls Program, and a QSEA Black Youth in STEM program for the first time this year. Both programs are free and are aimed at reducing barriers for these under-represented groups.

    Queen's Athletics & Recreation, the leading camp provider in the Kingston area with their Q-Camps, is offering some new camps including the Gaels Rugby: Junior & Senior Skills, Survivor Camp, and Code, Create & Play with Code Ninjas. Similarly, the Agnes Art Camp has teamed up with Q-Camps for a jointly offered Arts and Sports Camp.

    Children playing squash
    Q-Camps campers playing squash.

    “We’re delighted to see a return of children and youth programming through Queen’s Athletics & Recreation this summer. Our Q-Camps programs offer a wide variety of camps from ages five to 18 with an emphasis on physical literacy and sport for life. We utilize the talents of our Queen’s students and their backgrounds in physical activity, sport, teaching, and instruction along with their own studies and interests, to provide a really diverse and exciting range of activity,” says Sarah Utting, Coordinator Youth Programs and Community Engagement, Queen’s University Athletics & Recreation. “We hope the camps introduce youth in our community to a variety of ways to get active and delivered in a way that encourages a sense and spirit of discovery to build self-esteem, teamwork, and skill.”

    Find out more about Queen’s Camps and their offerings here.

    Queen’s Prizes for Excellence in Research announced

    Three early-career researchers are recognized for advancing research and discovery in their respective fields.

    Jennifer Tomasone
    Dr. Jennifer Tomasone (Photo: Sam Shepherd)

    Three researchers have been awarded with Queen's University’s highest internal research award, the Prize for Excellence in Research. Jennifer Tomasone (Kinesiology and Health Sciences), Cao Thang Dinh (Chemical Engineering), and Chantelle Capicciotti (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, Chemistry, and Surgery) are early-career researchers who have demonstrated significant contributions to research in their fields: physical activity, renewable energy, and glycobiology.

    The Prize for Excellence in Research is awarded by the Vice-Principal (Research Portfolio) and celebrates researchers with distinguished contributions to their fields and who have earned their highest degree in the last 10 years. Each recipient of the prize is nominated by the dean of their faculty. Nominations are then reviewed by a selection committee who place an emphasis on representing the diversity of the Queen’s community and its research. The recipients are awarded a cash prize of $5,000.

    “I am delighted to present the first Prizes for Excellence in Research of my tenure to such accomplished and inspiring early-career researchers,” says Nancy Ross, Vice-Principal (Research). “It is gratifying to acknowledge researchers early on in their careers and early prizes can be an important foundation for mid- and later career recognition. From climate change to human health and disease, your award-winning research contributions will advance our understanding of people and the planet.”

    Cao Thang Dinh
    Dr. Cao Thang Dinh (Photo: Garrett Elliott)

    Dr. Tomasone’s primary goal is to optimize physical activity participation for Canadians of all abilities. Her research is significant nationally, as Dr. Tomasone leads the most comprehensive knowledge translation campaign in the 40-year history of Canadian movement guidelines. Her research also goes beyond borders to aid efforts in movement guidelines internationally, working with organizations like the World Health Organization. Within the community, Dr. Tomasone is the co-Director of Revved Up, an exercise program for more than 200 adults with a disability in Kingston.

    Dr. Dinh has been designated by Web of Science as one of only three Queen’s researchers most-cited globally in 2021. His program centres on using renewable energy to convert carbon dioxide, air, and water into valuable chemicals. The aim is to provide solutions for a fossil-fuel-free energy and chemical industry, focusing on the design of novel electrocatalytic systems using renewable energy. This research provides a compelling route to mitigate climate change and enable widely accessible renewable energy.

     Chantelle Capiciotti
    Dr. Chantelle Capiciotti (Photo: GlycoNet)

    Dr. Capicciotti is a Queen’s National Scholar whose interdisciplinary research in glycobiology and carbohydrate chemistry has been recognized as innovative on an international scale. Drawing from chemistry, biochemistry, and cell biology, she has developed streamlined methods to synthesize complex carbohydrates, and novel biochemical tools to study their interactions. Dr. Capicciotti leverages this interdisciplinary work to understand the biological functions of these crucial biomolecules. Her research is providing innovative insights into the role that the thick ‘sugar coating’ on cells plays in human health and disease, including cell signalling, virus infections, and cancer immune evasion.

    The Prizes for Excellence in Research will be presented during convocation. To learn more about the awards, or past recipients, visit the Vice Principal (Research) Portfolio website.

    Capturing the Art of Research

    With a reimagined focus on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the annual Queen's Art of Research photo contest reveals seven winning images.

    From photos depicting the nanoscale to the freezing landscape of the Artic, the annual Art of Research photo contest takes us behind the scenes of the everyday research experience at Queen’s. With engagement this year from faculty, staff, students, and alumni, the contest aims to represent the diversity and creativity of research across disciplines and from all contributors to the research ecosystem.

    The 2022 contest introduced five new categories inspired by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Guided by the mission and vision of the new Queen’s Strategy and the universal call to action of the SDGs, this year’s contest placed a spotlight on the intrinsic connection between research and social impact. Discover this year’s winners below and to view more contest winners and top submissions from the past six years, explore The Art of Research Photo Gallery.

    2022 Art of Research Adjudication Committee

    • Nancy Ross, Vice-Principal (Research)
    • Kanonhsyonne - Janice Hill, Associate Vice-Principal (Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation)
    • Nicholas Mosey, Associate Dean (Research), Faculty of Arts and Science
    • Heidi Ploeg, QFEAS Chair for Women in Engineering, Mechanical and Materials Engineering
    • Ruth Dunley, Associate Director, Editorial Strategy, Office of Advancement
    • Jung-Ah Kim, PhD Student, Screen Cultures and Curatorial Studies
    • Melinda Knox, Director, Thought Leadership and Strategic Initiatives, University Relations
    • Véronique St-Antoine, Communications Advisor, NSERC

    [Photo of the SNO+ detector at SNOLAB by Dr. Alex Wright]

    Category: Innovation for Global Impact

    The SNO+ Detector

    Submitted by: Dr. Alex Wright for the SNO+ Collaboration
    Faculty, Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy
    Location: SNOLAB, Sudbury, Ontario

    The SNO+ experiment studies the fundamental properties of neutrinos. The detector consists of an active volume of 780 tonnes of liquid scintillator housed within a 12-metre diameter acrylic vessel that is held in place by ropes and viewed by an array of about 10,000 photomultiplier light detectors. In this image, taken by a camera embedded in the photomultiplier array, the detector is illuminated only by light from the clean room at the top of the vessel neck, producing a beam effect. The SNO+ experiment is currently collecting data, carrying on the work of the Nobel-prize winning Sudbury Neutrino Observatory.

    [Photo of 3D vascular trees in animal models]

    Category: Good Health and Well-Being

    The Tiniest Tree of Life

    Submitted byDr. Elahe Alizadeh
    Staff, Queen's CardioPulmonary Unit (QCPU), Department of Medicine 
    Location: Queen's CardioPulmonary Unit

    COVID-19, the second pandemic of the current century, is still an ongoing global health emergency. Its complications and mortality are associated with pneumonia and alterations in the pulmonary vasculature. Acquiring 3D images of vascular trees in animal models provide a useful tool to evaluate the effects of COVID-19 in humans. In our research aimed at finding new drugs for COVID-19 under the supervision of Dr. Stephen Archer, vascular trees of a mouse were pressure perfused to maximal dilation with a radio-opaque material (barium). The heart and lungs were fixed and scanned using VECTor4CT scanner. VECTor4CT is the first tri-modality imaging system equipped with an ultra-high-resolution micro-computed tomography (µCT) scanner at Queen’s University.

    [Photo of George Konana collecting ice by Saskia de Wildt]

    Category: Creative and Sustainable Communities

    George Konana Collecting Ice

    Submitted bySaskia de Wildt
    PhD Student, School of Environmental Studies
    Location: Gjoa Haven, Nunavut

    The Inuit practice an ongoing relationship with the land through camping, hunting, and fishing. As part of the BearWatch project, I explore how such knowledge, accumulated over many generations, and Inuit values can be ethically engaged in a community-based polar bear monitoring program. This picture is taken on one of our trips out on the land around Gjoa Haven during spring 2022. It captures George Konana collecting ice from the lake for tea. He traces ice with the right quality to give his tea a nice ‘reddish, brown’ color. At this exact moment, he cracks out a huge piece, enough for a month of tea.

    [Photo of a gastropod mummy laying eggs by Ruqaiya Yousif]

    Category: Climate Action

    Gastropod Mummy

    Submitted byRuqaiya Yousif
    PhD Student, Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering
    Location: Qatar

    This is a picture of a gastropod mummy laying down her egg cases. My research assesses the stable isotope (C and O), clumped isotope (∆47), and trace element compositions of living and quaternary shells from the Arabian/Persian Gulf. The aim is to link these analyses with modern oceanographic data to develop a robust proxy for understanding oceanographic change in the rock record. In other words, I am trying to link the shell chemistry with its surrounding environment and then use this link to assess oceanographic changes over the past 125,000 years. At the time of this picture, we were growing gastropods under laboratory conditions and performing invitro fertilization of oysters.

    [Photo of a researcher collecting environmental DNA in a maternal polar bear den by Scott Arlidge]

    Category: Partnerships for Inclusivity (Tied)

    Polar Bear Denning

    Submitted byScott Arlidge
    Graduate Student, School of Environmental Studies
    Location: Coral Harbour, Nunavut

    This photo demonstrates the collection of snow from inside a maternal polar bear den to collect environmental DNA. When the mother digs out the den, skin cells from her paws are abraded and stuck to the snow. Some preliminary research shows that we may be able to identify individual bears by analyzing these snow samples, information which can inform polar bear population management. My research is a pilot of ground-based non-invasive polar bear monitoring techniques, with a focus on Inuit inclusivity. Inuit Elders and polar bear hunters are key knowledge holders and collaborators throughout this research.

    [Photo of a mural of the Oasis logo by Riley Malvern]

    Category: Partnerships for Inclusivity (Tied)

    Aging with Oasis

    Submitted byRiley Malvern
    Staff, Health Services and Policy Research Institute
    Location Kingston, Ontario

    Oasis is a program co-developed by older adults to strengthen and sustain their communities to support aging in place. The Oasis Evaluation and Expansion research team has been working with Oasis communities since 2018 to expand the program across Canada and to evaluate a number of health and well-being outcomes. This photo depicts a mural that represents the power of communities coming together. Each square of this mural was designed by an Oasis member from communities across Kingston and Belleville. Together, these squares form the Oasis logo, which was designed by members of the original Oasis community.

    [Photo of a crystallized decanoic acid by Dan Reddy]

    Category: People's Choice

    Crystalline Acid

    Submitted byDan Reddy
    PhD Student, Chemistry
    Location: Chernoff Hall, Queen's University

    This photo taken with scanning electron microscopy depicts an extremely small yet precise volume (i.e., nanolitre-sized) of crystallized decanoic acid. We are using these spots of crystalline acid to extract and preconcentrate, or soak-up, chemicals of concern like opioids from wastewater samples. This preconcentration step improves our ability to monitor these chemicals. By doing so, we can improve how we detect these harmful compounds and protect local watersheds.

    To learn more about this year’s winners and explore past winners and top submissions, visit The Art of Research Photo Gallery on the Research@Queen’s website.

    International effort to reduce concrete’s carbon footprint

    A team of civil engineering researchers and industry and municipal partners are working to make one of the highest-carbon dioxide producing industries much cleaner.

    Student working at Queen's civil engineering lab
    Making the concrete industry more sustainable and environmental-friendly is the main goal of the research partnership.

    How environmentally friendly is concrete? Less so than you might think. Reinforced concrete infrastructure accounts for almost 10 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions – far ahead of the two per cent of carbon dioxide produced by the airline industry.

    Working to change that are two Queen’s civil engineering experts Neil Hoult and Josh Woods, together with their academic collaborators at the University of Toronto and the University of Cambridge and a number of industry partners who are invested in making their technology and processes more sustainable.

    “If we can reduce the carbon produced in concrete manufacturing by even a fraction, it’s going to have a significant positive benefit,” says Neil Hoult, a professor in the Department of Civil Engineering. “Increased urbanization means that the demand for concrete is going up. Our research aims to cut the carbon dioxide emissions generated by concrete production in half – the equivalent of eliminating the airline industry, twice over.”

    The research program is supported by industry leaders like Arup, Aecon, KPMB Architects, and Lafarge, along with the City of Kingston and the Cement Association of Canada, with funding sources including Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Mitacs.

    To achieve the goals set by Queen’s and its partners, several approaches will be explored to reduce carbon utilization. The first one is shape optimization, meaning studying how to better design structures to use less concrete – which reduces both material consumption and structure weight.

    Neil Hoult and students
    Neil Hoult and students work to reduce carbon utilization in concrete structures.

    The second is what’s known as functionally graded concrete.

    “We put concrete with higher strength where we need the strength, then we use lower strength concrete (which also means lower cement concrete) everywhere else,” Dr. Hoult explains. “We will be working on software packages that allow for these new techniques to be used in the design, optimizing structures for performance and low environmental impact.”

    The bulk of the initial research and testing will be completed in the Queen’s civil engineering labs. Moving from the lab to practical applications, however, will take the project into the real world in Kingston, with the support of city and industry partners. The project includes the design of a demonstration structure at the Kingston Fire and Rescue Training Centre.

    “The structure will be actively used by Kingston’s Fire Services as a classroom and as a living lab so that Queen’s and St. Lawrence College students can come and learn about low-carbon buildings. We’re aiming for a net-zero building philosophy,” Dr. Hoult highlights.

    Speros Kanellos, Director, Facilities Management, and Construction at the City of Kingston, says the city has been working with post-secondary educational partners on ‘learning hubs’ to investigate new approaches and technologies to aggressively decarbonize infrastructure.

    “We are working with the low-carbon concrete research team to develop a real-world application for demonstration purposes and ongoing research,” he says. “It’s really exciting to participate as a partner in the kind of initiative that embodies the City’s and university’s leadership on climate action.”

    Partnership for health innovation

    An evolution of the Human Mobility Research Centre, the Centre for Health Innovation connects researchers from across disciplines to tackle the most pressing human health challenges.

    Cancer, infectious diseases, health data, and personalized care. The biggest challenges for human health can only be addressed by combining a range of expertise and disciplines. To foster these connections, Queen’s and Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) have partnered on the Centre for Health Innovation (CHI) – an initiative that brings together interdisciplinary investigators to fuel a solutions-based approach to translational health research, applying knowledge generated at the university to improving patient care and health outcomes.   

    “CHI integrates insights from the frontlines of care to understand the real-world experiences and needs of patients and healthcare professionals,” says Amber Simpson, director of CHI and Canada Research Chair in Biomedical Computing and Informatics. “We are multidisciplinary because we understand the creative and innovative power of inclusion will forge a path to the next generation of transformative healthcare for all.” Members of the new centre have diverse backgrounds – from expertise in medicine, engineering, science, and technology to the humanities.

    Amber Simpson presents at the Innovation for Good Symposium
    Amber Simpson welcomes the audience to the first edition of the Innovation for Good Symposium, which celebrates the team work of the Centre for Health Innovation's members.

    The Centre for Health Innovation is an evolution of Queen’s Human Mobility Research Centre (HMRC), which connected experts in medicine, engineering, and computer science to develop innovative treatments for bone and joint disorders. CHI will continue this work, while broadening its goals to address other health challenges, like infectious diseases, and using advanced technology to optimize treatment, diagnostics, and patient outcomes through precision medicine.

    Solutions-based health research

    The CHI team will pursue cost-effective, high-tech solutions that can be implemented within our current healthcare systems. This includes training and mentoring students and post-doctoral fellows in medical informatics, preparing Canada’s healthcare workforce to deal with rapidly growing field of digital health data.

    A pivotal new connection spearheaded by CHI is building synergies between artificial intelligence (AI) and cancer research. Queen’s experts are looking at how machine learning techniques and artificial intelligence solutions might help physicians interpret cancer spread through imaging tests like CT scans and make better treatment decisions. While exploring new possibilities brought on by advancing technologies, the CHI team will also investigate the bioethical implications of using AI to predict metastasis and survival probabilities.

    Also crucial for the future of the multidisciplinary centre will be the creation of shared facilities amongst the research community. In partnership with the Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG), the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and Queen’s faculty partners including Health Sciences, Arts and Science, and Engineering, CHI will undertake a large-scale expansion of histopathology and biobanking resources at KHSC. This will expand KHSC’s capacity as the home of the CCTG biobanking facility and support research that will help investigators study the pathological basis of diseases.

    Innovation for Good

    Today and tomorrow (June 6 and 7), researchers are invited to virtually join the “Innovation for Good” symposium, that will kick off the new centre’s activities showcasing innovative, radically collaborative health research occurring across Queen's and KHSC. For more information, download the event’s program. Click here to register and watch the sessions.

    CHI is also developing a state-of-the-art genomics facility to allow the complete analyses of the DNA and RNA molecules in an organism. This expansion leverages work throughout the pandemic on sequencing COVID-19 variants of concern for the province as well as long-standing expertise in cancer biomarkers. Through CHI, investigators will have the ability to leverage genomics and histopathology with data science, a winning combination to change patient outcomes.

    While CHI’s objectives and mission are firmly planted on the ground, its research goals also aim for the stars. With proximity to clinicians and access to the human tissue bank, an interdisciplinary team is looking at the impacts of space travel on health, including bone loss and aging.

    “We expect the shared resources and specialized facilities will allow innovation in precision medicine and digital health, in alignment with private sector interests, informing government policy, and attracting R&D investment”, notes Dr. Simpson. “Building on the work of HMRC, we are establishing an integrated, truly multi-disciplinary facility that we hope will become a province- and nation-wide resource to support health innovation and research. Exciting things are happening and Queen’s and KHSC are proud to be at the forefront.”

    Inspiring the next generation of Indigenous engineers

    Queen’s Indigenous Futures in Engineering program has been awarded $600,000 to expand their K-12 outreach.

    [Nicole General, Indigenous STEM Outreach Coordinator with InEng, works with a young student.]
    Nicole General, Indigenous STEM Outreach Coordinator with InEng, works with a young student.

    Inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers is the motivation behind the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s (NSERC) latest funding announcement. More than $10 million was awarded through the PromoScience and Science Communication Skills grants to organizations that provide youth access to innovative STEM programs and enhance communication and understanding of science for the public. Queen’s Indigenous Futures in Engineering (InEng) was one such program, receiving their most successful funding request to date of just under $600,000.

    Established in 2011, InEng (formerly Aboriginal Access to Engineering) is based out of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and led by Indigenous education professionals with expertise in STEM instruction. The initiative is committed to significantly increasing the number of Indigenous engineers in Canada through both supports for students at Queen’s and K-12 outreach programming. By providing opportunities for Indigenous youth in K-12 to engage with Indigenous engineers and engineering students, the program aims to encourage youth to see themselves in the profession and eventually pursue STEM education. The program has also worked with more than 100 Indigenous engineering students at Queen’s since its inception, providing a broad range of resources and support from tutoring to dedicated study spaces to opportunities for national and international networking.  

    “We must inspire and encourage young people today if we are to make big discoveries and solve the mysteries of tomorrow,” says the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry, who made the federal funding announcement.. “With this investment through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, our government is supporting those who ignite a spark across generations, and encouraging Canadians to help build a healthier, cleaner, and more sustainable future for everyone.”

    Science Communication Skills Grant
    Queen’s researchers Diane Orihel (Biology) and Sarah Yakimowski (Biology) were successful recipients of the new NSERC pilot program focused on supporting science literacy, countering science-related misinformation, and fostering a role for science in evidence-based decision making. Their project, Development of Inclusive Science Communication Training through an Anti-Racist Lens, received $20,000 to develop an intensive training workshop for graduate students and set of online resources. They aim to develop their project as a model for science communication that can be used across Canada.

    With support from the PromoScience grant, InEng will deliver their elementary school-based program, Foundations for Indigenous Futures in Engineering, as part of their goal to expand Indigenous STEM outreach. InEng maintains partnerships with several First Nation communities and their education leadership, as well as works with First Nation schools to provide their community-based outreach programs. They aim to expand outreach and training opportunities directly to teachers of Indigenous students by partnering with more schools and offering online programming. InEng’s goal is to significantly increase educator confidence and fluency in STEM teaching through pedagogical training, course design, and lesson modelling to encourage teachers to integrate more hands-on STEM learning into their regular teaching schedules.

    “We are very excited at the expansion of our outreach program through this influx of support from NSERC’s PromoScience program,” says Melanie Howard, Director of Indigenous Futures in Engineering. “With the return to in-person programming allowed by this stage of the pandemic, we are actively recruiting three additional Indigenous educational professionals to join our team for the start of the 2022-23 school year later this fall.”

    InEng's Foundations initiative is also focused on inspiring Indigenous students at a young age. By encouraging curiosity and exploration in STEM subjects early in their education, InEng aims to develop a pathway for Indigenous students that inspires them to eventually pursue a career in STEM. Some of their in-person programs include designing classroom workshops that align with the Ontario math and science curriculums with specific focus on making STEM subjects culturally relevant for students and incorporating local context and culture. For example, InEng staff have created engineering design projects that centre around key activities in the harvest ceremonies of the Haudenosaunee communities, math workshops that integrate wampum teachings of the southern Ontario Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee, and robotics lessons that incorporate pow-wow dance traditions.

    Over the past decade, InEng has engaged with more than 70,000 youth and community members through activities such as drop-in science events, week-long science camps, and professional development training opportunities for teachers. With their goals to expand outreach, InEng will be structured to support and nurture Indigenous youth on their journey through STEM education by offering targeted initiatives and programs that address their needs as they progress from K-12 to university and, eventually, into their careers. 

    For more information about Queen’s Indigenous Futures in Engineering, visit the InEng website.

    Cast your vote for the Art of Research

    The public has until June 2 to vote for their favourite Queen's research photo in the People’s Choice category.

    [Collage of photos with text: Art of Research photo contest]
    A selection of Queen's research photos included in the People's Choice vote as part of the Art of Research photo contest.

    Voting is now open for the People’s Choice prize in the annual Art of Research photo contest. The public is invited to cast their ballot and participate in promoting the diversity of research happening across Queen’s.

    Hosted by the Office of the Vice-Principal (University Relations), the annual contest is an opportunity for Queen’s researchers to mobilize their research beyond the academy. The contest is aimed at providing a creative and accessible method of sharing the ground-breaking research being done by the Queen’s community and celebrating the global and social impact of this work.

    Contest prizes

    The 2022 contest has been reimagined through the lens of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to celebrate the impact of research in advancing these important global goals. Five new categories inspired by the SDGs were introduced for this year’s contest alongside the popular People’s Choice prize.

    Images selected for voting in the People’s Choice are entries that generated discussion and were shortlisted by the adjudication committee.

    All prizes come with a monetary prize of $250.

    Cast your vote

    The survey closes on June 2 at midnight. Winners of the 2022 Art of Research photo contest will be announced shortly following the vote.

    To learn more about past contests, visit the Research@Queen’s website.

    2022 Art of Research Adjudication Committee

    • Nancy Ross, Vice-Principal (Research)
    • Kanonhsyonne - Janice Hill, Associate Vice-Principal (Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation)
    • Nicholas Mosey, Associate Dean (Research), Faculty of Arts and Science
    • Heidi Ploeg, QFEAS Chair for Women in Engineering, Mechanical and Materials Engineering
    • Ruth Dunley, Associate Director, Editorial Strategy, Office of Advancement
    • Jung-Ah Kim, PhD Student, Screen Cultures and Curatorial Studies
    • Melinda Knox, Director, Thought Leadership and Strategic Initiatives, University Relations
    • Véronique St-Antoine, Communications Advisor, NSERC

    Inspired by the human brain

    Queen’s researchers advance the evolving field of neuromorphic photonic computing.

    Male researcher looking at a microscope.
    The field of photonics looks at how to send and process information using light instead of electricity.

    The idea that the human brain, the most impressive machine ever known, could inspire the development of computers is not new. In fact, the concept of artificial networks inspired by neurons, the central units that make up the brain, first surfaced in the 1950s. But the last decade has seen a resurgence of research programs looking at building neuromorphic computing with the help of a new ally: photonics.

    Computers are traditionally built as electronic devices, relying on transistors to communicate information – roughly, a transistor works like a switch that can be on or off, and a specific sequence of commands tells the computer what to do. This digital system is very efficient in performing several tasks, and over the years, we’ve developed better, faster, and smaller transistors to power our computers. Today, a standard computer has tens of billions of them.

    While electronics are an excellent solution for many of our computing needs, they are not ideal for addressing challenges like advancing artificial intelligence or machine learning capacity. And that’s why the human brain has surfaced once again as an inspiration for computing.

    “We have realized that our brains are very good computers, but they do not operate with transistor-like switches. The brain uses a very different computing model,” explains Bhavin Shastri, assistant professor of in the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy and a pioneer in the emerging field of neuromorphic photonics. “Our brain does not operate with ones and zeros, but with analog, continuous signals.”

    Because electronics cannot provide a good model for analog systems, scientists started looking at photonics, a field that investigates how to use light – instead of electricity – to send and process information.

     “Light behaves very differently from electrons, and in some cases, those are advantageous behaviors for certain applications,” says Alex Tait, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “For instance, in communications, fibre optic cables replaced electronic wiring because light is just more effective: it can communicate more information per second.”

    Bhavin Shastri and Alex Tait
    Bhavin Shastri and Alex Tait have been collaborating for over a decade in research to advance neuromorphic photonic computing.

    For over a decade, Shastri and Tait have been collaborating on research that looks at how photonics can benefit neuromorphic computing. After doing proofs of concept, fabricating, and demonstrating devices, they are now working on how to build this knowledge into an actual, usable computer.

    The distributed, non-sequential, parallel communications between neurons are crucial for tasks like pattern matching, reasoning, and categorizing information – tasks a brain does well, but computers have limited ability to do.

    “Our brains are also extremely efficient in performing those tasks using very little energy. Our brain can do a thousand times more operations than the fastest existing supercomputer, using a million times less energy,” suggests Shastri.

    Tait explains that the goal in developing light-based neuromorphic computers is not to substitute what we use today but rather to explore specific needs that can’t be met by traditional computing or that photonic can address more efficiently.

    “It has great potential in situations where you need to reduce energy consumption – like in data centers where you're doing tons of number crunching. And they can be applied in situations where you need faster processing, like in a self-driving car where you must make decisions very quickly,” he adds.

    Photonic computing can also be key in advancing other science areas, like high-energy physics and experiments to detect new fundamental particles. Shastri explains: “When you are looking at particles that collide in a particle accelerator, you collect a lot of data, but not all of it is useful. Machine learning techniques can help sort the useful information faster – and photonics might be the bridge to link these two disciplines together.”

    To learn more about how Queen’s is advancing the field of neuromorphic photonics, access the Shastri Lab website.

    Research that reaches for the stars

    Multidisciplinary Queen’s research projects explore impact of space travel on health, including bone loss and aging.

    Experiencing space flight and being amongst the stars is a dream out of this world for many, but for astronauts, there can be serious health implications that accompany space travel.

    The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has identified three human space flight risks as high priorities: bone fragility, mission risks associated with altered metabolism, and the effect of nutrient composition of diet on health during space missions. With support from the CSA, Queen’s research teams are exploring how to make space travel safer by better understanding how astronaut diets affects bone loss, and how space flight may impact astronauts’ DNA and the aging process.

    Preventing bone loss in space

    Rachel Holden
    Rachel Holden (Medicine)

    Research shows that astronauts lose substantial amounts of bone during space missions. It's a mystery that has inspired researchers at Queen's to take a closer look at a mineral that is commonly found in many foods — phosphate. Phosphate is important for bone health, but abnormalities in the way the body processes phosphate have been linked to bone loss on Earth. Since astronauts on the International Space Station consume high levels of phosphate, it led the multidisciplinary research team of Heidi Ploeg (Mechanical and Materials Engineering) and Rachel Holden (Medicine), experts in orthopaedic biomechanics and vascular calcification in chronic kidney disease, to question if there is an association.

    Normally, the phosphate a person consumes would go into their blood and any extra would be removed by the kidneys. However, if a person’s kidneys don't work properly, they can develop high phosphate levels in their blood which can stimulate the loss of calcium from their bones. Researchers are now seeing this outcome of weaker bones in people without kidney issues as influenced by diets that are high in the amount of phosphate due to its addition by food manufacturers. Since food in space is enriched with inorganic phosphate for preservation, this could be contributing to bone loss in astronauts as well.

    “In the last five years it has become evident that dietary phosphate intake may promote cardiovascular disease and bone loss in people with adequate kidney function. Dietary phosphate intake has risen substantially over the past 10 years as inorganic phosphate is increasingly added to food for preservation by the food manufacturing industry,” Dr. Holden says.

    Heidi Ploeg
    Heidi Ploeg (Mechanical and Materials Engineering)

    For Dr. Ploeg, the Chair for Women in Engineering at Queen's, the project provides interesting insights into how bone can adapt to its environments.

    “Bone is an amazing structure. It's beautifully complex and best of all it adapts in response to its environment. Engineers can learn about optimal and self-heal structures by studying biological structures like bone,” Dr. Ploeg says. “If we can better understand this process, we can better assess fragility fracture risk and reduce these fracture rates through treatments including diet, physical therapy, and pharmaceuticals.”

    Understanding how dietary phosphate promotes bone loss could reduce the burden of chronic disease in our aging society on Earth through regulations, and could contribute to the overall health of astronauts and the success of long-duration space missions in the future.

    How does DNA replicate under microgravity?

    Another Queen’s research team looking at human health during space travel is Virginia Walker’s lab in biology. The team's research has shown that DNA replication under microgravity — a small amount of gravity such as what is found in space, causing astronauts to “float” — is less accurate than under Earth gravity. This could pose risks for astronaut health including cancer and age-related problems during extended periods in space — like on missions to a future Moon station or Mars. To do this work, graduate student Aaron Rosenstein flew two missions aboard the CSA and National Research Council’s Falcon 20 jet, better known as the “vomit comet,” which simulates space flight.

    Dr. Walker’s interest in space began when she was a child and the first lunar mission, Apollo 11, launched in 1969. This interest was reinforced by the show Star Trek, while Rosenstein was fittingly inspired by Star Trek, Next Generation.

    Aaron Rosenstein prepares for a flight on the 'vomit comet'.
    Aaron Rosenstein, Queen's graduate student at the time, flew two missions aboard the CSA and National Research Council’s Falcon 20 jet, better known as the “vomit comet,” which simulates space flight. (Supplied Photo)

    Dr. Walker’s research in the area of the molecular genetic responses to stress led her to research extreme habitats, including those that are models for Mars. Her lectures on astrobiology caught Rosenstein’s imagination, who at the time was an undergraduate life science student. He and others created a student club and invited Dr. Walker to be the faculty advisor. This club’s work led to a CSA research grant that has recently concluded.

    Their study found that DNA polymerases — the enzymes essential for DNA replication — make more errors in microgravity. This means there could be a health risk for astronauts on extended missions in space — since decreased DNA replication accuracy could lead to premature aging and cancer. Dr. Walker says this demonstrates the importance of designing spaceships that alleviate such negative effects.

    “Our research, showing that more mistakes can be made when replicating DNA in microgravity, will surely bolster efforts by the international community to create artificial gravity by rotating space stations, for example,” Dr. Walker says.

    As humans continue to push the boundaries of space travel, there are important health implications that the CSA has identified. The work by Dr. Walker, Dr. Ploeg, and Dr. Holden will contribute to the research to make space flight safer for those who venture off Earth.


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