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    Engineering and Applied Science

    2021: The Year in Research

    A review of the major initiatives, the funding and awards garnered, and the research that made headlines over the last twelve months.

    Each year, we take a moment in December to reflect on the accomplishments of our community in advancing research that helps us tackle some of the world’s most pressing questions and societal challenges.

    [Photo of three researchers working in a lab]

    While 2021 offered glimmers of hope in moving beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, it also tested and challenged our research community in myriad other ways. In balance, this year also saw Queen’s rank 1st in Canada and 5th in the world in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, which provided a testament to the impact of the university’s research and scholarship in advancing social impact and sustainability within and beyond our local community.

    Through all of this, research prominence remained a key driver for Queen’s and our researchers continued to make national and international headlines for their discoveries and award-winning scholarship.

    Join us as we review some of the highlights of 2021.

    Recognizing research leadership

    In 2021, Queen’s welcomed Nancy Ross as the new Vice-Principal (Research). Dr. Ross, an accomplished research administrator and renowned expert in population health, joined the university in August and succeeded Vice-Principal (Research) Kimberly Woodhouse, who had been interim in the role since 2018.

    [Photo of Dr. Nancy Ross]
    Dr. Nancy Ross began her five-year term as Vice-Principal (Research) on August 1, 2021.

    This year saw Queen’s researchers win some of Canada’s top awards and honours for research excellence and the university ranked third in Canada for awards per faculty member (2022 Maclean’s University Rankings).

    Our international expertise in cancer research and cancer clinical trials was cemented with Elizabeth Eisenhauer’s receipt of the Canada Gairdner Wightman Award for outstanding leadership in medicine and medical science, and Joe Pater receiving the inaugural Canadian Cancer Society Lifetime Contribution Prize.

    Praveen Jain was honoured with the prestigious IEEE Medal in Power Engineering, the highest international award in the field of electrical power, and world-renowned philosopher Will Kymlicka’s contributions to the humanities were recognized with the RSC Pierre Chauveau medal.

    Queen’s also had a successful year earning fellowships within Canada’s national academies. Sari van Anders, Heather Castleden, and Karen Lawford were named members of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists  and professor emeritus John Berry was named a Fellow. Health administrators and research leaders Jane Philpott, Kieran Moore, Doug Munoz, and John Muscedere were inducted into the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, and Kim McAuley, Mark Diederichs, Mark F. Green, and Ugo Piomelli were elected to the Canadian Academy of Engineering.

    Research that made headlines around the world

    An exoskeleton designed by Queen's engineering researchers Michael Shepertycky, Qingguo Li, and Yan-Fei Liu that improves walking efficiency was featured in the leading academic journal Science and international media outlets, including the New York Times.

    Health expert Christopher Mueller developed mDETECT, a cancer detection test that provides a real-time response to chemotherapy and early detection of relapse, while researchers Amber Simpson and Farhana Zulkernine applied AI and natural language processing techniques to CT scans, to predict cancer spread.

    The much-anticipated UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) dominated headlines around the world and Queen’s environmental experts Kyla Tienhaara and John Smol shared their hopes for conference outcomes. On the ground at COP26, Ryan Riordan of the Institute for Sustainable Finance provided key takeaways and next steps for global governments. In the Canadian arctic, Queen’s researchers, the Government of Nunavut, and Indigenous community partners worked together to develop an innovative approach to studying the impact of climate change by monitoring the health and movements of polar bears.

    [Photo of polar bears in the Artic]
    BEARWATCH, a project led by Queen's researchers in partnership with local communities, governments, and other university collaborators, received funding from Genome Canada's Large-Scale Applied Research Project competition and the Ontario Genomics Institute to develop a non-invasive method for tracking polar bear health in the Canadian Artic.

    New research by Chris Spencer showed that the mid-Proterozoic period, about 1.8 to 0.8 billion years ago, dubbed as the “boring billon” was actually a time of great mountain-building events. Researchers at the Queen’s Facility for Isotope Research joined the cast from The Curse of Oak Island to hunt for gold and silver treasure sediments in the water collected from boreholes on a Nova Scotia isle.

    [Photo of highly deformed rocks from the Sperrgebiet region of Southern Namibia by Christopher Spencer]
    A geologist exploring 1-billion-year-old and highly deformed rocks from the Sperrgebiet region of southern Namibia. These rocks experienced significant deformation and extreme metamorphism during a continental collision over a billion years ago. (Photo by Christopher Spencer)

    Funding future research

    In 2021, Queen’s continued to attract competitive funding and awards, through a number of national and international programs. Hundreds of grants for new projects and research infrastructure were secured through CHIR, SSHRC, NSERC, and CFI, Canada’s national funding agencies, and other partners.

    Here are a few examples:

    • More than $10 million was secured by Queen’s researchers through CFI’s Innovation Fund for infrastructure that will help to combat climate change, treat cancer, and understand the fabric of the universe
    • Over $6 million was awarded to Queen’s researchers through NSERC’s Alliance Grants to collaborate with industry partners in areas such as computing, wireless communications, and nuclear power
    • Eight doctoral students earned prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships for exceptional scholarly achievement and leadership skills
    • Over 125 Queen’s researchers across disciplines received support from SSHRC, the Canada Research Chairs Program, and NSERC as part of a bundled funding announcement under the banner of “Supporting BIG Ideas”
    • Queen’s researchers received over $11.5M funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for projects addressing human health issues from cancer and pain to healthy aging
    • With $1.6 million in funding, NSERC’s CREATE program supported the implementation of an experiential graduate training and research program in medical informatics, led by Parvin Mousavi at Queen’s
    • A multidisciplinary team of Queen’s researchers received $7.9 million from Genome Canada for a new project exploring a microbial platform for breaking down and valorizing waste plastic, which can then be repurposed to produce recycled products
    • Cathy Crudden received the largest NSERC Discovery Grant in Canada (valued at $605k over five years) for her breakthrough work in novel organic coatings

    [Photo of a researcher reviewing a sample on a desktop]

    Mobilizing our knowledge

    This year, we were again challenged to find creative ways to engage with our audiences and mobilize expertise. Research and alumni experts joined forces to provide insight into our post-pandemic future, through the Road to Recovery virtual event series. These events, moderated by multimedia journalist and Queen’s alumnus Elamin Abdelmahmoud, reached over 1000 attendees.  

    Science Rendezvous Kingston celebrated its milestone 10th anniversary and marked it with a series of virtual events and the development of an interactive, virtual Exploratorium with no geographical limitations to participation. Audiences also had the opportunity to experience, in-person and virtually, artistic interpretations of the elusive dark matter. The exhibition and residency project, Drift: Art and Dark Matter, generated by Agnes Etherington Art Centre, the McDonald Institute, and SNOLAB, brought together artists and scientists in the quest to understand the invisible substance that comprises about 80 per cent of the universe.

    [osèfa Ntjam, Organic Nebula (detail), 2019, carpet, photomontage. Collection of the artist.]
    Josèfa Ntjam, Organic Nebula (detail), 2019, carpet, photomontage. Collection of the artist.

    The WE-Can (Women Entrepreneurs Canada) program led by Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation (QPI) celebrated supporting over 800 women from underrepresented groups and sectors regionally in achieving their entrepreneurial goals and pivoting their programs to an online format. This year’s virtual Indigenous Research Collaboration Day incorporated the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals in highlighting the importance of collaboration in research with Indigenous communities.

    Hundreds of Queen’s researchers provided expert commentary to the media in 2021, and our community continued to mobilize their research and expertise through fact-based analysis on The Conversation Canada’s news platform. In 2021, 77 Queen’s graduate students and faculty published 74 articles that garnered over 1.5 million reads.

    Congratulations to the Queen’s research community for their resilience and successes this year. We look forward to seeing what new research and opportunities 2022 will bring. For more information about research at the university, visit the Research@Queen’s website.

    Honouring the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

    December 6 memorial
    A permanent memorial installation in Beamish-Munro Hall, designed by Haley Adams, features a white rose petal for each of the 14 victims of the Dec. 6 massacre. (University Communications)

    Dec. 6, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, is a day to remember not only the horrors that occurred at l’École Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989, but the violence and inequities that continue today.

    On that day, Canadians pause to reflect on the murder of 14 women, the majority being engineering students. It is day to remember the victims and think about the effects that gender-based violence has had – and continues to have – on our society.

    Each year, the Queen’s community, led by the Engineering Society and the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science commemorates this day by hosting a memorial ceremony and other events that highlight the importance of opening doors, and keeping them open, for women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and beyond.

    “We need to remember the terrible events of December 6. It is especially important for the engineering community to reflect on that loss, and to strengthen our resolve to welcome more women into the profession and encourage and support them throughout their careers,” says Kevin Deluzio, Dean, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. “As a society we still have much work to do in the areas of equity, diversity, and inclusion, so this is a meaningful day for everyone at Queen’s. I encourage people from across the university to join us in reflecting on this day’s significance.”

    During the memorial ceremony, being held Monday, Dec. 6, 1-2 p.m. at the Integrated Learning Centre in Beamish-Munro Hall, 14 current Queen’s Engineering students hold a rose and light a candle while they introduce each of the 14 women and express their views on why it is important to remember them. It is a powerful, solemn time of remembrance.

    This year’s event will also be livestreamed.

    In 2020, a permanent memorial installation was unveiled after Dean Deluzio and the Engineering Society sent out a call for designs a year earlier to mark the 30th anniversary of the killings.

    The design chosen was created by Haley Adams, a civil engineering student. The centrepiece of the memorial is a white rose, which is surrounded by fourteen petals, symbolizing each of the women who lost their lives that day.

    “The petals drift along the wall, representing the idea that although we move forward, their memories are with us,” Adams explained as the memorial was unveiled. “It is my hope that this memorial can act as a gentle reminder to this generation of engineers that diversity in the profession is our strength. Only when the engineering community reflects the society we serve can we best design for the needs of our communities.”

    Queen’s remembers Professor Jon Pharoah

    Jon Pharoah
    Jon Pharoah

    The Queen’s community is remembering Jon Pharoah, a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, who died Friday, Nov. 19.

    Dr. Pharoah arrived at Queen’s in 2002, shortly after earning his PhD from the University of Victoria. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Waterloo.

    “Jon was a friend and colleague to many faculty, staff, and students,” says Kevin Deluzio, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. “Jon was a person with big ideas and my conversations with him left me inspired to think about what could be. I will miss Jon’s optimism and enthusiasm that served to inspire his colleagues and so many of his former students.”

    His areas of study included hydrogen energy systems, carbon dioxide re-use, computational fluid dynamics, energy from salinity differences and membrane separation / water purification.

    Dr. Pharoah was one of the founding members of the Queen’s-RMC Fuel Cell Research Centre (FCRC). His early research on computational modelling of the porous materials used in fuel cells made a major contribution to the improvement of fuel cell performance and also brought international recognition to FCRC.

    “Jon’s initial work evolved and expanded to hydrogen energy-related technologies that have the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which was the underlying motivation behind so much of his work,” says Brant Peppley, a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering who worked with Dr. Pharoah as part of FCRC. “He was a champion for battling climate-change and inspired his graduate and undergraduate students to recognize the importance of this issue.”

    Dr. Pharoah had a lasting positive effect on his colleagues in his department, Queen’s Engineering, and across the university and cared deeply about climate change, sustainable energy systems and teaching.

    “Jon was an outgoing and friendly person who loved a good debate, particularly in areas he felt very passionate about, such as climate change and sustainable energy systems. It’s worth noting that Jon was sounding alarms about climate change long before the recent, heightened interest in the topic, as evidenced by a thought-provoking TEDxQueensU talk he gave in January 2014,” says Keith Pilkey, Head of the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. “Jon was also passionate about teaching. He often supplemented course materials with discussions on timely topics, and he always prioritized his students’ overall learning experience. Jon will be greatly missed by all who had the fortune of working with him and learning from him.”

    A Celebration of Life for family and friends will be held Saturday, Dec. 4 from 10 am-noon at the Outdoor Centre of Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area. An outdoor tribute will commence at 11 am.

    Supports are available through the Employee Family Assistance Program, which provides 24-hour support at 1-877-789-7572. The Office of Faith and Spiritual Life can also provide faith-based supports as applicable. Good2Talk (for 24/7 confidential support, call 1-866-925-5454 or text GOOD2TALKON to 686868) or EmpowerMe (24/7 confidential counselling by phone and online at 1-844-741-6389) are also available for support and resources.

    December 6 ceremony memorializes victims

    Queen’s University marks National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women with event and livestream.

    December 6 memorial permanent installation
    A permanent memorial installation in Beamish-Munro Hall, designed by Haley Adams, features a white rose petal for each of the 14 victims of the Dec. 6 massacre. (University Communications)

    The Queen’s community will mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women on Monday, Dec. 6 with a ceremony, hosted by the Engineering Society, at the Integrated Learning Centre in Beamish-Munro Hall from 1-2 p.m.

    The event will also be livestreamed for those not on campus.

    Each year on Dec. 6, Canadians pause to reflect on the murder of 14 women that occurred at l’École Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989. It is a day to remember the victims and think about the effects that gender-based violence has had – and continues to have – on our society.

    Most of the women killed that day were engineering students and were specifically targeted because they were women.

    “We need to remember the terrible events of December 6. It is especially important for the engineering community to reflect on that loss, and to strengthen our resolve to welcome more women into the profession,” says Kevin Deluzio, Dean, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. “As a society we still have much work to do in the areas of equity, diversity, and inclusion, so this is a meaningful day for everyone at Queen’s. I encourage people from across the university to join us in reflecting on this day’s significance.”

    As part of the ceremony, 14 current Queen’s Engineering students will speak about the 14 women who were killed and express their views on why it is important to remember them.

    Making fall break permanent

    Queen’s will provide a week away from classes each fall term going forward to help the university community rest and focus on health and wellbeing. 

    Photograph of Queen's pole pennant in front of Grant Hall.
    The fall term break will go into effect for the 2022-23 academic year and will be a week away from classes beginning on the Thanksgiving holiday each October. (University Communications)

    Fall break will now be a permanent fixture on the Queen’s academic calendar following a vote by the Senate on Nov. 30. The Senate made this decision based on the recommendation of the Fall Term Break Task Force, which conducted broad consultation with members of the Queen’s community and received just under 8,000 responses to the fall term break survey that was open in October.

    “We had a fantastic response rate to our survey from students, faculty, and staff, and we found overwhelming support for making fall term break a permanent part of the academic calendar going forward,” says William Nelson, Co-Chair of the Fall Term Break Task Force and Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning), Faculty of Arts and Science. “Students in particular let us know that a fall break is beneficial for their mental health, as it allows them to relax, rest, catch up on work, and, in some cases, visit friends and family back home. Queen’s has listened to this feedback and is pleased to take action in support of our community’s health and wellness.”

    The fall term break will go into effect for the 2022-23 academic year and will be a week away from classes beginning on the Thanksgiving holiday each October. To accommodate this new schedule, classes in the fall term will now begin on the Tuesday after Labour Day. The consultation process found that faculty, staff, and students believe this is the least disruptive way to alter the academic calendar. Student Affairs programming will continue during fall breaks for students who remain in Kingston.

    “Mental health is an important issue for many students, and an annual fall term break will be an excellent opportunity for them to focus on wellbeing while resting and regrouping for the rest of the semester,” says Ryan Sieg, Vice President (University Affairs), Queen’s Alma Mater Society and member of the Fall Term Break Task Force. “This change will align us with many other universities who have found a fall term break beneficial for their communities.”

    In addition to the survey, members of the task force held consultation meetings in faculties, schools, and units across Queen’s. The task force also reviewed the fall term break policies of a selection of other Canadian universities and found that most offered a fall term break in 2021. Following recommendations from the Report of the Principal’s Commission on Mental Health, Queen’s introduced the fall term break in 2018 as a three-year pilot. The Senate Committee on Academic Development and Procedures (SCADP) created the Fall Term Break Task Force this fall to provide a comprehensive recommendation on the future of the break. Prior to approval from Senate, the task force’s recommendation was approved by SCADP on Nov. 10.

    Learn more about the Fall Term Break Task Force on the Queen’s Secretariat website.

    Q&A: What factors lead to a mudslide?

    Queen's researchers in the Queen’s Coastal Engineering Lab create debris flows to gain a better understanding of how they happen and the damage they can cause.

    The Queen's University Coastal Engineering Lab can simulate a mudslide using this flume. (Supplied photo)

    The picturesque towns and communities in British Columbia’s lower mainland were plunged into chaos this week when parts of Canada’s landscape suddenly changed due to catastrophic flooding, mudslides, and landslides. Queen’s researcher Andy Take, professor and researcher in Geotechnical Engineering in the Department of Civil Engineering, and second-year Master’s student Lisa Tauskela spend their days in the Queen’s Coastal Engineering Lab triggering debris flows, which are commonly called mudslides. Here is a closer look at their research.

    What is the difference between a landslide and a mudslide?

    What makes a debris flow (mudslide) different from a regular landslide is that liquefaction is occurring in the material. This means the material is saturated with water and due to internal water pressure, the soil grains have lost their friction. Therefore, a previously solid material can now flow like a liquid.

    What causes a mudslide?

    Excess rain can lead to liquefaction and debris flows as it introduces the requisite water. Debris flows can also be triggered during earthquake, and often occur in mountainous or sloping terrain around the world. Mudslides often travel farther and faster than landslides where liquefaction is not present. This can lead to increased devastation. The United States Geological Survey says debris flows can travel up to and exceeding 55 km/h.

    Second-year Master's Student Lisa Tauskela,  researcher in Geotechnical Engineering in the Department of Civil Engineering, Queen's University
    Lisa Tauskela, second-year Master's student, Geotechnical Engineering, Department of Civil Engineering

    What kind of damage can they cause?

    Extremely large debris flows can travel kilometers at high speeds and devastate entire communities. The damage is dependent on the type of landslide that occurs. A 2006 slide in Oso, Washington travelled 100 metres. In 2014, the same slope failed, liquefied the valley floor, and travelled over a kilometre and killed 43 people.

    How can you simulate a mudslide in the Coastal Engineering lab?

    The objective of the research is to increase the fundamental understanding of liquefaction mechanisms as they affect debris flow mobility. We create landslides of up to 3,000 kg of debris in the Queen’s University flume. This facility consists of a release box located at the crest of an 8-metre-long, 30-degree slope and a 36-metre long horizontal runout zone. (Master's student) Lisa Tauskela varies the water content and volume of the material and captures the landslides with a variety of sensors and cameras. These observations are intended to provide a comprehensive database of landslide behavior to test the ability of newly-developed numerical models. Numerical models that can estimate the likelihood and size of a debris flow are extremely useful for issuing evacuation orders or warnings. Improving the accuracy of these lifesaving models is the subject of research around the world.

    How can we prevent them from happening?

    We can either stop a debris flow from happening in the first place or we can reduce its impact on nearby people and infrastructure. Debris flows are more likely to occur when excess water is present, whether this is from rainfall, overland flow, or damaged culverts, water pipes etc. Debris flows also occur when the toe (bottom) of a slope is removed, whether this is from erosion or excavation for construction. To prevent debris flows, we should minimize clear-cutting trees, add more vegetation, monitor erosion, and minimize construction near unstable slopes.

    Q&A: Using science to uncover a potential gold mine

    Now in its ninth season, the History Channel's The Curse of Oak Island has enlisted the help of the Queen's Facility for Isotope Research. (Supplied photo)

    Queen’s researcher Peir Pufahl, Professor, Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering, and Co-Director of Queen’s Facility for Isotope Research, is getting a taste of high-profile screen time as he helps Rick and Marty Lagina, from the popular show The Curse of Oak Island uncover the mysteries of the Nova Scotia island.

    A 224-year-old legend claims there is a golden treasure hidden beneath a murky swamp. An assortment of archaeological techniques have been used to get closer to the potential fortune, including seismic testing, sonic core drilling, and ground-penetrating radar.

    This season, Dr. Purfahl offers his expertise, and takes a closer look at 12 boreholes to determine if they actually contain elements of gold.

    Peir Pufahl, Professor and Co-Director, Queen's Faculty for Isotope Research
    Peir Pufahl is the co-director of the Queen’s Facility for Isotope Research (QFIR) and a professor in the Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering. 

    How did you get involved with The Curse of Oak Island series?

    My colleague and friend Dr. Ian Spooner from Acadia University invited the Queen’s Facility for Isotope Research (QFIR) to analyze water samples from boreholes. I co-direct QFIR with Drs. Dan Layton Matthews, Matt Lebourne, and Heather Jamieson. The lab has a world-renowned reputation for the analyses of waters that may contain more insoluble elements such as a gold. 

    Is this a departure from the normal scope of work in the Isotope lab?

    No. What’s cool about this work is that we’re using tools QFIR routinely applies to explore for mineral deposits with our company partners. We used the same chemical finger printing techniques we routinely use to look for ore deposits but in this case, we are applying them to hunt for pirate treasure.

    Walk us through the process of how you analyzed the borehole samples. What type of equipment did you use?

    Dr. Spooner took water samples from boreholes that were drilled in previous seasons of the show. These boreholes were drilled with the hope of discovering old workings and treasure. They’re now filled with ground water that has leached elements from the surrounding soil and rock. If treasure does exist, it should leach elements like silver and gold into the water. The concentrations of 65 elements were analyzed using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) in QFIR. Some of these elements are associated with gold and are therefore also good indicators of potential treasure.

    Your findings conclude the samples contain gold — what does that mean for Oak Island?

    This finding is significant because it is the first time in eight seasons of the show that there is a direct indication of gold, which may result from treasure or naturally occurring gold leaching into the ground water.

    What do you hope this international research exposure will mean for the lab?

    A few things. Number one, it is a great example of how the techniques we use on a routine basis in QFIR are transferable to solve unique real-world problems. The fact that the show is one of the top-rated reality cable TV shows in the world provides an unparalleled opportunity to showcase these techniques to millions of people that would otherwise not be exposed to the inner workings of how science works. Second, QFIR's involvement is great exposure for Queen’s and the Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering to such a huge arena of people. Our work highlights the relevance of what we do and how we do it. Third, our collaboration with the Oak Island team is a fantastic recruiting tool. We’ve already had inquiries from students in the U.S., where the show premiered on Nov. 2, about Queen’s and our department.

    Are there any future plans to work with the series?

    Yes, but mum's the word. 

    The Curse of Oak Island has just launched its ninth season on the History Channel.

    Celebrating fall 2021 graduates

    Queen’s is recognizing the accomplishments and perseverance of this fall’s graduating students.

    Graduation is the culmination of the months and years of effort Queen’s students put into completing their programs, and the tricolour community is celebrating the more than 2,000 students who are reaching this milestone this fall. While in-person convocation ceremonies have been postponed due to COVID-19, Queen’s is congratulating graduates with a video message that also recognizes their perseverance throughout the pandemic.

    “If you’re graduating this year, a good portion of your program has been spent under circumstances that have been truly unprecedented,” says Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane in the video. “Your graduating is a tribute to your determination, your creativity, your hard work, and your flexibility. You have both my admiration and warmest congratulations.”

    When it is safe to do so, Queen’s plans to resume in-person convocation ceremonies and intends to invite graduates from the Class of 2020 and Class of 2021 back to campus to mark their graduation.

    “It’s regrettable that we cannot gather together in person this fall to celebrate your hard-earned degree, your diploma, or your certificate. However, I’m pleased to have this opportunity to offer my sincere congratulations as you officially complete your studies,” says Chancellor Murray Sinclair in the graduation video. “I do hope that before too long we will all be able to mark this important achievement together as a community.”

    The university officially conferred degrees for fall graduates on November 1, and it is preparing diploma packages to send by mail in the coming weeks. A full list of graduating students has been shared online by the Office of the University Registrar. Some faculties and schools are also recognizing their graduates through a virtual event or other online methods in the near term.

    “I truly hope that you have enjoyed your time at Queen’s and trust that you are taking away with you some wonderful memories and friends who will be with you for the remainder of your lives,” says Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill), Associate Vice-Principal (Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation) in her remarks for the video. “My hope is that going forward you will feel confident in your future as you lead the way to positive change for generations to come.”

    For more information fall 2021 graduation, visit the Office of the University Registrar website.

    Improving accessible communication technologies

    Queen’s researchers aim to create guidelines for the development of augmentative and alternative communication technologies to increase participation in gainful employment for persons with disabilities.

    [[Abstract illustration of speech bubbles]

    On June 21, 2019, Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada (the Accessible Canada Act), received Royal Assent. The Act outlines several principles to be followed throughout its implementation, one being, “accessibility standards and regulations must be made with the goal of achieving the highest level of accessibility.”

    One of the pillars of the Act is to ensure “accessible digital content and technologies.” However, standards for augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) technologies do not exist. With the goal of remedying this lack of standardization, Queen’s researchers Claire Davies (Mechanical and Materials Engineering) and Beata Batorowicz (School of Rehabilitation Therapy) are undertaking a multi-year study that aims to create optimal guidelines for the development of AAC technologies. In doing so, they hope to increase the employment potential of persons with disabilities by developing guidelines that produce more inclusive, universal, and effective AAC devices. This includes various forms of technology that assist someone with a speech or language impairment in communicating, usually in conjunction with a laptop, tablet, or specialized speech-generating devices. 

    [Photo of Beata Batorowicz]
    Dr. Beata Batorowicz (School of Rehabilitation Therapy)
    [Photo of Dr. Claire Davies]
    Dr. Claire Davies (Mechanical and Materials Engineering)

    To aid in their research efforts, Drs. Davies and Batorowicz have received together close to $1 million in funding from the Government of Canada’s Accessibility Standards Canada and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight program. 

    Dr. Davies, whose work has focused on increasing independence for persons with disabilities, including developing strategies for eye-tracking, brain-computer interfacing, and other methods of communication through computer access, believes that access is a major barrier to employment.

    “People with severe speech, communication, and physical disabilities experience profound social isolation, marginalization, and participation restrictions,” says Davies. “Their exclusion from participation in gainful employment has been particularly problematic. Only 47 per cent of persons who report having a disability are employed as compared to 74 per cent who did not report a disability.”

    Through their research, Drs. Batorowicz and Davies are hoping to provide Accessible Standards Canada with information around “who uses what and how,” in terms of AAC technology. The researchers and their team are taking a 'co-design' approach to data collection which is meant to ensure collaboration from clients and families, and those working within Canada in the design and practice of AAC. 

    Critical to the project’s success, according to the researchers, is that the voices of persons who have difficulty communicating are heard in their research.

    “We have been conducting focus groups with service providers (speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, communicative disorders assistants, teachers) and are next moving to focus groups with persons who use (and those who were denied) augmentative and alternative communication systems,” says Dr. Batorowicz. “We’ll then speak to caregivers and host a final focus group of manufacturers.”

    Dr. Batorowicz’s research has focused on improving outcomes for children and youth with little or no intelligible speech and physical disabilities, who require communication aids. Having worked to implement and evaluate the impact of AAC technologies in their daily lives, especially when it comes to autonomy, participation, and relationships, Dr. Batorowicz has an understanding of the important role of AAC systems plant in helping people to operate successfully in society, in both personal and professional environments. 

    The insights collected from the project's participants will provide the research team and Accessible Standards Canada with invaluable insight into the day-to-day needs of people who use or can benefit from AAC technologies. The hope is that these insights will guide the development of AAC technology standards to ensure optimal effectiveness of devices. The researchers and their team also intend to use their project to advocate for increased access for persons with disabilities, especially in employment, and to aid in making suggestions for policy change around access to AAC devices, evaluation for AAC devices, and inclusivity when hiring/working with persons who use AAC devices. 

    For more information on the research project or if you would like to participate in one of the focus groups, visit the website.

    Queen’s remembers student Jack Quipp

    The Queen’s community is remembering Jack Donovan Quipp, who passed away on Monday, Oct. 25. Jack was 20 years old, from St. Thomas, ON.

    Jack was born in Guelph, and graduated from St. Joseph’s High School in St. Thomas. He was in his third year of studies in Mine-Mechanical Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.

    Jack was a very positive person, appreciative of others, and always helpful. He is described by classmates and his department as really smart, and passionate about mining and engineering. He is being remembered for his smile and his meaningful interactions with classmates and other members of the university community.

    Jack will be deeply missed by his parents, Adam and Janina (Wrobel) Quipp, his sister Eadie Quipp grandparents Stan and Ann Wrobel and Ron Quipp and Mary McBain (John), his extended family, and his many friends. 

    Visitations were held at Williams Funeral Home, in St. Thomas, on Monday, Nov. 1, with the funeral to take place on Tuesday, Nov. 2. Memorial donations can be made to Canadian Mental Health Association.

    Students who need support are encouraged to contact Student Wellness ServicesFaith and Spiritual Life, or supportservices@queensu.ca. 24/7 supports include Good2Talk (call 1-866-925-5454 or text GOOD2TALKON to 686868) and EmpowerMe (call 1-833-628-5589).

    Faculty and staff can receive support through the Employee and Family Assistance Plan.


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