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Engineering and Applied Science

Engineering researchers lauded for contributions

Two Queen’s University professors earn Canadian Academy of Engineering Fellowship for lifetime of critical research.

Two Queen’s University researchers have been inducted as Fellows of the Canadian Academy of Engineering (CAE), one of Canada’s national academies. Michael Cunningham is an internationally-recognized authority on sustainable polymer manufacturing and Jean Hutchinson has developed an international reputation for assessing and managing the risks associated with natural rock slope hazards, along rail corridors.

Michael Cunningham
Michael Cunningham

The CAE is a national institution through which Canada's most distinguished and experienced engineers provide strategic advice on matters of critical importance to Canada. Fellows of the academy are elected by their peers.

“Election to the Canadian Academy of Engineering is one of the highest professional honours awarded to engineers in Canada,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “My sincere congratulations to Drs. Cunningham and Hutchinson on this well-deserved recognition.”

Dr. Cunningham’s (Chemical Engineering) research has contributed to producing materials using water-based rather than solvent-based processes. He collaborates and consults extensively with industry, and for 15 years has taught industry courses in North America and Europe.

His award-winning green chemistry/engineering work has important societal, economic, and environmental implications, and he has been recognized nationally and internationally, including as a recipient of the 2019 NSERC Brockhouse Canada Prize with fellow collaborators from Queen’s. 

“I am honoured to be elected as a Fellow of the CAE and gratefully acknowledge my colleagues and current and former students with whom I've enjoyed stimulating and creative collaborations during my career,” Dr. Cunningham says. “I look forward to engaging with the CAE in its pursuit of promoting science and engineering principles in furthering the best interests of the country and quality of life for all Canadians.”

Jean Hutchinson
Jean Hutchinson

Dr. Hutchinson (Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering) and her team pioneered the use of new engineering approaches to support risk-based decision-making and rock slope stability assessment using remote sensing. Her most recent research applies novel tools such as remote sensing data collection on large and remote rock slopes, machine learning to analyze data streams and game engine based numerical simulation to assess and simulate rock slope hazards along rail corridors.

“It is my great pleasure and honour to be elected to the Canadian Academy of Engineering, which engages engineering excellence across many sectors and with diverse perspectives. I look forward to contributing to the CAE’s efforts to promote and lead responsible and transformative engineering contributions to society, considering environmental, societal and economic sustainability,” says Dr. Hutchinson.

For more information, visit the CAE website.

Conversations Confronting COVID-19 Virtual Event Series

With its first event on June 24, the new series aims to address some of the challenges and opportunities presented by the global pandemic

Watch the Discussion:

Since the global pandemic hit earlier this year, Canadians and global citizens have been confronted with a myriad of questions – from how to understand and treat the virus, to how to cope with life in quarantine, and what life will look like when we surface from this international crisis.

A new virtual event series, Conversations Confronting COVID-19, has been launched as part of the Discover Research@Queen’s campaign to examine these questions at the forefront of our minds and assess both challenges and unique opportunities the situation has presented.

Launching on Wednesday, June 24 at 11:30 EDT, the first installment of the monthly series will focus on the theme of Innovation Pivots and feature members of the Queen’s community who have effectively pivoted their research and programs to come up with creative and innovative solutions to the pandemic.

The open, free session, moderated by Jim Banting, Assistant Vice-Principal (Partnerships and Innovation), will take a deep dive into three initiatives that are working to confront various aspects of COVID-19:

  • The Mechanical Ventilator Milano initiative, an international project aimed at developing a low-cost, easy-to-build ventilator to treat COVID-19. The project has gained international media attention, and the Canadian arm of the collaboration is being led by Queen’s Nobel Laureate, Dr. Arthur B. McDonald. Represented by Dr. Tony Noble, Professor, Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy, and Scientific Director, Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute
  • The Hand Sanitizer Initiative mobilized by Queen’s researchers and industry partners to support Kingston hospitals. Represented by Ms. Emily Albright, PhD Candidate, Chemistry, and Dr. Richard Oleschuk, Professor, Chemistry

“We are excited to share, with our alumni and the greater Queen’s community, the important work that our researchers, students, and affiliates are doing in our fight to understand and confront the challenges associated with the pandemic,” says Karen Bertrand, Vice-Principal (Advancement).

The Conversations Confronting COVID-19 series is free and open to the public. To register for the event on Wednesday, June 24, please visit the Queen’s Alumni website. To learn more about the projects featured in the event, visit the Research@Queen’s website.

Talking about race in STEM

The Queen's Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science held a panel discussion on anti-Black racism as part of #ShutDownSTEM day.

Photo of the panel participating in the Let's Talk Race forum on Zoom.
The Let's Talk about Race in STEM panel brought together students and administrators from the Queen's Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.

With the heightened focus on the issue of anti-Black racism throughout society, a movement took off for academics in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to set aside their usual work for one day to address racism instead. The movement originated in the United States and spread widely on social media with the hashtags #ShutDownSTEM and #ShutDownAcademia. It called for faculty and students in STEM around the globe to use Wednesday, June 10 to have discussions about anti-Black racism and equity in their departments, faculties, labs, and classrooms.

Recognizing the necessity of having open conversations about anti-Black racism, the Queen’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science (FEAS) held a panel discussion on the day called Let’s Talk about Race in STEM. The panel consisted of Black students in FEAS, FEAS students from other racialized groups, and FEAS and Queen’s administrators. Bringing together faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members, nearly 300 people attended the conversation on Zoom.

“I’ve been hearing from many staff, faculty, and students in engineering who are feeling overwhelmed by this momentous period we’re living through. We need to examine racist issues in our community, and find out what we can do about them. We felt it was important to participate in Shut Down STEM today, but we also know it’s just one of many steps to continue moving in a direction of change,” says Kevin Deluzio, Dean of FEAS, during the event.

“This is a complex problem that needs action, and we’re in it for the long haul,” he added during his closing remarks. 

Responding to questions from the community, the FEAS student panelists spoke about a variety of important aspects of racism in STEM.  For example, a group of current FEAS students shared their experiences with racism and ideas they have for promoting a more diverse and equitable campus. And Amir Fam, Associate Dean, Research in FEAS, addressed some ways in which researchers can confront anti-racism and promote inclusivity in their work.

“The turnout was impressive and it was encouraging to see the dean so willing to listen to our shared experiences. It is important to normalize such discussions which were was once ‘too uncomfortable’, as the Queen’s community is not excluded from the issue of systemic racism, and I hope that the faculty can retain this momentum to turn these conversations into actions," says Geneviève Norris-Roozmon, one of the FEAS student panelists for the event.

Stephanie Simpson, Associate Vice-Principal (Human Rights, Equity, and Inclusion) was also on hand during the conversation. She discussed some of the steps that Queen’s is taking at an institutional level to fight against anti-Black racism. And Simpson noted that while a lot of progress has been made on campus there is still much work to be done.

Leading up to the panel discussion, Dean Deluzio sent a message to all students, staff, and faculty in FEAS about how to be an advocate for standing up to anti-Black racism in STEM. He suggested that all members of the FEAS community take steps to self-educate, communicate, and act. And he directed them to resources to help guide them.

“We have much to do. But I believe that our Engineering community is ready and willing to embrace this call for change. Our future depends on a more equitable society. Let’s be better,” Dean Deluzio wrote at the conclusion of his message.

Brenda Brouwer, Dean (Interim) of the Smith School of Business, sent a similar message to the Smith community, in which she announced that the school will be holding discussion forums on racism in the coming weeks.

“We must actively engage our community in eliminating racism in all its forms and we must also recognize the pain that many are experiencing. I ask that everyone take the time to reflect on these matters and consider our own role and responsibility in promoting a culture of inclusion, dignity and respect,” Dean Brouwer wrote.

For students seeking help in coping with current events, student support counsellors are available, as well as Empower Me and Good2Talk, which can provide 24/7 access to a counsellor. Staff and faculty may access support through our Employee and Family Assistance (EFAP) program. Our Human Rights and Equity Office is also available to consult with any member of our university community.

Showcasing the Art of Research – photo essay

The Queen’s Art of Research photo contest celebrates its fifth year, with the selection of ten winning images.

It was another record-breaking year for the Art of Research photo contest, with more than 100 faculty, staff, students, and alumni submitting engaging and thought-provoking research images. The 2020 competition is the largest in the contest’s five-year history, with images winning 10 category and special prizes.

The Art of Research image take us behind-the-scenes of the everyday research experience. From images capturing remote fieldwork to invisible particles under the microscope, the Art of Research seeks to spark curiosity and visualize the ground-breaking research happening at Queen’s. The contest strives to represent the diversity and creativity of Queen’s research, with winners representing multiple disciplines and submissions highlighting research happening at all career stages. This year’s winners will be featured in a digital photo gallery showcasing the contest’s winners and top submissions from the past five years on the Research@Queen’s website.

Category: Invisible Discoveries

[Photograph is of a water-swollen hydrogel particle]

Porous Plastic Particle

Submitted by: Ross Jansen-van Vuuren, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Chemistry

Location of Photo: Bruce Hall, SEM Lab, Queen’s University

Description of Photo: The photograph is of a water-swollen hydrogel particle created in our chemistry laboratory, taken with an instrument called a Scanning Electron Microscope, which allows us to zone in and see important details on the surface of the hydrogel. A hydrogel is essentially a plastic material that is able to absorb very large volumes of water (up to 800 times its weight!) – much like a baby diaper, swelling as it does so. From the image, the surface of the hydrogel is seen to possess large, distinctive pores, which help us understand how and why hydrogels absorb so much liquid.

Category: Out in the Field

[Aerial view algal blooms in South Frontenac County]

Nature's van Gogh

Submitted by: Hayden Wainwright, Student (MSc), Biology

Location of Photo: South Frontenac County, Ontario, Canada

Description of Photo: Algal blooms appear as smears of green slime from the ground, but are beautiful pieces of abstract art from an aerial view, painted by wind and sunlight. My research takes me to lakes on the Canadian Shield affected by blooms, where I photograph them with a drone while assistants help me collect water samples. By uncovering when, where, and why they appear, we hope to restore some of Canada’s most beautiful lakes to their pristine states.

Category: Best Description

[Aerial photograph of the Adelabu Market in Ibadan, Nigeria]

Under the Umbrella

Submitted by: Grace Adeniyi-Ogunyankin, Faculty, Gender Studies; Geography and Planning

Location of Photo: Ibadan, Nigeria

Description of Photo: On a very hot day, I went to the Adelabu Market in Ibadan, Nigeria, to meet Sarah. Several phone calls later, we found each other. She brought me inside a nearly abandoned plaza. “Less noisy,” she said. We climbed up to the highest floor. During the interview, she told me her livelihood as a market woman funded her children’s education. Rain or shine, she is at the market every day, under her umbrella. When we finished the interview, I looked down. What a view! As I snapped a photo, I wondered: “What are the stories of the other people under the umbrellas?”

Category: Art in Action

[Diffusion Spectrum Imaging (DSI) depicting diffusion of water throughout the brain]

The Wiring of the Brain

Submitted by: Donald Brien, Staff, Centre for Neuroscience Studies

Location of Photo: Centre for Neuroscience Studies, MRI Facility, Queen’s University

Description of Photo: An example of Diffusion Spectrum Imaging (DSI) from Queen’s new Prisma Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Some of the most beautiful images generated by MRI are created by imaging the diffusion (movement) of water throughout the brain. From this diffusion, we can generate maps of the neuron connections that are responsible for carrying messages from one area of the brain to another. Seen here, they are coded by direction, such that blue tracts move from foot to head, red tracts move from left to right in the head, and green tracts move from the front to the back of the head.  There are 30,000 tracts displayed in this image. By adulthood, the average person has ~160,000 km total length of these tracts.

Category: Community Collaborations

[A group of researchers collaborating in a space with mobile robots]

Researchers at Offroad Robotics

Submitted by: Heshan Fernando, Student (PhD), Mechanical and Materials Engineering

Location of Photo: Jackson Hall, Queen’s University

Description of Photo: A group of multidisciplinary engineering researchers with expertise in mining and construction applications, mechanical and mechatronics systems, as well as electrical and computer engineering collaborate to develop the next generation of field and mobile robots.

Category: People's Choice

[Researchers and community members travelling on snowmobiles]

Learning from the Land

Submitted by: Sarah Flisikowski, Student (MES), School of Environmental Studies

Location of Photo: Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories, Canada

Description of Photo: The transmission and documentation of traditional knowledge and skills is of great importance to Inuit, especially considering the continuing social, environmental, and economic changes in the Arctic. I am examining how Inuit traditional knowledge is generated and shared through a case study of an existing project in Ulukhaktok called Nunamin Illihakvia, which means "learning from the land" in Inuinnaqtun. Participants from other Inuvialuit communities were invited to travel to Ulukhaktok in February 2020 to participate in cultural activities that promoted discussion on what a cultural learning program should include. This photo shows our first trip out on Queen's Bay together.


Sponsored by Kingston General Health Research Institute

[Patient care simulation depicting one researcher and one patient]

This is EPIC: Simulation Education with Patient Actors to Improve Care

Submitted by: Monakshi Sawhney, Faculty, School of Nursing

Location of Photo: Education and Research Centre, North York General Hospital, Toronto, Ontario

Description of Photo: Simulation education, using standardized patient actors, is a unique way to provide education in health care settings to practicing clinicians. It is an opportunity to practice assessment skills and critical thinking in a safe environment that mimics the patient care setting. Our team implemented this concept at a hospital in Toronto, with a focus on researching the outcomes of a simulation intervention for nurses who care for patients receiving epidural analgesia for pain management after surgery. This photograph depicts the real-to-life patient care environment that was created for this study.

Graduate Studies Prize

Sponsored by the School of Graduate Studies

[Fish eye lens photograph of Dog Lake]

Shattered Planet

Submitted by: Allen Tian, Student (MSc), Biology

Location of Photo: Milburn Bay, Dog Lake, South Frontenac County, Ontario, Canada

Description of Photo: The impact of human activity on our planet is often difficult to see in the moment, and requires a long-term, overlooking, view. This photo is a drone panorama of my field site on the Rideau Canal System, where I investigate the impact of human activity on aquatic ecosystems, particularly the development of toxic algal blooms. Activities such as fishing, property development and farming have fragmented and altered this ecosystem, and we need a holistic, broader view to piece together how we can protect our delicate, beautiful, world.

Innovation, Knowledge Mobilization, and Entrepreneurship Prize

Sponsored by Partnerships and Innovation

[Photograph of a leg being prepared for dynamic X-ray video]

Propelling Research

Submitted by: Lauren Welte, Student (PhD), Mechanical and Materials Engineering

Location of Photo: Skeletal Observation Laboratory, Queen’s University

Description of Photo: Our feet make contact with the ground millions of times within our lifetime, yet we still do not completely understand how they function. Using dynamic X-ray video, we image foot bones in ways we could only previously imagine.  Recent work has questioned several popular theories about soft tissue function in the arch. Ongoing research aims to understand healthy foot function, to better inform treatments for foot pain. This research has the capacity to propel our understanding of foot function forward.

Health Sciences Prize

Sponsored by the Faculty of Health Sciences

[Microscopic photo of cells within a brain region]

A Glance in the Brain

Submitted by: Natalia de Menezes Lyra e Silva, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Centre for Neuroscience Studies

Location of Photo: Centre for Neuroscience Studies, Queen’s University

Description of Photo: The primate brain is highly specialized, allowing us an incredible range of experiences. This microscopic photo captures cells within a brain region, the hippocampus, involved with learning and memory. Every lived experience that we are able to remember has boosted the formation of new connections in our brains. These connections are affected in diseases that impair memory, such as Alzheimer's disease (AD). Here, we can observe cells involved with the brain inflammatory response. These cells are upregulated in the brains of AD patients. This technique allows us to better understand how our brains work and how they are altered by diseases.


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.

Kerry Rowe honoured for leadership in geotechnical engineering

Kerry Rowe (Civil Engineering) was recently recognized by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the world largest civil engineering professional society, for his leadership in geotechnical engineering research and practices. His ground-breaking work studying contaminants and waste containment is addressing some of the most complex challenges facing our world today, including how we manage the increasing amount of technological waste and chemicals that threaten our planet’s fragile ecosystem.

Geotechnical engineering involves the application of soil mechanics and hydrogeology to understand and solve problems involving the ground and the water within it. For Dr. Rowe, a major area of interest is the design of landfills and the containment of the materials within them. He notes that the 1978 state of emergency in Niagara Falls, where toxic materials were found near the city’s Love Canal neighbourhood, had a major impact on his research focus.

“I knew we had to find a better way to do this, and I wanted to be part of that,” he says.

As use of technology increases, so does the quantity of hazardous materials that are thrown away. Traditional waste types continue to need disposal but electronic waste such as smart phones and computers, as well as increasingly sophisticated children’s toys, Teflon cooking utensils, fire resistant fabrics, modern odourless socks, scratchproof eyeglasses, crack-resistant paints, transparent sunscreens, and stain-repellent fabric are now routinely discarded, resulting in a precarious mix of toxic elements in our landfills. Dr. Rowe’s research includes the design of landfills that can mitigate the effects of this waste.

Dr. Rowe notes that it’s critical to think about the long-term effects of products and the chemicals that are contained within them, such as elements found in fire-retardant or plastic products.

“Sometimes chemicals originally designed to solve one problem end up causing another,” he says. “We can’t just design products without looking at the potential long-term, unintended consequences.” 

His research focusing on the long-term performance of contaminants reflects his commitment to this approach, with one currently published paper revealing the results of a 17 year-long study.

“That’s three generations of PhD students,” he laughs.

Dr. Rowe has contributed to projects around the world, and cites work in both the Arctic and Antarctica as being some of most interesting. There, they are looking at how to remediate soil using new materials under extreme weather conditions, which could then be replicated in other cold-weather regions.

Dr. Rowe’s ASCE honour adds to over 120 other awards received over his long and illustrious career.

Read more about his research on the Research@Queen’s website.

Visit Queen’s campus through Minecraft

Students from the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science recreate the university’s buildings one block at a time.

  • Jackson Hall
    Jackson Hall
  • Nicol Hall
    Nicol Hall
  • Ellis Hall
    Ellis Hall
  • Agnes Etherington Art Centre
    Agnes Etherington Art Centre
  • Jeffery Hall
    Jeffery Hall
  • Chernoff Hall
    Chernoff Hall
  • Douglas Library
    Douglas Library
  • Stirling Hall
    Stirling Hall

The majority of the Queen’s community may not be able to visit campus physically, but now, thanks to three engineering students, they can experience it virtually through the popular online game Minecraft.

Minecraft is a first-person 3D sandbox game with no specific goals to accomplish. Players are free to explore worlds, build in 3D, play multiplayer online, and experience different game modes. The game is composed of 3D objects, mainly cubes, known as “blocks” that represent dirt, stone, ore, tree trunks, water, lava, and much more. The core gameplay involves mining and arranging these blocks, as well as combining them to create, or ‘craft’, new items and tools.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students have had to finish the semester remotely and Spring Convocation ceremonies have been moved to a later date. As part of the graduating class of 2020, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science students Vasa Shpatrov, Cooper Harasyn, and Alexander McKinnon decided to recreate a virtual Queen’s campus after being inspired by a graduation ceremony held in Minecraft by students in Japan.

“We really wanted to give students a way to experience Queen’s campus without being there physically,” says Harasyn.

The team used an existing tool and their programming knowledge to import the layout of the university district and surrounding area (roads, 2D building shapes, elevation, etc.) as a template for building.

The server, which is open mainly for current students, has already had over 100 unique players join, and more than 25 players registered to help build the campus.

“Many people are really passionate about building their favourite building(s) and have spent hours working on some amazing builds,” says McKinnon. “Some have even begun building their own student houses in the surrounding university district.”

Shpatrov, Harasyn, and McKinnon have also included a survival world for a more casual experience and have future plans to expand the server to include classic Minecraft mini-games, like hide-and-seek, and possibly advertise it in September to expand access to the Queen’s community. Shpatrov notes that players can include their year and program on their characters to ‘meet’ their peers.

“It’s a great way to relax, and to unite past, present, and future Queen’s students,” he says

Visit the project’s website to see the team’s progress.

Vote in the Art of Research photo contest

The Queen’s community has until June 3 to vote for the People’s Choice winner as the Art of Research celebrates its fifth year.

[Photo of a Renaissance statute - Art of Research Photo Contest]
Art of Research Winner 2016: Santa Fina – Submitted by Una D'Elia (Faculty, Art History and Art Conservation)

Have your say in promoting the beauty and creativity of research happening at Queen’s. Voting is now open for the People’s Choice category in the fifth annual Art of Research photo contest.

Hosted by the Office of the Vice-Principal (University Relations), the contest is an opportunity for researchers to mobilize their research and spark curiosity. By looking at research from a different perspective, it is possible to find the beauty and art in any project. More than 100 submissions were received this year from faculty, staff, students, and alumni representing multiple disciplines and research happening at all career stages.

Contest Prizes

The People’s Choice is one of the annual contest’s category prizes celebrating Community Collaborations, Invisible Discoveries, Out in the Field, Art in Action, and Best Caption. For the fifth anniversary of the contest, four special prizes were sponsored by Partnerships and Innovation, the School of Graduate Studies, the Faculty of Health Sciences, and Kingston General Hospital Research Institute. Images selected for the People’s Choice vote are entries that generated discussion and were shortlisted by the adjudication committee. All prizes come with a monetary prize of $500.

Cast Your Vote

The survey closes on June 3 at midnight. To learn more about past contest winners, visit the Research@Queen’s website.

2020 Art of Research Adjudication Committee

Amanda Gilbert, Communications Coordinator, Partnerships and Innovation

Amir Fam, Associate Dean (Research), Engineering and Applied Sciences

Betsy Donald, Associate Dean, Graduate Studies

Brenda Paul, Associate Vice-Principal (Integrated Communications)

Dave Rideout, Senior Communications Officer, Integrated Communications

Efkan Oguz, PhD Candidate, Department of Cultural Studies

Elizabeth Cooper, Communications Coordinator, Faculty of Health Sciences

Elliot Ferguson, Multimedia Journalist, The Kingston Whig Standard

Laila Haidarali, Associate Professor and Graduate Chair, Department of Gender Studies

Lavie Williams, Inclusion and Anti-Racism Advisor, Human Rights and Equity Office

Mary Anne Beaudette, Research Knowledge Mobilization Officer, KGH Research Institute

Mary Beth Gauthier, Communications Manager, Office of the Principal

Mona Rahman, Communications and Research Activities, Office of the VP (Research)

Tina Fisher, Director, Brand and Insights, Integrated Communications

Sandra den Otter, Associate Vice-Principal (Research and International)

Yolande Chan, Associate Dean (Research), Smith School of Business

[Photo of UV light train - Art of Research Photo Contest]
Art of Research Winner 2019: A New Light – Submitted by Robert Cichocki (PhD Student, Civil Engineering)

Celebrating graduates during COVID-19

Principal, Chancellor, and Rector share special video messages with the class of 2020 to mark important milestone.


Student waving Queen's flag.
Lists of conferred graduates will appear on the new Registrar web page over the coming weeks.

As public health officials continue to respond to COVID-19, the class of 2020 is marking their graduation under truly unprecedented circumstances. Since traditional convocation ceremonies have been delayed until safety guidelines permit, Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane, Chancellor Jim Leech, and Rector Sam Hiemstra, have shared special video messages of congratulations with graduates to mark this important milestone.

“This has been an amazing academic year, and I’ve thought a lot about the situation of our students bringing their careers to a close in what is an absolutely unprecedented set of circumstances,” says Principal Deane. “The big celebration with the robes, the music, and the applause – that will have to wait. In the meantime, congratulations! You have my deepest admiration, and best wishes for the future.”

The video messages have been shared as part of a new degree conferral and graduation activity webpage, which will also highlight evolving lists of graduates that will be added as they are conferred over the coming days and weeks. With in-person ceremonies postponed for an indeterminant period, many of the faculties are looking to celebrate graduates in a variety of virtual ways, and degrees will be mailed directly to them over the coming weeks. These activities will be highlighted on this page as they become available as well.

“We want to take this moment to congratulate you for completing your studies, and thus, earning your degrees, diplomas and certificates,” says Chancellor Leech. “You should be proud of your accomplishments, and that you are now a full-fledged member of Queen’s alumni.”

Planning is underway to offer in-person celebrations to ensure the university is ready to offer Spring 2020 graduates the experience they deserve, once conditions allow.

“During a traditional ceremony, we would soon gather outside of Ontario Hall, admiring the gardens and feeling the iconic Kingston warm breeze as we take photos and reminisce,” says Rector Hiemstra. “While that may not be happening today, from the bottom of my heart, I want you all to know that you are celebrated and valued.”

Learn more on the degree conferral and graduation activities webpage. Queen’s will update Spring 2020 graduates on planning for in-person ceremonies as pandemic response guidelines continue to evolve.

Research@Queen’s: Championing AI for social justice

How Queen’s researchers are using AI to level the legal playing field for Canadians, including those affected by COVID-19 unemployment.

Research at Queen's

Queen's researcher Samuel Dahan is focused on making legal services more equitable, and he knows all about winning and losing disputes in battle, and the importance of a level playing field for combatants. While researching alternative dispute resolution for his PhD in law at the University of Cambridge, this versatile, black-belt competitor won many bouts in the ring as Cambridge taekwondo team captain and a varsity kickboxer. He also earned medals in the French taekwondo nationals, and the French and British kickboxing championships.

Discover Research@Queen’s
Did you know that the university recently launched a new central website for Queen’s research? From in-depth features to the latest information on how our researchers are confronting COVID-19, the site is a destination showcasing the impact of Queen’s research. Discover Research@Queen’s.

“In martial arts competition, you don’t want to fight someone less experienced than you or someone better than you. Fights are arranged so there is a balance of power,” says Dahan, Director of the Conflict Analytics Lab and assistant professor in the Faculty of Law at Queen’s University. “But fighting is the worst scenario for settling disputes in the real world."

Dahan has teamed up with Xiaodan Zhu, assistant professor in the Ingenuity Labs Research Institute and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Queen’s, to develop an AI (artificial intelligence)-powered set of tools to help level the legal playing field for lower- and middle-income Canadians.

In the wake of COVID-19 unemployment, Dahan and collaborators also recently launched MyOpenCourt.org, an open access app to help recently laid off workers.

Continue the story on the Research@Queen’s website.

Samuel Dahan and Xiaodan Zu

Samuel Dahan, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Law, teamed up with Xiaodan Zhu, assistant professor in the Ingenuity Labs Research Institute and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, to develop an AI-powered set of tools to help level the legal playing field for lower- and middle-income Canadians. (Photograph was taken before social distancing measures were implemented.)

Queen’s launches AI-enhanced tools for those affected by pandemic layoffs

MyOpenCourt, a project of the Conflict Analytics Lab at the Faculty of Law and Smith School of Business, helps out-of-work Canadians to understand their legal rights and options.

MyOpenCourt, a project of the Conflict Analytics Lab at the Faculty of Law and Smith School of Business,
MyOpenCourt currently features two free and simple-to-use web-based tools that harness artificial intelligence and data science technologies. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, millions of Canadians are out of work and facing uncertainty about returning. These circumstances can put workers, particularly those in ‘gig economy’ jobs, in situations where their legal rights are unclear. 

MyOpenCourt, a project of the Conflict Analytics Lab at Queen’s University’s Faculty of Law and Smith School of Business, will now help these workers understand their rights – and options. 

“Most Canadian workers cannot afford an employment lawyer, or live in areas with few skilled employment law experts,” says Samuel Dahan, Director of the Conflict Analytics Lab and a professor in the Faculty of Law with a cross-appointment to Smith. “Since COVID-19’s arrival in Canada, we have seen nearly 2 million jobs lost with terminations and layoffs across many different sectors, and decided to launch our tools to help Canadians who have lost work.”

MyOpenCourt currently features two free and simple-to-use web-based tools that harness artificial intelligence and data science technologies. Both are available at the project site at myopencourt.org

The “Am I an employee or contractor?” application can determine the likelihood that a work arrangement is an employment relationship or that of a contractor through a fast, anonymous questionnaire.

Workers who believe they have been wrongfully dismissed can use the “How much severance am I entitled to?” tool to calculate reasonable notice for dismissal.

“These tools are as valuable for employers as they are for workers,” Professor Dahan says. “Navigating employer-contractor relationships is challenging, and severance is difficult to calculate. We hope to provide both workers and employers with ways to avoid pitfalls and find equitable solutions to the challenges created by the pandemic.” 

Powerful AI technology lies behind both tools. Working from thousands of Canadian employment law cases, MyOpenCourt can make predictions that can offer guidance to workers in these uncertain situations. While these applications cannot take the place of a lawyer, they can help users understand if they have a case before contacting one.

Should a user discover they have a case, MyOpenCourt will automatically connect the user to a partner law firm at no cost. 

The MyOpenCourt tools have been developed by students and researchers at Queen’s Law, the Smith Master of Management in Artificial Intelligence, Queen’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, and partners like McGill University and institutions based in the U.S. and Europe. Professor Maxime Cohen of McGill and Professor Jonathan Touboul of Brandeis University provided data science expertise, helping to translate the case data into predictions.

“We are thrilled that the Conflict Analytics Lab has been able to launch this platform, at a time when these tools will be able to help many Canadians,” says Yuri Levin, Executive Director of the Analytics and AI ecosystem at Smith and an instrumental player in the creation of the Conflict Analytics Lab.

 MyOpenCourt reasonable notice calculator cannot currently be used to generate case outcomes for Québec-based users.

To learn more about the work of the Conflict Analytics Lab, visit conflictanalytics.queenslaw.ca

About Conflict Analytics Lab

The Conflict Analytics Lab (CAL) strives to build a fairer future by improving access to justice.

We are experts in applying artificial intelligence to help resolve conflicts in a transparent, consistent, and innovative manner all over the world.

Housed at Queen’s University, the CAL combines academics, technology experts, and the legal industry to revolutionize the way we approach conflicts and better serve those who cannot afford traditional justice. 


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