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Engineering and Applied Science

Queen's commemorates 30th anniversary of l’École Polytechnique massacre

Permanent memorial announced as university marks National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

  • Queen's Engineering and Applied Science students, staff, and faculty lighting candles as the ceremony begins.
    Queen's Engineering and Applied Science students, staff, and faculty lighting candles as the ceremony begins.
  • The Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, Kevin Deluzio, delivering opening remarks.
    The Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, Kevin Deluzio, delivering opening remarks.
  • Queen's Engineering and Applied Science students, staff, and faculty commemorating each of those killed in the attack.
    Queen's Engineering and Applied Science students, staff, and faculty commemorating each of those killed in the attack.
  • Civil engineering student Haley Adams speaking about her design for a permanent Dec. 6 memorial that will be installed on campus in 2020.
    Civil engineering student Haley Adams speaking about her design for a permanent Dec. 6 memorial that will be installed on campus in 2020.
  • Jean Hutchinson, Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering, speaking about the importance of equity and inclusion in engineering.
    Jean Hutchinson, Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering, speaking about the importance of equity and inclusion in engineering.

The Queen’s community marked the 30th anniversary of the killing of 14 women at Montreal’s l’École Polytechnique on Friday.

Queen’s alumna included in online tribute

To commemorate the Dec. 6 tragedy and to promote the work of female engineers across Canada, Engineering Deans Canada invited each of the Canadian engineering schools that offered an accredited engineering program in 1989 to put forward the story of an engineering alumna who graduated within three years of the massacre (1986-1992), and whose career exemplifies the value that women bring to the engineering profession and to society. Queen’s is represented by Andrea Baptiste (Sc’88), an accomplished senior executive and entrepreneur who currently leads the Startup Ecosystem for Canada at Amazon. Her profile, and the other successful nominees, can be viewed at 30yearslater.ca.

During the ceremony, organized and hosted by the Engineering Society of Queen’s University, engineering students, staff, and faculty held roses, lit candles, and read brief statements about each victim and their accomplishments.

The event, held in the lobby of the Integrated Learning Centre, was attended by dozens of Queen’s community members, including students, faculty, staff, and administration members.

Twelve female engineering students, a nurse, and a faculty member were killed in the 1989 massacre. Three years after the attack, Dec. 6 was declared the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

Following the event, Kevin Deluzio, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, announced the design that has been selected for a permanent Dec. 6 memorial in the Integrated Learning Centre. Created by Haley Adams, a third-year civil engineering student, the piece will be installed in 2020.

A call for designs, open to all members of the Queen’s community, was issued earlier this year by Dean Deluzio and the Engineering Society’s Memorial Design Committee.

Research @ Queen’s: Engineering environmental solutions

Leachate, liners, landfills, and learning – how Queen’s researcher Kerry Rowe is working with, instead of against, nature to solve an environmental problem.

Kerry Rowe, Canada Research Chair in Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering and professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, researches landfill management and is developing techniques that work with nature rather than fighting nature. (Photo by Bernard Clark / University Communications)

“Part of what we’ve been doing is developing techniques [for landfills] that work with nature rather than fighting nature, and trying to make nature work for us instead of against us.” Kerry Rowe

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 the university’s researchers, the site is a destination showcasing the impact of Queen’s research. Discover Research at Queen’s.

Human beings have undoubtedly been throwing things away for as long as we have had things to throw. These ancient middens – the predecessors of our modern landfills – provide a treasure trove of artefacts for archaeologists, who sift through discarded items for clues to how people once lived.

Today’s dumpsites may well offer up similar insights to future investigators, but they are already revealing a great deal about how our environmental sensibilities have evolved over the last 60 or 70 years.

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

Queen’s names its next Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic)

Mark F. Green will assume the role in March 2020.

Mark F. Green
Mark F. Green will begin his five-year term as Provost and Vice-Principal on March 1, 2020.

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane announced Mark F. Green (Sc’87) will serve as Queen’s University's next Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic). Dr. Green is a skilled and respected administrator, accomplished researcher, admired teacher, and champion of diversity and inclusivity who currently holds the position of Vice Dean (Graduate Studies and Recruitment) at the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science at Queen’s. He will begin his five-year term as Provost on March 1, 2020, succeeding Interim Provost Tom Harris.

“At a time when the university is embarking on a new vision, Dr. Green’s widely known and acknowledged ability to engage and lead others through consensus will be invaluable,” says Principal Deane. “He is a globally recognized scholar, an experienced administrator, and an admired teacher. His unique perspective and diversity of experience will contribute greatly to our institution’s aspirations and vision for the future.”

Dr. Green has a long history at Queen’s, having completed his undergraduate work here in 1987, and returning to undertake a post-doctoral fellowship after earning his PhD at the University of Cambridge. He was granted full professorship at Queen’s in 2001, and served as Acting Associate Academic Dean (2013),  Acting Head (2000, 2014-15) and Associate Head (2009-13, 2015-18) in the Department of Civil Engineering.

Dr. Green is an international research scholar in structural engineering whose award-winning work focuses on enabling structures, such as bridges, to withstand extreme conditions, and more recently on sustainable engineering technologies. He also champions multidisciplinary approaches to academic endeavours and has been cross-appointed to both the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and the Faculty of Education.

“It is a great privilege to accept this opportunity here at Queen’s, a place that has served as the backdrop for much of my educational and professional life,” says Dr. Green.  “Queen’s is an exceptional institution with an incredible community of students, staff, faculty, and alumni, and I look forward to working together with them in my new role as Provost.”

Dr. Green is a member of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte and has an active interest in encouraging and supporting diversity and inclusivity throughout the university. He was the co-chair of the Queen’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force, as well as an advisor to the Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion (PICRDI). He is also an advisor to the Dean of Engineering and Applied Science on the development of an Aboriginal Access to Engineering Initiative, previously served as Co-Chair of the Aboriginal Council of Queen’s University and as Chair of the First Nations Technical Institute.

Dr. Harris was appointed Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) in 2018. He will retire from the position when Dr. Green assumes the role in March 2020.

“I want to express my utmost gratitude to Provost Harris for his dedication to the interim appointment and for his many years of service to Queen’s,” says Principal Deane. “Provost Harris brought a wealth of experience to the role and has been invaluable to me in this time of transition."

Members of the advisory selection committee:

The search for Queen’s University’s next Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) was conducted by an advisory selection committee chaired by Daniel Woolf and Patrick Deane. The committee included representation from across the administration, faculty, and student body. Membership included:

  • Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor (Chair)
  • Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor Designate (Chair)
  • Jeremy Ambraska, SGPS President
  • Liying Cheng, Professor, Faculty of Education
  • Cathy Crudden, Professor, Chemistry
  • Kevin Deluzio, Dean, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science
  • Janice Hill, Associate Vice-Principal (Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation)
  • Donna Janiec, Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration)
  • Ram Murty, Professor, Mathematics
  • Auston Pierce, AMS President
  • Fahim Quadir, Dean, School of Graduate Studies
  • Stephanie Simpson, Associate Vice-Principal (Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion)
  • Christine Sypnowich, Professor, Philosophy
  • Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research)

Highlighting interdisciplinary graduate research

[Keynote Speaker, Dr. Matt Hipsey presenting to Beaty Water Research Centre students and faculty]
[Keynote Speaker, Dr. Matt Hipsey of University of Western Australia, presents to Beaty Water Research Centre students and faculty. (Supplied photo)

The Beaty Water Research Centre recently hosted its second annual Research Symposium which provided students the opportunity to highlight their interdisciplinary graduate research and to build research collaborations.

This year’s event was attended by more than 100 participants and showcased 27 student research posters and four oral student research presentations from a variety of disciplines. The keynote speaker was Matt Hipsey, a professor from the University of Western Australia, who provided an international perspective to water research and innovation.

The Beaty Water Research Centre is an interdisciplinary research, education and outreach centre focused on water quality, access, sustainability, resources and governance. Researchers include faculty members from a variety of disciplines in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, Faculty of Arts and Science, and Faculty of Health Sciences at Queen’s and the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC).

Creating LEADERS

Earlier in the year, the centre hosted the first LEaders in wAter anD watERshed Sustainability (LEADERS) Symposium. The LEADERS program is led by Stephen Brown, professor in the departments of Chemistry and Environmental Studies at Queen’s. The program is funded – $1.65 million over six years – through the NSERC Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) and was launched in 2018.

The first cohort of highly-qualified personnel to the program was recruited earlier this year through a competitive application process and in July these students participated in the first LEADERS Research Symposium and training workshop. This two-day event not only allowed students to present their research, it also provided them with the opportunity to receive feedback from leading researchers in disciplines such as engineering, environmental studies, chemistry, biology, policy studies, business, and public health, and provided a field method workshop at the Kennedy Station, a 200-acre scientific station located on the Salmon River Watershed near Tamworth.

[Beaty Water Research Centre symposium award winners]
A number of awards were handed out during the research symposium. Poster winners include Alexandria Cushing, first place  (third from left); Nada Sadeq, second place (not pictured); and Eden Hataley (left) and Katrina Paudyn, third place (second from left). Oral presentation winner David Patch is at right. (Supplied photo)

“The LEADERS symposium broadened my understanding of how my research project has broader implications across disciplines. The field methods workshop provided me with greater understanding of some of the challenges with field research which will help not only with my research, but also in my career post graduation,” says Madeleine Kelly a Master’s of Environmental Studies student in Dr. Brown’s research group at Queen’s.

The centre’s research symposiums and workshops allow students to broaden their understanding of their research through facilitated interdisciplinary networking sessions. 

“The Beaty Water Research Centre encourages collaborative interdisciplinary research, education and outreach, and the research symposium and the LEADERS program truly embodies our vision,” says Beaty Director Pascale Champagne, Canada Research Chair in Bioresource Engineering.

This year’s top poster awards went to Alexandria Cushing (first), Nada Sadeq (second), and Katrina Paudyn and Eden Hataley (third). The top oral presentation award went to David Patch.

Symposium sponsors included Kingston Economic Development Corporation, SHOWA, and Queen’s School of Graduate Studies. 

Helping web developers fix bugs faster

Ying (Jenny) Zou is a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and Canada Research Chair in Software Evolution. (University Communications)

Your phone or laptop screen is flickering, and your browser’s fonts are all wonky. The results of your search for a cheap flight to San Francisco at the right time or a funky room at a bargain rate are taking what seems like forever. It’s annoying, frustrating, time consuming. And it interferes with your ability to do what you need or want to do online, whether it’s booking a hotel or a flight, comparing options to buy a new car, or getting the vital stats that you need for a design or a sales presentation at work.

Software engineer Ying (Jenny) Zou is an expert in triaging and fixing the bugs that drive hundreds of millions of users crazy each moment of every day when using web browsers like Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome.

“All these web services have very large user bases. We help developers fix bugs faster by using data mining and machine learning to analyze the history of the previously reported bugs by developers and users,” says Dr. Zou, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and a Canada Research Chair in Software Evolution.

Dr. Zou and her research team have developed new triaging techniques for analyzing and prioritizing crash types by frequency, severity, and repair difficulty. These clustering techniques help Mozilla Firefox developers make better decisions about which crash types should be fixed and when, speeding up and improving the process of repairing bugs in existing and new releases of complex software systems.

“Firefox receives millions of crash reports every day. The Mozilla developers and maintainers can leverage our work to speed up the triaging and eventual repair of bugs impacting millions of users worldwide,” says Dr. Zou, who is cross-appointed to the School of Computing at Queen’s.

Her current research with her PhD student, Mariam El Mezouar, analyzes social media data to identify which bugs users complain about the most.

“We helped Mozilla identify bugs that are more likely to be severe, if they are reported by a large number of tweets,” says Dr. Zou.

More broadly, Dr. Zou’s research program supports the evolution of service-oriented architecture (SOA) applications – including finance, e-commerce, and healthcare applications – by ensuring the delivery of reliable services with enhanced user experiences.

“When SOA applications fail, the repercussions are huge, with major impacts on our daily lives and on the success of companies that use the applications. We provide techniques and tools to ensure the SOA systems remain healthy and agile in response to the large user base and rapidly changing requirements,” says Dr. Zou, who is also a visiting scientist at the IBM Centers for Advanced Studies.

Dr. Zou has twice won IBM Faculty Awards, which are international prize that recognize the quality of one’s research program and its importance to industry, and was chosen as the 2014 IBM CAS Research Faculty Fellow of the Year. Her research at Queen’s in collaboration with IBM focuses on web services integration. The goal is to enhance online user experiences such as shopping. To buy a pair of boots, for example, a user may browse various e-commerce sites to compare products and consult user reviews. Essentially, users need to compose various services when buying boots, and face many options when choosing services. They also have to search for different kinds of information, such as price and user rating, which can affect their decisions about selecting the most appropriate services to reach their goals.

“It becomes tedious and cumbersome for users to discover and compose services that achieve their overall shopping goals,” says Dr. Zou.

Dr. Zou and her research team developed approaches to overcome several key challenges with existing web services. These challenges include limited and rigid options for users to specify their personalized preferences; conflicting preferences, like wanting a lower price for boots but a high user rating; and no prioritization of various preferences. Her solutions involved automatically learning user preferences to personalize how the user chooses services and provide tailored recommendations to help users select the most appropriate web services to meet their shopping goals.

“We worked with IBM to learn user preferences and rank different options for users using machine learning. This reduces the overloading of information for users and helps them come up with better choices faster,” she explains.

Dr. Zou is now collaborating with IBM on the development of future products that personalize and customize the integration of web services for the consumer.

“In the past, all service integrations were done by developers, giving users limited choices,” she says.

Her work aims at giving users more control and more decisions about the services that they need rather than letting developers give them just a few choices.

“We want to build a personal assistant to alert users to opportunities. Future products would personalize the daily activities for users based on their history and preferences,” says Dr. Zou.

For more information, visit Dr. Zou’s website.

This article was first published on the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science website.

An out-of-this-world Science Formal

  • Fourth-year students of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science are busy finishing their work for the 117th annual Science Formal.
    Fourth-year students of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science are busy finishing their work for the 117th annual Science Formal. (University Communications)
  • Painting for Science Formal
    A team of students from the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science work on the decorations for the Science Formal '20. (University Communications)
  • Sarah Hatherly, Science Formal convener
    Convener Sarah Hatherly and the rest of the organizing committee have been busy for months planning Science Formal '20. (University Communications)
  • Fourth-year students of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science are busy finishing their work for the 117th annual Science Formal.
    Student volunteers are busy constructing the two-storey structure that is the centrepiece of the Science Formal in Grant Hall. (University Communications)

The stars will be coming out this weekend as the 117th Science Formal is being hosted at Grant Hall on Saturday, Nov. 2.

Currently a busy construction site, Grant Hall is being turned into a Starry Night spacescape, including an elaborate two-storey structure. Dozens of students, including the organizing committee, have volunteered their time planning, scheduling, decorating, and building.

Members of the Queen’s and Kingston communities are invited to a special sneak preview of the finished product ahead of the event during an open house from noon to 3 pm on Saturday. Donations for the United Way of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox, and Addington are being accepted at the door.

Making the event a reality is hard work but also an opportunity for fourth-year students to connect with a tradition that started in 1903 and to apply many of the skills they have developed in the classrooms.

“It’s a huge learning opportunity for all of us,” says Sarah Hatherly, Science Formal ’20 convener.” It’s 117 years of tradition but beyond that everyone involved is learning skills from how to build a main structure that’s two storeys and planning to speaking with a professional engineer and making sure all the construction is up to code. All of us are learning quite a bit and applying what we are learning in class, such as creating CAD models, to accomplish what we’ve designed.”

The project has also been a good learning experience in managing teams and fostering collaboration among the crews volunteer workers. But the finish line is now in sight.

“It’s a huge celebration of all of our hard work over the course of four years as engineering students,” Hatherly says. “We’re looking forward to celebrating with the entire class and enjoying the art and structures that we build.”

You can find out more about the Open House and the Science Formal on the Science Formal website.

Finding alternatives to gentian violet

[EngSoc executive members]
Engineering Society of Queen’s University (EngSoc) President Delaney Benoit, left, and EngSoc Orientation Chair Kennedy Whitfield, right, worked as part of a team that sought an alternative to gentian violet. (University Communications)

When Health Canada issued a safety alert on June 12 warning of potential cancer risks associated with exposure to gentian violet, Queen’s Engineering Society executive members started to search for a comparable but safe alternative in time for orientation week, then just 10 weeks away.

“Students love tradition, it’s one of the big pillars of our school,” says Engineering Society of Queen’s University (EngSoc) President Delaney Benoit. “I think there was an immediate concern that we weren’t going to be able to purple at all, that the tradition was going to be lost.”

[Purple people FRECs
During Orientation Week 2019, student leaders in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science used ProAiir Hybrid Face and Body FX Paint, left, as a safe alternative to gentian violet, right, used in previous years. 

Though a somewhat modern practice in the history of Queen’s engineering, the all-over skin purpling of some second-year students in character as orientation week leaders – FRECs – has been a part of the orientation since at least the early 1990s. Orientation leaders dunked themselves in kiddie pools filled with warm water fortified with the purple dye and medical antiseptic, gentian violet, to achieve the startling purple skin tone so fondly associated with engineering orientation at Queen’s. It came as a surprise that gentian violet, with its long history as a mild and medically-approved antiseptic, antifungal, and anti-parasitic agent, could pose unforeseen risks. 

Benoit, along with EngSoc Vice-President (Student Affairs) Zaid Kasim, and EngSoc Orientation Chair Kennedy Whitfield, started the search for a safe alternative. Benoit sought clarification on the risks for topical application from Health Canada, a process that took weeks. They met with Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science Kevin Deluzio on the matter and fielded several inquiries and requests for comment from media. 

“We had to start making plans without actually knowing where we stood on the warning,” says Benoit. “We started researching alternatives right away: different things we could use, different approaches we could take.”

By the time Health Canada was able to respond to Benoit’s request for clarification (their advice was to entirely avoid using gentian violet on skin) Benoit, Kasim, and Whitfield had already tried several alternatives including food colouring, and some other food-related products they knew were approved for human consumption.

“Then we started looking at different types of face and body paints, cosplay and theatrical makeup, which is how we found ProAiir,” says Whitfield.

Finding a safe alternative

ProAiir Hybrid Face and Body FX Paint is billed by its manufacturer, Tennessee-based ShowOffs Body Art LLC, as a professional-grade body FX makeup. The company provided a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for their makeup that does not include gentian violet or any of its variants among the composition information. The makeup resists water and sweat, can be sprayed on or applied with a sponge, lasts about three days on the skin, but comes off easily and completely with soap or baby oil.

At home in Calgary, Whitfield was able to find a sample of ProAiir makeup in a retail store. Whitfield, Benoit, and Kasim tested it and said they were encouraged by the results. However, time was running short and finding the funds to pay for enough ProAiir to purple all the FRECs in time for Orientation Week was proving to be a barrier. Benoit says ProAiir costs about 10 times that of similar quantities of gentian violet but the supplier stepped up and offered a 50 per cent volume discount on the order. The EngSoc crew were able to secure further one-time support funding from the Queen’s Alma Mater Society (AMS) Sustainability Action Fund. The ProAiir shipment cleared customs and arrived in Kingston with just a few days to spare.

Benoit and Whitfield demonstrated purpling with ProAiir on a FREC committee member, and Whitfield wrote and distributed among orientation leaders a document about how best to apply it with sponges and special spray bottles. Orientation Week, complete with its purple people, was a success.

“We were really excited by how it worked out,” says Whitfield. “The colour was a little bit different than gentian but that turned out to be helpful because we would have been able to tell if anyone had showed up to Orientation Week wearing gentian violet. We let the leaders know, ‘If you guys show up wearing gentian violet, you will be de-leadered.’ We found that no one went against that. We expected that one or two would try, but ProAiir worked so well, I think that people were happy.”

Looking for a long-term answer

Still, the story isn’t quite over. It remains to be determined if ProAiir is the long-term purple-peopleing  answer. For now, the faculty is taking a stance prohibiting people who have purpled, with any substance, from entering faculty buildings out of concern for damage to the facilities (similar to the policy adopted by Residences). This is of particular interest during next week’s Homecoming celebration.

The next challenge for the EngSoc executive to navigate is how to purple jackets in time for the end of final exams in December. Benoit says she is collaborating with representatives of Campus Equipment Outfitters, Queen’s University Residences, Queen’s Environmental Health and Safety, EngSoc General Manager Jay Young, FEAS Operations and Facilities Manager Simon Smith, and others to determine what if any alternative to gentian violet might be useful for dyeing jackets.

“The purple dyes that were recommended to us by leather suppliers all have gentian in them,” says Benoit. “We don’t know yet whether or not it’s safe to use gentian to dye jackets, so we are looking for an agent that gets rid of the gentian issue altogether. We are hoping to find a practical solution in the next couple of weeks.

“I think so far, though, that there was no spirit lost during Orientation Week because gentian violet wasn’t there. It had the exact same energy as in previous years, if not more, because we found something that worked so well, and that actually made the FRECs lives a bit easier in terms of application and de-purpling. ProAiir was just so much easier to use.” 

International faculty and staff supports

The Human Rights & Equity Office is holding discussion sessions about developing and strengthening supports for employees coming to Queen's from abroad.

Staff and faculty participating in the first brainstorm meeting
Queen's faculty and staff participating in a brainstorming session about supports for international employees.

The Human Rights & Equity Office (HREO) recently invited international staff and faculty to engage in an initial conversation about what potential supports or groups could be created or strengthened to assist those moving from abroad for employment at Queen’s University.

A group of international faculty and staff gathered on Sept. 30 for a brainstorming session facilitated by Queen's Human Rights Advisor Nilani Loganathan, who guided the group in an exercise to begin to identify gaps in services and programs, and suggest ways that could better support international employees.

“I’m very pleased with the ideas brought forth by those who attended our first session,” says Loganathan. “We touched on a number of areas, including issues concerning relocating to Kingston, settling in at Queen’s, employment and education supports for families, and much more. We’re looking forward to continuing the conversation and collecting more feedback that will best inform our path forward.”

Employees who identify as international staff and faculty will have additional opportunities to provide their input. The next session is to take place on Friday, Nov. 15 in Mackintosh-Corry Hall, B176 from 12pm – 1pm. Please email hrights@queensu.ca to confirm your attendance.

Championing new thinking

Nobel Prize Laureate Martin Chalfie met with a group of promising Queen's graduate students to talk success, failure, taking risks, and the future of research.

Nobel Laureate Martin Chalfie at a round table meeting with Queen's University graduate students.
Nobel Laureate Martin Chalfie meets with Queen's University graduate students for a round table discussion on the road to research success.

A group of Queen’s University’s most promising graduate students recently sat down with Nobel Prize Laureate Martin Chalfie, who shared his stories of achievement and failure in hopes of illuminating and inspiring their journeys toward research success.

Over 35 graduate students and post-doctoral researchers took part in an exclusive round table discussion with Dr. Chalfie during a visit to campus by the Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative (NPII) – an international outreach program organized by Nobel Media and biopharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca that strives to connect Nobel Laureates with scientific and student communities at universities and research centres worldwide.

“As researchers, we know that all discovery and progress is built on the push and pull of failure and success,” says Fahim Quadir, Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, who introduced the round table discussion. “Advancement in science and society, and the creation of new knowledge, often begins with a leap in the dark, with the courage to risk failure simply in order to propel ourselves one step closer to the goals our research pursuits seek to advance.”

Students from over a dozen disciplines attended the candid, closed-door discussion, which touched on topics ranging from science communication and public perceptions of science, to mental health and multi-disciplinary approaches to research.

“The round table with Dr. Chalfie was enlightening and inspiring,” says Mandy Turner, a third-year PhD candidate and Vanier Scholar in the Faculty of Health Sciences’ Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences. “Being a graduate student can sometimes feel siloed, so it was comforting to have the opportunity to hear from an accomplished researcher like him, as well as my peers across the university who echoed many of my concerns about the future of science and science careers.”

One of the recurring anxieties expressed by those in attendance centred on a perceived shift in society’s attitude toward the merit of scientific knowledge.

“From time to time, I feel nervous about my pursuit of a career in science, since it seems like hard-earned results and evidence are less and less accepted by the public and policymakers,” says Matthias Hermann, who has just begun his third year as a PhD candidate in Chemistry. “When I expressed my worry to Dr. Chalfie during the round table he reminded us that throughout history there have always been people who deny facts and evidence, which has only served to underline the importance of scientists’ work. I really appreciated this response.”

Many of the round table participants also remarked on Dr. Chalfie’s charisma and candor.

“To have this person who achieved one of the highest honours of a research career be so humble and sincere about his life was very inspiring to me,” says Artur Sass Braga, PhD candidate in the Department of Civil Engineering. “He was so open about his initial failures in academia and shared with us that there is no secret formula or method to becoming a successful researcher. This perspective helps tremendously as it lessens the burden of the expectations graduate students can often feel are placed upon them.”

The round table preceded a sold-out NPII public event at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts featuring Dr. Chalfie in conversation with award-winning journalist and author André Picard, Canada’s Chief Science Advisor Mona Nemer, and Queen’s own Nobel Laureate, Arthur B. McDonald. Both events also coincided with the launch of a new website highlighting Queen’s University’s vast complement of research pursuits and achievements, much of which involves Queen’s graduate researchers.

“The round table gathering was also about recognizing the enormous contributions our graduate students and postdoctoral fellows make to knowledge production; to championing new thinking and to uncovering groundbreaking discoveries,” says Dr. Quadir. “I am proud of our students and post-docs for their relentless efforts to advance new knowledge that serves the greater public good.”

Learn more about the Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative event that took place at Queen’s on September 25, 2019, and view a video recording of our online Facebook Live broadcast of the event.

Funding on the cutting edge

MPP Steve Clark announces $930,000 in funding for five new research projects and two researchers.

  • ORF funding announcement group shot
    A total of $930,000 in new provincial investments in local research projects was announced on Monday. Attending the event were, from left: Farhana Zulkernine (Computing); Michael Rainbow (Mechanical and Materials Engineering); Bhavin Shastri (Physics); Kingston and Thousand Islands MPP Ian Arthur; Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane; Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes MPP Steve Clark; Interim Vice-Principal (Research) Kimberly Woodhouse; Laura Wells (Chemical Engineering); and Sheela Abraham (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences). (University Communications)
  • Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research) applauds the announcement of new funding
    Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research) applauds the announcement of $930,000 in new funding through the Ontario Research Fund. (University Communications)
  • Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane speaks at announcement
    Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane speaks about the importance of the new funding received by Queen's University through the Ontario Research Fund. (University Communications)
  • Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes MPP Steve Clark speaks with Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research).
    Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes MPP Steve Clark speaks with Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). (University Communications)
  • Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes MPP Steve Clark announces new support through ORF
    Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes MPP Steve Clark makes the funding announcement at Mitchell Hall on Monday, Sept. 30. (University Communications)

Queen’s University welcomed Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes MPP Steve Clark who announced $930,000 in new provincial investments in local research projects.

The university receives $650,000 for five research projects through the Ontario Research Fund – Research Infrastructure program and Michael Rainbow (Mechanical and Materials Engineering) and Laura Wells (Chemical Engineering) were awarded $280,000 in  Early Researcher awards to help them build research teams for their work in the areas of foot function and cataract surgery.

“We want to ensure the brilliant researchers here at Queen’s and across Ontario who are making discoveries that could help cure diseases, inventing new technologies, and creating whole new industries and jobs have the support, tools and facilities they need to do their work,” says Clark, who made the announcement on behalf of Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade.

In his research Dr. Rainbow is using recent advances in 3D x-ray imaging to measure the foot’s complex function during walking and running. The work will provide fundamental information necessary to design more effective footwear, prosthetics, and orthotics for Ontarians.

Dr. Wells is examining how cells interact with intraocular lens which are used to treat decreased vision due to cataracts. In many cases patients who need a second cataract surgery or pediatric patients are not eligible for intraocular lenses. Her research will help develop new materials to improve outcomes for these patients.

“The research being conducted at Queen’s is cutting-edge and contributes directly to improvements in the lives of Canadians,” says Queen’s University Principal, Patrick Deane. “This funding is critical, helping to support new research facilities and providing spaces for our faculty, students and staff to continue to push the boundaries of science and exploration.”

The five projects receiving Research Infrastructure program funding include:

Ali Etemad (Electrical and Computer Engineering) $125,000 - Developing methods for smart homes and smart vehicles to ambiently monitor users via sensing and wearable technologies.

Farhana Zulkernine (Computing) $80,000 - Building a smart framework to address real-time processing and storage of multi-modal big data.

Sheela Abraham (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) $162,500 - Investigating normal healthy stem cells as they age, and how malfunctions in cell signaling events eventually contribute to leukaemogenesis.

Madhuri Koti (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) $150,000 - Improving cancer immunotherapy outcomes by examining genetic features of tumours that dictate anti-tumour immune response, for the optimal design of patient specific treatment combinations.

Bhavin Shastri (Physics) $132,500 - The proposed brain-inspired processors will fundamentally leverage the strengths of nanophotonic devices with neuromorphic architectures, to outperform current microelectronics in energy efficiency and computational speeds, which currently limit hardware scaling in digital electronics.

“Ontario’s investments are helping researchers build strong teams, and ensure that they have the modern facilities, equipment, tools, and resources they need to complete their work.  The funding announced today will lead to discovery and innovation, attract future investment to the province, and have a direct impact on the economy," says Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research).


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