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Research Prominence

Queen’s professor honoured for three pillars of academia

John Smol earns award for his passion for teaching and dedication to his students.

Queen’s University professor John Smol has earned some of the highest research honours in Canada and internationally, but the Lee Lorch Award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) might be one of the most significant based on what it represents to him – acknowledgment of his work as a teacher and a mentor to students, as well as the public-at-large.

The CAUT reserves the annual Lee Lorch Award for members whose teaching, research, and service have contributed significantly to the lives of students, to their institution, to their field of study, and to the community.

“Frankly, it feels odd to receive a reward for doing something that I love,” says Dr. Smol, a professor in the Department of Biology and the Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change. “I have always believed that it is a privilege to be a professor. I love universities because they are keepers and interpreters of our past collective knowledge. I love universities because they are also the place where we create new knowledge; knowledge that can be used to make our lives better.”

Dr. Smol’s research focuses on Arctic and alpine ecosystems, water pollution, and climate change and he is the founder and co-director of the Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Laboratory (PEARL) based at Queen’s.

Winning the Lee Lorch award brings Dr. Smol’s teaching and mentoring award total to 13 – something he’s incredibly proud of.

“A large part of our jobs as professors is to take our knowledge creation and communicate the products of that knowledge,” he says. “Academic institutions remind me about how important it is for our society to have well-informed, articulate, socially active, and especially thoughtful graduates to meet the challenges ahead. This is partly what we do – or at least try to do – in universities.  Namely, mentoring graduates who are ready to tackle the problems that the world has created.”

Brian Cumming, Head of the Department of Biology and former student of Dr. Smol, nominated him for the award.

“The Department of Biology is extremely proud that Dr. Smol will be the recipient of the 2018 CAUT Lee Lorch Award,” says Dr. Cumming. “It recognizes his extraordinary contributions to all aspects of being a professor including: being a leading researcher; teacher and communicator; and his administrative responsibilities. He is especially engaged in explaining how science works, and the contributions that science can make to public policy and decision making, and why we all need to communicate the significance of our findings.”

Dr. Smol received his award on Saturday, April 18 in Ottawa.

Bringing researchers together

Inaugural Research Development Day to help faculty build research programs and partnerships.

While all disciplines have unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to research, there are many that faculty face across the board, particularly in developing their research programs.

University Research Services (URS) and the Office of Partnerships and Innovation are collaborating to address these shared challenges. The inaugural Research Development Day on Thursday, May 3 will bring faculty members of all disciplines together for a day of panel presentations and open discussion. The goal of the day is to assist all researchers in strategizing their funding goals and building their research programs.

Faculty listening to panelists at Faculy Writing Retreat at the Donald Gordon Centre.
Queen's faculty listen to a panel discussion at the December 2016 Faculty Writing Retreat, hosted by the Office of the Vice-Principal (Research) at the Donald Gordon Centre.

“Events like Research Development Day help foster the supportive research community here at Queen’s,” says John Fisher, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “The event will bring together researchers from across disciplines to discuss challenges facing the research community as well as promote collaborations with non-academic partners and discuss the importance of research impact outside of academia.”

This event will feature four panel presentations that build upon other forms of support that URS provides for applications to specific funding agencies throughout the year. The panel presentations intend to help develop faculty members’ research programs, and each panel will be followed by an open discussion, allowing researchers to connect with one another on topics brought up by the panelists.

Another unique aspect of this event is its focus on partnerships. With many funding agencies looking toward partnerships as a way to boost the impact of research, this event has two panel presentations focusing on helping researchers find and support partners. In order to address the different types of potential partnerships, one session will focus on private sector partners, and the other will focus on non-private sector partners.

The panel presentations are titled: “A Research Plan for Funding Success,” “Dynamic Partnerships with Government and Non-Government Organizations,” “Dynamic Partnerships with Industry,” and “Tell Me Why This Matters - Enhancing Research Impact Through Effective Knowledge Translation.” Speakers are faculty from diverse disciplines and career stages who have offered to share their insight and experiences in developing a successful research program.

The event will take place from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm in the 1966 Reading Room, Douglas Library. A light lunch will be provided.

Please visit the Research Development Day website to register and find out more information about the event.

Introducing our new faculty members: Ravi Prakash

Ravi Prakash is a new member of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.

This profile is part of a series highlighting some of the new faculty members who have recently joined the Queen's community as part of the principal's faculty renewal plans, which will see 200 new faculty members hired over the next five years.

Ravi Prakash (Electrical and Computer Engineering) sat down with the Gazette to talk about his experience so far. Dr. Prakash is an assistant professor.

[Ravi Prakash]
Ravi Prakash is a new member of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. (Photo by Rob Whelan)
Fast Facts about Dr. Prakash

Department: Electrical and Computer Engineering

Hometown: Delhi, India

Alma mater: University of Calgary (Doctor of philosophy and master of science in electrical and computer engineering), IIT Madras (undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering)

Research area: Disposable sensors and micro-actuators, organic transistors, label-free biosensors, bio-engineering

Unwinds with: Tennis, squash, swimming, hiking, walking the dog

Dr. Prakash’s web bio
Why did you decide to teach?
My perspective has always been to solve a research challenge. I feel like I have always been a mentor, even during my undergraduate studies. I was engaged in activities where I could help students in junior years.
When I started my masters and had some teaching assistant responsibilities, I thoroughly enjoyed assisting undergraduates. Everyone has their calling, and it seemed like research and instruction is mine. I have enjoyed it so far – I must be doing something right.
What got you interested in electrical engineering?

I think what attracted me to engineering most was the eagerness to deliberate about real-world challenges, and growing up in resource-limited settings offered an excellent vantage point for that.

When I was doing my bachelor degree in mechanical engineering at IIT Madras, I opted for a minor degree in biomedical engineering and was looking to develop microsystems for biomedical applications. I realized there are more electronics to these systems than mechanics. I had a good background for the transition when it appeared the best possible department to continue research would be electrical and computer engineering.

In my past research, I have developed advanced chip technologies for conducting bio-assay and biochemical tests. If you think of any nucleic acid test, for example, you go to a clinical laboratory where they take a blood or other bio-fluid sample, and they do a host of clinical tests using expensive bench-top instruments to identify bacterial, viral, or other kinds of infections.

During my PhD and my NSERC postdoctoral fellowship, I designed molecular diagnostic microchips that did not require such large, expensive clinical equipment, allowing for potential low-cost and point-of-care applications.

[Ravi Prakash]
Dr. Prakash examines a polymer biosensor device. (Photo by Rob Whelan)
What do you hope to achieve in your research?

My research is more focused on physical and chemical sensors now, and less on biomedical devices.

I am looking to create disposable, flexible sensors and soft-wearable devices where a polymer patch on skin can detect analytes such as glucose level, lactate level, or levels of stress induced hormone cortisol for biomonitoring applications. Two of my current students are working on cortisol detection in sweat and saliva, and detection of different kinds of enzymes and antibodies using novel label-free organic biosensors, in collaboration with faculty members in Electrical and Computer Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and the Kingston Health Sciences Centre.

There is a health management aspect to monitoring these bio-molecular concentration levels, but there are many devices already available to track glucose. What we are trying to do is offer a multitude of tests within the same device through smart, multi-modal sensor integration and implementing new data analytic tools. Let’s say you’re doing athletic conditioning – these devices could help monitor lactate, pyruvate, glucose levels, measure breathing rate, exhaled air composition and the like. Or we can monitor acute or chronic stress conditions in workplaces, such as the military or healthcare facilities, where chronic stress and associated conditions are a major concern.

I also have some tangential research interests in clean tech energy sources. We are developing bio-supercapacitors with a company in Ottawa which will use a sustainable bio-electrolyte product in small and large footprint energy storage systems. I have recently started working on a geophysical sensing project – which is more of a civil engineering and environmental engineering domain – but my interest is focused on enhancing near-field sensing methods for testing geomembrane integrity as part of my sensor research.

Are you teaching as well?

I have taught a few technical electives, such as sensors and actuators, and core courses in electronics and digital electronics. This fall, I believe I will be teaching graduate courses in biological signal analysis.

This term, I had a large class with about 270 students, which can be a bit overwhelming administratively. But I love being in the classroom, and I enjoy being in front of the avid learners at Queen’s who are both intelligent and willing.

[A photosensitive chip]
Flexible organic transistors like these are sensitive to the environment and must be handled with care. (Photo by Rob Whelan)
What are you most proud of?
I completed my undergraduate degree at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras. IITs are world-renowned institutions and, if you have some idea of the population of India, you know the competition to get in is really rigorous. I believe we had about two million students take exams per batch. Only a handful – less than 2,500 – are selected. I was ranked around 700th nationwide.
I am also proud of some of the research I led during my PhD. We were developing some superhydrophobic coating for new lab-on-chip tests and other biological assays. At the time, creating such coatings was rather expensive. I connected with a research team in Athens, Greece and worked with them on optimizing a relatively low-cost technique. We ended up coming up with a very novel way of developing superhydrophobic coatings. 
Doing a successful, interdisciplinary project where I was heavily involved gave me a lot of confidence. I was able to combine my various experiences into fruitful research outcomes.
Since that time, I have formed new research collaborations in Greece, as well as some in the U.S. and Germany. I have exceptional collaborations across Canada, particularly in Ontario.
[Ravi Prakash]
Dr. Prakash sits on the steps outside of his lab in Walter Light Hall. (Photo by Rob Whelan)
How are you liking Kingston?
I love Kingston. There is so much history in this town…and I call it a town. It’s not really a city, is it? Coming from Calgary at least, it seems like a town…but there is so much culture and history here.
I love the Victorian architecture, the limestone buildings and the gorgeous waterfront. I miss hiking though, being in Calgary and near the Rockies, but I am planning to head to Québec City at some point this summer to get some hiking in. 
I liked the weather in Kingston last year. This year, not so much.
It’s still a transition as my wife transitions her work from Calgary to Kingston – when you leave a city where you have been for eight years, it takes time!
Other than hiking, any hobbies or interests?
I love swimming. I haven’t made it to the beach yet but I look forward to checking that off my list.
I enjoy racket sports – tennis outdoors, squash indoors. I also have a 11-month old black Labrador retriever which means a lot of training, walking, and other outdoor activities.

Faculty Renewal

Principal Daniel Woolf has identified faculty renewal as a high priority for reinvestment by the university in support of the academic mission. The five-year renewal plan will see 200 new faculty hired, which nearly doubles the hiring pace of the past six years.

Faculty renewal supports Queen’s commitment to diversity and inclusion by giving the university the opportunity to seek, proactively, representation from equity-seeking groups such as women, people with disabilities, Indigenous Peoples, and racialized individuals. It will also build on Queen’s current areas of research strength.

To learn more about the Principal’s faculty renewal plans, read this Gazette article. Stay tuned for additional new faculty profiles in the Gazette.

Bringing Queen’s to Parliament Hill

  • The delegation to the first Queen's on the Hill Day
    The delegation to the first Queen's on the Hill Day gather for a team photo as the day's events get underway on Wednesday, April 18.
  • Queen's alumnus Senator Joseph Day leads a tour of the Senate
    Queen's alumnus Senator Joseph Day leads a tour of the Senate for delegation members on Queen's on the Hill Day.
  • Navdeep Bains meets Queen's delegation
    Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains met with, from left, John Fisher, Vice-Principal (Research), Professor Emeritus and Nobel Laureate Art McDonald, PhD student and Vanier Scholar Hannah Dies, and Principal Daniel Woolf.
  • Kate Young, Parliamentary Secretary for Science
    Kate Young, Parliamentary Secretary for Science, speaks during the Queen's on the Hill reception on Wednesday.
  • Rector Cam Yung, Jasmit Kaur, and Richard Hebert
    Rector Cam Yung and Jasmit Kaur, former president of the Queen's Student Alumni Association and a current parliamentary assistant, speak with Richard Hebert, Member of Parliament for Lac-Saint-Jean.Jasmit Kaur
  • A number of posters highlighting research at Queen's have been placed in bus shelters around Ottawa
    A number of posters highlighting research at Queen's have been placed in bus shelters around downtown Ottawa, including this one near Parliament Hill featuring Queen's alumnus and astronaut Drew Feustel.

The nation’s capital had a little more Tricolour in it on Wednesday thanks to the first-ever Queen’s on Parliament Hill Day.

The event was hosted to highlight the university’s areas of strength in research and innovation while demonstrating support for the federal government’s recent investments in fundamental research.

A total of 35 researchers made the trip to Ottawa, along with senior administrators and staff members.

A reception, hosted by Senator Joseph Day, a Queen’s alumnus, featured seven key themes: Skills for tomorrow. Today; Embracing Reconciliation; Innovation and Entrepreneurship; A Cleaner Future; Finding Insights in Data; Building Blocks of the Universe; Advancing Health and Wellness.

Speakers at the event included Principal Daniel Woolf, Professor Emeritus and Nobel Laureate Art McDonald, as well as a number of political figures including Kate Young, Parliamentary Secretary for Science, Senator Day, Kingston and the Islands Member of Parliament Mark Gerretsen, and opposition Members Brian Masse and Matt Jeneroux

“This was an eye-opening day at Parliament Hill for the Queen’s team and, I hope, for the MPs, Senators and staff who met with us,” Principal Woolf says. “With this being the first Queen’s on Parliament Hill Day event in recent memory, I believe we have created a solid foundation upon which we can continue to build the important relationships and connections that exist between Kingston and Ottawa. I’m grateful to the faculty, staff and students who took the time to participate, even during spring exam time.”

Approximately 80 parliamentarians and staff visited the reception to meet with the Queen’s delegation.

Colour us impressed

Queen’s University researchers invent new class of paints that could revolutionize water-based paints.

When it comes to paint, there are two main types people can chose from, latex or oil-based. But now, a new option has been developed at Queen’s University that promises a more environmentally-friendly choice.

[Paint Strips]
The new paint (lower test strip) is more resistant to water than a commercial latex paint (upper strip). This shows what happens when both paints are painted onto a piece of unprimed aluminum metal, allowed to dry, and then exposed to water for a week.

Philip Jessop, the Canada Research Chair in Green Chemistry, Michael Cunningham (Chemical Engineering), and graduate student Jaddie Ho have developed a water-based paint that behaves more like a solvent-based paint (also known as oil-based paint) – except the solvent in this case is not an organic solvent, but carbonated water.

Due to its increased toughness and very low environmental impact, this paint might be suitable for a broader range of applications compared with traditional latex paints, including appliances and office furniture.

“Most consumers already use water-based paints, because high performance isn’t needed when you paint your living room,” Dr. Jessop explains. “However, industry still uses oil-based paints when they paint something they just manufactured, because they need the paint to be hard, glossy, scratch-resistant, and incredibly smooth. By giving industry a water-based paint that works the same way as an oil-based paint, we hope to reduce organic solvent emissions from industrial operations and thereby reduce harm to the environment and health risks to workers.”

Why do oil-based paints work so well? Dr. Jessop explains all paints consist of a liquid, a polymer and additives like pigments. In oil-based paints, the liquid is an organic solvent and the polymer is dissolved in it, which ensures the polymer is effective but when you spray or brush an oil-based paint onto a surface, the solvent evaporates, causing environmental harm, and the polymer is left behind as a smooth film on the wall.

[Paint on fire]
Normal oil-based paints are flammable and smog-forming, left, but the new paints, right, work the same way as oil-based paints without using any organic solvent. This shows what happens if the wet paint is brought near to a candle. The oil-based paint catches fire but Dr Jessop's paint doesn’t.

In water-based paints, the liquid is water and the polymer isn’t dissolved, it’s tiny balls of plastic suspended in the water. When you apply a water-based paint to a surface, those little balls are supposed to merge with each other to make a layer of plastic on your wall, but that often doesn’t work very well.

The new formula which uses carbonated water (club soda) will dissolve some basic polymers and makes water-based paint behave like oil-based paint. Regular water cannot achieve this.

“If you use our paint,” says Dr. Jessop, “you’ll brush or spray our mixture of carbonated water and dissolved polymer onto a surface and the club soda will evaporate, leaving behind a smooth, water-repelling polymer film in just the same way as an oil-based paint but without the same risk to your health or the environment.”

The new paint is also more resistant to water than a commercial latex paint, is non-flammable and also works well at lower temperatures, such as outside in the fall or spring.

Dr. Jessop and his research team are currently working with GreenCentre Canada and a paint and coating company to refine the technology.

“Paints and coatings are complicated mixtures of polymer, liquid, pigment, preservatives, opacity agents, and other components. Finding the best recipe using these ingredients is a complex and time-consuming task but necessary before a technology like this can be sold,” he says.

The paper was published in Green Chemistry.

Scotiabank Centre for Customer Analytics awarded $1.8M in funding

Faculty at Smith School of Business to develop leading-edge tools for Canada’s financial industry.

A financial services project at Smith School of Business’ Scotiabank Centre for Customer Analytics (SCCA) has received a $900,000 grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)’s Collaborative Research and Development (CRD) Grant program. This funding has been matched by Scotiabank for a total $1.8 million.

Michael Zerbs and Yuri Levin
Michael Zerbs, Chief Technology Officer at Scotiabank, and Yuri Levin, Executive director and Smith Chair of Analytics at Smith School of Business.

The multi-phase project will look at several areas of technology in financial services, including large-scale customer behaviour analysis, risk evaluation, price and resource optimization, big data and online algorithms.

This funding will enable researchers to develop tools and models to ensure Canada’s financial industry continues to be a technological leader, creating innovative products to help customers.

“This project is an incredible example of government, the private sector, and professors and students collaborating on important applied research in the financial industry,” says Yuri Levin, Executive Director and Smith Chair of Analytics at Smith School of Business.

“We are pleased to enhance the important, customer-focused research coming out of Smith and the Scotiabank Centre for Customer Analytics,” says Michael Zerbs, Chief Technology Officer at Scotiabank. “The collaboration between the students and professors at the Scotiabank Centre for Customer Analytics is helping Scotiabank to reshape and enhance the customer experience. These students are our future leaders and Scotiabank’s goal is to help ensure that they have the necessary skills and resources they need to support their success.”

Intended to foster mutually beneficial collaborations expected to result in industrial and economic benefits to Canada, CRD Grants give companies that operate from a Canadian base access to the unique knowledge, expertise, and educational resources available at Canadian postsecondary institutions.

“NSERC’s Research Partnerships program supports strong R&D collaborations and dynamic interchange between academia and partners,” says Marc Fortin, Vice-President, Research Partnerships, NSERC. “We are proud to support this collaboration that will help Canadian banks remain innovative and competitive by incorporating the best analytics practices in their operations. They will tackle various emerging issues in the banking industry which will provide many tangible and intangible benefits to Canada, like better customer satisfaction and better risk management.”

The Scotiabank Centre for Customer Analytics opened at Smith in January 2016. Scotiabank pledged $2.2 million in support of the centre, with some of the funding tied to various NSERC research grant programs. The centre builds on Queen’s research leadership in big data and advanced research computing.

Distinguished University Professor program to recognize exceptional faculty

The Queen’s community is invited to help create a list of potential honorific names to go with the new title.

Queen’s University has created a new program to celebrate some of its top internationally recognized researchers. The Distinguished University Professor program was recently approved by the Senate and it will be open to all individuals holding a full-time academic appointment at Queen’s.

“The Distinguished University Professor designation is the highest research-related honour the university can bestow on a faculty member whose pre-eminent contributions to research in a particular field of knowledge are recognized both nationally and internationally,” says Principal Daniel Woolf. “As a reflection of the highly prestigious nature of the program, the number of awards shall normally be limited to approximately one percent of those holding academic appointments at Queen’s.”

A call for nominations will be issued each fall to the university community and a special advisory committee will meet to consider all nominations put forward in the winter. It will then make a recommendation to the Principal on which nominees, if any, should be designated as a Distinguished University Professor.

Once a professor has been chosen for the designation, they will then have the opportunity to select from a list of approved honorific names to form part of their official title, which will be styled as “[Honorific Name] Distinguished University Professor.” As an example, the professor could then be known as the “Jane Smith Distinguished University Professor.”

“The creation of this list of honorific names also creates an opportunity for the university to celebrate people who have made significant and lasting contributions to Queen’s and to Canadian society,” says Principal Woolf. “Along with being incredible researchers and educators, many of those up for consideration were also trailblazers who through their work at Queen’s and beyond promoted the rights of women, Indigenous Peoples, and racialized people.”

A small working group has been created to develop a long list of honorific names and everyone in the Queen’s community is invited to submit suggestions, keeping the following criteria in mind:

  • Names are intended to reflect a wide variety of academic and personal backgrounds of individuals with a connection to Queen’s;
  • The individuals should have had a significant impact nationally or internationally in their field of study or work;
  • Names shall normally be those of persons who are deceased or who otherwise are at such a stage in their life and career such that their legacy is well-established; and
  • Individuals who have already been honoured with the naming of a building on campus will not normally be considered, as the working group feels that the program is an opportunity to recognize those whose contributions have not yet been acknowledged in a prominent way at the university.

Once the list of honorific names is finalized, names can be added or removed over time as it will be reviewed every three to five years. To suggest possible names for the program, email the senate@queensu.ca email account.

The terms of reference for the program, and the membership of the working group, are available here .

Major program grant INSPIREs better health care

Queen's researcher receives $2 million for ongoing review of primary health care in Ontario.

Queen’s clinician-researcher Michael Green and his collaborator, Rick Glazier at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), have received more than $2 million from Ontario’s Health System Research Fund (HSRF) to support their ongoing study of health system challenges and equitable access to primary health care in the province.

The INSPIRE-PHC2 research program (Innovations Supporting Primary Care Through Research Phase 2) is one of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s HSRF Program Awards.

“We are very pleased to be receiving this support from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care,” says Dr. Green, Head of the Queen’s Department of Family Medicine and the grant’s Nominated Principal Investigator. “This three-year funding will allow us to continue to provide up-to-date evidence on the state of primary health services in Ontario on an ongoing basis, and to provide strong, innovative recommendations to the province so gaps in service can be improved.”

The funded project is a continuation of an earlier three-year HSRF Program Award (2013-2016), helmed by Western University’s Moira Stewart. With this renewed funding, Drs. Green and Glazier will lead a team of more than 30 primary care researchers from across Ontario, with a focus on continued evaluation of innovations in the delivery of primary health care, and the successes and challenges faced by Ontario’s Patients First: Action Plan for Health Care.

“We meet frequently with stakeholders in the primary care sector to hone the targeting of our analysis and to identify needs,” says Dr. Green. “This approach allows us to continually address new challenges as they arise and make ongoing recommendations for service improvement. “

As a continual analysis of the primary care landscape, the program has already looked at things like the distribution and effectiveness of family health teams across Ontario. Geographic analysis revealed where in the province the gaps in access to family health teams were largest, allowing Dr. Green and his collaborators to advise the provincial government where they could prioritize for improved or increased service. This data helped inform the Government of Ontario when it was determining where to locate recently funded new family health teams.

“Dr. Green and his collaborators are making invaluable contributions to the future health of people across Ontario,” says John Fisher, Vice-Principal (Research). “On behalf of Queen’s, I want to congratulate him on securing new funding that will allow his team to continue this patient-oriented program that will continue to improve the province’s primary health care system.”

Visit the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s website for the announcement about this award and further details.

Learn more about the INSPIRE program here.

Remembering the neutrino

Nobel Prize-winning science was celebrated at a special event. 

  • [Photo of John Fisher, Daniel Woolf, George Ewan, Art McDonald, and Jan Allen]
    VIPs pose with the Nobel medal display at the Agnes. L-R: Marc Dignam, Head of the Physics Department; John Fisher, Interim VP (Research); Daniel Woolf, Principal; George Ewan, Professor Emeritus; Art McDonald, Nobel laureate; and Jan Allen, Director of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. (Photo by Bernard Clark)
  • [Nobel Medal Replica]
    A replica of the Nobel Prize medal won by Art McDonald is now permanently on display at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. (Photo by Bernard Clark)
  • [Past and present Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) employees and their family members]
    Proving that research is a team effort, past and present Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) employees and their family members gather around the plinth. (University Communications)
  • [Janet McDonald and other attendees]
    Janet McDonald (foreground), wife of Art McDonald, and other spectators flip through the plinth's pages. (University Communications)
  • [George Ewan, Art McDonald, and Daniel Woolf]
    George Ewan, Art McDonald, and Daniel Woolf pose with chocolates resembling the three 'flavours' of neutrinos. (University Communications)

On Monday, representatives from across the Queen’s community gathered to celebrate two new installations that will commemorate the Nobel Prize-winning research discoveries of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) scientific collaboration led by Dr. Art McDonald, Gordon and Patricia Gray Chair in Particle Astrophysics Emeritus in the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy at Queen’s.

Dr. McDonald was the co-recipient of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of neutrino oscillations, a phenomenon which proved that neutrinos have mass. He shared the prize with Takaaki Kajita of the University of Tokyo, whose research made similar detections possible.

Neutrinos, which are sometimes referred to as the ‘building blocks of the universe’, are tiny subatomic particles with almost no mass and no charge. The SNO Collaboration’s discovery increased human understanding of these particles, which ultimately helps scientists understand how stars, galaxies, and the universe itself has evolved since the Big Bang.

To celebrate the discovery, the university has unveiled a monument between Ontario Hall and Grant Hall to share the fascinating story of the neutrino breakthrough with visitors to campus. This plinth is part of the Queen’s Remembers series, an initiative that commemorates those who have made significant and noteworthy contributions to Queen's University.

“Queen’s University has been wonderfully supportive of the SNO research work and continues to support strongly the ongoing work at the SNOLAB underground laboratory,” says Dr. McDonald. “Those of us who have worked on SNO are very appreciative of this commemoration of the important contributions of many Queen’s students, post-doctoral fellows, staff, and faculty that led to this scientific success.”

Additionally, a replica of Dr. McDonald’s Nobel Prize medal will be permanently displayed at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. The display will be located in a busy hallway between the gallery and Etherington House, and will include details about the experiment.

“The research conducted by the incredible team at SNO, under the leadership of Dr. Art McDonald, has an impact that goes far beyond Queen’s University,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “The vision of those who started the collaboration, including Dr. George Ewan, Professor Emeritus of the Physics Department at Queen’s, and the late Dr. Herb Chen, and the dedication of all who have worked on it since, have helped Canada become a leader in the field of particle astrophysics. We are delighted to recognize and celebrate their achievement with these two inspirational displays.”

Previous Queen’s Remembers plinths have recognized the traditional inhabitants of the Kingston area—the Anishinaabe and the Haudenosaunee peoples—and the 5th Field Company, a group of soldiers primarily comprised of Queen’s students and faculty who served and gave their lives in both World Wars. To learn more about the Queen’s Remembers initiative, visit the Queen’s Encyclopedia.

New lecture series honours chemistry professor

Queen's alumnus and Nobel Laureate Sir Fraser Stoddart delivers inaugural Walter A. Szarek Lecture.

  • [Mario Pinto, Walter Szarek, Sir Fraser Stoddart]
    The inaugural Walter A. Szarek Lecture was delivered by Sir Fraser Stoddart at Queen's on Friday, April 13. From left, Mario Pinto, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Dr. Szarek, and Sir Fraser.
  • [Sir Fraser Stoddart, Walter Szarek]
    Nobel Laureate Sir Fraser Stoddart speaks with Walter Szarek after delivering the inaugural Walter A. Szarek Lecture in Chernoff Hall.
  • [A member of the crowd raises his hand]
    A member of the crowd raises his hand to ask a question of Nobel Laureate Sir Fraser Stoddart as he delivers the inaugural Walter A. Szarek Lecture.
  • Nobel Laureate Sir Fraser Stoddart speaks with Cathleen Crudden (Chemistry)
    Nobel Laureate Sir Fraser Stoddart speaks with Cathleen Crudden (Chemistry) during a reception held at Chernoff Hall following the Walter A. Szarek Lecture.

Sir Fraser Stoddart, the 2016 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, delivered the inaugural Walter A. Szarek Lecture on Friday, April 13, honouring a researcher he considers one of the most significant influences in his career.

From 1967 to 1970, Sir Fraser, who received the Nobel Prize for his work in the design and synthesis of molecular machines, was a postdoctoral fellow in the Queen’s Department of Chemistry, working in the research group led by J.K. Jones. However, with Dr. Jones working abroad, Sir Fraser was effectively supervised by Dr. Szarek.

It was Dr. Szarek who directed Sir Fraser’s research interests from carbohydrate chemistry to the then brand-new area of macrocycle synthesis and chemistry.

“It is a moment full of nostalgia,” Sir Fraser said. “The period of post-doctoral work was one of the sweetest and most significant parts of my academic career. The fact that my journey started here at Queen’s with Walter has stood me in good stead as I have moved around, from country to country, and from lab to lab.”

During his time at Queen’s, Dr. Walter Szarek has been a professor, supervisor, mentor, and friend to many. On the occasion of his 80th birthday, the Department of Chemistry honoured his many contributions with the announcement of a new lecture series in his name. Mario Pinto, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), introduced the distinguished speaker. A Queen’s alumnus, Dr. Pinto also studied chemistry at Queen’s as an undergraduate and later completed his PhD under the supervision of Dr. Szarek.

Dr. Szarek’s research lies at the interface of chemistry and medicine, with a particular focus on drug discovery and development. He played a leading role in the establishment of Neurochem (now Bellus Health, Inc.) and successful drug candidates such as KIACTA for the treatment of Amyloid A Amyloidosis, Alzhemed for the treatment of Alzheimer's Disease, and the nutraceutical VIVIMIND for the protection of memory function. Each of these drug candidates were synthesized in the Szarek Laboratory at Queen’s.

Dr. Pinto highlighted the important role a supervisor plays for graduate students, pointing to his personal experience with Dr. Szarek as a perfect example.

“Graduate work is life-changing. It’s important to remember that a PhD is a Doctor of Philosophy, not a Doctor of Chemistry. The lessons you learn teach you to how to approach life and how to learn,” he said. "That time of my life was made even more special and transformative because I had Walter as my mentor.”

When asked what advice they would pass on to current students, the distinguished chemists emphasized the importance of mentorship.

“Mentorship is the most important part of a professor’s activities,” Sir Fraser commented. “I get asked all the time: What is my legacy? It is not my research. I will be remembered by my students and by my extended family of scientists that started here at Queen’s with Walter and that has grown over the past half-century.”

Dr. Szarek was admittedly “overwhelmed” by the opportunity to be reunited with Sir Fraser and Dr. Pinto and grateful for their return to the university to present the inaugural lecture.

“They are world-renowned scientists – a Nobel Prize winner and the president of NSERC,” he said. “This is a fantastic moment for our department and for Queen’s.”

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