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Disturbing the peace – Meet Luissa Vahedi

[Luissa Vahedi]
Luissa Vahedi has been studying the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti as part of her master's in epidemiology, offered through the Department of Public Health Sciences at Queen's.

When you think of peacekeeping missions you might imagine blue helmeted troops handing out candy to children, and field hospitals helping the sick while distributing food and water.

But there are unseen challenges in introducing a large group of predominantly male soldiers into this type of environment for months or years at a time.

Luissa Vahedi has been studying the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti as part of her masters in epidemiology – a field which focuses on the determinants of public health.

“As the mission wound down in 2017, there were anecdotal reports of sexual interactions between peacekeepers and local women,” she says. “My research aims to understand how these relationships occur and what could be done to support the women that have given birth to children or have been exposed to sexual abuse and exploitation. Examining the legacy of this peace operation in Haiti is very timely and will help us understand how to prevent human rights violations within future peacekeeping operations.”

When she was first considering masters studies two years ago, Vahedi's connected with Susan Bartels, an associate professor of Emergency Medicine with a cross-appointment in Public Health Sciences at Queen’s, who had a funding opportunity to study peacekeeping. The research strongly related to Vahedi's interests, as she previously volunteered at a sexual assault centre and wanted to research more about the intersection of health and gender. Dr. Bartels eventually became Vahedi's supervisor, alongside Heather Stuart, a professor in Public Health Sciences, Psychiatry and Rehabilitation Therapy, as well as the Bell Canada Chair Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research.

The project involved analyzing data gathered from Haitians who voluntarily completed surveys through tablets provided by the research teams. The surveys provided broad prompts, asking the participants to tell the researchers a story about what it was like to live near UN bases. After this, the participants self-interpret their experiences which provided rich qualitative and quantitative data to Vahedi and the team.

“You get to go back to the story and contextualize those numbers with the actual lived experiences of these women and girls,” she says. “Health is comprised of physical, emotional, social, and political factors, and projects like this provide greater understanding as to how those factors affect daily behaviors, population patterns, and who we are as people. Through this degree I have learned practical skills in data analysis that are very transferable to both public health and in policy making.”

Using the data, Vahedi has built a regression model to try and predict where these interactions were geographically more likely to take place during the peacekeeping mission, and to understand how people's perceptions of these sexual interactions affects the legitimacy of the UN within Haiti.

Preparing for this project involved reading broadly about political science, the history of Haiti, and other related works. While this wasn’t something Vahedi expected as she started her research, she feels the opportunity has helped her to better round out her education and keep her open to new learning opportunities – and, besides, reading is one of her passions.

As she nears the end of her program, Vahedi is preparing for a year off from school to give her time and space to prepare a PhD application. She hopes to continue her studies in epidemiology or public health, while advocating for the use of epidemiological methods to help improve health outcomes for people in fragile states such as Haiti.

“Graduate studies can be stressful, so it has made all the difference for me that I have found a department that is supportive and had the opportunity to work with supervisors who want to see me grow and develop,” she says. “I knew it was a place for me because the campus is beautiful, it is housed in a really great city, and the public health sciences department at Queen’s has been so amazing. Working on a project that I feel very passionate about has been especially gratifying, and I am very privileged and grateful to have this opportunity.”

Hear more from Luissa Vahedi on a recent edition of the Grad Chat podcast on 101.9 CFRC.

Learn more about the Epidemiology program. 

This article was originally published by the School of Graduate Studies.

This is your brain on advertising

Queen’s neuroscience professor Susan Boehnke explains what’s possible in the emerging field of neuromarketing.

[Advertising in Times Square]
Queen's Executive Education at Smith School of Business has launched the Essentials of Neuroscience for Marketers program. The two-day session, Jan. 16  and 17, 2020 in Toronto, gives marketing leaders a practical understanding of neuromarketing and how to use it in their businesses. (Photo: Joshua Earle / Unsplash

NOTE: This article has been updated as the two-day session will now be held Jan. 16  and 17, 2020, instead of Oct. 3 and 4.

Everyone in advertising knows about John Wanamaker. The 19th century American department store magnate famously declared: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is I don’t know which half.” If only neuromarketing were around in Wanamaker’s day, his ad buys might not have been as wasteful.

Neuromarketing uses eye tracking and other brain science technology to better understand what consumers like and how they buy. But it’s still relatively new, and misconceptions about its capabilities abound.

To help separate science from fiction, Queen’s Executive Education at Smith School of Business has launched the Essentials of Neuroscience for Marketers program. The two-day session, Jan. 16  and 17, 2020 in Toronto, gives marketing leaders a practical understanding of neuromarketing and how to use it in their businesses. The program’s lead instructor, Susan Boehnke, assistant professor and neuroscientist at Queen’s Centre for Neuroscience Studies, recently discussed the promise of neuromarketing – what it can do, what it can’t, and what to know before you buy in.

Question: Do you sense a growing interest among marketers in using neuroscience?

Susan Boehnke: I would say so, yes. I just compiled a list of most of the active neuromarketing companies out there for our Executive Education program, which is one of the takeaways attendees are going to have from the course. Right now, it’s a bit of a Wild West in terms of companies offering these services. You have some solid companies that have emerged, mostly out of academic labs. They tend to have a degree of credibility. But you also have a lot of entrepreneurs just opening up shop, buying off-the-shelf technology, and making claims about what they can measure.

Q: Why the fascination with neuromarketing?

SB: For a long time, companies determined whether people liked their advertising or packaging by asking them in a focus group or with a survey. These are still useful methods. You do need to ask people what they think. The problem is that people can’t always articulate why it is they feel a certain way, why it is they behave certain ways and why they make certain decisions. The hope when people started to apply neuroscience technologies to marketing was that you could get an objective measure of those things that people can't articulate. What people say in focus groups is clouded by cultural things or simply wanting to give the answer they think the experimenter wants to hear.

Q: What neuroscience technologies are being used in marketing?

SB: Eye tracking is one. There’s also biometrics – like galvanic skin response and heart rate. If you want to measure the brain more directly, the two methods are: electroencephalography, or EEG, where you have electrodes over the head to record the collective yelling of a whole lot of neurons together; and functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI. This is brain scanning where you can actually look at detailed change in blood flow throughout the brain. Change in blood flow is used as a proxy for brain activity.

Q: What are some of the upsides and downsides of these methods?

SB: EEG has deep roots in academic neuroscience and goes back decades. The good thing about EEG is that you get a continuous signal. You can know second by second how these signals are changing as people are watching, say, a video ad. The problem with EEG is that you don't know exactly where the signals are coming from in the brain. fMRI does provide really good spatial localization. You can say we saw more activity in certain areas of the brain, for example the ventromedial prefrontal cortex or the hippocampus, in response to one ad compared to another. Certain areas are more directly involved in decision-making processes, others in memory or in regulating our emotions. But you can't exactly say when those signals occurred on a millisecond-by-millisecond basis.

Q: What about eye tracking?

SB: If you’re an ad agency, why wouldn’t you want to see where people are looking at your ads? One issue, though, is that what people are looking at doesn’t necessarily reflect where they are attending. As an example, think of being at a cocktail party. You’re looking at the person you are having a conversation with but your attention has drifted to the back of the room where your ex-girlfriend is talking to another guy. So you’re looking at the person in front of you but that doesn’t mean you’re processing anything that person says because your attention has drifted. There is some cutting-edge gaze modelling happening in academia using big datasets that may help sort this out in the future.

Q: How might neuroscience be used in advertising?

SB: Let’s say you have a print ad and you’re going to use eye tracking to see where people are looking. You may find that people aren’t actually paying a lot of attention to a certain part of the ad that, creatively, you are trying to highlight. It looks like people are being attracted to, let’s say, a contrast line in the visual display of the ad and therefore not looking at the product. So then you go back to creative and change that contrast line a bit, and that might allow people to naturally go up to where you want them to look. You can also study a person’s brain signals with EEG and say, OK, when they are looking at this particular spot on the ad, what are their brain signals indicating about their level of attention or engagement?  And what does that mean?

Q: What can’t neuroscience do for marketers?

SB: It can't read minds. You can’t actually read people’s thoughts. I think sometimes there’s a belief that neuroscience can do more than it can do. I can't overstate the limitations of these technologies. But you can get signals that have been shown to be predictive of future buying behaviour, and that's why I think people are buying into neuromarketing.

Q: So the capabilities go beyond just telling us whether or not consumers like a particular ad?

SB: Neuroscience, to some degree, will give you insights into what engages people, but no one technology on its own is going to give you a simple, reliable explanation. The key, however, is in the design of the experiment – having an expert who can actually properly design an experiment that will give you meaningful insights. It is about choosing the right groups to compare and looking at signals from a group of people that is sufficient to provide you with some reliable and valid inferences. Take the example we just discussed about using eye tracking of a print ad. Neuroscientists have to do some interpreting to get the results, which is why it’s critical to have a neuroscientist with some expertise in vision and visual biases to interpret what’s going on.

Q: Can you point to any studies that have shown neuromarketing's effectiveness?

SB: I’ll give you an example of a study that I took my students through last year in my Neuromarketing class at Queen’s. It was done by neuroscientists at a university in Germany. They were interested in seeing if you could use signals from fMRI to predict buying behaviour for Duplo chocolate, which is one of those impulse buys sold at every checkout of every grocery store in Germany. They put women in an MRI and presented them with different merchandising displays for Duplo and asked the women whether they liked them and would buy this chocolate.

Then they test marketed these different merchandising displays all over Germany and got the Duplo buying data from each of these stores. And they were able to show that they could come up with an algorithm of the different brain signals that were involved in the reward and decision-making pathways – and that this actually predicted which merchandising displays would be most effective. So the fMRI signals were better at forecasting sales than the women’s verbal answers.      

Q: What are the ethical considerations for marketers using neuroscience?

SB: There are some perils but part of them I think are unfounded. They are under the assumption that we can actually manipulate people's minds. What neuromarketing can do is basically make ads that were created by advertising creative people maybe slightly better, or decide which ads are better. It’s just another tool for advertisers. Now, that being said, there are things to consider such as vulnerable populations. So imagine people with pathological gambling addiction or shopping addiction. If you’re specifically trying to target the things that are going to make these people even more vulnerable, that's a problem. But I question whether the technology is actually able to do that. . . yet.

Another issue that will need to be considered is privacy of the data. Who owns the neural data that neuromarketing companies record from subjects? A great example relevant in fMRI work is the presence of pre-existing conditions, such as a brain tumour. What if this was shared with insurance companies? What if the company did not disclose this incidental finding to the subject? What if they did it inappropriately? This is not too much of a problem now since the vast majority of fMRI studies are done in partnership with academic institutions, where there is ethical oversight. However, these kinds of issues should be covered by comprehensive regulation ahead of neurotech development that would make neuroimaging devices more accessible to industry.

Q: What are some issues marketers should consider before they hire the services of a neuromarketing firm?

SB: I worry that some companies will buy an off-the-shelf EEG system and software, and the company selling that system says, ‘Oh, here’s a canned signal, and we’re calling that signal engagement.’ And there are those companies out there. That worries me because in neuroscience good experimental design and interpretation is key. So I think the number one thing people have to look for when they source a company is, Do they have real neuroscientists who can think through these issues? You want to be assured the company’s work is standing on the shoulders of all that basic research that was done in academic labs.

If I was a marketer hiring a neuromarketing firm, I would say, ‘Let me be the first subject in the study so I see exactly what you’re doing.’ Obviously they wouldn’t count the results but I would definitely want to be subject number one so I can vet their methods.

Learn more about neuroscience and neuromarketing at Queen’s Executive Education’s Essentials of Neuroscience for Marketers, Jan. 16  and 17, 2020 in Toronto.

This article was originally published by Smith Business Insight.

Genetic variation: a key to survival

Queen’s researchers warn that loss of genetic variation means species are less adaptable to climate change.

Queen’s University researcher Vicki Friesen (Biology) and former postdoctoral fellow Debbie Leigh are sounding the alarm over the increasing loss of the genetic variation that allows species to adapt to the rapid and drastic environmental changes being generated by human activity.

Professor Vicki Friesen

Genetic variation is part of what makes individuals different. In plants and animals this can lead to differences in how they look as well as important differences in migration behavior, flowering time, or reproductive success. These differences within a species allow for adaptation to change.

Drs. Friesen and Leigh’s research has shown that genetic variation within species has declined by six per cent since the industrial revolution, which means species are less adaptable to climate change and, therefore, more vulnerable to extinction.

Professor Debbie Leigh

“We are losing populations, and, in some cases, we are losing entire species,” Dr. Friesen says. “Loss of genetic variation increases the risk of extinction, especially on islands, where the loss of genetic variation is higher than on continents.”

For example, in Galapagos finches, variation in beak size enables large-beaked birds to access a new food source during drought. These individuals survive droughts while those with smaller beaks do not. Dr. Friesen adds that, to prevent further loss, we need to reconnect isolated populations and help wild populations grow to combat climate change.

“We can’t be calm about this. Climate change is affecting our world right now, and the outlook for future generations is bleak,” Dr. Friesen says. “The loss of biodiversity is actually an even bigger problem than the climate crisis, and it’s irreversible. But we don’t hear as much about it. There is a rising level of awareness and anxiety about these issues among scientists.”

The research was published in Evolutionary Applications.

Queen’s researchers recognized by Governor General

Three academics honoured for their work on bullying, mental health, and the Arctic.

  • John Smol and Governor General Julie Payette
    John Smol (Biology, Environmental Studies) receives the Polar Medal from Governor General Julie Payette. Photo: Sgt Johanie Maheu, Rideau Hall — at Rideau Hall.
  • Wendy Craig and Governor General Julie Payette
    Wendy Craig (Psychology) is congratulated by Governor General Julie Payette after being appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada. (Photo: Sgt Johanie Maheu, Rideau Hall)
  • Heather Stuart and Governor General Julie Payette
    Heather Stuart (Public Health Sciences) is congratulated after being named a Member of the Order of Canada by Governor General Julie Payette. (Photo: Sgt Johanie Maheu, Rideau Hall)

Wendy Craig (Psychology) was named an Officer of the Order of Canada, Heather Stuart (Public Health Sciences) was named a Member of the Order of Canada, while John Smol was honoured with the Polar Medal. The Polar Medal is awarded to persons who have rendered extraordinary services in the polar regions and Canada’s North.

“Drs. Craig, Stuart and Smol are working in three important research areas that are making a difference to people across the country and around the world,” says Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane. “These awards show the breadth of Queen’s research and the significance of academic work in addressing real world problems.”

Dr. Smol is one of the world’s foremost experts on environmental change. A Canada Research Chair and professor of biology and environmental studies, Dr. Smol has been at the vanguard of scientific discovery related to lake ecosystems for more than 30 years. By studying sediment cores, he determines how lakes have responded to climate change and other human stressors. His research, which includes studies on the effects of climate change in the Canadian North, has led to tangible policy changes and heightened public awareness.

“I am deeply honoured to receive this medal, although frankly the real credit must go to a very dedicated group of students and colleagues whom I have been honoured to work with over the years” Dr. Smol says. “However, there is much work left to do, as Northern Peoples and the ecosystems on which they depend are on the frontline of climatic and other environmental change.”

The Order of Canada is one of Canada’s highest civilian honours and recognizes outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation.

Dr. Craig is an anti-bullying champion who promotes healthy relationships. She is recognized internationally for her research on victimization and its impact on youth. She has shown exceptional commitment to translating research into practice, notably as the co-founder of PREVNet, a national network promoting safe and healthy relationships that has engaged in knowledge mobilization projects, reaching many communities across Canada. Her expertise is sought widely, notably by the World Health Organization, the United Nations and UNICEF.

“I am truly overwhelmed by this honour,” Dr. Craig says. “I have always done my work collaboratively with fellow researchers and students and so this recognition belongs to many. I am particularly grateful for my collaboration with Dr. Debra Pepler with whom I co-founded PREVNet.”

Dr. Stuart, the Bell Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research Chair, is a champion of mental health in Canada. She has worked tirelessly to shed light on the stigma surrounding mental illness and its impact on recovery. She is an advocate as well as a researcher, advancing the mental health conversation across the country through her instrumental roles in such national initiatives as Bell Let’s Talk and the Mental Health Commission’s anti-stigma program. Driven by compassion, she is leading the charge for Canadians to become agents of change.

“This is a tremendous honour,” Dr. Stuart says, “and one that shines a light on the importance of mental health advocacy and mental health research — two areas that are often underrepresented in the Canadian consciousness.”

For more information on the Order of Canada awards, visit the website.

Queen’s hosts Nobel Prize Laureates for sold-out public talk

International initiative will connect Nobel Laureates with students, researchers, and Queen’s community, during first Canadian tour.

Nobel Prize replica
The Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative public dialogue, featuring Nobel Laureate Martin Chalfie, will also be broadcast live on the Queen's University Facebook page.
WATCH LIVE ONLINE: Tickets to the event are sold out; however you can watch our live online broadcast on the Queen’s University Facebook page or on the Queen’s Livestream site.

For early- and mid-career scientists, the ascent toward research success is a rewarding but at times daunting climb. On Wednesday, Sept. 25, the Queen’s community will hear from two researchers who have reached one of the world’s highest academic peaks: receiving the Nobel Prize.

As part of the Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative (NPII), Nobel Laureate Martin Chalfie will visit Queen’s to engage and inspire students, staff, and faculty. Dr. Chalfie shared the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on Green Fluorescent Protein. He will share thoughts and insights on research success during a sold-out public discussion with Canada’s Chief Science Advisor Mona Nemer, and Queen’s own Nobel Laureate Arthur B. McDonald (Physics, 2015).

Award-winning journalist and author, André Picard, will moderate the dialogue, which will be held at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts from 2-3:30 pm that day. Open to the public, the talk is the signature event of the daylong NPII visit to Queen’s – which is one of four universities hosting the initiative on its first-ever Canadian tour.

The NPII is an international outreach program that strives to connect Nobel Laureates with scientific and student communities at universities and research centres worldwide. Organized by Nobel Media, in partnership with biopharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, the effort allows laureates to shed light on topics of interest to young scientists and the research community at large; including anything from career choices to work-life balance, or how best to communicate their research. Since 2010, the NPII has visited over 30 cities in 14 countries around the globe.

Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative
Nobel Prize Laureate Martin Chalfie.

“We are delighted to be visiting Canada with Dr. Martin Chalfie as part of the Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative. Having already taken the Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative to the next generation of scientists on five continents we know that each event brings a new sense of excitement,” says Adam Smith, Chief Scientific Officer, Nobel Media. “We look forward to a fascinating discussion at Queen’s University, where a wonderful group of panellists will be exploring the questions of critical importance to the future of science, including the correct balance between fundamental and applied research, and the factors which influence scientific success.”

Along with the public discussion, Dr. Chalfie will engage in an exclusive, roundtable talk with some of Queen’s most promising graduate and post-doctoral students, and early-career researchers.

“The Nobel Prize has been considered the highest honour for academics, so it’s truly a privilege for the Queen’s community, and particularly our student researchers, to host Dr. Chalfie and the Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative here on campus,” says Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Queen’s University.

While on campus, Dr. Chalfie will also tour two cutting-edge, multi-disciplinary research and learning spaces on campus – the Beaty Water Research Centre and Ingenuity Labs at newly-opened Mitchell Hall – meeting with graduate and post-doctoral students, staff, and faculty.

Queen’s University is recognized nationally for its research and graduate studies, including attracting and retaining accomplished academics and research mentors. Among them, Nobel Laureate Arthur B. McDonald, who, together with Japanese scientist Takaaki Kajita, received the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics for demonstrating that neutrinos have mass. Stemming from this achievement, Queen’s University, alongside university and institutional partners, launched the Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute in 2018. Supported by a $63.7 million investment from the Canadian government, the Queen’s-based institute unites researchers, theorists, technical experts, and students in an effort to understand some of the universe’s deepest mysteries.

“Queen’s demonstrates marked leadership and excellence in the area of fundamental and applied science, a reputation that has been shaped by researchers like Dr. McDonald,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “In sharing their career trials and triumphs, especially in open conversation with students and faculty, Drs. McDonald, Chalfie, and Nemer, will surely help aspiring researchers in charting their own paths to success.”

The Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative public discussion takes place at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts on Wednesday, Sept. 25 from 2-3:30 pm EST. Tickets are sold out. However, you can still experience the event by watching our live online broadcast on the Queen’s University Facebook page or on the Queen’s Livestream site. To join the event’s wait list or receive a reminder about the livestream, register for tickets on our Eventbrite. Don’t forget to like our Facebook page or bookmark the livestream link for additional notifications when the event goes live. 

Let’s change the ‘girls play flute, boys bash drums’ stereotypes

Woman playing the drums
Do gendered associations with music, such as the drums being considered more ‘male,’ still influence today’s music classrooms?(Photo by Lindsey Bahia / Unsplash)

In 2019, surely we are past the days in music class where boys are shunted to drums and trombone while girls are pushed toward flute and choir? Not necessarily so.

Music researchers have consistently found what musicians, music educators, parents or students may have anecdotally noticed: many people have gendered associations with particular instruments related to instruments’ pitch and timbre or their role and size. And, these gendered associations shape both people’s perceptions of the gender identity and social role of musicians and of what instruments people should choose.

In the 1970s, in the United States, Harold Abeles of Columbia University and Susan Yank Porter of Wilmington Public Schools began to study the effects of gender in music education. They found that both children in kindergarten to Grade 5 and adults make gendered associations with musical instruments, and that students and music teachers tend to prefer “gender appropriate” instruments.

They also found from “most feminine to most masculine,” the list looks like this: flute, violin, clarinet, cello, saxophone, trumpet, trombone and drum. Similar findings persist in studies conducted regularly since.

Unfortunately, when children take up instruments they’re not passionate about, most don’t stick with music for long.

But what is the background here, and what can teachers and parents do to ensure that children are selecting musical activities based on their real desires?

Sounds like gendered history

Historical research shows that gender disparities in music have existed for a long time.

Writing in 1886, music critic George Upton concluded that women were unable to be creative in music. His reasoning was that history shows women wrote no great music and “‘having equal advantages with men, they have failed as creators.’”

Anecdotally, in my teaching and research career I have found many music students repeat the fallacy “if there were any good women musicians we’d have heard of them.”

In the 1980s, scholar Ellen Koskoff of the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, published an influential volume of essays that surveyed women’s experiences in music, both globally and historically. Koskoff’s volume points to gendering of musical pursuits as a pan-global experience.

Of course, the corollary is that men’s musical activities, though generally broader and more prestigious, are also prescribed and restricted. As far back as the 1930s, the Music Educators Journal published a reflective essay by music teacher Inez Field Damon, “The Boys Who Would Not Sing.” Damon laments her experiences talking with the principal at a school where she’s failing at cajoling boys’ participation. The principal replies:

“You can’t make them sing. They never sing. They are heavy in everything.”

Closer to our own times, sociology of arts scholar Clare Hall of Monash University in Australia examines the “missing male” trend in singing at school. She finds that far fewer boys joining choirs or willing to sing likely finds its origins in very early childhood.

Flute and muscial score
What can teachers and parents do to ensure that children select musical activities based on their real desires? (Photo by Rajesh Kavasseri / Unsplash)

Musical genius isn’t male

In my work, I’m tracking gender research in music education. There are many ways researchers are investigating this area.

Researchers look beyond musical instruments, such as barriers to girls playing the electric guitar, to include all types musical pursuits, including collecting records, DJ-ing or writing and producing music.

There are two approaches aimed toward greater gender equity in music education — which could also be adapted to combat gender inequity in other human endeavours — which really must be used in concert. These are known as compensatory practices and challenging practices.

Compensatory practices aim to fill in some gaps related to music history. Rather than just studying dead white European men, music educators must consciously and purposefully include women of diverse cultures or backgrounds in the story.

Let’s study medieval abbess Hildegard von Bingen and American composer, singer and arranger Roberta Martin. Let’s study Americana guitarist Maybelle Carter, or contemporary music makers like blues rocker SATE or vocalist Tanya Tagaq.

And, for those who scoff that we can’t just not study Beethoven, I say, “Of course we study Beethoven! He’s pretty good. But, we don’t privilege Beethoven’s work as inherently more important or a as product of musical genius exclusive to men.”

Role models

Compensatory practices used alone are not enough. Filling gaps is necessary, but alone, compensatory practices don’t take steps to combat continued gendering in music. Some challenging practices that interrupt the formation of gender stereotypes are needed. One of the most effective is providing students with a variety of musical examples or role models.

Exposing students to images of both male and female musicians playing varied instruments or in varied musical roles has been shown to be effective. But beware, because simply showing what might be thought of as counter-examples (only girls playing drums, for instance) runs the risk of creating an equally strong gender bias shifted from the prevalent one.

Any lifelong musician can tell you the benefits of making music. We talk about enhancing self-esteem and self-regulation, building community and enhancing academic achievement among the benefits. But let’s not forget the joy and needed self-expression that music making also brings.

It’s a shame when children miss out on these many benefits either because somebody pushes them in the wrong direction because of who or what they appear to be, or because encouragement and efforts to break down stereotyping are lacking or ineffective.


Robbie MacKay, is a lecturer in Musicology, Dan School of Drama and Music at Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

A royal honour for research

Royal Society of Canada elects four Queen’s University researchers.

[Royal Society of Canada]
Queen's University researchers Rosa Bruno-Jofré, Margaret Moore, and Kim Nossal have been elected as fellows of the Royal Society of Canada, while Grégoire Webber was named a member of the College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists. 

Four Queen’s University researchers have been elected to the Royal Society of Canada, the most prestigious academic society in Canada. Rosa Bruno-Jofré, Margaret Moore, and Kim Nossal were elected to the Fellowship of the academy, while Grégoire Webber was named a member of the College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists.

The group offers a diverse range of research interests including foreign and defence policy, the history of education, territorial rights, and human rights.

The Fellowship of the Royal Society of Canada comprises over 2,000 Canadian scholars, artists, and scientists, peer-elected as the best in their field. These are distinguished men and women from all branches of learning who have made contributions in the arts, the humanities and the sciences, as well as in Canadian public life.

The College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists is Canada’s first national system of multidisciplinary recognition for the emerging generation of Canadian intellectual leadership.

Queen’s is proud to be home to over 90 members of the Fellowship and 11 members of the College of the Royal Society of Canada.

“Congratulations to the four researchers recognized as members of this esteemed group of Canada’s most influential academics,” says Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Queen’s University. “This honour reflects their outstanding leadership in the field of research and the significant contributions they have made to the academy.”

The four Queen’s scholars are:

Rosa Bruno-Jofré (Education) is internationally acclaimed for her research into the history of education, the development of large interdisciplinary projects, and her futuristic view of outreach. She has contributed innovative approaches to the study of Catholic history.

Margaret Moore (Political Studies) is one of the world’s leading authorities in the field of territorial rights. She has developed a comprehensive and systematic theory of territory dealing with some of the most pressing issues faced in national and international politics: how to draw state boundaries, secession, resource rights, rights to migrate and rights of national defense.

Kim Nossal (Political Studies, School of Policy Studies) has published widely and influentially on Canada’s foreign and defence policy. Uniquely, his scholarship has successfully sought to build bridges to the significant francophone scholarly community examining Canada’s political role globally.

Grégoire Webber (Law) has worked for the Privy Council Office, served as Legal Affairs Advisor to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and received a Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General for founding the Supreme Court Advocacy Institute.

The four Queen’s researchers will be inducted at the Royal Society of Canada's annual Celebration of Excellence and Engagement on Friday, Nov. 22. For more information visit the Royal Society of Canada website.

Valuing femininity

A Queen's post-doc has won an Ontario Women’s Health Scholars Award for her work to measure and combat femmephobic attitudes.

Rhea Hoskins
Rhea Hoskin, a Queen's University post-doctoral fellow, has won an Ontario Women’s Health Scholars Award. (Supplied Photo)

You recognize the signs.

People avoiding the colour pink for fear of appearing too feminine. Crying being labelled as a sign of ‘weakness’. Holding attitudes that suggest women are less capable than men.

These are all examples of femmephobia and anti-femininity – prejudices against femininity and feminine qualities. While some examples of femmephobia can be highly overt, it can also be subtle in how it influences cultural norms.

Rhea Hoskin believes femmephobia and anti-femininity are second nature in society, and their prevalence makes it difficult to conduct research into how this mindset factors into gender-based violence and discrimination. So, her post-doctoral research at Queen’s will aim to develop scales to measure femmephobic attitudes and experiences, and to identify the most likely targets of such attitudes.

“Specifically, in this work I seek to connect different types of violence to the ways in which society views femininity,” she says. “It is my hope that this research helps us to better understand how attitudes that devalue and regulate femininity fuel other forms of discrimination. And, ultimately, I hope that this work encourages the re-valuing of femininity as a strategy to combat misogyny, sexism, homophobia, transmisogyny, and rape culture.”

This promising research topic, coupled with Dr. Hoskin’s other contributions to women’s health and to science over the past decade, recently earned her a 2019 Ontario Women’s Health Scholars Award. The award was established by the Council of Ontario Universities to ensure that Ontario attracts and retains pre-eminent women’s health scholars.

“I was driving when I got the call notifying me that I had received the award,” she said. “I had to pull over because I was instantly overcome with emotion. In all honesty, I broke out into an ugly cry – it was a happy cry, but it was most definitely ugly. I immediately called my mother and wife to let them know. We were all ecstatic.”

For Dr. Hoskin, who also recently received the Governor General’s Gold Medal as one of two of the top graduate students across the university based on academic achievement, this Women’s Health Scholars award means she gets to continue pursuing her passion.

“I think that many people feel relieved or excited when they finish their PhD, but I mostly felt sad by the thought that I might not get to continue with my research, and this line of research in particular,” she adds. “Not only do I love research in and of itself, but I love being able to research femme identities, femmephobia, and anti-femininity in particular.”

Working with Sari van Anders, Canada 150 Research Chair in Social Neuroendocrinology, Sexuality, and Gender/Sex, as her post-doctoral supervisor was a major draw for Dr. Hoskin, as her research requires an interdisciplinary mentor who can understand the complexity of gender and feminist theory and simultaneously work within an empirical realm.

“The opportunity to work with Dr. van Anders will uniquely set me up to continue, and strengthen, the trajectory of my research program,” she says.

Dr. Hoskin’s hope is, through her research, that she can create fresh understanding around why it is we devalue and demote people and things that are feminine, and how that affects women’s health and well-being.

“My research centers marginalized people and applies queer and marginalized perspectives to broader social analyses – thus, to have the importance of this perspective recognized and funded is meaningful,” she adds. “Personally and professionally this award allows me to continue to foster interdisciplinary research collaborations with scholars in Ontario. It is my future goal to continue this programme of research at an Ontario university.”

In addition to her research accomplishments and her ambitious agenda, Dr. Hoskin is also the co-chair of Preaching to the Choir: An International LGBTQ+ Conference and is currently the guest editor for an upcoming special issue on critical femininities in Psychology & Sexuality. She is also an invited guest editor for a special issue on femme theory for The Journal of Lesbian Studies.

How non-profits can use business as a force for good

THE CONVERSATION: New research suggests that non-profits tempted by the social enterprise model do not necessarily lose sight of their social mission in favour of profits. In fact, the opposite is true.

Do social enterprises come to view profit as more important than their original mission? New research suggests they don’t, and the cause remains a key component of their success. (Kat Yukawa/Unsplash)

Can a non-profit organization pursue both social gains and business revenue? Or is it as futile as mixing water and oil and hoping that the oil — commercial interests — won’t rise to the top?

Think about the YMCA of Canada. The Y is one of Canada’s oldest and largest charities, serving more than 2.25 million people each year from 1,700 program locations.

It offers a wide range of social programs, from youth leadership development and immigrant services to skills development workshops. It also operates what is essentially a health club business that is somewhat more distantly tied to its mission, yet provides a critical source of revenue. The Y seems to be able to carry out its model of social enterprise just fine.

But for every YMCA, there are many more non-profits committed to advancing a social cause that struggle with finding revenue sources to keep themselves afloat. It’s no surprise; these two approaches often require very different mindsets, and trying to pursue both requires a cultural shift for traditional non-profit organizations.

Traditionally, non-profit organizations that wanted to increase their revenues tended to create commercial activities that were unrelated to their core social activities. Think about the annual cupcake sale organized by your local soup kitchen, or the café created within your local history museum. Those initiatives generate a welcome surplus of revenues, but they remain somewhat unconnected to the core social mission of the organization.

Pursuing profit where it doesn’t belong?

Many say the concept of social enterprise represents the incursion of neoliberal thinking — putting the market above all else — into a sphere where it doesn’t belong.

Some scholars have predicted that ultimately, the “enterprise” would come to dominate the “social” as the pursuit of funds becomes the goal rather than the connection to a social purpose.

But are non-profits really selling their souls to the market? Maybe not. This argument overlooks the ways in which organizations and their leaders assimilate and adapt new ideas.

Our research suggests that non-profits tempted by the social enterprise model do not necessarily lose sight of their social mission. In fact, we observed the opposite trend: non-profit organizations interested in developing commercial activities learned, over time, how to integrate them more deeply with their social goals.

We came to this conclusion after analyzing 14 years of grant applications submitted to Enterprising NonProfits, then a leading Canadian funder that has since shut down, by non-profit organizations that sought to commercialize some of their services to create earned revenue.

With this long-term perspective, we could identify how non-profits in our study described their operating models and whether those models changed over time as the concept of social enterprise emerged and became more prevalent in society at large.

What we found is that the power of commerce did not win out as the years went by.

Research shows that profits did not win out over the causes of social enterprises. (Photo by Perry Grone/Unsplash)

Yes, in the early 2000s, when the concept of social enterprise was still new, many non-profits tended to emphasize the revenue-generation aspect of their new venture over the social mission, and to keep the two rather disconnected.

This was particularly true among non-profits in the social welfare and community benefit space. Perhaps these non-profits wanted to differentiate themselves from others in the field or just could not envision how to realize their social mission while developing commercial activities.

But over time, this emphasis on pure revenue-generation diminished. In the education and health fields, it never even dominated in the first place.

Enhanced their social missions

Instead, hybrid models sprang up that integrated commercial and social objectives in multiple ways. Some non-profits offered specialized products or services to their target beneficiaries and generated revenue that way. Others provided employment opportunities to their target disadvantaged populations and thus enhanced their social mission.

In short, non-profits became better at managing the tensions inherent in mixing revenue generation with social mission, and more amenable to exploring different options for doing so.

They learned what worked and didn’t work from their peers, as successful examples of hybrid social enterprises that integrated a social mission into a commercial business project became more visible in the environment.

In the process, non-profit organizations realized that injecting some earned revenue into their activities could not only provide some welcome relief to their bottom line, but also had the potential to enhance and deepen their social mission.


Jean-Baptiste Litrico is Associate Professor of Strategy and Organization at Smith School of Business, Queen's University, and Marya Besharov, is Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior, Cornell University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

Grant supports research into pain-relieving drugs for bowel disease

Three-year research project to determine effectiveness of new opioid drugs in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease.

[Dr. Stephen Vanner by Matthew Manor]
Dr. Stephen Vanner has received funding  to lead a three-year research project to determine the effectiveness of new opioid drugs in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). (Photo by Matthew Manor)

Stephen Vanner, a clinician-scientist with Queen’s University and the Kingston Health Sciences Centre, has received funding to lead a three-year research project to determine the effectiveness of new opioid drugs in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

One of the greatest unmet needs of patients with IBD is abdominal pain. Current opioid drugs are the most effective treatment, but they have serious side effects. However, new opioid drugs now in development offer longer-lasting pain relief with minimal side effects.

Dr. Vanner, Director of the Gastrointestinal Diseases Research Unit at Kingston Health Sciences Centre and a professor of the Queen’s School of Medicine, has been awarded $375,000 from Crohn’s and Colitis Canada to support early-stage laboratory research that will look at delivering these opioids to specific targets in pain-sensing nerves to reduce pain while mitigating side effects of opioids.

One of the drugs inhibits these pain-sensing nerves in a unique way that leads to sustained pain relief. Another targets these nerves only in inflamed tissues.

“These particular drugs should have no effect on normal tissues, so they could limit or even prevent side effects,” Dr. Vanner says.

This research builds on a large body of earlier IBD work by Dr. Vanner’s group into pain-signalling pathways that suggest these strategies will be effective.

“If these approaches work, the next step could be clinical trials in patients,” he says.

Approximately 1,100 Kingstonians live with IBD, according to Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, and the number of Canadians with this disease is expected to jump from 270,000 to more than 400,000 by 2030. Canada has the highest rate of IBD in the world.

This article was first published on the KGH Research Institute website


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