Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Research Prominence

Major pancreatic cancer breakthrough

Clinical trial results show pancreatic cancer patients nearly twice as likely to survive with new treatment.

Queen's University and CCTG researcher Jim Biagi discusses study results with clinical trial participant Kathleen Kennedy.
Queen's/CCTG researcher Jim Biagi discusses study results with clinical trial participant Kathleen Kennedy.

Clinical trial results presented today at a prestigious cancer meeting in Chicago show substantial increased survival rates for pancreatic cancer patients who received a four-drug chemotherapy combination known as mFOLFIRINOX after surgery. Pancreatic cancer is typically very aggressive, with only approximately eight per cent of people surviving beyond five years after diagnosis, even after surgery and the standard chemotherapy treatment.

Co-led by Jim Biagi, Interim Head of the Department of  Oncology at Queen’s University and researcher with the Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG) headquartered at Queen's, the PRODIGE 24/CCTG PA.6 randomized phase III clinical trial showed that the risks of cancer recurring in post-operative pancreatic cancer patients was reduced by almost 50 per cent with the new chemotherapy regimen.

“The distressing part of pancreatic cancer is that only a small proportion of patients are candidates for surgery and, even if surgery is successful, most will die of recurrent disease,” says Dr. Biagi. “Our trial results demonstrate that patients who receive this treatment after surgery are almost twice as likely to survive. This is life changing for these patients and should impact how we treat pancreatic cancer around the world.”

Following successful surgery, 493 patients with pancreatic cancer were randomly assigned to receive either the current standard treatment (Gemcitabine) or the trial mFOLFIRINOX treatment for six months. On average, patients who received mFOLFIRINOX lived almost 20 months longer and were cancer-free nine months longer than those who received the standard treatment.

“A few months after my cancer diagnosis, I had surgery and then elected to try this experimental treatment,” says Kathleen Kennedy, a Kingston-area resident and one of the trial’s more than 100 Canadian participants. “I knew that there could be risks, but I also knew that it would be helpful – if not immediately to me, then for other pancreatic cancer patients in the future. Now, three disease-free years later, I feel so blessed that this treatment has afforded me more time with my husband, children, and grandchildren.”

The results suggest the new treatment regimen should become standard practice worldwide. There are also some next steps to explore, including experimenting with the timing of chemotherapy. Patients may benefit from receiving chemotherapy before surgery to shrink the tumor, to destroy undetectable micro-metastases, and increase the chance that the tumor can be completely removed through surgery. Another option is to give half the cycles of chemotherapy before, and the other half after surgery. Ongoing clinical trials are already testing both of these approaches.

“I have great respect for patients who volunteer to participate in clinical trial research like ours,” says Dr. Biagi. “Despite the potential risks, they bravely step forward knowing that they could help not only themselves, but a great many people affected by the disease. It’s been an honour to work alongside them, and the results should give us all a great many reasons to be hopeful and excited for longer, healthier lives.”

The study’s co-lead is Thierry Conroy, medical oncologist and director of the Institut de Cancérologie de Lorraine in Nancy – one of the UNICANCER hospital network’s comprehensive cancer centres in France. Funding for the trial was provided by the Institut National du Cancer in France, the French national Ligue against cancer, cycling charity group 7 Days in May and the Canadian Cancer Society.

“Since 1980, more than 80,000 people have received excellent care at over 800 hospitals and cancer centres across the country in clinical trials that we funded. We’re obviously thrilled when discoveries from these trials improve survival and change the way cancer is treated worldwide,” says Judy Bray, Vice-President of Research at the Canadian Cancer Society. “We are committed to helping Canadians through the entire cancer journey by investing in research on prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment and the quality of life of those affected by cancer.”

The PA.6 results were presented at the 2018 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting.

The Conversation: Sometimes the best move is the one you don’t make

File 20180528 90281 xhm6xd.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Houston Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni, during Game 2 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals against the Golden State Warriors in Houston. D'Antoni successfully resisted calls to change his team’s offensive strategy after losing Game 1.

“Defiant Rockets rewarded for ignoring calls for change.” That was one of the top headlines on ESPN following the recovery by the Houston Rockets in Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference finals. Despite a barrage of criticism directed at the team’s offensive strategy after a lopsided loss in Game 1, the Rockets stayed the course. And it paid off.[The Conversation]

After a tough 119-106 loss to the Golden State Warriors two nights before, Houston coach Mike D’Antoni could have gone back to the drawing board and changed the offensive game plan. After all, that is what critics expected he would do to put the team in a more competitive position in Game 2.

But D’Antoni, like many basketball coaches, knows that sometimes the best move is no move at all.

D’Antoni’s decision not to change the isolation-heavy offence that led his team to the top of the Western Conference during the regular season is what I call “competitive forbearance,” a purposeful decision not to act when key decision-makers have opportunity and capability to do so.

Competitive forbearance is also an important strategic decision in the business world.

Competitive forbearance in business

Competitive dynamics, a stream of strategic management research, addresses fundamental questions in strategy: How firms behave and why firms perform differently.

Studies in this area have mainly focused on how competitive aggressiveness — the propensity to carry out a large number of competitive actions — increases a firm’s performance. Firms that fail to act frequently appear unenterprising or “passive,” which can diminish performance.

Little attention has been paid to the possible benefits of purposeful decisions not to act.

Mutual forbearance theory suggests multimarket rivals choose competitive forbearance to prevent unnecessary losses associated with escalating rivalry across several markets.

However, multimarket contact is just one situation in which forbearance is preferable to action. Savvy firms use forbearance to outmanoeuvre rivals in a variety of competitive situations.

For example, Apple decided not to integrate Adobe’s Flash Player into the iPhone and the iPad. As a result, Adobe withdrew its Flash Player from the Android mobile operating system of Apple’s arch enemy, Google, and chose to refocus its efforts around the emerging HTML5 standard. This suggests that Apple’s forbearance was the right choice despite being heavily criticized at the time.

When Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone in 2007, Apple made a conscious decision not to allow it to work with Adobe’s Flash Player. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

I was part of a research project that explored the antecedents and consequences of competitive forbearance in the basketball coaching setting. Our research findings show that it has a significant impact on competitive rivalry.

How forbearance improves performance

In basketball, coaches make a wide range of forbearance decisions — not replacing players who are in foul trouble, not calling timeouts when teams are underperforming and not responding to opponents’ changes in offensive or defensive strategies.

In fact, 30 post-game interviews with nine coaches regarding their strategic decisions in 15 basketball games in the division one men’s basketball league of the FIBA–Europe revealed 673 competitive acts and 143 competitive forbearances. In other words, 17 per cent of all considered competitive moves were purposefully not executed. Competitive forbearance varied systematically across coaches.

The reasons basketball coaches choose to forbear can vary, from waiting for the full benefits of previous decisions to materialize to increasing players’ confidence — or in the case of D’Antoni, avoiding moves inconsistent with the team’s existing strategy and providing an opportunity for players to learn from experience. It was the right call — the Rockets went on to win 127-105 in Game 2.

Although competitive forbearance can improve team performance by expanding the range of strategic maneuvers and by making competitive behaviours less predictable, coaches are more prone to act than to forbear. Why is that? Two key factors are stakeholder pressure and coaching confidence.

Not acting attracts criticism

Owners, journalists, analysts, fans and players often assume that not taking action indicates incompetence and a lack of coaching skills. Thus, the norm is to act and forbearance is a violation of the norm.

The negative outcomes associated with forbearance are judged more harshly than the negative outcomes of actions. The effects of this pressure are especially evident in the last two minutes of the game, where our study revealed competitive forbearance was 62 per cent less likely to occur.

Not all coaches succumb to stakeholder pressure. More accomplished coaches had 42 per cent higher odds of forbearing. We also found the coaches who were confident about winning the game were over two and half times more likely to forbear. D’Antoni’s regular-season record with the Rockets — 65 wins in 82 games — would indicate a certain amount of confidence in the team’s odds of success.

When key decision-makers actively use forbearance, they consider a wide range of plots to outcompete rivals. They are also less predictable to rivals because they forbear when rivals expect action.

Despite its unique advantages, competitive forbearance is not in the toolkit of many basketball coaches. Only more accomplished and confident coaches are more likely to use competitive forbearance, which in turn, increases team performance.

And how did it work out for the Houston Rockets? D’Antoni kept firm to his forbearance decision throughout the Western final — he did not change the team’s offensive strategy. But a collapse in the second half of Game 7 led to a Golden State victory. If the Rockets did not lose Chris Paul when they were up 3-2 after five games, they might have been in the finals.

The ConversationIndeed, it is not one decision, but a series of decisions that can increase or decrease performance. Forbearances increased the chances of success, but it is a combination of actions and forbearances that is critical for winning.

Goce Andrevski, is an Associate Professor and Distinguished Faculty Fellow of Strategy at Smith School of Business.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Introducing our new faculty members: Thomas Rotter

Thomas Rotter is a new member of the Faculty of Health Sciences.

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 initiative, which will see 200 new faculty members hired over five years.

Thomas Rotter (Healthcare Quality) sat down with the Gazette to talk about his experience so far. Dr. Rotter is an associate professor.

[Thomas Rotter]
Dr. Thomas Rotter joined the Queen's community in July of 2017. (University Communications)
Fast Facts about Dr. Rotter

Department: Healthcare Quality, and Nursing

Hometown: Günzburg, Germany

Alma mater: Technische Universität Dresden (public health), Erasmus University (evaluation science)

Research areas: healthcare quality, risk, and patient safety

Hobbies include: Cooking, bicycling, gardening

Dr. Rotter’s web bio
How did you decide to become a teacher?
I never thought I would be a professor, which makes me a rare species. If you told me even in my thirties that I would be a professor, I would not have believed you. 
I worked as a nurse clinician for eleven years in Germany in a variety of settings before deciding to go back to university to complete my PhD. While completing my doctorate, I connected with the Cochrane Collaboration – this is like a dating agency for those involved in evidence-based practice and medicine. Through this, I met my mentor – Dr. Leigh Kinsman in Australia – and we started doing research together. He taught me about how to successfully apply for high-level research grants, how to publish, and he helped me overcome my anxiety about these things.
He is still my most important collaborator and friend, and my mentor – before I make any important decisions, such as taking this job at Queen’s, I am always consulting him. My passion for research led me to academia, and I ended up loving it.
How did you end up in Canada?
In 2012, I applied for a research chair position at the University of Saskatchewan in health quality improvement science, and I was accepted. During my time there, my wife and I had our daughter – she’s now four years old. So we are now working on our citizenship applications and intending to stay in Canada. I decided after five years of this wonderful chair position that I should go for a faculty position so I could have more time with my daughter.
With this faculty position at Queen’s, teaching is about 35 per cent of my job and I really love it. One course I teach is about research and evaluation methods in health quality, risk, and safety. It is delivered in a hybrid format as part of a two-year masters course. Students are here twice for a week, and the rest is delivered online.
It was a bit of a challenge in the start, but it is going really well and I am looking forward to more teaching – as well as bringing more of my research from Saskatchewan here.
Tell us a bit about your research. Why is it important?
All of my research has a common aim – to cut down the time it takes for a new discovery in healthcare to arrive at the patient’s bedside. I am considering both the patient outcomes, as well as the knowledge and ability of the healthcare professionals – ensuring they are using the best available knowledge to treat their patients. All of my research is of an applied nature. I am doing loads of different stuff because my scope is broad. It applies to every discipline in primary and hospital care.
Some of my research focuses on clinical pathways – interventions which are aimed at guiding evidence-based practice and improving the interactions between health services. I have worked on pathway projects in Canada and internationally as a way to standardize the way we provide care for patients with cancer, pediatric asthma, gastroenteritis, heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to improve both their quality of life and life expectancy – but primarily focusing on quality of care.
I also want to do some research into suicide prevention, going back to my time as a psych nurse. The numbers are terrible, and we have to do something.
My skills are generally applicable as long as I work with content experts. I am currently working with a lung doctor on a project in Saskatchewan to implement and evaluate a clinical pathway for COPD patients in Regina.
How did you become passionate about healthcare quality?
This area is under-researched, when compared to basic research, and it is truly multidisciplinary by nature. Some innovations make it into the care setting quicker and we don’t know why. It can be the political climate, the context, or just the right timing – what I know is that we don’t know.
We spend billions of dollars every year to create ‘me too’ drugs that are almost the same as existing drugs – if we instead focused more on quality and ensuring medical knowledge and cutting-edge products made it into the care setting faster, this would save lives and have a much greater effect. This principle applies to every sector of medicine.
Another project you have worked on relates to simulating patient deterioration. What is that?
This is a project I worked on in Australia, which I would like to bring to Canada to test the transferability. We picked two hospitals in Australia and used face-to-face simulations to test nurses’ knowledge and skills on patient deterioration before and after the training, and in two other hospitals we used web-based video simulations. I was a strong believer in face-to-face simulation. I have a background as a health economist, and Dr. Kinsman asked me to do the cost analysis.
We found that both formats were as effective at increasing nurses’ knowledge, and that over time web-based delivery gets cheaper. It is costly at the start but after about 100 nurse trainees you hit the break-even point. I hope to test the findings next year in Canada.
[Thomas Rotter]
Dr. Rotter holds up a picture of his daughter. (University Communications)
What do you think of Kingston?
It was a very good trade – the best thing my family and I have done since moving to Canada. Though we had a wonderful time in Saskatchewan, this is the right opportunity for us and it is closer to Europe so I can visit my family in Germany. It is a magnificent town. It is the right size, and every time I drive home from Toronto I am happy to be coming back – though it is nice to visit Toronto too and take in the sights.
What you might not know is Saskatchewan has no passenger trains, and being from Europe I am so used to that. I appreciate the trains here. I am regularly going to Ottawa or Toronto…I can work. It’s almost like being back home.
What do you do for fun?
I am a hobby chef. I enjoy cooking from country to country – the more exotic the better. Most of the stuff I like is from Africa or the Caribbean. I never cook for myself – I love to cook for guests, and cooking together.
I also love to bike – I lived in the Netherlands for six years and my wife and I both fluently speak Dutch. I recently went to a conference in Amsterdam and the first thing I did was get a bike – I would bike from the hotel to the conference. My Canadian colleagues looked at me and asked, “Are you biking?” and I said, “Yes, every morning – it’s nice guys!” “Is this considered to be safe?” they asked. They took a cab or the tram.
I am also a hobby gardener. What I like about gardening is to grow your own vegetables. Having your own veggie garden is the only way to know what you are eating, and it is a great workout.

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, launched in 2017, will see 200 new faculty hired, which nearly doubles the hiring pace of the previous 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.

The Conversation: The 19th century book that spawned the opioid crisis

Thomas De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium-Eater was the first modern drug memoir and set the tone for opium use for decades.

Papaver somniferum (Opium poppy), a group of deep red flowers, buds and seed pods. Opium is extracted from the latex of the unripe seed pods. Ripe seeds are innocuous and widely used in baking.

In 1804, a 19-year-old Oxford University undergraduate named Thomas De Quincey swallowed a prescribed dose of opium to relieve excruciating rheumatic pain. He was never the same.

“Oh! Heavens!” he wrote of the experience in the first modern drug memoir, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, published in 1821. “What an upheaving, from its lowest depths, of the inner spirit! What an apocalypse of the world within me!”

That the drug took away his physical pain was “a trifle,” De Quincey asserted, compared to “the immensity of those positive effects which had opened before me.”

[The Conversation]Over the next eight years, De Quincey used opium to heighten his enjoyment of books, music, solitude and urban wandering. In effect, he invented recreational drug taking.

Yet all the while opium was tightening its grip on him, and in 1813 he succumbed to an addiction that tormented him until his death in 1859, more than half a century after he had first tampered with the drug.

“Who is the man who can take his leave of the realms of opium?” demanded the great 19th-century French poet Charles Baudelaire in his Artificial Paradises (1860). Not De Quincey.

And, as today’s opioid crisis makes clear, not millions of others who have followed him into addiction, and who have had their lives ravaged by the drug. De Quincey’s Confessions transformed perceptions of opium and mapped several crucial areas of drug experience that still provoke intense debate today.

I have conducted research into the life and writings of Thomas De Quincey for 30 years, and my work on him includes a biography, The English Opium-Eater, and a critical edition of his Confessions of an English Opium-Eater and Other Writings. My understanding of his opium addiction has benefited greatly from my consultations with Prof. Mary Olmstead of the Centre for Neuroscience Studies at Queen’s University.

The oldest drug

Opium is probably the oldest drug known to humankind. It is derived from the unripe seedpod of the poppy plant, Papaver somniferum. The ancient Greek poet Homer almost certainly refers to it as “a drug to quiet all pain and strife” in his epic poem, The Odyssey, which was written in the eight or ninth century BC, and which De Quincey quotes in his Confessions.

For thousands of year, opium was the principal analgesic known to medicine. In the 16th century, the German-Swiss alchemist Paracelsus described it as “a secret remedy.”

At the end of the 18th century, the great German philosopher Immanuel Kant warned of its dangers: Opium produces a “dreamy euphoria” that makes one “silent, reticent, and withdrawn,” he stated in his Metaphysics of Morals (1797), and it is “therefore permitted only” for medical reasons.In early 19th-century Britain, opium was everywhere. People of every age and class used it for self-medication like we use aspirin today. It was legal. It was cheap. It was available in a wide range of cure-alls, including Godfrey’s Cordial, the Kendal Black Drop and Mother Bailey’s Quieting Syrup.

It was used to treat all manner of major and minor illness, from cancer and diabetes to travelling sickness, hay fever, headache and depression. Pharmacists sold it, as did grocers, bakers, tailors, market vendors and country peddlers. There were no efforts to regulate its sale until the Pharmacy Act of 1868.


De Quincey consumed opium as “laudanum,” which is prepared by dissolving opium in alcohol. Morphine, the principal active agent in opium, was isolated in 1803 and delivered with a hypodermic syringe by the 1850s.

At the beginning of the 20th century, opium was better known in the form of one of its chief derivatives: Heroin. Today, opioids are sold in powerful prescription medications, including tramadol, methadone and oxycodone. They are also, of course, widely available in illegal forms such as heroin, or in illicit forms of legal drugs — like fentanyl, a synthetic opioid.

Fuelled by decades of over-prescription, the United States gets 30 times more opioid medication than it needs, and opioid overdoses kill more than 140 people daily.

Meanwhile, in other countries, patients are forced to endure severe or chronic pain because there is a shortage of the drug. Mexico gets only 36 per cent of the opioid medication it needs; China 16 per cent; India just four per cent.

[Confessions of an Opium Eater]
De Quincey’s descriptions of opium shaped modern perceptions: A 1962 movie was made based on his book. 

De Quincey’s descriptions of his opium experience have thoroughly shaped modern perceptions of the drug, and in a variety of ways. He glamorized opium in his Confessions, linking it to spectacular dream sceneries, visionary forms of creativity and intellectual, moral and emotional bliss.

In 1824, the authors of the Family Oracle of Health damned the Confessions for producing misery in those who had read it and begun to abuse opium.

They were right to worry. Many 19th- and 20th-century addicts have said explicitly that De Quincey led them to the drug.

Typically, “ever since I read De Quincey in my early teens I’d planned to try opium,” Ann Marlowe confessed in 1999 in her How to Stop Time: Heroin from A to Z.

De Quincey was also the first to explore the painful cycles of intoxication, withdrawal and relapse and his accounts are deeply consonant with modern descriptions. Once he was habituated to opium, he no longer experienced anything like the euphoria he enjoyed as a recreational user.

When he determined to kick his habit, what he called “nervous misery” marked the beginning of withdrawal. If he attempted to battle through it, he was hit hard by vomiting, nausea, irritability and depression. He often fought these miseries, too, but then his resolution faltered, and he went back to opium. His intake levels gradually climbed. He spiralled toward rock bottom. The grim cycle began again.

Like the vast majority of addicts from his day to ours, De Quincey could come off opium. He just could not stay off opium.

Myth making

In one fundamental respect, however, De Quincey’s account of opioid addiction does not tally with today’s medical knowledge.

By common consent, the pain of opioid withdrawal usually lasts about a week and is like having a very bad flu. De Quincey tells a different story. “Think of me as of one, even when four months had passed, still agitated, writhing, throbbing, palpitating, shattered,” he wrote.

[Confessions of an Opium Eater]
Pages from Thomas De Quincey’s novel Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

Such depictions exaggerated the agonies of withdrawal and established the erroneous conviction that it is a hellishly long process. In Romancing Opiates (2006), Theodore Dalrymple condemned the uncritical acceptance and enduring impact of De Quincey’s Confessions. “When it comes to drug addiction,” Dalrymple stated, “literature has trumped — and over-trumped — pharmacology, history, and common-sense.”

De Quincey had a deeply paradoxical relationship with opium, and more than 30 years after his addiction had taken hold, he was the first to detail the sickening confusion that so many addicts have found at the crux of their drug experience.

Opium, he asserted, was a con that could convince long-term addicts that they could lay it aside easily and within a week.

Opium was a trade-off that defeated steady exertion, but that gave irregular bursts of energy. Opium was irresistible, like a celestial lover. And opium was a blight that withered life. The collision of these competing impulses made it difficult for De Quincey to see his addiction clearly, and impossible for him to surmount it.

“Since leaving off opium,” he once noted wryly, “I take a great deal too much of it for my health.”

De Quincey initiated the story of modern addiction. There were countless users and abusers before him stretching back to the ancient world, but he was the first to publish a compelling narrative that explored the seductive pleasures and eviscerating pains of the drug.

The ConversationHe has been castigated for celebrating opium and for spreading misinformation about it. But in 1844 he was categorical about his drug abuse, and his harrowing words anticipate the testimonies of so many of the addicts caught up in today’s opioid crisis. “Not fear or terror,” De Quincey wrote, “but inexpressible misery, is the last portion of the opium-eater.”

The BBC’s,‘The Secret Life of Books,’ devoted to De Quincey’s Confessions, hosted by John Cooper Clarke. (The author Robert Morrison was involved in its production and is interviewed in the film.)


• • •


Robert Morrison is a professor in the Department of English Language and Literature..

This article was originally published on The Conversation, which provides news and views from the academic and research community. Queen’s University is a founding partner. Queen's researchers, faculty, and students are regular contributors.

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

Opening the doors to astroparticle physics research

Visitor Centre for the Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute unveiled in Stirling Hall.


The research being conducted by the newly-launched Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute is providing answers to some of the biggest questions about how the universe works.

And while many people may be interested in the ground-breaking work, it isn’t always the easiest to grasp.

That’s where the institute’s Visitor Centre can help.

Launched on Thursday in concert with the McDonald Institute, named in honour of Queen’s University’s first Nobel Laureate, Professor Emeritus Art McDonald, the Visitor Centre is located in Stirling Hall, the campus home of the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy.

“Education and outreach are very important aspects for the McDonald Institute moving forward. Through the Visitor Centre we can better understand the complex scientific problems and research being conducted by the McDonald Institute in the field of astroparticle physics,” says Barbara Crow, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science. “By making the ground-breaking research more accessible we can discover how scientists like Tony Noble, Scientific Director of the McDonald Institute, and his colleagues are working to shed light on a dark universe and discover answers to its many mysteries.”

The Visitor Centre, along with a new website, presents the ongoing research conducted by SNOLAB and the McDonald Institute, such as the discovery that neutrinos have mass and the search for dark matter, with the goal of engaging and connecting visitors to the questions and findings that are fundamental to the very properties of science and our understanding of the formation and evolution of the universe.

In addition to a series of panels highlighting research, facilities, and developments, the Visitor Centre features a virtual reality setup that will allow visitors to travel though space and experience a solar storm. The centre also offers an augmented reality sandbox that will teach guests about gravitational fields in an interactive and tactile manner.

On Thursday attendees of the opening ceremony, including a group of high school students, were the first to tour the Visitor Centre. It was also the first opportunity for the centre to see how visitors interact with the displays.

“The students really gravitated toward the interactive aspects and I think, to some degree, a lot of our interactive displays are also works in progress,” says Nathalie Ouellette, Communications, Education and Outreach Officer for the McDonald Institute. “Moving forward we hope to get more feedback as guests interact with the displays and see exactly how they want to interact with them and what kind of experience they are looking for.”

The Visitor Centre is open Monday to Friday, 9:30 am-4:30 pm. Admission is free.

  • Information panels at McDonald Institute Visitor Centre
    The Visitor Centre for the newly-launched Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute is filled with information panels as well as a number of interactive displays. (Photo by Bernard Clark)
  • Ribbon cutting for McDonald Institute Visitor Centre
    Helping cut the ribbon to officially open the Visitor Centre were, from left: Barbara Crow, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Science; Nathalie Ouellette, Communications, Education and Outreach Officer for the McDonald Institute; Tony Noble, Scientific Director of the McDonald Institute; and Benjamin Tam, a graduate student in the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy. (Photo by Bernard Clark)
  • Virtual Reality set for McDonald Institute Visitor Centre
    The Visitor Centre offers a virtual reality setup that allows users to travel though space and experience a solar storm. (Photo by Bernard Clark)
  • Gravity box at McDonald Institute Visitor Centre
    One of the interactive displays at the Visitor Centre is an augmented reality sandbox that can teach guests about gravitational fields in an interactive and tactile manner. (Photo by Bernard Clark)

Exploring Research Data Management in Canada

Data Day offers Queen's community an opportunity to learn about a range of data-related issues and solutions.

The increasingly important role of Research Data Management (RDM) was the topic of discussion during the fifth annual Data Day at Queen’s on Wednesday, May 2.

[Jeff Moon, Data Day]
Jeff Moon, Director of Portage Network, spoke about the Research Data Management landscape nationally, during Data Day at Queen's. (Supplied Photo)

The keynote address was given by Jeff Moon, Director, Portage Network, who described the RDM landscape in Canada, focusing on journal and funding-agency requirements surrounding research data. Moon also reviewed the emerging Tri-Agency RDM Policy and ways that Portage has been proactively addressing each of the three pillars in this policy. 

“Information about the emerging Tri-Agency RDM Policy updates and informs researchers and administrators on this important and impending set of research-related requirements,” he says. “Information about Portage platforms and services will help researchers and administrators understand and implement effective RDM practices to support high impact research. Our goal is to move the yardstick forward in understanding the importance of good RDM at Queen’s.”

This topic fit well with the offerings of Queen’s University Library, which continues to collaborate and advance Research Data Management in Canada. 

“Data Day at Queen’s is an ideal opportunity for the Queen’s community to learn about a range of data-related issues and solutions,” Moon says. “The organizers have done a great job pulling together a fantastic agenda for the day.  As a long-time member of the Queen’s community, I am thrilled to be able to share some of what I have learned in my new role as Director of Portage. I always look forward to the conversations and sharing that Data Day seems to engender.”

The Portage Network is a national Research Data Management initiative designed to assist researchers, institutions, and other stakeholders through a library-based network of RDM experts and national online platforms for planning, preserving, and discovering research data. Portage was launched in 2015 by the Canadian Association of Research Libraries, and works within the library community to coordinate expertise, services, and technology in research data management, seeking to collaborate with other research data management stakeholders.

Through its experts and partner organizations, Portage delivers nationally-coordinated RDM services and infrastructure platforms that respond directly to researcher and institutional needs.  Examples include the DMP Assistant, an online, bilingual, data management planning tool, training resources, and FRDR, the Federated Research Data Repository. The strength of this federated model stems from its promotion and enabling of sharing – of data resources, expertise, and technology, locally, regionally, provincially, and nationally.

A lifetime achievement

Gregory Jerkiewicz receives title of Professor of Chemical Sciences for Life from president of Poland.

[Gregory Jerkiewicz]
Gregory Jerkiewicz (Chemistry), was conferred with the title of Professor of Chemical Sciences for Life by Andrzej Duda, President of Poland, during a ceremony in Warsaw on April 25. (Supplied Photo)

Gregory Jerkiewicz (Chemistry), an international-leading researcher in the fields of electrochemistry and electrocatalysis, was recently conferred with the title of Professor of Chemical Sciences for Life by Andrzej Duda, President of Poland.

Dr. Jerkiewicz was one of 52 academics to receive the award during a special ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw on April 25. He was one of only two recipients from outside of Poland.

For Dr. Jerkiewicz it was a special moment recognizing the groundbreaking work he has done over his career in developing new clean energy technologies.  

“It’s an incredible recognition for all the work I have done. It’s a culmination of many years of work,” he says, admitting he felt a bit emotional as he took part in the ceremony. “It’s very satisfying because you work on something for 25 years and it’s like putting pieces of a puzzle together and finally after so many years you see the big picture.”

Dr. Jerkiewicz’s research has led to advances in hydrogen electrochemistry and he is considered the world’s leading expert in platinum electrochemistry. More recently his lab has focused on nickel electrochemistry, and received a $4 million research grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) in 2016.

Originally from Poland, Dr. Jerkiewicz completed his undergraduate and master’s studies at Gdansk University of Technology. It was during this time that he co-founded and became a leader of the Independent Students’ Association, which supported the pro-democratic work of the Solidarity trade union that eventually toppled the communist regime in Poland. However, this work came at a cost. He was imprisoned by the communist government for six months and, fearing for his safety after being released, he moved to Canada in 1985. He remains a dual citizen of Poland and Canada.

After earning his PhD at the University of Ottawa in 1991 he taught at Université de Sherbrooke and then arrived at Queen’s in 2002.

This isn’t the first time Dr. Jerkiewicz has been by the Polish government.

In 2012 he was honoured by the Polish government for his student activism with a Knight’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta, an award equivalent to the Order of Canada.

While his latest honour recognizes the work throughout his career, Dr. Jerkiewicz considers himself a mid-career academic and plans on continuing his work for many more years.

A key component is his teaching and work with new researchers through his lab.

“I really like teaching because, very often, when I teach students come to me asking some fundamental questions and I realize ‘Oh, this is not explained in some first or second year textbook and if it is not explained it’s a challenge. But lacking knowledge or being asked about something that is not explained is an opportunity for researchers. Somebody did not explain it, I can do it.”

Visit the website of the Dr. Jerkiewicz Research Group to learn more.

Queen’s and partner institutions launch national research institute

The Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute will advance scientific research and discovery in astroparticle physics.

[logo: Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute]

Queen’s University is cementing its reputation as a world leader in astroparticle physics with the official launch of a new national research network dedicated to understanding some of the universe’s deepest mysteries.

The new Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute is a partnership of eight universities and five affiliated research organizations. Headquartered at Queen’s, the institute came to fruition as a result of the $63.7 million investment the university received in 2016 from the Government of Canada’s Canada First Research Excellence Fund.

[galaxy image]

“The launch of this new institute represents a major step forward for our efforts to create a world-leading astroparticle physics research network, building on an area of research expertise for the university and Canada” says Queen’s Principal Daniel Woolf. “We are also honoured today to be naming this new institute after one of Canada’s most accomplished and celebrated researchers, Nobel Laureate and Queen’s emeritus professor Dr. Arthur B. McDonald.”

Over the past year and a half, the institute has been building momentum, appointing a scientific director and recruiting 13 new faculty members (out of 15 designated positions) from around the world. In total, 100 people, including faculty, staff, and students across the country will be members of the institute, all working to advance its research and outreach goals.

“This new institute will bring together unique expertise from across Canada and leverages over $255 million of federal investment, with matching amounts from provincial partners, supporting astroparticle physics research over the last 20 years, including the leading experiments at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) and the SNOLAB,” says Tony Noble, Scientific Director of the McDonald Institute. “Although the dimensions of the particles we are studying are minute, the implications of these discoveries are monumental and fundamental to the very properties of science and our understanding of the formation and evolution of the universe.”

In addition to advancing research into areas such as the mysteries surrounding dark matter and neutrino science, the institute has a mandate for scientific outreach and to develop unique undergraduate and graduate student programing and opportunities.

  • [Art McDonald at the podium]
    Dr. Arthur B. McDonald. (Photo by Lars Hagberg)
  • [Nathan Brinklow offering the Thanksgiving address]
    Nathan Brinklow offering the Thanksgiving address. (Photo by Lars Hagberg)
  • [Dr. Daniel Woolf at the podium]
    Dr. Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Queen's. (Photo by Lars Hagberg)
  • [speakers on stage]
    Pictured (l-r): Sandra Crocker (Associate Vice Principal, Carleton University), Dr. John Fisher, Liz Fletcher, Dr. Art McDonald, Kate Young (Parliamentary Secretary for Science), Dr. Tony Noble, Dr. Marie-Cecile Piro (University of Alberta). (Photo by Lars Hagberg)
  • [John Burge performing his original composition "Oscillations," a piece dedicated to Arthur and Janet McDonald]
    John Burge performing his original composition "Oscillations," a piece dedicated to Arthur and Janet McDonald. (Photo by Lars Hagberg)
  • [speakers on stage]
    Pictured (l-r): Dr. John Fisher, Liz Fletcher, Dr. Art McDonald, Kate Young (Parliamentary Secretary for Science), Dr. Tony Noble, Dr. Marie-Cecile Piro (University of Alberta), Nathan Brinklow. (Photo by Lars Hagberg)

“The McDonald Institute’s extensive research community and availability of funding for undergraduate and graduate students means that students will be able to contribute to the astroparticle physics community and the larger physics community as a whole,” says Liz Fletcher, master’s student, McDonald Institute. “By fostering of an amazing research environment across all of the McDonald Institute partner institutions, there will be an increase in opportunities for students to get involved, especially at the undergrad level, from summer positions to thesis and independent study projects.”

"Although the dimensions of the particles we are studying are minute, the implications of these discoveries are monumental and fundamental to the very properties of science and our understanding of the formation and evolution of the universe."

Along with the official launch and naming, the McDonald Institute also unveiled a new Visitor Centre located in Stirling Hall at Queen’s along with a new website. The Visitor Centre will feature a virtual reality setup that will allow guests to travel though space and experience a solar storm. The centre will also have an augmented reality sandbox that will teach guests about gravitational fields in an interactive and tactile manner.

MI logoVisit the website:
Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute

“Centres like the McDonald Institute Visitor Centre can help us better understand the world and learn how scientists like Dr. McDonald and his colleagues are working to bring light to a dark universe and discover answers to its many mysteries,” says Dean Barbara Crow. “What is so great about this space is that it makes complex scientific problems and research accessible and understandable for community members, teachers, and students of all ages who are interested in learning more about how the universe works.”

VIDEO: Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute

"With SNOLAB, Canada has become an international centre for the experimental elements of astroparticle physics. Our new Institute adds to that strong international capability through the development of a strong personnel component within Canada – it has created a new generation of researchers in this field.

Additionally, the Institute creates an intellectual centre for interaction between theorists and experimentalists on topics at the cutting edge of particle astrophysics. This is already resulting in a number of experiments at the forefront of topics that will help us to understand the world around us and how it has evolved.

With the Institute, I am convinced that this will continue and keep Canada and Queen’s as a leader in this area of research."

Dr. Arthur B. McDonald
[Dr. Art McDonald]
Dr. Arthur B. McDonald

VIDEO: May 8 Launch Event for the Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute

Healthy competition at Science Rendezvous

Queen’s and Heart and Stroke promote heart health through fun, family-friendly games.

On May 12, Queen’s University researcher Kyra Pyke and the Heart and Stroke Foundation will join forces at Science Rendezvous for a heart health exhibit jam-packed with fun, educational games and activities for the whole family.

This year’s displays will mark the fifth year of an ongoing partnership between the organizations designed to promote cardiovascular health research and awareness.

Queen's and Heart and Stroke activities from Science Rendezvous 2017
Queen's University and the Heart and Stroke Foundation continue to offer educational games and activities focused on heart health at Science Rendezvous. (Supplied Photo)

“Learning about cardiovascular health and establishing heart-healthy habits as early as possible is important,” says Dr. Pyke, Associate Professor of Cardiovascular Physiology in the Queen’s School of Kinesiology and Health Studies. “Our joint display with the Heart and Stroke Foundation at Science Rendezvous features games designed to help both children and adults become better acquainted with how their cardiovascular system works, and to engage them with some of the interesting activities that we use to challenge the cardiovascular system in our research.”

One of the games, Cardio Hopscotch, involves a giant schematic of the cardiovascular system mapped out on the floor and divided into its parts – including the heart, lungs, veins and arteries. Children will be able to hop from one element to the next to learn how blood flows through the human body, and will be asked to hop faster or slower to reflect how quickly the blood flows at different levels of rest or activity. It will also include model 'oxygen molecules' that will have to be transported to various points as kids progress through the course.

“Physically moving around a giant map of the circulatory system really helps people visualize how their cardiovascular system and respiratory system move oxygen and other nutrients to the places in the body that need them,” says Dr. Pyke. “Cardio Hopscotch really drives the point home in two ways, because it actually gets the heart pumping while you learn.”

Another family-friendly activity will include a friendly ‘grip strength’ contest, in which participants will squeeze an automated handgrip device used by Dr. Pyke and her colleagues to investigate the effects of handgrip exercise training, which has been shown to lower blood pressure. With each squeeze, the device will display a number indicating the force participants were able to apply, and that number will then be recorded on a scoreboard throughout the day. By the time Science Rendezvous comes to a close, a winner will be declared who will leave with all the bragging rights.

In addition to an array of games, the exhibit will also feature a variety of resources to help inform and inspire families to make heart-healthy living a top priority in their lives.

“We’re very excited to partner with Dr. Pyke to promote the amazing work she and her colleagues in the cardiovascular field are doing to improve the lives of Canadians,” says Cory Watkins, Area Manager of the Heart and Stroke Foundation in Kingston. “This year, the Heart and Stroke Foundation has been very focused on our Ms.Understood campaign to promote women’s heart health, so it’s very fitting that our Science Rendezvous appearance falls the day before Mother’s Day – a day when families work extra hard to recognize and cherish the most important women in their lives.”

Heart disease is the leading cause of premature death for women in Canada, killing five times as many women than breast cancer. Sadly, early heart attack signs are missed in 78 per cent of women, and yet currently two-thirds of heart disease clinical research focuses on men.

“A key focus of my current research is addressing gaps in our understanding of cardiovascular function in women,” says Dr. Pyke. “It is a great pleasure to be partnering with the Heart and Stroke Foundation to promote cardiovascular health with the Kingston community at Science Rendezvous.”

Learn more about Science Rendezvous, Dr. Pyke’s research, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Ms.Understood initiative.

Four Queen’s faculty named Canada Research Chairs

The Canada Research Chairs program advances the country’s position as a leader in discovery and innovation.

Every year, the Government of Canada invests approximately $265 million through the Canada Research Chairs (CRC) Program to attract and retain some of the world’s foremost academic talent. On May 3, 2018, four Queen’s researchers were appointed to Tier 1 and Tier 2 CRC roles – two of whom have been newly selected and two who were renewed for another term.

“The Canada Research Chairs Program continues to nurture exciting research being conducted at institutions across the country,” says John Fisher, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “Here at Queen’s we are very proud to have not only two of our current Chairs renewed to their roles, but to also have two faculty members appointed as brand new chair holders. Their leadership within their respective academic disciplines represents the research excellence our university strives to achieve.”

Tier 1 Chairs are recognized by their peers as world leaders in their respective fields, while Tier 2 Chairs are recognized as emerging leaders in their research areas. Queen’s will receive $200,000 per year over seven years for each Tier 1 Chair and $100,000 per year over five years for each Tier 2 Chair. Currently, Queen’s is home to over 40 Canada Research Chairs.

Developed in 2000, the CRC program promotes research excellence in engineering, natural sciences, health sciences, humanities, and social sciences.

Queen’s new and renewed CRCs are:

Guojun Liu (Chemistry) has been renewed at the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Materials Science. Dr. Liu’s research is focused on the development of nanostructured polymer materials for various applications, including the refinement of filters that may be able to separate water from organic solvents.


Zongchao Jia (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) has been renewed as the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Structural Biology. Dr. Jia and his team are working to understand and affect the function of several atypical protein enzymes in both bacteria and humans with the aim of developing antibiotic and therapeutic applications.


Gabor Fichtinger (Computing) has been newly appointed as the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Computer Integrated Surgery. Dr. Fichtinger’s research program will concentrate on novel technologies for minimally invasive medical interventions that use computational imaging, spacial navigation, and robotics to transcend human limitations, and ultimately improve accuracy and precision.


Kyla S. Tienhaara (Australian National University) has been newly appointed as the Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Economy and Environment. Dr. Tienhaara is joining Queen’s from the Australian National University, and will be analyzing the merits of ‘Green Keynesianism’ – an economic model in which governments take on more active and regulatory roles to bolster both economic growth and the adoption of climate change mitigating measures.


Visit the Canada Research Chair Program website for more information.


Subscribe to RSS - Research Prominence