Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Research Prominence

Boost for cancer research signals leadership

Canadian Cancer Trials Group awarded $25 million in funding to support clinical trials.

The Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG) has been awarded $25 million (more than $19 million USD) from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The only non-American partner to receive direct funding to conduct trials, the monies will allow CCTG to continue its work leading major cancer clinical trials in Canada and develop new large-scale trials under CCTG leadership.

Headquartered at Queen’s University, CCTG is a cancer clinical trials research cooperative that runs Phase I to III trials to test anti-cancer and supportive therapies at over 85 institutions across Canada and internationally.

CCTG Tissue Bank photo of colon tissue immunofluorescence stain captured by Lee Boudreau & Shakeel Virk.

“This renewed funding will continue the U.S.-Canadian research collaboration and allow CCTG to take the lead on a number of important trials over the next few years,” says Janet Dancey, Director of CCTG. “Global partnerships like this one allow CCTG to bring cutting-edge international clinical trials to Canadian cancer patients, helping to prolong and improve the quality of life of those living with cancer.”

Working with U.S. investigators, within the National Clinical Trials Network, enables larger-scale clinical studies to be available to more patients and delivers definitive practice-changing results, more quickly. This collaborative approach supports the increasing need for targeted research into rare cancers and the clinical testing of precision medicine strategies that require individualized treatment processes.

CCTG has successfully obtained funding from the NCI since 1997, as a key clinical trials partner in the former U.S. Cooperative Group Program and now with the NCTN.

“Thanks to support from partners such as the NIH and NCI, CCTG is an international leader in advancing both trial practices and cancer treatments,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research).  “Strong research collaborations, both within Queen's and among partner institutions, are critical to their success in addressing this devastating disease."

For more information, visit the CCTG website.

Cities and countries aim to slash plastic waste within a decade

Plastic trash on a beach]
Volunteers work to clean up trash, including plastic bottles, on a beach. (Photo: Brian Yurasits/Unsplash)

If all goes well, 2030 will be quite a special year.

Global and local community leaders from more than 170 countries have pledged to “significantly reduce” the amount of single-use plastic products by 2030. Success would result in significantly less plastic pollution entering our oceans, lakes and rivers.

[The Conversation]Today, societies around the world have a love affair with disposable plastics. Just like some love stories, this one has an unhappy ending that results in plastic bags, straws and takeout containers strewn about the global environment.

As researchers who study the contamination and effects of plastic pollution on wildlife, it would be nice if by 2030 we no longer heard about plastics showing up in the stomachs of dead whales, littering the beaches of distant islands and contaminating tap water and seafood.

It is time for some good news about the environment, including stories about how cities and countries are managing plastics and other waste materials in more sustainable ways, and how children will have cleaner beaches to play on.

No reason to wait

Scientists have known about plastic pollution in our oceans for more than four decades. It is pervasive in rivers, lakes and soils too. Plastic pollution knows no boundaries, with small bits of plastic found from the equator to the poles and even on the remote slopes of the French Pyrenees mountains.

Plastic waste damages ecosystems, smothers coral reefs and fills the bellies of sea life. In the absence of action, the amount of plastic waste produced globally is predicted to triple between 2015 and 2060, to between 155 and 265 million tonnes per year.

As a welcome response, global leaders have decided to act. At the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi in March, environment ministers from around the world signed a voluntary commitment to make measurable reductions in single-use plastic products, including straws, shopping bags and other low-value plastic items that are sent to landfill after being used once.

Similar goals to deal with plastic pollution have been introduced by municipal, provincial, federal and regional governments across the globe. Non-profit organizations and industry leaders are making efforts to tackle the problem of plastic pollution. For example, Ocean Conservancy is uniting citizens and organizations around the world in cleanups to meet their goal of an ocean free of plastics by 2030, and Unilever has pledged to use 100 per cent recyclable packaging by 2025.

Canada joins the movement

Canada introduced the Ocean Plastics Charter at the G7 summit in 2018, committing nations to work with industry to make all plastics reusable, recyclable or recoverable by 2030. That means sending no plastic waste to landfill.

Vancouver aims to be a zero-waste city by 2040. Although the city has reduced the mass of waste going to landfill by 23 per cent since 2008, it still has a long way to go.

Ontario also has its sights on being waste-free by developing a circular economy, which means keeping materials in use for as long as possible. The province aims to cut the amount of waste sent to landfills in half by 2030, a reduction of 4.5 million tonnes, through reuse and recycling.

To propel Ontario into action, Ian Arthur, the member of the Ontario provincial parliament for Kingston and the Islands introduced a private member’s bill in March to eliminate Ontario’s use of non-recyclable single-use plastic products such as straws, coffee cups and plastic cutlery, which ultimately end up in landfills. These plastics do not feed into a circular economy.

In addition, school children in Ontario are working towards collecting 10,000 signatures on petitions to ban single-use plastics in the province.

Canadians would like to see more action against plastic waste. According to a recent poll, 90 per cent of Canadians were either very concerned or somewhat concerned about the environmental impact of plastic waste, and 82 per cent thought government should do more to reduce plastic waste.

Bye bye plastic waste

Our research, and the research of others, has found that single-use plastic products litter our beaches and coastlines, small pieces of plastics contaminate our Great Lakes and the Arctic Ocean, and microplastics are present in our sport fish and drinking water.

Ambitious global, regional and local collaborations are sorely needed to truly realize these goals. It’s time to commit to ending the love affair with disposable plastics.

Individual action does work. Quench your need for caffeine by using a reusable mug. Hydrate with water from a durable and refillable bottle. Purchase groceries that come in containers that can be reused or recycled. Plan your kid’s birthday party and your work meetings without using disposable single-use plastics.

A decade of positive habits could lead to a future where plastic is no longer waste, but valued as a material that can be reused and recycled — shifting our current paradigm to a more sustainable one that lasts far beyond 2030.The Conversation

________________________________________________________

Chelsea Rochman is an assistant professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto.

Diane Orihel is an assistant professor in the School of Environmental Studies and Queen's National Scholar in Aquatic Ecotoxicology.

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.

Five strategies to improve medical training – to reduce stress and boost expertise

[Medical students]
Canadian medical students graduate with up to $200,000 in debt, and burnout rates are high. (Photo: Luis Melendez/Unsplash)

Recent changes in undergraduate medical education and postgraduate residency training in Canada are stressing trainee doctors, increasing their debt load and reducing their experiential learning.

Such changes include a perceived shortage of residency positions, a premature requirement to choose a career path early in medical school and a growing fixation on exam preparation.

Older doctors are largely unaware of these new challenges. For trainees, on the other hand, this is the only system they know. Patients simply expect us to produce “triple A” doctors — available, affable and able.

As a cardiologist and head of medicine at Queen’s University, I offer several suggestions to reduce trainee stress, debt and burnout. I believe these suggestions will also enhance the expertise of Canada’s newly minted doctors.

For a start, we should increase residency training positions to meet Canada’s medical needs, and simplify the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) process for allocating residency positions. We should also constrain the time trainees spend studying for qualifying exams, delay the selection of medical career tracks until internship and restore the rotating internship.

Loss of empathy and self-worth

Nearly half of medical residents report burnout — defined as a loss of empathy and sense of self-worth. Burnout is reported ever earlier in residents, despite legislated restrictions on work hours and increased pay.

A contributing factor is the increasing time residents spend studying for the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC) qualifying exams. Trainees are also impacted by funding decisions of provincial governments, which limit the size of medical schools and residency programs, and by hospital congestion, which impairs the learning environment.

The reasons medical students experience burnout are complex. They include worries about whether they will match to a residency program and about which career track to select during their second year. Students also worry about debt — the average medical school debt was over $70,000 in 2014. This number increased to over $158,000 in 2017 (and many students borrow up to $200,000).

While tuition (at around $20,000 per year) is an important source of debt, a new and avoidable expense relates to the cost of off-site electives and CaRMS interviews incurred in their search for future residency positions.

1. Increase residency positions

So, what if we increased residency positions 10 per cent while reducing off-site medical school electives?

Medical students and residency training programs rank each other through an online system, called CaRMS. Recently, the number of unmatched Canadian graduates has been increasing — from 11 in 2009 to 68 in 2017. While 68 unmatched students (from a national total of 3000) may sound like a small problem, it can have tragic consequences.

Medical school graduate Robert Chu ended his life in 2016, after twice failing to match. He wrote:

“Without a residency position, my degree … is effectively useless. My diligent studies of medical texts, careful practice of interview and examination skills with patients and my student debt in excess of $100,000 on this pursuit have all been for naught.”

Of course, we should only create more residency positions if we need more doctors. Provincial governments tend to believe there are too many doctors; however, OECD data show Canada (with two MDs per 1,000 population) ranks near the bottom of the pack.

 

In 2017, there were 2,967 residency positions available in Canada and 2,810 residents in the hunt. This scarcity is exacerbated by an influx of international medical graduates, many of whom are Canadian citizens, a net outflow of students from Quebec and fewer available positions in “popular” specialty programs, such as dermatology, emergency medicine and plastic surgery.

 

This means that there is just two per cent wiggle room between positions required and positions available, complicated by student geographic and specialty preferences.

2. Develop a ‘learn local’ strategy

To reduce the risk of being unmatched, medical students spend their time criss-crossing Canada performing electives to demonstrate their interest in a program, while serving as their own travel agent and paying for travel and accommodations.

This adds to their debt and stress and these brief sojourns often yield superficial clinical experiences. One budding dermatologist told me:

“I did six electives in dermatology (12 weeks total), and two electives in internal medicine… If I was to do it again, I probably wouldn’t have done so many dermatology electives - it’s just that I didn’t get the ones I really wanted until the end. I’m not sure I necessarily needed to do this many dermatology electives in order to match….I definitely felt the pressure to do the majority of my electives in this specialty to show my interest and build relationships at the programs I was interested in. … I can’t say exactly how much I spent. Certainly, in the thousands of dollars.”

Another student toured 12 universities across Canada to interview for surgery residencies. She ended up with her first choice of residency and stayed at her home university. Between external electives and the CaRMS interviews, medical students lose around four months of local clinical exposure.

A “learn local” strategy combined with a 10 per cent increase in residency positions would reduce expense, travel and stress and allow students to extend rotations at their own centres. The proposed changes would also right-size our medical work-force.

3. Delay specialty selection

What if we delayed the choice of career track until internship?

Some students struggle to choose a speciality. Family physician, internist, surgeon, pediatrician, obstetrician, radiologist, ophthalmologist, pathologist… there are many options. How can an informed choice be made after two years of relatively superficial exposure to the options?

A Queen’s student noted:

“It felt like there was an abrupt change when we went from exploring disciplines in medical school to when we needed to decide on our specialization. In first year, we were required to do observerships to promote variety. But midway through second year we needed to select our clerkship stream and then all of a sudden it seemed like decisions had to be made…. Midway through second year, by picking my stream, I had to decide that I was not going to pursue emergency medicine, anesthesia or a subspecialty surgery.”

By delaying specialty selection until internship, trainees could make more informed choices.

4. Reinstate the rotating internship

What if we reinstated the rotating internship?

A rotating internship gave doctors a broad experience. We abandoned the rotating internship in favour of a two-year family medicine residency in around 1990. However, rotating internships did not just train GPs, they also trained many future specialists.

During my rotating internship at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, British Columbia, from 1981 to 1982, I spent time in obstetrics (delivering more than 100 babies), pediatrics (caring for sick and premature babies), surgery (as first assist on all operations and primary surgeon for hernias and appendectomies), intensive care (placing arterial lines and managing ventilators) and internal medicine (running the ward).

I learned respect for each specialty by walking a mile in their shoes. These practical experiences alter the medical DNA of a young physician in a way no clerkship experience can. Re-establishing a rotating internship as the first year of residency would result in Canada’s doctors being more broadly trained.

5. Reduce preparation time for exams

Exams consume a trainee’s after-hours life for one month of medical school and nine months of residency, engendering stress and contributing to burnout. Studying too much may also distract trainees from clinical learning opportunities.

Objectively however, the success in the RCPSC exam has long been 95 per cent for Canadian graduates (likewise the LMCC exam for medical students).

Let’s recast medical school and residency as programs for adult learners and reset expectations for how much time a trainee can or should study to some reasonable duration — say one month for medical students and two months for residents.

The training of doctors is a joint responsibility of universities, provincial agencies, accrediting agencies and society. Together we should refocus medical school and residency training with the goal of producing triple A doctors who are more clinically experienced, less stressed and owe less money.The Conversation

____________________________________________________

Stephen Archer is a professor and the head of the Department of Medicine 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.  

Understanding bleeding disorders

Women with bleeding disorders can wait up to 15 years to get appropriate testing and treatment. (Shutterstock)

About 30 per cent of all women report heavy menstrual periods at some point during their reproductive years. Up to 15 per cent of these have an underlying bleeding disorder and yet most have never been diagnosed, leaving thousands of women to suffer from a treatable problem.

As a hematologist and clinician scientist at Queen’s University who cares for patients with inherited bleeding disorders, it is a major source of frustration for me that women with bleeding disorders can wait up to 15 years to get appropriate testing and treatment.

I worry even more about what happens to those who never get diagnosed. These women are at risk of acute hemorrhages leading to blood transfusions and the need for hysterectomy.

Because April 17 is the 29th annual World Hemophilia Day — a day focused on outreach and education about hemophilia — I would like to share some evidence-based information about heavy periods, what it means to be a female “carrier” of hemophilia and how you can easily test yourself for a bleeding disorder.

Iron deficiency and abnormal periods

Bleeding disorders that affect women include von Willebrand disease and hemophilia — both are inherited and are caused by low levels of “clotting factors” (proteins needed for normal blood clotting).

In families with a bleeding disorder, it is common for women to not realize their periods are heavy because other affected women in the family have similar problems. To them, heavy periods seem normal.

There are also social stigmas against an open discussion about periods that can be difficult to overcome. And there is a lack of accurate information about normal versus abnormal periods.

Key features of heavy and abnormal periods include having to change pads or tampons more than every hour, having iron deficiency anemia, frequently soaking through your sheets at night and bleeding that lasts longer than seven days.

Iron deficiency anemia is of particular concern because it leads to fatigue and shortness of breath as well as poor school and job performance.

Iron deficiency and heavy periods are too often ignored but can be signs of an underlying bleeding disorder. Both are easily treated once the diagnosis is made.

Women can also have hemophilia

Women who are carriers of hemophilia are very often considered to be “only carriers” — capable of passing on a mutant gene to their children. They may be told this by their doctor. Their bleeding then often goes untreated because of this misconception.

My own research has shown, however, that around 30 to 40 per cent of hemophilia carriers experience abnormal bleeding including heavy periods, post-partum hemorrhage and joint bleeds. Some, but not all, have low clotting factor levels.

Effective treatments for heavy periods in women with bleeding disorders are widely available. These include the oral contraceptive pill and medications like tranexamic acid (that prevent clot breakdown) and desmopressin (that increases clotting factor levels).

Gynecologic options such as the levonorgestrel intrauterine device (IUD) and endometrial ablation also exist.

In rare cases, women with bleeding disorders require clotting factor infusions to control heavy periods. If iron deficient, iron supplementation is a key component of treatment as it improves quality of life. Dietary iron intake alone is not enough to correct iron deficiency, particularly once it has caused anemia.

Historically, much of the focus of research and education for hemophilia was on improving treatment for boys and men with the disease. The mainstay is frequent intravenous infusions of the missing clotting factor. Significant advances have been made including the development of better treatments and the possibility of cure.

Are your bleeding symptoms normal?

Many organizations are now focused on increasing public knowledge about bleeding disorders. The recognition that women can also have hemophilia is increasing through the efforts of organizations like the World Federation of Hemophilia.

Related articles
Unraveling mysteries in the blood
International research leader earns top honour
New website developed at Queen’s University helps women detect the signs and symptoms of a bleeding disorder

The role of novel therapies for women with hemophilia isn’t clear, and additional research is required to understand exactly why these women bleed. One recent study from my lab showed that the blood clotting system of hemophilia carriers doesn’t react to hemostatic stress (such as trauma) as well as it does in healthy controls. A rapid and sustained increase of blood clotting factors is required to halt bleeding following injury and this was significantly impaired in hemophilia carriers.

If you are wondering if you have a bleeding disorder, the Self-BAT (self administered bleeding assessment tool) is freely available and can tell you if your bleeding symptoms are normal or abnormal.

This tool analyzes information about your bleeding symptoms to generate a bleeding score. A high bleeding score is associated with an increased chance of having an underlying bleeding disorder and should be discussed with your doctor.

Significant advances have been made in understanding the problems faced by women with bleeding disorders. More research and education is needed so that all women are diagnosed and treated properly.The Conversation

____________________________________________________

Paula James is a professor in the Department of Medicine at Queen's University with cross-appointments to the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine and the Department of Pediatrics.

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.  

Images showcase the beauty and creativity of Queen’s research

  • 50th Anniversary Prize – Faculty of Education
    50th Anniversary Prize – Faculty of Education: Learning to Live (Not Walking in Line) - Theodore Christou, Faculty, Faculty of Education, Thessaloniki, Greece. Description: The history of research and scholarship in education is a record of our efforts to make sense of the world. How ought we to live? What should we learn, embrace and resist? From antiquity to anarchism, or, from Aristotle to Pink Floyd, we have known that we should never confuse schooling with education. Schools, whether they are traditional, progressive, colonial or transgressive, have all been instruments of oppression as well as resistance.
  • 125th Anniversary Prize – Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science
    125th Anniversary Prize – Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science: A New Light - Robert Cichocki PhD student, Civil Engineering, GeoEngineering Lab, Queen's. Description: Tired of seeing roads being dug up to replace aging pipe infrastructure? Civil engineering research at Queen’s is bringing a new light to innovative, no-dig rehabilitation techniques. In this image, a UV light train is being prepared to help rehabilitate the adjacent corrugated steel pipe. The inside of the pipe has been lined with a fabric fiberglass tube embedded with UV cure resin. When the light train passes through the tube, the UV cures the resin solid and transforms the fabric tube into a solid liner. The new liner and pipe will further undergo buried experiments that will bring new insight into the structural behaviour of these systems.
  • People’s Choice
    People’s Choice – Nano-dendrite Collision - Hannah Dies, MD/PhD student, Chemical Engineering, Dupuis Hall, Queen's. Description: This scanning electron microscopy image depicts branched gold nanostructures (“nano-dendrites”) growing from planar microelectrode tips and crashing halfway, buckling upwards to create a third dimension of nano-features. The structures assemble from gold nanoparticles under the influence of an applied electric field, similar to how iron filings assemble under the influence of a magnetic field. The gold nanoparticle building blocks are 50nm in diameter – about 5000 times smaller than a human hair. The branched network formed by these nanostructures promotes incredible sensitivity for small molecule detection by means of Raman spectroscopy. At the QuSENS laboratory, and with the startup company Spectra Plasmonics Inc., we use these nanostructures to detect illicit drugs, pesticides and explosives at ultralow and societally relevant concentrations.
  • Art in Action
    Art in Action – Keep Cool Boy - The Jets Aloft in West Side Story: Tim Fort, Faculty, Dan School of Drama and Music, Weston Playhouse, Weston Vermont. Description: In a rare moment, before a Franz Kline inspired setting, the Jets achieve a perfectly synchronized lift-off in this production of West Side Story mounted in celebration of Leonard Bernstein's 100th birthday. After 46 seasons at the Weston Playhouse in Vermont, this production also represented my 60th (and final) happy entanglement directing mostly musical theatre works on the playhouse's historical stage. Twenty-seven performers – from newly-minted conservatory graduates to Broadway veterans – enabled this epic work to fly.
  • Community Collaborations
    Community Collaborations – Women in Mathematics - Stefanie Knebel , PhD student, Mathematics and Statistics, Jeffrey Hall, Queen's. Description: Mathematical thinking is about finding patterns and structure. As a woman in the mathematics PhD program, I hope to inspire young women to follow their passion and find beauty in mathematics. At Queen’s we offer the MathQuest camp for high school girls. As captured in the photo, I am brainstorming ways to teach game theory and linear algebra. This is also a part of my research with Dr. Peter Taylor, where we work with teachers across Ontario looking for innovative ways to incorporate mathematical thinking in education. We hope to change the math curriculum by making it a more engaging, positive and memorable experience.
  • Best Description
    Best Description – Lights, Camera, Action: Wolfie’s Story - Marian Luctkar-Flude, Faculty, School of Nursing, Glaxo Wellcome Clinical Education Centre, Queen’s. Description: "Lights, Camera, Action: Wolfie's Story" is a photo depicting the filming of a virtual simulation game about an older gay man grieving the loss of his partner of over 30 years. The game is part of the "Make it Better for All" Developing and Evaluating Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Nursing Virtual Simulation Games project, led by Dr. Marian Luctkar-Flude, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing. This innovative CIHR-funded research project aims to develop and evaluate a series of virtual simulation games to provide education for nurses and nursing students on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI). Four full games and four mini-games will be hosted on the SOGI-Nursing website along with other resources to promote cultural humility in nursing interactions with LGBTQI2S persons.
  • Out in the Field
    Out in the Field – First Emergence - Ivana Schoepf, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Biology, Queen's University Biological Station. Description: My research focuses on the effects that avian malarial parasites have on female reproductive success and offspring quality. To assess how malarial infection affects mothers and their offspring, I spent the spring and summer in the field at the Queen's University Biological Station catching female, adult red-winged blackbirds and treated them with either an antimalarial medication or a control solution. Female reproductive success was determined by looking at a variety of parameters, including incubation behaviour, which was measured using I-buttons (as seen in the photo). If experimental reduction of infection leads to higher reproductive success in females, I expected to find medicated females to be able to spend more time incubating their eggs. Our preliminary analysis shows that this was indeed the case.
  • Invisible Discoveries
    Invisible Discoveries – Love under the Microscope - Dalila Villalobos, Postgraduate Medical Education, Anatomical Pathology (MD, Resident), Kingston Health Sciences Centre. Description: As pathologists in training, we are constantly reminded that both human cellular responses and the most deadly medical conditions can be unexpectedly beautiful under the microscope. We are trained to be detail oriented and to understand disease in all its forms because abnormalities will only present to the eye that knows what to look for. This photo captures a normal prostatic gland with its characteristic double layer and irregular branching. The moment we diagnose a benign condition in a patient that is anxiously awaiting for results is always rewarding. But, if, on top of that, we see heart-shape glands, it is inspiration.

It was a record-breaking year for the Art of Research photo contest. The 2019 contest received more than 100 submissions from Queen’s faculty, staff, students, and alumni, who took up the challenge of capturing their research programs in engaging and thought-provoking ways.

Hosted by the Office of the Vice-Principal (University Relations), the Art of Research is an annual competition that provides a unique and accessible method of sharing and celebrating the ground-breaking research happening at Queen’s. With submissions this year representing each faculty, the contest showcases the beauty and creativity of research across all disciplines.

“The Art of Research is central to our efforts to raise awareness of the breadth and depth of critical research happening at Queen’s,” says Michael Fraser, Vice-Principal (University Relations). “The success of this year’s competition is a testament to the permeation of this campaign, and we are delighted to be able to share with results with the campus community, and beyond.”

Prizes were awarded to the top submission in the six categories of Community Collaborations, Invisible Discoveries, Out in the Field, Art in Action, Best Description, and People’s Choice. An adjudication committee of representatives across the university selected the winners and an online poll (1,100 votes) of the Queen’s community determined the People’s Choice winner.

The 2019 contest also celebrated the significant anniversaries of two Queen’s faculties by awarding special prizes. To celebrate its 125th anniversary of engineering education at Queen’s, the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science prize was awarded to the submission that best demonstrates how engineering-specific pursuits are likely to affect positive change in our daily lives. Additionally, the Queen’s Faculty of Education prize, to commemorate the faculty’s 50 years of excellence, was awarded to the photo that celebrates the photography of students, faculty, staff or alumni as they pursue research in education.

Part of the university’s integrated research promotion campaign, the Art of Research is showcased across a variety of research initiatives, including campus beautification displays, research collateral and other materials. Past winners of the contest are featured in a travelling pop-up photo exhibit, which has travelled to over 25 locations and events since September 2018, including the Canadian Science Policy Conference and alumni events.

For more information on the contest, and to view past winners, please visit the website or contact researchcommunications@queensu.ca

The Conversation: Remembering minorities amid Eastern Europe’s centenary celebrations

[Lithuania Celebration]
People gather in the streets in Vilnius, Lithuania to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the country’s statehood.

Over the past year, states across central and eastern Europe have been celebrating the 100th anniversary of the creation or re-creation of their countries.

Some will continue to do so through 2019 and 2020 as they mark 100 years since maps were redrawn and nation-state status was granted to groups that were formerly part of vast, diverse empires.

Amid the festivities and fanfare, let’s not forget to include minority views and voices in the dialogue. A centenary is an important moment for these states, no doubt. It is also important for citizens — including minority citizens, many of whom remember the events of 1918 to 1920 from a different perspective. What they tend to remember of those years are grievances, losses of status, forced migration and changed homelands.

Different memories

During my field work in the region, speaking with minority and majority groups, I learned that minority members tend have different interpretations and contrasting memories of the events of 1918-20, many of them painful. So they were not likely to participate in the centenary celebrations. More often, they were celebrating occasions of national and cultural significance to their particular group.

There are about 400 minority communities in Europe today, comprising more than 100 million people. “Minority” refers to groups that are distinct in ethnicity, culture and language from the group that is numerically dominant in the state. They are also in a politically non-dominant position within the state.

Some of these groups became minorities through displacement and forced migration amid the upheaval of war. Some became minorities through the arbitrary redrawing of lines on maps, meaning they suddenly found themselves living in another country as “accidental diasporas”. In other words, minorities can arise when people move across borders, or when borders are redrawn around people.

 

The First World War brought about the collapse of large multi-ethnic empires and the formation of several nation-states in their wake.

Recognition of these new states was based upon the famous, or perhaps infamous, idea of self-determination, promoted at the Paris Peace Conference and in post-war treaties. Recognition was also based on the principle of nationality, which advocated and justified the notion of states created of and for particular nations. The logic was: one ethno-cultural group per country, one nation per state. In reality, none of these states was entirely homogenous.

Stately celebrations

For Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania, the events of 1918-20 signify the recognition of statehood. The years 2018-2020, therefore, mark the centenary of this stately occasion. The governments of these countries have put a lot of time and resources into the celebrations.

There are countless special events and programming such as “100 Years” walking tours, speeches, concerts, flag and firework displays, museum exhibitions, patriotic parades, youth marches, military tributes and bonfires.

The national colours of each state are visible in public squares and streets, and at night they light up historic buildings and landmarks. National anthems are played, and national poetry and literature recited, as each nation-statehood is observed.

The Pope visited the three Baltic states in September 2018 in a gesture seen to acknowledge their struggle for independence. There have even been Twitter hashtags, 100 Year playlists on Spotify and restaurants serving centennial meal specials. It’s the spectacle of a national holiday but amped up several times.

[Map of Europe 1920]
Map of Europe, post First World War. (The European Institute, copyright 2009)

What about the minorities?

The fanfare is exciting for the dominant groups in these states. But what about the groups that are not dominant — the minorities? Where do they fit in all of this? Are they celebrating?

In Romania, members of the Hungarian minority view the 100th anniversary of Romania’s “Great Unification” as more of a division – as a historical tragedy rather than triumph. The 1.2 million Hungarians in Romania today are there mainly because lines on the map were redrawn.

In 1920, Hungary was carved up by the Treaty of Trianon, and some Hungarians suddenly found themselves living in the new state of Romania. The Hungarian minority now constitutes 6.5 per cent of the population of Romania, concentrated in the northwest in the region of Transylvania.

This community tends to celebrate Hungary’s annual National Day over Romanian national days, and to partake in Hungarian Cultural Days.

An anniversary that may resonate for Romania’s Hungarians in 2020 is the proposed and very political Trianon Memorial Year. Trianon resulted in Hungary losing two-thirds of its territory and population. Today, many Hungarians still view the Trianon “dismemberment” as a violation of Hungary’s sovereignty and national integrity.

It remains one of the most traumatic events in Hungarians' collective memories, and a recurring issue in Hungary’s domestic politics and regional relations.

[Signs of congratulations in Vilnius]
In a creative display outside a school in Vilnius, several countries express their congratulations and greetings to Lithuania on its 100th anniversary of statehood. Atkurtai Lietuvai means Restored Lithuania.

In Lithuania, members of the Polish minority associate the years 1918-20 more with the re-emergence of the Polish state than the restoration of the Lithuanian state. Poland experienced three territorial partitions, in 1772, 1793 and 1795, and effectively disappeared from the map until 1918.

Similar to Hungarians and Romanians, Poles and Lithuanians have had a long and contested relationship over borders, history and identity. The Polish minority constitutes 6.6 per cent of the population in Lithuania, concentrated in the southeast in the Vilnius region.

This community strongly celebrates the annual Polish Diaspora and Poles Abroad Day with a ceremonial march through the streets of Vilnius . Though the parade is a sea of red-and-white Polish flags, the red, yellow and green of the Lithuanian flag can be seen as well. There are celebrations on May 3, the day when the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth proclaimed a Constitution in 1791, and also Polish Culture Days in Vilnius.

The Russian-speaking minorities in the Baltic states haven’t had much of a presence at the centenary celebrations. These groups have different memories of the years following the First World War. Russia withdrew from the war in 1917 and then civil war broke out between the Bolsheviks and the White Guard.

Amid these grand celebrations in places like Bucharest, Riga, Tallinn, Vilnius and Warsaw, let’s look for whether and how minorities are celebrating. Their voices and perspectives are an important part of the story. Just as the armistice is commemorated differently in western Europe and eastern Europe, the years 1918-1920 mean different things to different national groups across the continent.

______________________________________________________The Conversation

Alexandra Liebich is a PhD candidate and teaching fellow in the Department of Political Studies 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.  

 

Rising waters

New research suggests that glaciers are disappearing and sea levels are rising.

Excluding the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, the Canadian Arctic hosts the largest area of glaciers and ice caps in the world, covering an area of 145,000 square kilometres. (Photo: Laura Thomson)

As part of an international research collaboration, Queen’s University scientist and lead Canadian researcher Laura Thomson examined the contribution of Canadian glaciers and ice caps to global sea level rise. The research shows that, with the exception of the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets, the Canadian Arctic has become the largest contributor to global sea level rise in recent years (2006-2016).

Taking into account statistical uncertainties, the findings suggest the mass loss of glaciers may be larger than previously reported.

Dr. Thomson, who leads the new Snow and Ice Research Laboratory in the Department of Geography and Planning, says the Canadian Arctic is currently responsible for 30 per cent of meltwater added to the oceans each year, which amounts to approximately a 1.1 millimetre sea level rise every five years.

Climate variables measured at weather stations are used to determine the key processes responsible for glacier response. (Photo: Laura Thomson)

“This study incorporates more than 50 years of observations by Canadian glaciologists, including federal scientists and university researchers who contribute their findings to the World Glacier Monitoring Service,” Dr. Thomson explains. “Since Canada hosts the largest area of glaciers outside of Greenland and Antarctica, a study like this requires collaboration and contributions from many researchers. In addition to collecting field-based observations, my contribution includes collecting and assimilating measurements from Canadian ice masses for the World Glacier Monitoring Service.”

University of Zurich Professor Michael Zemp, and colleagues including Dr. Thomson, used observational data collected from over 19,000 glaciers using two different methods to determine mass changes between 1961 and 2016. From this the research shows that glaciers contributed around 27 millimetres to global mean sea-level rise over this period.

“By combining field methods with satellite-based observations of glacier thinning, this study updates and improves upon previous estimates of glacier and ice cap contributions to sea level rise,” says Dr. Thomson. “This integrated approach also accounts for and corrects a previously existing bias associated with traditional field-based methods, allowing us to more accurately determine regional glacier losses from point measurements.”

The authors of the paper then calculated the mass-change rates for glaciers from 2006 to 2016 and found that during this decade alone they contributed nearly one millimetre each year to sea-level rise.

“Based on our findings, we suggest that glaciers could almost disappear in some mountain ranges by 2100 (including the Caucasus, Central Europe, Western Canada and the USA, and New Zealand),” Dr. Thomson says. “However, regions with many glaciers like the Canadian Arctic will continue to contribute to sea-level rise beyond this century.”

The new research was recently published in Nature.

The Conversation: Perverse passions that will not die

[Bela Lugosi as Dracula]
Bela Lugosi’s portrayal of Dracula in Tod Browning’s 1931 horror film is influenced by John Polidori’s tale of terror, ‘The Vampyre,’ first published — suggestively — on April Fools’ Day 1819. Universal Pictures

Vampires have stalked humans for thousands of years, but it was just 200 years ago that a young English doctor named John Polidori introduced the modern version of the ancient demon.

Although far less well-known than Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Polidori’s The Vampyre was first published — suggestively — on April Fools’ Day 1819. This brief tale of terror set the pattern for all future representations of the vampire, including Stoker’s, and it launched a vampire craze that after two centuries still retains its ability to grab us by the throat.

It is hard to imagine, but The Vampyre as well as Frankenstein, two of Western literature’s most enduring myths, were the results of the same ghost story writing contest.

Vampires today inhabit a wide realm of the popular imagination in everything from novels, films and television shows to cartoons, video games, comic books and advertisements. They are also a powerful metaphor for conceiving and representing all manner of cultural practices and social problems, from the spread of sexually transmitted disease, through the mental and bodily pains of drug addiction, to the many ways in which technology and social media penetrate our daily lives.

The writing contest

Handsome, arrogant, and hot-tempered, Polidori was educated at a Catholic boarding school and then at the University of Edinburgh, where in 1815 he received his medical degree at the age of just 19. Less than a year later, the course of his life changed dramatically when Lord Byron, the most famous literary man of the day, hired him as his travelling companion and personal physician.

Quick to see the commercial potential of the arrangement, Byron’s publisher, John Murray, commissioned Polidori to keep a diary of his time with the notorious poet, whose passionate interest in young men and scandalous love affair with his half-sister Augusta had hastened his departure from England.

Polidori immediately saw the predatory side of Byron’s personality.

“As soon as he reached his room,” Polidori wrote from Belgium in April 1816, “Lord Byron fell like a thunderbolt upon the chambermaid.”

Shortly thereafter, Byron and Polidori took up residence at the Villa Diodati on Lake Geneva. Polidori saw himself as a rival to Byron and relations between them soon deteriorated.

“What is there excepting writing poetry that I cannot do better than you?” Polidori demanded.

“First,” Byron snapped in reply, “I can hit with a pistol the keyhole of that door – Secondly, I can swim across that river to yonder point – and thirdly, I can give you a damned good thrashing.”

The aristocrat and his doctor were soon joined by a like-minded trio of literary and sexual renegades: the radical poet and free-love advocate Percy Bysshe Shelley, his 18-year-old lover Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, and Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairmont, also 18 and Byron’s most recent amour. It was an extraordinary meeting of minds and bodies.

Bad weather kept the group indoors, and in mid-June Byron challenged each of them to write a ghost story. Claire defaulted. Shelley may have produced a brief verse fragment as his contribution to the competition. Byron started but did not complete the short tale of terror now known as Augustus Darvell.

The winners are…

Godwin (the future Mary Shelley) and Polidori each produced a finished and immensely influential work. She created Frankenstein. He composed The Vampyre.

These spectacular results make the competition the most famous in all of English literary history. It is a striking thought that the same writing contest gave us both Frankenstein and The Vampyre, the two most enduring myths of the modern world.

Before Polidori, vampires were very different creatures. Shaggy, fetid and bestial, they preyed on family members, neighbours or livestock in nocturnal raids that in many accounts approached both the risible and the revolting. Polidori changed all that.

His vampire was highly resourceful and haunted, not the village or the district, but the drawing rooms of polite society and the pleasure dens of international travellers. What is more, instead of the peasant-turned-ghoul of ancient folklore, Polidori elevated the vampire to the ranks of the aristocracy, where as a hypnotically handsome predator he seduced beautiful young women and sucked their life away.

Polidori’s tale centres on fatal vows, paralysis, isolation, betrayal and the return of the dead. He clearly models his vampire, Lord Ruthven, on Lord Byron, for the two have in common good looks, callousness, high rank, mobility, wealth and keen sexual appetites. Aubrey is Ruthven’s friend and travelling partner, and his relationship with Ruthven is usually read as Polidori’s own complex fascination with Byron — a fascination that both attracts and appalls him.

In the tale, Ruthven sucks strength from Aubrey as their relationship declines, but he takes a much more deadly interest in Aubrey’s unnamed sister and Aubrey’s close friend, Ianthe, both of whom he dispatches with his insatiable fangs:

“Upon her neck and breast was blood, and upon her throat were the marks of teeth having opened the vein: – to this the men pointed, crying, simultaneously struck with horror, ‘a Vampyre, a Vampyre!’”

Nosferatu
A scene from the 1922 silent horror classic, ‘Nosferatu,’ influenced by Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula.’

A 200-year-long fascination

There have been many more sophisticated and explicit renderings of vampiric lore in the two centuries since Polidori’s tale first appeared. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu popularized the female vampire in his tale of terror Carmilla (1872), Stoker took the lordly fiend to new heights in Dracula (1897) and over the course of the last 100 years novelists, poets, playwrights, artists, movie makers and screenwriters have returned obsessively to vampires.

Polidori’s tale touched off this fascination. Two centuries ago he corrected the drastic deficiencies of the folklore and reimagined the vampire as a suave, mysterious, sexually dynamic elite who defies time and place, who consumes ravenously and without guilt, and who represents perverse passions that will not die.

But the spread of vampirism does not end there. Vampires terrify us now because, in the hands of the countless writers and artists who have drawn their creative lifeblood from Polidori’s reincarnation, they serve as potent and protean representations of whatever we most fear about foreignness, sexuality, selfhood, disease, the afterlife, history and much else. They represent our undying urge for gratification. They embody the monstrous return of what we bury both in ourselves and in our collective past.The Conversation

___________________________________________________

Robert Morrison is a professor of English Language and Literature 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.  

Queen’s University alumna named Gairdner laureate

Connie Eaves (Artsci'64, MA'66) earns the prestigious Canada Gairdner Wightman Award for her work in cancer research.

Queen’s University alumna Connie Eaves (Artsci'64, MA'66) has been honoured with the prestigious Canada Gairdner Wightman Award for her pioneering work and leadership in the study of hematopoietic, mammary and cancer stem cells and her dedicated advocacy for early-career investigators and women in science.

[Connie Eaves]
Connie Eaves (Artsci'64, MA'66) is the 2019 recipient of the Canada Gairdner Awards. (Supplied Photo) 

The Canada Gairdner Awards are widely considered to be one of the world’s top medical awards. They celebrate breakthroughs in medical research and are awarded annually to scientists around the globe.

“On the 60th anniversary of the Canada Gairdner Awards, the Gairdner Foundation continues to uphold the tradition of honouring the best and brightest researchers from around the world,” says Lorne Tyrrell, Chair, Board of Directors, Gairdner Foundation. “Whether it is the field of global mental health, stem cell biology or fundamental cell biology and DNA replication, the work of each of this year’s laureates is both critical and extraordinary.”

Dr. Eaves received a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry and a master’s degree in biology from Queen’s in 1964 and 1966.

She then pursued doctoral training at the Paterson Laboratories of the Christie Hospital and Holt Radium Institute and obtained a PhD from the University of Manchester in England in 1969.

Dr. Eaves’ research has focused on leukemia and breast cancer and the normal tissues in which these diseases originate. Her scientific findings have been paradigm-shifting, driving the field of stem cell research forward.

Throughout her career, she has demonstrated national and international leadership. Dr. Eaves co-founded the Terry Fox Laboratory in the British Columbia Cancer Agency, was a leader in the Canadian Stem Cell Network and held multiple senior roles in the National Cancer Institute of Canada, where she spearheaded the establishment of the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance to create the first national source of breast cancer research funding in Canada.

Dr. Eaves is also a passionate advocate for the advancement of women in science, a commitment that led to her recognition as a Status of Women Canada Pioneer.

For more information visit the website.

It’s the People’s Choice

2019 Art of Research Adjudication Committee
Nadya Allen, Manager, International and Programs, Education
Jennifer Chen, Coordinator, Research Activities and Communications, OVPR
Bernard Clark, Photographer
Anja Cui, PhD Candidate, Psychology
Alexandra da Silva, Rector
Michael Fraser, Vice-Principal (University Relations)
Robin Moon, Digital User Experience Manager, University Relations
Kevin Mumford, Associate Professor, Civil Engineering
Kent Novakowski, Associate Vice-Principal (Research)
Julian Ortiz, Associate Professor, Mining
Dave Rideout, Senior Communications Officer, University Relations
Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor 
Vanessa Yzaguirre, Special Projects Officer, Human Rights and Equity Office

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

The contest provides a unique and accessible method of sharing and celebrating ground-breaking research in all settings, from the summit of a mountaintop to a microscope slide. More than 100 submissions were received this year from faculty, staff, students and alumni.

This year, along with winners selected in the categories of ‘Community Collaborations,’ ‘Invisible Discoveries,’ ‘Out in the Field,’ ’Art in Action’ and ‘Best Caption,’ two anniversary prizes were offered to celebrate the milestones of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and the Faculty of Education. Images selected for the ‘People’s Choice’ vote were entries that generated discussion and were shortlisted by the adjudication committee. All prizes come with a monetary prize of $500.

A preview of this year’s ‘People’s Choice’ selection can be seen in the slideshow below. Images vary in subject and theme, but they each celebrate the outstanding research happening at Queen’s.

Voting closes on April 9 at 4 pm. Visit the survey to vote for your favourite image.

  • Hunting for Tourists - Norman Vorano
    Hunting for Tourists - Norman Vorano, Professor, Art History: While in Pond Inlet, Baffin Island, Nunavut, to de-install an art exhibition, we took a break to watch a recently arrived cruise ship offload passengers under the watchful gaze of the Canadian Coast Guard ship, Henry Larsen (left). High above the tideline, an old wrecked wooden rowboat was in its final resting place. Like the boats that plied these waters during the whaling era, it was likely used by an Inuit hunter to support his family. The juxtaposition of the three boats was a stark visual metaphor of the region's changing economy and warming climate. The whalers, long gone, are replaced by the tourists.
  • Porous Plastic Particle - Ross Jansen-van Vuuren
    Porous Plastic Particle - Ross Jansen-van Vuuren, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Chemistry: The photograph is of a water-swollen hydrogel particle created in our chemistry laboratory, taken with an instrument called a Scanning Electron Microscope, which allows us to zone in and see important details on the surface of the hydrogel. A hydrogel is essentially a plastic material that is able to absorb very large volumes of water (up to 800 times its weight!) – much like a baby diaper, swelling as it does so. From the image, the surface of the hydrogel is seen to possess large, distinctive pores, which help us to understand how and why hydrogels absorb so much liquid.
  • Nano-dendrite Collision - Hannah Dies
    Nano-dendrite Collision - Hannah Dies, MD/PhD, Chemical Engineering: This scanning electron microscopy image depicts branched gold nano-structures (nano-dendrites) growing from planar microelectrode tips and crashing halfway, buckling upwards to create third dimension of nano-features. The structures assemble from gold nanoparticles under the influence an applied electric field, similar to how iron filings assemble under the influence of a magnetic field. The gold nanoparticle building blocks are 50 nm in diameter – about 5000 times smaller than a human hair. The branched network formed by these nano-structures promotes incredible sensitivity for small molecule detection by means of Raman spectroscopy. At the QuSENS laboratory, and with the startup company Spectra Plasmonics Inc., we use these nano-structures to detect illicit drugs, pesticides, and explosives at ultralow and societally relevant concentrations.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Research Prominence