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Research Prominence

Drones define new level of surveillance

Ciara Bracken-Roche co-authored one of the world's first reports on drones.

Much remains to be learned about drones, perhaps fitting for this small, unobtrusive technology.  Ciara Bracken-Roche hopes to change that during her PhD research within the Surveillance Studies Centre (SSC) at Queen’s.

Ms. Bracken-Roche’s interest in drones – or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – took flight when she was completing her master’s degree at the University of Warwick (UK), where she focused on border surveillance and data collection. At that time, drones were still an emerging technology.

“UAVs encompass a whole new level of surveillance technology,” says Ms. Bracken-Roche. “Their usage is not widespread and they are much smaller and quieter than traditional aerial vehicles, so they can go unnoticed easily. Additionally, there’s no proactive policy for them at this time, meaning they are becoming more and more ubiquitous.”

In one of the first reports on drones in the world, titled “Privacy implications of the spread of UAVs in Canada,” Ms. Bracken-Roche and fellow members of the SSC detail the increasing prevalence of drones in society and note the many positive uses for drones.

“Drones can be used to help monitor situations in unreachable places and could help police manage large crowds, or send information from air to land about natural disasters in real time,” she says. “That said, when we conducted surveys for our report drones were typically perceived as aggressive and militaristic technologies.”

Currently, drone usage is governed by a set of recommendations from Transport Canada. This set of guidelines recommends keeping the drone within the line of sight when being operated by a commercial user. When it comes to hobbyist users, though, Ms. Bracken-Roche notes there are no standards to control usage.

“Hobbyists are using these drones for surveillance and this, once again, highlights privacy concerns about UAVs,” says Ms. Bracken-Roche. “Drones are also relatively affordable and people are beginning to take them up like they would photography. In our report we specifically looked at the privacy implications and how they would develop should interest in drones continue to grow. We wanted to have an overall state of affairs on record to provide a baseline for further drone research.”

The report included data from interviews the authors conducted with industry experts, as well as survey results from 3,000 people in Canada as well as several thousand people in the United States and the United Kingdom.

“Our report is an unique contribution to the current landscape of surveillance and drones across the world; we hope it will more accurately address the privacy considerations raised in relation to the current landscape of drone regulation in Canada,” says Ms. Bracken-Roche.

The full report can be found here.

International collaborations front and centre during visit

Principal Daniel Woolf and Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research), toured medical research facilities at Imperial College London during their recent trip to the United Kingdom. Jeremy Nicholson, a biochemist and head of Imperial College’s Department of Surgery and Cancer, hosted Principal Woolf and Dr. Liss.

[Principal Woolf and Steven Liss]
Principal Daniel Woolf and Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research), listen as Imperial College London's Jeremy Nicholson explains his research.

Dr. Nicholson forged links with several Queen’s researchers following his selection as the Faculty of Health Sciences Bruce Visiting Scholar in Surgical Innovation in 2013. As a result, Queen’s Faculty of Health Sciences is planning a partnership with Imperial College to use Queen’s-based technology to advance the development of an Imperial College-developed intelligent surgical knife that can analyze the smoke generated by a cautery scalpel to identify the margins of tumors and ultimately improve the removal of malignant tissue.

In addition to the visit to Imperial College, Principal Woolf and Dr. Liss joined in a delegation representing the U15 group of Canadian research universities, of which Principal Woolf is now vice-chair. The delegation met with members of the Russell Group, which represents 24 leading public research universities in the U.K. The principal also met with the staff and faculty from the Bader International Study Centre, the university’s castle campus in Herstmonceux, U.K., and Queen’s alumni in the London area. 

Exploring the local environment

It's Sustainability Week and Friday is local environment day. Today’s event is an eco-walk at the Queen’s University Biological Station. Throughout Sustainability Week (Oct. 6-10) the Gazette Online brings you a series of stories highlighting the week’s events and sustainability initiatives at Queen’s.

  • Dr. Stephen Lougheed poses with a bearded lizard
  • A view of Lake Opinicon
  • A Cecropia Moth (QUBS Outreach Flickr)
  • Two of the Biological Station's sleeping cabins
  • A Grey Tree Frog rests on a leaf (QUBS Outreach Flickr)
  • The Raleigh J. Robertson Biodiversity Centre, the station's headquarters
  • An Environmental Studies student looks out on Lake Opinicon
  • Snakes like to lay eggs in decaying vegetation and so QUBS have constructed a number of compost heaps to help local populations
  • A Five-Lined Skink, Ontario's only native lizard (QUBS Outreach Flickr)

Communications Officer Andrew Stokes sat down with biology professor and QUBS Director Stephen Lougheed to discuss his research and the flora and fauna that call QUBS home.

Andrew Stokes: What makes QUBS a good place for research?

Stephen Lougheed: What makes it remarkable is the high level of biodiversity it contains. It’s about 34 square km and contains myriad water bodies from small wetlands to substantial lakes, shorelines, ridges and swaths of intact forest. There are over 200 species of birds, many salamanders, frogs, turtles, snakes, flowering plants and fungi that exist on its land. What’s most interesting though is that it sits upon the Frontenac Arch, a southward extension of the Canadian Shield that stretches down through eastern Ontario and links the Adirondack Mountains to more northern parts of Ontario.

AS: How is that reflected in the local species?

SL: We have a mix of flora and fauna from both northern and southern regions, making it one of the most diverse regions in all of Canada. QUBS is home to both typically northern species like ravens, and tanagers and cuckoos, which are more characteristic of southern climes. Many of those southern species, such as the grey rat snake and the five-lined skink, Canada’s only lizard species, reach their range limit around QUBS and don’t live any farther north. It makes for excellent opportunities for research.

AS: What have you learnt about range limits?

SL: Along with many other researchers, we’ve shown that in recent years, range limits and phenology (the timing in the annual life cycle of fauna) are shifting. Things like beginning of breeding of certain frog species have shifted much earlier as a consequence of climatic change and rising mean annual temperatures. We’re unsure whether these animals have the plasticity to cope with such changes, whether we will see adaptation, or whether we might see local extinction.

AS: We can see the effects of climate change that close to home then?

SL: Certainly, it’s happening already in ways we may not realize. People in Canada like to make the glib joke that we could use some global warming when we’re in the depths of a severe winter, but it could also lead to increased frequency of severe ice storms and sustained droughts. At QUBS for example in some years we’ve seen some drier cliffs lose their vegetation because of insufficient water. We actually now have eight climate stations that are collecting data in real time, everything from solar radiation, through air and water temperatures to precipitation rates. It will allow us to test hypotheses about how individual species or even entire communities respond to changing environments by comparing directly to our climate data.

AS: Part of your work is also species and habitat recovery and land stewardship. Are there any success stories?

SL: Well it’s easy to be pessimistic but we have had some positive outcomes. For many reptile species of conservation concern, we have been combining genetics, ecology and population censuses to then make conservation recommendations based on these data. For example, the eastern foxsnake in southwestern Ontario was classified as “threatened” under the federal Species at Risk Act when we began studying it, but our research contributed to its elevation to “endangered.” This affords it greater protection. In biology it’s sometimes important to celebrate these small victories. 

The puzzle of the human brain

Queen’s professor Gordon Boyd, an intensive care specialist and clinician scientist in the Kingston General Hospital Research Institute (KGHRI), is researching a puzzle. Why does a critical illness, such as cardiac arrest, affect the brain long after the rest of the body has healed?

“Patients are released from ICU when they don’t need breathing support, medication support, when their body seems to be working,” says Dr. Boyd (School of Medicine). “But we don’t talk to them about how their brain is working. Right now there’s almost no data about patients’ recovery in ICU. We have no idea how well these people do after they leave the ICU or the hospital.”

Dr. Boyd is uniquely positioned to explore this new frontier. With a PhD in neuroscience and an MD from Queen’s School of Medicine, he is one of only two or three critical care physicians in Canada who is also a certified specialist in neurology. His appointment as a clinician scientist gives him the opportunity to integrate his front-line care of patients with his research, and ultimately translate that research into better care and better quality of life for his patients.  

“Critical care is a research priority for both Kingston General Hospital and the Queen's School of Medicine, and Dr. Boyd’s unique background in this area made him the perfect choice for our clinician scientist program,” says Roger Deeley, president of the KGHRI and vice-dean research, Faculty of Health Sciences. “His work is an excellent example of how collaboration between the hospital and the university can lead to new discoveries and potentially better treatments and outcomes for patients.” 

Dr. Boyd is studying how the loss of blood and oxygen delivery to the brain, common effects of critical illness, can lead to worse performance while in intensive care, potentially affecting long-term neurological recovery. His research focuses on two patient groups: those undergoing cardiac surgery, and those suffering a critical illness such as septic shock. 

He will monitor patients while in intensive care, and then do follow-up assessments three, six and 12 months later using the KINARM, a robotic tool invented at Queen’s University by a fellow neuroscientist, Stephen Scott. Data collected by the tool generates a valuable “fingerprint” of what the patient’s brain impairment looks like. 

“Parts of the brain that handle sensory, motor and cognitive tasks are more susceptible to low blood pressure and low oxygen,” says Dr. Boyd. “The KINARM is the perfect instrument for assessing these areas of the brain. I’m using it to identify the degree of dysfunction that these patients have, and correlating it to brain function.”

This story is the second in a series on the KGH Research Institute and the clinician-scientists recruited to work in the centre.

Examining terrorist propaganda

New research out of Queen’s University could give insight into what terrorists are thinking. Professor David Skillicorn (School of Computing) analyzed language used in two jihadist magazines to gain intelligence about terrorist strategy.

He examined the language used in Inspire, an online magazine reportedly published by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which aims to increase the availability of their message, and the Islamic State News published by ISIS. Inspire has attracted attention because of its goal of attracting lone-wolf attacks in Western countries.

Queen's professor David Skillicorn is examining terrorist propaganda.

“The payoff from understanding how this all works is that intelligence and law enforcement analysts can get insight into what the ‘bad guys’ are doing from the speeches and documents that they produce, often for other purposes,” says Dr. Skillicorn. “And because so much of it is impossible to manipulate because it's subconscious, it provides unfiltered insights.”

Dr. Skillicorn’s research focuses on reverse engineering language to get access to the mental state that generated it. This latest paper is one in a series exploring how mental state affects language (e.g. influence in elections, deception in legal proceedings, and fraud in financial statements), and how language reveals mental state (e.g. jihadist language in Islamist forums).

The research revealed several facts including:

  • Jihadist language intensity has been steadily increasing over the past few issues of Inspire, after being much more stable during the Anwar al-Awlaki years. al-Awlaki was a senior talent recruiter for al-Qaida.
  • Inspire is experimenting with using gamification (the real-life use of gaming ideas such as levels of achievement and competition) strategies to increase motivation for lone-wolf attacks and/or to decrease the reality of causing deaths and casualties. It’s hard to judge whether this is being done deliberately, or by osmosis — the levels of gamification language waver from issue to issue.
  • The intellectual level of these magazines is comparable to other mass market magazines — they aren’t particularly simplistic, and they assume a reasonably well-educated readership.

Dr. Skillicorn worked with Edna Reid (James Madison University) on the research. The paper was recently published in Security Informatics.

Principal's trip to U.K. will strengthen international ties

Principal Daniel Woolf hopes that his first overseas trip of the academic year will allow him to strengthen the university’s relationship with potential research partners and engage with alumni, among other goals.

Principal Woolf is travelling to the United Kingdom on Oct. 7 to 10 with Vice-Principal (Research) Steven Liss. They will be part of a delegation representing the U15 group of Canadian research universities, of which Principal Woolf is now vice-chair. The delegation will meet with representatives from the Russell Group, which represents 24 leading public research universities in the U.K.

“The U15 has a highly respected profile abroad and, as a group, we will be able to highlight Canada as a country where a good deal of important research is happening,” says Principal Woolf. “We will also have a number of bilateral discussions with a number of universities to see about the possibility of establishing research partnerships in the future. Strengthening global research partnerships is an important component of the university’s internationalization and research prominence strategies. “

The trip will also allow the principal to meet with the team from the Bader International Study Centre, the university’s castle campus in Herstmonceux, U.K., as well as with Queen’s alumni in the London area.

Expanding Queen’s international reach is a strategic priority for Principal Woolf and the university, and a key driver in its strategic framework. Along with promoting international research partnerships, increasing international student recruitment is a top priority.

“Over the coming decades the universities that flourish will be those that have diversified beyond their home countries and established themselves at an international level,” says Principal Woolf. “Becoming better known internationally will not happen overnight; it is a challenge that will require commitment over a sustained period.

Queen’s welcomed new students from 51 countries around the world this year, and the university’s renewed international undergraduate recruitment efforts are already showing results, with international students making up five per cent of this year’s incoming undergraduate class.

 

 

Queen's professor emeritus inducted into Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

[Dr. Duncan Sinclair]
Queen’s University professor emeritus Duncan Sinclair is among the latest inductees to the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. (University Communications)

Queen’s University professor emeritus Duncan Sinclair has been inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame (CMHF).

“I am surprised, delighted and profoundly humbled to be included among the giants of Canadian medicine whose accomplishments are honoured therein,” says Dr. Sinclair, an emeritus physiology professor and a fellow in the Queen’s School of Policy Studies.

Dr. Sinclair is an internationally recognized leader in health-care reform, and was the first non-medical doctor to serve as a Dean of Medicine and Vice-Principal (Health Sciences) in Canada. He also worked in a number of senior administrative roles at Queen’s including Vice-Principal (Institutional Relations), Vice-Principal (Services), and Dean of Arts and Science.

Currently, Dr. Sinclair teaches in the Queen’s School of Policy Studies where a lectureship has been established in his name to recognize his contributions to the university and the Medical Research Council of Canada.

Outside of Queen’s, Dr. Sinclair’s leadership led to a re-defined health system in Ontario. He headed the governance subcommittee of the Steering Committee for Review of the Public Hospitals Act in Ontario and achieved national recognition as a member of the National Forum on Health. Dr. Sinclair was also the founding chair and acting CEO of Canada Health Infoway/Inforoute Santé du Canada – an organization designed to foster the development of a national capacity for health information management.

Laureates of the CMHF are regarded as some of Canada’s most accomplished medical innovators whose contributions on the national and international stages have been transformative to patient care, health systems, education and research.

Fellow inductees Dr. Bernard Langer and Dr. Alan Bernstein currently hold honourary degrees from Queen's.

Dr. Sinclair and his fellow 2014 inductees will celebrate this prestigious recognition on April 23, 2015 at the Metropolitan Entertainment Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Prominent Canadian judge receives honorary degree from Queen's

The Honourable George E. Carter receives his honourary degree from Queen's Principal Daniel Woolf.

On Monday, the Honourable George E. Carter, a retired provincial court judge, was conferred an honorary degree by Queen's University at a special luncheon ceremony at Osgoode Hall in downtown Toronto. Judge Carter is considered the first native-born jurist of African descent in Canada and rose to his position from humble beginnings as one of the country's early black lawyers.

Starting his legal career in Toronto after articling with firms willing to assist a young minority lawyer in an age of discrimination, Judge Carter established a distinguished career as a pioneer for broadened justice for minorities. At age 93, Judge Carter continues to practise from a home office serving a clientele that includes many from his own West Indian community.

Judge Carter was scheduled to receive his honourary during the Spring 2014 Convocation season but was unable to attend.

Puppets as a tool for transformation

Lisa Figge was working in the military when she first noticed that her boots were feeling unusually heavy.

“Going up stairs got hard. Fueling airplanes got hard,” she recalls. “I thought it was because I had just had a baby and was tired.”

Lisa Figge Project: Need to Be Adored is on exhibition at the Isabel until October 8.

Instead, Ms. Figge was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a degenerative disease that affects the central nervous system.

Eighteen years after that diagnosis, Ms. Figge, a PhD candidate in the Cultural Studies program, is exploring her own disability in an exhibit at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts.  She says the hand-stitched puppets on strings and 29-minute loop of video work that make up Lisa Figge Project Work: Need to be Adored are part of a larger, autoethnographic project that has allowed her to put herself at the heart of her research.

“I am exploring my specific experience of disability as my PhD research project,” says Figge, who now uses a mobility scooter to get around since losing the use of her legs. “And because I am an artist, that has turned out –to my surprise – to be puppets as well as very personal-feeling experimental films.”

It was Figge’s diagnosis that first drew her to Queen’s as a mature student in 2003, where she started with a single undergraduate course in English literature.

“It was the only thing I could do,” she says simply. “I couldn’t work, but I could sit for three hours in a lecture.”

By the time she started her Master’s degree in Environmental Studies in 2008, Ms. Figge was using a cane to get around, eventually relying on a walker for support. By 2010, when she started her PhD, she was unable to cross campus without the scooter.

“After my Master’s degree I had wanted to do more environmental work,” says Ms. Figge, “but I realized that I had an able bodied aesthetic that was impossible for me to participate in. It felt cruel, but it led me into disability studies, which is a vital and blossoming area of research in the humanities.”

Ms. Figge says that her puppets are not only providing her with a way of accessing her past, they are also giving her a voice.

“My education has turned me into a performance artist who is also a painter and a sculptor and a sewer. I had wanted to make big things, but I couldn’t manage it,” she says simply. “I make things that I can make now. I had to find a new relationship with materials that could express this alternative mobility that I now have. The puppets have helped me to do that.”

Ms. Figge is particularly thrilled that her exhibit will be among the first to be held in the Isabel’s Media Lab, a building she loves for its many accessible features.

“I love the elevator, I love the ramp all the way down to the water, and the accessible bathrooms,” she says. “The entrance ramp is magnificent, and they also have a whole bunch of disability parking spots out front. I want us to make the Isabel the most accessible space in Kingston.”

Lisa Figge Project Work: Need to be Adored runs until October 8 in the Media Lab (Room 124) at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts. The exhibition is open from 11am - 4pm, Monday through Friday. 

Queen's National Scholar program accepting applications

Academic units still have time to submit expressions of interest (EOI) for the 2014-15 round of the Queen’s National Scholar (QNS) program, which provides $100,000 annually for five years to assist faculties and schools in hiring a new faculty member.

EOI’s are due to the relevant dean’s office by Oct. 17. Deans will then submit their recommendations to the Provost’s Office by Nov. 3.

“The QNS is a signature program for Queen’s, helping our Faculties and Schools in recruiting faculty members who are emerging leaders within their fields,” says Alan Harrison, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic). “The program has already resulted in some exceptional early and mid-career scholars choosing to continue their teaching and research at Queen’s.”

Expressions of interest are welcome from any academic discipline, and should highlight how the proposed QNS aligns with the faculty or school’s priorities, as well as with the University’s Academic Plan and Strategic Research Plan. Interdisciplinary and cross-faculty submissions are encouraged. The EOI template will guide interested units through the submission process.

Heather Aldersey is a new Queen's National Scholar in international community-based rehabilitation.

The QNS advisory committee will review the EOIs and select up to four to advance to the second stage of the competition, in which an expanded proposal is submitted. In the second stage, the committee will review the four proposals and recommend to the principal which two candidates should be appointed.

Five new faculty members arrived on campus this year as Queen’s National Scholars from both the 2012 and 2013 rounds of the competition, including:

  • Heather Aldersey, QNS in international community-based rehabilitation
  • Avena Ross, QNS in chemical biology and medicinal chemistry
  • Armand Ruffo, QNS in Indigenous literatures and languages
  • Norman Vorano, QNS in Indigenous visual and material cultures of the Americas
  • Awet Weldemichael, QNS in African history

For more information on the QNS program, and the EOI template, visit the QNS page on the Provost’s website.

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