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Research Prominence

New hope in Lyme disease battle

Queen’s medical team uncovers new approach to treat cardiac issues caused by Lyme disease.

Lyme disease can leave people feeling fatigued, fevered, and stiff but many don’t know it can also cause a serious heart condition known as Lyme carditis.

The condition is most prevalent in males under 40 years of age and a team of researchers led by Queen’s University cardiologist Adrian Baranchuk has now advanced a revolutionary approach that could lead to a different method to treat these patients.

Lyme carditis specifically attacks the electrical system of the heart, leading to a rapid progression to atrioventricular block (AV) which is a complete shutting down of the heart activity. Typically the condition is treated with the installation of a permanent pacemaker but Dr. Baranchuk’s research indicates this isn’t always necessary. In all five of his test cases, the patient’s heart returned to normal after the use of antibiotics, and only some of them, have required a temporary pacemaker for few days.

“Lyme disease is transmitted by infected ticks, primarily black-legged ticks, and Kingston is in the middle of one of the endemic regions in Canada,” says Dr. Baranchuk. “The disease become reportable in 2009 and since then, case numbers have steadily climbed. With that, the cases of Lyme carditis are also increasing.”

According to numbers provided by the Government of Canada, there were 917 cases reported in Canada in 2015.

Dr. Baranchuk credits Kingston Health Sciences Centre nurses Crystal Blakely and Pamela Branscombe with identifying the initial case of Lyme carditis, presenting this cases to Dr. Baranchuk and his team, and the team coming up with a solution that saw all five males make a full recovery.

The first case that caught their attention was a 23-year-old male who was admitted to the cardiology department with a failing heart. This came after three emergency room visits and two visits to a medical clinic. After consultation, it was decided to treat the patient with antibiotics and to insert a temporary pacemaker. His heart returned to normal in 48 hours.

“The red flag for us was his age and the fact he had no prior cardio issues,” says Ms. Blakely. “It didn’t make sense to us why he was presenting with these symptoms. We only knew he had just tested positive for Lyme disease and that’s when we starting putting everything together.”

The same was true for the next four cases Dr. Baranchuk used to test his theory. The next three cases involved males in their 30s while the fifth case featured a 14-year-old boy who was admitted to Kingston General Hospital with a second degree AV block.

“There are many risks when we implant a permanent pacemaker in a young person plus the treatment is expensive and for life,” Dr. Baranchuk says. A typical pacemaker lasts seven to 10 years. In a young person, they may need the pacemaker replaced more than six times in their lifetime which involves surgery that it is not complication-free. This new approach could solve that problem.

Moving forward, Dr. Baranchuk and his team are working to track Lyme carditis cases from across Canada to continue moving his research forward.

“We need to educate health care professionals about Lyme carditis and its treatment,” he explains. “I would also like to apply for funding for a multi-centre study into Lyme disease and Lyme carditis. There is a better way to treat this and medical professionals aren’t always prepared. We can change the treatment approach for this disease.”

Positive economic predictions

Smith School of Business experts connect with business and community leaders at Business Forecast Luncheon.

Canada’s surprisingly hot economy will cool slightly in 2018 as the Bank of Canada looks to ease growth and avoid high inflation. But potential for a long and messy U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA could get in the way of continued good times.

"Business Forecast Luncheon"
The Business Forecast Luncheon, hosted by Smith School of Business, drew more than 200 of Kingston’s business and government leaders. (Supplied Photo)

That’s the prognosis Evan Dudley, Assistant Professor of Finance at Smith School of Business, delivered during the school’s annual Business Forecast Luncheon, at Four Points by Sheraton Kingston on Thursday, Dec. 7.

“The Canadian economy is doing really well. Growth has come in above everyone’s expectations,” Dr. Dudley says, citing strong manufacturing, rising exports and renewed stability in the oil sector, after prices collapsed in 2016, as key contributors to the surge.

Real gross domestic product of 2.9 per cent nationally this year will slow to two per cent in 2018.

Dr. Dudley anticipates the central bank will raise interest rates twice in the year ahead to give the economy a “soft landing.”

Canada’s unemployment rate, which stood at 5.9 per cent in October, will remain low at six per cent in the coming year.

Inflation will be stable at 1.6 per cent, up from 1.4 per cent this year, thanks in part to low wage-hike pressures.

But NAFTA could throw a wrench into the nation’s economic gears. Should President Donald Trump signal that he wants out of the pact, NAFTA would effectively become a “zombie” trade agreement – not dead, but not quite living either, Dr. Dudley explains. The reason: it’s up to Congress, not Trump, to formally withdraw from NAFTA, and in the wake of a Trump declaration, pro- and anti-NAFTA lawmakers would face off in a long and heated battle.

“NAFTA would still be in place but companies exporting to the (U.S.) would put their capital investments on hold. They would not be able to make plans, and there would be a lot of uncertainty,” Dr. Dudley says.

Smith’s Business Forecast Luncheon drew more than 200 of Kingston’s business and government leaders. Speakers included Julian Barling, Professor of Organizational Behaviour and Borden Chair of Leadership at Smith, and Betsy Donald, Professor in the Department of Geography and Planning at Queen’s.

Dr. Donald weighed in on efforts to diversify the Kingston economy and attract more private-sector jobs. She pointed to several successes in recent years: Frulact Group, a Portuguese fruit processor, which has opened a plant; and the Chinese dairy processor Feihe International, setting up an infant formula-making facility here.

The city’s investment in its bus system has also paid off, she adds. Census data shows Kingston had the highest increase in public transit ridership in Canada: up 33 per cent from 2011 to 2016.

“I think Kingston is in a good position right now. The city has a newfound confidence,” Dr. Donald says.

Kingston’s downtown also holds potential, with people still choosing to live in the core.

“Other cities of our size are seeing their downtowns hollow out,” she explains. “Our downtown is a golden asset. It’s a walkable heritage asset on the waterfront.”

Kingston’s economy is enjoying good times mostly because the Ontario economy has done well, Dr. Dudley says. GDP in the Kingston census metropolitan area rose 1.8 per cent this year. Given Kingston’s reliance on government, education and healthcare jobs, it’s no surprise that figure is lower than the provincial average of 2.9 per cent GDP growth and also less than manufacturing cities, such as Oshawa and Windsor, which both saw 2.5 per cent gains.

“Kingston doesn’t see big surges in economic growth, but we don’t see big declines either,” he says.

However, overall job growth in Kingston has been strong. Dr. Dudley points to RBC Economics Research data that ranked Kingston fourth out of 27 cities across Canada for job growth, with a 3.7 per cent gain here during the 12-month period to October.

Go with the flow (or against it)

Queen's researchers use magnetic fields to control bacteria with the potential to deliver drug treatments

Queen’s University researchers are using magnetic fields to influence a specific type of bacteria to swim against strong currents, opening up the potential of using the microscopic organisms for drug delivery in environments with complex microflows – like the human bloodstream.

Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering Carlos Escobedo and PhD candidate Saeed Rismani Yazdi analyzing MTB behaviour in the laboratory.
Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering Carlos Escobedo and PhD candidate Saeed Rismani Yazdi in the laboratory.

Led by Carlos Escobedo (Chemical Engineering) and PhD candidate Saeed Rismani Yazdi (Chemical Engineering), the research focused on studying and manipulating the mobility of magnetotactic bacteria (MTB) – tiny organisms that contain nanocrystals sensitive to magnetic fields. Their findings were recently published in nano- and micro-science journal Small.

“MTB have tiny (nanoscopic) organelles called magnetosomes, which act like a compass needle that helps them navigate to nutrient-rich locations in aquatic environments – their natural habitats – by using the Earth’s magnetic field,” says Dr. Escobedo. “In nature, MTB play a key role in Earth’s cycles by influencing marine biogeochemistry via transporting minerals and organic matters as nutrients.”

After studying how MTB respond to magnetic fields and currents similar to those found in their natural habitats, the team introduced stronger currents and magnetic fields to see if the bacteria could still navigate successfully.

“When we increased the rate of flow and the strength of the magnetic field, we were astounded by the MTB’s ability to swim strongly and concertedly against the current,” says Mr. Rismani Yazdi. “They were even able to swim across a strong current with ease when we moved the magnet perpendicular to the flow.”

Microscope slide with a channel to circulate flow
This microscope slide features a small channel through which Queen's researchers simulated the flow of a human bloodstream.

The team’s success in directing MTB through a complex and fast-moving environment could be a significant step toward using the bacteria to transport pharmaceuticals through the human bloodstream to treat tumours directly.

“Next, we plan to bind therapeutic drugs to the bacterial bodies for transport,” says Dr. Escobedo.

To do so, the team is collaborating with the group led by Peter Davies (Biochemisty), Canada Research Chair in Protein Engineering, who are figuring out how to adhere existing cancer therapeutic drugs to the bacteria, as well as how to have them release the drugs once they reach a chosen destination.

The team has also teamed up with Dr. Madhuri Koti of the Queen’s Cancer Research Institute and plan to refine their ability to direct the MTB toward tumours with a high degree of accuracy. Together, the team will use magnetic fields to guide the bacteria from one end of a microchannel on a tiny microscope slide to samples of biopsied cancer tissue at the other end.

Dr. Escobedo hopes that their multi-disciplinary approach to this research will help unlock MTB’s potential to be a biological, effective, and formidable drug-delivery method.

“We’ve shown that the bacteria’s natural properties can be exploited to guide them in complex and strong flow conditions, much more challenging than those found in nature, which opens up opportunities not only in the drug-delivery field, but in other biomedical applications as well,” concluded Mr. Rismani Yazdi.

One step at a time

Queen’s University research examines the fear of falling in seniors and the damaging impact it can have on their health.

New research out of Queen’s University has shown a fear of falling can lead to function disability in seniors over the age of 65. High fear can lead to less mobility, isolation, a loss of independence, depression, and, eventually, the need to move into a care facility.

“Falling is a serious concern, but the fear of falling can also be serious and can rob seniors of the autonomy that keeps them active longer,” says lead research Mohammad Auais (School of Rehabilitation Therapy). “Once you fall, it tends to increase your fear of falling, and then that fear of falling can be associated with decreased mobility, decreased social participation, and isolation. It is also important to know that at least two out of 10 seniors overestimate their risk of falling so their fear of falling is not justified.”

Mohammad Auais
Mohammad Auais (School of Rehabilitation Therapy) is studying the fear of falling in seniors and how that can lead to functional disability. (University Communications)

Dr. Auais used international data collected over two years focusing on seniors aged 65 and older. The measured data was both self-reported and observed and included day-to-day activities such as walking upstairs or standing from a chair. With this new data, he says he will next present the information to doctors, nurse practitioners, and the general public so people can start recognizing and intervening if someone has an unhealthy fear of falling.

He adds that due to a lack of awareness, a fear of falling is not a common target in rehabilitation programs despite the fact that behavior is modifiable.

“Fear of falling is prevalent among senior Canadians and – with the aging population – it is expected to be even more prevalent in the near future,” says Dr. Auais. “According to Statistics Canada, one out of three seniors aged 65 and older were concerned that they might fall in the future and this percentage increases with age.”

Close to half of seniors aged 85 years and older report fear of falling. Moving forward, Dr. Auais says the next steps in his research include developing a screening process for those at risk and developing intervention strategies.

“Seniors need to address any true risk of falling (e.g. balance problem) and start to venture out before they become isolated and lose their independence," he says. "And the good news is that balance can improve with training. If weather permits and sidewalks are safe, head outside; otherwise find an indoor spot that works for you (e.g. shopping mall).”

The findings are part of the International Mobility in Aging Study. It’s an international collaboration featuring researchers from Albania, Brazil, Colombia, Quebec, and Kingston and led by Dr. Maria-Victoria Zunzunegui, from the University of Montreal.

The research was published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

Forecasting Kingston's future

This year’s Business Forecast Luncheon is going local.

For more than three decades the event, hosted by Smith School of Business, has fostered connections with the Kingston community as Queen’s experts discuss the financial and economic outlook for the coming year, often on the national or provincial level.

Business Forecast Luncheon 2018
Queen's faculty experts Julian Barling (Smith SChool of Business), Betsy Donald (Geography and Planning), and Evan Dudley (Smith School of Business), are presenting at the Business Forecast Luncheon being hosted at the Four Points Sheraton on Thursday, Dec. 7. 

This year’s event, being hosted Thursday, Dec. 7 from noon to 2 pm at the Four Points Sheraton, will take on a more local focus, explains Evan Dudley, Assistant Professor of Finance at Smith School of Business, will be discussing how Kingston ranks relative to other communities of similar size in terms of economic growth and job creation as well as a national economic forecast.

“What I’ve learned from the attendees is they are very interested in what Queen’s researchers have to say about the local economy. I think that is the missing piece for the event and that is what we are bringing to the table this year,” he says. “At the luncheon I will do a national macro-economic forecast but I will also talk about the local economy, which is much more difficult as there’s not a lot of information on Kingston because it’s a smaller city.”

Joining him will be Julian Barling, Professor of Organizational Behaviour and Borden Chair of Leadership at Smith School of Business, and Betsy Donald, Professor, Department of Geography and Planning.

At the luncheon Dr. Barling will talk about early childhood environments and how they foster leadership outcomes, a topic that Dr. Dudley describes as “fascinating”.

“It’s original research and he will be talking about that, with an application to Kingston of course,” he says. “He’s very knowledgeable about what’s going on here.”

Dr. Donald, the first faculty member from outside the business school to be featured at the luncheon, specializes in economic geography with a particular focus on innovation and regional economic development, urban planning and governance, and sustainable food systems. Her talk will also take a look at Kingston in relation to where it stands in comparison to other cities now and going forward.

Following the presentations there will be a question-and-answer session, moderated by Dr. Dudley, where audience members can put their queries on a wide range of topics directly to the experts.  A hot topic at past luncheons has been development projects and whether or not the City of Kingston should move ahead with them.

“When you look at Kingston, we do well in some dimensions but in terms of growth relative to other cities Kingston is maybe in the middle of the pack,” Dr. Dudley points out. “That’s a discussion we have every year and some people think that is the right place to be while others feel we should move up. There’s definitely a trade-off there and both Dr. Barling and Dr. Donald are going to be speaking about that trade-off.”

Tickets for the Business Forecast Luncheon can be purchased online at Smith School of Business website or contact Samantha Arniel at 613-533-6000 ext. 73800 or samantha.arniel@queensu.ca.

The beauty of research

Calling all photographers, amateur and professional! The third edition of the Queen’s Art of Research photo contest is officially open.

The contest’s goal is to creatively capture the research process across disciplines and demonstrate the importance of research at the local, national and international levels. This year’s contest is open to faculty, staff, students and alumni, and encourages researchers in any discipline to showcase their research in action.

Everyone is encouraged to think creatively; the only limit is your imagination. Photos can come anywhere from across the globe to the lens of a microscope. The 2015 and 2016 contests gave Queen’s many inspiring images of the research happening across the institution.

Images will be featured on the Queen’s Research webpage, and will be used in various Queen’s research promotion materials. Photo credit will be given where possible.

There are four categories to submit an image to this year: Community Collaborations, Invisible Discoveries, Out in the Field, and Art in Action. The winner in each category will receive a prize of $500.

Also, there are two other $500 prizes available this year. One prize will be for People’s Choice, which will be determined by an online vote from members of the Queen’s community. The other prize will be for Best Description, which will be given to the most creative image caption.

The contest closes on Jan. 31, 2018 at 4 pm. Please visit the Art of Research website for more information, and get snapping.

  • Amphibian from the Inside. Rute Clemente Carvalho. Postdoc, Biology. Location: Zeiss stereomicroscope in the laboratory. The evolutionary process called miniaturization can lead to morphological changes in body structures. The internal morphology of tiny specimens can be seen/observed using a special staining technique. This method digests the muscles, making them transparent, and colours the bones and cartilages. In the case of this froglet, it has a body size of around 18mm, and features like osteoderms i
    Tulugak on the Crucifix. Norman Vorano. Faculty, Art History & Art Conservation. Location: Pond Inlet, Nunavut. Dr. Norman Vorano was conducting historical research with Inuit elders in Nunavut in April and May of 2016. One woman recounted the loss of cultural traditions as a result of the changes that happened during the twentieth century, particularly from residential schools, the missionaries, and the waves of southerners who flooded into the Arctic after the Second World War. After they broke for lunch, Vorano stepped outside. The white sky was indistinguishable from the ground. He walked past a towering crucifix erected behind the Catholic Church, on an imposing hill overlooking the community. A raven flew down from the ethereal sky, perched on the Crucifix, and began vocalizing. For Western culture, the raven is a harbinger of death. For Inuit culture, tulugak – raven – is a tricky fellow that symbolizes creation.
  • Window on a Window to the Universe. Mark Chen. Faculty, Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy. Location: SNOLAB, Sudbury, Ontario. An underwater camera mounted in the SNO+ (Sudbury Neutrino Observatory) neutrino detector captures a snapshot image when the 12-metre diameter acrylic sphere is 85% full. Viewed from below, ropes are seen crisscrossing the top of the sphere extending down (foreground), and each of the shiny cells that are visible is a 20-cm diameter super-sensitive light detector.
    Window on a Window to the Universe. Mark Chen. Faculty, Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy. Location: SNOLAB, Sudbury, Ontario. An underwater camera mounted in the SNO+ (Sudbury Neutrino Observatory) neutrino detector captures a snapshot image when the 12-metre diameter acrylic sphere is 85% full. Viewed from below, ropes are seen crisscrossing the top of the sphere extending down (foreground), and each of the shiny cells that are visible is a 20-cm diameter super-sensitive light detector. The water-air interface inside and outside the acrylic spherical tank creates visual distortions as light refracts at the optical boundary. Once full, the upgraded detector turns on in Fall 2016, ten years after the original SNO detector completed its Nobel-prize winning studies.
  • Aldonza. Tim Fort. Faculty, Dan School of Drama & Music. Location: Mainstage, Weston Playhouse, Vermont.
    Aldonza. Tim Fort. Faculty, Dan School of Drama & Music. Location: Mainstage, Weston Playhouse, Vermont. This moment arrives at the end of the staging for the musical number "Aldonza" from The Man of La Mancha – one of two musicals Dr. Tim Fort directed at the Weston Playhouse in Vermont in the summer of 2016. Many of the show's creative team are Broadway veterans, including the designer and the performer playing Aldonza – whose character is pictured ignoring the aggressions of the muleteers as they sing to her in this musical version of the Don Quixote story. Dr. Fort’s research interests lie in lighting and staging, and he has been a producing director at the Weston Playhouse for the past 30 years.
  • Amphibian from the Inside. Rute Clemente Carvalho. Postdoc, Biology. Location: Zeiss stereomicroscope in the laboratory.
    Amphibian from the Inside. Rute Clemente Carvalho. Postdoc, Biology. Location: Zeiss stereomicroscope in the laboratory. The evolutionary process called miniaturization can lead to morphological changes in body structures. The internal morphology of tiny specimens can be seen/observed using a special staining technique. This method digests the muscles, making them transparent, and colours the bones and cartilages. In the case of this froglet, it has a body size of around 18mm, and features like osteoderms in the skin and hyperossification on the skeleton can be observed. The knowledge of morphological structures can help researchers understand the evolution of the species’ behaviour and ecology of the species, and its phylogenetic relationships with related species.

Uniting Queen's research and entrepreneurship

The Foundry program combines the passion and skill of student entrepreneurs with the research smarts of Queen’s academics to form successful start-ups.

Over the years, Queen’s researchers have made many important and impactful discoveries – helping plants grow more effectively, ensuring car engines stay lubricated for longer, and unpacking the tiny building blocks that make up our universe to name just a few examples. The question for the university is always how to take these discoveries to the next step.

RockMass Technologies was the first group to pilot the Foundry program. (Supplied Photo)
RockMass Technologies was the first group to pilot the Foundry program. (Supplied Photo)

In recent years, Canada’s major funding agencies have been placing more emphasis on how some of the valuable research conducted at universities like Queen’s can move from discovery to commercialization. But bringing a product to market takes time and resources, and sometimes faculty members prefer to teach and continue their research. This means the university must create other avenues to get this research to market.

One such initiative is the Foundry program, which connects student entrepreneurs in the Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative (QICSI) program with intellectual property that could have some commercial potential. The program was inspired by similar efforts at universities such as Arizona State, and has been piloted for the last two years by the Queen’s Office of Partnerships and Innovation and the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC).

How does the Foundry program work?
1) The researcher discloses their information to the Technology Transfer Unit of the Office of Partnerships and Innovation (OPI-TTU) using the invention disclosure form (Word - 90 KB).

2) OPI-TTU assesses the patentability and commercial potential. 

3) If accepted as a commercial development project, the OPI-TTU starts the patent protection process.

4) OPI-TTU then pitches the project to groups of interested students.

5) The student groups express their interest in the project and begin interacting with the researchers to learn about the work in more detail.

6) The students present a proposal to the OPI-TTU and the researchers.

7) If the proposal is accepted, the students form a new company and OPI-TTU enters into a renewable six-month option agreement with the company to start the commercial development process.

8) If all goes well during the option period, the OPI-TTU and the company can enter into a longer-term license agreement.

“As research transitions from business concept to start-up to viable business, the team behind it needs to change,” says Greg Bavington (Sc’85), Executive Director of the DDQIC. “The researcher is not necessarily the same person who is interested in determining if their idea has commercial merit, and that person is not necessarily the one who wants to work in a start-up environment. This program is designed to help ease that transition from research to start-up.”

The Foundry program already produced two viable businesses during its pilot. RockMass Technologies provides a mobile 3D mapping tool for geologists – a device that was based on the research of Professor Joshua Marshall and then-PhD candidate, now graduate, Marc Gallant (Sc’16). Dr. Marshall and Dr. Gallant worked with the Office of Partnerships and Innovation to file for patent protection for their technology and set up an agreement with RockMass Technologies, which was founded by six Queen’s students in the QICSI program, to develop the technology. 

The second pilot of the Foundry program began earlier this year, when a five-member team of Queen’s students formed Spectra Plasmonics. The company took on the development of a product based on the chemical detection research of Professors Aristides Docoslis and Carlos Escobedo – both Chemical Engineering professors – along with doctoral candidate Hannah Dies (MSc’21, Meds’21). Spectra Plasmonics has since gone on to win a global business competition in Singapore, and also placed in another competition in India.

“There are increased expectations from government and society around commercialization, and how we prepare our students to innovate, to be flexible, and to start their own businesses,” says James McLellan, Academic Director of the DDQIC and Professor in the department of Chemical Engineering. “At the same time, there is an increasing interest and increasing amount of support for entrepreneurship on campus and in the community. It’s an alignment of stars and an alignment of interests.”

With two successful pilots completed, the plan is to expand the program. The DDQIC and Office of Partnerships and Innovation are seeking faculty members with intellectual property that could be commercialized in hopes of partnering them up with teams of entrepreneurial students. The goal is to have five Foundry companies participating in QICSI this year.

“The Foundry program is an avenue that we are exploring in addition to our traditional licensing efforts,” says Ramzi Asfour, Assistant Director, Commercial Development, with the Office of Partnerships and Innovation. "We hope these companies grow here in Kingston and form close collaborative relationships with the research groups at Queen's. Ideally, the companies would bring problems from industry to the labs and help create great opportunities for talented research students supported by funding programs that are designed to enhance commercialization."

If you are a Queen’s researcher with intellectual property and you would like to explore its commercial potential, or if you would like to learn more about the Foundry program, visit the DDQIC’s website.

A full day of inspiration

As soon as Claire Davies (Mechanical and Materials Engineering) heard that the Queen’s Faculty Writing Retreat had been scheduled, she blocked the day off in her calendar and registered online.

Faculty Writing Retreat
The Faculty Writing Retreat, hosted by the Office of the Vice-Principal (Research), provides faculty members an opportunity to focus on developing new writing skills and to meet with peers from across the university. (University Communications)

“I find that I don’t have the discipline to schedule that sort of time in my regular work week. If I close my office door and a student knocks, I feel obliged to respond. Those small interruptions send me off-track and often times I will then check my emails, respond to them, and never regain focus properly.”

Building on the success of three previous retreats, the Office of the Vice-Principal (Research) is hosting another Faculty Writing Retreat at the Donald Gordon Centre on Thursday, Dec. 7 from 8:30 am-5 pm.

For busy scholars who have difficulty carving out uninterrupted time for writing, or struggle finding motivation to write, this retreat offers a full day of inspiration. With a quiet, comfortable and isolated space to indulge in long blocks of uninterrupted writing time, small group discussions with colleagues from across the university, and private one-on-one consultations with University Research Services and the Writing Centre, the Faculty Writing Retreat provides an opportunity for faculty to focus on writing projects alongside a community of support.

This Writing Retreat eases the struggles all sorts of writers face explains Susan Korba, Director of Student Academic Success Services, who will work as a writing strategist during the retreat.

“Writing can be challenging for anyone; even the most proficient, prolific writers sometimes struggle. The great thing about the faculty writing retreat is that it provides writers with a supportive community of practice, plus the chance to check in with writing strategists about specific writing issues in a relaxed, non-judgmental environment.”

More than 100 Queen’s faculty have participated in this program over the last two years and past participants have reported reaching their writing goals, such as completing research funding applications and finishing manuscripts.

A year later, Adam Szulewski (School of Medicine) says he’s looking forward to taking part the workshop again.

“The writing retreat was a great opportunity for me to have uninterrupted writing time as well as access to URS staff who provided very helpful insight into my grant application. I’m looking forward to more of the same this year,” says Dr. Szulewski.

Registration is currently open to all faculty, and will close on Friday, Dec. 1, or when all available spaces are filled. This is a first come, first served event.

Queen's professor wins national chemical engineering award

Kim McAuley is the first woman to be awarded the D.G. Fisher Award by the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering.

Kim McAuley receiving the D.G. Fisher Award
Kim McAuley, right, Associate Dean of the School Graduate Studies and a professor in chemical engineering, is the first woman to be awarded the D.G. Fisher Award by the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering. (Supplied Photo)

Queen’s University professor Kim McAuley has received the D.G. Fisher Award by the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering for her major contributions to the systems and control engineering discipline. Dr. McAuley, who is also the associate dean of the Queen’s School of Graduate Studies, is the first woman to receive the award.

“I feel extremely honoured to receive the D.G. Fisher Award,” says Dr. McAuley. “To be recognized alongside some of the discipline's forbearers is a great privilege, particularly David Bacon and Tom Harris, who mentored me early in my career.”

Both Drs. Bacon and Harris are past recipients of the D.G. Fisher Award from Queen’s University.

Systems and control engineering involves the analysis, design, and optimization of complex systems in all sectors, from robotic manufacturing and assembly lines to petrochemical production and metallurgy. Practitioners use mathematical modeling to inform these large-scale industry processes with the aim of increasing efficiency and lowering production costs. In turn, this helps make products more affordable for consumers and lessens negative environmental impacts.

Dr. McAuley has worked with major chemical and polymer companies like ExxonMobil, DuPont and NOVA Chemicals to improve industrial processes, as well as ‘clean tech’ firms looking to transform existing small-scale processes into large-scale operations.

She recently worked with Enviro Innovate, a company based at Queen’s University’s Innovation Park, which has developed a technology that can remove carbon dioxide from industrial furnace emissions, which can then be used as a feedstock for bio-sourced jet fuel or to create new polymers. Dr. McAuley helped the company by modeling the intricacies of carbon dioxide absorption by small water droplets in the process so Enviro Innovate could better explain the causes of their high carbon dioxide removal rates to companies looking to curb their emissions impact.

“I would not have earned this award without the hard work and enthusiasm of my graduate students – both past and present,” says Dr. McAuley, who currently oversees two Queen’s Chemical Engineering doctoral students and six master's students. “Working alongside them has not only helped me progress my research, but our experiences together have increased my awareness of their needs and goals, and have given me an even better understanding of my role as associate dean of Graduate Studies.”

Canadian systems and control experts are respected around the world and Dr. McAuley believes this global leadership in the field will continue to grow.

“I anticipate future winners of the D.G. Fisher award are amongst my colleagues at Queen’s and our students,” she says. “The industry demand for systems and control professionals continues to grow, particularly due to improvements in computing technology, better access to information and easier ways to collaborate internationally.”

Every March, Dr. McAuley co-organizes a multi-institutional systems and control recruitment event for undergraduates contemplating masters degrees followed by a career in systems and control engineering. This spring will mark the fourth annual event, featuring research from 13 experts from six institutions.

Promising cancer research

Caitlin Miron, Queen’s PhD student, presented with the Mitacs PhD Award for Oustanding Innovation by Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (left) and Jim Banting, Assistant Vice-Principal of Partnerships and Innovation at Queen’s (right).
Caitlin Miron, Queen’s PhD student, presented with the Mitacs PhD Award for Oustanding Innovation by Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (left) and Jim Banting, Assistant Vice-Principal of Partnerships and Innovation at Queen’s (right).

Queen’s PhD student Caitlin Miron was in the spotlight in Ottawa this week when she was presented with the Mitacs PhD Award for Outstanding Innovation for her work in biochemistry. Ms. Miron, a student with the Department of Chemistry, broke new ground by discovering a DNA binder that can essentially ‘switch off’ cancer cells and prevent them from spreading.

The award is given to a PhD student who has made a significant achievement in research and development innovation during Mitacs-funded research. Ms. Miron’s award is one of seven given annually by Mitacs, a national, not-for-profit organization that works with 60 universities, thousands of companies, and government to support industrial and social innovation in Canada.

Ms. Miron was presented with her award by Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovaton, Science and Economic Development, Kristy Duncan, Minister of Science, and Alejandro Adem, Chief Executive Officer and Scientific Director of Mitacs.

Ms. Miron’s research focused on identifying a chemical compound that can bind to a specific form of DNA architecture, which has been found in cancer genes. Preliminary results show the compound can stabilize the DNA and thereby stop the cancer from spreading. This research may be useful in anticancer therapeutic agents, either alone or combined with other treatments. 

“You can think about temporarily single-strand DNA as a necklace. You have a chain, which is your DNA, then you have beads that move freely along that chain until they come to a knot. That knot is a guanine quadruplex, which is an unusual form of DNA. Normally that knot can be unraveled, but if someone has put superglue on it, you can’t unknot it. What we found is essentially an excellent form of superglue,” says Ms. Miron. “We care about this in terms of anti-cancer applications because these quadruplexes often form before sequences of DNA that lead to the development of cancer. If we can stop those beads, which are the cellular machinery that’s going to process that DNA, from accessing it, we can potentially stop various forms of cancer development and metastasis. We have fairly promising results in cancer cell inhibition in this field."

Her findings, researched in collaboration with Dr. Jean-Louis Mergny at the European Institute of Chemistry and Biology in Bordeaux, France, during her Mitacs GlobalLink internship, will be published in January 2018. It is also expected to be ready for licensing by pharmaceutical companies within two to five years.

To learn more about Ms. Miron’s research and to watch a video interview with her, visit the School of Graduate Studies website.

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