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Digital database puts music resources at educators' fingertips

Music resource opens up new realm for educators. 

Dr. Rena Upitis (left) and Kingston piano teacher Jodie Compeau use the DREAM website to search for digital music resources.

 

Starting this September, music educators from across Canada will be able to find and download the best available digital music resources for free.

The Digital Resource Exchange About Music (DREAM) is an online space created by collaborators at Queen’s University, Concordia University and The Royal Conservatory that can be used in French or English on all devices including computers, tablets and smartphones.

“The real strength of DREAM is that the resources are of high quality and relevance to music teachers. For example, teachers will often spend time sorting through a whole page of recordings trying to find one that is good enough to share – our website has done that work for them,” says Dr. Rena Upitis, a professor in the Queen’s Faculty of Education and project director of DREAM.

DREAM, which took two years to develop, also allows users to listen to high quality recordings of popular repertoire. Kingston piano teacher Jodie Compeau says that functionality will augment her students’ learning experiences.

“DREAM is a fantastic tool that streamlines my search for useful apps, websites and recordings that enhance the quality of my studio,” she says. “DREAM means quickly finding a game to help my students learn to read music, or locating an app to help students mix their newest musical creations. It’s a real time saver for music educators.”

Additionally, users who sign up for a free DREAM account are able to rate, review and add resources to the website. All resources are approved the DREAM team.

“DREAM aims to change the way that teachers learn by facilitating the exchange of information free from the constraints of distance or time,” says Dr. Upitis. “This means teachers can do what they do best: teach.”

DREAM belongs to a suite of digital tools developed by Queen’s, Concordia and The Royal Conservatory. Research leading to the development of DREAM was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Canada Foundation for Innovation. For more information, visit www.musictoolsite.ca

Report advocates improved police training

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

A new report released yesterday by the Mental Health Commission of Canada identifies ways to improve the mental health training and education that police personnel receive.

“People with mental illnesses is a prominent issue for Canada's police community, and today's report builds on the increasingly collaborative relationship between law enforcement and people with mental illnesses,” says Queen’s adjunct professor Dorothy Cotton, a forensic psychologist with an interest in the area of police psychology. “This is a gap-analysis tool that police academy and police services can use to improve their education and training.”

Dorothy Cotton has released a new report on the police and people with mental illness.

TEMPO: Police Interactions – A report towards improving interactions between police and people living with mental health problems includes several key recommendations:

  • That police learning be designed and delivered by a combination of police personnel, adult educators, mental health professionals, mental health advocacy organizations and people living with mental illness.
  • More uniform inclusion of non-physical interventions (verbal communications, interpersonal skills, de-escalation, defusing and calming techniques) in use-of-force training.
  • The incorporation of anti-stigma education to challenge the attitudinal barriers that lead to discriminatory action.
  • That provincial governments establish policing standards that include provision for mandatory basic and periodic police training qualification/requalification for interactions with people with mental illness.
  • Provision of training on the role of police, mental health professionals, family and community supports in encounters with persons with mental illness.
  • That training provides a better understanding of the symptoms of mental illness and the ability to assess the influence a mental illness might be having on a person's behaviour and comprehension.

“The most important part of the report and what comes after is making sure people living with mental illness are involved in the delivery of training,” says Dr. Cotton, who earned a Diamond Jubilee Medal recognizing her work in relation to interactions between police and people with mental illness.

The TEMPO report is the result of a comprehensive survey of Canadian police organizations; a literature review; an international comparative review of police learning programs; and direct interviews with a variety of police and mental health professionals.

The report was launched at the 109th annual conference of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP). Read the full TEMPO report here

Queen's professor receives prestigious national grant

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer
 
Queen'™s University international security expert Stéfanie von Hlatky (Political Studies) has received a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), one of only three professors to ever receive funding from the Partnership Development Grant in the program'™s four-year history.
 
The director of Queen'™s Centre for International and Defence Policy received $199,944 over three years to study corporate social responsibility practices within the mining industry.
 
Stefanie von Hlatky has earned a SSHRC Partnership Development Grant.
"There is a growing recognition from industry stakeholders and community actors for the need to develop holistic security approaches to manage projects in conflict-prone environments," says Dr. von Hlatky, pointing to recent events in Papua New Guinea, South Africa and Tanzania. "Given Canada's involvement in the mining sector, this project will focus on the extractive industries as a test case and will help community-level stakeholders and the private sector to anticipate and manage security problems everywhere they operate."
 
The research project identifies four objectives:
  • Promoting cross-sector knowledge exchanges on core security themes by undertaking field research and organizing practical workshop 
  • Creating a framework to address conflict prevention and conflict management as part of corporate social responsibility activities
  • Training and mentoring emerging security experts by providing hands-on methods training and internship opportunities for professional development
  • Disseminating the team's research findings through proactive engagement with non-academic stakeholders, from governments to local communities.
"œI was thrilled with the news that Dr. von Hlatky had been successful in her application for such competitive funding," says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). "She has been doing tremendous work in the international security field and her research also contributes and enhances Queen's leadership in promoting safe and successful communities, a major theme of the Strategic Research Plan."
 
Six institutional partners will contribute to the research project: the Centre for International and Defence Policy at Queen's (CIDP), the McGill/Universite de Montreal Centre for International Peace and Security Studies (CIPSS), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), the Center for Security Governance (CSG) and Rio Tinto.
 
See all the successful applicants here.

Making strides in reproductive science

By Andrew Stokes, Communications Officer

Taking to the main stage in front of a crowd of nearly 1000 faces, Matthew Rätsep was awash with nerves. Presenting his research to the 47th Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Reproduction, he faced his colleagues and peers in a Michigan conference centre that had previously played host to the likes of Michael Bublé and Beck.

PhD candidate Matthew Rätsep is researching the effects of the pregnancy disorder pre-eclampsia.

His work focused on Placental Growth Factor (PGF), a protein found in the placenta during pregnancy. "Since its discovery in the late 1990s, PGF has been a hot topic in the field of reproductive science," says Mr. Rätsep, a PhD candidate in the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences. "There's a known link between low levels of PGF and pre-eclampsia, but I wanted to find out if this was a consequence or a cause of the pre-eclampsia."

Pre-eclampsia, a disorder characterized by high blood pressure in pregnancy affects around three per cent of pregnancies. It can lead to kidney dysfunction, impaired liver function as well as cognitive impairments in the mother.

From the 600 submissions to the conference, Mr. Rätsep had his work selected as one of the top six. That also earned him a Lalor Foundation Travel Fellowship for the research'™s scientific merit, clarity and the impact of its results. Along with the other top six, he was invited to participate in the Trainee Research Platform Competition, and so he found himself on a wide stage, flanked by two enormous video screens as he presented his findings to the conference-goers. After the deliberation of the judges, Mr. Rätsep was awarded the conference's top prize. He says the prize money from the award will be put to use financing further conferences and research, the next phase of which has already begun.

"œWe began trying to take blood pressure measurements, but that quickly took us in a different direction," Mr. Rätsep says. "œIt appears that some offspring of pre-eclamptic mothers are born with imperfect blood vessel formation in their brain and so we've begun a pilot study of children of pre-eclamptic mothers to substantiate this."

Children born from pre-eclamptic mothers are possibly at risk of cognitive impairment. "The children are still able to lead reasonably healthy lives but they might be at a greater risk for depression," he says. "œMostly they'™ll just need a little more care and attention."

[UPDATE] Mr. Rätsep presented at the International Federation of Placenta Associations (IFPA) in Paris, France early in September 2014. Of the 164 poster presentations by new investigators at the conference, Mr. Rätsep's was singled out as the best presentation based on scientific merit, interpretation, the impact of the results and the clarity of the presentation. As a result, he was presented with the Elsevier Trophoblast Research New Investigator Award and invited to present a plenary lecture at next year's IFPA conference in Brisbane, Australia.

Queen's-led study key to improving the health of young people

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

A recent report shows Canadian youth smoking rates have dropped in the past 20 years, while rates of obesity and cannabis use remain consistently high. The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) report explores trends in the health of young people over the past two decades.
Study author John Freeman.
 
The HBSC survey has been coordinated every four years since 1989 by the Social Program Evaluation Group (SPEG) of Queen’s University in partnership with the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada. The study is supported by the World Health Organization and has 43 participating countries primarily from North America and Europe.  Ã¢Â€ÂœThe success we have achieved in reducing adolescents' smoking rates in Canada shows what we can accomplish with a unified cross-sectoral public health approach,” says John Freeman (Education), director of SPEG.
 
Five key findings came out of the HBSC report:
  • Cigarette smoking is the one public health concern that has shown the greatest improvement for Canadian adolescents over the past 20 years. In 1994, Canadian 13-year-old boys and 15-year-old girls had the highest rates of smoking at least once a week internationally. In the 2010 survey, Canadian boys had the lowest smoking rates internationally and rates for Canadian girls dropped to some of the lowest in the countries surveyed. This approach should be adopted in tackling other health issues.
  • Being overweight or obese is an ongoing concern for Canadian students in Grades 6 to 10. In the 2010 survey, Canada ranked second out of 39 HBSC countries in the prevalence of overweight and obese 15-year-old boys and girls. For 13-year-old boys and girls, Canada ranked third and fourth respectively. These numbers have changed little over time.
  • Canadian adolescents have consistently been among the highest levels of cannabis use internationally. In 2010, Canada ranked first for cannabis use in 15-year-old girls and 15-year-old Canadian boys ranked second. Forty percent of Grade 10 Canadian boys and 37 percent of Canadian girls reported having tried cannabis.
  • The prevalence of reported well-being for Canadian young people has been decreasing since the beginning of the survey cycle. The life satisfaction on the national level, as compared to other countries, has been worsening. With a focus on promotion of positive mental health, researchers expect this to improve in the 2014 survey.
  • Youth voices should continue to be heard on research, policy and programming that affect their health.
“The Government of Canada is pleased to have supported Queen’s University in the development of this important report,” said Gregory Taylor, Canada’s Deputy Chief Public Health Officer. “Having accurate information available that helps us understand the changes in the behaviours and attitudes of children and youth is invaluable. This will help to inform policy and program decisions that ultimately promote the health and well-being of Canadian children and youth.”
 
Other Queen’s contributors to the report include Matthew King (SPEG) and Heather Coe (Faculty of Education).

Emerging researchers earn national support

Three doctoral candidates and a researcher recently received Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships while a researcher received a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship. From left: Midori Ogasawara; Oluwatobiloba “Tobi” Moody; Tyler Cluff; and Mike Best. Supplied photos

By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

Four promising Queen’s researchers recently won national awards.

Doctoral candidates Mike Best, Oluwatobiloba “Tobi” Moody and Midori Ogasawara each received Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships worth $50,000 per year over the next three years. The federal government established the program in 2008 to attract and retain world-class doctoral students and to make Canada world-renowned for excellence in research and higher learning.

The same day the Vanier Scholars were announced, Tyler Cluff learned he was the recipient of a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship, a bursary program that provides funding to the top postdoctoral applicants, both nationally and internationally, who will positively contribute to the country's economic, social and research based growth.

Dr. Cluff will receive $70,000 per year over the next two years, which will allow him to test promising new ideas in movement neuroscience, including how humans use sensory information about their bodies and the world around them to make skilled movements.

“This research will not only help us understand basic aspects of motor control and learning, but may lead to advancements in neurological assessment tools and treatment options for movement impaired individuals,” says Dr. Cluff, who is a member of Dr. Stephen Scott’s Laboratory of Integrative Motor Behaviour (LIMB) in Queen’s Centre for Neuroscience Studies.

As a Vanier Scholar, Mr. Best (Psychology) plans to build on his master’s thesis that found members of the general population have an early neurobiological bias towards the speech of people with schizophrenia that results in reduced attention and processing of what someone with schizophrenia is saying. This bias could be a major factor in understanding why people with schizophrenia are excluded, he says.

“Receiving the Vanier CGS provides me with the freedom and financial support to focus more thoroughly on conducting and disseminating my research,” says Mr. Best, who won this year’s Queen’s 3 Minute Thesis Competition. “Social exclusion can be devastating for people with psychosis. With the support of this award I can continue to expand my work to reduce social exclusion and improve the lives of millions of people living with psychosis.”

Mr. Moody (Law) is analyzing the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol, the legal framework that is intended to ensure the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.

Mr. Moody is examining biopiracy debates as well as ongoing related efforts to protect traditional knowledge in international forums. He argues that a coherent global intellectual property system is critical for the Nagoya Protocol’s effective implementation and, ultimately, for the effective protection of traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources.

“The Vanier Scholarship represents to me a humbling affirmation of the significance and importance of my current research within the context of ongoing international efforts to address the effective protection of the traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources of indigenous peoples and local communities,” says Mr. Moody, a Nigerian by birth who started his PhD in the Faculty of Law in September 2012. “I am elated as the Scholarship will equip me with resources to enable me participate in relevant conferences and will afford me the opportunity to devote maximum time and concentration to the development of quality research in this area.”

Ms. Ogasawara (Sociology) is examining the development of national identification systems in Japan from the colonial times to today. The focus of her PhD will be the origins developed in Manchu-kuo, an area of northeast China occupied by the Japan from the 1920s to 1945, as well as the roles of the national ID systems in relation to the colonization then and neoliberal economy nowadays.

“I am very excited to receive a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship because it enables my research to expand to a geographically wider scope and pursue the historical understanding,” says Ms. Ogasawara. “As an international student who has a domestic responsibility for a young child, there would be no other scholarships that could support me in the same way as the Vanier scholarship does.”


 

 

Ready to rove on Mars

Queen's post-doctoral fellow Brian Lynch operates the Mars Exploration Science Rover at Canadian Space Agency headquarters in Saint-Hubert, Que. Photo courtesy Canadian Space Agency

By Andrew Carroll, Gazette editor

A Queen’s researcher is getting a taste of what it is like to be part of a Mars Rover mission.

Postdoctoral fellow Brian Lynch is the lone Queen’s representative on a team of students, primarily from Western University, taking part in the simulated mission, in partnership with the Canadian Space Agency, replicating as many aspects of a real space exploration mission as possible.

Over a period of two weeks, the team is remotely operating the Mars Exploration Science Rover (MESR) on an analogue (substitute) Martian terrain at the John H. Chapman Space Centre in Saint-Hubert, Que. The aim of the mission is to collect rock and soil samples to be returned to Earth.

The aim of the program, however, is to get hands-on training for students working on planetary exploration.

Dr. Lynch explains that researchers at Western's Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX) act as “mission control” and make decisions about what kind of scientific operations will be conducted, including taking images, laser scans and core samples. After confirming with the engineering team if the plans are feasible, operations are then carried out and the results are uploaded for the science team at the end of the day.

This matches how a real Mars mission unfolds as the delay in radio transmission over such a great distance means live control is impossible.

Dr. Lynch himself is heading up the rover team that helps perform operations and acts as a stand-in for particular science instruments that are not currently installed on the rover.

“Working on this Mars analogue mission with the Canadian Space Agency has been a great experience and has helped me develop important skills,” he says. “Space exploration is a passion of mine and I am looking forward to applying this knowledge in future deployments on Earth as well as real missions to the moon, Mars, and other interesting places in our solar system.”

The Mars Rover is a six-wheeled vehicle with a robotic arm equipped with a microscope and mini-corer to drill into rocks, take samples and perform analysis of rocks. It also can produce 3D maps of the terrain.

Back on the ground at Queen’s, Dr. Lynch is part of the Mining Systems Laboratory, headed up by Joshua Marshall. The multidisciplinary lab, based in mining engineering but also associated with mechanical and electrical and computer engineering, focuses on robotic mining and planetary exploration and development technologies.

Called Technologies and Techniques for Earth and Space Exploration the mission is part of a Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) program, funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

The ethics of driverless cars

 By Andrew Stokes, Communications Officer

Jason Millar, a PhD Candidate in the Department of Philosophy, spends a lot of time thinking about driverless cars. Though you aren’t likely to be able to buy them for 10 years, he says there are a number of ethical problems that need to be tackled before they go mainstream.

“This isn’t an issue for the next generation, it’s happening right now. Driverless cars are on the road in certain jurisdictions as they’re being prepared for a mass market,” says Millar, whose dissertation focuses on robot ethics and the implications of increasingly autonomous machinery. “These cars promise safety benefits, but I’m interested in what happens to the cars in a difficult situation, one where lives are on the line.”

Illustration by Craig Berry.

To explore this problem he created a thought experiment, called the Tunnel Problem, which attracted hundreds of thousands of readers and commenters online. The Tunnel Problem reworks ethical philosophy’s Trolley Problem.

The setup is this: You are driving in an autonomous car along a narrow road, headed towards a one-lane tunnel when a child errantly runs on to the road and trips. The car cannot brake fast enough to avoid hitting the child and so it must decide whether to swerve off the road, effectively harming you, or remain driving straight, harming the child.

“This is a problem with only bad outcomes that even a human driver cannot easily solve,” says Mr. Millar. “What’s particularly useful about this situation is that it focuses our attention on a design question, as the car will be programmed to respond a certain way — I want to ask who should make the decision about the car’s response.”

After initially posting his article on Robohub.org, the site ran a poll to gauge readers’ responses and rationales as to who should render the judgement.

“A near majority responded that the passenger in the car should have the right to make the decision about whether to swerve or not, and only about 12 per cent suggested it should be up to the car’s designers,” he says. A full third of respondents said it should be left up to lawmakers and legislators to make the call.

“That so many people were willing to trust a life and death situation to politicians and lawmakers really surprised me,” Mr. Millar says. “Many of them said they wanted a standard behaviour so that people would know what to expect in that situation, while others simply wanted someone else to make the decision and take it off their hands.”

The Tunnel Problem is just one of a series of problems that Millar foresees being an issue with driverless cars. “There’s also the problem of who’s culpable when a car crashes. If we maintain current standards of product liability, then the fault will tend to lie with the manufacturer, but we may also shift to a system where we consider the robot at fault,” he says.

It’s a possibility, but Millar says the future of driverless cars is far from certain. “Holding the robot responsible may be less satisfying for those with a mind for punitive justice.”
 

Antidepressants show potential for postoperative pain

Dr. Ian Gilron.

By Rosie Hales, Communications Officer

After a systematic review of clinical trials based on administering antidepressants for acute and chronic postsurgical pain, researchers have concluded that more trials are needed to determine whether these drugs should be prescribed for postsurgical pain on a regular basis.

Dr. Ian Gilron, a professor and director of clinical pain research in the Department of Anesthesiology, and his team of seven researchers reviewed 15 trials to determine whether the use of antidepressants for pain relief post-surgery would work more effectively than painkillers such as opioids, local anesthetics, or acetaminophen. 

Clinical trials are often used to answer questions about the efficacy of the off-label uses of drugs. In the case of antidepressants, their effects on postsurgical pain continue to be an area of research interest.

“For the past 50 years, it’s been observed that antidepressants for other chronic pain conditions relieve pain independently of their effect on depression,” says Dr. Gilron, who also works as an attending anesthesiologist at Kingston General Hospital (KGH). “Even with the best available medicines, there are still many people who experience postoperative pain. Reviewing the use of antidepressants to manage this pain was definitely an opportunity to be seized.”

Pain around a surgical site can interfere with normal activities like walking; it can also prolong recovery from surgery.

After searching through three databases of trials, first author of the paper and fifth year anesthesiology resident Karen Wong sifted through 1,350 records from three different research databases to select the 15 trials for detailed review.

Trials were selected for review based on a patient’s pain at rest and with movement, adverse effects of antidepressants, and other outcomes of using antidepressants for postsurgical pain.

Just over half of the trials examined showed a reduction in pain after use of antidepressants.

“These results are more than a coincidence,” says Dr. Gilron. “We can conclude from this research review that, while it’s premature to formally recommend these drugs be prescribed for pain, more definitive studies on these medications are necessary.”

The research review, “Antidepressant drugs for prevention of acute and chronic postsurgical pain: early evidence and recommended future directions,” took three years to complete and has been published in the September 2014 edition of Anesthesiology.

The review team also included Imelda Galvin and David Goldstein, both Queen’s researchers and attending anesthesiologists at KGH; Rachel Phelan, Queen’s Anesthesiology research facilitator; Eija Kalso from Helsinki University in Finland, and Srinivasa Raja from Johns Hopkins University.

Cutting-edge research rewarded

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Queen’s University researcher Keith Poole was recently honoured with a lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Society of Microbiologists (CSM) after a 26-year career of peering into petri dishes and analyzing microscopic bacteria. The CSM Murray Award recognizes leading Canadian microbiology researchers for their career contributions and cutting-edge research.

Dr. Poole studies the opportunistic bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a problem organism that is notoriously antibiotic-resistant. He examines how and why it can make people living with debilitating illnesses such as cystic fibrosis sick. He is also studying how this bacterium becomes antibiotic resistant.

Keith Poole has spent his career studying bacteria.

“It was definitely an interesting process putting together my resume for submission for the Murray Award,” Dr. Poole says. ”"It gave me a chance to look back on my career. It was definitely an exciting moment when I got the phone call saying I was this year’s awardee.”

It was as a third-year undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in the 1970s that Dr. Poole discovered his academic calling after taking a microbiology course. After completing his BSc and after working as a technician for a year in a microbiology lab, he undertook a PhD at UBC before heading to Germany as a postdoctoral fellow from 1986 to 1988.

While scouting for a second postdoctoral fellowship back in North America, a faculty position opened up at Queen’s in the then Department of Microbiology and Immunology. After a hastily arranged one-day interview complete with a pizza lunch/dinner – “no time for wining and dining,” he laughs – he returned to Germany to complete his postdoctoral work. Within a day of his return, he was contacted by Queen’s and offered a tenure-track position.

“Working at Queen’s has afforded me the opportunity to indulge my passion for microbiology research and to mentor a host of incredible undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral research trainees,” says Dr. Poole. “It’s been a great ride.”

Dr. Poole is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and a past recipient of the Queen’s University Prize for Excellence in Research.  His research is funded by Cystic Fibrosis Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research

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