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Research Prominence

When research goes pop

Dr. Robert Morrison

At the intersection of academic research and popular culture comes the resurrection of a long dead opium eater.

The opium eater in question is the 19th century English essayist Thomas De Quincey, known for his autobiography Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. De Quincey also happens to be Queen’s professor Robert Morrison’s academic raison d’être and the subject of novelist David Morrell’s two latest books.

Dr. Morrell, an emeritus professor of English at the University of Iowa, turns back the clock to Victorian England in his book Murder as a Fine Art (2013) to write about De Quincey as the suspect in a gruesome murder case. In his newest book, Inspector of the Dead (2015), Morrell follows De Quincey as he races to halt an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria.

The timing was perfect as when Dr. Morrell was beginning research for his De Quincey-inspired novel, Dr. Morrison was releasing his biography of De Quincey, The English Opium-Eater.

After Dr. Morrison offered his research expertise to Dr. Morrell to ensure the historical accuracy of the novels, both of Dr. Morrell’s books were co-dedicated to Dr. Morrison. Now, the burgeoning interest in De Quincey as a result of the novels means Dr. Morrison’s research, his biography and a new edition of De Quincey’s finest essays forthcoming with Oxford University Press, are reaching an ever-widening audience.  

“The relationship between my scholarship and David’s fiction is a very good example of the ways in which academic research can reach out to and eventually shape popular culture,” says Dr. Morrison, a professor in the Department of English. “Research in the humanities matters because it deepens our understanding of the past, and often triggers imaginative and fictive engagements that inform the present and future. Society, for example, has been struggling for a long time with the issue of addiction. From different angles, David and I try to reveal the history and impact of that struggle.”

While the two have never actually met in person, emails back and forth for the last four years have kept their academic affiliation a prime example of how scholarly research can aid in the development of pop culture, and how pop culture frequently capitalizes on information and insights brought forward by scholarly research in the Humanities.

“When I was researching for these novels I had access to a variety of materials, but nothing compares to the kind of information Robert was able to provide me with,” says Dr. Morrell, whose debut novel First Blood saw the introduction of the action hero John Rambo. “To me, Rob comes across as the kind of professor that every student should want to spend hours with.”

Both Dr. Morrison and Dr. Morrell are big proponents when it comes to the importance of an education in the humanities or liberal arts.

“A humanities or liberal arts education is something of an education in cultural survival. We’re teaching an open, creative and vital approach to culture so that we’re not sleepwalking through life but instead engaging with the world around us and moving forward,” says Dr. Morrell.

Inspector of the Dead will be released on March 24, 2015. For more information on Robert Morrison’s research, please follow this link.

A flawed system

Queen’s University professor Allyson Harrison has uncovered anomalies and issues with the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Fourth Edition (WAIS-IV), one of the most widely used intelligence tests in the world. IQ scores are used to predict educational success, to help identify intellectual disabilities or intellectual giftedness and to establish whether a person has a specific learning disability.

For her research, Dr. Harrison and her colleagues examined the differences between Canadian and American WAIS-IV scores from 861 postsecondary students from across Ontario. The research identified a trend where the individual’s scores were consistently lower using the Canadian test scoring system. The WAIS-IV scores are used to make diagnostic decisions on the person’s ability relative to their peer group.

“Looking at the normal distribution of scores, you’d expect that only about five per cent of the population should get an IQ score of 75 or less,” says Dr. Harrison. “However, while this was true when we scored their tests using the American norms, our findings showed that 21 per cent of college and university students in our sample had an IQ score this low when Canadian norms were used for scoring.”

The trend was the same across all IQ scores, with Canadian young adults in college or university consistently receiving a lower IQ score if the Canadian norms were used. There were fewer gifted students identified when Canadian norms were used, as well as more students who were said to be intellectually impaired.

When scoring the WAIS-IV, Canadian psychologists have the option to compare the obtained raw score with the normative data gathered in either Canada or the USA.

Dr. Harrison notes these findings have serious implications for educational and neuropsychological testing. “Research shows that you can go from being classified as average to intellectually impaired based only on whether American or Canadian norms are used to rank the obtained raw IQ score.”

The research was published in the Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment.

Positioning Canada for global research leadership

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada president Mario Pinto (BSc '75, PhD '80) visited Queen’s University Friday to present the draft NSERC 2020 Strategic Plan. Dr. Pinto is travelling across Canada to solicit feedback about the proposed plan. He sat down with senior communications officer Mark Kerr to talk about the plan.

Mark Kerr: Tell us a bit more about yourself and your time at Queen’s?

Mario Pinto: My time at Queen’s was wonderful. I started off as an undergraduate student initially in mathematics and computing and then I changed into life sciences and then biochemistry. Eventually I graduated with a BSc in chemistry. I have fond memories of Queen’s because I met my wife in the Jock Harty Arena at the orientation registration on my first day at the university, and we just celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. I also did my PhD at Queen’s. I was based at Queen’s but also worked at University of Toronto and Dalhousie. Queen’s was my home base because I had a particularly great supervisor, Dr. Walter Szarek, and we managed to do great things together.

MK: Since becoming NSERC president, you’ve made it a priority to travel across the country and get feedback on the NSERC 2020 Strategic Plan. What themes emerged from the extensive consultations?

MP: The first was the need to promote science culture in Canada. Until STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) becomes a household word in this country, I don’t believe we are going to be able to achieve the investment in research and innovation we desire.

The second theme deals with the diversified competitive research base across Canada. We have to admit that we have a highly diverse eco-system consisting of colleges, polytechnics, primarily undergraduate universities, highly intensive research universities, and medium research intensive universities. Each has a skill set so our plan is to leverage the respective strengths of those different sectors and take advantage of them.

Diversity also relates to populations. We have to do a much better job of attracting women and Aboriginal Canadians to sciences. This is an initiative I am particularly passionate about. We have to make career opportunities in STEM far more attractive to women and Aboriginal Canadians and provide mentoring so that they progress through the ranks at all levels of the education system.

The third theme has to do with recognizing and strengthening the dynamic interaction between foundational research and applied research activities. We have to admit that there is a dynamic interaction between the two and there isn’t a hand-off from discovery to innovation. Rather, discovery feeds into innovation and, in turn, innovation feeds back into discovery.

The final theme is “going global.” In Canada, we have strengths but there are also gaps. In order to innovate effectively, we have to partner with researchers in other countries, either bilaterally or multilaterally, and to take the best of complementary expertise in those different groups.

MK: How will NSERC go about achieving the vision laid out in this plan?

MP: As the leader in funding discovery research and one of the prime connectors between the different organizations working in the research and innovation space, we should be reaching out and building bridges to other organizations. That’s something I’ve already initiated where, once again, we will leverage our respective strengths to achieve our four goals. We currently fund 11,300 professors and 30,500 students and postdoctoral fellows. That represents a force of ambassadors. We have to speak with one voice and show support for the four objectives, be consistent in presenting those.  As the coordinating body NSERC can leverage these strengths to make a dramatic impact.

MK: What does the plan mean for Queen’s University and the researchers working at the institution?

MP: I think Queen’s is in an ideal position for success in general. It’s well recognized – you have world class researchers, you have excellent students, you have excellent faculty. You are well suited and you are well positioned to make a serious impact. Canadians do well on the world stage and we know that. I think it’s an understatement  that students from Queen’s are well equipped to take advantage of emerging opportunities, and respond to emerging challenges.

After all, this is why we are in the business of research and innovation.  That’s why I took up the challenge to be the president of NSERC because I think we have a responsibility to solve global challenges. I encourage students and faculty to respond to the web-based survey and give us their insight.

Visit the website to review and provide feedback on the NSERC 2020 plan.

A painful problem

Statistics and software seem an unlikely combination for addressing chronic pain. But for more than 15 years, Elizabeth VanDenKerkhof, a Professor of Nursing with a cross-appointment in Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine and clinician researcher in the Kingston General Hospital Research Institute, has been investigating how data and technology at the point of care can both improve patient care and enhance understanding of the myriad factors behind the complexities of pain.

A doctorate in public health from Johns Hopkins University who specializes in the epidemiology of pain, Dr. VanDenKerkhof was part of a university-hospital team in the Queen’s Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine who broke new ground in patient care at the turn of the millennium by developing an electronic documentation tool for use with an acute pain management system.  

“My role was to make sure the technology captured the data for tracking, management and research into pain,” Dr. VanDenKerkhof explains. Initially developed to care for patients with post-operative and acute pain, the approach has now been adopted at many other points of care, and is in use in hospitals in Montreal and Ottawa.

Virtually unheard-of in pre-smartphone days, the handheld technology was not initially welcomed with open arms, she says. But the experience of developing and implementing that novel tool opened up new avenues of research, by virtue of its ability to capture and store data in real time. It has also led to numerous investigations into the effects of technology on patient care and professional practice. 

More than a decade later, the tool continues to contribute to acute and chronic pain research and enhance pain management.

“We started doing studies in 2001, and we now have 12 years of point-of-care data,” she says. “It enables us to look at statistics, such as the trajectory of pain intensity after surgery and average number of clinician visits – which can be a measure of pain severity -- or to track adverse events such as respiratory depression or allergic reactions. There’s nothing that we know of elsewhere that captures pain data to the same extent at the point of care.”

Dr. VanDenKerkhof continues to integrate technology, and study its effects, in conjunction with her investigations into chronic pain. Her primary research program looks at the epidemiology of chronic post-surgical pain in women to identify subgroups at high risk for developing chronic pain after surgery, and how those women use health care resources before and after surgery.

This story is the sixth in a series on the KGH Research Institute, a collaboration between Queen’s and Kingston General Hospital, and the clinician-scientists recruited to work in the centre.

NSERC asking for feedback

On Friday March 13, Queen’s University will welcome the Natural Sciences and Research Council of Canada’s President, Dr. Mario Pinto, for a consultation session on the NSERC 2020 Strategic Plan. The session will provide researchers, students, administrators and stakeholders an opportunity to learn more about Dr. Pinto (Artsci’75, PhD’80) and provide views and feedback on the Plan.

The draft plan captures the discussions with members of the academic community, associations, government officials and businesses in 2014 and also incorporates the feedback from the NSERC council members, a special steering committee and staff.

Dr. Pinto is holding the consultation session Friday, March 13 from 10 am until noon in the George Teves Dining Room, second floor of the University Club on Stuart Street. Register on the NSERC website.

Putting the tech in technicolour

From left to right, Team Eye3: Zaeem Anwar (Cmp'15), Jake Alsemgeest (Cmp'15), Eddie Wang (Com'18)

Three Queen’s students have developed a way to make electronic technology more accessible for the 700 million people worldwide who are colour blind.

The technology, Ciris, took home first prize in the Microsoft Imagine Cup – an international technology competition.

The winning team, Team Eye3, represented Canada and was made up of Jake Alsemgeest (Cmp’15), Zaeem Anwar (Cmp’15) and Eddie Wang (Com’18). They received first prize in the Blueprint Challenge Phase for the World Citizenship category of the Microsoft Imagine Cup.

"The power of cross collaboration between faculties at Queen's University really shines here,” says Mr. Wang. “We are absolutely honoured to have been selected as the winners for this challenge, and we can't wait to show the world what's in store for Eye3 and the Ciris technology."

We are absolutely honoured to have been selected as the winners for this challenge, and we can't wait to show the world what's in store for Eye3 and the Ciris technology.
- Eddie Wang, Com'18

Ciris is a real-time colour augmentation overlap for desktop computers and mobile devices that allows colour blind people to see more clearly contrasts between different colours. The team has already enabled Ciris on a video app for mobile devices.

"We're really excited about the positive feedback from our professors and the community,” says Mr. Anwar. “We have a real chance to do something helpful for the world and are looking forward to the work ahead."

Using colour in charts, pictures, graphics and clothing can mean that colour blind individuals miss out on valuable information. Team Eye3 wanted to be able to provide them with a way to translate hard-to-see colours into a visual equivalent that is easier for colour blind individuals to identify.

“We are extremely excited and thankful for all of the feedback from the community, professors and colleagues,” says Mr. Alsemgeest. “Our team is very excited to continue pushing our limits to have a finished product we are proud of.  We hope to make the world a better place and hope to achieve it through Ciris.”

The team, which also received a $3,000 prize, was coached by professors Brent Gallupe (School of Business) and Patrick Martin (School of Computing).

“This is a very talented team.  I think that their combination of technical and business skills helped them win,” says Dr. Gallupe. “Ciris addresses an important problem affecting millions of colour blind people around the world who can’t distinguish colours on their smartphone, tablet and laptop screens.”

Next up for the team is the Imagine World Cup Semifinals, where the team will compete to win a trip to the finals in Seattle in July. A $50,000 prize goes to the winner at the World Finals.

“The Microsoft Imagine Cup is a great opportunity for our students to challenge themselves and to apply what they are learning here at Queen's,” says Dr. Martin. “Team Eye3 demonstrated great skill and innovation in coming up with their project and winning the Blueprint Challenge phase. Their project definitely fits the world citizenship theme of the competition.”

Visit the Ciris Facebook page for more information about the app.

Steven Liss reappointed vice-principal (research)

Queen’s Principal Daniel Woolf today announced the reappointment of Steven Liss as vice-principal (research) for a second term, from Sept. 1, 2015 to Aug. 31, 2020.

“Over the past five years, Queen’s has continued to build on its reputation as an outstanding research institution due in large part to the expert guidance of Dr. Liss,” Principal Woolf says. “I am delighted that Dr. Liss will continue to lead our efforts to sustain and enhance Queen’s research prominence.”

[Steven Liss]
Dr. Steven Liss has helped build Queen's reputation as one of the leading research-intensive institutions in Canada. (Photo by Bernard Clark)

During his first term, Dr. Liss led the renewal of the Queen’s Strategic Research Plan (SRP), which outlines research priorities and details the processes and mechanisms for advancing research at Queen’s. During Dr. Liss’ tenure, Queen’s improved its standing among Canadian universities in both research income and research intensity. He also spearheaded efforts to raise the profile of Queen’s research through a variety initiatives including the launch of the (e)AFFECT magazine.

Quick Links
Learn more about Dr. Liss on the Office of the Vice-Principal (Research) website

Dr. Liss, a professor of environmental studies and chemical engineering, graduated from Western University in microbiology and immunology, and has a master’s degree and PhD in applied microbiology from the University of Saskatchewan. He is a member or chair of a number of boards and management groups. Recognizing Dr. Liss’ work to advance research and innovation in this country, the Government of Canada awarded him the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.

The university’s Board of Trustees recently approved the reappointment of Dr. Liss.

Queen’s distinguishes itself as one of the leading research-intensive institutions in Canada. The mission is to advance research excellence, leadership and innovation, as well as enhance Queen’s impact at a national and international level. Through undertaking leading-edge research, Queen’s is addressing many of the world’s greatest challenges, and developing innovative ideas and technological advances brought about by discoveries in a variety of disciplines.

Dialed in to Tanzanian health care

Queen’s University researcher Karen Yeates has received $1 million in funding to develop a mobile platform to record and monitor the health of pregnant women. The five-year project will implement and test ways of improving the monitoring of pregnant women in Tanzania for preeclampsia-eclampsia and other important health outcomes.

One in five maternal and child deaths in Tanzania – one of the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa – are caused by preeclampsia-eclampsia. This condition is common in both developed and developing countries and is a major killer of women in lower resource settings such as Tanzania.  If unrecognized, and left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to poor outcomes or death in women and their newborns.  Preeclampsia is a condition in pregnancy that is often recognized by the rising blood pressure of a woman in the last few months of pregnancy.

Karen Yeates examines a women at a clinic in Tanzania.

“Many women in Tanzania deliver their babies outside of a health centre, usually at home, and have limited access during the pregnancy for health-care providers to detect rising blood pressure and its complications,” Dr. Yeates says. “Making the diagnosis of preeclampsia through blood pressure monitoring and treating it appropriately is a key step in preventing maternal deaths and poor outcomes in newborns.”

Dr. Yeates already has a research program in Tanzania that is using mobile phone technology to connect people with high blood pressure to health-care providers and the health-care system.  She hopes to use this knowledge and her mobile platform to reach women who do not have good access to perinatal health-care services. In fact, African countries have been widespread “adopters” of mobile technology and 80 per cent of people in sub-Saharan African have access to cellphones and one third of those devices are smartphones.

“Using a mobile health platform, we are going to tackle this issue,” Dr. Yeates says. “We want to connect women with health-care providers to monitor blood pressure and general health of pregnant women and their babies. Our team will try to close the health-care gap using technology.”

Dr. Yeates is working with Graeme Smith (Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology), Chandra Tayade (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) and Jessica Sleeth (Office of Global Health) from Queen’s University and partnering with Godfrey Mbaruku, an obstetrician working with the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania. The Tanzanian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare are also involved in the project.

“During the first year we will be conducting a health system appraisal to learn how a pregnant woman currently navigates the health system and figuring out the logistics to determine how best to make this program work,” Dr. Yeates says. “Once the five years is finished, the success of the program will be based on how many lives were saved.”

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced last week that Dr. Yeates’ project and 19 other projects would each receive $1 million to focus on improving maternal, newborn and child health on a global scale. The $20 million funding announcement is part of a seven year, $36 million program administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

New policy to expand access, mobilization of research results

Grant recipients who receive funding from the three federal granting agencies after May 1, 2015 must make their peer-reviewed journal publications freely accessible online within 12 months of publication.

The Tri-Agency – the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) – recently announced the open access policy on publications. The new policy requirements do not pertain to other research outputs – for example, books, chapters or creative writing.

“The Tri-Agency’s open access policy recognizes that the value, use and application of research outputs increases as they are made available more broadly to, for example, the global research community, non-governmental organizations and society as a whole,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “Furthermore, open access fosters knowledge and technology transfer and stimulates innovation and collaboration.”

"Open access fosters knowledge and technology transfer and stimulates innovation and collaboration."
Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research)

Queen’s faculty, researchers, staff and students can choose one of two options for making their journal articles freely accessible.

  • Route A – Free deposit to QSpace (Green Open Access): Researchers deposit their peer-reviewed, author-accepted manuscript at no cost in QSpace, Queen’s permanent and secure online archive of research works, or an open access subject repository of their choice.
  • Route B – Pay to Publish (Gold Open Access): Researchers publish in an open access journal, which involves paying article processing charges. Queen’s University Library has agreements with a number of publishers or open access supporter schemes that give Queen’s authors discounts on open access publication fees.
Quick Links
Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications
More information for complying with Tri-Agency Open Access Policy

“Queen’s University Library and University Research Services believe that depositing works in QSpace, via the Green Route A, is the easiest and most cost-effective means for Queen’s researchers to meet this new requirement,” says Martha Whitehead, Vice-Provost and University Librarian. “Authors can gather traditional citation metrics as well as additional alternative metrics on journal publications that are deposited in QSpace. Furthermore, perpetual access to research results and key usage metrics in QSpace provides a ready mechanism to demonstrate policy compliance in future grant applications.”

For more information on the Tri-Agency open access policy and how to make your research publications open access, visit the resource page on the Queen’s University Library website.

Inquiring minds want to share

Peter Wolf, the associate vice-provost (teaching and learning), is looking forward to attending his first Inquiry@Queen’s Undergraduate Research Conference.

“I am curious to see what questions students have asked and how they’ve gone about answering them,” says Mr. Wolf, who joined Queen’s in October 2014. “I can’t wait to see the excitement the undergraduate students bring to the table. I think that can be really inspiring and rejuvenating.”

[Inquiry at Queen's]
The Inquiry@Queen's Undergraduate Research Conference gives students the opportunity to practice their presentation skills in a welcoming and supportive environment.

The ninth annual edition of the conference, which occurs March 5-6, features a variety of oral presentations and poster displays of undergraduate student scholarship. Mr. Wolf is delivering the keynote address on March 5 with a focus on how undergraduate research connects with teaching and learning.

“I believe it’s important for undergraduate students to tackle questions and not just consume the answers,” Mr. Wolf says. “A big part of the university experience is to shape and nurture students’ curiosity, which will ultimately help them make sense of the world.”

While Mr. Wolf is new to Inquiry@Queen’s, Nicole Persall (Artsci’15) is a veteran presenter at the conference. Ms. Persall is participating in Inquiry@Queen’s for the fourth time. During her previous experiences, she presented research from course work and study projects, and last year she shared her thesis project.

Inquiry@Queen’s Undergraduate Research Conference
March 5-6
Queen’s Learning Commons in Stauffer Library
Conference Agenda

The psychology student, who will graduate this spring, says she originally saw the conference as a great way to practice presenting her research in public. As she prepared for her first conference, she enrolled in a Learning Strategies workshop that helped her develop her presentation skills.

Ms. Persall says Queen’s professors provided her with the knowledge base and guidance to ask research questions and formulate a method for answering them. Needless to say, she has enjoyed having a venue like the Inquiry@Queen’s conference to share that work.

“I tell students all of the time that they should participate. It’s a really supportive environment where people are interested in hearing about your research.”

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