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Research Prominence

Women’s health research earns Basmajian Award

By Andrew Carroll, Gazette Editor

An associate professor at Queen’s whose research is focused on women’s health is this year’s recipient of the Mihran and Mary Basmajian Award for Excellence in Health Research.

Chandrakant Tayade’s most recent work has primarily focused on endometriosis, a painful gynecological disorder. He is also researching how fetuses are lost during gestation.

Dr. Chandrakant Tayade

Dr. Tayade receives a $5,000 grant but more important is the recognition from his peers at the university’s Faculty of Health Sciences who select the winner each year. The Basmajian Award is handed out to the full-time faculty member “judged to have made the most meritorious contribution to health research during the previous year or several years."

“I am actually humbled and quite thrilled that we got recognition from the Faculty of Health Sciences. It’s a good feeling, it’s absolutely rewarding,” says Dr. Tayade, who recently marked five years at Queen’s. “This award is very special as you are working at Queen’s and it’s the Queen’s peers that thought you were doing something meaningful that deserves to be rewarded. I think that’s a really great feeling.”

As Dr. Tayade points out, there remains no solid treatment for endometriosis and that even with surgery to remove the lesions more than 50 per cent of women will see a recurrence of the disease.

“There is an absolute need to develop new therapeutic strategies and what we are doing is targeting the blood vessels, that the endometriotic lesions need in order to develop,” Dr. Tayade says. “If you target that then probably lesions won’t survive and if they don’t survive you won’t hopefully get the disease. That is the long-term futuristic approach we have.”

The award was established by Dr. John Basmajian, former head of the Department of Anatomy at Queen’s, in memory of his parents.

Funding supports research and innovation

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Fifty-eight Queen’s researchers have been awarded a total of $11.7 million in research grants from Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) for 2014. The funding will help advance research projects in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“Support from NSERC and other partners is vital to facilitating new discoveries and innovations at Queen’s,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “In a competitive funding environment, the fact that so many of our faculty members, graduate students and post-doctoral researchers have received these awards is a testament to the high quality of research happening on campus.”

Fifty-eight Queen's researchers have earned NSERC funding.

Receiving a sizeable portion of the funding is Mark Boulay (Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy) who is being granted $836,000 over two years for his dark matter search experiment located underground at the SNOLAB in Sudbury.

Along with the research funding announcements, Queen’s researchers Christopher Eckert (Biology), Noel James (Geological Sciences), Kurtis Kyser (Geological Sciences), Yan-Fei Liu (Electrical and Computer Engineering) and Roel Vertegaal (School of Computing) were selected for a Discovery Accelerator Supplement designed to provide additional resources to accelerate progress and maximize the impact of superior research programs.

The supplements are valued at $120,000 over three years.

These grants are awarded to researchers whose projects explore high-risk, novel or potentially transformative lines of inquiry, and are likely to contribute to groundbreaking advances.

The final NSERC announcement is the Postgraduate Scholarships – Doctoral and the Canada Graduate Scholarships – Doctoral along with the Postdoctoral Fellowships. The Postdoctoral Fellowships Program provides support to a core of the most promising researchers at a pivotal time in their careers while the scholarships provide funding to the researchers of tomorrow. Twenty-three of these were awarded to Queen’s for projects in a variety of disciplines.

Visit the NSERC website for more information.

He's a man in motion

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Twenty years of research into how the human brain processes visual information has earned Nikolaus Troje (Psychology, Biology, School of Computing) the Humboldt Research Award, an honour established by the German government to recognize a lifetime of achievement.

 “I feel very honoured having received a lifetime recognition award without having a single grey hair yet,” says Dr. Troje, who was nominated for the award by colleague Karl Gegenfurtner from the University of Giessen.

Using the sensors shown below, Nikolaus Troje uses motion capture technology to study how people move.

Dr. Troje operates the Biomotion Lab at Queen’s, studying visual perception and cognition using motion capture technology. The goal of his research is to answer questions concerning social recognition including processing visual information contained in the way people walk and move, specifically the subtle nuances that signal emotions and personality.

Dr. Troje started his career working on visual systems of insects, and later on face recognition in humans. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, he met Queen’s professor Barrie Frost during a conference in Germany who invited him to come to Queen’s and study visual recognition in pigeons. He spent two years in Kingston before moving back to Germany where he founded the Biomotion Lab at Ruhr University. In 2003, Dr. Troje accepted the position of Canada Research Chair in Vision and Behavioural Sciences at Queen’s where he continues his research today.

The motion sensors used in his research.

“Understanding how our visual system obtains information about other people from the way they move is just one example of the amazing ability of our perceptual systems to turn neuronal activity in response to external energies into the objects and events that form our perception of the outside world,” he says.

Dr. Troje is now preparing for a one year sabbatical in Germany where he will spend time at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tübingen and at the JustusLiebig University in Giessen.

New Queen's National Scholars announced

By Craig Leroux, Senior Communications Officer

Heather Aldersey and Norman Vorano have been appointed as the newest Queen’s National Scholars (QNS).

“The QNS program is a signature piece in the university’s commitment to ongoing faculty renewal, designed to attract early- or mid-career faculty who demonstrate exceptional promise as researchers and teachers,” says Principal Daniel Woolf. “Both Drs. Aldersey and Vorano are exceptional individuals who will bring compelling, interdisciplinary research programs to Queen’s in support of two growing fields.”

Heather Aldersey, Queen's National Scholar in international community-based rehabilitation. (Photo supplied)

Dr. Aldersey has been appointed Queen’s National Scholar in international community-based rehabilitation and will join the School of Rehabilitation Therapy. She brings significant international research and field experience, having undertaken extensive study of disability and support in African contexts. She holds an interdisciplinary PhD from the University of Kansas and is currently a post-doctoral researcher at McGill’s Douglas Mental Health University Institute, where she is studying the experience of recovery from severe mental illness among Montreal’s culturally diverse populations.

Dr. Vorano has been appointed Queen’s National Scholar in Indigenous visual and material cultures of the Americas and will join both the Department of Art and the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. He earned a PhD from the University of Rochester’s program in visual and cultural studies and brings an impressive track record of fieldwork, research, teaching and curatorial work with a focus on Inuit art. He is currently curator of contemporary Inuit art at the Canadian Museum of History (formerly the Canadian Museum of Civilization) where he has led major research projects resulting in scholarly publications, exhibits and public programing.

Norman Vorano, Queen’s National Scholar in Indigenous visual and material cultures of the Americas. (Photo supplied)

The QNS program was first established in 1985, with the objective to “enrich teaching and research in newly developing fields of knowledge as well as traditional disciplines.” Since then, over 100 QNS appointments have been made in a wide variety of disciplines, and the appellation of Queen’s National Scholar has become synonymous with academic excellence.

The 2014-15 round of the QNS program is now open for initial expressions of interest, which can be submitted by academic units no later than Nov. 3. More information on making submissions, including the expression of interest template, is available on the Office of the Provost’s website.

Gender differences could mean more risk for cardiovascular death

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Queen’s University assistant professor Pendar Farahani (Department of Medicine and Department of Public Health Sciences) is advocating the use of gender-based treatment for mitigating the cardiovascular risk factors related to diabetes.

Research has shown women with Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol are less likely than their male peers to reach treatment goals to lower their bad cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

Women living with diabetes are less likely than men to reach their treatment goals.

“The findings suggest the need for gender-based evaluation and treatment of cardiovascular risk factors in these patients,” says Dr. Farahani. “We need further study into the gender disparities to tailor drug interventions and we need to increase the inclusion of women in clinical trials.”

With treatment, only 64 per cent of women lowered their LDL cholesterol to the recommended level compared with 81 per cent of men, the investigators reported. Research has shown women have poorer adherence to taking their statin medication to treat high cholesterol, perhaps due to somewhat dissimilar pharmacological properties in a woman’s body than a man’s. For example, women often have more side effects such as muscle pain, explains Dr. Farahani.

“The finding that women were not able to lower their so-called bad cholesterol sufficiently is a concern,” he says. “Women with diabetes have a considerably higher rate of cardiovascular-related illness and death than men with diabetes. This pattern is likely related to poorer control of cardiovascular risk factors.”

Dr. Farahani’s research also discovered access to medication is not responsible for this difference. All patients, who were in a database from pharmacies in four Canadian provinces, had social insurance and could afford their medications.

To evaluate whether biological sex influenced the results of cholesterol-lowering drug treatment, Dr. Farahani included nearly equal numbers of men and women (101 and 97) in the study. The average age of participants was 65 years for men and 63 years for women. All patients had Type 2 diabetes and had filled prescriptions for statin medication to treat high cholesterol between 2003 and 2004.

The results were presented on Saturday at the joint meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and The Endocrine Society: ICE/ENDO 2014 in Chicago.

Doors open QUBS

By Communications Staff

The Queen’s University Biological Station invited the Queen’s and local community to tour some of its facilities during its annual open house on June 22. The public had the chance to view displays of ongoing research projects and get up close and personal with several animal species including turtles, snakes and frogs. As a way of recognizing their generosity, Queen’s Office of Advancement invited Campus Community Appeal donors to enjoy a private lunch and lecture by QUBS Director Stephen Lougheed before the open house.

QUBS, which will celebrate its 70th anniversary next year, is centred on the shores of Lake Opinicon approximately 50 km north of Kingston. The facility spans more than 3,200 hectares with habitats ranging from abandoned farmland to mature second-growth forest. QUBS provides opportunities for teaching and research in biology and related sciences. It also plays an active stewardship role, using best management practices to conserve local terrestrial and aquatic environments and biodiversity in the area.
 

Science Rendezvous receives funding boost

Dr. Lynda Colgan.

By Rosie Hales, Communications Officer

Lynda Colgan thinks about her grant money in terms of popsicle sticks, straws and other supplies for her experiments at Science Rendezvous.

That’s what her $20,000 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) PromoScience award went to fund this year and will fund at next year’s event.

“It’s a real privilege and honour to win the NSERC PromoScience grant,” says Dr. Colgan, Science Rendezvous’ lead organizer. “Receiving these funds is a wonderful way to know that we can continue to do new and innovative things at Science Rendezvous.”

Science Rendezvous 2014, held this past May, saw 3,700 children and their parents visit the Rogers K-Rock Centre where students from the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and the Faculty of Education were hosting experiment stations to get children excited about science, technology and engineering.

Their station, the “Widget Workshop” –combined small mechanical devices created by engineering students with lesson plans created by education students – was the station that won Dr. Colgan’s team the grant money.

“Widgets are simple objects that illustrate or illuminate an important science, engineering or technology concept that children could build at Science Rendezvous and bring home with them to play and continue to experiment with,” says Dr. Colgan.

Teams of first-year engineers and teacher candidates developed these widgets and tested them with children at the Boys and Girls Club in Kingston. The widgets, such as hovercrafts made from balloons, CDs and plastic bottle tops, were then taken home by the children.

“The best part was seeing the kids explain to their parents what they had made,” says Dr. Colgan. “Having kids get excited talking about science is the best I could have hoped for.”

More information on the NSERC PromoScience program can be found here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Policy Studies attracts Ontario's chief economist

By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

Ontario’s chief economist Patrick Deutscher is set to join Queen’s School of Policy Studies this fall as the Ontario Public Service (OPS) Amethyst Fellow.

Patrick Deutscher will share his public policy and economics expertise with Queen's School of Policy Studies faculty and students beginning this fall.

“Dr. Deutscher brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the position that will make him an invaluable resource for faculty and students,” says Kim Nossal, Director, Queen’s School of Policy Studies. “His linkages to economic and policy networks are a tremendous asset that will support the school’s engagement with external professional public policy communities.”

Dr. Deutscher has served in his current role since 2006. He is also the assistant deputy minister in the Office of Economic Policy at the Ministry of Finance. He is responsible for industrial and finance policy, labour and demographic analysis, and macroeconomic and revenue forecasting and analysis.

"Ontario faces big economic and social challenges. There are also tremendous opportunities. I am looking forward to working with students who will be tackling these challenges and helping us seize these opportunities in their future careers," Dr. Deutscher says.

During his more than 30-year career at the federal and provincial levels, Dr. Deutscher has developed considerable expertise in the fields of economics and public policy. He holds an MA in economics from York University and a PhD in economics from the University of Toronto. He has taught macroeconomics at the university level and authored the first full study of R.G. Hawtrey, an influential figure in the development of macroeconomics in the 20th century.

The OPS Amethyst Fellowship, established in 2003, provides support for a senior OPS official to spend up to one year at Queen's School of Policy Studies. During that time, the Amethyst Fellow works with future policy leaders and raises the profile of the OPS as a centre of public policy excellence. The Amethyst Fellow teaches a course, participates as a guest speaker, and helps organize the annual Queen’s Master of Public Administration Capital Briefings program in Toronto, among other activities.

Dr. Deutscher will take over from current OPS Amethyst Fellow Nancy Austin in September.
 

Power walking

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Imagine having the ability to charge your cellphone while hiking in the far reaches of Ontario. Queen’s researcher Qingguo Li (Mechanical and Materials Engineering) and PhD student Michael Shepertycky have created a portable device that can be used anywhere and at any time to produce power on the go. 

Bill Ostrom, of Ostrom Outdoors in Thunder Bay, has created a new company around the device called Go Kin Packs.  Mr. Ostrom has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund further product development efforts to bring the device to market.

Michael Shepertycky demonstrates the Go Kin.

“I believe this technology provides a better way to power portable devices, which will create a social and environment impact,” says Dr. Li. “From the application point of view, I’m expecting the technology could quickly get to marketplace to provide portable power to those who need it.”

The device fits in the GO KIN backpack or fanny pack and two cords extend from the bottom of the pack and attach to the user’s ankles. The walking motion generates energy that is stored in the battery pack located in the backpack or fanny pack.

A brisk five-minute walk produces about 25 minutes of cellphone talk time. The Go Kin pack has two USB ports and can also power other electronic devices such as tablets and GPS devices. The device currently weighs just 2.6 pounds.  With additional product development effort, the device could weigh less than a pound.

Dr. Li believes recreation enthusiasts and the military will have a strong interest in the Go Kin packs. He adds the packs could be useful in areas where traditional power sources are unavailable, such as developing countries and areas affected by natural disasters.

Ramzi Asfour, Commercial Development Manager at PARTEQ Innovations, connected with Mr. Ostrom who agreed to license the technology from Queen’s and develop it into a commercial product.   

“Bill saw this as a unique opportunity and was enthusiastic about it right away,” says Mr. Asfour. “In discussing ways to fund the project, we suggested crowdfunding as an option. In addition to our logistical support, Bill has been working with the Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre to get the campaign up and running.  His goal is $30,000 to help pay for further product development.” 

For information visit the Go Kin Kickstarter page.

Building materials may impact Arctic tundra

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Virginia Walker (Biology) and her research team have revealed how common additives in building materials (nanoparticles) could possibly disrupt populations of microorganisms found in Arctic soils.

These commonly used building materials include paint that’s resistant to mold and mildew, insulating materials, longer lasting concrete and windows that reduce heat loss. The addition of these nanoparticles to the soil can affect seasonal change in fungi and bacteria.

Virginia Walker removes soil samples from the Arctic tundra.

“Through this research we have seen that four different measures of soil analysis point to the same result: the addition of nanosilver interferes with normal seasonal change in the Arctic tundra,” says Dr. Walker.

Dr. Walker travelled to the Tundra Research Station in Daring Lake, Northwest Territories with Queen’s researcher Paul Grogan to collect soil samples for the research. Nanoparticles were then added to the soils in her Queen’s lab and the temperature was altered over a period of three months in order to mimic a change in seasons from winter (-20 C) to summer (15 C) in the Arctic.

The contribution of research and development expertise from the biological instrument company Qubit Systems, located in Kingston, allowed the monitoring of soil respiration during these temperature shifts.

Once the summer conditions were over, the researchers examined the biochemical properties of the organisms, including DNA sequences. What the researchers found was significant.

Bacteria were generally more susceptible than fungi to the engineered nanoparticles, and the population of some beneficial plant-associating bacteria suffered. In contrast, some fungi were quite resistant to

Virgina Walker

nanosilver, including those known for their antioxidant properties. Such information can help the scientific community understand how nanoparticles impact living organisms.

“Having visited the Arctic, I knew the vast, stark beauty of the landscape and it became important to try to protect it,” says Dr. Walker. “We already know that traces of flame retardants have found their way to the Arctic. This research is critical to the Arctic ecosystem.”

Joining Dr. Walker on the research team were Niraj Kumar (Queen’s), Vishal Shah (Dowling College) and Gerry Palmer (Qubit Systems).

These findings were published in the most recent issue of PLOS One.

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