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Research Prominence

Solar house gets a new home

The experimental solar house, constructed by the Queen’s Solar Design Team, is moving this week to a new home on West Campus. Crews were on site Tuesday, at the corner of Union and Division streets, preparing the house to be lifted onto a flatbed trailer. The actual move to the West Campus parking lot near the water tower is expected to happen on Saturday, July 19. Once the house is moved, the parking lot at Union and Division will be graded and eventually paved to provide additional spaces for Queen’s parking permit holders.

Queen's researchers benefit from moustache fundraiser

The PRONTO team aim to determine the type of treatment needed after a prostate cancer diagnosis.

By Rosie Hales, Communications Officer

A national cancer research collaboration that includes two members from Queen’s has been awarded the $5 million 2014 Movember Team Grant from Prostate Cancer Canada (PCC).

David Berman and Paul Park, both from the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, will receive funding as part of the Prostate Cancer Program Project in Rapid Development of Novel Diagnostic Markers for Early Prostate Cancer (PRONTO). PCC identified the research team as poised to make the greatest impact in prostate cancer research.

The grant is awarded by PCC and funded by the Movember Foundation, a global charity that relies on the fundraising efforts of men collecting pledges as they grow moustaches every November.

PRONTO aims to determine the type of treatment needed when men are diagnosed with prostate cancer.

“Being a part of the PRONTO team provides me with a rare opportunity to participate in a large scale biomarker development project from discovery to clinical validation,” says Dr. Park. “The interactions fostered within this multi-institution, trans-disciplinary team will have a big impact in establishing my research career in this field. The funds provided by this grant will be used to support a post-doctoral trainee in my lab, and also to help establish one of the core components of this project here on Queen’s campus.”

Fewer than half of diagnosed prostate cancers are harmful and men newly diagnosed with the disease face an array of options and possible side effects.

“If we could better separate harmful and harmless prostate cancers, we could help patients and their doctors make clearer choices.  With funding from Movember and Prostate Cancer Canada our team will develop new and better tests for this purpose,” says Dr. Berman. “For members of my laboratory and me, this is an unprecedented opportunity to work with experts in a variety of critically important areas to do something important for patients.  We are extremely grateful to Movember, Prostate Cancer Canada, and all of the donors and volunteers who have made this work possible.”

The team is led by John Bartlett of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and the research team is made up of 14 researchers from across Canada.

Follow these links for more information on Prostate Cancer Canada and Movember Canada.

Cancer grading gets an upgrade

A microscope view of prostate cancer. Photo courtesy of David M. Berman, 2014.

By Rosie Hales, Communications Officer

Prostate cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer among Canadian men but only about half of these cancers grow rapidly enough to require treatment.

However, determining which prostate cancers need to be treated can be tricky because it’s hard to predict through biopsy which cancers will eventually become harmful.  In fact, because biopsies often do not yield accurate information, between a third and half of patients initially diagnosed with harmless prostate cancers are likely to be “upgraded” to potentially harmful cancers within a year or two of diagnosis.

A research team led by Dr. David Berman, a professor in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine at Queen’s, and Dr. Tamara Lotan from Johns Hopkins University discovered that the decline of a specific protein within a tumour could help identify the tumours requiring treatment.

“We have shown that a tumour-suppressing protein called phosphatase and tensin homolog, or PTEN, is lost most frequently in prostate tumours that will become harmful and require treatment,” says Dr. Berman. “The team from Johns Hopkins has done a terrific job of making this test more reliable and valid and applicable to prostate cancer and to other forms of cancer.”

Dr. David Berman. 

Currently, the Gleason Grading system is used to determine the harmful potential of prostate cancers. Scores usually range from 6 to 10, with lower numbers often indicating cancers that are unlikely to become harmful.

One hundred and seventy four prostate cancer patients with a Gleason score of 6 had The team measured PTEN levels in cancers biopsied from 174 patients, who appeared to have harmless cancers with Gleason scores of 6 or less.   Seventy-one of these cases were upgraded to potentially harmful cancers with a score of 7 after the entire prostate was surgically removed and examined by pathologists. Importantly, PTEN loss found in biopsies helped separate harmless cancers from their more dangerous look-alikes.

“The 71 patients who had their tumours upgraded had a three times higher rate of PTEN loss than the group that was accurately graded,” says Dr. Berman. “Although the percentage of patients who have PTEN loss is low, this finding is extremely exciting as it proves that measuring proteins in biopsies can improve accuracy.  Also, it’s a fairly simple test that could be done in any pathology lab.”

This research has been published in Modern Pathology. The research team included Dr. Jeremy Squire and Jennifer Good from the Cancer Research Institute at Queen’s and a team of eight additional Johns Hopkins researchers: Filipe Carvalho, Sarah Peskoe, Jessica Hicks, Helen Fedor, Elizabeth Humphreys, Misop Han, Elizabeth Platz, and Angelo De Marzo. 

Researcher lands on exclusive list

Communications Staff

Queen’s University researcher Ian Janssen (School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Department of Public Health Sciences) has earned a place on Thomson Reuters’ Highly Cited Researchers list. He is the only Queen’s professor to make the list and one of only 88 researchers working in Canada on the 3,215 member list.

The international list includes scientists and researchers whose work is most often cited in other research papers.

Queen's University professor Ian Janssen.

“This is a reflection of the volume and quality of work I have done in my field,” says Dr. Janssen, the Canada Research Chair in Physical Activity and Obesity. “It shows that the research I have published has had a significant impact on other researchers. It is very gratifying to have made the list.”

Dr. Janssen and other researchers on the list earned the distinction by writing the greatest number of “highly cited papers” as determined by Essential Science Indictors. Those papers rank among the top 1 per cent most cited in their subject field from 2002 to 2012. Dr. Janssen, who completed his master’s and doctorate degrees at Queen’s, has published close to 200 research papers since 1999. He was among 177 people nominated in the general social sciences category.

“Although my name appears on the Highly Cited Researchers list, this honour is primarily a reflection of the many talented and hard-working people I have worked with.  I want to recognize the tremendous contributions made by the 30+ graduate students I have supervised and the dozens of researcher colleagues I have collaborated with.”

The original Highly Cited Researchers list issued in 2001 identified more than 7,000 researchers and the list was updated again in 2004. The latest version features only 3,000 researchers whose work was deemed to be influential internationally.

SNOLAB director reappointed to second term

By Andrew Carroll, Gazette editor

Nigel Smith (Physics) has been reappointed to a second term as the director of SNOLAB, the deep underground science laboratory specializing in neutrino and dark matter physics.

The SNOLAB facility is an expansion of the successful Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) experiment.

The facility is operated by the SNOLAB Institute whose member institutions are Queen’s University, Carleton University, Laurentian University, University of Alberta and Université de Montréal. It is located two km below the surface in the Vale Creighton Mine near Sudbury, Ont.

Nigel Smith (Physics) has been reappointed as director of SNOLAB for a second term.

 First appointed in 2009, Dr. Smith says that the second term will allow him to see some results from the major projects currently underway.

“The detectors that we are building take many years to design, construct and operate so a five-year term is enough to get things moving but not really enough to deliver the science from these large-scale experiments,” says Dr. Smith. “What I am looking forward to in the second term is having these projects, which we are now constructing, take data and complete the analysis to get the science out."

“It’s the science that drives everybody here. It’s the rationale for operating this facility,” he adds.

According to Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research), Dr. Smith has definitely earned his reappointment.

“SNOLAB is internationally-renowned for its research and discoveries, and directing such a sophisticated and complex research site takes a great level of expertise,” he says. “Nigel has done an outstanding job in his role as director of SNOLAB, and I look forward to seeing its accomplishments continue in Nigel’s second term.”

Under his leadership, SNOLAB has seen an increase in partnerships with other innovation centres across the country while also expanding the areas of study.

“We actually have quite a broad program of science here so the large-scale experiments that we’re building at the moment are augmented by smaller-scale projects, some of which have a sufficiently short life-cycle that we have seen results over the last five years,” says Dr. Smith.

During the next term his aim is to make SNOLAB the “partner of choice” for underground physics projects, providing world-class infrastructure and delivering world-leading science.

Three economists recognized by national journals

Dunning Hall houses the Department of Economics at Queen's.

By Rosie Hales, Communications Officer

Three members of the Queen’s Department of Economics have been selected for prestigious best article awards by Canadian Public Policy and the Canadian Journal of Economics.

Graduate student Michael Kottelenberg and Professor Steven Lehrer were selected for the John Vanderkamp Prize for the best article in Canadian Public Policy.

Mr. Kottelenberg and Dr. Lehrer won the prize for their article “New Evidence on the Impacts of Access to and Attending Universal Child-Care in Canada.”

“Steven and I were both excited to receive recognition for our contribution to the debate surrounding the provision of universal child care. This paper is one of a series of papers exploring the channels through which large scale subsidization of child care affects developmental outcomes in children,” says Mr. Kottelenberg. “We are hopeful that our work will provide helpful insight into an important policy debate occurring both in Canada and elsewhere in the world.”

Ian Keay, associate professor and chair of undergraduate studies in the economics department, received the Harry Johnson Prize for the best article in the Canadian Journal of Economics. His paper was titled “Trade policy and industrial development: iron and steel in a small open economy.”

The trio received their awards at the 48th annual Conference of the Canadian Economics Association (CEA), held recently at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

NSERC funding supports grad student exchange

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

An international research program that includes three Queen’s professors recently received $1.65 million from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) through its Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) grants program.

Nikolaus Troje (Psychology), Doug Munoz and Gunnar Blohm (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) are members of The Brain in Action research group headed by Doug Crawford from York University. The funding will support trans-Atlantic supervision and exchanges of graduate students and research fellows as well as non-academic collaborations and internships.

Niko Troje is part of an international research team working with graduate students.

“The principal investigators are mentors for the graduate students in the program,” explains Dr. Troje. “All of the funding goes to the graduate students to provide them with unique research opportunities working with some of the top experts in the world.”

The Brain in Action program allows graduate students to study the connection between perception and action and to apply these findings to real world settings. For example, some students are studying how eye movement and vision work while walking outdoors.

Internships will allow students to apply their knowledge of vision and eye-hand co-ordination in areas including advertising and smart phone design.

The Brain in Action team includes 11 researchers at Queen’s, York and Western University and 11 primary investigators from Justus-Liebig-Universitat Giessen and Philipps-Universitat Marburg in Germany.

Engineering lab a real blast

By Communications Staff

A new video (above) invites viewers inside the Alan Bauer Explosives Laboratory in the Robert M. Buchan Department of Mining. Queen’s is the only university in Canada with a well-equipped explosives test facility, which is located 50 km north of Kingston on 400 acres of land.

The facility includes a bunker with an ultra-high-speed framing camera, digital oscilloscopes and data acquisition systems, a high-speed camera and two blasting chambers for the study of dust explosions and detonation products. The laboratory is named after Dr. Bauer, the former head of the Department of Mining Engineering, who developed the facility in the 1970s.

The student media team within the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science filmed and edited the video. Visit the faculty's YouTube channel to view more videos on engineering and applied science laboratories.
 

James Low, six alumni named to Order of Canada

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Queen’s University emeritus professor James Low has been named a member of the Order of Canada for his contributions as an academic and as the founder of the Museum of Health Care.

The award is the second highest honour of merit in Canada and is given to those who make a major difference in Canada through lifelong contributions in their field.

“The award is actually more for the museum than for me,” says the ever-humble Dr. Low, who has volunteered at the museum since it opened as a non-profit institution in 1991, served as its executive director until the end of 2012, and now works as its advancement officer. “We have created a unique cultural resource.”

James Low poses with one of the only remaining original iron lungs used at Sick Children's Hospital in 1937.

Dr. Low was also the head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Queen’s from 1965 to 1985.

“This is the only mission-specific museum of health care in Canada,” says Dr. Low. “We have two missions: develop a complete collection highlighting all health care disciplines, and tell the health care story to enhance public understanding. The past is the foundation on which the present is built. Preserving the health care legacy is important.”

In his role as advancement Officer, Dr Low works with the museum's Board of Directors to find new patrons and donors which help preserve the museum's history.

“James Low has contributed greatly to Queen’s University and its medical program since coming to Kingston nearly 50 years ago,” says Principal Daniel Woolf. “Earning the Order of Canada is a true honour and rewards the years Dr. Low spent establishing the Museum of Health Care, the only one of its kind in Canada.”

Six Queen’s alumni were also appointed to the Order of Canada. Named as officers of the order are:

Harold Jennings, OC,  MSc’61, PhD’64 (Chemistry), Distinguished Research Scientist, National Research Council of Canada,  for his contributions to carbohydrate chemistry, notably in the development of a pediatric vaccine used internationally to prevent the most common strain of meningitis.

Veena Rawat, OC, PhD’73 (Electrical Engineering), past president of the Communications Research Centre, for her contributions to telecommunications engineering and for her leadership in establishing the global regulatory framework for radio spectrum management.

Shirley Tilghman, OC, Artsci’68 (Chemistry),  DSc’02, a molecular biologist and past president of Princeton University,  for her contributions to molecular biology, for her leadership in university education and for her influential efforts to champion women in science and engineering.

Named as members of the order are:

Jim Leech, CM, MBA’73,  former president and CEO of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and current Queen’s chancellor, for his contributions as an innovator in pension management, for his writings on the subject of retirement funding, and for his community involvement.

Bruce McNiven, CM,  Artsci’76 (History), lawyer and founding member and treasurer of the Trudeau Foundation, for his broad and sustained commitment to the preservation and flourishing of Montreal culture and heritage.

Donna Stewart, CM, Meds’67, chair of women’s health for the University Health Network and U of T, for her contributions to women’s health as a nationally renowned leader in the field.

Alumnus to lead Canadian research organization

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Queen’s alumnus Mario Pinto has been named the new president of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

“I really wanted to do something for Canada. I want Canada to occupy a more prominent place on the world research stage,” says Dr. Pinto (Artsci’75, PhD’80).

Mario Pinto is the new head of NSERC.

A Toronto native, Dr. Pinto has strong ties to Kingston. Along with earning two degrees at Queen’s, he met his wife Linda (Artsci’75, MSc’78) while registering at the Jock Harty Arena in 1971 and, as a graduate student, helped establish the Grad Club as a meeting and socialization space.

After receiving his PhD, Dr. Pinto did his postdoctoral work at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France and the National Research Council Canada in Ottawa before moving to Simon Fraser University (SFU) in 1983. He started his academic career as an assistant professor then became the Chair of Chemistry for five years before becoming Vice-President, Research, a position he held for 10 years.

With a busy career at SFU, Dr. Pinto says the decision to become the NSERC president wasn’t taken lightly. The presidency is a five-year term and Dr. Pinto has goals and objectives he wants to reach during that time.

“I want to ensure that our researchers are better supported to make a greater scholarly impact. It’s time to stand back and ask how we can be more efficient and more effective in supporting the entire ecosystem from ideas to innovation.”

“On behalf of everyone here at Queen’s, I’d like to congratulate Dr. Pinto on his new role with NSERC,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “The council will surely benefit from his leadership and expertise in research administration, and I look forward to working with him in his new capacity.”

The appointment comes into effect this fall.

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