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Research Prominence

Principal's trip to U.K. will strengthen international ties

Principal Daniel Woolf hopes that his first overseas trip of the academic year will allow him to strengthen the university’s relationship with potential research partners and engage with alumni, among other goals.

Principal Woolf is travelling to the United Kingdom on Oct. 7 to 10 with Vice-Principal (Research) Steven Liss. They will be part of a delegation representing the U15 group of Canadian research universities, of which Principal Woolf is now vice-chair. The delegation will meet with representatives from the Russell Group, which represents 24 leading public research universities in the U.K.

“The U15 has a highly respected profile abroad and, as a group, we will be able to highlight Canada as a country where a good deal of important research is happening,” says Principal Woolf. “We will also have a number of bilateral discussions with a number of universities to see about the possibility of establishing research partnerships in the future. Strengthening global research partnerships is an important component of the university’s internationalization and research prominence strategies. “

The trip will also allow the principal to meet with the team from the Bader International Study Centre, the university’s castle campus in Herstmonceux, U.K., as well as with Queen’s alumni in the London area.

Expanding Queen’s international reach is a strategic priority for Principal Woolf and the university, and a key driver in its strategic framework. Along with promoting international research partnerships, increasing international student recruitment is a top priority.

“Over the coming decades the universities that flourish will be those that have diversified beyond their home countries and established themselves at an international level,” says Principal Woolf. “Becoming better known internationally will not happen overnight; it is a challenge that will require commitment over a sustained period.

Queen’s welcomed new students from 51 countries around the world this year, and the university’s renewed international undergraduate recruitment efforts are already showing results, with international students making up five per cent of this year’s incoming undergraduate class.



Queen's professor emeritus inducted into Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

[Dr. Duncan Sinclair]
Queen’s University professor emeritus Duncan Sinclair is among the latest inductees to the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. (University Communications)

Queen’s University professor emeritus Duncan Sinclair has been inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame (CMHF).

“I am surprised, delighted and profoundly humbled to be included among the giants of Canadian medicine whose accomplishments are honoured therein,” says Dr. Sinclair, an emeritus physiology professor and a fellow in the Queen’s School of Policy Studies.

Dr. Sinclair is an internationally recognized leader in health-care reform, and was the first non-medical doctor to serve as a Dean of Medicine and Vice-Principal (Health Sciences) in Canada. He also worked in a number of senior administrative roles at Queen’s including Vice-Principal (Institutional Relations), Vice-Principal (Services), and Dean of Arts and Science.

Currently, Dr. Sinclair teaches in the Queen’s School of Policy Studies where a lectureship has been established in his name to recognize his contributions to the university and the Medical Research Council of Canada.

Outside of Queen’s, Dr. Sinclair’s leadership led to a re-defined health system in Ontario. He headed the governance subcommittee of the Steering Committee for Review of the Public Hospitals Act in Ontario and achieved national recognition as a member of the National Forum on Health. Dr. Sinclair was also the founding chair and acting CEO of Canada Health Infoway/Inforoute Santé du Canada – an organization designed to foster the development of a national capacity for health information management.

Laureates of the CMHF are regarded as some of Canada’s most accomplished medical innovators whose contributions on the national and international stages have been transformative to patient care, health systems, education and research.

Fellow inductees Dr. Bernard Langer and Dr. Alan Bernstein currently hold honourary degrees from Queen's.

Dr. Sinclair and his fellow 2014 inductees will celebrate this prestigious recognition on April 23, 2015 at the Metropolitan Entertainment Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Prominent Canadian judge receives honorary degree from Queen's

The Honourable George E. Carter receives his honourary degree from Queen's Principal Daniel Woolf.

On Monday, the Honourable George E. Carter, a retired provincial court judge, was conferred an honorary degree by Queen's University at a special luncheon ceremony at Osgoode Hall in downtown Toronto. Judge Carter is considered the first native-born jurist of African descent in Canada and rose to his position from humble beginnings as one of the country's early black lawyers.

Starting his legal career in Toronto after articling with firms willing to assist a young minority lawyer in an age of discrimination, Judge Carter established a distinguished career as a pioneer for broadened justice for minorities. At age 93, Judge Carter continues to practise from a home office serving a clientele that includes many from his own West Indian community.

Judge Carter was scheduled to receive his honourary during the Spring 2014 Convocation season but was unable to attend.

Puppets as a tool for transformation

Lisa Figge was working in the military when she first noticed that her boots were feeling unusually heavy.

“Going up stairs got hard. Fueling airplanes got hard,” she recalls. “I thought it was because I had just had a baby and was tired.”

Lisa Figge Project: Need to Be Adored is on exhibition at the Isabel until October 8.

Instead, Ms. Figge was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a degenerative disease that affects the central nervous system.

Eighteen years after that diagnosis, Ms. Figge, a PhD candidate in the Cultural Studies program, is exploring her own disability in an exhibit at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts.  She says the hand-stitched puppets on strings and 29-minute loop of video work that make up Lisa Figge Project Work: Need to be Adored are part of a larger, autoethnographic project that has allowed her to put herself at the heart of her research.

“I am exploring my specific experience of disability as my PhD research project,” says Figge, who now uses a mobility scooter to get around since losing the use of her legs. “And because I am an artist, that has turned out –to my surprise – to be puppets as well as very personal-feeling experimental films.”

It was Figge’s diagnosis that first drew her to Queen’s as a mature student in 2003, where she started with a single undergraduate course in English literature.

“It was the only thing I could do,” she says simply. “I couldn’t work, but I could sit for three hours in a lecture.”

By the time she started her Master’s degree in Environmental Studies in 2008, Ms. Figge was using a cane to get around, eventually relying on a walker for support. By 2010, when she started her PhD, she was unable to cross campus without the scooter.

“After my Master’s degree I had wanted to do more environmental work,” says Ms. Figge, “but I realized that I had an able bodied aesthetic that was impossible for me to participate in. It felt cruel, but it led me into disability studies, which is a vital and blossoming area of research in the humanities.”

Ms. Figge says that her puppets are not only providing her with a way of accessing her past, they are also giving her a voice.

“My education has turned me into a performance artist who is also a painter and a sculptor and a sewer. I had wanted to make big things, but I couldn’t manage it,” she says simply. “I make things that I can make now. I had to find a new relationship with materials that could express this alternative mobility that I now have. The puppets have helped me to do that.”

Ms. Figge is particularly thrilled that her exhibit will be among the first to be held in the Isabel’s Media Lab, a building she loves for its many accessible features.

“I love the elevator, I love the ramp all the way down to the water, and the accessible bathrooms,” she says. “The entrance ramp is magnificent, and they also have a whole bunch of disability parking spots out front. I want us to make the Isabel the most accessible space in Kingston.”

Lisa Figge Project Work: Need to be Adored runs until October 8 in the Media Lab (Room 124) at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts. The exhibition is open from 11am - 4pm, Monday through Friday. 

Queen's National Scholar program accepting applications

Academic units still have time to submit expressions of interest (EOI) for the 2014-15 round of the Queen’s National Scholar (QNS) program, which provides $100,000 annually for five years to assist faculties and schools in hiring a new faculty member.

EOI’s are due to the relevant dean’s office by Oct. 17. Deans will then submit their recommendations to the Provost’s Office by Nov. 3.

“The QNS is a signature program for Queen’s, helping our Faculties and Schools in recruiting faculty members who are emerging leaders within their fields,” says Alan Harrison, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic). “The program has already resulted in some exceptional early and mid-career scholars choosing to continue their teaching and research at Queen’s.”

Expressions of interest are welcome from any academic discipline, and should highlight how the proposed QNS aligns with the faculty or school’s priorities, as well as with the University’s Academic Plan and Strategic Research Plan. Interdisciplinary and cross-faculty submissions are encouraged. The EOI template will guide interested units through the submission process.

Heather Aldersey is a new Queen's National Scholar in international community-based rehabilitation.

The QNS advisory committee will review the EOIs and select up to four to advance to the second stage of the competition, in which an expanded proposal is submitted. In the second stage, the committee will review the four proposals and recommend to the principal which two candidates should be appointed.

Five new faculty members arrived on campus this year as Queen’s National Scholars from both the 2012 and 2013 rounds of the competition, including:

  • Heather Aldersey, QNS in international community-based rehabilitation
  • Avena Ross, QNS in chemical biology and medicinal chemistry
  • Armand Ruffo, QNS in Indigenous literatures and languages
  • Norman Vorano, QNS in Indigenous visual and material cultures of the Americas
  • Awet Weldemichael, QNS in African history

For more information on the QNS program, and the EOI template, visit the QNS page on the Provost’s website.

An even playing field

Queen’s University professor Jean Côté (School of Kinesiology) is pushing policy makers to use guidelines developed by his research group when creating youth sports programs as a way of engaging more youth in amateur sport.

Queen's Professor Jean Cote.

Dr. Côté researched and developed the 3Ps - performance, participation and personal development – three areas that should be included in all policy decisions regarding youth sports.

“When structured properly, youth sport has the capacity to build important personal assets such as competence, confidence, connection with others, and character that are important for future sport involvement,” says Dr. Côté. “Using the 3Ps together is critical for success of these programs.”

The challenge for countries and national governing bodies is structuring sport to simultaneously facilitate the achievement of excellence as well as participation.

 “Youth sport programs that focus on diversification and deliberate play, or what we describe as the ‘sampling years,’ during childhood build a solid foundation for long-term physical activity participation, future elite performance in one sport, and personal development,” says Dr. Côté.

The research was published in the most recent issue of the International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics.

A shot in the dark worth taking

Renowned French astrophysicist Gilles Gerbier officially became the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Particle Astrophysics on Sept. 26. Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer, caught up with Dr. Gerbier a week before the official announcement to discuss his new position at Queen’s and SNOLAB and what he hopes to accomplish. 

[Gilles Gerbier]

Mark Kerr: Why did you want to come to Queen’s and SNOLAB?

Gilles Gerbier: I’m interested in dark matter physics and this research is performed in underground labs. There aren’t many underground labs in the world and SNOLAB is arguably the best one because it’s very deep and very clean with available space.

Another reason is that I knew most of the team members at SNOLAB and at Queen’s. They’re very good physicists, and I really wanted to work with them.

MK: What is dark matter?

GG: We have many hints that dark matter should exist through observations of celestial bodies: stars moving around in galaxies, galaxies moving relative to each other. All of these observations point to the fact that, in addition to the matter we know such as atoms and nuclei, there is additional mass that accounts for the difference between the higher measured speeds of objects orbiting around each other than what we would expect from only normal/shining matter. So there should be additional matter that we don’t see, which is why we call it “dark.”

MK: What are the goals of your research program?

GG: There is a large consensus among scientists in this field that the dark matter is made up of new particles, yet undiscovered. The goal is to perform studies on the identification of these particles. These particles, if they constitute dark matter, should be around us, crossing the earth, and would interact in detectors that are deep underground at SNOLAB. The research has to take place deep underground to avoid parasitic signals at the surface.

MK: How will Queen’s and SNOLAB serve to advance your research?

GG: So far, we haven’t observed dark matter’s existence so we must do more sensitive experiments in SNOLAB with European and North American teams. One of my goals, which I have already started pursuing the past few years, is to bring together these big groups and have larger experiments that are more sensitive. This is something that could be ideally done in SNOLAB because the North American groups have already planned and been funded to perform experiments there.

The second project is related to a new kind of technology to identify these particles using spherical gaseous detectors. I’ve started this innovative research with a colleague in France. We already have hints that it will bring new insights to dark matter but of course we have to build the experiments and tune them to make them better. SNOLAB is a great site to base this experiment.

[Gilles Gerbier]

MK: Why are you interested in this field?

GG: I came into this research a long time ago after my post-doc at Berkeley. I started in particle physics and found the idea that three-quarters of the mass of the universe is something we don’t know and may be made of new particles to be really intriguing. Now I’ve been in this field for 30 years.

Certainly, it may look a bit discouraging not having found anything, but you have to be patient. Sometimes it takes a long time to find what you are looking for and maybe we are going to find something different than what we thought. So I do hope to contribute and identify dark matter working in a better environment with new people, new ideas and significant funds to do experiments.

MK: Was it a difficult decision to leave France and move to Canada?

GG: Maybe it would have been more comfortable to stay in France, but our kids are grown up and mostly on their own, so in some ways it was less complicated for my wife (Francine) and me to move.

The move was also made easier because of the connections I’ve made in Canada through my work, in particular with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). For three years, I have served on a committee that dispatches NSERC funds to the particle physics community. I was very impressed with the way it was done and I appreciated the Canadian style.

Mission accomplished for veteran research fundraiser

  • Van-Allen Turner, Senator Joseph Day, Stephanie Belanger, Brew Pub assistant manager Honey-Lee Pratt, Alice Aiken and Brew Pub general manager Andy Sakell (left to right) gather outside the Kingston Brewing Company to celebrate the success.
  • The team gathers to celebrate the success while wearing some of the 1,000 T-shirts sold over the past year.
  • A total of $20,000 was raised from T-shirt sales. Holding the cheque are (l to r); Stephanie Belanger, Alice Aiken, Van-Allen Turner and Senator Joseph Day.
  • Kingston town crier Chris Whyman opened the event at the Kingston Brewing Company with his usual flourish.
  • CIMVHR Associate Director Stephanie Belanger and Director Alice Aiken enjoy a laugh during the presentation.
  • CIMVHR Director Alice Aiken shows what she thinks of the success.

The Kingston Brewing Company took on the challenge in 2013 of selling 1,000 T-shirts to support the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research (CIMVHR) based at Queen’s University. On Thursday, a celebration was held at the Kingston business to celebrate reaching that milestone and, in turn, raising $20,000 from the sales.

CIMVHR Director Alice Aiken (School of Rehabilitation Therapy), Associate Director Stephanie Belanger, Senator Joseph Day and Kingston Brewing Company owner and manager Van-Allen Turner took part in the celebration.

The event was a lead-in to the upcoming Forum 2014 From Science to Service, a conference hosted by CIMVHR and held this year in Toronto. The event will feature presentations from some of the top researchers and clinicians in veterans’ health research. Keynote speakers include the Hon. Julian Fantino, Minister of Veterans Affairs Canada, and Gen.Tom Lawson, Chief of the Defence Staff. The event runs from Nov. 24-26.

The mission of CIMVHR is to enhance the lives of Canadian military personnel, veterans and their families by harnessing the national capacity for research.

Body Mass Index lower in foreign-born youth

New research from Atif Kukaswadia shows foreign-born youth have lower BMI than Canadian-born youth.

Atif Kukaswadia

Foreign-born youth have a lower body mass index (BMI) than Canadian-born youth, says a new study from researcher Atif Kukaswadia in the Department of Public Health Sciences, under the supervision of Dr. Will Pickett and Dr. Ian Janssen.

Additionally, these differences in BMI did not disappear in the years after immigration, with East and Southeast Asian youth consistently having a lower BMI than Canadian youth.

Using the theory of acculturation, the team were correct in their expectation that children born to foreign parents in Canada would have a higher BMI. This theory states that the longer immigrants are in the host country, the more they take on that country’s cultural values and lifestyle.

“Canada has an obesogenic lifestyle – a lifestyle rich in influences that promote obesity in individuals or populations - and we expected that this would influence children born here, whether their parents are immigrants to Canada or not,” says Mr. Kukasawadia. “These findings stress the importance of considering both ethnicity and country of birth when designing and implementing weight-loss interventions.”

The study used data from the 2009/10 Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children Survey, a survey of over 26,000 youth in grades 6 -10 in all Canadian provinces and territories except Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. The general health survey included questions about topics from physical activity to drug/alcohol use and peer relationships.

“Canada receives between 250-300,000 immigrants each year and 10 per cent of them are below the age of 14,” says Mr. Kukaswadia. “We were interested in what happens to their health after they move here, specifically their physical activity and BMI.”

The research teams organized youth into the following ethnic groups: Canadian (European, North American and Aboriginal), Arab and West Asian, East Indian and South Asian, Each and Southeast Asian, Latin American and other (mixed ethnicity).

“We had 3 main findings,” says Mr. Kukaswadia. “Firstly, children born abroad had a lower BMI than those born in Canada; secondly, average BMI differed by ethnic groups; finally, East and South East Asian children consistently had a lower BMI than Canadian children with no differences based on where they were born.”

Moving forward, Mr. Kukaswadia and his team hope to further study why BMI is so different between Canadian and foreign-born youth.

This research titled, “Influence of country of birth and ethnicity on body mass index among Canadian youth: a national survey” was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal Open. The Canadian Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children study (Principal Investigators: John Freeman and William Pickett) was funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada. This analysis was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. Atif Kukaswadia was supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarships Doctoral Award. Ian Janssen was supported by a tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Physical Activity and Obesity.

Queen's names newest Canada Excellence Research Chair

  • Steven Liss (VP, Research) speaks at the announcement.
  • Minister of State (Science and Technology) Ed Holder officially pins Gilles Gerbier.
  • Master's student Ben Broerman chats with Minister of State (Science and Technology) Ed Holder.
  • Gilles Gerbier (l) walks with Minister of State (Science and Technology) Ed Holder and Steven Liss (VP, Research).
  • Minister of State (Science and Technology) Ed Holder speaks at Friday's announcement.
  • Principal Daniel Woolf addresses the audience at the announcement.
  • Gilles Gerbier speaks at the announcement after being welcomed as a new CERC.
  • Steven Liss (VP, Research) hands Minister of State (Science and Technology) Ed Holder the CERC pin while Gilles Gerbier looks on.
  • Steven Liss (VP, Research) speaks at the luncheon.

Gilles Gerbier has joined Queen’s University as the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Particle Astrophysics. Dr. Gerbier is working both in the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy and at SNOLAB in Sudbury, researching the mysteries surrounding dark matter.

“I’m very excited to work at SNOLAB,” says Dr. Gerbier. “It is a unique site — one of the world’s premier underground research laboratories — and it is operated as a clean room. The technicians, engineers and scientists working there are highly skilled, and the resources, availability and equipment are second-to-none. Once I found out that the CERC funding was in place for the chair at Queen’s, moving to Canada was a straightforward decision to make.”

The goals of Dr. Gerbier’s research include strengthening the Canadian presence in a joint North-American/European SNOLAB project to search for low-mass dark matter particles and facilitating the sharing and transfer of expertise and knowledge between European and Canadian researchers.

“Queen’s University is a natural home for Dr. Gerbier given our strength in this area,” says Principal Daniel Woolf. “He is not only a perfect match for the university’s research interests, he is an exceptional leader and mentor, and will be a catalyst for future international collaborations.”

Dr. Gerbier is a graduate of the École Centrale Paris, and in 1983, he obtained his PhD from the Université Paris XI for work on neutrino interactions in bubble chambers. Following a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley, he became a founding member and team leader of the Beijing-Paris-Rome-Saclay Collaboration, producing seminal work on the characterization of scintillators for dark matter searches.

A shot in the dark worth taking
Read the official Queen's news release, the Q&A with Dr. Gerbier and the official government release

 In 2005, he became the team leader of the EDELWEISS experiment and in 2010 of the EURECA European collaboration, dedicated to the direct detection of dark matter particles with bolometric detectors located at the Modane Underground Laboratory (LSM) in France.

 “Attracting one of the world’s leading researchers in particle astrophysics to Queen’s will have tremendous benefits for not only our scholarly community, but for all Canadians,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “Dr. Gerbier’s research into the mysteries of dark matter will deepen our understanding of the vast complexities of our universe. His work with colleagues at SNOLAB will strengthen our research ties with scholars worldwide and secure the reputation of Queen’s and Canada as leaders in the field.”

Dr. Gerbier is also a major contributor to the astroparticle community. He has served as director of the LSM, project manager of the large European Network: Integrated Large Infrastructures for Astroparticle Science, and co-ordinator of the France-China Underground Lab network.


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