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Research Prominence

The man behind the lens

In his new photography exhibition, Inside Kingston Penitentiary, photographer Geoffrey James showcases images from the final months of the Kingston prison. The exhibit, featured at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, memorializes the institution that operated from 1835-2013. Mr. James’ first photography exhibition took place 30 years ago in 1984 at the Agnes. Communications Officer Andrew Stokes chatted with Mr. James about his work.

Andrew Stokes: What led you to take on this project?

Geoffrey James: Everyone is curious about prisoners and prisons as they’re very mysterious places. The prison has a limited visual record and I felt like if I didn’t photograph it then nobody would — there would be no one who was able to walk through the space and capture a sense of how it feels before it closed.

Photographer Geoffrey James when he received the Governor General's award in Film and Media in 2012.

AS: Your shots cover a wide range of time and throughout the series it’s evident the seasons are changing. Why did you make that choice?

GJ: I shot the photos from May to September because I usually work in that mode. Getting to shoot a number of different times is a luxury because you get to review your photos and see what you’ve captured and what you’re missing. When photographing the Pen I couldn’t really take being in there for more than three days at a time because it was too difficult for me.

AS: Many of the photos in the exhibition show vacant cells and empty spaces. Why did you make that decision?

GJ: I photographed most of the cells the day they were vacated when there was nobody in them because I didn’t want to pry or intrude into people’s space. What I captured instead was what people left behind. What the inmates left drawn or gouged on the walls was a significant part of the story and I feel like it spoke very eloquently.

AS: Many of the photos that do feature people come from an Aboriginal changing of the seasons ceremony you photographed. Is there a particular reason for that?

GJ: When I was walking around taking photos, group shots were very difficult. Most groups didn’t want anything to do with me, but with the Aboriginal group it was different. I found it very moving, and it was a situation where they weren’t like inmates anymore. They cooked their own food and so were able to eat elk stew and bannock. When I gathered them for a group photo, they were very proud to be together, and the warden even allowed me to produce a copy of the shot for each of them.

AS: This collection of photos exists somewhere between documentary photography and art photography. How do you negotiate the two genres?

GJ: I don’t really differentiate the two, and I really try to avoid making “art” photos. I avoid dressing like a photographer and never carry a camera bag or anything — the camera I do use looks rather quaint I think. My hope is to make intelligent photographs that do justice to their subjects and that are affecting in a simple way. 

When David beats Goliath

Body size has long been recognized to play a key role in shaping species interactions, with larger species usually winning conflicts with their smaller counterparts. But Queen’s University biologist Paul Martin has found that occasionally, small species of birds can dominate larger species during aggressive interactions, particularly when they interact with distantly related species.

The new findings provide evidence that the evolution of certain traits can allow species to overcome the disadvantage of a smaller size.

The Sparkling Violetear Mulauco was one of the bird species biologist Paul Martin studied for his research into understanding why species live where they do.

“We want to understand why species live where they do, and how different species partition resources, like food, in nature,” Dr. Martin explains. “This research feeds into that. The 'larger animal wins' rule that usually governs species interactions, and often influences where smaller species can live, is more likely to break down when the interacting species are distantly related.”

For his research, Dr. Martin examined the outcome of 23,362 aggressive interactions among 246 bird species pairs including vultures at carcasses, hummingbirds at nectar sources and antbirds and woodcreepers at army ant swarms. The research looked at the outcome of aggressive contests for food among species as a function of their body size and evolutionary distance.

The research found that the advantages of large size declined with increased evolutionary distance between species — a pattern explained by the evolution of certain traits in smaller birds that enhanced their abilities in aggressive contests.

Specific traits that may provide advantages to small species in aggressive interactions included well-developed leg musculature and talons, enhanced flight acceleration and maneuverability and traits associated with aggression including testosterone and muscle development.

“This study examines broad patterns across many species, and now we would like to understand the details of these interactions by studying specific groups,” says Dr. Martin. “We really want to understand why some species can overcome the disadvantages of small size, while other species cannot.”

The research was done in collaboration with Cameron Ghalambor at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, who received a Good Family Visiting Faculty Research Fellowship to come to Queen's for the work.

The research was published in the latest issue of PLOS ONE.

Principal Woolf releases strategic framework report

Principal Daniel Woolf

Principal Daniel Woolf presented an initial report on the strategic framework to the university’s Board of Trustees at its meeting on Sept. 19.

The strategic framework was introduced by Principal Woolf earlier this year as a capstone planning tool to strengthen Queen’s vision as a balanced academy over the coming five years.

“The strategic framework is designed around four strategic drivers, each of which is critical to Queen’s success as a research-intensive university that delivers a transformative student learning experience,” says Principal Woolf. “While most universities focus on either teaching or research, Queen’s has chosen the path – a difficult one – of striving to excel at both. We believe however that they are mutually beneficial aspects of our academic mission.”

The strategic framework's four strategic drivers are: the student learning experience, research prominence, financial sustainability and internationalization. The initial report highlights a number of ways the university is advancing the framework’s four strategic drivers, including:

  • Enhancing student engagement and experiential learning
  • Creating new, high-quality academic programs
  • Promoting international research collaborations
  • Attracting more international students
  • Carefully containing costs across the university

The report also features several performance metrics that will help gauge the university’s success in each strategic driver. Alan Harrison, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic), says that one of the next steps in implementing the framework is to set university level targets for these performance measures which, he says, will allow us to measure our progress throughout the five-year life of strategic framework.

The initial report can be read here, and more information is available on the strategic framework website.

Principal Woolf announces his priorities for 2014-2015

At the beginning of each academic year it has been my practice to outline for the community, in broad strokes, the goals and priorities I intend to pursue over the course of the year. These goals are, unsurprisingly, aligned with the four strategic drivers identified in the Queen’s University Strategic Framework 2014-2019, a document that will guide the university’s decision making over the next five years.

Principal Daniel Woolf speaks with students during an event on campus. Strengthening the student learning experience is one of his goals for the 2014-15 academic year.

As I commence my second term as Principal my overarching goal remains unchanged-- to advance Queen’s as a university that uniquely combines quality and intensity of research with excellence in undergraduate and graduate education. The strategic drivers – the student learning experience, research prominence, financial sustainability and internationalization – directly support the success of Queen’s as a balanced academy.

It should be noted that the framework builds on and is fully aligned with The Third Juncture, a 10-year vision for Queen’s that I wrote in 2012, as well as a number of other recent planning documents including the Academic Plan (2011), the Strategic Research Plan (2012), the Teaching and Learning Action Plan (2014), and the Campus Master Plan.

In this context, my senior administrative colleagues and I are committed to:

1. Strengthening the student learning experience

A transformative learning experience is central to the Queen’s identity and to our vision as a university. Our academic plan outlines the centrality of developing our students’ fundamental academic skills while also providing them with learning opportunities that will help prepare them for the future. Goals related to this priority include:

  • Increasing the number of new opportunities for expanded credentials, as well as more opportunities for experiential and entrepreneurial learning, both on and off campus.
  • Further integrating technology into the delivery of course content where it enables improved learning.
  • Continuing to focus on strategies for teaching and learning based on student engagement and broad-based learning outcomes.

2. Strengthening our research prominence

Queen’s is recognized as one of Canada’s outstanding research institutions, but sustaining and enhancing our status means we must guide and support our research enterprise while resolutely pursuing funding. Goals related to this priority include:

  • Maintaining success rates in applications for Tri-Council funding.
  • Remaining among the country’s top three universities for faculty awards, honours and prizes, and election to major learned bodies such as the Royal Society of Canada.
  • Supporting the development and engagement of Queen’s faculty members as set out in the Senate-approved Strategic Research Plan.

3. Ensuring financial sustainability

To support teaching and research into the future, we will need stable and diverse revenue streams, particularly as government funding, per student, continues to fall. Goals related to this priority include:

  • Continuing strong revenue growth together with revenue diversification.
  • Meeting our $60 million annual fund raising target as part of the Initiative Campaign, while focusing on its overall achievement by 2016.
  • Pursuing long-term sustainability for our pension plan.

4. Raising our international profile

Two years ago I stated in The Third Juncture that as global competition among universities increases over the next decade, it will not be sufficient to be simply ‘known’ in one’s own country. Increasingly, the value of our students’ degrees will be tied to our international reputation, as will our ability to attract international students, who raise our profile and contribute a great deal to the academic environment. Goals related to this priority include:

  • Moving forward on multi-year plans to increase undergraduate international enrolment.
  • Maintaining our strong record in attracting international graduate students.
  • Supporting growth in international collaborations and partnerships.

5. Promoting and developing talent

We will need to ensure that we are able to acquire, develop and retain top quality faculty and staff to thrive as an institution. Our talent management strategy, which I initiated last year, will provide a strategic approach to ensure we have the right leaders in place and in the wings as we advance our academic mission and work to secure financial sustainability. Goals related to this priority include:

  • Continuing with succession planning efforts for academic and administrative leadership roles across the university.
  • Developing a competency model that will be used to identify necessary competencies when hiring, and for leadership development and performance dialogue discussions.
  • Refining our hiring practices.
  • Promoting discussion among the Deans around faculty renewal. 

Research leaders earn prestigious medals

Queen’s researchers Guy Narbonne and John McGarry were honoured today by the Royal Society of Canada for contributions to geology and political science, respectively.

Dr. Narbonne (Geological Sciences) is the recipient of the Bancroft Award for publication, instruction and research in the earth sciences and his contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of the subject of geology.

John McGarry has won the Innis-Gerin Medal.

Dr. McGarry (Political Studies) is the recipient of the Innis-Gerin Medal for his contribution to the literature of the social sciences. The medal has only been awarded 21 times since its inception in 1967.

“Drs. Narbonne and McGarry have been leaders in their respective fields for many years and these medals are recognition of their outstanding work,” says Principal Daniel Woolf. “The fact that Queen’s won two medals out of the 14 available in 2014 caps off a banner year with respect to Royal Society of Canada awards and honours.”

Dr. Narbonne is best known for his research into evolution’s first foray into complex multicellular life, the Ediacaran biota, a group of large, soft-bodied creatures that populated the floor of the world’s oceans 580 million years ago after three billion years of mostly microbial evolution. His multidisciplinary research on the origin of Earth’s earliest animals has been widely reported in the scientific literature and through public outreach.

Guy Narbonne (r) works with David Attenborough at Mistaken Point.

Dr. Narbonne also played a major role in establishing the Ediacaran Period, the first new geological period recognized in more than a century.

“I’m thrilled for the recognition this brings to Queen’s since to win this medal, you have to excel in three different areas – research, communication and tangible contributions to science,” says Dr. Narbonne.

Dr. McGarry is the Canada Research Chair in Nationalism and Democracy, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the winner of both the Trudeau Fellowship and the Killam Prize. Since 2009 he has worked as a part-time senior advisor on governance to the United Nations-mediated negotiations in Cyprus. He is viewed by many as one of the world’s leading experts on power sharing, federalism and constitutional design.

“It is thrilling for me to receive an award that is named after two of Canada’s most famous social scientists, and whose first recipient in 1967 was Queen’s own W.A. Mackintosh,” says Dr. McGarry.

For more information on the medals visit the website.

Queen's technology considered for Ebola fight

AsepticSure was tested last week to see if it could slow the spread of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

  • [Field hospital tents]
    Two tents were set up at Innovation Park to mimic a field hospital.
  • [Medizone AsepticSure machine]
    AsepticSure, a technology created by Dr. Dick Zoutman from Queen's, is currently used to sterilize hospital rooms between patients to help prevent hospital-born infections.
  • [Medizone AsepticSure machine in action]
    The technology, pictured here, produces a patented gas to destroy all pathogens in a room.

AsepticSure co-inventors Dick Zoutman, a researcher at Queen’s, and Michael Shannon met last week with representatives from portable shelter company Design Shelter Inc. to test whether the technologies could be combined to fight the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa.

AsepticSure combines ozone and peroxide to create a patented gas that has yet to encounter a pathogen it couldn't destroy. 

"The ozone-peroxide combination works in the same way the human body does to kill pathogens,” says Dr. Zoutman. “AsepticSure permeates all surfaces to kill 99.9999 per cent of all bacteria, spores and viruses. We’ve already seen the technology kill the coronavirus, the virus responsible for the MERS outbreak, so if it can kill the coronavirus then there’s no reason it can’t kill the Ebola virus.”

Dr. Shannon says that if the team were asked to go to West Africa and begin their efforts to destroy the virus, they could be there with the equipment to do so in a week.

The team hopes that AsepticSure will, at a minimum, provide adequate protection for all hospital staff in West Africa – the most valued commodity in fighting the Ebola outbreak.

AsepticSure is a portable hospital sterilization system that can be used by trained maintenance staff. Rooms can be sterilized to the same standard as surgical equipment withing 80-90 minutes for a room of 4,000 cubic feet. For more information on AsepticSure, visit the website.

The AsepticSure technology was developed at Medizone’s dedicated laboratories in Innovation Park at Queen’s.

Mind over matter

Tom Hollenstein (Psychology) is running a two-year trial to see if the video game MindLight can help youth cope with and eventually conquer their anxiety.

The Playnice Institute develops video games such as MindLight with the goal of promoting emotional resilience in youth. Left unchecked, anxiety in youth is shown to lead to higher rates of substance abuse, school absenteeism, depression and suicide.

“The game gives kids a chance to practice regulating their emotions at their own pace and in a safe space using a popular tool, a video game. The idea is that through the game, they will learn how to deal with anxiety-provoking situations,” says Dr. Hollenstein, who is using a grant from the Ontario Mental Health Foundation to conduct the research.

MindLight is designed for children aged eight to 16 years old. Players enter a scary mansion and learn their grandmother was abducted by the shadows. They must travel the dark hallways, solve puzzles and avoid frightening monsters to find their grandmother.

Ethan Flanagan plays MindLight under the watchful eye of Tom Hollenstein.

To beat the darkness, players wear Teru the Magical Hat who teaches the player how to use their “mind light” mounted on that magical hat. Players wear a neurofeedback headset called MindWave that measures the player’s level of relaxation or anxiety and that information is incorporated into key features of game play.

“If the trial results are positive, it could lead the way to an entirely new way of treating anxious children and help researchers better understand the power of video games,” Dr. Hollenstein says.

The trial, conducted with the support of Dr. Hollenstein’s co-investigators Sarosh Khalid-Khan (Psychiatry) and Isabel Granic (Psychology), includes two elements. The first takes place through the Mood and Anxiety Treatment Program at Hotel Dieu. For the second part, Dr. Hollenstein’s research team is partnering with local schools to identify at-risk youth and work with them to determine if the game play can help reduce children’s anxiety.

Uncovering Herstmonceux Castle's history

For the past seven years, Scott McLean has been analyzing the archaeology of the Herstmonceux Castle estate in East Sussex, England. A new excavation program at the estate aims to uncover the ways medieval peoples adapted when the region went through climate change.

Members of the excavation team worked this summer at a site called Mota Piece.

“Through combined excavations, archival research and environmental analysis we are hoping to reconstruct a better understanding of what the Herstmonceux Castle estate was like during the medieval period,” says Scott McLean, an associate professor of history at the Bader International Study Centre (BISC). “With the information we gather, we hope to learn more about how the owners coped with the fierce storms and rising sea levels that constituted this period of climate change.”

The Herstmonceux estate occupies 600 acres of land adjacent to the Pevensey Levels, an ecologically sensitive region that was repeatedly flooded starting in the 13th century when the world entered a period of global cooling known as the Little Ice Age.

Dr. McLean’s research scope has expanded with the excavation program that draws in collaborators from Queen’s University and the University of Waterloo. The program, which has received a $200,000 grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, will also place a strong focus on training students in archeology, archival research and public history research.

“The Herstmonceux Estate excavation provides an excellent opportunity for fruitful collaboration between experts at the BISC, Queen’s and the University of Waterloo,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “Participating in and observing operations at the archaeological sites also represents a unique hands-on learning opportunity for students studying at the BISC.” 

After their first summer of excavation, the team has turned up evidence of an early manor house on the edge of Pevensey Levels. The researchers have also uncovered approximately 100 previously unknown medieval documents related to the castle and estate.

 Excavations at Herstmonceux Estate are planned to continue until 2017.

Medical students create hands-on surgical skills program

SSTEP Program
Student Richard Di Len, left, with Dean Richard Reznick at a surgical skills program made possible through the Medical School Excellence Fund, a fund created through donations from alumni and friends.

Second year Queen’s medical students had a special opportunity during their first two weeks of summer break to practice their surgical skills.

A year in the making, the Surgical Skills and Technology Elective Program (SSTEP) was an idea proposed by second-year medical students Jennifer Siu and Stefania Spano to give students the opportunity to build and reinforce foundational knowledge and skills, in a supervised environment. Through their leadership, SSTEP brought together 24 second-year students and more than 27 faculty members and resident facilitators for two weeks of hands-on learning and surgical skill building.

In order to create the curriculum for SSTEP, Ms. Siu and Ms. Spano used the First Year Surgical Residency Bootcamp as a guideline, and built a program that gradually took students from basic skills like knot tying and suturing on to more complex procedures using a variety of materials.

“Our goal was to give students more time and supervision to practice their procedural skills in a simulated environment and in doing so, to help increase their overall understanding, competence, and confidence when they are asked to assist, observe, or perform similar procedures on patients,” said Ms. Siu.

Each day of the program honed in on skills used within a specific medical specialty, exposing students to procedures from general surgery, orthopedics, otolaryngology, obstetrics and gynecology, plastic surgery, anesthesiology, family medicine, and urology. Physicians from each specialty and nurses from Kingston General Hospital acted as teachers and facilitators.

“It was important for us to create a non-threatening academic environment where students could receive one-on-one guidance from faculty or residents in their area of expertise,” said Ms. Spano.

The program was hosted at the Medical School’s Clinical Simulation Centre, allowing the students to take advantage of the state-of-the-art surgical simulation facility simulated environment provided there.

SSTEP was realized with the support of an interdisciplinary team, spanning the Faculty of Health Sciences, with help from Dean Richard Reznick himself.

“We came up with the idea in April 2013, then proposed it to Dr. Reznick in October 2013,”Ms. Spano says. “He was enthusiastic about the idea and helped set us up with the appropriate partnerships”.

An important element of this partnership was that it was supported financially by the Medical School Excellence Fund, which is resourced by donations from alumni and friends. The fund, which was created in 2009, supports a variety of initiatives including educational technology, simulation, clinical learning, innovative research and student-led initiatives, and in this case, provided essential funding to bring SSTEP to fruition.

With the project given the go-ahead, Ms. Siu and Ms. Spano recruited two fellow students, Daniel You and Riaz Karmali, to their organizing committee.

“This initiative was entirely organized by our students and reflects their great passion and enthusiasm for self-directed education. We strive to offer opportunities like this to our students here at Queen’s; this facilitates the development of physicians who can demonstrate a broad array of competencies, including skills in advocacy, management and leadership,” remarked Dr. Reznick.

After a jam-packed two weeks of learning, the SSTEP leaders were pleased to find that the feedback was all positive, amongst facilitators and the students themselves.

“Learning alongside 23 of my future colleagues and friends was what made the program such a great experience for me,” one student commented. “The enthusiasm each student brought to listening and learning from the facilitators made it an experience I will never forget.”

One goal of Queen’s Initiative Campaign is to raise funds to enhance many aspects of the student learning experience, including opportunities to learn in different ways through experiential learning such as the SSTEP Program.

The Initiative Campaign is the most ambitious fundraising campaign in the university’s history. The goal is to raise half a billion dollars to ensure Queen’s future as a destination for exceptional people. In addition to enhancing the student learning experience, the campaign will nurture a supportive campus community, and secure a global reputation in discovery and inquiry.

 

A second look at glaucoma surgery

Queen’s researcher says use of anti-inflammatory medicines after common eye surgery isn’t necessary

New research led by Queen’s University professor Robert Campbell (Ophthalmology) has revealed using anti-inflammatory medications after glaucoma laser surgery is not helpful or necessary.

Glaucoma is the most common cause of irreversible blindness in the world and about 400,000 Canadians are afflicted with the disease, which is mainly caused by pressure within the eye being high enough to damage the optic nerve. The optic nerve is responsible for sending messages from the eye to the brain and is a vital part of vision.

[Rob Campbell]
Queen's researcher Rob Campbell says anti-inflammatory drugs may not be necessary after glaucoma laser surgery.

“The use of strong anti-inflammatory therapies after glaucoma laser surgery became standard practice years ago, in an era when the type of laser we used was much more destructive. Today’s laser systems are much gentler, and we felt that the use of anti-inflammatory steroids may not be necessary. In fact, we thought that a small amount of inflammation might actually be helpful in causing greater pressure-lowering effects from the laser treatment,” says Dr. Campbell, who also works at Hotel Dieu Hospital.

Dr. Campbell and his research team carried out the first placebo controlled randomized clinical trial focusing on the effects of post-laser medications. They found that steroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs do not affect the ability of the laser treatment to lower eye pressure and do not influence complication rates.

“These findings have the potential to change patient care after glaucoma laser surgery and could save the Canadian healthcare systems millions of dollars by decreasing the use of drugs following this very common procedure,” says Dr. Campbell.

The research results were published in Ophthalmology.

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