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Research Prominence

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.

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.
 

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