Dear Queen’s Engineering community and friends,

As the year draws to a close, I thought I might take some time to look back over the past 12 months, summarizing what has been a very busy year for the Faculty.

It was a great year for research at the Faculty. We have the only Civil Engineering lab in the world testing wind turbine technology, our Engineering Chemistry department has a new professorship, thanks to the generosity of alumni donor Barry Robins (BSc’64),  and we continue to see the ongoing growth and success of Ingenuity Labs. Professor Praveen Jain celebrated over 100 patents, while Ning Lu received a Canada Research Chair. We held a national symposium at the Beaty Water Research Centre, and our faculty researchers continue to be recognized through awards and grants, including CFI John R. Evans Leaders Funding, and Wicked Ideas grants for inclusivity research, landfill monitoring, nuclear power salts, and algae-produced dairy products. A multidisciplinary group including Engineering faculty and Ingenuity Labs have received a $850,000 grant from the Department of National Defense to study augmented reality for simulation-based training.  

As our research prominence grows, so does our faculty size – Queen’s Engineering added eight new faculty this year, seeking especially to increase the diversity of our faculty. We currently have almost 120 full-time faculty at Queen’s Engineering; all tremendously accomplished scholars and teachers.

8 Faculty Hires in 2020

Some of these faculty will be part of our newly launched Mechatronics & Robotics Engineering program – a unique-in-Canada program that pushes the boundaries of intelligent autonomous systems and world-changing technologies. Since opening enrolment in October – the beginning of our recruitment cycle – we have seen an overwhelming interest across Canada.

Addressing a critical need for diversity in engineering, 2020 also saw the creation of the Chair for Women in Engineering, held by Dr. Heidi Ploeg and funded by a $3 million alumni donation. Dr. Ploeg has already begun working in her role as Chair, hosting film screenings to raise awareness of issues facing women in STEM and appearing on panels, while working to hire a new faculty member and expand the profile and success of women in engineering nationwide.

The role of women in STEM is one component of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Indigenization (EDII) –  a very important topic in 2020. Following calls for action through the summer of 2020, we examined the experience of marginalized students in our community through activities including an open town hall, and followed up with the establishment of a working group that includes myself, students, and community members to examine EDII issues within the faculty. I was pleased to join Nicholas Ramsubick, the co-president of EngiQueers, to talk about these issues on a national platform in late November, as the inaugural keynote at the Ontario Society of Professional Engineer’s conference, The #EDIAdvantage.

Black Youth in STEMWork continues in this important area, involving alumni, faculty, staff and students joining forces to address systemic issues facing engineering education and the profession itself. We are already active on many fronts, including the continuation of the excellent work of our Aboriginal Access to Engineering program, which this year saw the largest number of Indigenous engineering students to ever graduate from an Ontario university, launched its Black Youth in STEM affiliate program, and saw its director, Melanie Howard, win the Principal’s inaugural Indigenous Education award. Our Connections team also expanded its outreach programming to focus on encouraging girls to get interested in STEM, including a new program for girls ages 5-10, and a feature in Maclean’s magazine and Innovating Canada website.

Our students – as always – continue to amaze and impress us. 2020 saw any number of achievements from Queen’s Engineering, including running a Hackathon, outstanding participation in How to Change the World, recreating our campus in Minecraft, excelling in their classes, participated in a record number of varied internships, and finishing in the top 15 in an international Formula SAE competition.

Queen's Campus in Minecraft

Inspired and mentored by our faculty, our graduate students continue to achieve and excel as well. They are working in fields as diverse as new understandings of the COVID virus, eco-friendly gold extraction, the nature of dark matter, bridge structures and endurance, superior building materials, and internet connectivity. Three of our grad students were named Vanier Scholars.  

Much of this is possible because of the generosity of our alumni and other supporters. We were pleased to see Mitchell Hall – mostly funded by Engineering alumni, and named for philanthropist and entrepreneur Bruce Mitchell (Sc’68), be honoured with national design awards this year – and to grant Bruce an honorary degree at this year’s Fall Convocation. This year:

  • $8,649,050 in gifts and pledges has been received between January 1-December 14, 2020.
  • A bequest of $4,979,528 will provide much needed tuition support to students.
  • 9 new funds have been created that directly benefit students and support has been provided to 23 student teams.
  • An Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Indigenization Fund has been created within the Faculty, and donations are still being directed to the Aboriginal Access to Engineering Program. Supporting these initiatives continues to be a priority for the faculty. 

Our alumni give in many ways other than financial, of course – from peer mentoring and exchanging ideas and advice on our Queen’s Engineering Network platform, to being the backbone of our successful internship program.

Internships up 50%This year, we saw more students than ever placed in internships across North America, including partnerships with local innovators like Kingston’s SnapCab. Our alumni are a vital part of this program, providing our students with ways to discover new interests, build and develop skills, and prepare themselves for the workplace. Our students love the program – and the businesses where they are placed invariably love our students! If you would like to see a Queen’s Engineering student contributing to your organization, please feel free to reach out to us.

All of the above is also thanks to the tireless work of our staff, who I would like to acknowledge and commend for their exceptional work. It was a delight to see one of our long-serving staff members, Jacquie Brown, recognized with a Distinguished Service Award this year.

You may have noticed I haven’t mentioned a certain subject yet.

Before we get to the topic that dominated 2020, I wanted to share examples of our resilience, our dedication, and the unyielding Queen’s Engineering spirit. COVID has overshadowed our conversations for too long, and I wanted to shine a light on what we’ve achieved without it once again dominating the discussion.

For the latter two-thirds of this year, Queen’s Engineering carried on – even thrived – in circumstances that had the potential to break us. It’s a testament to the hard work and dedication of our faculty and staff – and most of all, our students, who have borne truly colossal pressures and come through them – that we are not only standing, but stronger.

COVID presented us with the opportunity to innovate, strive, and adapt. While there are challenges (and challenges remain), I’d like to share some of the highlights coming out of our response to a global crisis:

Our Ventilator Challenge response was a top-nine finisher internationally, competing against over 1000 teams from 94 countries, with two weeks of around-the-clock work to create an innovative and lifesaving technology.

Our Aboriginal Access to Engineering and Connections Outreach teams pivoted on a dime to provide virtual workshops to keep delivering an InSTEM@Home education program to key populations.

QEng Prep resultsWe launched a novel prep program to prepare high school students for engineering at Queen’s, with overwhelming success in terms of uptake and improving our incoming students’ preparedness.

We saw faculty launch their own COVID-19 related projects, with international impacts.

Our Engineering Teaching and Learning Team – fueled by a funding program established by my office – spent the entire summer working with faculty on innovative course delivery tools and practices. This work continues now, with ongoing new developments and tools being prepared for our winter term.

This term saw some great examples of teaching innovation in action, including lab kits being sent to students’ homes for ASPC100 and Mod2, Dr. Roshni Rainbow’s approach of prioritizing “kindness, grace, and empathy towards the students,” and constant other examples of faculty adopting, adapting, and improving on our current circumstances.

We launched a new app just for the Queen’s Engineering community, EngConnect, allowing students to stay in touch in a new and different way through the semester.

Our Student Services team created a new wellness program to support students through creative workshops, as well as moving a formerly on-campus recruitment program entirely online, including new 360-degree interactive tours of key spaces at Queen’s Engineering.

The Advancement team led a number of successful online initiatives, ranging from large events like a Q&A for student parents to a panel on women in STEM, as well as many one-on-ones between donors and student recipients, and coordinating thank-you videos between student teams and their benefactors.

And our Engineering Society took a challenging remote situation and transformed it into a beautiful and heartfelt memorial for the victims of the December 6 massacre, part of a day of activities that also saw a Queen’s Engineering student win the $30,000 Order of the White Rose scholarship.

This barely scratches the surface – barely touches the surface – of the immense labours of faculty, staff and students to persevere through a remote semester.

I’ve heard – and welcome – many voices through the year, congratulating us on our successes and also taking the time to deliver thoughtful comments on areas where we can improve. I cannot say that everything we’ve done in the face of an unprecedented global emergency has been an unqualified success – but I am proud of what we have accomplished and of how hard we have worked.

I am also proud of how we have dealt with our failure. Engineering design is an iterative process, and where we have fallen short we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and tried again.

This is what the holidays are about, in part – the end of a year is an opportunity to look back and reflect, but also to learn and grow from the good and the bad of the previous year.

I am truly appreciative of every member of this community for their exemplary efforts, ideas, and support over the past year. We are not out of the woods yet, but the path is wider and clearer than it has been before, and I look forward to sharing 2021 with you all.

Happy holidays,

Dean Kevin Deluzio