Three York researchers awarded Banting Fellowships

Three York University researchers have been awarded prestigious Banting Fellowships – Richard Last in the Department of Humanities and the Department of History, Mary Elizabeth (M.E.) Luka of the Sensorium Centre for Digital Arts & Technology in the School of Arts, Media, Performance & Design, and Heath MacMillan in the Department of Biology.

“We are so incredibly proud of our Banting Fellows and their immense contributions to research here at York,” said Barbara Crow, dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies. “Congratulations to Richard, Mary Elizabeth and Heath on this great accomplishment.”

Richard Last

Richard Last

Last’s Banting research is titled “The Occupational and Neighbourhood Settings of Early Christianity.” It experiments with pulling the Jesus movement out of the private domain, where it tends to be confined in contemporary historiography of Christian origins. Academic descriptions of ancient churches as having originated almost exclusively from family-based networks seem to be caught up in modern descriptions of religion as a non-political phenomenon.

Of particular interest to Last, in terms of setting the agenda for new comparative scholarship on recruitment to the Jesus movement, are the neighbourhood- and occupation-based voluntary religious associations that recruited people on the basis of common residence or common profession. Many inscriptions and papyri show that the Judean deity and Christ were honoured by occupation-based and street-based clubs, possibly along with traditional Greek gods, and he is collecting and organizing this data while at York University. These types of voluntary religious associations illustrate how a person’s job or residence in a given neighbourhood could determine, at least partially, his or her cult practice in antiquity.

Mary Elizabeth (M.E.) Luka

Mary Elizabeth (M.E.) Luka

Luka’s Banting research project is titled “From creative citizenship to globally networked cultural collaborations: Imagining culture, identity and creative work today.” It uses the concept of creative citizenship to investigate how civic, culture and business sectors are networked in the digital age, including the intricate ways that governments, universities, corporations and social enterprises connect. The concept of creative citizenship established by Luka’s previous research helps analyze cultural industries and creative labour policy and practices. New approaches to cultural production emerge through knowledge sharing, policy activation and creative practices that address social goals, resource limits and opportunities.

Luka’s research is crucial to help cultural workers shape their careers and lives, for employers to cultivate inspiring work environments within the culture sector and outside of it, and for governments and universities to effectively generate deeper civic, creative and business engagements and commitments, all redefining what it is to be Canadian in a global, digital era.

Heath MacMillan

Heath MacMillan

MacMillan is studying the molecular mechanisms that determine the susceptibility or tolerance of insects to temperature extremes. MacMillan’s research integrates observations at the subcellular, cellular, tissue, organ and whole animal levels to explain the critical differences in animal physiology that can mean life or death in the cold.

Insects represent more than 75 per cent of land animals and are of great economic and environmental importance as disease vectors, agricultural pests and invasive species. Understanding the physiological and molecular mechanisms that set limits to their thermal tolerance is of great importance. “Why can one species survive a Canadian winter while another cannot?” says MacMillan. “If we aim to predict the impacts of global climate change on animal distribution and abundance, we first need to understand what sets thermal tolerance limits.”

The purpose of the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships is to build world-class research capacity by recruiting top-tier Canadian and international postdoctoral researchers at an internationally competitive level of funding. Seventy fellowships are awarded yearly through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada. The fellowships carry a value of $70,000 per year for two years.

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