York’s new Canada Research Chairs named


Above: New Canada Research Chair John Tsotsos

It was a proud moment for York yesterday when four new Canada Research Chairs (CRC) were announced by the federal government at a special ceremony at the University of Toronto. In addition, current CRC appointee Eric Hessels was designated a Tier 1 position, up from Tier 2. The event also marked the $900-million program’s 1,000th Chair appointment.

The York appointees are: Gordon Flett, Tier 1 CRC in Personality and Health; Eric Hessels, Tier 1 CRC in Atomic Physics; Sergey Krylov Tier 2 CRC in Bioanalytical Chemistry; Catriona Sandilands, Tier 2 CRC in Sustainability and Culture; and John Tsotsos, Tier 1 CRC in Computational Vision.

“York University is redefining research,” said President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden. “These appointments span the wide spectrum of our research areas and reflect the world-class calibre of research that distinguishes York University as a true innovator in education.”

The seven-year, renewable Tier 1 Chairs are, according to the program’s goals, targeted at experienced researchers who are acknowledged by their peers as world leaders in their fields.
The five-year Tier 2 Chairs, renewable once, are targeted at researchers who are acknowledged by their peers as having the potential to be world leaders in their fields.

 “Today, more than 1,000 Chairs in universities across Canada are helping make the quality of life of Canadians better every day,” said Alan Rock, minister of industry, in announcing the funding for 118 new Chairs across the country.

“Thanks to the research of all the Chairs, Canada is closer than ever to its goal of becoming one of the top five countries in the world for research and development performance – a priority in the government of Canada’s Innovation Strategy.”

The new investment includes $102.2 million from the Canada Research Chairs Program and $15.6 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) to provide infrastructure support to Canada Research Chairholders.

Here is a synopsis of each York CRC holder’s research.

Gordon Flett

Flett is exploring the relationship between perfectionism and psychological disorders, including eating disorders and postpartum depression. He is expanding his research to include the role of perfectionism in the treatment of and recovery from physical illnesses. He is also taking a close look at the role of perfectionists in contributing to stress and distress in their adolescent children, and the transmission of this personality trait from parent to child.

Eric Hessels

Hessels, along with his team at York, is working with the international Antihydrogen Trap (ATRAP) group at Harvard University on a method to trap so-called antiatoms long enough to conduct experiments. His work also involves measuring the energies and orbits of helium atoms to provide the most accurate measurement of the “fine structure constant,” the fundamental constant of nature that determines the strength of the electric and magnetic forces between charged objects. This fundamental constant is not only relevant to magnets and electricity, but to how atoms, chemicals, and solid objects are held together. His research promises to determine the difference between matter and antimatter.

Sergey Krylov

Krylov, in collaboration with N.J. Dovichi, has developed a new bioanalytical technique that can analyze the chemical content of a single cell. The technique is called chemical cytometry and involves the injection of a single cell into a tiny capillary where its components can be separated and identified using electrophoresis and laser-induced fluorescence detection. Combining this process with different types of microscopic techniques allows researchers to probe both the chemical and biological properties of a single cell.

Krylov is using this new research tool to study stem cells to learn how to control their division and differentiation. His work is expected to lead to techniques for tissue regeneration in damaged organs. He is also developing a new strategy for drug engineering to treat severe diseases, at the molecular level, by creating a new type of molecules called smart aptamers that bind to a target molecule and modify its activity. In addition, Dr. Krylov is creating a new research structure at York, the Institute for New Strategies In Drug Engineering (INSIDE), to guide these innovations in medical research.

Catriona Sandilands

Sandilands is at the forefront of the movement to build environmentally sustainable cultures, and culturally sophisticated understandings of sustainability, based on the values of democracy, justice, equity, and diversity. This movement requires an examination of human relationships with landscapes at the community level. She is focused on developing and promoting the integration of cultural and environmental studies as the next crucial step in ensuring a sustainable future for Canadians. She is building an awareness of sustainability from the ground up by writing about environment and culture at the community level. Her work will lead to the development of the first international research network in environmental cultural studies.

John Tsotsos

Tsotsos is looking for ways to model human mechanisms of visual motion in machines. Integrating the fields of visual psychology, computer vision, robotics, and visual neuroscience, he is developing robotic wheelchairs for the disabled that can be controlled by vision. His research in active vision (computer vision systems equipped with cameras that move and attend to items of interest), motion recognition, and mobile robotics will benefit Canadian industry and the health sciences by advancing software and hardware design and application, as well as by developing better medical diagnostic tools and biomedical visual and motor devices for use by disabled children and adults. Tsotsos developed the Selective Tuning Model (STM) for visual attention, which is widely considered the leading model for consolidating current understanding of the process of visual attention.