Three innovative York projects receive CFI funding

York researchers Thomas Hawke, Baoxin Hu and Kerry Kawakami are recipients of grants from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI). The projects are in kinesiology, earth and atmospheric science, and psychology. The three principal researchers have won infrastructure grants totalling more than $375,000. The funds will go toward the development of laboratories to research skeletal muscle progenitor cells, forest canopy health, and stereotyping and prejudice.

The awards are part of CFI’s Ongoing New Opportunities Fund and are part of the CFI mandate to assist universities in attracting and retaining high-caliber researchers, to create innovative research training environments, and to prepare Canadians for research and other careers that will benefit Canada.

Over $5.5 billion is spent annually in Ontario on the treatment and care of a variety of musculoskeletal disorders including Muscular Dystrophy and sarcopenia – the muscle wasting associated with aging. Research into the causes of these disorders has revealed some clues as to their origin. Kinesiologist Thomas Hawke (left), has received $212,865 to develop a specialized cellular and molecular biology wet lab to study the unique attributes of skeletal muscle progenitor cells. Specifically, progenitor cells are the parent or stem cells, and Hawke’s study will seek new information about the molecular mechanisms that regulate these cells to assess their unique potential.

The infrastructure created with the grant is essential to establish a stem cell biology laboratory with the capacity to advance the therapeutic application of the skeletal muscle progenitor cell population.

Baoxin Hu (right), a researcher in the Department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering has received $83,650 for new equipment for a state-of-the-art laboratory for research in remote sensing of vegetation. With the acquisition of a terrestrial ranging and imaging system that can quickly create complex three-dimensional models of a forest, Hu’s research will monitor and access forest health and will have a great impact on forest ecosystem monitoring and sustainable forest management in Ontario. It will help government and industry to meet the great challenge of tracking the species, conditions, functional status, and productivity of the province’s forest resources.

The new equipment will provide detailed canopy structural parameters, such as tree height, stem diameter, tree density and crown diameter, all of which are critical for the creation of 3-D forest light interaction modeling. The new equipment when used together with another instrument recently developed by York University, the Frequent Image Frames Enhanced Digital Ortho-Rectified Mapping (FIFEDOM) video camera system, will yield a significant advantage for Hu’s research on accurate retrieval of vegetation parameters by combining a multitude of different data measurement sets for vegetation ecosystems.

Principal investigator and psychologist Kerry Kawakami (right), received $98,191 for infrastructure to research stereotyping and discrimination towards minority groups. Kawakami is an internationally known expert on implicit stereotyping/prejudice and strategies to reduce these biases. This new project will utilize cutting-edge techniques to study new theoretical perspectives on intergroup bias. Her research program has the potential to add significant depth to the way society thinks about relationships between groups and to reshape our strategies for reducing discrimination.

The grant will go towards configuring a new laboratory that will bring together researchers to study prejudice from York University and other universities within Ontario, Canada and the US. The resulting facility will be unique to Canada and will provide York University with an internationally recognized centre with state-of-the-art facilities for the study of prejudice and stereotyping.

CFI is an independent, not-for-profit corporation established by the Government of Canada in 1997 to strengthen the capability for innovation in Canadian universities, colleges, research hospitals and other non-profit research institutions.