Three visions of the future

Three York PhD students working in York’s Center for Vision Research, were featured in the Deep Thoughts column in the Toronto Star March 20.

Steve Prime, fourth-year PhD student in psychology, is studying how a person’s brain is able to pay attention to various things happening in the surrounding world and still remember many visual moments,. Using a new-age technology called trans-cranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), Prime hooks volunteers up to the machine and sends teeny shockwaves into different areas of the brain and monitors the reaction, the Star wrote. Vision is disrupted for just 10 milliseconds so there is no damage. This is long enough for researchers to create a better map of the areas of the brain responsible for vision. So if trauma to the brain affects vision, researchers will know which part of the brain to work on to try to correct the vision.

Neil Bruce, a fourth-year PhD student in computer science & engineering, studies why our eyes are drawn to things that are of most importance to us, or that will give us the most information, the Star said. This idea is based on something called "information theory" or the thought that what’s necessary is what’s most informative. By applying the basics of information theory to a visual atmosphere, Bruce hopes to better understand what things become most important in a large arena, say while walking down the street or sitting in a room of people. The work can then be applied to bigger projects, Bruce says, such as programming a robot to recognize things visually just as a human would or helping advertisers create campaigns that will get larger audience reaction.

Lei Ren, a fourth-year PhD student in kinesiology & health sciences is studying the role of hand perception in guiding eye movements toward hand-held targets, the Star reported. Many studies, she says, look at how our eyes affect our hand movements. She’s going the opposite way and researching how our hands affect our eye movements. In one lab experiment, Ran sits volunteers down in a dark room and gets them to turn their heads away from their hands. Then, she watches the direction their eyes move in when asked to look at their hand. Since it’s dark, volunteers can’t see their hand, but they know where it is. Ran hopes her work will shine light on how stroke patients can relearn these abilities and contribute to future training programs for victims.

Original York PhD is first non-US editor of Physics Review A

When York alumnus, now University of Windsor professor, Gordon Drake (PhD ’67) was chosen as editor of Physical Review A, a world-renowned scientific journal for atomic physics, he was the first editor chosen from outside the US in the journal’s 117-year history, wrote the Windsor Star March 20.

Drake, who had been editor of the Canadian Journal of Physics, was hired last year after candidates were interviewed by a hiring committee. One year into a three-year term, Drake said the job is a lot of fun. He was in the first class to get a PhD in physics from York in 1967. The Regina native said he probably won’t be the last "foreign" editor, as the journal’s board of directors wants its editor to better reflect the global face of the authors of its journal articles.

On air

  • Barbara Benoliel, a mediator and facilitator specializing in organizational conflict and a course leader at York’s Schulich School of Business, spoke about consumer complaints on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” (Toronto) March 19.