CFI infrastructure funding awarded for York research

Researchers at York University have been awarded more than $1.6 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) under the Leaders Opportunity Fund. Eight innovative projects have received funding from CFI.

"Government investment in research infrastructure and equipment is essential to sustain globally competitive research programs and to attract and retain the best researchers and students," said Stan Shapson, vice-president research & innovation at York. "These projects demonstrate York’s renowned strengths in strategic thematic areas such as health research, culture and entertainment research, and urban research."

The funding will support eight projects:

Michael Connor, professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, will receive $182,853 in infrastructure funding to study the role of the cell cycle in skeletal muscle development and disease. Connor is seeking to improve the knowledge base of how skeletal muscle differentiation is initiated, in order to add to the understanding of the overall mechanisms that regulate skeletal muscle function. This is beneficial in determining how and why skeletal muscle responds to alterations in activity such as bedrest or exercise. In addition, the cell cycle has strong ties to the regulation of myogenic progenitor cell proliferation, a rare population of muscle stem cells, which have been implicated for the treatment of diseases such as muscular dystrophy and sarcopenia (age-associated muscle wasting). Additions to the knowledge of how skeletal muscle cells initiate differentiation will help to design better clinical trials that have to date proven disappointing.

York Professors Rosemary Coombe and Christopher Innes, and Wilfred Laurier University Professor Darren Wershler-Henry will receive $192,749 in infrastructure funding for a project that will create the Digital Archives of Canadian Culture and an associated Centre for Canadian Digital Policy & Cultural Rights Initiatives. Coombe and Innes are both Tier One Canada Research Chairs; Coombe is a professor in York’s Division of Social Science, Innes a Distinguished Research Professor in York’s Department of English, both of the Faculty of Arts. In consolidating their existing CFI infrastructures in this project, they will be joined by Wershler-Henry, a professor of communication at Wilfred Laurier. The ultimate goal of the project is to foster the creation of an ethos of fair dealing for Canadian culture online, in order to assist Canadian and international scholars and policymakers in addressing the technological, pedagogical, social, cultural and legal questions that publishing arts material in a publicly licensed open-source environment poses. The project will be supported by an underlying open source software, called Arts Content Management System (CMS), that integrates public licensing systems into every level of its operation. The CMS will also gather data about its use by various arts partners in order to provide researchers, students and policy workers with information about digital practices of cultural content management online, in the interest of providing data for cultural policy initiatives.

William Gage, professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Sciences, Faculty of Health, will receive $95,131 in infrastructure funding towards the Orthopaedic Neuromechanics Laboratory (ONMLab). Through this laboratory, Gage will investigate the control of human posture, balance and locomotion (i.e. gait), and changes in control with age, with a specific focus on the role of joint mechanoreceptors in this control. This knowledge will be applied to the understanding of changes in mechanics and neuromuscular control which may be associated with development and progression of osteoarthritis. Gage’s research will have direct impact on the understanding of control of human movement, osteoarthritic pathology and the effect of treatments for osteoarthritis such as joint replacement surgery.

John Greyson, Caitlin Fisher and Janine Marchessault, professors in York’s Department of Film, Faculty of Fine Arts, will receive $399,971 in infrastructure funding for the creation of a Future Cinema Lab within York’s Faculty of Fine Arts. The first dedicated lab of its kind in Canada, the FCL will consist of three networked facilities: a multi-use high-definition production unit, a high-definition post-production facility, and an augmented reality and mobile media studio with motion capture and 3D scanning capabilities. Its purpose is to investigate how new storytelling techniques can critically transform a diverse array of state-of-the-art screens: video curtains and fog screens; augmented reality and GPS-enabled handhelds; holo-screens; and digital business cards. The lab will explore how these new technologies transform conventional experiences of fiction creation. It will enable the study of digital storytelling practices in both field and studio research, allowing Greyson, Fisher and Marchessault to significantly extend their previous research concerns as cultural theorists and producers. Fisher is York’s Canada Research Chair in Digital Culture; Marchessault is York’s Canada Research Chair in Art, Digital Media & Globalization.

Jennifer Steele, a professor in York’s Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health, will receive $157,931 to examine the development and consequences of racial stereotyping in children and adults. Given the growing diversity and multiculturalism of North American societies, there is a pressing need to understand how racial knowledge influences attitudes and perceptions of both minority and majority group members. Steele’s research will increase understanding of what it means to be a child from a negatively-stereotyped minority group in Canada and will suggest new avenues for intervention programs aimed at increasing the academic orientation and positive self-regard of the youngest members of society. In addition, this research will increase understanding of how people make use of stereotypes when making assessments of racially diverse individuals.

Jennifer Steeves, a professor in York’s Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health, will receive $211,166 to examine how sensory information from our visual environment, specifically faces and scenes, are processed, and where and how in the brain this is accomplished. In addition to studying healthy individuals, her research will examine neurological patients as a valuable method of identifying correlations between loss of function and cortical damage. Using a number of brain imaging techniques, she will focus specifically on characterizing the roles of specific occipito-temporal brain areas involved in face and scene processing that are not well understood. In future, this work will help define the roles of the smaller regional cortical areas involved in face and scene processing. Moreover, it will speak to a central debate in cognitive neuroscience: whether processing of visual image categories is modular in nature or distributed throughout the brain.

Leah Vosko, a professor in the School of Social Sciences in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, will receive $159,114 in infrastructure funding to create a unique research tool dedicated to understanding gendered labour market insecurity and how we mediate its growth by crafting effective public policy. This will be achieved through the development of a unique piece of social science research infrastructure, titled Comparative Perspectives Database (CPD), to be linked to the Gender and Work Database (GWD), also housed at York University. There is currently a dearth of infrastructure in this area; these expanded capacities will enable Vosko to craft an approach to conceptualizing and measuring precarious employment at multiple scales (i.e. the supranational, national and sub-national) in the European Union, North America, Australia and parts of Asia, and will support comparative research that will be of interest to scholars and policy makers across Canada and around the world.

York Professors Peer Zumbansen, Patricia Wood and Brenda Longfellow will receive $264,808 in infrastructure funding to create the Cities Research Laboratory (CRL) for Multimedia Research on World Cities and Globalization. The multimedia research laboratory will be dedicated to addressing the need for a cross-section of legal, sociological and geographical research on global cities, using image-based media such as documentary film, video art and photography. The CRL combines equipment and software necessary to gather and process video and photo data, using high-definition video editing and graphics software. In crossing disciplinary boundaries – most notably by bringing legal analysis to bear on the field of urban research – the CRL will make a hitherto unseen contribution to a field of vital political and cultural importance. Zumbansen is York’s Canada Research Chair in the Transnational & Comparative Law of Corporate Governance and a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School. Patricia Wood is Chair of York’s Department of Geography, Faculty of Arts; Brenda Longfellow is Chair of York’s Department of Film, Faculty of Fine Arts.

Overall, CFI announced on June 8 $39.2 million in funding for new cutting-edge research infrastructure at 42 universities and colleges across the country. This new infrastructure will enable the work of 261 of Canada’s best and brightest researchers on 207 projects.