Five York faculty receive Early Researcher Awards

York professors Kari Hoffman, Cody Storry, Michael Scheid, Wendy Taylor and Andrew Toms have each been awarded $100,000 through the Ontario government’s Early Researcher Award program.

The awards, which were announced yesterday, will be matched by $50,000 in research investment by York University. The funding is provided to support research into topics that include psychology, mathematics, particle physics and cancer research. The awards will invest a total of $9.24 million to support 66 leading researchers while improving Ontario’s ability to attract and retain the brightest research talent from around the world.

Right: The awards will support research in psychology, mathematics, particle physics and cancer

“Today’s investment is an important part of Ontario’s plan to build an innovation-driven economy,” said John Wilkinson, minister of research & innovation, at a news conference. “We are investing in the people who are pioneering the scientific breakthroughs that will improve health care, protect the environment and ignite growth in the industries that will shape Ontario’s future.”

Kari Hoffman, professor of psychology in the Faculty of Health, is researching the relationship between “bottom-up” or stimulus-driven neural activity, and “top-down” memory-driven activity. Professor Hoffman’s team will explore which nerve cells are recruited to encode new stimuli, such as the faces of individuals; how newly encoded patterns are transformed into memory; and how different patterns of activity can alter perception. Her research promises to reveal the mechanisms that underlie perception and memory formation, and could improve our understanding of epilepsy.

Cody Storry, professor of physics and astronomy in the Faculty of Science & Engineering, is conducting antihydrogen research to produce and trap large numbers of antihydrogen atoms – each atom is made of antimatter. His research group will compare the atomic structure of antihydrogen to that of hydrogen, providing the first direct comparison between matter and antimatter atoms and a strong test of fundamental symmetries in nature. Storry’s research will also compare measurements of the energy level structure of positronium, an electron bound to an antielectron, to the best theoretical predictions and provide a strong test of quantum electro-dynamic theory.

Michael Scheid, professor of biology in the Faculty of Science & Engineering, studies a group of enzymes called protein kinases involved in the regulation of cell death, a process that becomes deregulated during cancer. Research by Professor Scheid and his team will expose new targets that can be exploited for novel cancer treatments.

Wendy Taylor, professor of physics and astronomy in the Faculty of Science & Engineering, is developing a low-noise, radiation-tolerant electronic readout for the replacement ATLAS inner-tracking detector at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland. This facility, a promising research nexus for high-energy particle physics, will undergo a major upgrade to deliver higher data rates by 2015. The ATLAS detector requires significant upgrades to equip it to handle higher event rates and radiation doses. Professor Taylor’s research team is developing the logical design elements of the ATLAS Module Controller Chip using programmable logic that has applications to supercomputers, medical imaging, data acquisition and cellular and Internet communications.

Andrew Toms, professor of mathematics and statistics in the Faculty of Science & Engineering, researches the classification of C*-algebras, specifically non-simple C*-algebras. This class of objects has its roots in quantum mechanics and affects much of modern mathematics, including group theory, geometry, and dynamics.

“The Early Researcher Award program is a critical provincial investment in the globally competitive research being done at the University,” said Stan Shapson, York vice-president research & innovation. “These awards provide timely support and recognize the excellent scholarly work being undertaken by researchers early in their careers, and help to support the significant contributions being made to the science research community.”

For more information, visit Ontario’s Ministry of Research & Innovation Web site.