York student crowned Miss Universe Canada

Richmond Hill’s Mariana Valente conquered Canada and hopes to take over the universe in a few months, wrote The Toronto Sun May 18. The 23-year-old York University student was crowned Miss Universe Canada Saturday night. She’ll be competing for the title of Miss Universe in the Bahamas in August.

But yesterday, the 5-foot-9 Brazilian-born bombshell had to prepare for a more pressing challenge – a French linguistics exam at York today. It’s that down-to-earth style that Valente thinks helped her beat out more than 50 other contestants to win the pageant.

“The strategy that I used was being myself, that’s all I could do. I went there trying to be myself and that’s what I did,” said the brown-eyed brunette. “I’m happy the judges were able to see that myself is a good thing. I think that they were able to see I’m a humble person, I’m real and I’m ready to represent Canada.”

After sleeping in a bit, she spent most of yesterday talking to the relatives and friends who called to congratulate her. Her mom had been up since 6am spreading the news. “I’m really, really grateful to be in this position and I just want to say it was really a tough competition,” Valente said. “There was so many wonderful women there (Saturday) night, so many smart women that I’m so proud to say that I was able to compete with them.”

In her fourth year of French studies at York, Valente hopes to one day be a kindergarten teacher at a French-immersion school.

York’s Grinter captures provincial gymnastics crown

When it comes to training York student Matthew Grinter has found that doing less means more, wrote the Brampton Guardian May 15.

While the gymnast has spent fewer hours in the gym training this season, his preparation seems to have been more effective. For the first time in his career Grinter has won an Ontario championship claiming the all-around title in the high performance senior division.

Living in Brampton, attending York University, where he is in his second year studying meteorology, and training at a gymnastics club in Oakville meant something had to give for the 21-year-old who is forced to spend about three hours a day commuting between home, school and training.

Like the thousands of other students at York, Grinter’s schedule was further disrupted by the three-month strike that cancelled classes. During the strike Grinter said he really was not able to train more because he was not sure how long the work disruption would continue so he did not want to change his schedule in the gym.

The end of the strike meant a crammed and extended school year for those at York. But with all that, Grinter was still able to turn in a good performance at the provincials held last month at the Mississauga Hershey Centre. However he does, Grinter figures this will be his last time competing at the national level. With his school schedule becoming even more demanding next year he does not think he will be able to continue training.

Prof explains the science behind Angels & Demons

Professor Scott Menary, of York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, will explain the science behind the new movie Angels & Demons, including his work on an experiment to produce and store a sample of antimatter, during a public lecture at York University on Thursday, wrote Metro (Toronto) May 16.

The film revolves around a plot to destroy the Vatican using antimatter stolen from the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN, the world’s leading laboratory for particle physics. The film stars Tom Hanks and is based on the bestselling book by Dan Brown.

“The premise in Angels & Demons is that antimatter can be used like a bomb,” says Menary. “When antimatter comes into contact with matter it annihilates and is converted into pure energy, which theoretically could be used in a destructive way. That’s probably the most common question that anyone watching the movie will have, and one that this lecture will examine.”

Menary works on the Antihydrogen Laser Physics Apparatus experiment, dubbed ALPHA, at CERN. The experiment involves attempting to combine antiprotons produced at CERN and positrons (anti-electrons) from a radioactive source to make antihydrogen atoms. The intention is then to trap and analyze a significant sample of the antihydrogen atoms using laser spectroscopy.

“If we can accomplish this, it will help us compare matter and antimatter systems with unparalleled precision,” Menary says. “The more we can learn about antimatter, the better we can understand the origins of the universe and, ultimately, how we came to be.”

  • Scott Menary, physics professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, spoke about the science of the film Angels & Demons on CBC Radio Toronto’s “Here & Now” May 15.

York grad was caught up in Mumbai terror attacks

Brockville native and York grad Jeffrey Wilkes (BFA Spec. Hons. ’82) was a lot closer to the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India than he would have liked, wrote the Brockville Recorder & Times May 15.

The 48-year-old son of Brockvillians Rod and Joan Wilkes calls Kuala Lumpur home and does interior design for hotels at LTW Design Works. A partner in the company, Wilkes runs its Kuala Lumpur office.

Wilkes and the company worked on part of the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, one of the terrorists’ targets, and were planning to work on another 26-11 target, the Oberoi Trident.

On that terrible day, he had just arrived in Mumbai late in the evening – after leaving a protest-besieged Bangkok just before they’d closed the airport – and decided to watch the news while settling in at a different hotel. “I turned on the news and it’s like: ‘Bombings in Mumbai. They’re targeting luxury hotels’,” Wilkes recalled during a recent visit to his native Brockville.

“My heart just sank. It was really terrifying.” Wilkes was preparing for a meeting two days after 26/11 with management of the Oberoi, to do work on that hotel.

Grad’s luggage challenge flies

A York grad has won a victory against Air Canada for all travellers who’ve felt short-changed when the airline either lost or damaged their luggage, wrote the Winnipeg Free Press May 16.

Gabor Lukacs (PhD ’03), a professor of mathematics at the University of Manitoba, won a ruling from the Canadian Transport Agency (CTA) earlier this week. The CTA found Air Canada’s policy that it’s not responsible for delayed or damaged baggage violates international conventions and Canadian law, and must be changed within 90 days.

Lukacs, 26, said he does a lot of travelling abroad and within Canada, and he found Air Canada’s policy irresponsible. “It just bothered me,” he said. “I was returning from a flight last fall and I saw that sign again and I thought, ‘I have to do something about it’.”

Once the new ruling is implemented, Air Canada passengers will be able to demand compensation for damaged luggage or for luggage that didn’t arrive when they did. “I see this is the greatest achievement,” Lukacs said of the changes Air Canada must make. “I am very glad that I was able to do something that makes a difference for all Canadians.”

In Lukacs, the airline industry has met a formidable foe. Despite his youth, the native of Hungary was a mathematics prodigy. At age 12, he was taking undergraduate courses at an Israeli university. At 16, he completed his master’s degree and was admitted to the PhD program in mathematics in York’s Faculty of Arts. He successfully defended his PhD at age 20 and the paper was awarded a York dissertation prize.

Blood activist used his legal skills to help others

James Kreppner’s life changed in the mid-1980s, wrote The Globe and Mail May 16 in an obituary of the York grad. Before then, he had a medical condition – he suffered from a severe form of hemophilia A, a genetic disorder that makes it difficult for blood to clot. But, given the medical treatments and system of the day, he was able to live a reasonably normal life with the anticipation of a slighter shorter than average lifespan.

Kreppner (LLB ’89, BA ’96) was 25 and halfway through a law degree when he learned officially that he was a victim of the tainted blood scandal. Instead of collapsing from the enormity of the burden, he completed his studies, graduating with an LLB in 1989 and did his articles with the Toronto branch of the federal Department of Justice.

In his final year of high school, Krepner became friendly with Antonia Swann (BA Spec. Hons. ’89) and invited her to the high school prom. She remembers him telling her casually on the way to the dance that he was a hemophiliac, and that he was very matter-of-fact about his condition.

They both went to York University, where he lived in the Norman Bethune Residence and she commuted from Aurora. Gradually their friendship turned into a romance, a mutually supportive and loving relationship that lasted for the rest of his life. In an interview with the Toronto Star in August 2006, he credited Swann with keeping him alive with her love and her daily insistence that he eat. Only two weeks ago she successfully defended her PhD thesis in economics at York.

York Tamil student balances study and protest time

Shiyana Kulasingham studies business at York University and works parttime as a Starbucks barista downtown, wrote The Globe and Mail May 16 in a story about a Tamil family who have been taking part in protests against the civil war in Sri Lanka.

When it comes to demonstrations, Kulasingham has certainly found hers. She has attended many major rallies this year, including those on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. And, as a member of York’s large and vocal Tamil Students’ Association, she has helped boost participation through text messaging and social networking. “I do have work at school, but protests have become another part-time job of mine,” she says. On this day, she proves it by making the trek to Queen’s Park, with her mother, where thousands gather on the south lawn of the Legislature before fanning out for an evening march downtown.

Kulasingham, due in class at 4pm, eventually makes her way out of the crowd for the long subway ride to York.

  • Aranee Murugananthan is politely but forcefully negotiating with a Toronto Police officer for the return of a flagpole confiscated from one of her fellow Tamil protesters, wrote The Toronto Sun May 17 in a story about recent protests over the civil war in Sri Lanka.

The 5-foot-2 dynamo in the turquoise Adidas jacket and black Dolce&Gabbana glasses should be studying for exams right now and working part-time for the Canadian Cancer Society. Instead, the pretty 19-year-old Markham student has quit her part-time job and pulled out of her semester at York University so that she can dedicate all her time to the Coalition to Stop the War in Sri Lanka.

A veteran of high school campaigns that lobbied for causes from Darfur to women’s rights and as a vice-president of the York University Tamil Students’ Association, Murugananthan knew her way around grassroots organizing and public speaking. Raised to know her ethnic history, she is also an open supporter of the Tamil Tigers. “They are my freedom fighters,” she says. “In a time of war, everyone’s hands are dirty.”

FES prof comments on Toronto’s war on cars

Four modes of transportation are fighting to coexist on a transportation grid that was designed in the 1950s and 1960s primarily for cars with transit, pedestrians and bikes as afterthoughts, wrote The Toronto Sun May 17.

Stefan Kipfer, professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, said equal precedence can’t be given to all modes of transportation. He said the car continues to dominate the suburbs. “The car dominates, that’s still true downtown,” he said. “Most parts of the city with the exception of some downtown neighbourhoods rely on the car predominately for commuting, for shipping goods, for weekend traffic. If you bike or if you walk, you can’t say there’s no room for cars.”

Kipfer compared the problem of getting drivers out of their vehicles to smoking. "It’s more difficult for certain parts of the population to switch than it is with smoking.”

Peel Region CFO studied at Schulich

Regional Council has officially named Norma Trim Peel’s chief financial officer and commissioner of corporate services, wrote the Brampton Guardian May 15. Trim recently obtained her Master’s Certificate in Municipal Leadership at the Schulich Execuitve Education Centre at York University.

On air

  • Fred Fletcher, University professor emeritus in York’s Faculty of Arts and director of York’s Graduate Program in Communication & Culture, spoke about the recent Conservative attack ads aimed at Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff on Toronto’s AM640 Radio May 16.
  • Mike McLean, head coach of York’s football Lions, spoke about special clinics the team is holding at Ontario high schools on Global TV in Sudbury May 15.
  • Sergei Plekhanov, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts and the York Centre for International & Security Studies, took part in a panel discussion about US President Barack Obama’s foreign policy on TVO’s “The Agenda” May 15.
  • Ananya Mukherjee-Reed, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, spoke about India’s elections on CBC Newsworld May 16.
  • Bernie Wolf, economics professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about new contract negotiations between General Motors and the Canadian Auto Workers on CTV National News May 16.
  • Paul Delaney, professor of astronomy & physics in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, spoke about the latest mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope on CTV National News CTV Newsnet May 17.