Faculty of Science and Engineering welcomes five new researchers to its ranks

Five new researchers have joined the Faculty of Science & Engineering. They are Christopher Bergevin, Jennifer Chen, Matthew Johnson, Youness Lamzouri and Sapna Sharma.

Christopher_Begervin2Christopher Bergevin comes to the Department of Physics & Astronomy following a postdoctoral fellowship at the Department of Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery at Columbia University. “York provides fantastic potential for interdisciplinary collaboration given the wide range of excellent research taking place here,” he says. Bergevin’s research focuses on how sound is transduced by the ear into neural impulses going to the brain.

Surprisingly, says Bergevin, the healthy ear not only detects sounds, but also generates and emits it. These sounds, called otoacoustic emissons (OAE) are generated from within the cochlea and are used routinely in various clinical applications such as screening of newborn hearing. At York, Bergevin will be using OAEs to develop and test new theories about basic biophysical processes at work in the ear. ”I am excited to further my research into hearing and understanding how we hear the world around us,” says Bergevin. “Such studies not only yield new insights into basic biophysics, but ultimately provide an opportunity to translate the knowledge we gain in the lab into improving people’s quality of life, for example, those with hearing impairment.”

Jennifer_Chen2Jennifer Chen, whose research focuses on exploring optically active nanostructures for sensing and optoelectronic applications, joins the Department of Chemistry following a National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Washington. “I’m excited to be part of the York community. My research relies on an interdisciplinary approach,” says Chen, and I believe York’s collaborative environment will enhance my research to lead to societal impacts.”

Her research has demonstrated a unique sensing platform for detecting analytes in complex media using nanotechnology, specifically actuatable plasmonic nanoparticle dimers. She has also made important contributions to the field of optically enhanced photocatalysis and photovoltaics. As director of the Chen Research Group at York, she will build on her expertise and work on developing optical sensing systems for security, biomedical and environmental applications, and using inorganic nanomaterials for solar energy conversion.

Matthew_Johnson2Matthew Johnson joins the Department of Physics & Astronomy. He also holds an Associate Faculty appointment at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI), the hub of theoretical physics in Canada. “In my research, I am always trying to find ways that observations of the universe can inform us about models of theoretical physics, “ says Johnson. “I am delighted to be in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at York, with its strong research programs in Astronomy and Particle Physics, where this feedback between theory and observation is highly valued.”

Johnson’s research focuses on understanding how the fundamental laws of nature can be probed through their imprint on the large scale structure and evolution of the universe as a whole. This new collaboration will facilitate intellectual exchange among faculty and students at both York and PI, to push the boundaries of the current understanding of the cosmos.

Youness_Lamzouri2Youness Lamzouri joins the Department of Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he held a J. L. Doob Research Assistant Professor appointment. Lamzouri’s research interests are in analytic and probabilistic number theory. He studies questions related to the distribution of prime numbers, Riemann’s Zeta function and L-functions, as well as character sums and multiplicative functions. “I use methods from analysis, probability and combinatorics to study fundamental questions in number theory such as the distribution of prime numbers,” he says. “The primes are the building blocks of natural numbers in the same way that atoms are the building blocks of nature.Our credit cards and the nation’s defense secrets are kept secure by modern encryption methods based on large prime numbers.”

Sapna_Sharma2Sapna Sharma, whose research focuses on climate change, invasive species, aquatic ecology and statistical modeling, joins the Department of Biology following her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Biology at York has a significant presence around the world and will give me the opportunity to collaborate with excellent researchers,” says Sharma.

She is interested in understanding the effects of environmental stressors on ecosystems and improving the use of quantitative approaches used to generate these predictions. At York, she will continue her work in an effort to understand the effects of climate change, invasive species, habitat alteration, and pollution on ecosystems and develop conservation and management strategies to conserve biodiversity. Concurrently she also aims to disentangle the role of climate change and large-scale climate drivers on climatic variability over the past 150 to 550 years based on lake ice records.