Two York researchers receive Petro-Canada Young Innovators Awards

Two York researchers recently received Petro-Canada Young Innovator Awards. The awards program is a commitment by Petro-Canada and York University to encourage excellence in teaching and research that will enrich the learning environment and contribute to society.

“Professors Jennifer Chen and Sean Kheraj are among the faces of the future of research at York. As early career researchers, they are being recognized for the excellence and promise of their research programs,” said Robert Haché, York’s vice-president research & innovation. “The funding provided by Petro-Canada and York University JenniferChenwill support these outstanding researchers in the building of their programs. The awards are most well-deserved.”

Jennifer Chen, a professor in the Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, studies nanomaterials for sensing and solar applications. Solar is poised to be an abundant clean-energy alternative that can be harvested to generate electricity and produce chemical fuels such as hydrogen. Currently, the adoption of solar processes for large-scale applications is hampered by low efficiency and high cost per energy density produced.

Chen will explore novel, innovative and cost-effective strategies for light management to boost the efficiency of solar processes by employing nanomaterials and structures that can slow light or localize electromagnetic fields. The SeanKherajPetro-Canada funding will support both fundamental and applied science aspects of her research program.

Sean Kheraj, a professor in the Department of History, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, will explore the history of oil pipeline spills in Canada from the construction of the first interprovincial oil pipeline from Alberta in 1949 to the present. The study will assist in risk assessment for future oil pipeline development proposals and help to improve the current environmental assessment processes of the National Energy Board and other pipeline regulators in Canada. The data and insights provided by this study will have implications both for the historical understanding of pipelines, as well as the policies and practices with which they are managed by government and industry today.

In past years one award valued at $7,500 has been presented, but in consideration of the large number of excellent nominations received, this year’s adjudication committee recommended that two awards valued at $5,000 each be given. The awards provide support for new full-time faculty members who are at the beginning of their academic careers. Nominations are adjudicated by a panel consisting of the associate vice-president research and senior faculty members from various disciplines.