York’s graduate and research community is celebrating the receipt of six Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships for exceptional PhD students. The award is a signature achievement in part due to its immense research support — providing doctoral students $50,000 annually for up to three years to support their work – but also in that it signifies recipients as emerging leaders in their respective fields.
The results represent the University’s highest number of recipients, doubling the previous number from last year’s competition.
“This is an outstanding result for our graduate students,” said York’s President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri. “These Vanier scholars exemplify the world-class scholarship that is underway at the University, and their achievement is a wonderful testament to the groundbreaking research and innovative approaches to teaching for which York is known.”
The recipients are: Samantha Fashler, Jolin Joseph, Kyo Maclear, Noa Nohmia, Christopher Vanden Berg and Dessi Zaharieva.
“It speaks to our strength as a research-intensive university and the diverse research and scholarship we have here at York,” says Barbara Crow, dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies. “I am so incredibly proud of our Vanier scholars, as well as the many faculty and staff that contributed to this great success for our institution.”
Launched in 2009 to help retain world-class doctoral students, the scholarship helps position Canada as a global centre of excellence in research, and is available to both domestic and international PhD students.
Evidence shows that individuals with chronic pain pay more attention to pain and pain-related cues in the environment than individuals that are pain-free. This attentional bias has been implicated as a risk factor in the development and maintenance of pain, although previous research has been limited by the use of outdated measurement methods. In her dissertation, Samantha Fashler will address the issue of attentional risk factors for chronic postsurgical pain with a prospective research design to evaluate attentional biases using eye-tracking technology in a sample of patients before and after posterolateral thoracic surgery for cancer.
By using a direct measure of visual attention by means of eye-tracking technology, Fashler will provide novel data on attentional risk factors in patients undergoing surgery. Since there is evidence that visual retraining tasks can be used therapeutically to reduce maladaptive attentional biases and pain, this is a promising intervention to help mitigate the development of chronic pain.
Gender, Feminist & Women’s Studies
The migration of domestic workers has become big business, involving millions of women, billions of dollars, and a multiplicity of agencies and intermediaries. Although an increasingly important avenue towards employment for women, state policy, (im)migration regulations, and media discourses combine to situate migrant domestic workers in a gendered and racially segregated labour market. Jolin Joseph’s doctoral research will render visible this undocumented, precarious and invisible form of waged work and the implications of current policies related to mobility and labour that do not adequately take gender into account.
The situation of migrant domestic workers is a particularly compelling illustration of the need for transnational governance in an era of globalization. Joseph’s research aims to fill knowledge gaps regarding domestic work in Saudi Arabia, and provide the information necessary for stakeholders to develop interventions that promote and protect of migrant rights and mobility. Joseph anticipates that this study will contribute to critical understandings of migrant lives and institutional processes as embodied and embedded in global-local settings.
Kyo Maclear’s work examines cultural responses to climate change with a specific focus on children’s and youth literature and film. Maclear addresses the representational challenges climate change presents, and specifically the narrative difficulty of expressing a crisis that unfolds incrementally and often invisibly over time. She will look at how children are used as emotive symbols in environmental discussions, evoking concern for “future generations” and how the figure of the “child redeemer” is used to serve adult needs.
Central to Maclear’s research program is the pedagogical question of how a narrative imagination shapes young people as environmental citizens in the world. She believes in the power of stories to humanize climate science by offering scenarios that might register affectively. Her ultimate goal is to ask how we, as artists and educators, can build a praxis that cultivates a thoughtful and decolonial environmentalism instead of an emergency-oriented response, based on cycles of disaster and repair. There is a need for a curricular and cultural shift if we are to bridge the despair/hope binary that characterizes climate change discussions, says Maclear.
Noa Nahmias’ research examines the relationship between knowledge production, science and nation building through the lens of material culture. Her research asks how notions of science and knowledge were negotiated and portrayed to the public in 19th- and 20th-century China. She focuses on museums, since these sites can provide answers to these questions through material objects and display techniques. Studying the objects selected for the display, as well as the display techniques from the language used to the arrangement and order, reveals much about processes of knowledge production in general, and how these were carried out in China in particular.
Nahmias’ research contributes and complicates our understanding of what knowledge production is and how it relates to national and transnational currents. French Jesuits, British naturalists and Chinese entrepreneurs participated in museum building in the late 19th and early 20th century. This period also saw intense transnational encounters, which changed how Chinese elites viewed knowledge. Her research uses this historical backdrop to explore the concept of knowledge migration and knowledge production.
Christopher Vanden Berg
Christopher Vanden Berg’s research focuses on the concept of “political apathy” in political theory and in Canadian politics. He begins from the assertion that the problem of political apathy has been causally framed in one direction: citizens are uninterested in formal politics, do not vote, therefore they are considered politically apathetic subjects. Moreover, this signification, limited to those individuals who abstain from participation in formal institutions, universalizes all who do vote as “politically active” subjects. These reductions represent a general trend in the literature: a coterminous association of “political apathy” with “a lack of interest in voting”.
Vanden Berg’s project contends that considering political apathy within the frameworks outlined by members of the so-called Frankfurt School of Critical Theory can provide new insights into the nature of apathy in Canada today, and expand the approaches presently taken to the current crisis of low voter turnout. This research will contribute to topics surrounding the understanding of politics, democratic citizenship, and the subject in contemporary political theory, as well as urgent discussions on democratic reform in Canada.
Kinesiology & Health Science
Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas can no longer produce insulin and is currently affecting over 300,000 Canadians. Insulin is an important hormone that allows sugar to be broken down by the body for energy. Maintaining blood sugar levels in a target range can be extremely difficult for individuals with T1D. These fluctuations and disturbances in blood sugar levels become even greater with exercise. Individuals with T1D wear an insulin pump or use multiple daily injections as a means of diabetes management.
The goal of Dessi Zaharieva’s research is to contribute to the improvement of diabetes management and control of blood sugar levels during exercise in individuals with type 1 diabetes. This project will not only benefit the lives of athletes with type 1 diabetes, but also increase the knowledge of exercise and diabetes management and reduce the barriers associated with exercise — particularly the fear of low blood glucose levels (hypoglycemia).