The Faculty of Science hosted a special Science Unplugged event on June 23 to recognize and celebrate recent outstanding achievements by colleagues in the Faculty. More than 100 faculty members, students and staff were in attendance. James Simons, who received an honorary Doctor of Science from York at convocation earlier that day, was the guest of honour.
Dean Ray Jayawardhana kicked off the event. “It’s a wonderful day for us in the Faculty of Science,” said Jayawardhana. “We are delighted to recognize Dr. Simons for his most inspired investments in science and for his life of relentless curiosity, and to celebrate the terrific achievements and contributions of our own faculty colleagues.”
He also welcomed back Boyana Konforti, a distinguished York Science alumna who serves as Director of Education and Outreach at the Simons Foundation, and Professor Emeritus Allan Carswell, who recently made a significant gift towards graduate scholarships.
Short presentations by Professors Jane Heffernan in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and Amro Zayed in the Department of Biology, both York Research Chairs, followed. Heffernan spoke about the research she conducts in the Centre for Disease Modelling and how mathematics can help us understand infectious diseases and the best methods of preventing and managing infections and outbreaks. Zayed spoke about his research on the genetics of honeybees, including the management of large genetic data sets, and how this work is leading to new insights into the individual, population and community level traits of honeybees.
Simons then took to the podium to speak about how he and his wife, Marilyn, came to found the Simons Foundation and their passion for supporting basic science. Simons is a highly accomplished mathematician and businessperson, as well as an active philanthropist dedicated to advancing knowledge through significant investments in mathematics and science. Through the Simons Foundation, he has funded programs around the globe in mathematics, theoretical physics, the physical and life sciences, and science education and outreach. Simons also founded Math for America, which supports mathematics education in public schools.
Following Simons’s remarks, a reception was held to celebrate the accomplishments of several faculty members. Jayawardhana presented mementoes of recognition to Professors Paul Delaney and Laurence Packer, who received the titles of University Professor and Distinguished Research Professor, respectively, at convocation earlier that day. Professor Bridget Stutchbury was recognized as well for her contributions to outstanding research on the ecology, behaviour and conservation of birds—which earned her the 2016 President’s Research Excellence Award earlier this year. Finally, Jayawardhana acknowledged Professor Peter Cribb for his outstanding leadership and unwavering commitment in serving as Associate Dean of Students since 2009.
The event was part of the Faculty of Science’s event series called Science Unplugged, which brings together faculty members, students, staff and alumni for stimulating presentations and networking opportunities.