LA&PS announces winners of 2019 Dean’s Award for Research Excellence

The Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) is celebrating the second year of the Dean’s Award for Research Excellence (DARE), a program that provides undergraduate students the opportunity to engage in research directly supervised by professors.

This year, 40 student researchers received the DARE award, which includes $5,000 in funding to work collaboratively with LA&PS faculty on a research project throughout the Summer 2019 term.

“Working with a DARE student changes my understanding of the impact of my research in ways that I had not anticipated,” said Professor Lily Cho, associate dean of global and community engagement and associate professor in the Department of English.

Tiffany Phan

Cho is working with Tiffany Phan on Mass Capture, a project that examines a collection of Chinese Canadian head tax certificates known as CI 9s to understand the relationship between surveillance and the production of non-citizens in Canada.

“Like me, Tiffany is the child of parents who escaped political persecution,” said Cho. “Our shared experience of growing up in the aftermath of these difficult histories shows me the importance of being more open about the personal connections that drive my research and scholarship. I hope that Tiffany will leave the DARE program knowing that even though scholarship must always be grounded in rigorous research, it can also be a place for personal histories and stories.”

Imran Abdulselam

The nuanced nature of personal histories is not the only project giving rise to complex conversations. For Professor Stephen Chen and student Imran Abdulselam, DARE is an opportunity to discuss the unfathomable depths of algorithmic search spaces. Chen, an associate professor in the School of Information Technology, is researching visualizations and experimental analysis tools intended to build better algorithms.

“Having Imran’s help allows me and my team to complete a major research project much sooner than we could have without his help,” said Chen. “I am hoping that he will become inspired himself to pursue a career at the limits of computing.”

“This research has exposed me to the kind of work I’d probably do in a master’s program and has provided me with a lot of opportunities,” Abdulselam said, adding the experience has given him a wider glimpse into the world of academia than his undergraduate degree has until now.

Abdulselam’s appreciation for DARE is a sentiment echoed by many other participants.

Jennifer Ditta

“My long-term goals have actually changed because of DARE,” said Jennifer Ditta, who is participating in the program for the second year in a row. This year, Ditta is working with Roger Fisher, associate professor in the Department of Humanities, on a large-scale investigation of court cases involving copyright in works of music in Great Britain in the late 18th and early 19th centuries – a phenomenon at the intersection of law, technology and music.

Prior to DARE, Ditta thought she wanted to pursue a career in law. But she realized her dream was to be involved in the world of books.

“I decided to pursue a graduate education in book publishing and editing,” she said. This summer, Ditta has also been given the opportunity to travel to London, England, to conduct more hands-on research work.

Olivia White

But not all DARE awardees need to travel across the pond to get first-hand experience. Olivia White, for example, is supporting Jennifer Bonnell, assistant professor in the Department of History, on research that takes place in York’s own “backyard.” The multiphase collaborative project between Bonnell, Jumblies Theatre and Black Creek Pioneer Village (BCPV) seeks to bring Indigenous connections, content, perspectives and voices to the interpretation of early non-Indigenous settlement of the BCPV region.

“I was very grateful to be a part of such a meaningful project – and something that is about representation and inclusivity,” said White.

“I hope Olivia is able to use this experience of honing her research skills and expanding her knowledge of the Indigenous history of the region to access a broader range of future opportunities in research-oriented work or graduate school,” said Bonnell.

To see the broad range of projects and the participating students, visit the LA&PS DARE student gallery at