Libraries celebrate undergraduate changemakers at Research Fair and Art Walk

Nearly 40 posters and eight pieces of artwork from more than 60 students were highlighted at the ninth annual Undergraduate Research Fair and Art Walk, which took place online on March 10.

One of the most anticipated and uplifting events of the academic year, the Undergraduate Research Fair and Art Walk honours student researchers and provides them with an opportunity to share work that creates positive change. The annual celebration is co-sponsored by York University Libraries and the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation.

Remarks were also given by President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton and Vice President Research and Innovation Amir Asif, who joined organizers, participants, family, friends, members of the York University community and other attendees. The awards ceremony featured Provost and Vice-President Academic Lisa Philipps, Faculty of Graduate Studies Dean Thomas Loebel and School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD) Professor Norma Fisher-Stitt announcing winners.

The fair provides an experiential education opportunity for undergraduates to participate in the cycle of knowledge production and dissemination, and to advance work that tackles complex societal challenges. This year, students from the Keele and Glendon campuses, representing a diverse range of Faculties and disciplines, attended the virtual event and were eager to demonstrate their findings.

Joy Kirchner

Joy Kirchner

“We hope we've cultivated a space for multidisciplinary sharing, which is a hallmark of the Undergraduate Research Fair,” said Joy Kirchner, dean of Libraries, of the fair’s novel virtual format. “We wanted to provide experiential learning opportunities for all of our participants that were meaningful to the current context of remote learning.”

Fair participants received training on designing academic posters, as well as the opportunity to present and discuss key content, findings and research from their projects in five-minute presentations, followed by a Q-and-A, as part of interdisciplinary Zoom panels.

Students submitted projects advancing purposeful research in a range of topics, from politics, with Ayeda Khan’s “Western Medicine: Inroads for Colonialism and Neocolonial Suffocation of Indigenous Medicine,” to psychology, as demonstrated in “An Analysis of Extraversion, Competitiveness, and Humour” by Alexandra Markwell, Danika Wagner, Andreja Stajduhar and Lucas Norton, and geography, considered in Jonelle Waugh’s “Food Insecurity and Food Deserts in Toronto.”

Many students addressed social justice topics, such as Harmoni Watson, who submitted “The Consequences of Police Brutality on Psychological Well-Being and Collective Action,” and Moboluwajidide Joseph, whose project explored “Stolen People on Stolen Land.”

Some student researchers chose to focus on timely pandemic-related research, such as Dolunay Kocabag, who wrote about “Social Identity of Blindness and Its Impact on Well-being During the Pandemic,” and Promise Busulwa, whose paper was titled, “Coping During COVID: A Pilot Study on Social Support, Mental Health and the Internet.”

“It's always so uplifting to hear your presentations,” Kirchner told this year’s participants. “York likes to teach our students to be global citizens. The fair is a clear demonstration of how this plays out in the classroom. So many of the presentations represented a global reach in one way or another. It really makes you feel proud to be part of the York community. I was thoroughly impressed.”

Awards were presented in seven different categories, with students taking home monetary prizes for Best Lower-Year and Upper-Year Project, Best Honours Thesis Project, Best Group Project, Art Walk Exhibit Award, Best Poster Presentation and the Libraries’ Information Literacy Award. Students voiced the importance of cash prizes, which were increased this year due to the unprecedented impact of the pandemic.

All presenters received an invitation to submit an article on their project, to be considered for publication in the refereed e-journal Review YOUR Review (York Online Undergraduate Research Review), published by York University Libraries and associated with the fair. The Art Walk award-winning submission will appear on the cover of the e-journal.

For more information on the Undergraduate Research Fair and Art Walk, visit the event’s website. Information about the next Undergraduate Research Fair will be available in December 2021.

This year’s award winners

Dr. James Wu Award for Best Lower-Year Project

  • 1st place: Dara Dillon – Anti-Black Racism is Endemic!
  • 2nd place: Meaghan Landry & Ryan Yacknovets – Hiring Discrimination Towards Transgender Nonbinary Job Applicants

Dr. James Wu Award for Best Upper-Year Project

  • 1st place: Catherine Morin-Mitchell – A Path Toward Mental Health Equity: Assessing Classic Literature as a Source of Racial Trauma in the Classroom
  • 2nd place: Manminder Singh – Information Diffusion, Environmental Degradation & Modernization: How COVID-19 Revealed Society’s Vulnerability to Disaster

Dr. James Wu Award for Best Honours Thesis Project

  • 1st place: Harmoni Watson – The Consequences of Police Brutality on Psychological Well-Being and Collective Action
  • 2nd place: Braxton Hartman – Atypical Brain Connectivity in Autism

Information Literacy Award

  • 1st place: Tiana Putric – Neuroweapons: The Future of Warfare
  • 2nd place: Claudia Dias Martins – Impact of Socioeconomic Status (SES) and Bilingualism on French Language Development in Early French Immersion

Best Group Project

  • 1st place: Vyjayanthi Janakiraman, Hailey Luong & Justin Chiu – Save-A-Bear
  • 2nd place: Yasmin Dini & Yanet Habtom – eHealth in the 21st Century: The Case of the Fitbit Versa 2

Art Walk Exhibit Award

  • 1st place: Asha Cabaca – Wild Apples (The Fruit of Labour)
  • 2nd place: Shifra Hetherington & Jaelyn Jones – Skinscape

Best Poster Presentation

  • 1st place: Hannah Santilli – Redesign the Ill-Defined: Autism Spectrum Disorder and the Implications of Low Socioeconomic Status
  • 2nd place: Ayeda Khan – Western Medicine: Inroads for Colonialism and Neocolonial Suffocation of Indigenous Medicine
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