York University celebrates its researchers

Research Leaders FEATURED image 2021
Research Leaders FEATURED image 2021

One of the most anticipated events of the academic year, the York Research Awards Celebration, took place May 11. While the event was held virtually due to ongoing pandemic restrictions, the format still offered a wonderful opportunity for researchers to pay tribute to their colleagues and applaud the recipients of the 2021 President’s Research Awards.

This annual celebration was cancelled in 2020 due to the emerging crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic. One year later, mass vaccinations are hinting that there will be an end of the pandemic. Organizers decided to proceed with the celebration, which was offered over Zoom and co-hosted by the Office of the President and the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation.

Welcome remarks were delivered by President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton and Vice-President Research and Innovation Amir Asif. Lenton presented each of the 2020 President’s Research Awards. The 2021 award recipients were announced by Asif. The celebration also included a series of videos, which featured all of the 140 recipients from 2019 and 2020. Faculty of Health Professor Rebecca Pillai-Riddell, associate vice-president research, MCed the celebration.

The recipients of the 2020 President’s Research Awards are:

Christopher Perry
Christopher Perry

Christopher Perry, School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, was selected for the President’s Emerging Research Leadership Award (PERLA) in Cluster 1: Engineering, Science, Technology, Health and Biomedicine, as a reflection of his outstanding leadership in and contribution to the fields of exercise physiology, metabolism and skeletal muscle health.

Since 2012, when he came to York University, Perry has contributed significantly to the success of the University, both internally and externally. He established the only human muscle biopsy lab at York, where he investigates the basic cellular mechanisms of muscle fitness and applies these discoveries toward developing novel therapies to treat muscle weakness disorders.

In 2016, he was elected to serve as a director, academic, for the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, Canada’s major authority in exercise science and prescription. This society focuses on integrating state-of-the-art research into best practice. It comprises professionals interested and involved in the scientific study of exercise physiology, exercise biochemistry, fitness and health.

Perry was the recipient of the 2017 Faculty of Health Research Award (early career). He has also received multiple internal and external awards, including funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Ontario Research Fund, the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada, the James H. Cummings Foundation, the Rare Disease Foundation and industry funding.

Theodore J. Noseworthy
Theodore J. Noseworthy

Theodore Noseworthy, Schulich School of Business, was chosen for the President’s Emerging Research Leadership Award (PERLA) in Cluster 2: Social Science, Art & Design, Humanities, Business, Law and Education Cluster), for his extraordinary leadership and contribution to the fields of marketing and consumer studies. As the Canada Research Chair in Entrepreneurial Innovation and the Public Good, he develops insights that inform business and policy-makers about the benefits of effectively communicated innovation and the potential costs to susceptible consumers and society. He examines how marketers can better communicate product and service innovations to maximize adoption and awareness. This work focuses on new product design and innovation, as well as product categorization, category ambiguity and visual processing.

In 2012, Noseworthy was appointed scientific director of the NOESIS Innovation, Design & Consumption Laboratory, a world-class behavioural lab at Schulich, to extend his primary research programs. The NOESIS lab is intended to foster innovative research into consumption, consumer behaviour and design. Noseworthy has developed this lab with the specific goal of conducting high-quality research, training skilled personnel and facilitating knowledge mobilization. Broadly speaking, Noseworthy’s research program is designed to help combat Canada’s innovation deficit by helping the private sector transfer knowledge into commercialized products and services to grow the economy.

Debra Pepler
Debra Pepler

Debra Pepler, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health, was selected for the President’s Research Impact Award (PRIA) for her innovative contributions to psychology and mental health in the areas of bullying, aggression and violence, especially among marginalized children, youth and families.

In recognition of these contributions, Pepler was named an Officer of the Order of Canada by the Governor General. She is the only psychologist recognized by the Canadian Psychological Association for distinguished contributions to both psychology as a science and public or community service.

Pepler received a Network of Centres of Excellence grant to establish PREVNet – Promoting Relationships & Eliminating Violence Network, funded from 2006-19. She built this interdisciplinary network with her former PhD student Wendy Craig (Queen’s University), with over 120 researchers, 150 graduate students and 62 national organizations. PREVNet’s researchers and partners co-created over 150 resources for bullying prevention and healthy relationships. PREVNet was the culmination of Pepler’s decades of research linking science with practice and public policy for children’s healthy development and healthy relationships.

Pepler’s research embedded in clinical and community settings has real impact on the lives of children, youth and families. She has a strong publication record, having written or co-edited 10 books and more than 200 journal articles, chapters, and reports. In 2007, Pepler was recognized as a Distinguished Research Professor by York for her groundbreaking research.

York University Distinguished Research Professor Eric Hessels receives the 2020 CAP Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Physics. Photo by Paola Scattolon
Eric Hessels (image: Paola Scattolon)

Eric Hessels, Department of Physics & Astronomy, Faculty of Science, was chosen to receive the President’s Research Excellence Award (PREA) in the Engineering, Science, Technology, Health and Biomedicine Cluster, for his exceptional contribution to atomic, molecular and optical physics.

Hessels, York Research Chair in Atomic Physics and a York University Distinguished Research Professor, has led numerous research projects that have far-reaching consequences for the understanding of the laws of physics. He is leading a collaboration whose goal it is to use ultraprecise measurements of the electron to study one of the fundamental unresolved questions of physics.

In 2019, Hessels led a study published in the esteemed journal Science, which found a new measurement for the size of the proton at just under one trillionth of a millimetre. The study confirmed the 2010 finding that the proton is smaller than previously believed. The year before, Hessels led a team that achieved the most precise measurement of the fine structure of helium ever recorded. His researchers had been working on this for eight years.

Hessels is now leading a collaboration (EDMcubed) that is attempting to measure the shape of the electron – or, more specifically, whether its charge is evenly distributed. This measurement will try to shed light on one of the fundamental mysteries of physics: why the universe is made entirely of matter (electrons, protons etc.) and, unexpectedly, has no antimatter (anti-electrons, antiprotons etc.).

The recipients of the 2021 President’s Research Excellence Awards are:

Pouya Rezai
Pouya Rezai

Pouya Rezai, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Lassonde School of Engineering, was selected as the recipient of the President’s Emerging Research Leadership Award (PERLA) in Cluster 1: Engineering, Science, Technology, Health and Biomedicine.

The award demonstrates the complexity and relevance of Rezai’s research in utilizing science and engineering concepts built on the fundamentals of fluid mechanics, material engineering, electronics and microbiology to tackle pressing global challenges in both the health and safety sector, and in the field of bioengineering. His impact on his discipline is demonstrated by his receipt of funding as a principal investigator that spans Tri-Council, industry and provincial sources.

His research has resulted in 47 journal papers, seven book chapters, two issued and two submitted United States patents and 50 conference papers. His achievements were recognized by the prestigious Early Researcher Award from the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation & Trade in 2019 as well as the I. W. Smith Award from the Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering in 2021.

Rezai joined York University in 2013 and initiated a graduate program in Mechanical Engineering at Lassonde in 2015 while serving as the graduate program director since 2015. His work has earned four competitive best paper conference awards, the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada Visiting Fellowship in 2012, and multiple awards obtained by his students in the past five years. His work has also been recognized in 2017 and 2018 by the Early Researcher Lassonde Innovation Award and the Early Researcher Lassonde Innovation Fund. He provides leadership in his innovative research program and his mentorship and supervision. He has built international connections and his engagement has raised York University’s research profile.

Rebecca Bassett-Gunter
Rebecca Bassett-Gunter

Rebecca Bassett-Gunter, School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, is the recipient of the President’s Emerging Research Leadership Award (PERLA) in Cluster 2: Social Sciences, Art & Design, Humanities, Business, Law and Education. The award illustrates her leadership in the field of research on the promotion of physical activity among children with disabilities.

Bassett-Gunter has developed an interdisciplinary program of research that has made contributions to the fields of behaviour change psychology, physical activity promotion, health communication and knowledge translation.

Since joining York in 2013, she has published 42 papers in leading journals, and she has shared her research at numerous conferences throughout Canada and internationally. In 2018, she earned the prestigious Early Researcher Award from the Ontario Ministry of Research & Innovation.

Bassett-Gunter has secured significant external research funding in competitive, peer-reviewed grants as both a principal investigator and co-investigator from major granting agencies, including the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Her mentorship impact is evidenced by the success of her students, many of whom have had their research published in leading journals and have secured Tri-Council and other funding. Bassett-Gunter provides leadership in her innovative research programs and in her mentorship and supervision. She has built international connections and her engagement has raised the research profile of York University.

Carl James
Carl E. James

Carl E. James, the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora, Faculty of Education, was selected as the recipient of the President’s Research Impact Award (PRIA). James is the senior advisor on equity and representation in the Office of the Vice-President of Equity, People & Culture.

James is a leading Canadian scholar and researcher in the areas of equity and inclusivity in education, community development, immigration policies and settlement, and critical ethnography. In relentlessly documenting and addressing inequities related to Black and other marginalized groups, James has become internationally renowned for tackling and naming issues of racial inequity, and forging evidence-based policies and actions through innovative participatory research.

His track record clearly speaks to his strong success in designing and carrying out funded programs of research, including ministry, Tri-Council, corporate, school board, foundation, and community-based grants and contracts. He successfully engages his graduate students, involving them in writing and presentations, as co-authors of scholarly work and as active partners in knowledge mobilization activities.

In 2008, he founded the York Centre for Education & Communities, which he directed until 2018. James’ impressive scholarly output includes over 20 authored and co-authored, edited and co-edited books; over 130 book chapters and articles in refereed journals; reports, reviews and educational resources; and hundreds of presentations and workshops. With research that reaches a wide range of audiences, from scholars to policy-makers to the public, and that has undoubtedly enhanced York’s research reputation, James is most deserving of the 2021 PRIA.

Jennifer Hyndman
Jennifer Hyndman

Jennifer Hyndman, Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change, was selected as the recipient of the President’s Research Excellence Award (PREA). The award is in recognition of her outstanding accomplishments and leadership as an internationally recognized scholar of human displacement, humanitarian response, feminist geopolitics and refugee subjectivity.

In January 2021, she was appointed associate vice-president research in the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation. Hyndman has been an exceptional leader in building research programs at York University and in training the next generation of scholars. From 2013 to 2019, she served as director of York’s Centre for Refugee Studies, expanding its mandate and strongly supporting faculty to compete successfully for funds to facilitate innovative research and publish in top peer-reviewed journals and books.

Hyndman is a prolific scholar whose list of publications – in peer-reviewed journals and with esteemed book publishers – is extensive. Most recently, she co-authored, with York Professor Emerita Wenona Giles, Refugees in Extended Exile: Living on the Edge (Routledge, 2017). She has two monographs, Managing Displacement: Refugees and the Politics of Humanitarianism (Minnesota University Press, 2000) and Dual Disasters: Humanitarian Aid after the 2004 Tsunami (Kumarian Press, 2011), plus a co-edited volume with Giles, Sites of Violence: Gender and Conflict Zones (University of California Press, 2004). She has conducted community-based research, applied work for the United Nations and governments, and is one of York’s most highly cited scholars in the social sciences and humanities.

To view the program for the 2020 Research Awards Celebration, click here. To view the program for the 2021 Research Awards Celebration, click here.

To learn more about Research & Innovation at York: follow us at @YUResearch; watch the new animated video, which profiles current research strengths and areas of opportunity, such as artificial intelligence and Indigenous futurities; and see the snapshot infographic, a glimpse of the year’s successes.