This story is published in YFile’s New Faces Feature Issue 2021, part two. Every September, YFile introduces and welcomes those joining the York University community, and those with new appointments. Part one was published on Sept. 3.
The Faculty of Science is welcoming seven new faculty members this fall. Joining the ranks are Jade Atallah, Jingyi Cao, Elizabeth Clare, Jairo Diaz-Rodriguez, Lisa Robertson, Woldegebriel Assefa Woldegerima and Jihyeon “Jessie” Yang.
“The Faculty of Science is known for leading-edge research, commitment to our students’ success through teaching excellence and pedagogical innovation, and community impact,” said Rui Wang, dean of the Faculty of Science. “These talented new faculty members represent our core strengths in these areas, and we are excited to welcome them.”
Jade Atallah joins the Department of Biology as an assistant professor. Atallah received her undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto Mississauga. She completed her doctoral and postdoctoral studies at the Levine Laboratory in the Department of Cell and Systems Biology at the University of Toronto. Her research focused on behavioural genetics, where she investigated the cell and molecular mechanisms underlying social interactions in the model organism Drosophila melanogaster. Throughout her research journey, Atallah was also heavily invested in biology higher education, where she pursued education training through Woodsworth College and the Association of College and University Educators. She served as an assistant professor (teaching stream) at the University of Toronto Mississauga for three years and has also taught at McMaster University. Atallah’s teaching practice places strong emphasis on higher order skills such as critical thinking and integrative problem solving. She continues to contribute to curriculum design, course development, creation of teaching tools and science education research.
Jingyi Cao joins the Department of Mathematics and Statistics as an assistant professor, following a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Mathematics at Michigan University. She completed her PhD in actuarial science at the University of Waterloo, where her research focused on stochastic optimal control problems in insurance, including optimal reinsurance with contagious claims, model risks, and the demand for life insurance and annuities. During her PhD, she was recognized as a James C. Hickman Scholar by the Society of Actuaries. Cao’s postdoctoral research studied the problem of approximating the classical Cramér-Lundberg risk processes with heavy-tailed claims by a sequence of stable Lévy processes, which facilitates the computation for various problems such as the Gerber-Shiu distribution of exponential Parisian ruin and the optimal dividend problem. Her current research program focuses on the rate of convergence for such approximation, as well as optimal insurance with belief heterogeneity. Cao is also an associate of the Society of Actuaries.
Elizabeth Clare joins the Department of Biology as an assistant professor. She received her PhD from the University of Guelph in 2010, studying neotropical bat diversity and phylogeography. She completed a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) postdoctoral fellowship at Bristol University (2010-12), where she developed some of the first protocols for the use of metabarcoding for dietary ecology. Clare spent eight years as a faculty member at Queen Mary University of London, where her research group developed new techniques in molecular ecology. Most recently, they established a method to vacuum environmental DNA from the air to aid in global terrestrial biodiversity science. Clare is keenly interested in the biology of bats and their responses to habitat change in neotropical forests, particularly their role in seed dispersal and pollination. She supervises students working on aquatic ecology, parasitology and microbial ecology, and in field locations around the world. Her work is currently funded by NSERC and Genome Canada and she is an associate editor of the journal Biological Invasions.
Jairo Diaz-Rodriguez joins the Department of Mathematics and Statistics as an assistant professor. His research interests centre around data science, machine learning, high-dimensional statistics, optimization and big data. He received his PhD in mathematics (statistics-oriented) at University of Geneva in Switzerland under the supervision of Professor Sylvain Sardy in 2018. Subsequently, he was appointed assistant professor at Universidad del Norte in Colombia. Most of his research contains both theoretical development and practical applications, with strong interdisciplinary components, and cloud and parallel computing implementations. Diaz-Rodriguez has also worked as a data science consultant and machine learning engineer in a wide variety of fields, including information technology, public health, education, economics and marketing. He has worked on real-world data science problems and is experienced in the entirety of the data science pipeline, from data acquisition and transformation to visualization, model selection (statistics and machine-learning based), and deployment into fully functional production systems.
Lisa Robertson is a new assistant professor in the Department of Biology, where she completed a postdoctoral fellowship with York Professor Andrew Donini, examining ion transport in anal papillae of chironomids and mosquitoes. Robertson received her PhD and MSc from the University of Toronto, working in the lab of Professor Angela Lange, investigating the involvement of neuropeptides in the physiological functioning of peripheral tissues in the African migratory locust. Previously, she was an instructor and course co-ordinator in the University of Guelph’s Department of Integrative Biology (2017-21) and an assistant professor (contract-limited) in the Department of Biomedical Science (2013-17). She is an award-winning instructor, passionate about teaching and learning, and committed to creating engaging learning experiences for students. Her current research interests centre around student success strategies. Robertson has been an active member of the teaching and learning community for many years. She has been a member of the Open Consortium of Undergraduate Biology Educators since graduating.
Woldegebriel Assefa Woldegerima
Woldegebriel Assefa Woldegerima joins the Department of Mathematics and Statistics as an assistant professor. Before York University, he was a postdoctoral research Fellow at the DST/NRF SARChI Chair in Mathematical Models and Methods in Biosciences and Bioengineering at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. Woldegerima obtained his PhD in mathematical biology (“Modelling and Analysing of In-host Immunopathogenesis Dynamics of Parasites”) from the University of Buea in Cameroon, in a collaboration with Lehigh University in the U.S. He also earned two master’s degrees: one from the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), with a master’s thesis on partial differential equations; and a second master of science degree from Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, in functional analysis. Woldegerima worked as an assistant professor at Mekelle University in Ethiopia for one year; as a predoctoral research associate at Lehigh University; as an assistant lecturer at the University of Pretoria in South Africa; and as a teaching assistant at AIMS. His research interests lie broadly in mathematical biology, applied differential equations and data analysis in Python.
Jihyeon “Jessie” Yang
Jihyeon “Jessie” Yang joins the Department of Mathematics and Statistics as an assistant professor. Yang received her PhD in mathematics from the University of Toronto in 2012. She completed a three-year postdoctoral fellowship at McMaster University, a four-year assistant professorship at Marian University in Indianapolis, and sessional lectureships at the University of Toronto in 2015 and 2020. During her PhD and postdoctoral fellowship, Yang studied two fundamental geometric objects: curves and flat spaces such as lines and planes. The former has a connection with String Theory and the latter is an important object in Representation Theory, which has rich applications in chemistry and physics. Yang learned about new branches in mathematics to solve her problems: Tropical Geometry and Newton-Okounkov Body Theory. These new fields (about 20 years old) are actively developing in diverse areas, including computer science and biology (phylogenetics). Yang is enthusiastic about exploring these topics, especially with undergraduate students. Currently, she is working on educational development programs focusing on instructional designs that promote active learning in individuals and are supported by the pedagogy of care.