York research collaboration to improve cybersecurity threat detection, mitigation

Woman IT programmer shutterstock

York University’s Behaviour-Centric Cybersecurity Center (BCCC) is advancing leadership in cybersecurity by collaborating with cPacket – a network monitoring company – to tackle a major cybercrime threat.

A significant challenge in cybercrime is a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, in which cybercriminals flood an online server with internet traffic to prevent users from accessing connected services and sites. This usually results in a server’s total shutdown and inaccessibility.

Sometimes, institutions detect DDoS attacks after the damage has already been done or when they are too far underway to stop them. Recognizing the critical need for real-time detection to combat this cyberthreat, York’s BCCC and network monitoring company cPacket collaborated to develop a comprehensive solution to help cybersecurity researchers more effectively study and respond to DDoS attacks.

The result of this collaboration is a new dataset – a structured collection of data commonly used in fields such as machine learning, statistics and data science for tasks such as training models, conducting research or decision making – named BCCC-cPacket-Cloud-DDoS-2024. This DDoS attack-specific dataset was created to overcome a range of shortcomings among existing datasets.

Arash Habibi Lashkari portrait
Arash Habibi Lashkari; photo by Rob Blanchard.

“This collaboration between York University and cPacket marks a significant step forward in the fight against DDoS attacks, addressing critical gaps in existing datasets and paving the way for more effective detection and mitigation strategies,” says Professor Arash Habibi Lashkari, founder and director of BCCC at York. 

The newly developed dataset captures a diverse range of potential threat scenarios, providing researchers with a comprehensive set of situations to study and respond to.

Another crucial component is the dataset’s cloud infrastructure, which combines several computers, servers, switches and routers on a single platform. This makes it possible to create a system that can easily change in size and shape, simulating different kinds of network traffic and helping researchers to more easily mimic real-life scenarios, which is useful for testing new ways to find and stop cyberattacks.

“By providing a comprehensive dataset that reflects real-world network conditions, we aim to empower researchers and practitioners in the information technology security field to develop more robust and resilient cybersecurity solutions, ultimately making the digital world safer for everyone,” says Ron Nevo, cPacket’s chief technology officer. 

The new dataset also includes detailed information about network traffic, which allows researchers to more closely analyze the data and develop methods that use artificial intelligence to detect and classify different types of network activity.

“This collaboration represents a significant advancement in cybersecurity,” says Lashkari. “By addressing the shortcomings of existing datasets and providing a comprehensive solution for studying DDoS attacks, this project could result in the deployment of more resilient cybersecurity systems across various sectors, safeguarding critical infrastructure, businesses and individuals from evolving cyber threats.”

For more information about cybersecurity datasets, visit the Behaviour-Centric Cybersecurity Center website.

York’s Institute for Technoscience & Society looks to shape public debate, policy

Institute for Technoscience & Society web page graphic cropped
Credit: Zoran Svilar

York University’s Institute for Technoscience & Society (ITS), established in 2022 as an Associated Research Centre of the new Connected Minds: Neural and Machine Systems for a Healthy, Just Society initiative, is on a mission to build a global hub focused on the complex relationship between technoscience – the scientific study of how humans interact with technology – and society. In particular, the institute is committed to unravelling the configuration of social power that underpins science, medicine, technology and innovation.

According to Professor Kean Birch, the inaugural director of ITS, the institute was established to cement York’s international standing and reputation in disciplines such as science and technology studies, communication and media studies, design, critical data studies, the history and philosophy of science, and other related fields in which York is a global leader. Aligned with the University’s Strategic Research Plan, especially when it comes to the topics of digital cultures and disruptive technologies, its members are actively engaged in research on the social, political, and economic implications of artificial intelligence (AI) and neuroscience.

Kean Birch
Kean Birch

Birch is enthusiastic about the future of research in this area: “We’re seeing a lot of interest in these topics,” he says, “especially in the societal implications of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and other digital technologies.”

He insists, however, the institute’s depth in expertise is not limited to those areas, extending into topics such as the history of science through games design, the global governance of biotechnology and pharmaceutical innovation.

To support this diversity of knowledge, ITS is organized into the following four research clusters to help create synergies and support collaboration:

  • Technoscientific Injustices, which deals with the implications of emerging technoscience, its impacts on different social groups, and how to create just and inclusive science and technologies;
  • Technoscientific Economies, which deals with the entanglement of science and with different economies, what kinds of innovation get promoted by which kinds of economy, and how to support responsible and inclusive innovation;
  • Technoscientific Pasts & Futures, which deals with how the future of science and technology is bound up with our pasts and how the past helps us to build hopeful visions of and policies for the future; and
  • Technoscientific Bodies & Minds, which deals with the societal implications of prevailing understandings of health risks, diseases, and health-care delivery, as well as how prevailing understandings reinforce social injustices, inequities and divisions.

The institute is making its impact known in Canadian debates about the role of science and technology in society. Recently, Birch was interviewed by the CBC about the U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit against Apple Inc. for antitrust violations; and his recent opinion pieces about personal data as a collective asset and the social costs of generative AI were published in the Globe and Mail.

ITS plans to continue on this trajectory through regular events and policy briefing papers, as well as interventions in public and policy debates.

“York is incredibly well-placed to make an important social, political, and economic impact when it comes to these issues,” explains Birch, “because of the institutional strength and expertise of faculty and early career researchers here.”

York research advances flood risk management with AI

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In a recently published paper, Rahma Khalid, a PhD candidate in the Civil Engineering Department at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering, and her supervisor, Associate Professor Usman Khan, proposed a promising new model for flood susceptibility mapping (FSM) that incorporates artificial intelligence (AI) machine learning (ML) methods.

Flood susceptibility mapping – the process of identifying potential flood-prone areas based on their physical characteristics – is a valuable technique used to identify areas that are vulnerable to flooding and inform risk mitigation and protection strategies. Unfortunately, conventional FSM methods rely on time-consuming physical and mathematical models that are also limited in their ability to predict flood risk across large regions.

Rahma Khalid
Rahma Khalid

“We have seen that physical and mathematical models can be very inconvenient for flood susceptibility mapping, especially when it comes to analyzing large areas,” says Khalid. “From a research perspective, we know that using machine learning can improve the speed and efficiency of different processes. This is why we proposed a flood susceptibility mapping model that is leveraged by machine learning for more accurate, rapid and reliable results.”

In their paper, titled “Flood susceptibility mapping using ANNs: a case study in model generalization and accuracy from Ontario, Canada,” Khalid and Khan document how they put their idea to the test and utilized an ML model to map out different regions in southern Ontario and determine their flood susceptibility.

Usman Khan
Usman Khan

They did so by using previously gathered data from different regions across southern Ontario, allowing the model to interpret, identify and predict areas that are at risk of flooding.

The model’s performance was also compared against conventional physical and mathematical models, as well as various emerging ML methods.

“When it comes to flood susceptibility mapping in real-world scenarios, machine learning models have not really been used,” says Khalid. “Industry members are also hesitant to apply these models because there is very little information about their accuracy and reliability.”

Khalid and Khan’s proposed model addressed limitations of other FSM models through training and testing that proved it to be a superior method for flood susceptibility mapping, outperforming other models. It even demonstrated novel capabilities that can help advance the future of flood risk management.

“Our model demonstrated a novel ability to accurately predict flood susceptibility, even across areas that we did not provide training data for,” says Khalid. “Knowing this, we can work towards training our model to understand more about different regions and further improve its ability to predict flood susceptibility in larger areas.”

Currently, Khalid and Khan are working on enhancing the performance of their model with a particular focus on improving data resolution, as well exploring the possibility of supplementing their model with additional ML methods.

Teaching Commons explores novel professional development approach

diverse group of women around conference table

By Elaine Smith

In its ongoing effort to remain at the forefront of pedagogy, York University’s Teaching Commons (TC) is testing a novel approach to in-person professional development workshops that allows for a more relaxing, enjoyable and informative experience.

On March 27, TC will host Teaching & Learning Day, which will offer a series of workshops exploring some of the leading subjects in pedagogy – including artificial intelligence (AI) and experiential education.

The sessions share no common theme and will look at – among other things – how educators can create teaching strategies to support students in becoming informed about generative AI, how to help students benefit from opportunities for critical reflection while engaging in experiential education activities, and how well-being of both students and instructors can be integrated into teaching experiences.

What TC is hoping to achieve with the initiative is a morning of in-person professional development experiences that are more informal than might be the norm. In particular, the aim is to have Teaching & Learning Day not only advance understanding and discussions about pedagogy but to also facilitate conversations and connections among its attendees.

“The workshops are being facilitated by our educational developers, but the wisdom sharing among participants is where a lot of the deeper learning can happen,” said Mandy Frake-Mistak, interim director of the Teaching Commons.

Promoting those opportunities for inter-colleague conversation and learning is a major reason TC wanted to host its professional workshops all at once as a series.

“It’s often tough for people to find time and space in their day for workshops, and if they’re working off campus, they may not want to commute for a 1.5-hour workshop,” said Frake-Mistak. “If we hold a series at once, it allows people to stay for one or stay for all of them.”

Matthew Dunleavy, the educational developer who first proposed the event, says York has always been a commuter campus where people come and go. By bringing people together in person, he hopes they’ll have the opportunity to connect with colleagues and have unexpected conversations with unfamiliar people.

“I’m a big proponent of all the things that happen in liminal spaces around formal offerings,” Dunleavy said. “Here, conversations can bleed into the hallways, just because people are together for a longer event. In spaces for transition, conversations happen and new ideas might emerge or cross-pollination might result.”

The workshops will take place in the Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Building, and their titles and details are as follows:

For more information about the Teaching Commons and its initiatives, visit their website.

Connected Minds awards inaugural seed grants

connected minds banner

As part of its mission to further socially conscious emerging technologies, Connected Minds: Neural and Machine Systems for a Healthy, Just Society has issued its inaugural round of seed grants to projects overseen by professors at York University and partner Queen’s University.

In an era where artificial intelligence (AI) and technology profoundly shape society, guiding these advancements towards a healthier, more equitable future is crucial.

In that spirit, Connected Minds has now funded six projects spanning diverse research areas, goals and themes, to foster innovative research for societal good. 

The seed funding is part of the $105.7 million York University, in partnership with Queen’s University, received from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, and it looks to further collaborative, transdisciplinary and exploratory research.

Connected Minds is especially committed to inclusivity, equity and community-centred research, reserving at least 20 per cent of its funding awards for Indigenous-led or community-guided projects – something that is reflected in its inaugural round of seed funding.

The York University recipients, and their projects, are:

Rebecca Caines, professor, School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design

Rebecca Caines
Rebecca Caines

Caines’ project ­– titled “Towards Socially-Responsible ‘Transfer Learning’: Connecting Artists, Engineers, Neuroscientists and their Partners through Interdisciplinary Knowledge Mobilization” – will look at interdisciplinary collaboration. The project will build on Caines’ existing work, which often investigates the role of art and technology in social justice. It will consider how diverse knowledge bases – across disciplines – can help address societal changes through an emphasis on co-creation, ethical learning transfer and global collaboration. The research aims especially to foster inclusivity and collaboration with equity-deserving groups, particularly Indigenous communities.

Joseph DeSouza, professor, Faculty of Health

Joseph Desouza
Joseph DeSouza

DeSouza’s funded project, “The Intergenerational Healing Power of nêhiyawêwin (the Cree language),” will integrate Indigenous knowledge with neuroscience. Partnering with the organization the nêhiyawak language experience, it will explore what positive impact on holistic health can be observed in individuals who re/learn the Cree language on holistic health. In the process, the research aims to revitalize nêhiyawêwin, restore treaty obligations and foster healing within the nêhiyawak nation.

Michael Kalu, professor, Faculty of Health

Michael Kalu
Michael Kalu

Titled “Bridging Mobility Gaps: Co-designing Culturally Appropriate Mobility AI-Powered Wearable (CAMAiW) Tool for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Older Adults,” Kalu’s initiative aims to advance inclusive wearable devices. The project’s goal is to integrate speed, distance, location tracking and other health/social monitoring features within a single tool. With a commitment to inclusivity and socially ethical technologies, the project will iteratively work with BIPOC communities to co-create and test the device.

Terry Sachlos, professor, Lassonde School of Engineering

Terry Sachlos
Terry Sachlos

Sachlos’s inclusive initiative is titled “Increasing African, Caribbean, and Black Donor Representation in the Canadian Bone Marrow Stem Cell Registry through Community Engagement and Co-creation of Tissue Engineered Bone Marrow to Mitigate Critical Stem Cell Transplant Shortages.” It aims to engage with relevant community organizations and implement innovative biotechnology strategies to help dismantle barriers to health-care access and foster inclusivity towards a more equitable health-care system with a more representative bone marrow stem cell registry.

The Queen’s University recipients, and their projects, are:

Matthew Pan, professor, Faculty of Engineering & Applied Science at Queen’s University

Matthew Pan
Matthew Pan

Pan’s project, “Meta-Physical Theatre: Designing ‘Physical’ Interactions in ‘Virtual’ Reality Live Performances,” looks to enhance virtual reality experiences by integrating physical touch interactions through robotics and smart textiles, aiming to amplify immersivity.

Committed to equity and diversity, the team collaborates with arts organizations focused on racialization to foster inclusivity and develop best practices for cross-cultural sensitivity in virtual interactions.

Qingguo Li, professor, Faculty of Engineering & Applied Science at Queen’s University

Qingguo Li
Qingguo Li

Targeting health-care staff, Li’s project – “Exo-Sensory Augmentation to Reduce Musculoskeletal Injury Risk in Clinical Settings” – aims to mitigate injury risks, enhancing sensory awareness to improve task performance and prevent injuries. With inclusivity as a priority, the project endeavours to develop accessible wearable technology for clinicians of all backgrounds.

The announcement of Connected Minds’ inaugural seed funding marks the latest instance of the project’s ongoing progress throughout its first year – and beyond – which has included onboarding 14 research-enhanced hires, conferences and events, and new leadership with Pina D’Agostino.

York University’s Centre for AI & Society is pioneering research for a connected future

Graphic of artificial intelligence and society

In a bid to spearhead socially conscious artificial intelligence (AI) initiatives, the Centre for AI & Society (CAIS) aims to bridge the gap between technological advancements and societal needs.

“CAIS is one of the founding organized research units of Connected Minds, which unites research on neuroscience, AI and technology to foster a healthy and just society,” says Professor James Elder, the York Research Chair in Human and Computer Vision, who co-heads CAIS. “It is particularly important in generating novel and beneficial technologies that will improve quality of life in Canada and elsewhere, but also in understanding how these disruptive technologies can best be integrated into society in order to minimize risk and maximize benefit for all.”

The centre combines various disciplines, including behavioural and neuroscience studies, computational modelling, statistical analysis and computer vision design. The objective is to not only advance fundamental perception science and AI but also hold implications for urban mobility, social robotics and sports analytics.

The origins of CAIS sprung from York University’s strategic vision, outlined in its 2018–2023 Strategic Research Plan, which identified AI integration into society as a crucial area for development. To make that happen, Elder collaborated with Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Pina D’Agostino to form and lead a task force to evaluate York’s AI landscape and chart a course for future research development.

Their findings, published in the report “Fostering the Future of Artificial Intelligence,” laid the groundwork for CAIS, which officially launched in July 2022, uniting faculty members from diverse backgrounds and Faculties.

Guided by Elder and D’Agostino, CAIS’s mission extends beyond academic discourse. The centre aims to foster a sense of community among researchers engaged in AI and society studies while promoting dialogue through lectures and conferences on critical issues such as technology and democracy, and disability considerations in AI. Most recently, it co-organized the latest iteration of the Bracing for Impact conference, in addition to the latest entry of its monthly CAIS talk series.

Looking ahead, CAIS recently announced its inaugural advisory board and intends to expand its seminar series while hosting additional conferences, and involving more trainees, including graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

These efforts and more align with York University’s broader institutional goals under the interdisciplinary, $318.4-million Connected Minds initiative, which is currently investigating how emerging technologies, such as AI, are impacting and transforming society.

As AI continues to evolve at a rapid pace, CAIS remains committed to driving innovation while ensuring responsible AI deployment. By fostering collaboration, dialogue and cutting-edge research, the centre aims to shape a future where AI serves as a force for positive societal change.

Adds Elder, “Our systems approach places emphasis on how AI technologies operate when embedded in real-world contexts, interacting with humans and other technologies. Our research focuses on AI systems that address societal priorities in health care, smart cities and sustainability, and that are fair, explainable, reliable and trusted.”

Centre for AI & Society announces inaugural advisory board

Graphic of artificial intelligence and society

York University’s Centre for AI & Society (CAIS) unites York researchers who are collectively advancing the quickly evolving, impossible-to-ignore world of artificial intelligence (AI), with a particular focus on AI systems that address societal priorities in health care, smart cities and sustainability.

To help guide their groundbreaking work, CAIS co-directors Pina D’Agostino and James Elder have established the centre’s inaugural advisory board and named its members, who will generously donate their time and expertise to help CAIS conduct research that aims to improve lives and lead to a healthier and more just society.

“The members of the inaugural CAIS Advisory Board are leaders in Canada’s broad AI & Society community, with deep experience in the technological, entrepreneurial, legal and governance foundations of AI, as well as key application areas of health, mobility and sustainability,” says Elder. “CAIS is very fortunate to have their support.”

Members of the inaugural CAIS Advisory Board (listed alphabetically by last name) include:

  • Johanne Bélisle, innovation policy advisor, formerly at World Intellectual Property Organization and former CEO of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office;
  • Casey Chisick, partner and Chair of intellectual property and entertainment, media and sports law at Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP;
  • Sven Dickinson, vice-president/head of Samsung AI Research Center and professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto;
  • Konstantinos Georgaras, commissioner of patents, registrar of trademarks and CEO of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office;
  • Uma Gopinath, chief information officer at Metrolinx;
  • Nadine Letson, head of corporate, external and legal affairs at Microsoft Canada;
  • Aaron Rezaei, CEO at STIM Canada Inc. and general partner of Archangel Network of Funds;
  • Allison Sekuler, Sandra A Rotman Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience at the Rotman Research Institute; president and chief scientist at the Baycrest Academy for Research and Education; president and chief scientist at the Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation; professor of psychology at the University of Toronto; and professor emeritus in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour at McMaster University;
  • Altaf Stationwala, president and CEO of Mackenzie Health;
  • Elissa Strome, executive director of pan-Canadian AI strategy at CIFAR;
  • Graham Taylor, faculty member and Canada CIFAR AI Chair at the Vector Institute for AI; academic director of Next AI; professor and Canada Research Chair at the School of Engineering at the University of Guelph; and
  • Julia Zhu, executive vice-president and chief digital and innovation officer of Alectra Utilities.

“I am so excited that we have assembled a stellar inaugural advisory board as we launch CAIS,” says D’Agostino. “With their guidance, CAIS is certain to lead in tackling the AI challenges we now face, and to play a constructive role in helping to shape the future of our society.”

To learn more about the centre, its members, and upcoming conferences and seminars, visit the CAIS website.

York hosts conference examining impact of AI on law

Update: New information after publication of this article indicates the March 13 conference will now be held online only.

Leading legal thinkers from York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School and beyond will gather to assess the seismic impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the law during a special conference on March 13 sponsored by the Osgoode-based Jack & Mae Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime & Security.

All York community members are welcome to attend the hybrid event, titled Artificial Intelligence and the Law: New Challenges and Possibilities for Fundamental Human Rights and Security, which will take place both online and in person in 014 Helliwell Centre on York’s Keele Campus from noon to 6:15 p.m.

Trevor Farrow
Trevor Farrow

“I am delighted that this incredibly important discussion is being hosted at Osgoode Hall Law School,” said Osgoode Dean Trevor Farrow.

“Academics, lawyers, policymakers and the public are already heavily influenced by and reliant upon AI,” he added. “Osgoode very much sees itself at the centre of these discussions and innovations.”

By bringing together researchers with AI expertise across various fields of practice, conference speakers and attendees can engage with larger questions about law’s role in the regulation of emerging technologies, legal neutrality, ethics and professional responsibility, said Carys Craig, associate dean of research and institutional relations, who will speak on AI and copyright.

Carys Craig
Carys Craig

“I’m very excited about this conference,” she said. “Osgoode is known for its thought leadership and critical, interdisciplinary thinking, which is exactly what is needed as Canada grapples with the rapid acceleration of AI across almost every facet of society.”

The featured speakers will also include Professor Barnali Choudhury, director of the Nathanson Centre.

“Although AI offers numerous opportunities to society, it also poses risks, particularly in relation to human rights and security,” Choudhury noted. “Lawyers should be well versed in these risks to ensure that AI use aligns with legal standards.”

 Barnali Choudhury
Barnali Choudhury

The conference’s comprehensive examination of artificial intelligence will include the growing use of generative AI, which powers tools like ChatGPT, said Professor Valerio De Stefano, a co-organizer of the event and a panellist who will address today’s challenging issues around AI and work. 

“The law will have to react to a lot of the challenges that arise from artificial intelligence in order for society to thrive on the opportunities that AI offers,” he noted.

De Stefano said that almost no area of the law will be left untouched, including criminal, copyright, labour and tax law. Conference speakers will also dig into the implications of AI for legal ethics, practice and education.

Valerio De Stefano
Valerio De Stefano

“It’s extremely important that lawyers, both academics and practitioners, start discussing how to react to all these new things that are coming out of the AI landscape – and this is the opportunity to do that,” he added. “There’s a lot of people at Osgoode that do top-notch, groundbreaking research on law and technology.”

Other speakers will include Professor Jonathon Penney, who will examine whether AI safety standards are really safe, and Professor Allan Hutchinson, who will discuss AI and law’s multiplicity. Rounding out the list of Osgoode experts are Professor Sean Rehaag, PhD student Alexandra Scott and Osgoode PhD alumnus Jake Okechukwu Effoduh, now a law professor at Toronto Metropolitan University.

In the afternoon, De Stefano will chair a roundtable discussion on AI, due process and legal ethics. Panellists will include: Dean Farrow; Professor Patricia McMahon; Professor Richard Haigh; Glenn Stuart, the executive director of professional regulation for the Law Society of Ontario; and Professor Amy Salyzyn of the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law.

Registration is required. For more information about the event, email nathansoncentre@osgoode.yorku.ca and copy vdestefano@osgoode.yorku.ca.

York entrepreneurs recognized by award, prime minister

BEA Demo Day image BANNER

York University alumni Yemi Ifegbuyi (BA ’10) and Zainab Williams (BA ’07) are among the top three Black entrepreneurs named the winners of a startup pitch competition hosted by the Black Entrepreneurship Alliance (BEA) founded by the Black Creek Community Health Centre in partnership with York University’s YSpace.

The competition, the inaugural BEA Investment Bootcamp Demo Day, is the final assignment of a four-month program run in partnership with YSpace for early-stage and capital-ready, Black-led startups.

The Investment Bootcamp program is aimed at supporting Black-led tech startups with training, mentorship and fundraising insights to secure early capital. With a community-driven approach, the program offers curated content and resources to support entrepreneurs through educational workshops, one-on-one coaching and peer founder circles, which provides a safe and open space for founders to connect and receive support.

The nine startup finalists in the BEA Investment Bootcamp program
The nine startup finalists in the BEA Investment Bootcamp program.

Applicants to the competition were narrowed down from the 17 Black entrepreneurs who participated in the program to nine finalists who pitched their businesses to a live audience at an event on Feb. 1 celebrating Black excellence.

The Demo Day event, which also marked the start of Black History Month, was attended by a number of government officials, including Filomena Tassi, the minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. Judy Sgro, member of Parliament for Humber River – Black Creek, was also in attendance and was impressed by the entrepreneurs. “Witnessing the dedication and leadership of these young entrepreneurs has not only inspired me, but it reaffirms my belief in the incredible potential of our community’s future leaders,” she says.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with first place winner Yemi Ifegbuyi
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who met finalists at a special event before the awards were announced, with first-place winner Yemi Ifegbuyi.

First-place winner Ifegbuyi will receive $5,000 toward his business, Cozii Technologies, an artificial intelligence-driven property management platform tailored to multi-unit landlords. Ifegbuyi immigrated from Nigeria about 15 years ago and received his degree in international development and urban studies at York as well as a master’s degree in entrepreneurship and innovation. As a founder known for his entrepreneurial drive, Ifegbuyi is excited for the future as his business continues to grow.

“This fund will be channelled into our sales and marketing endeavours, with the goal of reaching and serving more small- and medium-scale rental property owners and managers,” he says. “It’s not just a cash prize. It’s an investment in Cozii Technologies’ vision to revolutionize the way we approach property management.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with second place winner Zainab Williams
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with second-place winner Zainab Williams.

Second-place winner Williams, the founder of Fundevolve Inc., a pioneering platform dedicated to empowering women in their financial journey, will receive $3,000 to further her company. Williams developed her passion for business while studying business administration and management at York. Born out of an investment gone wrong, Williams became an independent financial planner and was determined to empower individuals to make the right financial decisions. Her business is quickly building momentum as she works to further develop the web-based platform and equip women with the tools to take control of their financials.

“We plan to use the prize winnings for testing before launching our platform,” says Williams. “This investment in security ensures not only our project’s safety but also our users’ trust.”

Both Ifegbuyi and Williams cite the boot camp’s collaborative spirit as a contributor to their startup’s success. “Participating in the program has been a transformative journey,” says Ifegbuyi. “The unwavering support and mentorship we received are catalysts for long-term growth.”

Special guest Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also attended a private event – where York President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton was also present – held before the awards to meet the finalists and learn more about their businesses.

“Meeting Justin Trudeau was a great honour and opportunity,” says Ifegbuyi. “It symbolized the recognition of our hard work and the federal government commitment to supporting the Black entrepreneurial community. It’s a reminder that our efforts are making an impact, and it inspires us to continue pushing boundaries and striving for excellence in everything we do.”

Both BEA and YSpace offer several innovative programs and events for entrepreneurs at all stages, including curated programming dedicated to under-represented groups like Black entrepreneurs and women founders.

To learn more about this partnership, visit BEA’s website at YSpace.

Connected Minds: one year later

connected minds banner

Since Connected Minds: Neural and Machine Systems for a Healthy, Just Society launched in spring 2023, the $318.4-million project has already achieved several milestones pushing forward the project – and York University – as a leader in socially responsible emerging technology.

It’s been nearly a year since President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton and Vice-President Research and Innovation Amir Asif announced that Connected Minds had received $105.7 million from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF), the “largest single federal grant ever awarded to York.”

The cutting-edge program aims to bring together experts across eight York Faculties and three Queen’s Faculties to examine the ways in which technology is transforming society – dubbed the “techno-social collective” – and will work to balance both the potential risks and benefits for humanity. Some of the program’s proposed projects include explorations into a more inclusive metaverse, virtual reality and community organizing, neurotechnologies for healthy aging, Indigenous data sovereignty and how human brain function changes when people interact with artificial intelligence (AI) versus each other.

Doug Crawford
Doug Crawford

Since the funding announcements in early 2023, Connected Minds – the biggest York-led research project in the University’s history – has been busy. “As founding scientific director, it’s incredibly gratifying see the progress we have made this first year, thanks to the very hard work of our leadership team, dedicated staff and the support of our board of directors,” says Doug Crawford, who is also a Distinguished Research Professor and Canada Research Chair in visuomotor neuroscience.

In addition to seed grants and PhD awards given out, over the past 12 months, Connected Minds has expanded its roster of experts by onboarding 14 research-enhanced hires across York University and institutional partner Queen’s University. The new additions are part of the program’s efforts to attract and retain the best talent, as well as a fulfillment of its commitment to add 35 strategic faculty hires, research Chairs or equivalent levels of support to its interdisciplinary research ecosystem. The new Connected Minds members will benefit from support that includes $100,000 in startup research funding, salary top-up and/or teaching release, and a research allowance of $25,000 per year.

Connected Minds’ progress was also successfully commended by the Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat – which administers the Canada First Research Excellence Fund – during a site visit showcasing the various research units affiliated with the program, and the progress its made.

To further demonstrate the program’s – and York University’s – leadership in socially responsible technology, Connected Minds has also been organizing events, like the Introductory Meeting on Law and Neuroscience in Canada, which united experts from Canada and the United States for in-depth discussions on socially responsible research at the intersection of law and neuroscience at the renowned Monk School of Global Affairs in Toronto.

Giuseppina (Pina) D'Agostino
Giuseppina (Pina) D’Agostino

Connect Minds will also shortly host an event marking the culmination of its inaugural year: the Connected Minds Annual Research Retreat on Feb. 22 and 23. The retreat will unite members across diverse disciplines – including arts, science, health, law and more – to collectively shape the future of socially responsible technology. The goal is to help provide networking opportunities for members to get to know each other better and form the teams that will apply to grants and achieve the program’s long-term goals. It aims to do so through information sessions, active participation in shaping Connected Minds’ Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) action plan, and connect with our research-enhanced hires, who will be delivering big-idea talks during the retreat.

The retreat will also mark another notable milestone: a transition in leadership. Crawford will be succeeded by Professor Pina D’Agostino, founder and former director of IP Osgoode and co-director of the Centre for Artificial Intelligence & Society, where her expertise is frequently sought by government bodies to address the evolving intersection of AI and the law. Now, it will be applied to leading Connected Minds into what will promise to be another year of accomplishments.

“I am thrilled to be taking the program to the next level by building on the strong foundation we now have and engaging with all of our incredible partners and communities to work towards our goals of a healthy and just society,” says D’Agostino, looking ahead to how Connected Minds will continue to thrive and make contributions to interdisciplinary research.