Three faculty members to receive honorific professorships

Tossing colorful paper confetti from the hands of young people.

York University will honour three esteemed faculty members during 2024 Spring Convocation with Distinguished Research Professor and University Professor recognitions.

Distinguished Research Professor is a designation reflecting a member of faculty who has made outstanding contributions to the York U community through research and whose work is recognized within and outside of the University.

A University Professor is a member of faculty recognized for extraordinary contributions to scholarship and teaching, as well participation in university life.

This year’s winners are:

Distinguished Research Professor

Roger Keil, Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change

Roger Keil
Roger Keil

Professor Keil’s research and teaching has focused on health in cities and suburbs, societal relationships with nature and how people govern themselves. His most extensive contributions have been in the fields of urban political ecology, global suburbanization, as well as cities and infectious disease. Recently, he has demonstrated research leadership in studying the ongoing impact of COVID-19.

At York U, Keil has occupied several important roles, including founding director of York University’s City Institute (made up of interdisciplinary urban scholars) and York Research Chair in Global Sub/Urban Studies.

Throughout his career, Keil has published over 10 books and 150 articles, in addition to overseeing others’ work as editor of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, a premier journal in his field. He has also earned several awards, including being named a Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and receiving a York University President’s Research Excellence Award.

“I am extremely honoured to receive this prestigious award,” says Keil. “I am fortunate to have worked alongside supportive colleagues and brilliant students at the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change and the City Institute.”

Distinguished Research Professor

Leah Vosko, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies

Leah Vosko
Leah Vosko

A professor and Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in the Political Economy of Gender and Work, Vosko has become a leader in the study of gender and politics, citizenship, migration and labour markets. Her research has a frequent focus on part-time, seasonal and contract workers, and the question, “What can be done to mitigate labour market insecurity?”

An author and editor of numerous scholarly books, volumes and articles, her work has been driven by the aim of protecting precarious workers by shaping better policies and understanding around the labour market.

For those efforts, Vosko has received several prestigious recognitions, including the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada’s Impact Award (Insight Category), an election to the Royal Society of Canada, a Fulbright Fellowship, the Charles Taylor Prize for Excellence in Policy Research and a Premier’s Research Excellence Award.

“I feel extremely fortunate to have received this recognition and to have spent so much of my career in the highly collaborative and critical interdisciplinary environment at York,” says Vosko.

University Professorship

Aleksander Czekanski, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Aleksander Czekanski
Aleksander Czekanski

Since joining York University in 2014, Czekanski has specialized in cutting-edge engineering principles, including additive manufacturing, bioprinting and soft tissue mechanics, with applications ranging from biomedical science to materials manufacturing. His research has been awarded more than $10 million in external grants as a principal or co-applicant.

In addition to holding the role of Natural Sciences & Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Chair in Design Engineering, Czekanski has filled several roles at Lassonde and the University, in particular as founder or co-founder of: the Integrated Design & Engineering Analysis Laboratory, which supports high-calibre research, student learning experiences and the development of innovative engineering solutions; the Additive Manufacturing in Engineering Design & Global Entrepreneurship program, which provides students with technical and entrepreneurial training as part of the NSERC Collaborative Research & Training Experience; and the Manufacturing, Technology & Entrepreneurship Centre, which aims to bring innovative technologies to market.

Over the past decade, Czekanski has received awards recognizing his excellence in teaching and research, including the President’s University-Wide Teaching Award, the Lassonde Innovation Award – Established Researcher, the Engineering Medal for Engineering Excellence in Industry from the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers, as well as multiple industry fellowships. He has also served on the board of directors of the Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering and is currently its president.

“Receiving this University Professorship is both an honour and a profound responsibility. It signifies recognition by peers and the academic community for my contributions to scholarship, education and community engagement, and it catalyzes my commitment to continue pushing the boundaries of knowledge and pedagogy,” he says. “As I embrace this role, I am inspired to further cultivate a legacy of intellectual curiosity and academic excellence that extends beyond the classroom, impacting our community and the broader world.”

For a full list of ceremonies, visit the Convocation website.

Barbara Neis urges graduands to embrace change

Barbara Neis convocation Glendon BANNER

During the June 7 convocation for York University’s Glendon College, award-winning researcher and social scientist Barbara Neis received an honorary degree and shared stories from her studies, career and life.

When University Secretariat Pascal Robichaud introduced Neis, she noted that the social scientist is “one of Glendon College’s most inspired and inspiring early graduates,” and can count herself as a member of the Order of Canada, a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Once Neis began addressing graduands, however, she recounted that before she was any of those things, she was a young student from a family farm in northern Ontario, arriving at Glendon College and experiencing urban and academic life for the first time.

As she pursued a joint undergraduate degree in sociology and psychology, Neis was introduced to disciplines and streams of thought she didn’t even know existed. The researcher admitted to graduands in her address that she was initially overwhelmed by the breadth of thinking she was exposed to, and how exactly to integrate any of into her life, career and academic pursuits. She worried about becoming a jack of all trades and master of none. “I was struggling with whether I could acquire even minimum expertise in philosophy, the humanities, sociology, psychology,” she said.

Kathleen Taylor, Barbara Neiss, Rhonda Lenton
Pictured, from left to right: Chancellor Kathleen Taylor, Barbara Neis and President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton

In time, however, an approach became clear to her. “I learned that I did not need to be an expert in everything,” she said. “It was enough to be able to read and respectfully engage with researchers in other disciplines who had a shared interest in answering relevant and important questions that could not be answered by drawing on the resources of a single discipline.”

That realization became the interdisciplinary bedrock of her career as a researcher and social scientist who has participated in research projects that total at least $150 million and whose work has been published in more than 120 books, book chapters, journal articles and working papers. It led to work promoting a greater understanding of the interactions between work environment, health and communities – especially within marine and coastal contexts.

Neis focused on the latter, especially while speaking to the graduands, recalling how that work began somewhat unexpectedly with a kitchen conversation in a home on the East Coast that she was visiting. There, she was told about trawlermen who were being severely injured as they tried to fish in ice in vessels not designed for that purpose. Neis wanted to know why, and in the process of getting answers developed an approach that would serve her well in understanding the roots of circumstances she wanted to research.

“The best way I’ve found to understand these forces is by starting with their lived experience and then using the resources available to researchers to work backwards to disentangle the various threads [that cause them],” she said.

In the case of the trawlermen, the source of the challenges they faced became clear. “I soon realized that for fishermen and others, the forces that threaten their lives, livelihoods and communities frequently come from the ways environmental, institutional, policy and other processes intersect to affect what they do and how they do it,” she said.

It became important to Neis then – and moving forward – to keep the people in mind while conducting her research. “It led me to begin designing my research, assessing the findings and developing related recommendations for change in collaboration with those who must, in the end, live with the results.”

She would go on to approach her other work with that same type of thinking – notably, her research around the collapse of the Atlantic cod stocks in the 1990s. As Robichaud noted in his introduction, that work “made [Neis’s] reputation as a research activist … [and] … led to significant social change.”

Neis credits the success of that project to remembering the personal, and listening to lived experiences when doing research. “I was privileged to work with a team of social and natural scientists, interviewing Trinity Bay fishermen about their intimate knowledge of life under and on the water,” she said. “Their collective observations, from headland to the bottom of the bay and across generations, helped us document the insights underlying their prescient questioning of the overly optimistic scientific assessments that contributed to the collapse.”

That experience – which she noted proudly was some of the earliest research globally on commercial fisheries, ecological knowledge and science – gave her the tools to “lead interdisciplinary programs of research that sought to explore key knowledge gaps at the boundaries not only between the social sciences but also between the social, natural and health sciences.

Neis shared that her interest in the interdisciplinary also extends beyond the academic. She recalled that after moving on from an early love of creative pursuits, when she later in life moved to Newfoundland, she had access to a vibrant artistic community that was both socially and politically engaged. There, she began collaborating with that community to create projects that address climate change in the coastal regions. “These effects are already part of the lived experience of those living on islands and along coasts – including, particularly, in the Arctic. Our objective … is to explore how to use the arts to emotionally engage new audiences and empower essential movements for social change,” she said.

It is perhaps no surprise, given her career built on being open to unexpected sources of direction, that Neis shared a critical piece of advice drawn from her experiences – many of which she had never anticipated. “This reminds us how important it is to look for opportunities and to embrace change that takes us outside of our comfort zone,” she told the graduands, summing up both her own life and inspiring the ones ahead for those graduating.  

Student receives 2024 Bergeron Medal

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Each year, the Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science & Technology (BEST) program at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering awards the Bergeron Medal to top graduating students, recognizing their outstanding entrepreneurial achievements throughout their time at the school. This year, Reza Mirhadi was honoured with the award.

A top mechanical engineering student who consistently placed in the top 10 per cent of students on the Dean’s Honour Roll list and was named a Lassonde Scholar, Mirhadi received the Bergeron Medal in recognition of his exceptional entrepreneurial achievements. During his time at Lassonde, he completed the BEST Certificate in Technology Entrepreneurship and won the BEST Technology Impact Award – which honours inventiveness in addressing societal issues – for a modular smart home project. He also excelled at a range of startup pitch competitions, including the BEST Startup Experience and the York Engineering Competition.

In addition to his entrepreneurial success, Mirhadi proved himself in leadership roles, contributing as a mentor and moderator in BEST Experiential Education activities – including UNHack – and representing Lassonde in the 2022-2023 Impact Report. He served, too, as the academic advocacy director for the Lassonde Engineering Society.

Beyond the walls of York University, Mirhadi’s professional achievements include a research and development role at Hatch – a company that supplies engineering and construction consultation to the mining, metallurgical, energy and infrastructure sectors ­– where he led presentations for over 350 people. He also worked as a project manager and mechanical designer at AFA Systems, a packaging automation systems company, where he completed four projects. Mirhadi’s own entrepreneurial venture, Simple Swim School, has received support from the Vaughan Summer Company Program.

For more information, visit the Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science & Technology program website.

Three professors receive SSHRC Partnership Development Grants

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Social sciences and humanities research at York University has received a boost of more than half a million dollars from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), awarding Partnership Development Grants to three researchers in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS).

The latest round of Partnership Development Grant funding supports short-term partnerships (one to three years) between research teams from post-secondary institutions and organizations in the public, private or not-for-profit sectors.

“York University is grateful for SSHRC’s investment in our outstanding faculty and their mission to create positive change through community-engaged research,” said Amir Asif, vice-president research and innovation. “As an institution that excels in social sciences and humanities research, these three York-led projects exemplify our commitment to research excellence driven by impact and rooted in meaningful collaboration with our partners.”

Through their combined efforts, the research teams develop projects in the social sciences and humanities or design and test new partnership approaches for research and related activities, including knowledge mobilization.

The York U recipients include:

Annie Bunting
Annie Bunting

Annie Bunting, a professor in the Law & Society program in LA&PS, for a project titled “Youth-led initiatives for gender justice and peacebuilding,” which received $199,850. The project will bring together researchers, filmmakers, artists and others to study the long-lasting impacts of violence on youth, aged 15 to 29, in places affected by war and conflict. The project looks to gain a deeper understanding of how young people cope in such situations and involves multiple collaborating partners, with groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Kenya.

Marcello Musto
Marcello Musto

Marcello Musto, a professor in the Department of Sociology in LA&PS, for a project titled “War and the Left: A Global History,” which received the maximum $200,000. The project will examine how left-wing political forces and theorists have responded to war, deepening understanding of the intellectual and political history of numerous progressive social movements and political parties around the world. It aims to be the most comprehensive study of the topic to date and involves researchers from York University, five archives, six research-focused organizations and two museums, from eleven countries across four continents.

Jose Miguel Gonzalez Perez
Miguel González

Miguel González, an assistant professor in the Department of Social Science in LA&PS, for a project titled “Emancipatory Horizons for Self-determination of Indigenous and Afro-descendant Peoples in Central America,” which received $199,840. The project will gain insights into the struggles and strategies of these peoples to protect their land, rights and way of life. It will promote the political and legal efforts of civil society organizations to advocate for autonomous self-governance and will involve a dozen Indigenous and Afro-descendant groups in Costa Rica, Panama and the San Andrés archipelago.

The three York-led projects were among 75 projects across Canada to receive the new funding. A full list of the Partnership Development Grant recipients can be found on the SSHRC website.

Four PhD students awarded Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships

Gold trophy, stars and confetti on a yellow background

Four PhD students from York University are recipients of this year’s prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships. The award, presented by the Government of Canada, supports first-rate doctoral students who undertake graduate studies in the fields of social sciences and humanities, natural sciences and/or engineering, and health. The aim of the program is to attract and retain world-class doctoral students by supporting those who demonstrate both leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement in graduate studies.

Candidates are evaluated based on three equally weighted selection criteria: academic excellence, research potential and leadership. All four York University recipients will be awarded $50,000 annually for up to three years to support their research projects.

Through their research projects, this year’s recipients have proposed innovative solutions to challenging problems, which can lead to positive change locally, globally and beyond.

Grace Bischof, physics and astronomy

Grace Bischof
Grace Bischof

Bischof’s research project, titled “Characterizing Inter-Crater Dust Dynamics in Gale Crater, Mars in Preparation of Human Exploration,” looks at the importance of understanding the dust cycle on Mars as crucial for the future of human-led missions, where dust storms pose a distinct threat to humans on the Martian surface. The opacity of dust in the Martian atmosphere has been studied for several years using images taken in Gale crater by the Curiosity rover; however, these images are severely limited in time and space. Bischof’s work uses a newly designed Curiosity rover observation that captures a larger area of the crater and can be employed throughout a Martian day.

“Capturing these data throughout dust storms will give additional insight into the dust lifting and deposition occurring, shining light onto these elusive storms,” says Bischof. “This work will help us to understand how dust transports in the atmosphere both spatially and temporally, allowing us to better predict atmospheric phenomena and ensure human-led missions are accomplished safely.”

Roberta da Silva Medina, socio-legal studies

Roberta da Silva Medina
Roberta da Silva Medina

Da Silva Medina’s research project, titled “Vertical Surveillance: Urban Police Use of Drone Technology in Brazil and Canada,” delves into police surveillance practices in urban settings, focusing on Greater São Paulo in Brazil and the Greater Toronto Area in Canada. Despite the differences in police cultures and institutional landscapes, both regions have integrated military-originated drone technology for urban surveillance. In Brazil, where police forces are militarized, and in Canada, where they are not, this technology has found its place in law enforcement practices.

“I aim to explore the rationale and processes behind this adoption, drawing upon surveillance studies, Brazilian critical theory and critical race theory,” says da Silva Medina. “My research methods involve collecting data, participatory observation police-surveillance industry events, and engaging with police departments and civil liberties advocates in both regions through interviews.”

Joshua Lamers, law

Joshua Lamers
Joshua Lamers

Lamers (he/they) is a Black, queer, gender non-conforming, disabled, mad, child welfare survivor and family policing abolitionist. Lamers is a poet, dancer, writer, and educator in the areas of law and social work, centring the intersections of Blackness, disability and madness, child welfare survivorship, queerness and transness.

Their doctoral autoethnographic research, titled “The Golden Ticket? Black Child Welfare Survivors, Racial Displacement Through Adoption & the End of Family Policing Systems,” focuses on the question of whether the experiences and outcomes of the legal adoption of Black children into white families reflect the paramount purpose of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017, with respect to promoting child’s the best interests, protection and well-being.

“It is my hope that with this research we can collectively trouble the notion that the legal adoption of Black children into white families is necessarily a form of exit from the violences of state child protection systems and a ‘golden-ticket’ toward protection and the nurturance of well-being,” says Lamers.

Romeo Joe Quintero, geography

Romeo Joe Quintero
Romeo Joe Quintero

Quintero’s doctoral project, titled “Building Liveable Futures in Camps: Everyday Placemaking Practices of Internally Displaced Women in the Southern Philippines,” will examine the experiences of those living in resettlement and transitory sites for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the areas of the southern Philippines affected by armed conflicts. He will travel to the southern Philippines in the summer of this year to conduct 12 months of ethnographic research to understand how IDPs construct their livelihoods, homes and sense of belonging through collective action.

“My work will draw critical connections with broader ideas of carceral and abolition geographies to offer capacious understanding of resettlement sites as more than just spaces of confinement and control but also places of rebuilding and reimagining,” says Quintero.

To learn more about the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships, visit the Faculty of Graduate Studies website.

Osgoode professor recognized for governance leadership

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Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Poonam Puri has been inducted as a fellow of the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD), a prestigious organization dedicated to governance excellence, in recognition of her governance leadership in Canada.

Poonam Puri
Poonam Puri

Created in in 1997, the ICD Fellowship Award – the organization’s highest honour – is presented annually to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to Canadian enterprises and not-for-profit organizations by bringing strong corporate governance leadership to boardrooms across the country.

Since the award was launched, only 108 Canadian governance leaders have received it, earning Puri a very exclusive spot and representing another milestone in an already accomplished career.

Since Puri joined Osgoode in 1997, at the age of 25, she has taught and produced significant scholarly research on corporate accountability and responsibility, directors’ duties and diversity in leadership, among other areas of research leadership in corporate law and governance. She has received $5 million in external research and program funding.

Puri co-founded and served as academic director of the Osgoode Investor Protection Clinic and the Living Research Lab, a clinic that both provides pro bono legal assistance to individuals who have suffered financial harm and collects real-time data for scholarly research. She is also the founder and director of the Professional LLM in Business Law at Osgoode Professional Development.

In addition to being a former associate dean of research, graduate studies and institutional relations, she is also currently the Chair of York University’s Senate. In 2023, she was named a Tier 1 York Research Chair in Corporate Governance, Investor Protection and Financial Markets, allowing her to continue her research leadership, delving deep into projects on environmental, social, and governance issues and their backlash, as well as corporate governance and artificial intelligence.

The ICD Fellowship Award is only the latest award in Puri’s career, as she has been previously recognized with the Governance Professionals of Canada Peter Dey Governance Achievement Award, the Attorney General of Ontario’s David Walter Mundell Medal, the Royal Society of Canada’s Yvan Allaire Medal and the Law Society of Ontario’s Law Society Medal, among other distinctions. She has also previously been named one of Canada’s Top 25 Most Influential Lawyers and one of Canada’s Top 40 under 40 leaders.

In the community, Puri currently serves on multiple boards, including the Canada Infrastructure Bank and Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital – the latter as Chair. She has previously served as a commissioner of the Ontario Securities Commission and on the boards of the Women’s College Hospital and the Greater Toronto Airport Authority (Pearson Airport), among others.

Further information about her career and recognitions can be found on the Osgoode Hall Law School website.

Over 20 York-affiliated creatives win Canadian Screen Awards

Long red carpet between rope barriers on entrance.

Canadian Screen Week, which ran from May 28 to 31, is the most esteemed event for recognizing Canadian media talent. The celebration includes the Canadian Screen Awards, which this year honoured nearly two dozen York University alumni in a diverse range of categories, including Best Motion Picture and Best Drama Series.

2024 Canadian Screen Awards - Television & Digital Media Rules &

Thanks, in part, to the strength of York’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design, each year brings a list of dozens of former York U community members being nominated for Canadian Screen Awards and walking away with golden statues. This year was no exception, with almost two dozen alumni earning recognition for their work in film, television and digital media.

In the film world, Matthew Miller (BFA ’03, MFA ’16) and Matt Johnson (BFA ’06, MFA ’16) received multiple awards for Blackberry, a biographical comedy drama about the smartphone that was eventually replaced in popularity by the iPhone. Miller earned an award for Best Motion Picture, Johnson won for Best Direction and both were recognized for Best Adapted Screenplay.

They weren’t the only York-affiliated winners associated with Blackberry, as Jared Raab (BFA ’07) also earned an award for Achievement in Cinematography.

Among other film categories, Michelle van Beusekom (MA ’93) was recognized for contributions to the movie Coming Home | Wanna Icipus Kupi which, which won the Donald Brittain Award for Best Social/Political Documentary Program for its exploration of the aftermath of the Sixties Scoop. Amrit Kaur (BFA ’15) – known for her breakout work in the television series “The Sex Lives of College Girls” – was also recognized in the Performance in a Leading Role, Drama category for her role in the film The Queen Of My Dreams, a coming of age story of two girls with a shared obsession with Bollywood fantasy.

Beyond movies, York U alumni showed a strong presence in the television industry. Producer Kim Todd (BA ’77) was recognized with others for the show “Little Bird” – about an Indigenous woman searching for her birth family – which won Best Drama Series. Producer Tania Thompson (BFA ’00) saw a win for her contributions to “Bria Mack Gets a Life,” about a young Black Canadian woman entering the workforce, which won Best Comedy Series. Another success in comedy was Stacey McGunnigle (BFA ’08), who earned Best Writing and Best Performance, Variety or Sketch Comedy for her work on “This Hour Has 22 Minutes.”

Frequent multi-nominee and composer Ari Posner (BFA ’92) was also recognized for Best Original Music in the scripted television show “Sullivan’s Crossing,” about a successful neurosurgeon who has to return to her small hometown after a scandal.

York U representation in scripted children and youth programming was also significant, notably with a modern interpretation of “The Hardy Boys,” which won Best Children’s or Youth Fiction Program or Series, netting awards for producers Pam Westman (BAS ’97), Ramona Barckert (BA ’01), Suzanne Wilson (MBA ’01) and executive producer/writer Chris Pozzebon (BFA ’07). Pozzebon also received an award in Best Writing, Children’s or Youth for his work on one particular episode of the show.

In animation, Vince Commissio (BA ’86, BAS ’88, MBA ’92) was part of the team recognized in the Best Animated Program or Series category for the show “Wild Kratts,” and Richard Young (MBA ’03) earned a win in the Best Writing, Pre-School category for his work on an episode of “Dino Ranch.”

The popularity of non-scripted television also netted awards for those affiliated with York. Producer Laura Michalchyshyn (MBA ’93) and Justin Stockman (BFA ’96), vice-president of content development and programming at Bell Media, earned awards for “Canada’s Drag Race: Canada vs. The World” in the Best Reality/Competition Program or Series category. Andrea Bain (BA ’96), Cynthia Loyst (BFA ’98) and Melissa Grelo (BA, BEd ’02) all received Best Host awards for their work on lifestyle talk show “The Social.” Elsewhere in talk-show world, writer Seta Kalousdian-Tanner (BA ’92) received a Best Talk Series award for her efforts on “The Marilyn Denis Show.”

Because the Canadian Screen Awards recognize not just film and television but digital media content, there were several York alumni winners in that area, too. The CBC Gem series “How to Fail as a Popstar” – following a queer brown boy from Edmonton as he tries (and fails) to achieve pop stardom, from the perspective of the now 40-something trans femme artist that boy became – walked away with a win for Best Web Program or Series, Fiction, and earned award for the show’s star, Vivek Shraya (MA ’16), and producer, Elise Cousneau (BFA ’04). Shraya also received a Best Writing, Web Program or Series award for an episode.

“Baroness von Sketch” star Aurora Browne (BFA ’95) was recognized for Best Supporting Performance, Web Program or Series for “The Drop.” The show about two young women who launch a professional line-waiter business for the wealthy also saw its star, Aisha Evelyna (BA ’17), win Best Lead Performance.

Lastly, Ronald Ruslim (MBA ’10) won for Best Production, Interactive for Dino Dana World – an educational games app – and Jen Pogue (BA ’12) won Best Host, Web Program or Series for the online lifestyle series focused on flowers, called “County Blooms.”

For a full list of winners and nominees, visit the Canadian Screen Awards website.

Lassonde prof tackles AI in health care with support from tech giant

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Laleh Seyyed-Kalantari, a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering, recently received a monetary gift from Google as part of the company’s Research Scholar Program.

Laleh Seyyed-Kalantari
Laleh Seyyed-Kalantari

Google’s Research Scholar Program aims to support early-career professors by providing generous funding and encouraging the formation of long-term partnerships. The funding is considered an unrestricted gift to help professors advance their cutting-edge work, ranging from quantum computing to health research.

Seyyed-Kalantari’s research focuses on investigating and improving the fairness of artificial intelligence (AI) models used in medical practice, aiming to ensure they benefit all users regardless of race, age, sex and socioeconomic status. Her laboratory, the Responsible AI Lab, is currently working on many projects, including one tackling the fairness of AI in medical imaging and large language models, as well as AI applications in drug discovery. She is one of many Lassonde researchers working on York University’s multimillion-dollar project Connected Minds: Neural and Machine Systems for a Healthy, Just Society.

“After receiving the award, my research group and I met with Google to share research ideas and plan collaborative projects,” says Seyyed-Kalantari. “This will be a great opportunity for my students to work closely with an industry leader and advance our research.”

With a budding partnership and vote of confidence from Google, Seyyed-Kalantari is ready to help to right the future by addressing the challenges of AI in health-care settings through her research.

Government of Canada’s increase to scholarships and fellowships has benefits for York

York U letters in Vari Hall

The Government of Canada has announced significant new investments to increase the value and number of scholarships and fellowships for master’s and doctoral students as well as postdoctoral fellows. This funding is critical for helping York University scholars advance their research leadership.

François-Philippe Champagne, minister of innovation, science and industry, and Mark Holland, minister of health, announced on May 31 that students receiving scholarships and fellowships from federal funding agencies will see an increase in the monetary value of the prizes they receive.

Starting September 1, the annual value of all current and new master’s and doctoral student scholarships will increase to $27,000 and $40,000, respectively, and current and new postdoctoral fellowships will increase to $70,000.

“By increasing the value of scholarships and fellowships provided by the government’s research-granting councils, the Government of Canada is reaffirming its support for Canadian research talent,” said Holland. “This will ensure the next generation of scientific leaders remain here in Canada, where their work has the potential to lead to a better quality of life and improved health for us all.”

Announced as part of the 2024 federal budget, the funding increase will come from Canada’s federal granting agencies – the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council, and the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council, all of which look to promote innovation in research and reward academic excellence by offering a number of valuable and prestigious scholarships and awards.

In addition to the increased award values, the Government of Canada’s budget plan for 2024 also proposed to increase the number of scholarships and fellowships provided, building to approximately 1,720 more each year.

The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships and Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships will continue under their current parameters, with funding of $50,000 and $70,000 per year respectively.

Additional details will be communicated to all award holders – including York University scholars who will benefit – in July.

Information on Tri-Council, provincial and other external scholarship funds available to graduate students at York University can be found on the Faculty of Graduate Studies website.

Three York University scholars named Banting Postdoctoral Fellows

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York University scholars Saba Asaad, Stephen Melly and Lynn Yu Ling Ng have been named among this year’s recipients of the prestigious Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship awarded by the Government of Canada.

The fellowship program aims to attract and retain top-tier postdoctoral talent, develop their leadership potential and position them for success as research leaders of tomorrow. Valued at $70,000 per year for two years, it allows ambitious scholars to conduct their research and devote substantial time to work without the financial pressures that might typically arise.

The successful applicants were reviewed against three equally weighted selection criteria: research excellence and leadership in the research domain; quality of the proposed research program; and institutional commitment and demonstrated synergy between the applicant and institutional strategic priorities.

Below are York University’s three Banting Postdoctoral Fellows for 2023-24 and their associated projects.

Saba Asaad, Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, Lassonde School of Engineering

Saba Asaad
Saba Asaad

Asaad’s research project, titled “Over-the-Air Federated Learning via Benchmark Wireless Network,” develops algorithmic and analytic frameworks to address essential issues arising in the implementation of federated learning (FL) – a sub-field of machine learning that relies on decentralized data – in practical wireless networks. Asaad’s project proposes an alternative method called over-the-air FL which can address those challenges.

“Federated learning was first designed for ideal communication networks,” explains Asaad. “However, in realistic edge-learning scenarios, the edge devices [which provide a connection between different networks], connected to the parameter server via wireless links, face several challenges due to uncertain wireless conditions and limited resources.”

Asaad’s approach can be leveraged in the development of a large variety of services that deal with the concept of distributed learning.

Stephen Melly, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Lassonde School of Engineering

Stephen Melly
Stephen Melly

Melly’s proposed research, titled “Development of the Computational Constitutive Model for Super-soft 4D Bioprinted Materials,” aims to formulate computational models that capture the complex mechanical characteristics of super-soft materials. This research has the potential to enhance the understanding of super-soft materials in 4D bioprinting – which has emerged as a useful tool for biomedical applications such as tissue regeneration – facilitating advancements in the field and the development of reliable and customized artificial tissues that match the specific needs of individual patients.

“Successful design and fabrication of engineered tissues necessitate a comprehensive grasp of the mechanical characteristics of super-soft materials,” says Melly. “This guarantees the efficacy of biomedical applications, as differences in mechanical properties between the engineered tissues and the surrounding biological tissues may result in complications like rejection.”

This cutting-edge project helps to meet the growing demand for accurate computational models that describe the complex mechanical behaviours of super-soft tissues.

Lynn Yu Ling Ng, Department of Politics, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies

Lynn Yu Ling Ng
Lynn Yu Ling Ng

Ng’s project, titled “Care for All is Care that Pulls Us Through,” employs an advanced critical intersectional approach to analyze care work and the presence of distinct forms of structural inequality (e.g. age, race, gender, class, nationality) that influence migrant care workers (MCWs) and their capacity to care for elderly persons. The project’s guiding questions are: how do MCWs make sense of caring for the elderly and for themselves; how do they strive to protect these visions of care; and how can these imaginaries of care be accounted for and integrated into care and labour migration policy?

“Eldercare is rarely framed from the perspective of MCWs beyond the common identity debates of race, gender and class,” says Ng. “Neither has much attention been given to their rich migratory experiences and expert knowledge of care work.”

The results of this project are expected to provide a valuable source of information for policy development in the field of eldercare. 

For more information about the fellowship and how to apply, visit the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship competition web page.