Professor wins Petro-Canada Emerging Innovator Award

Molecule of DNA forming inside the test tube equipment

Bill Kim, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, has received the 2023 Petro-Canada Emerging Innovator Award to support his cutting-edge biological chemistry and genome editing research program.

While point mutations in DNA, caused by replication errors or environmental damage, are found in clinical samples from cancer patients, the role of most mutations in causing disease is unknown, impeding the development of new therapeutics. The award will enable Kim to develop new methods of creating genetic mutations in cells to better understand and treat diseases.

Bill Kim
Bill Kim

Leveraging a gene editing technology called clustered regular interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) and a CRISPR-derivative technology called “base editing” that he co-invented, Kim aims to target disease-associated DNA sequences in cell cultures and create various point mutations to study their impact on protein and cellular function. He will engineer a class of proteins known as DNA glycosylases, which remove the nucleotide bases within DNA; when bases are removed, the cell repairs them by introducing one of the four nucleotides in a semi-random manner. This innovative method will generate diverse mutations that can be studied further to understand their impact on disease. Kim’s approach is anticipated to be more efficient than the conventional base editing strategy he originally co-developed.

Kim is an emerging world leader in genome editing technology development. Throughout his scientific career spanning 11 years, his work on genome editing technology development has been published in world-class journals including Nature, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Communications and Science Advances, collectively accruing more than 5,400 citations. The CRISPR base editing technology that he co-invented is a revolutionary genome editing method that has gained widespread adoption in hundreds of laboratories worldwide. The technology was a finalist for Science magazine’s 2017 Breakthrough of the Year.

The Petro-Canada Emerging Innovator Award is given to outstanding new full-time faculty members beginning their academic career at York University. The awards program is a commitment by Petro-Canada (now Suncor Energy) and York University to encourage excellence in teaching and research that will enrich the learning environment and contribute to society.

Federal grant supports innovative project to improve Canadian digital health care

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A three-year grant totalling $500,000 will fund a collaborative project between York University Professor Maleknaz Nayebi and RxPx, a company that creates and supports digital health solutions.

Maleknaz Nayebi

Naybei is a professor in the Lassonde School of Engineering in the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science and a member of the Centre for Artificial Intelligence & Society (CAIS). CAIS unites researchers who are collectively advancing the state of the art in the theory and practice of artificial intelligence (AI) systems, governance and policy. The research includes a focus on AI systems addressing societal priorities in health care.

The funding, awarded by the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Alliance Grant program, will support the development of the Digital Health Defragmenter Hub (DH2).

Alliance Grants support university researchers collaborating with partner organizations to “generate new knowledge and accelerate the application of research results to create benefits for Canadians.”

This collaborative project aims to address the intricate challenges within the Canadian digital health-care landscape by integrating advanced software engineering principles with machine-learning algorithms.

The project’s goal is to develop a software platform dedicated to digital health services. Currently, digital health services are designed and offered in isolation from other social, economic or health services, says Nayebi, adding that this results in inharmonious digital health care where many services overlap, while many pain points and requirements remain untacked.

“Lack of co-ordination among providers, the inability of patients to choose services and make open decisions, the rigidity of the market toward digital innovations and isolation of providers are known as the main barriers in the Canadian digital health-care ecosystem,” says Nayebi. “In this ecosystem, the physicians act as service-supply-side monopolists, exercising significantly more power than their demand-side patients. A survey conducted by Price Waterhouse Cooper showed the unpreparedness of the ecosystem, where only 40 per cent could envision a collaboration with other organizations. This further leads to increased inequality within the health-care system. In contrast, 62 per cent of American-based active health-care organizations had a digital health component in their strategic plan.”

DH2 is a platform that brings together open innovation in health care, allowing health-care providers to deliver personalized services to the public. The project is aimed to provide software and AI-based technology that makes digital health services more affordable and accessible to a broader population, integrates innovative business strategies for new entrants or low-end consumers, and creates a value network where all stakeholders benefit from the proliferation of innovative technologies.

“DH2 serves as a marketplace where not only can individuals with basic health-care services contribute, but it also features AI-driven matchmaking services, connecting patients with the specific demands of health-care providers and caregivers,” says Nayebi.

In this capacity, DH2 addresses the defragmentation in the wellness and health ecosystem by enabling users and user communities.

“DH2 goes beyond just connecting people; it also uses machine learning to help patients make informed decisions about their digital health-care options. Such platforms can act as the governing and strategic solution for leading market and innovation, and provide faster time to market by assisting providers in their deployment, distribution and monetization processes. They provide even access to information for all parties and effectively reduce inequalities.”

In addition, platforms add to the geographic diversity of participants. Moreover, says Nayebi, the platform enhances the diversity of participants across different geographic locations, establishing an ecosystem that enables quicker responses to disruptive events such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Deadline extended: call for nominations for President’s University-Wide Teaching Awards

Female conference lecture teacher professor

The President’s University-Wide Teaching Awards honour those who, through innovation and commitment, have significantly enhanced the quality of learning by York University students.

The nomination period has been extended until Feb. 14 at 4:30 p.m.

Nominations are now open for the four awards that are offered each year in the following categories:

  • full-time tenured faculty with 10 or more years of full-time teaching experience;
  • full-time faculty (tenured/tenure-stream/CLA) with less than 10 years of teaching experience;
  • contract and adjunct faculty; and
  • teaching assistants.

The purpose of these awards is to provide significant recognition for excellence in teaching, to encourage its pursuit, to publicize such excellence when achieved across the University and in the wider community, and to promote informed discussion of teaching and its improvement.

The awards demonstrate the value York University attaches to teaching. Recipients of the awards, selected by the Senate Committee on Awards, receive $3,000 (less applicable deductions), have their names engraved on the University-Wide Teaching Award plaques in Vari Hall and are recognized at convocation ceremonies.

Nominators are encouraged to approach the Teaching Commons to explore ways to best highlight the teaching strengths and accomplishments of the nominee. Nominators may schedule a consultation –  by phone or Zoom – with an educational developer at the Teaching Commons to discuss the preparation of a nomination package by sending a request to teaching@yorku.ca. Interested parties are also invited to view the recording of the Teaching Commons’ Award Winners Roundtable to hear reflections from Teaching Awards recipients.

Only online nominations for the 2024 Teaching Awards submitted by 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, will be accepted.

The Teaching Awards criteria and nomination form are available on the Senate Committee on Awards web page.

From practising law to innovating health care: York prof harnesses potential of genomic medicine 

Collage showing DNA, medicine and more

By Ashley Goodfellow Craig, YFile editor 

York University Assistant Professor Ian Stedman says the diagnosis of his first-born daughter’s rare disease likely saved his life – and now, he’s focusing his work on helping to do the same for others across Canada.

Ian Stedman
Ian Stedman

The Osgoode Hall Law School alum and lawyer – appointed as assistant professor in the School of Public Policy & Administration in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, with graduate appointments at Osgoode, in Science and Technology Studies and in Socio-Legal Studies – is a co-applicant on a $15-million project that aims to disrupt the current health-care model through the development of a first-of-its-kind national genomics database. 

The Pan-Canadian Human Genome Library (PCHGL), funded through a five-year grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, will bring together human genome sequencing initiatives across the nation to enhance the collective well-being of people in Canada. 

It will have huge implications for health care, says Stedman, especially for those living with rare diseases and struggling to find a diagnosis – an experience he’s lived through. 

Beginning at a young age, Stedman suffered from a host of symptoms that grew in severity as he got older – frequent rashes, periodic fevers, headaches, bloodshot eyes, arthritis and eventually hearing loss – that had doctors and specialists stumped for more than 30 years. 

Looking back over his health records from the first 18 years of his life, Stedman noted 190 separate visits to his family doctor, walk-in clinics and specialists – not to mention the many visits to emergency departments when his pain became unbearable – that had him seeking answers to his ongoing progressive illness. 

“So, my story is 30 years undiagnosed, having no idea what was going on, and then just giving up,” says Stedman. 

That was, until his daughter Lia began exhibiting similar symptoms during her first year of life. When her health declined a few months before her first birthday, she was brought to the SickKids emergency room, which marked the beginning of their diagnostic journey together.

Ian Stedman's daughters Ivy, Ainsley and Lia.
Lia (right) with sisters Ivy (left) and Ainsley (middle).
Lia Stedman
Ian Stedman’s daughter Lia.

In 2014, both father and daughter were diagnosed with a one-in-a-million genetic disorder called Muckle-Wells syndrome (MWS), a member of the family of genetic disorders known as cryopyrin associated periodic syndromes. Thought to be the 12th and 13th in Canada to receive the diagnosis – with the confirmation of Lia’s MWS leading to his same diagnosis – Stedman learned that if left untreated, the syndrome results in premature death before the age of 36 for one in three people.  

He was 32. 

After diagnosis, and with the realization that his daughter had potentially saved his life, Stedman began his advocacy work through the Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders, where he forged connections with those in the health-care space. He met computer scientist Michael Brudno from the University of Toronto, who, at the time, was the scientific director for SickKids’ Centre for Computational Medicine and co-founder of PhenoTips, a Toronto-based team that provides software and services to genetic health-care providers. 

PhenoTips takes your genetic information and your list of symptoms and uses machine learning to search for other individuals with the same symptoms (phenotype) to then compare whether there are similarities in the related genomes (genotypes). The goal is to offer a potential differential diagnosis or to reveal a possible genetic marker for future research. 

After hearing Stedman’s story at a conference, Brudno approached him and asked if he could digitize his medical records. 

“He wanted to run my information through PhenoTips to see whether the software would be able to suggest a diagnosis,” says Stedman. “It took the software eight visits to figure out what was wrong with me … because he had a dataset of genomes that he could run it against, and so that was the moment where I thought, ‘OK, I’m not just doing law, I’m doing law and health policy now.’ ” 

This experience inspired Stedman to pivot his professional focus and learn how to actualize this type of groundbreaking health-care tool for all Canadians.

Ian Stedman with daughter Lia. Both father and daughter are in good health with the right treatment for their diagnosis of a one-in-a-million genetic disorder called Muckle-Wells syndrome.
Ian Stedman with daughter Lia. Both father and daughter are in good health with the right treatment for their diagnosis of a one-in-a-million genetic disorder called Muckle-Wells syndrome.

“It took me 32 years to get a diagnosis, and it doesn’t seem like it has to be like that anymore. If I could enter the health-care system now, and if that system was allowed to learn from everyone’s health data, I could be diagnosed in one visit,” he says. “It’s actually my mission in life to figure out how that could be possible so that people like me – those coming up behind me – don’t have to tell a story like the one I tell.” 

Drawn to the possibility of creating positive change in the health-care landscape, Stedman became more involved in advocacy work, learned more about health research, joined several boards related to rare diseases and genetics in medicine, and advanced his learnings as a social scientist in a new discipline. 

Now, Stedman will lead a team responsible for patient partnership, participant engagement, training and outreach for the national genome database PCHGL.  

Stedman emphasizes the significance of involving patients in scientific research and highlights the need for patient involvement, and education, in the PCGL initiative. This approach challenges the traditional health-care model and aims to enhance the role of patient partners. 

The project provides an opportunity to empower patient partners in various aspects of the initiative and seeks to ensure their voices are heard in matters including technical decisions, ethics and policymaking.  

Stedman will also contribute to a working group overseeing ethical and regulatory compliance for the library to meet its goal to collect, store and improve access to Canadian genomic data in a way that is equitable, secure and sustainable. 

One of the key questions of the project is “How do we build a more inclusive genomic infrastructure in Canada?” says Stedman. 

“Part of our project is to look at who is represented and who is not represented in the genomes we’ve sequenced in this country. With this library, we can start to take control over improving our representation within the data.” 

Dr. Guillaume Bourque, director of the bioinformatics department at the McGill Genome Centre, will lead this initiative, collaborating with researchers from various partnering institutions. The database project is an extension of the Government of Canada’s Drugs for Rare Diseases Strategy. Its aim is to create a centralized genome library that reflects Canada’s diverse population and empowers researchers and health-care professionals with invaluable insights. 

“The real vision of this library is that it’s going to break down all the silos, so when someone gets diagnosed in Ontario, their doctor can say, ‘Let me go to the library and see what’s out there. Let me see who I can find, and whether they’ve consented to be contacted. Let me see if I can find other physicians who are affiliated with those genomes,’ ” says Stedman. “And it’s a lot easier, because it’s one massive registry.” 

The library will be behind a secure infrastructure that allows researchers and medical professionals to access information, but not remove it. There are interdisciplinary experts in data infrastructure, ethics and governance, patient partnership and operating principles teaming up to realize this shared vision for this life-changing resource. 

The team already has commitments from a few groups willing to share, with patient consent, genomic data. The hope is that within two years, PGCL will be close to launching. 

“When you realize the power genomic data holds to help improve people’s health – and when you’ve lived that realization – it’s a lot easier to buy into the big idea,” says Stedman. “It’s visceral, it’s real. That’s what makes this project so powerful and that’s what I think will ultimately make this library successful.” 

Stedman also serves on the executive of both the Centre for AI & Society and Connected Minds (CFREF) at York University. 

York alum earns Governor General’s Literary Award

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Award-winning author and York alum Kyo Maclear is the 2023 recipient of the Governor General’s Literary Award for non-fiction for her memoir Unearthing: A Story of Tangled Love and Family Secrets.

Kyo Maclear (image by David Wall)
Kyo Maclear (image by David Wall)

The book recounts the story of a family secret revealed by a DNA test, the lessons learned in its aftermath, and the indelible power of love, according to publisher Penguin Random House Canada.

Maclear is a scholar, essayist, novelist and children’s author. A few of her well-known and well-loved books are Bloom (2018), Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation (2017), The Liszts (2016), The Wish Tree (2016), Virginia Wolf (2012) and Spork (2010).

Maclear’s works boast a global reach, with translations in 18 languages and availability in over 25 countries, often accompanied by illustrations from notable artists like Isabelle Arsenault. These literary creations have garnered nominations across a spectrum of esteemed awards, including the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction and the Trillium Book Award, among others, showcasing her work’s diverse appeal and recognition.

The peer assessment committee of the Governor General’s Literary Awards commended Unearthing for its “recursive, often incantatory prose,” highlighting how it blurs the distinction between memoir and philosophy. It acknowledged Maclear’s use of this distinct prose to delve into the “porous grounds of self, culture and belonging.”

Established in 1936, the Governor General’s Literary Awards aim to honour Canada’s finest literary works, acknowledging outstanding contributions in seven categories across both official languages. These prestigious awards are overseen by the Canada Council for the Arts.

Maclear holds a doctorate in education (language, culture and teaching) from York University. An editor-at-large with Tundra Books/Penguin Random House Canada, she has taught creative writing with the Humber School for Writers and the Banff Centre for the Arts, and is currently an instructor with the University of Guelph’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program.

In 2018, she won the prestigious Trillium Book Award in the English-language prose category for her non-fiction memoir Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation.

Winners of the Governor General’s Literary Award receive $25,000 each, as well as a $3,000 grant to their publisher to help promote the book. Recipients from 2020 to 2023 will be honoured at a gathering in Ottawa next spring.

Professor receives medal for engineering excellence

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Aleksander Czekanski, a professor in the mechanical engineering department at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering, was honoured with an Engineering Medal for Engineering Excellence in Industry from the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE), as part of the Ontario Professional Engineers Awards (OPEA).

Aleksander Czekanski
Aleksander Czekanski

Engineering Medals are granted to professional engineers who apply ingenuity, innovation and technical expertise to evolve their field and improve quality of life. For nearly a century, the OPEA has recognized first-class engineers and members of OSPE who have made contributions to their field and broader communities.

Czekanski’s award was presented to him at the annual OPEA Gala in November, where he celebrated among other distinguished engineers, industry innovators, business leaders and policymakers.

“I am humbled and honoured to receive the Engineering Medal for Engineering Excellence in Industry from OSPE,” says Czekanski. “This award means so much to me, not only because it recognizes my achievements, but also because it highlights the importance of engineering and my service to the profession and community.”

This award is a recognition of Czekanski’s multidisciplinary expertise and internationally recognized impact on the engineering profession. His work focuses on engineering design and analysis, additive manufacturing, bioprinting and soft tissue mechanics, with applications ranging from biomedical science to materials manufacturing.

“As engineers, we have the opportunity to shape the world in a positive way, and it is our responsibility to do so with integrity, humility and a commitment to excellence,” says Czekanski.

As an integral member of the Lassonde community, Czekanski has helped advance the school’s reach and reputation, as well as the teaching and research capacity of the mechanical engineering department. His Integrated Design and Engineering Analysis Laboratory continues to support high-calibre research, student learning experiences and the development of innovative engineering solutions. He is also the founder and director of the Additive Manufacturing in Engineering Design and Global Entrepreneurship program, which provides students with technical and entrepreneurial training as part of the Natural Sciences and Research Council of Canada Collaborative Research and Training Experience.

In addition, Czekanski is a co-founder of a recently-established Lassonde organized research unit, the Manufacturing, Technology and Entrepreneurship Centre (MTEC). MTEC unites a trio of complementary disciplines to bring innovative technologies to market. This research unit utilizes Czekanski’s substantial industry knowledge and expertise, stemming from years of work in the automotive manufacturing sector.

Currently, within a multidisciplinary team including engineers and life science researchers, Czekanski is exploring the applications of in-situ bioprinting with skin cells – a method that blends artificial intelligence, robotics, biomedical science and engineering to directly repair skin wounds on patients with severe burns, diabetes and other medical conditions. He is also investigating the use of 4D bioprinting techniques to produce cardiovascular tubes, which can help support the development of bioprinted, functional and vascularized organs for patients in need.

“Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to work alongside some of the most talented and dedicated engineers in the country,” says Czekanski. “Their commitment to excellence has been a constant source of inspiration to me. It is because of them that I have been able to make meaningful contributions to the field of engineering. I am deeply grateful and will continue to work tirelessly to uphold the values of engineering excellence that this award represents.”

Meet York U’s 2023 Royal Society of Canada Fellows 

Joshua Fogel, Sara Horowitz, Ali Kazimi and Debra Pepler

Four York University faculty members are part of this year’s new list of Fellows named to the Royal Society of Canada (RSC), one of the country’s highest honours in the arts, social sciences and sciences.  

The 2023 Fellows will be inducted at RSC’s Celebration of Excellence & Engagement from Nov. 15 to 18 at the University of Waterloo.  

In the videos below, the four York Fellows – Joshua Fogel, Sara Horowitz, Ali Kazimi and Debra Pepler – talk about their impactful research, their motivations and why their work is important to Canadians. 

York historian Joshua Fogel elected as a Fellow to the Royal Society of Canada 2023

Joshua Fogel, a professor in the Department of History in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, is a leading scholar in Asian studies. Fogel’s research focuses on the cultural, political and economic interactions between China and Japan, the importance of Japan in China’s modern development and the changing attitudes both countries have towards one another from the 14th to 19th centuries.

York literary scholar Sara Horowitz elected as a Fellow to the Royal Society of Canada 2023

Sara Horowitz, a professor in the Department of Humanities and the Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, is one of the world’s foremost experts in Jewish studies. Horowitz’s research and published works focus on Holocaust literature, women survivors, Jewish American fiction and Israeli cinema.

York filmmaker Ali Kazimi elected as a Fellow to the Royal Society of Canada 2023

Ali Kazimi, a professor in the Department of Cinema & Media Arts in the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design, is among Canada’s most acclaimed artists. His work explores issues of race, social justice, migration, history and memory, including documentaries that explore the diasporic South Asian relationship with indigeneity.

York psychologist Debra Pepler elected as a Fellow to the Royal Society of Canada 2023

Debra Pepler, a Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Health, has received international attention for her influential research on bullying, aggression and other forms of violence, particularly among marginalized youth. She is the co-founder of PREVNet, a national research and knowledge mobilization hub focused on youth interpersonal violence prevention.

Provostial fellowships support scholars from marginalized groups

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York University has announced Doug Anderson and Jean de Dieu Uwisengeyimana as this year’s recipients of the Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellowships for Black and Indigenous Scholars.

The Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellowship program seeks to attract outstanding scholars who will push the boundaries of knowledge in necessary ways. With a salary of $70,000 provided each year for a two-year term, award recipients will be able to dedicate their time to pursuing a proposed project, working alongside a supervisor and other mentors.

“This program allows York to promote and develop some of the most exciting, cutting-edge research that will shape the next generation of scholarship, by supporting the remarkable scholars who are producing it,” says Alice MacLachlan, vice-provost and dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies. “One theme that emerges from the innovative research being produced by this year’s scholars is connection – whether between learners and the land, or in artificial neural networks – and we are delighted by the connections they will be able to nurture among our dynamic community of researchers.”

While gaining a foothold to begin a career can be difficult in itself, Black and Indigenous scholars face the additional challenges of racism and systems structured to protect others’ privilege. This fellowship begins to address this issue by providing collegial resources, supervision, mentorship and funded time to successful applicants to help them become successful in their chosen careers.

Doug Anderson

Doug Anderson
Doug Anderson

Anderson is completing his PhD in education at York University. His project, “Inaakonigewin Akinomaagegamig,” addresses how Indigenous principles can begin to define and orient the resources in education systems in ways that benefit the work of sovereign Indigenous learning and resurgence in the land.

“I will bring my emerging academic focus under the direction of the Memtigwaake Kinomaage Mawnjiding Advisory Circle, now managing over 20 acres of land in Toronto as a learning space grounded in Indigenous ceremony, sovereignty and laws. This land hosts cyclical, perennial culture and language learning for Indigenous students in ways that are at the core of how learning and site management proceed,” shares Anderson. “I will work to support Indigenous students and partners to have this culture-based learning recognized by Toronto school boards and focus on how the learning can be supported through post-secondary institutions, all in ways defined by Indigenous people and principles. I am grateful for the support of doctors Deb Danard, Steve Alsop, Kate Tilleczek and Deborah McGregor in this work.”

Jean de Dieu Uwisengeyimana

Jean de Dieu Uwisengeyimana
Jean de Dieu Uwisengeyimana

Uwisengeyimana holds a PhD in biomedical engineering from the University of Science & Technology of China. His cutting-edge project will focus on developing video-based, biologically inspired, artificial neural networks for dynamic scene understanding. Uwisengeyimana will be affiliated with York’s Vision: Science to Applications (VISTA) program, which aims to advance vision and produce applications that generate positive health, societal, technological and economic impacts for Canada and the world.

“I express my sincere appreciation for the opportunity to pursue a Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellowship at York University, which will allow me to conduct cutting-edge research to develop computational models of visuocognitive tasks,” says Uwisengeyimana. “I will work on this project under the guidance of Dr. Kohitij Kar, a VISTA program core member and faculty member. I appreciate that Dr. Kar is actively interacting with industrial (e.g. Google Brain Toronto) and academic (e.g. the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard) partners to provide me with high-quality networking opportunities to help me advance my career.”

Learn more about the Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellowships for Black and Indigenous Scholars at York University by visiting the Faculty of Graduate Studies website.

Collaborative project on global climate modelling wins prestigious supercomputing award

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Miles Couchman, a York University assistant professor in applied mathematics, Faculty of Science, is part of an international research collaboration featuring a multidisciplinary network of researchers – including applied mathematicians and mechanical, civil and environmental engineers – that has been been awarded a highly competitive 2024 Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) Supercomputing Award.

ork University Assistant Professor Miles Couchman (left) and collaborator Professor Steve de Bruyn Kops (right) in front of the Frontier Supercomputer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the largest supercomputer in the world
York University Assistant Professor Miles Couchman (left) and collaborator Professor Steve de Bruyn Kops (right) in front of the Frontier Supercomputer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the largest supercomputer in the world.

The winning collaborative project looks to better understand turbulence in stratified flows, notably scenarios where a fluid has variable density. One application of particular interest is developing more robust mathematical models for characterizing the turbulence-enhanced mixing of heat in the ocean, a leading area of uncertainty in global climate modelling and a topic of direct importance to global society.

The INCITE program, run by the Office of Science at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), grants 75 computational intensive science projects access to the world’s fastest supercomputers, located at the DOE’s Argonne and Oak Ridge national laboratories, to further innovation across the fields of science, engineering and computer science.

Couchman’s co-project was among 108 total proposals received by INCITE this year from international researchers or research organizations asking for supercomputer access. The evaluation process was highly competitive, with proposals evaluated over the course of four months based on computational readiness, the scalability of a project’s code and algorithms, and more.

Couchman’s team was awarded use of Frontier, the largest supercomputer in the world, in 2024 to perform numerical research simulations, allowing the researchers to simulate turbulent processes with unprecedented resolution, leading to more accurate and universal turbulent models. They hope what they learn won’t just apply to the mixing of heat in water, but how pollutants mix in the atmosphere and more.

The research team is made up of individuals from Duke University, the University of Washington and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in the U.S., as well as the University of Cambridge in the U.K.

Prof recognized for pioneering Black studies in Canada

Andrea Davis

At its Fall 2023 Convocation ceremonies, British Columbia’s Royal Roads University awarded York University Professor Andrea Davis an honorary doctor of laws degree in recognition of her pioneering work bringing Black studies programming to Canadian academia.

Andrea Davis at Royal Roads University’s Fall 2023 Convocation.

A professor in York’s Department of Humanities, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, Davis teaches courses in Black Cultures of the Americas and is the founder and program co-ordinator of the University’s Black Canadian Studies Certificate. Introduced in 2018, it was one of only two university programs of its kind in Canada at the time.

“Black students at York in 2016 were asking for programs that reflected their histories and experiences,” said Davis in a recent interview with Royal Roads University. “They were not really interested in a program about anti-Black racism per se, because those programs are not for Black students; they’re educating someone else. Black students wanted something that could speak deeply to them, about not just their experiences but their thoughts and their ideas.”

Davis took that request and ran with it, and is now continuing her transformative work by developing a Black studies major.

In her 20-year academic career, Davis has worked to advance equity, access and justice in post-secondary education, and has been a fierce advocate for students. An accomplished teacher, she has won teaching awards at the Faculty, university and national levels, including a 2021 3M National Teaching Fellowship. A former Canadian Commonwealth scholar, her research focuses on the literary productions of Black women in the Americas, with a particular interest in the intersections of the literatures of the Caribbean, the United States and Canada. Her work encourages an intertextual cross-cultural dialogue about Black women’s experiences in diaspora.

The doctor of laws, honoris causa, is Royal Roads University’s highest honour, awarded to people who reflect its vision and values and have achieved a significant record of success and community service.