Osgoode grad hopes scholarship will help inspire Indigenous youth

Osgoode Hall Law School graduand Justin Thompson hopes a major scholarship he recently won will help inspire other Indigenous youth to reach for the stars.

Justin Thompson portrait
Justin Thompson

The member of Nipissing First Nation near North Bay, Ont., who officially graduates from York University’s Osgoode at Spring Convocation, was recently named a recipient of the $10,000 John Wesley Beaver Memorial Award. John Wesley Beaver was a former chief of the Alderville First Nation in eastern Ontario who served as a fighter pilot in the Second World War and rose to become a high-ranking executive at Ontario Power Generation. The scholarship is offered annually by Ontario Power Generation through Indspire, a national Indigenous charity that invests in the education of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

“Indigenous students want to see someone like themselves who is achieving things,” said Thompson. “So getting the award helps to show that anything is possible for Indigenous students and the sky is the limit.”

Thompson, who is the first in his immediate family to attend university, said the award also represents for him one more sign of hope that Indigenous youth and their communities can look forward to a brighter future after many generations of suffering under colonial oppression. His own great-grandmother, Agnes, was a residential school survivor.

In 2014, for example, his community enacted its own constitution, effectively supplanting the federal Indian Act. In addition, Nipissing First Nation is currently developing its own citizenship law, which will allow the community – not the federal government – to decide who is a citizen. Alongside these developments, he added, the community is enjoying better times economically and is eagerly awaiting the results of the Restoule case, a landmark case currently before the Supreme Court of Canada that could see members of the Anishinaabe Nation in northern Ontario win better compensation for the lands they agreed to share with the Crown under the 1850 Robinson Huron Treaty.

“We’ve seen all these exciting changes,” said Thompson. “So I want to play my part in helping my community become more sovereign and to exercise its rights of self-determination, loosening the grip of the Indian Act.”

Even as a teenager, he said, that desire drove his decision to become a lawyer. The scholarship has helped him to realize that dream, he added. In July, after completing his bar admission exams, he will begin articling in the Toronto office of Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP, one of Canada’s leading Aboriginal law firms.

As an aspiring Indigenous lawyer, Thompson said, Osgoode was his first choice of law school after he completed undergraduate and graduate studies at Trent University in Canadian and Indigenous studies. His graduate research there focused on the issue of Indigenous over-incarceration and the lasting impacts of the Indian Act related to the criminalization of Indigenous individuals.

“I came to Osgoode specifically for the Indigenous Intensive,” he said. “And the Indigenous faculty here have been an amazing source of support.”

The only program of its kind in North America, the Intensive Program in Indigenous Lands, Resources, and Governments (IPILRG) explores the legal issues related to Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous rights through the combination of a rigorous academic experience with challenging placements in Indigenous, Aboriginal or environmental law.

“The Intensive was my favourite aspect of law school,” said Thompson. “It was a bit disrupted by COVID, but [Professors] Amar [Bhatia] and Jeff [Hewitt] made sure we had all the support we needed.”

As an Indigenous law student, Thompson said, other highlights of his Osgoode experience included participating in the Kawaskimhon National Aboriginal Moot and his leadership roles with the Osgoode Indigenous Students’ Association (OISA).

“We took on a lot of important initiatives,” he said, citing in his third year the association’s ReDress Week event, its Moose Hide Campaign against domestic and gender-based violence and its Orange Shirt Day, which featured guest speaker and Osgoode alumna Kimberley Murray, the federal government’s Independent Special Interlocutor for Missing Children and Unmarked Graves and Burial Sites associated with Indian Residential Schools.

York University in the top 40 globally in Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 

Times Higher Education Impact Rankings banner

La version française suit la version anglaise.  

Dear colleagues,

York University is among the top 40 institutions for global leadership on advancing the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals, according to this year’s Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, published today.

We recognize that this could not be accomplished without the support and dedication of our entire community. We would like to thank our faculty, students, staff, course directors, alumni and our many partners for their leadership and for prioritizing positive change in research, teaching, academic pursuits and community projects. Your individual contributions and partnerships to support these goals have been felt around the world and this is why York has maintained a strong position for the fifth consecutive year.

With 100+ additional universities joining the rankings this year, York has done exceedingly well to maintain its position of global leadership, placing 40th out of more than 1,500 competing institutions. York’s vision and values shine through in our performance, with the University placing in the top 100 in the world in nine of the 17 SDGs, and a strong global standing in the following categories:

• SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities, York ranks 12th in the world
• SDG 1 – No Poverty, York ranks 21st in the world
• SDG 10 – Reduced Inequalities, York ranks 25th in the world

This is an exciting recognition of the University’s interdisciplinary strengths in sustainability, inclusivity and equity that are amplified by meaningful collaboration with local and global partners and communities. Together we are building a better future by answering the call on some of our most pressing global societal challenges, advancing the University Academic Plan 2020–25 and the SDG Challenge.

We encourage everyone to learn more about what is happening across York to advance the SDGs, and how to get involved and take action.


Rhonda Lenton
President & Vice-Chancellor

Lisa Philipps
Provost & Vice-President Academic

Amir Asif
Vice-President, Research & Innovation

L’Université York se classe parmi les 40 premiers rangs du palmarès Times Higher Education Impact

Chers collègues,
Chères collègues,

L’Université York figure parmi les 40 meilleurs établissements au monde pour son rôle de chef de file dans la promotion des 17 objectifs de développement durable (ODD) des Nations Unies selon le tout dernier palmarès Times Higher Education Impact , qui a été publié aujourd’hui.

Ces résultats ne seraient pas possibles sans le soutien et le dévouement de toute notre communauté. Nous remercions les membres du corps professoral, de la communauté étudiante, du personnel, les directeurs et directrices de cours, l’ensemble des diplômés et nos nombreux partenaires pour leur leadership et pour la priorité qu’ils accordent à la création de changements positifs dans la recherche, l’enseignement, les activités universitaires et les projets communautaires. Vos contributions individuelles et vos partenariats pour soutenir ces objectifs ont eu des répercussions à l’échelle de la planète et ont permis à York de se maintenir en bonne position pour la cinquième année consécutive.

Alors que plus de 100 nouvelles universités se sont ajoutées au classement cette année, York a su préserver son statut de leader mondial en se plaçant à la 40e place parmi les quelque 1 500 établissements en compétition. La vision et les valeurs de York se reflètent dans les résultats de l’Université qui figure parmi les 100 premières pour 9 des 17 ODD et qui occupe une place enviable dans les catégories suivantes :

• ODD 11 – Villes et communautés durables – York est 12e au monde
• ODD 1 – Pas de pauvreté – York est 21e au monde
• ODD 10 – Inégalités réduites – York est 25e au monde

Cette distinction importante témoigne des forces interdisciplinaires de l’Université en matière de durabilité, d’inclusion et d’équité, qui sont amplifiées grâce à une collaboration fructueuse avec des partenaires et des communautés à l’échelle locale et mondiale. Ensemble, nous bâtissons un avenir meilleur en relevant quelques-uns des défis mondiaux les plus pressants et en faisant progresser le Plan académique de l’Université 2020-2025 et le défi des ODD.

Nous encourageons tout le monde à en savoir plus sur ce qui se passe à York pour faire progresser les ODD, et sur des façons de s’impliquer et d’agir.

Sincères salutations,

Rhonda Lenton
Présidente et vice-chancelière

Lisa Philipps
Rectrice et vice-présidente aux affaires académiques

Amir Asif
Vice-président de la recherche et de l’innovation

Microlecture Series in Sustainable Living: Building a better future with Lina Brand Correa

Globe and York branded box for the Microlecture Series launch

York University’s free Microlecture Series in Sustainable Living is an innovative, interdisciplinary and open access program that gives participants the opportunity to earn a first-of-its-kind digital badge in sustainable living.

Throughout the Microlecture Series in Sustainable Living, six of York University’s world-renowned experts share research, thoughts and advice on a range of critical topics related to sustainability. Their leadership and expertise, however, extends beyond the six-minute presentations.

Over the next several weeks, YFile will present a six-part series featuring the professors’ work, their expert insights into York’s contributions to sustainability, and how accepting the responsibility of being a sustainable living ambassador can help right the future.

Part two features Assistant Professor Lina Brand Correa.

Lina Brand Correa, photo by Joseph Burrell
Lina Brand Correa

Lina Brand Correa is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) and a coordinator for the Business and the Environment graduate diploma. Her research uses an ecological economics lens and focuses primarily on energy and well-being issues, and their intersection. She is interested in exploring topics all along the energy chain, from “EROI” – or energy return on investment – on the energy supply side, to “energy poverty” on the energy demand side, and many other topics in between.

A champion of energy transformations, rather than simply reforms or transitions, Brand Correa’s work is as illuminating as it is pressing. Warning her students and contemporaries about the dangers of the rebound effect – whereby advances in energy efficiency result in greater energy use due to reductions in cost, such that any possible energy savings are undone before they are realized; the necessity for reductions in overall levels of energy use, particularly in the Global North; and the injustices embedded in an extremely unequal energy landscape – she demonstrates the immediate need for perspective shifts, not just in the realm of technology, but in the social, economic and political spheres as well.

Q: What does it mean to be a “sustainable living ambassador” and how does it foster positive change? 

A: To me being a sustainable living ambassador means enacting, in your day-to-day life, the type of world you would like to live in. Every day we play all sorts of different roles. Yes, we are consumers and our consumption choices matter, but we are so much more than that: we are citizens, friends, family and community members, students, teachers, employers and employees, activists, teammates, carers, neighbours, campaigners, customers, constituents and voters, and so on.

By realizing that we play all these roles, and thinking about how we can work to create the world we would like to live in in all the spheres where we interact with others, I think sustainable living ambassadors can foster positive change. However, this work requires asking difficult questions, of ourselves and of others, and actively deciding to do things differently. Importantly, this will likely include increasing the spheres where we interact with others, as it is only as broader communities, rather than as individuals, that we will foster true change.

Q: What would make you most proud for viewers to take away from your lecture, and the series as a whole?

A: From my lecture in particular, I would be very proud if viewers could take away a critical lens on current energy issues, questioning proposed solutions that focus exclusively on technological improvements. Our climate and energy issues are not a technological problem which we can engineer ourselves out of. Our climate and energy issues are embedded in broader social, economic and political issues, and this is the time to tackle them. And I think that is the message of the series as a whole: we cannot forget about people and society when we are thinking about solving environmental challenges.

Q: Equity and equality are a common theme throughout these sustainability lectures. Why is that such a critical component of sustainability? 

A: In my view, equity and justice are central to sustainability for two main reasons. On the one hand, we cannot achieve sustainability with high levels of inequality. High concentrations of income and wealth are linked to disproportionally high levels of environmental impact. This is certainly true for greenhouse gas emissions and energy use. Both between and within countries, there are certain segments of the population who are disproportionally driving emissions. So tackling carbon and energy inequalities is key for sustainability, including addressing extravagant levels of wealth accumulation and income inequality.  

On the other hand, addressing inequalities is the ethical thing to do. We can’t focus on saving our ecosystems without focusing on bringing everyone along. Many climate and energy policies are proposed and assessed in relation to their environmental outcomes. However, the social outcomes of climate policies are just as important, if not more. That means, amongst other things for example, correcting the wrongs of the past at an international level – including extractive colonial practices that remain today as unequal terms of trade and debt-based financing – and lifting people out of poverty and deprivation, for example, through guaranteed access to basic services.

Q: Are there changes you’ve made in your work at York that other York community members can learn from? 

A: In my work at York, I’ve tried to change my teaching style to focus on preparing students to deal with real-life situations, rather than staying in a conceptual world. I encourage students to relate what we are learning in class to their day-to-day lives and to what they are seeing around them, in the news, on social media, in politics, at the workplace. I also try to encourage them to be creative about change, how it can happen and what can the future look like. 

Moreover, I try to engage with initiatives that seek to generate change at a broader level. For instance, I follow the work of YUFA’s Climate Emergency Committee and York U Fossil Free, and will also be following the work of York University’s Office for Sustainability.

Q: How do you view collective responsibility vs. personal responsibility in creating a more sustainable future? 

A: I think we need both, in tandem. Collectively we need to enable and support people to be able to make individual decisions that support a more sustainable future. And individually we need to make changes that will push the collective to take the responsibility for creating the conditions for such a future.

Q: How is York leading the way towards a more sustainable future?

A: Sustainability is a key area of focus in my own Faculty (EUC), where many of my colleagues and I research and teach with a focus on environmental and social justice. York U’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Mike Layton, is an alum from EUC’s Master’s in Environmental Studies (MES). Like Mike, many of our alumni go on to make real change towards sustainability in their communities and work environments. It is there, in our alumni, where I see York having the greatest impact towards a more sustainable future. 

York is also considering questions of sustainability across its own operations, taking important and commendable steps. The University has an Office of Sustainability, tasked with collegially developing a shared vision of a sustainable future, setting targets and strategies, implementing and promoting them, and monitoring the University’s progress towards that vision. However, given the scale of the interlocked crises we are facing, there is still much more to do (for example divestment from fossil fuels). I think York has the potential to truly lead the way towards a more sustainable future, in all aspects of University life, but it requires bold and brave actions from everyone in the University community.

Visit the Microlecture Series in Sustainable Living to see Brand Correa’s full lecture, as well as those by the other five experts, and earn your Sustainable Living Ambassador badge. Watch for part three of this series in an upcoming issue of YFile. For part one, go here.

Microlecture Series in Sustainable Living: Building a better future with Eric Kennedy

Globe and York branded box for the Microlecture Series launch

York University’s free Microlecture Series in Sustainable Living is an innovative, interdisciplinary and open access program that gives participants the opportunity to earn a first-of-its-kind digital badge in sustainable living. 

Throughout the Microlecture Series in Sustainable Living, six of York University’s world-renowned experts share research, thoughts and advice on a range of critical topics related to sustainability. Their leadership and expertise, however, extends beyond the six-minute presentations.

Over the next six weeks, YFile will present a six-part series featuring the professors’ work, their expert insights into York’s contributions to sustainability, and how accepting the responsibility of being a sustainable living ambassador can help right the future.

Part one features Associate Professor Eric Kennedy.
Eric Kennedy
Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is an associate professor in York University’s Disaster & Emergency Management program in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS). His research focuses on how to: improve decision-making in emergency contexts; enhance disaster training; create better policies for preventing and responding to emergencies; and improving research and evaluation methods in disaster contexts.

Kennedy runs the CEMPPR Lab (Collaboration on Emergency Management, Policy, and Preparedness Research), and is associate director of Y-EMERGE (York Emergency Mitigation, Engagement, Response and Governance Institute). He teaches classes on qualitative methods (including surveys, interviews and research design), science policy and science and society. Kennedy organizes and teaches an annual eight-day bootcamp for graduate students from across Canada (called Science Outside the Lab), which runs in Ottawa and Montréal each May.

Q: What does it mean to be a “sustainable living ambassador” and how does it foster positive change?   

A: We’re living in an era of dramatic environmental change and social fragmentation. We have significant opportunities to build a better world – one where everyone has access to abundant opportunity, health, travel, community, energy and happiness. But, we’re also reminded of the vulnerability of many of the things we hold dear: a healthy environment, a solidaristic society and trusted institutions. 

I think sustainability means facing these challenges head on. It means playing our part in building systems, infrastructures and communities that advance priorities of equity; creating a society that cares for faraway neighbours and future generations. It means finding ways to create equitable abundance and opportunity for all, human and non-human alike. It means preparing for the ways that our actions might come back to haunt us, whether in cataclysmic wildfires or zoonotic spillovers. And, it means seeing the big picture and fighting for collective, pro-social responses. 

Q: What would make you most proud for viewers to take away from your lecture, and the series as a whole?  

Eric Kennedy in front of a small controlled fire
Eric Kennedy

A: At its core, my lecture is about the difference between a hazard and a disaster. In the case of wildfires, which is a topic I spend a great deal of time working on, a hazard might be the “fuel” (trees, shrubs, debris, homes and other flammable materials) located in a forest. This is the potential for a forest fire. But, in many ecosystems, fires are natural and good. It’s only when they adversely affect the things we care about – a community or air quality, for example – that they become a “disaster.” And, disasters are amplified or mitigated by the choices we make as people: whether we invest in preparedness, whether we build for resilience, and whether we respond with compassion. 

As you watch these lectures, consider these human interconnections. It’s easy to think about “nature” or “the environment” as something out there, detached from us. But, humans and the environment are inseparable and deeply interconnected. There’s no cleanly drawn line between the two. Instead, we must learn to love this inexorable connection, and find ways to love and care for each other and this world. 

Q: Equity and equality are a common theme throughout these sustainability lectures. Why is that such a critical component of sustainability?   

A: Disasters provide a powerful window for revealing and amplifying inequalities. We’ve seen this in COVID: by and large, those with economic and social privilege had much more opportunity to protect themselves, shelter from exposure, and even benefit from the pandemic. Even in here in Toronto, the location of vaccine clinics and the ease of getting tested wasn’t equitably available, nor has it been equally easy for folks to access the best treatments and protective tools. Those of us with privilege were often more able to work from home – and even continue those arrangements in hybrid ways to this day. And, these effects are only amplified when you look at the benefits that have accrued to the richest of the rich. 

In other words, disasters often both show us how inequitable society and opportunity is… and often make those differences and outcomes even worse. The bidirectionality of these impacts is true of sustainability more generally too: it’s often elements of privilege that afford the ability to both protect oneself against adverse environmental impacts, as well as contribute to environmental protection. To understand and address disasters and sustainability means grappling with inequity in all we do. 

Q: Are there changes you’ve made in your work or daily life  that other York community members can learn from?    

A: I’ve always tried to live out my personal sustainability values in my work life, such as in choosing to commute only by public transit or cycling from downtown. Another huge decision for sustainability has been living in an urban environment, which allows us to walk, cycle and use public transit for the vast majority of our mobility. (This is also a great example of the connections between inequalities, privilege, and sustainability – we need to make it far easier for everybody to have the opportunity to live in walkable, non-car-dependent communities, not only the most privileged.) 

That said, I also try to use my roles at York to focus on the collective and systematic. It is the systems-level changes that we make that will allow us to live sustainably: creating opportunities for people to choose more environmentally friendly modes of transportation or ways of living, for example. Focusing on individual, consumeristic changes can often obscure the much more critical system-level questions.

Q: How do you view collective responsibility vs. personal responsibility in creating a more sustainable future?   

A: Disasters are exceptional illustrations of why the individualization of responsibility is so problematic. Downloading responsibility to individuals is a common part of the consumeristic, neoliberal logics that pervade our modern life, but it’s a path to failure in disasters and sustainability alike.

COVID is a great example of this, of course: We know that individual behaviours, like wearing a mask, can be incredibly effective at protecting ourselves and others. We know that more people died of COVID in 2022 than either 2021 or 2020. And, we’ve learned more than ever about COVID’s long-term impacts on brains, lungs, hearts and immune systems, just to name a few.

But, you now see far fewer people wearing masks than in years before. And, it makes sense: we want to eat and drink indoors; we don’t think they’re super fashionable; they can feel stuffy and uncomfortable; and peer pressure can be a powerful beast. Trying to solve a collective problem through individualistic action is not just an uphill battle, but it also amplifies inequality (who can afford masks?) and can be borderline impossible (we want to share food and drink in close quarters). 

Instead, we need to reorient our problem-solving efforts. For example, how do we need to reengineer our spaces to allow us to safely eat at a common table without sharing our viruses? How do we need to change building codes to spaces safe for all? In other words, instead of downloading the problem to individuals, how do we need to come up with systemic solutions? 

Same goes with other topics in sustainability. For example, we want people to travel in environmentally friendly ways… but that requires infrastructure improvements like high-speed electrified rail, not just better personal choices.

Q: How is York leading the way towards a more sustainable future? 

A: I think most universities are helping us learn about human and environmental systems, create more sustainable technologies and sensitizing students to the importance of these challenges. But, I think York is especially well-positioned in contributing to the human and social dimensions of these challenges: developing the political dimensions, equality and justice, and collectivist and systemic responses. And, it’s home to some exceptional interdisciplinary collaborations, such as an exceptional program in Science and Technology Studies, which helps us avoid greenwashing and be more thoughtful in our development and adoption of technologies. Likewise, the new Y-EMERGE institute is home to interdisciplinary thinking that brings together social, legal, environmental, engineering and scientific dimensions of emergency management. 

And, I hope York can keep up its ongoing commitment to building more sustainable systems for our community, too, by making it easier for all of us to commute, travel, and live in sustainable ways. We’re well-positioned to keep contributing to these systems, innovations and transformations.

Visit the Microlecture Series in Sustainable Living to see Kennedy’s full lecture, as well as those by the other five experts, and earn your Sustainable Living Ambassador badge. Watch for part two of this series in an upcoming issue of YFile.

Risk and Insurance Studies Centre receives $11M grant

Wildfire in the forest

Contributed by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Alliance (NSERC), the funding will go towards developing better ways of managing risk and protecting Canadians from increasing threats, such as pandemics, climate catastrophes and financial crises.

Professor Edward Furman of the Faculty of Science at York University leads the team at the Risk and Insurance Studies Centre (RISC) that will use the grant over five years for a new program called New Order of Risk Management (NORM): Theory and Applications in the Era of Systemic Risk. NORM looks to address an acute need for a fundamental transformation in how people think about and manage that risk. 

Edward Furman

“Risk management is key to promoting economic growth and improving welfare in Canada and in other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED) countries by taming conventional risks, but it has not had the desired results in today’s increasingly interconnected world. In fact, some call it a failure,” says Furman. “We hope to lead a paradigm shift around what constitutes best practices and regulation for systemic risk, one that has a broader view of what risk entails and that encompasses the complexity of its systemic nature.” 

Given recent socioeconomic, demographic, technological and environmental changes, the researchers say change is overdue. 

Systemic risks, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the global financial crisis which started in 2007, often spill across socioeconomic boundaries, disproportionately impacting vulnerable populations and magnifying social inequities. The pandemic has already driven Canada’s annual deficit to $348 billion and its national debt is on target to hit $1.2 trillion, while the global financial crisis resulted in a severe recession with sharp declines in national gross domestic product. 

Climate change is creating multiple systemic risks as sea levels rise, wildfire season becomes longer with a greater potential for catastrophic fires and extreme weather events increase, such as flash flooding and storm surges, which can result in widespread devastation to coastal and inland communities in Canada and globally.  

A better understanding of systemic risk is needed, says the NORM team, which includes York Professors Jingyi Cao of the Faculty of Science, Ida Ferrara of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, Dirk Matten of the Schulich School of Business and Shayna Rosenbaum of the Faculty of Health, as well as professors from University of British, University of Toronto, University of Waterloo and Western University. 

With their industrial collaborators, the NORM team will develop novel theories, operational tools and regulatory mechanisms to address the increasing systemic nature of risks, while also accounting for unequal susceptibility to systemic risk, pursuing equity and building resilience.  

“NORM’s impacts mean not only an academic breakthrough in how we conceptualize systemic risk, but also fundamental transformations in how we manage and govern this new type of risk more effectively through strategies that reflect and consider equity and vulnerability,” says Furman.

Systemic risk is a global threat. NORM brings exceptional depth and breadth of relevant scholarly expertise from actuarial mathematics, business, economics, psychology and statistics together with industry collaborators, including Sun Life Financial, Canada Life, CANNEX Financial Exchanges, Aviva Canada and Wawanesa Insurance, to tackles the issues. 

Learn more at News @ York.

Lassonde professor receives grant for 3D/4D printing in space

View of the Earth from space

George Zhu from York University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering received a $250,000 New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) grant to conduct innovative research that explores metal manufacturing for space equipment using 3D and 4D printing in space to satisfy the actual demands of materials needed.

Zheng Hong (George) Zhu
George Zhu

Spacecrafts are frequently manufactured with extra materials and spare parts to prepare for potential mission challenges and vicious movements during launch, making them overdesigned for the calm, vacuum, zero-gravity environment in space. When the excess materials aren’t used, they contribute to unnecessary waste, financial burdens and launch and process-related carbon dioxide emissions on Earth.

“Less than five percent of spare parts carried on space missions are actually used,” says Zhu. “If equipment was manufactured where it is needed, we could make space exploration more sustainable.”

Zhu’s work will involve collaboration with fellow Lassonde School of Engineering mechanical engineering professors Alidad Amirfazli, Cuiying Jian and Aleksander Czekanski, as well as taking full advantage of the diverse fields of mechanical engineering research at York, including space instrumentation and robotics, molecular dynamics, metals and alloy materials and fluid mechanics.

“Space has different conditions than Earth that will affect 3D printing, mainly zero-gravity and vacuum, so there will be a lot of exploratory work,” says Zhu. “When we use 3D printing on Earth, the gravity helps create strong bonds, but we don’t know what will happen in conditions without gravity. It is possible that the vacuum might cause molten metals to vaporize and disappear right in front of us.

“We want this to work but at this stage, we don’t know what will happen. We are actually the first to do this kind of research with metals,” he adds.

Using equipment obtained with substantial funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) in 2019, this project will simulate space-like conditions to determine the feasibility of, and potential practices for, metal 3D printing in space. 3D printing will be performed in a large vacuum chamber, while modelling zero-gravity by printing in a horizontal orientation rather than vertical – this helps avoid the direct pressure from gravity that supports the creation of strong bonds.

The newly funded research will also explore the use of 4D printing, a new method of 3D printing that incorporates the dimension of time and may be useful in the development of deployable spacecraft components, like solar panels. Using shape memory alloys (SMA), 4D printed materials can remember and revert to their original shape after being deformed by certain stimuli, presenting a potential application for spacecrafts that spend long periods of time in space and are vulnerable to damage from debris.

Contributing to sustainable spacefaring effort, this exploratory project will take the first steps towards using space as an on-demand manufacturing site for space equipment. This project will also explore new and exciting ideas that can change and improve the design of space equipment, including the recycling of materials from debris to repair and manufacture materials for space activites.

“We have plans and ideas for applications, but this research is very new,” says Zhu. “I’m excited to learn as we go and discover the unknown. If this is successful, it will change the future of space exploration.”

Creating and celebrating changemakers at EUC

gold and red stars

The Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) at York University was formed in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, and began forging its identity during the challenging period of isolation and remote course delivery. The first Changemakers Celebration – slated to be an annual event – ushered in a special joy when the achievements of EUC educators were commemorated in person.

“I wanted to accomplish two things this year,” EUC Dean Alice Hovorka told the assembled students, staff and faculty during the April event. “I wanted us to build community, especially coming out of the pandemic when we find ourselves with new ways of being in the world, and I wanted to document our impact – thus, our Changemakers event.

“As a new Faculty, the first couple of years were spent telling people all about who we are, what we do and what our programs are. Now, I want us to tell stories about what we’re accomplishing and the impact we’re having on the York University community and well beyond.”

The celebration marked the launch of the inaugural EUC Impact Report and lauded student researchers, volunteers and leaders. First up were the recipients of the 2022 Dean’s Changemaker Awards: William Anthony, Justin Chan, Thereza Eric, Samantha Navalta and Kaitlin Pal. These five students were given paid placement opportunities with EUC’s living labs and were required to design and pursue a project that created change.

Dean Alice Hovorka, Kaitlin Pal, Thereza Eric, Justin Chan and William Anthony
Dean Alice Hovorka, Kaitlin Pal, Thereza Eric, Justin Chan and William Anthony

Many other students were recognized for their extra-curricular contributions to EUC during the celebration. Ann Tsirgielis, EUC’s student success advisor, congratulated the Faculty’s peer mentors, including Ryan Raymond Faria-Wong, the program coordinator.

Faria-Wong called his peers “highly dedicated individuals who go above and beyond to offer their knowledge and time to help others. … peer mentors assist in navigating questions and uncertainties and that goes a long way.”

Ann Tsirgielis, Summer Solmes, Kaitlin Pal, Ryan Raymond Faria-Wong, Phuong Tia Nguyen, Maya Olszewska, Sofia Colalillo, Emma Bramante, Catherine Lombardo
Ann Tsirgielis, Summer Solmes, Kaitlin Pal, Ryan Raymond Faria-Wong, Phuong Tia Nguyen, Maya Olszewska, Sofia Colalillo, Emma Bramante, Catherine Lombardo

Summer Solmes, a student leader, spoke about the value of student clubs, whose members were also celebrated.

“Student groups drive change in this Faculty because they are composed of hardworking and passionate individuals,” she said. “Being a member of a student group offers you a chance to grow into the person you will one day become; it is a chance to manifest your future self.”

Rosanna Chowdhury, experiential education coordinator, and Deena Shaffer, director of EUC’s Office of Student and Academic Services, offered praise for the many other engaged students, including participants in the governance process, work-study students, volunteers and student leaders. EUC recognized 50 graduate and 11 undergraduate students earning academic and research awards, including the EUC Research Award (EUCRA), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) awards, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) awards and many more.

The celebration also honoured recipients of the 2022/23 EUC Dean’s Awards.

Ilan Kapoor, Nashwa Khan, Joanne Huy
Ilan Kapoor, Nashwa Khan, Joanne Huy

Professor Ilan Kapoor was the recipient of the Dean’s Teaching Award (faculty) with his nominators praising his exceptional pedagogical abilities: “He brings complex and dense subject matter alive, encourages critical thinking and allows students to be their best.”

Nashwa Khan, received the Dean’s Teaching Award (graduate student) for her pedagogical innovation and student support. She noted: “As a first-generation student and a Muslim woman, I understand the challenges that students from unique, diverse backgrounds often face. I have strived to make my educational practice one that is rooted in equity and care.”

Paul Elliot, Nicki Hemmings & Dean Alice Hovorka
Paul Elliot, Nicki Hemmings and Dean Alice Hovorka

Joanne Huy, an alumni officer and EUC alumna, received the Dean’s Staff Recognition Award for her “unwavering commitment to excellence, creativity, innovation and leadership,” and her pivotal role in building community.

Finally, the Dean’s Impact Leader Award went to Nicki Hemmings, the departing human resources business partner, for her “substantive impact on our souls, hearts, processes, structures and culture,” said Hovorka.

The event concluded with the launch of the EUC Impact Report 2022/23.

“I want everyone to appreciate what EUC is doing to impact the world around us,” said Hovorka. “We’re enhancing the student experience, facilitating research excellence, advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and championing equity and Black inclusion.

“Like this celebration, I really see the report as a representation of all of us putting our best foot forward and working for more justice and sustainability in the world.”

For highlights from the inaugural Changemakers event, see the video below.

Lassonde professor receives grants to prepare for Mars exploration

NASA exploration vehicles on the surface of Mars

Isaac Smith, assistant professor in the Earth and Space Science and Engineering Department and Canada Research Chair in Planetary Science, was recently awarded two research grants from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to support a better understanding of Mars’ environments to enable exploration missions and potential habitation.

Isaac Smith
Isaac Smith

The funded research projects support a focus on ice, a critical resource for supporting future human missions to Mars by serving as a source of drinking water or rocket fuel. Martian regions that are abundant in icy deposits will become primary targets for future landing and exploration zones.

“I feel honoured to be the recipient of these awards. Earning one CSA grant is feels great, but two is something unique,” says Smith, a faculty member in York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering.

One of Smith’s projects, which received $299,121 in funding, focuses on demonstrating predicting the feasibility and performance of a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) for detecting near-surface ice on Mars. Conducting airborne and ground-based fieldwork in Yukon, a region comparable to the environment on Mars, Smith’s project will establish useful information about the SAR’s ability to positively identify ice deposits in the subsurface, while his research team characterizes the depth, distribution and purity of detected ice. This work will help ensure the validity and best interpretations of data collected on Earth, with the goal of confidently extending these practices to data collected on Mars.

Knowledge gained from this project will directly support a large-scale robotic space mission led by NASA, the International Mars Ice Mapper, which focuses on developing a radar to help quantify specific characteristics of ice in exploratory Martian regions, supporting future planning of the first human missions to Mars. Smith’s research is specifically designed to mimic the equipment and activities that will be used for the International Mars Mapper mission to help determine the best practices for NASA’s radar and ensure confidence when analyzing collected information.

The other project, which received $148,251 in funding from the CSA sees Smith, as well as graduate students Chimira Andres and Ivan Mishev (both PhD candidates), analyze data to investigate two different Martian regions with deposits that indicate presences of water: Phlegra Montes, known for icy deposits, permafrost and glaciers; and Valles Marineris, a large canyon with sedimentary deposits on the rim that indicate ancient flowing water.

As a co-investigator on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), a NASA-led mission that aims to search for the existence of water on Mars, Smith has access to data and resources that allow his students to investigate these regions and advance understanding of past and current climatic states on Mars. Analyzing Phlegra Montes is particularly important, as it is one of the best options for future human exploration and habitation on Mars. This project will also directly target objectives from the MRO mission including the study of Early Mars: Environmental Transitions and Habitability, and Amazonian Ices, Volcanism and Climate.

Surface of Mars
Ius Chasma, the largest region of Valles Marineris. Evidence of past water is seen in the rocks, including layered sediments close to the rim of the Chasma

Both projects aim to advance current knowledge of Martian environments, contributing to a pool of research that will progress NASA’s goal of sending humans to the Martian surface by the mid-2030s.

Celebrate the launch of largest York-led research program on May 15

Driving Simulator

Celebrate Connected Minds, the largest York-led research program in the University’s history, and explore the world of artificial intelligence and disruptive technologies, at an official launch event and interactive showcase on Monday, May 15.

York community members are invited to attend and experience York research first-hand. Attendees will have the opportunity to enter an Indigenous metaverse in an immersive virtual reality (VR) experience, test their skills behind the wheel in a driving simulator, take in a VR art installation, jumble their senses in a tumbling room that can spin 360 degrees, interact with some of the latest robots used in University research, and more.

Connected Minds: Neural and Machine Systems for a Healthy, Just Society is a first-of-its-kind interdisciplinary research program, funded in part by the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF), that will work to ensure technological progress and the future of AI is fair and equitable. For more about the program and the researchers, see this story: York University leads groundbreaking research to ensure technology revolution leaves no one behind.

Connected Minds was officially announced as a recipient of the CFREF grant on April 28. It is the largest single federal grant ever awarded to York University. Join University officials, the research team and the program’s many partners, to mark this significant milestone for York research and the beginning of Connected Minds.   

RSVP today to attend in person, or virtually through a live stream, at https://www.yorku.ca/go/connectedmindsreception.

Date/time: Monday, May 15 at 1 p.m.
Location: Sherman Health Science Research Centre, 281 Ian MacDonald Blvd., Keele Campus

Faculty of Health targets anxiety with support from Beneva

York researcher Lora Appel demonstrates a VR headset during a recent TO Health gathering

Four innovative and community-focused Faculty of Health studies will shed new light on anxiety, thanks to an investment in York University mental health researchers by Beneva, the largest mutual insurance company in Canada.

The $200,000 Anxiety Research Fund, powered by Beneva, aims to enhance assessment and treatment supports for individuals coping with anxiety – a debilitating and frequently hidden affliction experienced by one in five Canadians.

“Anxiety prevention is the main focus that guides Beneva’s social and philanthropic action nationwide,” notes Beneva President and Chief Executive Officer Jean-Francois Chalifoux. “We are proud to have teamed up with York University to create the Anxiety Research Fund, dedicated entirely to accelerating research which will have an immediate and positive impact on the community, bringing new insight and change around this important issue.”

“York’s partnership with Beneva will have lasting benefits, not only for individuals struggling with anxiety, but for society as a whole,” says Faculty of Health Dean David Peters. “Through strategic collaboration with their community partners on these projects, our researchers will ensure their findings are used to address one of the most critical mental health issues today: anxiety.”

Four projects were selected for funding through a competitive application process led by the Faculty of Health Research Office.

Exposure Therapy Using Virtual Reality
Lora Appel (image: Sophie Kirk)
Lora Appel (image: Sophie Kirk)

With her team in York’s PrescribingVRx lab, School of Health Policy & Management Professor Lora Appel is using virtual reality technology to pilot an Exposure Therapy program focused on anxiety experienced by people with epilepsy. Project participants have identified common anxiety-provoking themes, which will be recreated virtually into 360-degree videos.

After conducting randomized trials in a controlled environment at Toronto Western Hospital, the study will move into the community (recruiting through Epilepsy Toronto), where therapy can be administered in people’s homes. While the results are expected to have a direct impact on people with epilepsy, the researchers also envision applications to others who suffer from anxiety.

Retooling Black Youth Anxiety
Godfred Boateng

Headed by School of Global Health Professor Godfred Boateng, who is director, Global & Environmental Health Lab and Faculty Fellow, Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research, this project will address anxiety and mental health issues of Black youth and their families, resulting from encounters with the criminal justice system and the child welfare system.

Partnerships with the Ghana Union of Canada (GUC) and Gashanti Unity (GU) will play a critical role in implementing this project to their communities. Researchers will recruit participants, identify key needs and work with clinical professionals to provide interventions. An online resource centre and sensitization programs aimed at improving the mental well-being of Black individuals and Black families will be created.

Reducing Anxiety About HPV Tests
Catriona Buick
Catriona Buick

A School of Nursing project led by Professor Catriona Buick focuses on anxiety that is anticipated in response to upcoming revisions to Ontario’s Cervical Screening Guidelines. In other countries, anxiety has been minimized by introducing evidence-based communications with patients around Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection and cervical cancer.

The project will assess whether an infographic education intervention about primary HPV testing can decrease anxiety and increase understanding and acceptance of the upcoming changes to existing screening guidelines. The intent is to manage anxiety, dispel myths and misconceptions, normalize HPV, and improve acceptance of primary HPV testing for routine cervical cancer screening.

Decision-making in a Global Health Crisis
Shayna Rosenbaum
Shayna Rosenbaum

This project will investigate how mental health issues can interfere with people’s compliance with important public health measures – such as mask wearing and vaccination – during a global pandemic. The team, led by Department of Psychology Professor Shayna Rosenbaum, studies “delay discounting” (undervaluing or discounting future benefits when making health decisions).

The researchers will seek methods to reduce anxiety and optimize decision-making during global crises. Their findings will inform action by the Public Health Agency of Canada on the wider impact of COVID-19 and which sectors of society to target through technical briefing.

Thanks to Beneva, the Anxiety Research Fund in the Faculty of Health aims to support critical, community-focused projects to better identify, manage and help reduce the manifestations of anxiety.