York University scientists, engineers receive more than $3.3M from NSERC

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Fifty-four researchers from York University have been awarded more than $3.3 million combined from the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) in support of ongoing research programs across multiple disciplines, including biology, geography, physics and more.

The latest NSERC funding, announced by the Government of Canada on June 14, includes Discovery Grants, Discovery Launch Supplements, Sub-atomic Physics (SAP) Discovery Grants, Northern Research Supplements, and Research Tools and Instruments Grants.

“NSERC’s latest investment in York University’s research excellence strengthens the institution’s leading position in the natural sciences and engineering and reflects the high-calibre talents of our researchers,” said Amir Asif, vice-president research and innovation. “York continues to increase its annual research revenue on a consistent basis and this year’s NSERC Discovery awards are the highest in the University’s history. Congratulations to all of York’s recipients, especially to the 15 early career researchers, for their dedication to advancing new knowledge and shaping the future of their fields.”

Forty-six researchers from York U received Discovery Grants, totalling $2,043,366. Some of the research programs awarded include: studying the genomics and social evolution of bees, by Sandra Rehan in the Faculty of Science ($65,000); building computer systems to control and guide spacecrafts, by Zheng Hong (George) Zhu in the Lassonde School of Engineering ($99,000); and investigating how the human brain manages breathing during physiological stress, by Devin Phillips in the Faculty of Health ($33,000).   

Four researchers from the Department of Physics & Astronomy in the Faculty of Science received more than $1.4 million in SAP Discovery Grants, including Nikita Blinov, Deborah Harris, Eric Hessels and Randy Lewis.

A full list of recipients across the country can be found on the Government of Canada’s website.

For a complete list of York University’s recipients, see below.  

Discovery Grant (including Discovery Launch Supplements and Northern Research Supplements) recipients:

Andrew Donini, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science
Salt and water balance in aquatic insects
$47,000

Gordon Fitch, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science
Tritrophic interactions in a changing world: understanding how urbanization shapes plant-pollinator-parasite interactions to influence pollinator health and pollination services
$38,000
*Discovery Launch Supplement ($12,500)

Katalin Hudak, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science
Regulation and activity of plant ribosome inactivating protein
$48,000

Kohitij Kar, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science
Probing the mechanisms of primate visual intelligence
$38,000
*Discovery Launch Supplement ($12,500)

Terrance Kubiseski
Regulation of Caenorhabditis elegans Stress Response
$40,000

Raymond Kwong, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science
Understanding the homeostatic regulation and neurophysiology of essential trace metals in zebrafish
$39,000

John McDermott, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science
Nucleolar Regulation and Function in Myogenic Cells
$48,000

Eryn McFarlane, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science
The interplay between genetics and the environment on hybrid fitness
$29,000
*Discovery Launch Supplement ($12,500)

Sandra Rehan, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science
Integrative genomics for pollinator health and social evolution
$65,000

Gary Sweeney, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science
Examining cellular consequences of excess iron on skeletal muscle
$33,000

Yongjoo Kim, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science
Methods to Create Mutations in Cells to Understand and Improve Protein Function
$37,000
*Discovery Launch Supplement ($12,500)

Arturo Orellana, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science
Modern Approaches to Electrocyclization of Heptatrienyl Anions
$36,000

Derek Wilson, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science
Advancing Hydrogen Deuterium Exchange Mass Spectrometry to Explore the Dynamic Origins of Protein (mis)Function
$36,000

Cora Young, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science
Characterizing the abundance, sources, and fate of fluorinated gases in the atmosphere
$62,000

Tao Zeng, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science
Theoretical studies of vibronic and spin-vibronic couplings: methodological development and applications in materials science
$36,000

Michael Bazzocchi, Department of Earth & Space Science, Lassonde School of Engineering
Intelligent and Autonomous On-orbit Robotics for Inspection, Assembly, Manufacturing, and Servicing
$32,000
*Discovery Launch Supplement ($12,500)

Sunil Bisnath, Department of Earth & Space Science, Lassonde
Resilient satellite-based precise positioning and navigation
$43,000

Jianguo Wang, Department of Earth & Space Science, Lassonde
Intelligent Data Fusion Methodology for Multisensor-Integrated Kinematic Positioning and Navigation
$43,000

Joann Jasiak, Department of Economics, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
Advances in Inference Methods for Stationary Martingales and Non-Gaussian Processes
$11,966

Elisabeth Burjons Pujol, Department of Electrical Engineering, Lassonde
Online Algorithms with Reservation and Preemption
$25,000
*Discovery Launch Supplement ($12,500)

Viet Hung Pham, Department of Electrical Engineering, Lassonde
Leveraging Model Interactions to Improve the Reliability of Machine Learning Systems
$24,000
*Discovery Launch Supplement ($12,500)

Ali Sadeghi-Naini, Department of Electrical Engineering, Lassonde
Smart ultrasound platform for tissue characterization and monitoring
$41,000

Ping Wang, Department of Electrical Engineering, Lassonde
AI-empowered Intelligent network management for next generation wireless communications networks
$55,000

Jennifer Korosi, Geography, Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change
Lakes as sentinels and agents of environmental change in rapidly thawing discontinuous permafrost peatlands
$43,000
*Northern Research Supplement ($15,000)

Joshua Thienpoint, Geography, Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change
Reconstructing disturbance regimes and aquatic ecosystem impacts of permafrost thaw slumping
$26,000
*Discovery Supplement ($12,500)
**Northern Research Supplement ($15,000)

Ali Abdul-Sater, Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health
Exercise mediated training of tissue resident macrophages
$40,000

Tara Haas, Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health
Regulation of angiogenesis in skeletal muscle and adipose tissues
$33,000

Devin Phillips, Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health
The neural control of breathing during physiological stress in humans
$33,000
*Discovery Launch Supplement ($12,500)

Dan Palermo, Lassonde School of Engineering
Resilient and Sustainable Concrete Structures: Mitigation of Residual Displacements and Concrete Damage
$43,000

Nantel Bergeron, Mathematics & Statistics, Faculty of Science
Quasisymmetric varieties, Schubert polynomials and other algebraic combinatorial systems
$27,000

Miles Couchman, Mathematics & Statistics, Faculty of Science
Turbulent mixing in stratified flows
$26,000
Discovery Supplement

Ilijas Farah, Mathematics & Statistics, Faculty of Science
K-theory reversing automorphisms of the Calkin algebra. Disintegration of von Neumann algebras
$48,000

Xin Gao, Mathematics & Statistics, Faculty of Science
Statistical learning methods for multi-task and network data
$27,000

Jane Heffernan, Mathematics & Statistics, Faculty of Science
Towards an immuno-epidemiological framework: Tradeoffs between biological detail and mathematical complexity
$31,000

Paul Skoufranis, Mathematics & Statistics, Faculty of Science
Linearization in Bi-Free Probability
$24,000

Jianhong Wu, Mathematics & Statistics, Faculty of Science
Delay Differential Equations: Theory of Global Dynamics with Applications to Public Health of Zoonotic Diseases
$60,000

Kaiqiong Zhao, Mathematics & Statistics, Faculty of Science
Novel statistical methods for complex data-enabled learning and causal discovery$23,000
*Discovery Launch Supplement ($12,500)

Paul O’Brien, Mechanical Engineering, Lassonde School of Engineering
Development of Photothermal and Radiative Cooling Surfaces and Structures for Environmental Sustainability
$32,000

Zheng Hong Zhu, Mechanical Engineering, Lassonde School of Engineering
Computational Control Framework and Application for Flexible Spacecraft
$99,000

Scott Beattie, Physics & Astronomy, Faculty of Science
Optical Frequency Combs and Atomic Clocks for Frequency and Time Metrology
$19,900
*Discovery Launch Supplement ($12,500)

Charles-Eduoard Boukaré, Physics & Astronomy, Faculty of Science
Solidification Dynamics of Rocky Planets Interiors
$28,500
*Discovery Launch Supplement ($12,500)

Eric Hessels, Physics & Astronomy, Faculty of Science
Tests of Fundamental Physics Using Atoms and Molecules
$61,000

Matthew Johnson, Physics & Astronomy, Faculty of Science
Fundamental Physics from Microwave Background Secondary Anisotropies and Quantum Simulation of Vacuum Decay
$75,000

Rahul Kannan, Physics & Astronomy, Faculty of Science
Modelling high redshift structure formation and reionization
$39,000
*Discovery Launch Supplement ($12,500)

Adam Muzzin, Physics & Astronomy, Faculty of Science
Resolving Galaxy Growth with Canadian-Built Astronomical Instrumentation
$50,000

Paul Scholz, Physics & Astronomy, Faculty of Science
Revealing the nature of Fast Radio Bursts and unlocking their potential as probes of the Universe
$33,000
*Discovery Launch Supplement ($12,500)

Sub-atomic Physics Discovery Grant recipients:

Nikita Blinov, Physics & Astronomy, Faculty of Science
Three Directions Toward the Discovery of Dark Matter
$55,000

Deborah Harris, Physics & Astronomy, Faculty of Science
Paving the way for Neutrino Oscillation Measurements at DUNE
$900,000

Eric Hessels, Physics & Astronomy, Faculty of Science
Probing PeV-scale physics: Measuring the electron electric dipole moment using barium monofluoride embedded in an argon solid
$495,000

Randy Lewis, Physics & Astronomy, Faculty of Science
Lattice gauge theory on classical and quantum computers
$90,000

Research Tools and Instrument Grant recipients:

Zheng Hong Zhu, Mechanical Engineering, Lassonde School of Engineering
Ground Experiment System of Free-Floating Dual-Arm Space Robot for Autonomous On-Orbit Service
$150,000

Christopher Perry, Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health
A core high-frequency ultrasound imager for non-invasive measures of cardiac structure and function as well as muscle structure in mice
$150,000

Richard Murray, Psychology, Faculty of Health
Display calibration for virtual and augmented reality
$148,410

Ronald Hanson, Mechnical Engineering, Lassonde School of Engineering
Camera System for Particle Image Velocimetry with Upgraded Stereo Measurement Feature
$127,979

Marina Freire-Gormaly, Mechnical Engineering, Lassonde School of Engineering
Fast Mobility Particle Sizer Tool for Effective Particulate and Aerosol Emissions Characterization
$150,000

Annual Walk with Excellence to celebrate achievements of local high-school graduates

2016 Walk with Excellence

Now in its 11th year, the Walk with Excellence is an annual event that celebrates the achievements of graduating students from high schools in Toronto’s Jane and Finch community. Signifying the beginning of their journey to post-secondary education, the event – taking place this year on Thursday, June 6 – will see over 500 graduating students walk from five local high schools onto York University’s Keele Campus.

The students’ supportive teachers and administrators will be cheering them on along the way, and all York University community members are invited join in welcoming the students onto the Keele Campus in true York U style.

“The Walk with Excellence signals new beginnings and a new season,” said Itah Sadu, founder of the Walk with Excellence and a York University honorary degree recipient. “Walking with the graduating students in this annual urban rite of passage is pure joy.”

Organized by a coalition of community partners – including the York University-TD Community Engagement Centre, local school principals and high-school leaders, the Blackhurst Cultural Centre and A Different Booklist – the Walk with Excellence will feature brief musical performances from each participating high school, remarks from community leaders and Toronto poet laureate Lillian Allen reading a poem she wrote specifically for the event. Organizers look forward to presenting several bursaries this year, generously funded by CUPE Local 4400/Toronto Education Workers, Blackhurst Cultural Centre and York University.

“We are proud to stand alongside our students and school board partners in celebrating the hard work and dedication that define the Jane and Finch community’s collective journey toward excellence,” said Byron Gray, manager of the York University-TD Community Engagement Centre. “Together, we are fostering a brighter future for all.”

All York University community members are invited to take part in the event by cheering for students as they enter the Keele Campus and witnessing the presentation of scholarships and remarks. The students are expected to arrive in front of Vari Hall at approximately 11:30 a.m.

Those who cannot attend or would like to further support the cause can consider contributing to Vice-Provost Academic Marcia Annisette’s Walk with Excellence campaign for 2025, which will offer bursaries to five future York U students – one from each of the five participating high schools.

“This event exemplifies the power of community, resilience and academic achievement,” said Annisette. “It is our vision that a newly initiated campaign will engage all of York University in funding an ongoing Walk with Excellence Bursary.”

Two York faculty members receive Minister’s Award of Excellence

Colored confetti flying on blue background

Professors Pina D’Agostino and Andrew Maxwell have each been recognized with the government of Ontario’s 2022-23 Minister’s Award of Excellence in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which is given to people within the province’s post-secondary institutions and career colleges who demonstrate dedication and achievement in their respective fields.

Recipients of the Minister’s Award of Excellence are selected based on their accomplishments in teaching excellence, research innovation, student engagement and community partnerships. The award aims to not only recognize individual excellence, but how winners have made an impact in shaping the future of Ontario’s education sector.

Giuseppina (Pina) D'Agostino
Pina D’Agostino

This year, the minister received over 480 nominations. In their award category – Innovation and Entrepreneurship – D’Agostino and Maxwell represented two of the three total winners, demonstrating their, and York’s, leadership in the field.

This year, D’Agostino was recognized – as noted by the award committee – for her “track record of founding leading-edge initiatives … that [have] supported countless startups across the province.” Notable examples are D’Agostino’s founding and directing of the IP Innovation Clinic and the Intellectual Property Law & Technology Intensive Program, as well as being the founding director of IP Osgoode. Through these initiatives, she has helped to provide vital support to hundreds of innovators and startups in Ontario and across Canada, helping advance knowledge and the application of intellectual property (IP) and offsetting over $2 million via pro bono assistance while helping to train the next generation of IP practitioners.

D’Agostino is also the inaugural co-director of the Centre for Artificial Intelligence & Society and played a critical role in securing York University’s historic $318-million Canada First Research Excellence Fund award for the Connected Minds: Neural and Machine Systems for a Healthy and Just Society project, where she served as its co-principal investigator and was named its inaugural vice-director. As of March 1, she has also been promoted to director of Connected Minds.

The Minister’s Awards of Excellence additionally recognized Maxwell – a Bergeron Chair in Technology Entrepreneurship – for his dedication to transforming student educational experiences and driving economic development through pioneering initiatives.

Andrew Maxwell
Andrew Maxwell

Those initiatives have included the establishment of the living lab, which fosters collaboration between academia and industry through strategic partnerships. Among collaborations overseen by Maxwell is the prototyping, testing and deployment of the SARIT micro-mobility electric vehicle on campus. The SARIT vehicles are a flagship project for the new Manufacturing, Technology & Entrepreneurship Centre, which has provided students with invaluable opportunities to engage directly with industry leaders and work on cutting-edge technologies poised to impact mobility and the growing electric vehicle industry. Maxwell has also helped secure multidisciplinary research funding from York and the Ontario Research Fund to explore the social impact of the SARIT and enhance its safety and ride experience.

As the director of the Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science & Technology (BEST) Lab at Lassonde, he has also been instrumental in supporting entrepreneurial ventures, enhancing university research commercialization and revolutionizing educational paradigms.

As a professor, Maxwell was also recognized for his efforts to link sustainability, experiential learning and community with innovative pedagogical methods – including weekend hackathons, multidisciplinary entrepreneurship certificates and intense, three-week, experiential international visits.

Further information about the Minister’s Awards of Excellence can be found on the Government of Ontario website.

York U and Philippines advance emergency response leadership with MOU

YEMERGE Philippines MOU BANNER

By Elaine Smith

Members of the York Emergency Mitigation, Engagement, Response, & Governance Institute (Y-EMERGE) have travelled to the Philippines to establish a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the country’s Civil Defense Training Institute (CDTI).

Earlier in 2024, Ali Asgary and Eric Kennedy, professors of disaster and emergency management and associate directors of Y-EMERGE – a York University Organized Research Unit dedicated to research and training in disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness – were invited to Manila for the launch of CDTI and the MOU signing ceremony.

Eric Kennedy (far left) and Ali Asgary (far right) at the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding in Manila.
Eric Kennedy (far left) and Ali Asgary (far right) at the signing of the memorandum of understanding in Manila.

The partnership – and trip – grew out of an earlier visit to the Philippines by Provost and Vice-President Academic Lisa Phillips in November 2023 (as part of the Universities Canada Partnership Mission) where queries emerged about areas of specialization that York had in common with the country and its researchers.

Because the Philippines is ranked among the most disaster-prone countries in the world, and York’s Y-EMERGE is a national leader in emergency management, a natural fit was quickly found.

Asgary and Kennedy travelled to Manila in March for the official MOU signing, which also included a discussion about short-, medium- and long-term collaborations with York. CDTI was very interested in the work of York’s Advanced Disaster, Emergency and Rapid Response Simulation (ADERSIM) team – where Asgary is a core scientist – as well as the University’s technology and training.

Ali Asgary (right) giving a demonstration to a colleague
Ali Asgary (right) giving a demonstration to a colleague.

“We had great discussions with the senior people there,” Asgary says. “They are keen to collaborate, knowing that York has strong research and training expertise in disaster management. This formal collaboration initiative through the MOU makes it more impactful.”

The agreement is especially meaningful, since 2024 marks the 75th anniversary of Canada-Philippines diplomatic relations.

The professors also used the trip to further other York partnerships, collaborate and make new contacts. Asgary and Kennedy connected with CDTI personnel, and visited with disaster and emergency management experts at the University of the Philippines’ Resilience Institute. They also met with CIFAL Philippines, a sister organization to CIFAL York – both part of the United Nations Institute for Training & Research.

“We used this trip as a way to advance University partnerships in areas where York has exceptional strengths,” Kennedy says. “Building collaborative relationships with institutions in the Philippines is a natural connection point, given both sides have significant expertise in disaster and emergency management – and given the many hazards, including volcanoes, typhoons and earthquakes, faced in the Philippines.

Eric Kennedy during his visit
Eric Kennedy during his visit.

“The idea is to build mutual learning, collaboration and opportunities for exchange. Our new CDTI partners have an incredible amount of lived experience in managing a wide variety of hazards. Creating relationships and partnerships is so much more valuable than simply importing solutions. The best programs are born out of collaboration, so we are eager to work together to build resilience, conduct research and train the next generation of emergency leaders.”

The first product of the new partnership will be a monthly virtual speaker series about climate change displacement, an issue that is a focus for CIFAL Philippines, the Resilient Institute and the CDTI, which will begin in June as a way to share expertise and resources. It is a practical first step for the partners to undertake, but it promises to be the first of many, including research collaborations and potential student exchanges.

Asgary and Kennedy also met with numerous faculty members at the University of the Philippines for a presentation about some of their current projects and a tour of their various labs. They were able to assess where synergies exist and connect York colleagues with researchers who have similar interests.

In addition, Asgary, a specialist in volcanic emergencies and emergency simulations, and Kennedy, an expert in wildfire emergencies and decision-making during disasters, were each able to find commonalities with Filipino researchers and consider individual research collaborations.

Asgary also had the opportunity to visit two active volcanoes, as well as volcano observatories, facilitated by CDTI and their regional directors, and is already busy in working on simulations used for planning and training.

“We can now broker mutually beneficial connections and match up teams in both directions,” Kennedy says. “It was also a fruitful space to foster relationships beyond those with our three official partners. At the launch, we met representatives from a variety of organizations with overlapping interests, such as the World Food Programme and the International Organization for Migration.

“It is so important that York prioritizes this kind of in-person relationship building. There are a lot of ways to sustain relationships in the virtual world, but they are built on the foundation of in-person relationships. In-person connections are incredibly valuable.”

Vinitha Gengatharan, York’s assistant vice-president, global engagement, says Asgary and Kennedy are modelling the type of relationship the University is eager to create with its international partners.

“Knowledge sharing, respect and mutually enriching collaboration are vital ingredients for successful international partnerships,” Gengatharan says. “Ali and Eric set the standard for the type of relationships we continue to build worldwide.”

The seeds of this relationship may have just been planted, but they are already bearing fruit.

York University brings emergency management journal in-house

By Alexander Huls, deputy editor, YFile

The Canadian Journal of Emergency Management (CJEM), once published independently, has migrated to York Digital Journals (YDJ) – along with its back catalogue – to pursue a shared goal of providing practitioners and academics a resource to advance their efforts to manage disasters and save lives.

CJEM was launched in 2020 to promote awareness, knowledge and best practices of emergency management in Canada. That goal was one reason that, two years later, it formed a partnership with the York Emergency Mitigation, Engagement, Response, & Governance Institute (Y-EMERGE), the largest and strongest emergency management initiative of its kind Canada, to become its official journal.

Eric Kennedy
Eric Kennedy

When CJEM joined Y-EMERGE, it gained a new editor-in-chief in Professor Eric Kennedy, a leader in the field who is also associate director of Y-EMERGE and one of six speakers in York’s award-winning Microlecture Series in Sustainable Living. One of Kennedy’s goals to open up the journal – to other fields and contributors – was to build on something CJEM had already established: being open access.

“We’re wanting to do this in the right way and make it accessible to different audiences, including those who can’t pay for a journal subscription or might not have it in their budget to afford to buy an article,” says Kennedy, who stresses that – given the often life-saving value of the latest knowledge in the field of emergency management – it’s essential to remove as many access barriers as possible.

To keep doing so, Kennedy had the idea to approach a potential key partner: York Digital Journals.

An electronic journal-hosting service run through the York University Libraries, YDJ looks to help community members create new journals or migrate existing ones online through a platform called Open Journal Systems, which can streamline submissions, peer review, editing and publishing.

After some conversations, Kennedy asked if YDJ could help do just that for CJEM. “I thought it would be a great opportunity,” says Tomasz Mrozewski, a digital publishing librarian in the Department of Digital Scholarship Infrastructure, who wanted to bring to Kennedy and the journal what they’ve done for many others at York. “What we’re really doing is helping enable certain services and certain processes,” he says.

YDJ now provides CJEM with assistance in publishing content, navigating copyright agreements with authors and promoting articles within the scholarly communications ecosystem – all while ensuring the journal is free to read and publish. In adopting more of the logistical side of publishing, YDJ aims to provide help that can have a significant impact on the future of the journal. “By taking on some of the burden of managing that infrastructure, it allows CJEM to reinvest their energy into the more specialized and demanding areas that they’re experts in,” says Mrozewski.  

Among the areas Kennedy and CJEM are reinvesting their energies is dedicating time to publish and mentor early career researchers and non-academic voices. The editorial team is guided by questions like, “How do we provide coaching and support for practitioners writing for a journal for the first time? What does it look like to provide constructive and coaching peer reviews for early career researchers, and helping practitioners get their feet under them when it comes to rigorously documenting their lived experiences and lessons learned from real-life disasters?”

The goal is to get new voices into the field of emergency management and knowledge production to ensure there is a representative cross-section of perspectives not limited by experience, background or academic record.

What we’re really excited to see is people using this knowledge and breaking down those walls between academic knowledge production and how people actually do practise in this field,” Kennedy says. “We think of our readership as being not just academics but also practitioners – fire managers, paramedics, emergency managers, and other professionals and community beyond the academy. The journal is trying to advance knowledge, but also trying to do so in a way that is relevant to the people who are at the frontlines of the climate crisis.”

To aid real-world applications, where knowledge is often time-critical and life-saving, the journal is also leveraging YDJ’s help to shift from publishing once or twice a year on a fixed timeline and moving to continually open submission calls and publication of articles. That way, the journal can publish case studies, reports or timely studies quickly – and, often, in response to an ongoing or emergent disaster – in the aim to provide help as much as it can.

“The journal can play a role in helping to avoid injuries and loss of life and the impact to communities by sharing what we’re learning about how to build resilience and how to manage disasters,” says Kennedy. “We want to be able to say, ‘The research we’re doing and mobilizing is helping to avoid adverse impacts that would be happening if we weren’t here.’ That’s the gold standard.”

For Mrozewski, that is what he hopes YDJ can help facilitate, too. “I would love to see the journal flourish with a minimal of worrying about the basics,” he says. With the future direction of the journal – and YDJ’s help – that gold standard looks very achievable.

Grads innovate skincare with cutting-edge technology

Close,Up,Shot,Of,Beautiful,Female,Hands,Holding,And,Applying

Anna Kotova and Ksenia Timonina, former York University PhD students, converge science and cosmetics in their venture Agenek – a gene diagnostic skincare company that leverages emerging technology in innovative ways.

The root of Agenek – which offers personalized skincare reports and recommendations – began after Kotova and Timonina’s graduate studies in the Department of Biology at York.

A focus on molecular biology and genetics laid the foundation for their venture, as their shared expertise and passion for understanding genetic mechanisms naturally led them to explore innovative applications in skincare technology. 

Notably, they recognized the potential of transcriptomic analysis, which looks at ribonucleic acid (RNA), which has structural similarities to DNA.

“While the DNA testing market may be saturated, we are pioneering the use of RNA biology to develop a direct-to-consumer skin test for personalized skincare,” explains Kotova.

Their company’s groundbreaking transcriptomic analysis dives deep into the RNA molecules within facial skin cells, offering dynamic insights into skin health. It differs from DNA-based tests, providing a comprehensive view of the skin’s current condition and guiding personalized recommendations based on gene expression profiles. The methodology is unique to the beauty industry, placing Agenek at the forefront of personalized skincare solutions, Kotova says.

The process begins with a testing kit ordered from Agenek’s website, which includes a microneedle patch applied to the skin for 10 minutes. The sample is then sent to the company’s Kitchener, Ont., laboratory, while users provide additional insights via a digital questionnaire. Then, Agenek delivers a personalized report outlining unique skin needs and customized product recommendations. 

Through the analysis of gene expression profiles, Agenek identifies specific “problem genes” and provides targeted recommendations for existing skin-care products, empowering individuals to make informed decisions about their skincare routines.

Supported by YSpace ELLA Women Accelerator, Lab2Market, MaRS and other agencies, Agenek benefits from a robust network offering essential resources and guidance to Kotova and Timonina to scale their innovative skincare venture.

A future goal is to advance skincare science while offering individuals enhanced skincare options, potentially improving their quality of life.

“We hope to empower individuals to better understand their skin’s unique needs and make informed decisions about skincare products and treatments,” Kotova says. “By providing comprehensive insights into gene expression profiles and offering tailored recommendations, we seek to improve overall skin health and confidence.”

York University announces 2024 Top 30 Alumni Under 30

Top 30 Alumni banner

Voir la version francaise

York University has announced its Top 30 Alumni Under 30 for 2024. This distinguished group of alumni under the age of 30 have displayed exemplary leadership and volunteerism to address deep and complex social challenges – both locally and globally.

“The York University Top 30 Alumni Under 30 program showcases the remarkable work that York’s young alumni have done to create positive change at home and abroad,” says Julie Lafford, assistant vice-president, alumni engagement. “The 2024 cohort is an accomplished group featuring creative artists, innovators in science, business leaders and champions for social justice.

Dael Vasquez
Dael Vasquez

The 2024 recipients have applied the skills, knowledge and learning experiences they gained at York towards community service that benefits the public good.

“I was humbled and incredibly thankful to receive this tremendous honour,” says Dael Vasquez, a 2024 recipient. “This recognition is a great opportunity to highlight the transformative impact that youth can have when they apply everyday skills in research, writing and community relations.”

Launched in 2021, York’s Top 30 Alumni Under 30 program seeks to highlight the success and diversity of the University’s alumni community, while inspiring the next generation of young alumni leaders. To view the full list of 2024 recipients, and learn more about them, visit the Top 30 Alumni Under 30 web page.

L’Université York annonce ses 30 meilleurs diplômés de moins de 30 ans pour 2024

Top 30 Alumni banner

L’Université York annonce ses 30 meilleurs diplômés de moins de 30 ans pour l’année 2024. Ce groupe de diplômées et diplômés admirables, tous âgés de moins de 30 ans, a fait preuve d’un leadership et d’un bénévolat exemplaires pour relever des défis sociaux majeurs et complexes à l’échelle locale et mondiale.

« Le programme des 30 meilleurs diplômés de moins de 30 ans de l’Université York reconnaît le travail remarquable que les jeunes diplômés de York ont accompli pour créer des changements positifs dans leur pays et à l’étranger », a déclaré Julie Lafford, vice-présidente adjointe, engagement des diplômés. La cohorte 2024 comprend des esprits créatifs, des innovateurs et innovatrices scientifiques, des leaders d’entreprise et des champions et championnes de la justice sociale.

Les lauréates et lauréats de 2024 ont appliqué les compétences, connaissances et expériences d’apprentissage acquises à York à des services communautaires qui profitent au bien collectif. 

Dael Vasquez
Dael Vasquez

« C’est avec humilité et une immense gratitude que j’ai reçu cet honneur exceptionnel, a déclaré Dael Vasquez, lauréat de 2024. Cette reconnaissance est une excellente occasion de souligner l’effet transformateur que les jeunes peuvent avoir lorsqu’ils mettent en pratique leurs compétences quotidiennes en matière de recherche, de rédaction et de relations avec la communauté. »

Lancé en 2021, le programme des 30 meilleurs diplômés de moins de 30 ans de York vise à mettre en évidence le succès et la diversité de la communauté des diplômés de l’Université, tout en inspirant la prochaine génération de jeunes leaders.

Pour consulter la liste complète des meilleurs diplômés de moins de 30 ans pour 2024 et pour en savoir plus à leur sujet, visitez la page Web des 30 meilleurs diplômés de moins de 30 ans.

York U a Canadian leader in autism support

York University’s Strengthening Transitions for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) program has emerged as a leader within Canada for providing comprehensive support to students, faculty and staff.

Autism prevalence in Canada has surged in recent years, with approximately one in every 50 individuals aged one to 17 receiving a diagnosis, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. This increase has led to a growing need for universities to adequately support students with autism as they pursue higher education.

In response, York has emerged as a leader in offering solutions with its ASD program, one of the most comprehensive initiatives in Canada.

Raymond Peart
Raymond Peart

Led by Raymond Peart, the co-ordinator of York’s ASD program, with support from intake manager Angela Lecompte, the initiative provides a wide array of services aimed at helping students with autism succeed academically and socially. Starting with early engagement opportunities such as ASD Transition Days and workshops for high-school educators, the program aims to equip incoming students with essential skills for university life, while also fostering a sense of belonging and confidence. 

Other key features include personalized sessions addressing individual needs and fostering crucial social connections. Driven by an adaptive, feedback-driven approach, the program aims to ensure responsiveness and anticipate challenges, enhancing both academic and social skills development.

“By focusing on individual strengths,” Peart says, “the program counters societal misconceptions, advocating for a future where neurodiversity is acknowledged and supported.”

Angela Lecompte
Angela Lecompte

In their evolving approach to supporting students, families, faculty and staff, Peart and Lecompte acknowledge the contributions of the Autism Mental Health Literacy Project and the Autism Mentorship Program (AMP), which have helped shape their services, while the dedicated mentors of the AMP have provided invaluable support to students with autism, fostering a sense of belonging and recognition.

While York’s program is an example of comprehensive support, reports by organizations such as the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS) and the Canadian cross-disability charity National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) highlight the broader challenges faced by students with autism in Canadian universities. 

According to CAHS, there is a notable lack of autism-specific assistance at post-secondary schools across the country. Similarly, a 2021 study in the United States revealed that only 2.2 per cent of public and not-for-profit universities and colleges have autism-specific college support programs. 

This scarcity of dedicated support programs is further highlighted by NEADS’ findings of frequent ineffective accommodations for students with disabilities at universities, along with an over-reliance on teaching those students to self-advocate, creating additional challenges for them.

In its efforts to provide comprehensive support and proactive engagement, York’s ASD program collaborates with institutions nationwide to foster a stronger support network for students with autism. Looking ahead, it plans to further refine its support services and strengthen ties with career counselling to prepare students for life after graduation. 

Initiatives such as the Conversations Create Change podcast series, designed by adults with autism at York, foster understanding and connection within the neurodivergent community on campus. 

“Through our program, we’re striving to help autistic students establish a sense of belonging and work towards self-actualization,” Peart says. “Our goal is to give them the confidence to move forward and succeed in both academic and social aspects of university life.”

Provost receives national leadership award

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This month, Provost and Vice-President Academic Lisa Philipps was recognized by the Senior Women Academic Administrators of Canada as the recipient of the Angela Hildyard Leadership Recognition Award in the Influential Leader category.

Lisa Philipps

Each year, this award is given to an emerging or influential leader who has continued to demonstrate innovative and impactful leadership in advancing the mission of, and achieving outstanding contributions to, their institution or to higher education.

Influential leaders are recognized for their ability to make rich and meaningful contributions at an institutional or community level, improve the educational experiences of post-secondary students at all levels and coaching or mentoring the next generation of Canadian educators, among other important qualities.

As provost and vice-president academic at York University, Philipps played a critical role in leading development of the University Academic Plan 2020-2025, charting a bold path to creating positive change for York’s students, its campuses, and its communities near and far. With a bold commitment to elevate the University’s collective contributions to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, York has been recognized repeatedly among the top 40 institutions worldwide in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings.

As provost, Philipps continues to demonstrate her interest in empowering emerging leaders to make meaningful contributions to University communities and to strengthening the post-secondary sector’s impact in Canada and around the world. In 2021, she created the Provostial Fellows Program, an initiative aimed at creating pathways for diverse future academic leaders through mentorship and skill building. Fellows have gone on to assume associate dean positions, oversee undergraduate programming and take on senior Chair positions at other top post-secondary institutions.

Throughout her two terms serving as provost and vice-president academic, Philipps has overseen expanded experiential learning opportunities at York and the continued growth of the Academic Innovation Fund, which supports Faculty and campus partners in their efforts to develop new and exciting ways to educate students. She has also been an instrumental leader in expanding the University’s footprint, with a new Markham Campus set to serve one of the most diverse and dynamic urban communities in the province and country.

Beyond York, Philipps began her academic career in the Faculty of Law at the University of Victoria. She later served as associate dean for research, graduate studies and institutional relations at Osgoode Hall Law School; associate vice-president of research at York University; and interim dean of the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law at Lakehead University. At Lakehead, Philipps helped support a new law school to realize its mandate of strengthening the Indigenous bar and preparing lawyers to practise in northern and rural communities.

Each year, a donation is made on an award recipient’s behalf to an institution of their choosing, in the form of a contribution to an endowment or fund that supports students, or to a registered charitable organization supporting educational initiatives. Philipps has chosen to direct these funds to York University’s Student Financial Aid fund to support future student success.