Supreme Court justice welcomes first-year students to Osgoode

gavel and notepad

Andromache Karakatsanis (LLB ’80), Osgoode Hall Law School alumna and Canada’s longest-serving Supreme Court justice, welcomed Osgoode’s Class of 2026 with an encouraging speech and some words of wisdom.

Andromache Karakatsanis
Andromache Karakatsanis. Photo by Jessica Deeks Photography,
Supreme Court of Canada Collection

Appointed to the Supreme Court in 2011, Justice Karakatsanis looked back fondly on her legal education at Osgoode, and especially her experience at Parkdale Community Legal Services, which she called “transformative.”

“That was one of the reasons that I came to Osgoode,” she told the students. “I grew up in an immigrant household, in a warm, supportive environment. At Parkdale, I encountered people who had not had that, and it really opened my eyes. It brought home for me that the law is about helping people.”

Karakatsanis, who grew up in Toronto working in her parents’ Greek restaurant, told the students that they will quickly learn in the legal profession that their reputation is everything. And that, while advocacy is important, it should not cloud their ethical standards, analytical skills or good judgment. 

“How you live your life is as important as what you do in your life,” said Karakatsanis. “So how you can enrich the community, the human connections we make and the small kindnesses are just as important as any grade you achieve.”

During a question-and-answer session following her speech, incoming Osgoode Dean and Professor Trevor Farrow noted that Justice Karakatsanis’s message resonated strongly with the school’s distinctive emphasis on legal ethics – beginning in first year with its first-semester Ethical Lawyering in a Global Community course.

Karakatsanis went on to advise students against feeling the need to have a grand plan for their law career. “No matter what you choose to do in life, law school will serve you well,” she said. “These skills will prepare you to open your mind to the world and to become involved in your communities. Be open to opportunities that interest or challenge you.”

She left the students with one final takeaway about dealing with career or academic disappointment and persevering despite it. After law school, she said, her goal was to become a Crown attorney, but she was passed over. “I was devastated,” she recalled. “I thought my career was over before it began.

“Why do I tell you this story?” she asked. “Because when one door closes, another opens.”

Real estate and infrastructure scholarships honour three Schulich students

Construction site

York University’s Schulich School of Business recently announced the winners of three prestigious scholarships in the Master of Real Estate & Infrastructure (MREI) program.

Jesica Anane (MREI candidate ‘24), who joins Schulich from Ghana and has extensive experience in project management, is the recipient of the Gary Whitelaw Strength in Diversity Award. Established in 2021 by global real estate investment firm BentallGreenOak (BGO), this $25,000 award draws on former chief executive officer and current Schulich Executive-in-Residence Gary Whitelaw’s continuing commitment to improve diversity and representation in Canada’s commercial real estate industry by investing in future leaders. “I plan to make the most of this opportunity to excel academically and contribute positively to society,” said Anane. “I am determined to give back to the community and make a difference in the lives of others, just as BGO has done for me.”

Left to right: MREI '24 candidates Bianca Gornik, Jesica Anane and Sonal Bagga
Pictured, from left to right: MREI ’24 candidates and scholarship recipients Bianca Gornik, Jesica Anane and Sonal Bagga

The Edward Sonshine Scholarship, established by RioCan, is offered to students entering the 12-month MREI program who have demonstrated the highest academic standing, leadership ability and commitment to the real estate sector. The $25,000 scholarship has been awarded to Bianca Gornik (MREI candidate ‘24). Gornik has an undergraduate degree in urban studies and art history from the University of Toronto and two years of experience in the real estate private equity industry. “This scholarship will immensely impact my academic journey and professional trajectory,” said Gornik. “I am extremely honoured to have the opportunity to be mentored by RioCan’s top talent, with the potential for a future internship with the company.”

With a background in architecture and urban planning, Sonal Bagga (MREI candidate ‘24) is the winner of the inaugural Graywood Developments Master of Real Estate & Infrastructure Award, which aims to foster the growth of talented young leaders in the field of real estate and construction. “Your belief in my potential empowers me to strive and reach new heights in my career,” said Bagga. “From a young age, I have immersed myself in the world of design and construction, learning invaluable lessons from my father’s wealth of experience. Your investment in me will guarantee a bright future for me, as well as the communities that will benefit from my contributions.”

Jim Clayton, the Timothy R. Price Chair in Real Estate and Infrastructure at Schulich, expressed his gratitude for the generosity of the program’s corporate partners: “We are grateful for the continued support of our corporate partners in helping us attract top talent and develop future leaders in the industry. It is an honour for us to be associated with these great companies focused on equitable access to opportunity in the real estate and infrastructure sectors.”

For more information about Schulich’s Master of Real Estate & Infrastructure program, visit Master of Real Estate and Infrastructure | Schulich School of Business (

York program funds 16 Global South health-care hubs

heart and stethoscope

A York University-led program is helping bolster health care with artificial intelligence (AI) solutions throughout the Global South by providing more than $5.8 million in funding for 16 projects in as many countries. The projects aim to combat infectious diseases, including polio surveillance in Ethiopia and helping Indigenous communities in the Philippines.

“We have led the call to strengthen the health-care system in low- and medium-income countries (LMIC) in the Global South for more than a year now,” says Assistant Professor Jude Kong, executive director of the Global South Artificial Intelligence for Pandemic and Epidemic Preparedness and Response Network (AI4PEP), which received $7.25 million in funding from the International Development Research Centre in 2022 to develop a multi-regional, interdisciplinary network to use AI and big data to improve public health preparedness and response, and promote equitable and ethical solutions.

Jude Kong
Jude Kong

Originally from Cameroon, Kong understands the strains faced by health-care systems in LMIC and the importance of southern-led solutions. “Funding these projects will help strengthen capacity and support prevention, early detection, preparedness, mitigation and control of emerging or re-emerging infectious disease outbreaks in LMIC countries in Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East, which, as we know, can make their way to every country in the world.” Incidents of disease outbreaks are expected to increase in severity and frequency as more viruses, bacteria and parasites jump from animals to people.

After a recent call for project proposals, the AI4PEP team received 221 submissions from 47 countries, with 142 of them from Africa, 40 from Asia and 26 from Latin America. The overall program framework centres around a gender, equity, inclusion and decolonization lens.

Vinitha Gingatharan

“AI4PEP at York University is deepening the understanding of how equitable and responsibly designed artificial intelligence can lead to southern-led solutions to strengthen public health-care systems in the Global South,” says Vinitha Gengatharan, assistant vice-president, global engagement and partnerships. “This is just the start of a growing, multi-regional network to improve and strengthen public health preparedness and response to disease outbreaks that can make a real difference in the lives of people.”

The projects are led by universities in collaboration with health-care system stakeholders in 16 regions of the Global South. They include – among others – AI and modelling for community-based detection of zoonotic disease with increasing climate change in Senegal; a Foundation for Medical Research-University of Mumbai project; an AI-powered early detection system for communicable respiratory diseases based on integrated data sets at Wits University in South Africa; an Al-Quds University project; and an AI and eco-epidemiology-based early warning systems to improve public health response to mosquito-borne viruses in the Dominican Republic. 

As diseases increasingly spread from animals to people with continued human encroachment into natural landscapes, AI4PEP’s One Health concept is designed to recognize and respond to the reality that human health is interdependent with the health of animals and the environment. Climate change is another huge factor.

“Climate change is exacerbating existing health and social inequities by increasing the vulnerability of climate hotspots to the emergence and re-emergence of many infectious diseases, such as malaria, dengue fever and Zika,” says Associate Professor Ali Asgary of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. “This is a huge initiative, but with the support of many of York’s research institutes, including the York Emergency Mitigation, Engagement, Response and Governance Institute directed by Distinguished Research Professor Jianhong Wu, as well as CIFAL and the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research, I believe we can all collaborate with this exceptional global network to respond to the increasing threat of infectious diseases.”

AI solutions and data science approaches are increasingly being used across the globe to identify risks, conduct predictive modelling and provide evidence-based recommendations for public health policy and action. 

“Responding to the complex nature of these interactions in a timely way requires the ability to analyze large data sets across multiple sectors,” says Kong, who is also director of the Africa-Canada Artificial Intelligence and Data Innovation Consortium.

But even with the promised good of these innovative tools to improve public health outcomes, the team recognizes there are important ethical, legal and social implications that, if not appropriately managed and governed, can translate into significant risks to individuals and populations. AI4PEP intends to deepen the understanding of designing responsible AI solutions.

“Responsible AI entails intentional design to enhance health equity and gender equality and avoid amplifying existing inequalities and biases. We are working toward the realization of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; in particular, three and five – good health and well-being, and gender equality,” says Kong. “Colonialism and gendered oppression have enduring effects, disproportionately impacting the health and quality of life of formerly colonized people and vulnerable groups, including women, gender non-conforming people, people with disabilities, rural communities and low-income households.”

Projects within the initiative will work closely with governments, public health agencies, civil society and others to generate new knowledge and collaborations to inform practice and policies at subnational, national, regional and global levels. 

Learn more at News @ York.

Government invests more than $15.5 million in York-led research projects

light bulb in front of colorful background

More than 30 projects led by York University researchers in the social sciences and humanities were awarded a combined total of $15,541,343 in federal funding from Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Grants, Partnership Development Grants and Insight Grants.

The funding, announced on Aug. 29 by the Randy Boissonnault, minister of employment, workforce development and official languages, on behalf of the François-Philippe Champagne, minister of innovation, science and industry, goes towards 33 projects, ranging from research on migrant labour and gender inequality in retirement to heritage design in Canada.

“This week’s funding announcement highlights the council’s faith in the high calibre of our researchers’ work, ranging from Indigenous circumpolar cultural sovereignty, ecological footprint, to renewable greener transition and policy gaps in international mobility, in collaboration with other local and international subject experts,” says Amir Asif, vice-president research and innovation at York. “I thank SHHRC for their support and I commend York’s research community for their ongoing commitment to creating positive change, both locally and globally.”

The new round of grants will support 605 social sciences and humanities research projects across Canada. Learn more about the York-led projects below.

Partnership Grants

SSHRC Partnership Grants support teams of researchers from post-secondary institutions working in new and existing formal partnerships with public, private or not-for-profit organizations. Through collaboration, sharing of intellectual leadership and resources by cash or in-kind contributions, the grants support work for four to seven years to advance research, training and knowledge mobilization in the social sciences and humanities.

Four York-led projects received a combined total of almost $10 million ($9,978,586) in funding.

Peter Victor, Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change
The International Ecological Footprint Learning Lab: Training, research and novel applications

Richard Saunders, Department of Politics, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
African Extractivism and the Green Transition

Leah Vosko, Department of Politics, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
Liberating Migrant Labour?: International Mobility Programs in Settler-Colonial Contexts

Anna Hudson, Department of Visual Art & Art History, School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design
Curating Indigenous Circumpolar Cultural Sovereignty: advancing Inuit and Sami homelands, food, art, archives and worldviews

To learn more about the York-led projects, click here.

To view all Partnership Grant recipients, click here.

Partnership Development Grants

Partnership Development Grants support teams of researchers from post-secondary institutions working in a formal partnership with public, private or not-for-profit organizations for one to three years. The grants support research development, existing and new partnerships, knowledge mobilization, and related activities in the social sciences and humanities.

Eight York-led projects received a combined total of more than $1.5 million ($1,514,498) in funding.

Anna Agathangelou, Department of Politics, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
Building an International Partnership to Research and Address Reparative Justice in Post-Conflict Situations: Canada, Africa and Europe

Thi Viet Nga Dao, Department of Social Science, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
Slow violence and water (in)justice: Feminist political ecologies of intergenerational struggles in the Mekong region

Anne MacLennan, Department of Communication & Media Studies, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
Interrogating Canadian Identities/ L’identités canadiennes – une interrogation (ICI)

Jan Hadlaw, Department of Design, School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design
The xDX Project: Documenting, Linking, and Interpreting Canada’s Design Heritage

Christopher Kyriakides, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
Refuge, Racisms, and Resistances: A Co-Created Analysis of the Experiences of Syrian and Ethiopian Refugees in Canada

To learn more about this project, click here.

Abigail Shabtay, Department of Humanities, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
Strengthening Participatory Drama-Based Research in Institutional, Community, and Educational Contexts

Susan Winton, Faculty of Education
The Public Education Exchange

Debra Pepler, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health
Walking the Prevention Pathway for Indigenous Communities’ Journey of Change

To view all Partnership Development Grant recipients, click here.

Insight Grants

Insight Grants are awarded to emerging and established scholars in the social sciences and humanities to work on research projects of two to five years.

21 York-led projects received a combined total of more than $4 million ($4,048,259) in funding.

Tasso Adamopoulos, Department of Economics, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
Inequality and Productivity in Developing Countries

Kee-hong Bae, Department of Finance, Schulich School of Business
Incentive-focused corporate culture

Anh Nguyen, School of Administrative Studies, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
Labour force aging and business vibrancy: Evidence and solutions for businesses and workers in Canada and around the world

Thanujeni (Jeni) Pathman, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health
How accurate is memory for time across childhood and adolescence? Theoretical and practical implications for forensic settings

Alexandra Rutherford, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health
Intersecting difference: Gender, race and sexuality in 20th century U.S. psychology

Robert Savage, Faculty of Education
Tackling two of the most important unresolved tasks in reading intervention

Marlis Schweitzer, Department of Theatre, School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design
Decoding the Lecture on Heads: Performing Objects and Satire on the 18th-Century Stage

Simon Adam, School of Nursing, Faculty of Health
Entangled identities: Exploring neurodiversity through social media expression

Kean Birch, Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change
Digital Data Value Paradox: An Empirical Investigation of Personal Data Valuation

Antony Chum, School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health
Social and policy determinants of self harm across gender identities in Canada

Julia M. Creet, Department of English, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
Digital Afterlives

Robert Cribbie, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health
Extensions of Negligible Effect Statistical Testing

Ganaele Langlois, Department of Communication & Media Studies, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
The Art of Necessity: Making Sustainable and Just Worlds through Local Textiles

Brenda Longfellow, Department of Cinema & Media Arts, School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design
Abolition Feminism: Collaborating Across Communities

Kinnon MacKinnon, School of Social Work, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
Detransition: Examining pathways and care needs

Jonathan Nitzan, Department of Politics, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
The capital-as-power fractal: toward a general theory of the capitalist mode of power

Yuval Deutsch, Schulich School of Business
Social capital, corporate social responsibility and corporate irresponsibility

Caitlin Fisher, Department of Cinema & Media Studies, School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design
Mobilizing the arts for global health: a virtual museum of antimicrobial resistance

Kamila Kolpashnikova, Department of Design, School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design
Gender Inequality in Retirement: Understanding Social Organization in Domestic Tasks

Palma Paciocco, Osgoode Hall Law School
The Gatekeeper and The Timekeeper: Regulating Expert Evidence and Trial Delay in Criminal Courts

Yan Shvartzshnaider, Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, Lassonde School of Engineering
Virtual Classrooms Privacy

To view all Insight Grant recipients, click here.

Two York researchers receive Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships

gold cup with golf star confetti coming out of it

Following a highly competitive selection process, York University postdoctoral Fellows Chiara Camponeschi and Ashlee Christofferson have been named among this year’s recipients of the prestigious Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships.

Awarded by the Government of Canada, the Banting Fellowship is valued at $70,000 per year for two years and supports postdoctoral researchers who will positively contribute to the country’s economic, social and research-based growth. The award is open to scholars who are devoted to research in three areas: health, natural sciences and/or engineering, and social sciences and/or humanities.

The ambitious work of Camponeschi and Christoffersen falls into major themes identified in York’s Strategic Research Plan, such as forging a just and equitable world, and supports York’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Chiara Camponeschi

Chiara Camponeschi
Chiara Camponeschi

Camponeschi is a postdoctoral Fellow conducting research at the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research. Her project, “Turning Moments of Crisis Into Moments of Care,” aims to rethink the approach to resilience and recovery in this age of systemic crises. By applying this model to the study of urban climate change, Camponeschi’s research provides practical solutions that can be leveraged in a variety of settings, from offering policy prompts for the design of infrastructures of care to making contributions to capacity-building and community practice.

“The lens of crisis has continued to be invoked to reinforce a reactive stance to change, one driven by narratives of enclosure, disconnection and austerity that are harmful to society – especially to already vulnerable groups,” says Camponeschi. “Crises, however, can be richly generative moments of rupture that reveal contradictions, incite action and stimulate new visions. They present us with the opportunity to turn moments of crisis into moments of care.”

Ashlee Christoffersen

Ashlee Christoffersen
Ashlee Christoffersen

Christoffersen is a postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Politics. Her proposed research aims to increase our understanding of how intersectionality can be applied in both policy and practice, with a unique focus on non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Titled “Operationalizing Intersectionality: Equality policy and NGOs,” the project aims to achieve positive change by highlighting the limitations of some existing NGO approaches and by impacting Canadian policy-makers’ interpretations of intersectionality.

“The question of how to apply ‘intersectionality,’ the Black feminist theory that social inequalities shape one another, is one that many across different fields have long struggled with,” explains Christoffersen. “This is because the predominant approach to inequalities has been to address these separately and thus ineffectively.”

Christoffersen underscores the importance of her research in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, which both deepened pre-existing inequalities and raised awareness of how they are intersecting.

The application deadline for the next round of Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships is Sept. 20. Learn more at

Students awarded Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships

3d golden star golden with lighting effect on black background. Template luxury premium award design. Vector illustration

The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, presented by the Government of Canada, aims to support first-rate doctoral students studying social sciences and humanities, natural sciences and engineering, and health. This year, seven York University students have been named Vanier Scholars, earning them $50,000 annually for up to three years to support their research projects.

Candidates are evaluated based on three equally weighted selection criteria: academic excellence, research potential and leadership. This year’s scholars have proposed innovative solutions to challenging problems through their projects, each of which spurs positive change in their community, both locally and globally.

Marissa Magneson (Cree-Métis, citizen of the Métis Nation of Ontario), Faculty of Education

Marissa Magneson
Marissa Magneson

Magneson’s application was ranked second out of 200 at the national competition for Vanier Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council files. Her proposed research contributes to the ongoing discourse of decolonial and artistic pedagogy, research-creation and Indigenous beadwork practices by challenging the ways education can look both inside and outside of the classroom.

Her project specifically seeks to uncover how beading supports Indigenous students in reclaiming culture, strengthening identity, fostering community, healing intergenerational traumas and developing a sense of belonging, while also contributing to Indigenous pedagogy through creative storytelling and supporting reconciliation.

“Beadwork as pedagogy actively responds to the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, suggesting that beading not only strengthens identity but also fosters healing and reconciliation,” shares Magneson.

Greg Procknow, critical disability studies

Greg Procknow
Greg Procknow

Procknow’s doctoral research illuminates the experiential claims of inpatients found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder (NCRMD) to explore whether education leads to decarceration and to re-evaluate education as a non-psychiatric method for recovery.

His research will document the educative experiences of inpatients granted day-release privileges to pursue post-secondary education on campus to uncover what factors have facilitated or inhibited their inclusion in educational spaces, how education has advanced their recovery plans and how these inpatients perceive education’s role in qualifying them for an absolute or conditional discharge.

“This research is vital to learning how pedagogy impacts rates of decarceration, supports the reintegration of NCRMD into the community, reduces recidivism and rehospitalizations, and nurtures recovery,” opines Procknow.

Cole Swanson, environmental studies

Cole Swanson
Cole Swanson

Swanson’s PhD study will use material-based art to explore the dynamic ecology of a bird colony with a stigmatized reputation, the double-crested cormorants (Nannopterum auritum). Working against dangerous imaginaries on cormorants fuelled by religious, settler-colonial, and extractivist histories and politics, Swanson will examine life in the colony to illuminate the entanglements between avian, human and more-than-human worlds.

“Through socially-engaged art practice, the apparent divides between our species will be broken down, stoking empathy and a community-based investment in the well-being and protection of these ancient creatures and their colony constituents with whom we share our lands and resources,” says Swanson. 

The project will culminate in a multisensory art exhibition composed of photo, video and sound recorded from the colony, which will be shared with a diverse public for analysis useful in both scientific and social contexts.

Areej Alshammiry, sociology

Areej Alshammiry
Areej Alshammiry

Alshammiry’s project explores the practice of “double punishment,” where non-citizens or foreign-born individuals in Canada are criminalized and rendered deportable. The research particularly focuses on double punishment’s impact on those who are unremovable because they are stateless but inadmissible on the grounds of criminality.

“Driven by the politics of the War on Terror, these processes lead to increasing cases of statelessness by decisions like citizenship stripping of foreign-born persons or deprivation of citizenship to those without one,” states Alshammiry. “However, such measures often target already marginalized communities and are often arbitrary, as they are driven by racial, ethnic, religious and national discrimination.”

This innovative project undertakes the important work of revealing the lived experiences of stateless individuals and can positively contribute to policy frameworks on statelessness and abolition.

Jordan Krywonos, physics and astronomy

Jordan Krywonos
Jordan Krywonos

The PhD study proposed by Krywonos considers gravitational waves, which are ripples propagating across the fabric of our universe. As the gravitational waves travel, they carry information about their source, providing an avenue to study previously inaccessible sources such as an orbiting pair of primordial black holes that are proposed to compose a portion of dark matter. Thus, this groundbreaking research on gravitational waves could help illuminate the nature of dark matter.

“Given that the identity of dark matter is among the most important outstanding questions in cosmology, discovering primordial black holes would revolutionize our understanding of the universe, and provide a new means of probing its origin,” reveals Krywonos.

Austin Martins-Robalino, civil engineering

Austin Martins-Robalino
Austin Martins-Robalino

Martins-Robalino’s project investigates how new and emerging materials can be used in place of traditional materials when constructing shear walls, which are a key influence on how structures perform when subjected to loading from wind or seismic events. Martins-Robalino proposes that replacing traditional reinforcing steel rebar with a smart material like superelastic shape memory alloys and concrete with engineered cementitious composites could provide insight into making more damage-resilient and sustainable structures that recentre themselves after loading.

“Such resilient infrastructure would inherently improve the sustainability of structures, reducing the equivalent carbon emissions over their service life,” says Martins-Robalino.

This cutting-edge project can help with progress towards safer and more sustainable construction and communities in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Anna Waisman, clinical psychology

Anna Waisman
Anna Waisman

Waisman’s proposed research seeks to provide a novel, easily accessible approach to treating chronic post-surgical pain (CPSP). A study conducted at York University and the Toronto General Hospital, published in the journal Pain, with Waisman as the lead author, found that patients who recall a greater number of event-specific, pain-related autobiographical memories before surgery are significantly less likely to develop CPSP up to one year later.

Building on these findings, Waisman’s PhD project will develop a remotely-delivered intervention that will train individuals to be more specific in the retrieval of their memories after surgery, with the aim of preventing chronic post-surgical pain.

“This work addresses a significant public health need. By creating a brief and easily accessible intervention, our plan is to deliver effective pain management to virtually anyone with a computer,” shares Waisman.

Professor receives $780,000 in CIHR funding

Global health

Professor and York University Research Chair Chun Peng received $780,000 from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to fund a new project associated with her ongoing research into pre-eclampsia, a pregnancy disorder with a profound impact on maternal and fetal health.

York biology Professor Chun Peng working in her laboratory
Chun Peng

The grant funds a project titled “NLRC5 isoforms in placental development and pathogenesis of pre-eclampsia,” part of Peng’s long-term research goal to better understand pre-eclampsia, which usually develops after 20 weeks of gestation and is characterized by high blood pressure, as well as damage to liver, kidneys or other organs. It is the leading direct cause of maternal and fetal death in the world, with over 75,000 pregnant women and 500,000 infants dying from it each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even if someone survives the disease, it can lead to negative effects on the mother and fetus health during pregnancy, and can have lifelong negative impacts on cardiovascular health for both. The causes of pre-eclampsia are not fully understood, but it is known that abnormal placental development – in particular, the insufficient invasion of placental cells into the uterus to carry out the remodelling of the uterine blood vessels – is a major contributing factor.

The new study builds upon findings from a previous project where Peng and colleagues identified two truncated isoforms of a protein called NLRC5 in human placenta. Preliminary results suggest that these NLRC5 isoforms play important roles in regulating placental development, and they may contribute to the pathogenesis of pre-eclampsia. In this study, her lab will collaborate with researchers from Mount Sinai Hospital and Toronto General Hospital to further examine how NLRC5 exert their functions in the placenta and to determine if their over-expression will lead to the development of pre-eclampsia-like symptoms.

“This project will allow us to understand more of how placenta development is regulated during pregnancy and how the abnormal levels of NLRC5 isoforms may contribute to the development of pre-eclampsia,” says Peng. “We really hope that this can give us some clues on whether a new strategy could be developed to either prevent or treat pre-eclampsia.”

Peng, who had her York Research Chair in Women’s Reproductive Health renewed in 2021, has been conducting research to better understand pre-eclampsia since 1998, and has received several previous CIHR grants – collectively amounting to nearly $3.5 million – to study the disorder.

Professors consider long-term health impact of wildfires

Wildfire in the forest

Emilie Roudier and Olivier Birot, professors with York University’s School of Kinesiology and Health Science in the Faculty of Health, have published research calling for a rethinking of the potential long-term health risks of wildfires.

The paper, titled “Wildland fire, air pollution and cardiovascular health: is it time to focus on the microvasculature as a risk assessment tool?,” considers how our current understanding of potential long-term health risks from particulate matter (PM) exposure is limited and mostly ignores the microvascular system, a network of tiny arterioles and capillaries that may be just as important as the heart, lungs and arteries when it comes to understanding the health dangers of PM resulting from forest fires.

“While it’s understandable that initial attention focuses on the immediate impacts of losses and casualties after a wildfire, we know that there are also longer-term impacts from exposure to particulate matter pollution,” says Roudier, who is leading the research project, which involved spending a portion of the summer on the French island of Corsica in the Mediterranean, where summer wildfires are common. There, a partnership was created with the CNRS Wildland Forest Unit at the University of Corsica Pasquale Paoli (UCPP) and the Corsican fire authorities to further research efforts.

“Firefighters think about lung cancer, because they breathe the smoke, but because the fires are getting higher in temperature, the particulate matter is getting really small, so small that some can reach the bloodstream,” continues Roudier. “The PM are then in the cardiovascular system and travelling through our blood vessels. We are questioning whether we are using the right measurements to assess the risk posed to firefighters and the affected population. Having better tools, or additional tools, could hopefully lead to better solutions to mitigate risks.”

The paper notes that in North America, the length of the wildfire season has increased by nearly a fifth in the past 35 years, making the need to answer these questions more pressing. Population growth and development has increased human exposure to wildfire areas, growing the likelihood of both accidental ignition and fire-suppression policies that can lead to an accumulation of biomass fuels. While there is a clear link in the literature between PM pollution and cardiovascular disease, linking this to wildfires has been harder to show, given the complexities of studying this on a population level.

Birot, an associate professor who worked as a volunteer firefighter for seven years during his undergraduate and postgraduate studies, teaches a course at York that looks at extreme environments and their effects on health, including PM exposure and exercise.

“This microcirculation is not only important for delivering oxygen and nutrients to our tissues – it is also key for communication exchanges between organs, for example, between the working muscle and the brain. And it is also this microcirculation that’s key to dissipate excess body heat, moving heat from the core of the body to the peripheral skin. So think about wildland firefighters who are engaging in long periods of intense physical activity in a context where they’re going to produce heat because of their activity, and they are doing that in an environment that is polluted and extremely hot. So you’re combining a lot of stressors,” he says.

The two researchers have obtained samples of PM from wildland fires in Corsica and have started to analyze them back in their lab at York to test their effect on human endothelial cells, which line the inner layer of blood vessels. They are looking for epigenetic biomarkers that could act as early warning systems for those who might be more vulnerable.

A delegation from the UCPP will be coming to York in October, and Roudier and Birot will head back to Corsica in December to do more field work – collecting new PM samples from controlled biomass burning – and to expand their collaboration with Corsican fire authorities.

Watch a video of Roudier and Birot explaining their research:

See more ways York University is making headlines at News @ York.

New online workshop supports Black graduate student success

Woman laptop computer FEATURED

York University’s Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) is hosting its inaugural Fostering Black Scholars Scholarship Success Workshop for incoming and current graduate students on Monday, Aug. 28 from 10 a.m. to noon. This online event aims to create a welcoming space to share experiences and resources and build peer-to-peer connections.

One of the goals of the workshop is to share new funding opportunities that support Black scholars, including the Bennett Family Graduate Scholarship for Black and Indigenous Students, as well as many other scholarships and awards. Attendees will learn how to complete award applications and leverage all the resources available at York, both internally and externally. Additionally, the workshop will provide attendees with resources and guides for developing successful grant proposals, writing reference letters for scholarship applications and making their applications stand out.

Students will also learn about the self-identification forms and questionnaires implemented by FGS. The optional self-identification questions in award applications are important to determine eligibility for funding opportunities targeting specific equity-deserving groups and to implement funding equalization measures. Students can include relevant information in the Special Circumstances form on their applications to explain any personal circumstances (including gender, race, diversity, ability, sexuality, health disparities, educational access etc.) that have played a role in shaping their path, to allow for a fair assessment of their research productivity.

The workshop will feature talks from seasoned Black faculty members, including: Professor Andrea Davis, Department of Humanities; Professor Jude Dzevela Kong, Department of Mathematics & Statistics; and Professor Tokunbo Ojo, FGS associate dean of students.

Attendees will also hear from a panel of graduate scholars who hold prestigious awards, including: Joseph Agyapong, a PhD student in mechanical engineering and a 2023 Susan Mann Dissertation Awardee; Balikisu Osman, a PhD student in environmental studies and a 2020 Vanier Scholar; and Danielle Washington, a PhD student in nursing and a 2023 Canadian Institutes of Health Research Canada Graduate Scholarships Doctoral Program awardee. The panellists will answer questions and speak about their personal experiences, scholarship successes and how to make the most of available resources.

This online event is hosted by the FGS Scholarships & Awards team, led by Richolette Freckleton, associate director of research, scholarships and awards. York University faculty and staff are encouraged to share event details with their incoming and current graduate students. For more information and to register, visit:

Recognizing student influence: Robert J. Tiffin Student Leadership Award winners

a man holding a trophy

Ariana Mah first knew she was going to attend York University’s Glendon College during a tour in high school. 

“I looked around and I decided, ‘This one is my first choice. This is what I’m going to do; this is where I’m going to be,’ ” says Mah, a fifth-year political science major. “It was that moment when I found out that I could have a community here. It’s like a second home.”  

Ariana Mah
Ariana Mah

Despite feeling apprehensive when starting at Glendon, Mah quickly became involved. She entered her first year as a Top Scholar and has since sat on several committees, including serving as the Chair of Glendon’s Student Caucus and as a member of the Faculty Council’s Committee on Academic Standards, Teaching and Learning, where she actively discusses policy planning and academic expectations with her professors and peers.

She has been an undergraduate representative for the Board of Governors since 2022, where she dedicates her time to a multitude of issues, including improving student well-being and advocating for increased diversity at York. Mah also progressed from a section editor of Glendon’s bilingual student newspaper, Pro Tem, to editor-in-chief. 

Her impact has not gone unnoticed. Mah, who also has a certificate in law and social thought, is one of 11 recipients of the Robert J. Tiffin Student Leadership Award, which annually recognizes students whose leadership has contributed to the growth, development and vitality of the University. 

Now in its 11th year, the award was created in honour of Robert J. Tiffin, who served as York University’s vice-president, students, from 2005 to 2012. University members nominate individuals who demonstrate leadership and make valuable contributions to the York community. 

“I’m always impressed by the diversity of ways in which student leadership occurs at York,” says Tiffin. “The importance of active participation in the University, inside and outside the classroom, cannot be overstated. It is through this engagement that student leaders unlock their own potential and empower others to do the same, creating a ripple effect that extends beyond their time at York.” 

Mah is honoured by the nomination and recognition. 

“As a student leader, we don’t necessarily do the work we do for these awards, but it is always nice to be acknowledged for what we put forward,” she says. “Winning this award will encourage me in the coming year to continue to strive for the betterment of student life on campus and for better representation of students, especially undergraduate students.” 

This award recognizes students who have a wide impact on the York community. “We are all grateful for your pride in the institution and desire to be ambassadors for York,” says Yvette Munro, assistant vice-provost, student success. “Your work makes a difference and makes our institution – and, more importantly, the student experience – better.” 

Mah says her involvement at York has helped her find her voice and she is motivated to help other students find theirs as well. 

“The idea of the student voice inspires me and my work,” she says. “I know a lot of my peers are unsure about navigating student leadership or student governance – it’s kind of a scary thing to sit in rooms full of professors or University staff. I want to continue representing those that may not feel comfortable voicing their opinions, but also encourage others to try these things out, too.” 

When thinking ahead to the future, Mah has a few ideas. She says she is interested in eventually pursuing a master’s in journalism, focusing on learning more languages or working within legislature and policy. 

This year’s Robert J. Tiffin Student Leadership Award recipients also include: 

Alita Gideon, master of science, kinesiology and health science: Gideon has served as a class representative and has mentored underrepresented students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). She has also served on the York Federation of Students, most recently as the vice-president, equity, commissioner, and her contributions as an undergraduate student mentor have had an impact on individual students, both within the Faculty of Health and across the University. 

Amireza Nikzadfar Goli, honours bachelor of science, kinesiology and health science: Goli was a founder of the Undergraduate Health Research Exploration Program (UHRE) and also helped to found and co-ordinate York University’s first-ever Conference of Undergraduate Health Research. He has also supported students as the Chair of the Student Advisory Committee and served as a student senator with the Faculty of Health. 

Ana Kraljević, bilingual honours bachelor of arts and bachelor of education: Kraljević has served as the president of Glendon’s Student Union. She has also represented the York community as a president’s ambassador and played a key role in the Glendon Tournament, a web-based initiative to help increase student engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Arman Sadr, bachelor of science, biomedical science: Sadr has been involved with Bethune College since his first year at York, most recently serving as the president of the Bethune College Council, where he represented and supported the growth of the community. Sadr has also served as the executive vice-president and vice-president, athletics, for the council. 

Christina Da Costa, honours specialized bachelor of arts, Indigenous studies: Da Costa has been actively involved with the Indigenous Student’s Association at York (ISAY). She has served as the president and has made various contributions to Indigenous life at York, including as an ISAY representative on the Indigenous Council of York and by planning and hosting the 20th and 21st All Nations Pow Wow.  

Kaye Trishia Canoy, honours bachelor of arts, psychology and linguistics: Canoy has served as both as the president of Calumet College Council and co-president of the Undergraduate Psychology Student Association. She is also the co-founder of Lingua Franca, an initiative that aims to support English as a second language students at York. 

Mohamed Elsayed Elghobashy, bachelor of science, kinesiology and health science: Elsayed Elghobashy has served as the president of the Kinesiology and Health Sciences Student Association and is a co-founder of the Undergraduate Health Research Exploration program. He has been involved in other leadership roles as a student senator, and has been equally active in supporting others in the community. 

Mustafa Abdulkadhim, honours bachelor of science, biomedical science: Abdulkadhim has served as a class representative for STEM courses and has been a member of the Science Student Caucus and volunteered as a research assistant for multiple labs. Abdulkadhim has also been a peer tutor with the Undergraduate Psychology Student Association and a member of the Committee on Examination and Academic Standards. 

Nathi Mbuso Zamisa, master of arts, social and political thought: Zamisa has served as the president of the York University Graduate Students’ Association. He has also served as the Chair of the York Community Housing Association and has been a representative on various committees, including the Advisory Council on Black Inclusion and the Student Representative Roundtable. 

Prabhjee Singh, honours bachelor of science, computer science: Singh has served as the Lassonde Student Government president, where he implemented new policies and organized multiple events. He has also actively participated in the Student Caucus and the Student Representative Roundtable, and has volunteered with York International. 

The recipients’ names will be added to the awards display wall in the Vari Hall Rotunda.

About the award

The Robert Tiffin Student Leadership Awards recognize students whose leadership has contributed to the growth, development and vitality of York University. Established in 2012, these awards are named after Robert Tiffin, who served as York University’s vice-president, students, for nine years. Through his strong leadership, dedication and integrity, Tiffin transformed his operation into one of the most professional student service organizations in the country, serving one of Canada’s largest student populations.